. 6
( 7)


19 See Lord, Education and Culture, p. 199: “The citizens of the best regime will also
require, with a view to leisure alone, what Aristotle appears to call the ˜virtue™ of
˜philosophy™ (1334a16“28). . . . ˜Philosophy™ can mean one of two things. Either Aris-
totle is speaking of philosophy “ theoretical speculation “ in the precise sense, or
he is speaking in a looser sense of what would today be called ˜culture.™ That philos-
ophy in the precise sense can have been intended is, to judge from the argument
of the opening chapter of Book VII, extremely unlikely; and Aristotle indicates in
Chapter 14 itself that a capacity for speculative thought is not part of the equipment
required of the citizens of the best regime (1333a25“30).” Compare again Simpson,
A Philosophical Commentary on the “Politics” of Aristotle [Chapel Hill: University of North
Carolina Press, 1998), pp. 206“10, 237“43.
Political Wit and Enlightenment

sake of play and rest, or contributes to virtue, or contributes in some
way to diagog¯ and prudence (Pol. 1339a10“26). After establishing that
music is for the sake of play and rest, and dismissing the possibility
that play is the end of human life simply, he takes up the question of
whether music contributes to virtue or, as he puts it, to the character
and the soul (Pol. 1339b31“1340a6). The extended discussion that
follows concerning the in¬‚uence of music on the soul, and speci¬cally
on the passions of pity, fear, and enthusiasm, proves to be concerned
not with philosophy or theoretical virtue but with the virtue of one
who “belongs to the city” or political virtue (Pol. 1340b40“1341a1).20
By contrast, the possibility with respect to leisure that is neglected
in the Politics is the explicit focus of Aristotle™s concluding discussion
of happiness in the Ethics:

If happiness is an activity in accord with virtue, it is reasonable that it be in
accord with the best [kratist¯], and this would be the one which is of the best
[part]. Whether this is mind [nous] or something else that is thought to rule in
accord with nature and to guide and to instill thought about noble and divine
things, and whether it is itself divine or the most divine thing in us, the activity
of this in accord with the virtue proper to it would be complete happiness.
That it is theoretical activity has already been stated. (NE 1177a12“18)

In light of the conclusion that philosophic or theoretical activity is the
most complete end of human life and so the proper activity of leisure,
we can better understand why Aristotle chooses in the Ethics to single
out wittiness as the virtue pertaining to play and rest: The liberation it
makes possible “ liberation from convention and our primary attach-
ment to a regime “ is preparatory to philosophy. Despite his statement
that theoretical activity had earlier been identi¬ed as the most com-
plete end of human life, the explicit disclosure of philosophy as our
most complete end occurs only in Book X “ only after, that is, the
investigation of the virtue that distinguishes the political life and the
citizen in the full sense.

20 Lord argues persuasively that Aristotle here discusses the effects of music on both
the young and adults (Education and Culture, pp. 92“104): “That the music education
of the best regime does not end with youth or with the formation of moral character
properly speaking “ that the education in musical skills is only part of a larger music
education ˜with a view to political virtue™ (1340b42“41a1) which extends through
the years of maturity “ is a suggestion for which Aristotle™s audience cannot be wholly
unprepared” (p. 102). But compare Simpson, Philosophical Commentary, pp. 273“83.
Education, Liberty, and Leisure 163

This investigation acknowledges the political community™s author-
itative claim regarding the highest good for human beings and does
justice to the life of moral virtue as the law™s highest and noblest ped-
agogic aim. But as we have seen, it shows also that the political com-
munity and the life it champions ultimately point to the need for wis-
dom as a guide in human action and thus to the activity and life that
have wisdom as their end. Acknowledging the weight of the political
community and its claim regarding the highest human good, then,
Aristotle proceeds with due regard for the law™s authority and the con-
cerns of moral virtue. Nevertheless, his clarity about the full character
of citizenship in this regard and, in particular, his investigation of the
complex relation between the virtues of justice and wisdom help us to
comprehend the political community™s authority, as well as its limits,
in guiding human action.
As a part of moral virtue that points beyond the political life, witti-
ness occupies the middle ground between a dogmatic commitment to
the law and skeptical alienation from it. For, in recognizing the seri-
ousness and necessity of the law, the virtuous person does not permit
his “playfulness” to overrun the boundaries set by the lawgiver. Still,
even though the one who possesses a good wit does not mock the law,
neither is he a captive of it. In truth, the virtue of wittiness places its
possessor at a remove from the high seriousness that political matters,
in all their nobility and greatness, demand for themselves. Aristotle™s
investigation of citizenship makes clear that the political community
is the arena of some of our deepest concerns “ especially regarding
the “noble and just things” “ and therefore is also the sphere in which
we enjoy great goods and may suffer great evils. Nevertheless, political
action is not the best simply. As a virtue, accordingly, wittiness shares in
the irony that Aristotle recalls with the example of Socrates: an irony
that acknowledges the power of our opinions regarding what is noble
and good even as it calls these opinions into question.
When he concludes his discussion of wittiness, Aristotle offers a
summary of the three virtues that pertain to “certain speeches and
actions in our common relations” (NE 1128b4“6). Reminding us of his
original classi¬cation of the virtues “ truthfulness concerns truth and
falsehood in our associations, and wittiness and “friendship” concern
pleasures in play and the rest of life “ he recalls also the original
order of the virtues in his list in Book II: truthfulness, wittiness, and
Political Wit and Enlightenment

friendship. In the original ordering of the virtues, friendship appeared
to complete the full sphere of our associations. Yet while Aristotle
unquali¬edly named this virtue friendship in Book II, he delays the
full-blooded account of friendship until Books VIII and IX of the Ethics.
This latter account occurs outside of the discussion of the moral virtues
and illustrates that the complete human good involves actions and
activities other than those constituted by the moral virtues proper.21
Notwithstanding the fact that Aristotle™s discussion of wittiness like-
wise points to an end higher than political activity, the virtue that con-
cludes his account of the particular virtues is justice. Before turning to
justice, Aristotle discusses shame. Shame (or a sense of shame, aidos)
is not a virtue: “it resembles a passion more than a characteristic”
(NE 1128b10“11). This passion is appropriate only to the young
because the force of their other passions makes them prone to many
errors if shame is not present to restrain them (NE 1128b15“16). We
thus approve of and praise modesty in the young but not in a mature
person because “we suppose that he ought not do anything for which
he is ashamed” (NE 1128b18“21). A mature human being, whose pas-
sions are under control, supposedly no longer requires the restraint
that shame provides for the young. Thus, “shame is not the mark of
one who is equitable because it arises as the result of wretched acts”
and, Aristotle adds, whether these acts are shameful in truth or only
by opinion does not matter (NE 1128b21“4). In comparison with his
praise of the self-rule of a witty human being, Aristotle™s suggestion
that an equitable person ought to have regard for that which is shame-
ful by opinion alone may seem to represent a descent in the account
of the virtues. But such regard would have its basis in a just concern
for the preservation of the political order. To put this suggestion in
its best light: While the virtuous person is like a law unto himself, he
is never lawless, which is appropriate to his virtue and especially his
Justice is the distinctive virtue of the citizen, to which irony and wit
pay homage. Nevertheless, in showing how the virtues and actions that

21 See Grant, who thinks the new order of Book IV is an “improvement” on the grounds
that “the quality which concerns the deportment and whole spirit of a man in society is
rightly treated as most generic, and placed ¬rst”; Grant remarks on the substitution
of friendship without noting its signi¬cance for the discussion (see The “Ethics” of
Aristotle, II.84).
Education, Liberty, and Leisure 165

form the core of the political life point beyond themselves, Aristotle
proposes that friendship and wisdom constitute goods that, by moral
virtue™s own standard, are more complete than the goods authorized
and elevated by the political community. His investigation of the cit-
izen thus offers a perspective on our existence as “political animals”
that can appreciate and defend the bene¬ts of a decent political com-
munity while remaining clear-eyed about its failings and limitations.
Moreover, since such a perspective does not hold the community and
its ends in complete awe, it does not despair in the face of the many
tensions, con¬‚icts, and evils that beset political life.22 By this measure,
it is appropriate that Aristotle should introduce wittiness into his list
of moral virtues, for it re¬‚ects a “comic” vision in the highest sense:
a vision that comprehends both the nobility and the limits of human
striving and that sustains the quest for wisdom about human affairs.

22 This “tragic” character of political, and human, life is brought out explicitly by Peter
Euben in The Tragedy of Political Theory: The Road Not Taken (Princeton, NJ: Princeton
University Press, 1990); see also his Corrupting Youth: Political Education, Democratic Cul-
ture, and Political Theory (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997). Such a view
also informs Nussbaum™s The Fragility of Goodness: Luck and Ethics in Greek Tragedy and
Philosophy, rev. ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001) and is implicit in
much liberal thought, which takes the view that the political world is distinguished by
the con¬‚ict of incommensurate views of the good (see Galston™s Liberal Pluralism: The
Implications of Value Pluralism for Political Theory and Practice [Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 2002] for a recent presentation of this view). Compare Carnes Lord™s
presentation of Aristotle™s view of tragedy in Education and Culture, pp. 34“5 and
Aristotle and the Rediscovery of Citizenship

For Hobbes, there is nothing “more repugnant to government” or
“more ignorantly” said than much of Aristotle™s Politics and Ethics.1 But
it does not take such sharp wit to discern the tension between Aristotle™s
thought and a liberal tradition that prizes the freedom of each to pur-
sue happiness as he or she sees ¬t. Indeed, one of the aims of this
tradition has been to liberate the individual from the kind of religious
authority and sectarian strife for which Hobbes blamed the “ghostly”
Aristotelianism of his time. As Rawls notes, liberalism emerges as the
solution to the problem of creedal and salvationist religions, and it is
with a view to solving this problem for the sake of future peace that,
in response to the attacks of September 11th, we are now attempting
to remake the world in our image. Given the political goods of lib-
eralism, then, perhaps we should simply abandon Aristotle™s political
philosophy, as Hobbes advises, or reformulate it to make it consistent
with the democratic pluralism of our age, as some scholars today urge.
I have argued, to the contrary, that it is precisely because Aristotle does
not share liberal presuppositions that his thought becomes useful to
us. In particular, by exploring dimensions of the moral and political
world that we neglect or obscure, he illuminates the question central
to his political philosophy and before us once again: What is a citizen?

1 Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, ed. Edwin Curley (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing
Company, 1994), IV.11.

Conclusion 167

To draw out this suggestion, I recall some of the arguments of the
contemporary theorists taken up in Chapter 1.
The question of citizenship is alive in part because the evolution of
liberal thought has resulted in the radical claim that the rational prin-
ciples espoused by early modern thinkers “ the “self-evident truths”
of the Declaration of Independence, for example “ are contingent
historical facts that may be superseded by different, equally contin-
gent, facts in the future. Even as we celebrate the goods of liberal
democracy and seek to bring them to others, it seems, we are not
convinced of the truth of some of its fundamental tenets. More par-
ticularly, criticisms of liberalism and its prerequisites have convinced
many scholars, even those committed to its ends, that liberal thought
fundamentally misconstrues the relation between the individual and
the political community. Against the orthodoxy that the individual is
prior to the community, these doubts have weighed in favor of the
older Aristotelian view that human beings are political animals.
Our own doubts have thus made it inadvisable to abandon Aristotle™s
thought. But the return to the older view is not a small step and, as the
current debate indicates, raises dif¬cult questions in our rediscovery
of citizenship. As political animals and so parts of a larger community,
are human beings ruled by an authority other than their own desire or
will or “creative self”? Contrary to its self-understanding, does liberal-
ism entail unconditional submission to authoritative principles, such
as the primacy of the individual, the separation between private and
public, the priority of the right over the good, or “the idea of public rea-
son”? Are there educative prerequisites and ends of the liberal polity
that shape the individual pursuit of the good? What are the grounds
of liberalism™s claim that the good is an open question? If the good is
not truly an open question, then what is the effect of liberalism™s claim
to the contrary? The dif¬culty with the current debate is that our own
commitments or hopes resist the investigation that these questions
admit of and require. Aristotle™s political philosophy may be in ten-
sion with these commitments and hopes, but it also provides a clarity
about them and about citizenship that we need and cannot ourselves
Although the contemporary discussion has moved beyond the
narrow view that the central concern of citizenship has to do with
Aristotle and the Rediscovery of Citizenship

individual rights and political equality, this discussion nonetheless con-
tinues to assert the separation between the public world of the citizen
and the private world of the individual. To understand Aristotle™s view
and its signi¬cance for us, however, it is necessary to underline his
beginning point. For Aristotle opens his investigation of the good by
assuming no separation between public and private or, to use his terms,
between the highest end of politics, moral virtue, and the human good.
By his account, we can comprehend the nature and signi¬cance of our
existence as citizens only if we ¬rst acknowledge and investigate the
claim of the political community to establish the good for human
beings and to be our moral educator.
Now, many scholars today concede the role of virtue in support
of a liberal order and even allow, as Aristotle would insist, that the
virtues demanded of citizens must also be good for their possessor.
Nevertheless, these scholars maintain, a liberal order draws a bright
line between public and private; as Rawls and Galston argue, liberalism
does not legislate a way of life for its citizens “ it does not constitute
a regime. The liberal separation between the public requirements or
obligations of a citizen and the private pursuit of the good thus assumes
that this separation is at some level viable. Even if the liberal virtues
should require a defense of their goodness, that is, they also serve an
end other than themselves, the freedom of each to live as he or she
sees ¬t. The good in the “comprehensive” sense “ the pursuits and
practices that constitute individual happiness “ is said to reside in this
private sphere.
But does this argument truly confront the central concern of citi-
zenship raised by the current debate and fully elucidated in Aristotle™s
treatment of the political community: the relation between virtue,
especially justice, and the good? In the ¬rst place, the claim that lib-
eralism is not a regime merely de¬‚ects the question of the goodness
of the liberal virtues. Indeed, scholars offer lengthy and con¬‚icting
lists of these virtues, from marital ¬delity and piety to autonomy and
critical thinking. These lists cannot be adjudicated by determining the
utility of a virtue to the free pursuit of the good in the private sphere,
for the very differences among them re¬‚ect deep disagreements about
the nature of freedom and about the goods that freedom consists in or
supports. More importantly, as many scholars today acknowledge, the
relation between liberal virtues or “norms” and the private sphere is
Conclusion 169

more direct and complex than the effort to separate public and private
acknowledges. On the one hand, as Macedo observes, liberal politics
shapes and transforms private pursuits: “Liberal political norms have
a private life: they help shape and structure the private lives of liberal
citizens.”2 According to Gutmann and Thompson, on the other hand,
the converse is also true: Ideas of the good are not con¬ned to the
private sphere but inevitably make their way into political disputes.
One way or the other, the public and the private spheres merge, or,
as Macedo remarks, “To a greater extent than liberals usually allow,
freedom is a way of life.”3
To be sure, even as scholars underscore the relation between the
political sphere and the individual good, they also grapple with the
claim that liberalism is not a regime or way of life properly speaking.
For this reason, Macedo, and Gutmann and Thompson ultimately fall
back on a Rawlsian version of public reason as a way of adjudicating dis-
putes at the public level without dictating private beliefs or privileging
particular ideas of the good. Yet, in light of the acknowledged con-
nection between the norms or principles of the political sphere and
these beliefs and ideas, what justi¬es the claim that the management
of these disputes does not favor one view of the good over another
or that private beliefs are not shaped by the political order? In short,
does the idea of public reason or “the fact of reasonable pluralism”
that is said to re¬‚ect the plural nature of the good obscure a deeper
homogeneity “ a fundamentally liberal view of the good?
According to Galston, liberal pluralism is defensible because it
accords with the true structure of the normative world, in which con-
¬‚icting but reasonable, comprehensive views of the good re¬‚ect the
basic human desire for liberty “ the desire to go one™s own way. In con-
trast to the ancient regime, then, the great accomplishment of liberal
politics has been to create an institutional order within which diverse
ways of life can coexist. The freedom of individuals in this sense under-
girds liberalism™s presumption in favor of human liberty, in the face of
which coercion or, more simply, authority requires justi¬cation, and
this presumption makes possible a core human value: “expressive lib-
erty” or “the ability to live one™s life in a manner that freely expresses

2 Macedo, Liberal Virtues (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), p. 265.
3 Ibid.
Aristotle and the Rediscovery of Citizenship

one™s deepest convictions about the sources of value and meaning.”4
This account of the goods of liberalism is central to its defense. Even
Rorty, for whom democracy represents an historical and thus poten-
tially temporary victory of one worldview over another, celebrates the
greatest bene¬t of liberalism as “the freedom of individuals to work
out their own salvation.”5
But the principle of individual or expressive liberty itself proves to
be the ¬rst and most radically formative liberal principle. Galston™s
own argument in defense of pluralism “ that it is reasonable because
it accords with the basic human desire for liberty and the structure
of the moral universe “ calls into doubt any way of life that fails this
argument™s test. A way of life that rejects the presumption in favor of
individual liberty is not reasonable, and an authority that denies this
presumption is in error as to the true structure of the moral universe.
Simple consistency on this point requires Galston ¬nally to invoke “the
right of exit” with regard to every community: “In short, while liberal
pluralism rejects state promotion of individual autonomy as an intrin-
sic good, there is a form of liberty that is a higher-order liberal pluralist
political good: namely, individuals™ right of exit from groups and asso-
ciations that make up civil society.” This right requires “af¬rmative state
protections” to secure individuals against “oppression carried out by
groups against their members.”6 In this way, every community must be
made to be liberal, and Galston™s claim that liberal pluralism “rejects
state promotion of individual autonomy as an intrinsic good” proves to
be a distinction without a difference. In short, by asserting the primacy
of the individual, the principle of liberty transforms any community
that, locating authority elsewhere, rejects the claim that individual
desire or choice or will is authoritative concerning the good.7
But if we leave aside Galston™s comprehensive defense of plural-
ism, and in the tradition of Rawls we seek a “free-standing” theory of

4 Galston, Liberal Pluralism; The Implication of Value Pluralism for Political Theory and Practice
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), p. 28.
5 Rorty, “The Priority of Democracy to Philosophy,” in The Virginia Statute for Religious
Freedom: Its Evolution and Consequences in American History, eds. Merrill D. Peterson and
Robert C. Vaughan (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), p. 272.
6 Galston, Liberal Pluralism, pp. 122“3.
7 See Galston™s effort to address this dif¬culty in Liberal Pluralism, pp. 52“3, an effort
that still insists that a “traditional” “ nonliberal “ way of life rests on an “illusion.”
Conclusion 171

liberal justice, we must still consider the in¬‚uence of a liberal order
on the deepest convictions of its citizens. When one looks at liberal-
ism through the lens provided by Aristotle, it is not self-evident that
individuals are independently working out their own salvation or
that a liberal society is as pluralistic or heterogeneous as Rawls and
Galston insist. First, even or especially for a liberal order, the consum-
mate virtue is justice. Liberal justice is the ¬rst virtue of social insti-
tutions, according to Rawls, but, as the current debate acknowledges,
it is also required as a virtue in citizens who must tolerate a diversity of
pursuits. In this important respect, individuals must bow to an author-
ity other than their own will or way of life. Liberal thought contends
that this submission is grounded in a rational calculation: For the sake
of peace, one tolerates pursuits and practices one might otherwise
condemn and seek to extirpate. But this calculation relies on a reval-
uation or demotion of core beliefs: To take only the most important
example, there are no heretics or blasphemers in the liberal world.
Moreover, Aristotle™s analysis illustrates how the public elevation of
particular virtues infuses them with the weight of community opinion
and actively informs the individual™s understanding of a good human
being and good action. As the complex logic of his account of the
virtues shows, the community praises particular virtues “ courage on
the battle¬eld and moderation of the appetites, for example “ with a
view to its own preservation and perpetuation, but the honor it bestows
upon noble and just acts elevates them as choiceworthy in their own
right. Even though the education to virtue is intimately tied to the good
of the community, it is never a wholly mercenary affair “ no virtue is
ever simply political.
Even as a liberal order allows individuals to go about their business,
such logic suggests, it quietly remaps the road to happiness and salva-
tion in accord with the virtues of the good liberal citizen. Tolerance,
reciprocity, and open-mindedness, for example, are prized in liberal
societies not simply as public virtues necessary to good order but as
the qualities of a good human being. The education to “self-aware
pluralism” or tolerant liberalism produces a character that remains
¬xed across the public“private divide; public virtues do not suddenly
become private vices, and in contrast to the self-aware pluralist or tol-
erant liberal, the pious believer and other such “absolutists” appear at
the very least naive, if not dogmatic, irrational, intolerant, and even
Aristotle and the Rediscovery of Citizenship

fanatical.8 It is certainly possible for communities within a liberal order
to resist, if only for a time, its education; yet, as Macedo confesses,
“What we want are healthy forms of diversity, and from a political
standpoint that means forms of diversity supportive of basic principles
of justice and a liberal democratic civic life.”9
While Aristotle has no dif¬culty accepting the fact of political edu-
cation, he nonetheless asks the question that we avoid: Is health “from
a political standpoint” the true health of a human being? By insist-
ing that the good is an open question, liberalism denies not only its
educative in¬‚uence but, more importantly, the possibility of the inves-
tigation that Aristotle indicates is central to understanding our good
as human beings. This investigation, he shows, begins from the serious
and careful consideration of the full meaning of citizenship for living
well. In undertaking this consideration, moreover, Aristotle does more
than challenge the liberal claim that the good is an open question. He
also compels us to explore a crucial dimension of citizenship that lib-
eral individualism naturally obscures: the complex relation between
the noble (to kalon) and the good.
The morally serious citizen and human being, Aristotle contends,
seeks to undertake a noble deed and identi¬es this deed as the highest
human good. Contrary to the current understanding of virtue as either
a quality instrumental to the welfare of the community or a quality of
individual ¬‚ourishing, Aristotle establishes that at one and the same
time, virtue seeks to be good for the community and for the person
who possesses and exercises it. This aspect of virtue “ that its goodness
consists in its nobility “ reveals itself not in a discursive analysis of
the good but in the action of the particular virtues. Hence, it is no
accident that Aristotle should identify the end of virtue as the noble
only when he turns to his account of courage and that he reiterates
this connection between virtue and nobility through the discussion
of the particular virtues. From the risks taken by courageous soldiers
in behalf of their country and comrades to acts of justice directed at
the common good, we see that a virtuous human being seeks his or

8 See again, for example, Galston™s remark in Liberal Pluralism that in contrast to the
life of a “self-aware value pluralist,” a traditional way of life “allows or even requires
illusion” (p. 53).
9 Macedo, Diversity and Distrust: Civic Education in a Multicultural Democracy (Cambridge,
MA: Harvard University Press, 2000), p. 134.
Conclusion 173

her good in an act that is not simply self-serving “ in an act of noble
self-forgetting. For the good citizen and morally serious human being,
the life of noble action is the best life simply.
By emphasizing the role of self-interest and calculation in human
action and denying the existence of a highest good, liberal thought
bars us from exploring, if not experiencing, the possibility that the best
life consists in noble and just action in behalf of fellow citizens and
friends. For us, the ends and actions involved in the pursuit of happi-
ness are as many and varied as the desires and interests of each. Or, as
scholars today maintain, the good is “plural.” By this measure, noble
action is a preference in the same category as all other preferences:
If action is understood simply in terms of self-interest, that is, throw-
ing oneself on a grenade to save a comrade in combat is not ¬nally
different from closing a big real estate deal; giving is no better than
receiving; endowing a university or children™s hospital is no ¬ner a
deed than adding to one™s vintage car collection; and the just act is, at
bottom, a cost“bene¬t analysis. By contrast, in beginning from a con-
sideration of the noble and just life as best, Aristotle is able to explore
a question and an answer that our own premises deny.
For us, the question at the heart of Aristotle™s political philosophy “
the question of the best life “ necessarily disappears, as does the answer
that the morally serious life is the end of the political community and
the highest human good. It is not surprising, consequently, that mod-
ern students of Aristotle are typically interested more in the form than
in the substance of his accounts of the virtues, citizen, and best regime.
Insofar as neo-Aristotelians, for instance, take guidance from Aristotle,
they either emphasize the participatory and deliberative character of
Aristotelian politics or articulate a notion of the good that is thicker
than that of Rawlsian liberalism but still vague enough to preserve lib-
eral individualism.10 Yet the full meaning of citizenship for living well

10 The emphasis on an Aristotelian notion of participation and deliberation is most
readily associated with the work of Hannah Arendt, but as noted in Chapter 1, several
scholars today employ some strand of this idea, as does, most recently, Jill Frank in A
Democracy of Distinction: Aristotle and the Work of Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 2005). Liberal scholars who ¬nd inspiration in Aristotelianism also seek to ¬nd
a way to balance a richer or thicker notion of the good with individual liberty. This
effort distinguishes the early Aristotelianism of Martha Nussbaum, but also the efforts
of several other scholars, including Galston, Macedo, and Sandel.
Aristotle and the Rediscovery of Citizenship

emerges from the rich substance of Aristotle™s thought: his accounts of
the virtues from courage through wittiness; his analyses of magnanim-
ity and justice; his investigation of the nature and end of the political
community; his arbitration of the dispute over distributive justice and
rule; and his careful and sustained exploration of education and the
best regime.
In helping us to rediscover the full scope of citizenship, more-
over, Aristotle provides much needed clarity about law as the vehicle
by which human beings ¬rst come to know and seek the good. For
the morally serious life requires an education to virtue that ¬nds its
articulation in law. Aristotle concedes that most political communi-
ties neglect the education to virtue, such that it falls to the individual
“to lay down what is right for his wife and children” (NE 1180a26“9).
Nevertheless, he argues, this education necessarily involves law and
law-giving. Broadly speaking, it is the law, “written and unwritten,”
that de¬nes the virtues, such as courage, moderation, and liberality,
whose exercise constitutes good action (NE 1180a26“b2). For all of
the defects of actual regimes, not to say of politics simply, every polit-
ical order needs and encourages speci¬c virtues and thus, however
dimly or distantly, establishes an association between the lawful and
the good.
More importantly, the education to virtue falls under law because
justice, which is required by every political community, pertains to rela-
tions among individuals and to goods that are common, and justice
exists “among those for whom there is law” (NE 1134a30“1). Accord-
ing to Aristotle™s formulation, we achieve our completion as parts “ as
citizens “ of the city, and from the city™s perspective, this completion
consists in justice: Human beings are “the best of the animals” when
perfected, but when separated from law and justice (dike¯), we are the
“worst of all” (Pol. 1253a31“9). Alone among the virtues, justice is
held to be “another™s good,” but like the other virtues, it also consti-
tutes a perfection of the one who possesses and exercises it. As the
sum of the virtues directed toward the good of the community, justice
is the highest end of the law and most complete virtue of a human
being “ “neither the evening nor the morning star is so wondrous”
(NE 1129b27“9).
For all its emphasis on the priority of justice, however, liberal
thought has traditionally sought to strip it of its completeness as a
Conclusion 175

virtue by insisting with Hobbes, for example, that justice is simply the
keeping of the contract for the sake of peace and self-preservation or,
with Smith, that, compared to the “free gift” of bene¬cence, the sen-
timent of justice issues from resentment and from fear of disapproba-
tion and punishment.11 As his tough-minded discussions of reciprocity
and of distributive and corrective justice illustrate, Aristotle is hardly
unaware of such brute facts. Yet, even as he insists that we are the “worst
of all” when separated from law, he does not present these facts as the
whole of human experience, and he is able to explore fully the claim
so central to citizenship that justice is the perfection and highest good
of a human being.
In contending from the outset that there is no such perfection
or completion “ no highest good “ but only the pursuit of individ-
ual goods, liberalism correspondingly narrows the scope of law. The
contemporary opposition to Aristotle™s contention that “what the law
does not command, it forbids” is summed up by his great antagonist,
Hobbes, who maintains that what the law does not forbid, it allows.12
Liberalism™s denial of a highest good is thus connected with its rejec-
tion of the view that law constitutes the authoritative education to
virtue. But if, as Aristotle™s thought suggests, the law is intimately con-
nected with the question of the human good, then our view places a
nearly insurmountable roadblock on the path to self-understanding.
For all of its great bene¬ts, especially the liberty that follows from its
narrow view of law, liberalism comes at a price.
Given its insistence on the priority of justice and on universal or
human rights, it is true, liberal thought would appear to have a deeply
moral or moralistic character; as Sandel notes about Rawlsian liberal-
ism in particular, “it af¬rms justice, not nihilism.”13 But in reckoning
with Aristotle, we see that our principles, and the liberty that follows
from them, obscure the most serious question that citizenship poses
for the individual: whether justice is what it wishes to be, the highest
perfection and good of a human being. This question can come fully
to sight only with the comprehensive examination of the law as the

11 Hobbes, Leviathan, II.21; Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, ed. D. D. Raphael
and A. L. Macphie (Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Fund, 1982), pp. 79“81.
12 Compare NE 1138a7 with Hobbes, Leviathan, II.21.
13 Sandel, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1998), p. 176.
Aristotle and the Rediscovery of Citizenship

source of our completion as human beings “ an examination that we
preempt by denying this possibility. In giving full due to the law as
educator, Aristotle is able both to articulate its aims and to establish its
limits. In doing so, moreover, he illuminates the grounds upon which
the investigation of the good must acknowledge political authority and
upon which it may move beyond it.
As we have seen, Aristotle™s treatment of citizenship in his Nico-
machean Ethics and Politics does not complete his account of the good “
although the political community establishes the “authoritative” good
for human beings, it also points beyond itself. One of the ¬rst indi-
cations of this fact is moral virtue™s own claim to be an independent
end. The morally virtuous life strives to transcend its origin in the city,
and it is on this basis that one might propose a distinction between
civic or political virtue in the strictest sense “ what is instrumental to
the common good “ and moral virtue. Yet Aristotle™s accounts of jus-
tice and citizen virtue establish that this distinction actually re¬‚ects a
tension within moral virtue. As a completion, moral virtue seeks at one
and the same time to achieve the common good and to constitute a
good in its own right, but even in the best case, it cannot fully attain
this completion.
This tension between the dedication to the common good and
moral virtue as an independent end “ between civic virtue and the
virtue of a good human being “ is inherent in political life. Indeed,
it is built into every regime, since, as the dispute over distributive jus-
tice reveals, every regime is constituted on the basis of a partial claim
to justice. Aristotle™s analysis of this dispute thus establishes the limits
of the political community also by way of the different requirements
of justice: Justice as the common good preserves the city, but as the
distributive principle “to each in accord with his merit,” it looks to
the advantage or good of the individual. In light of these different
requirements, the question of the good, originally settled by the polit-
ical authority, reemerges “ not least for the person who loves virtue and
sees the city as the locus of morally serious action. For, as Aristotle™s
treatment of this problem indicates, if there are limits to the perfection
that the political community and the law can offer, we must consider
also the meaning of these limits for our good simply.
In acknowledging the educative authority of the political commu-
nity, Aristotle examines it on its own terms, and if he is thus more
Conclusion 177

open-minded regarding the scope and in¬‚uence of politics, he is also
more penetrating in his analysis of it. Moreover, we may begin to under-
stand better the grounds upon which wisdom emerges in Aristotle™s
investigation as potentially the highest human good. Even though his
treatment of the political life establishes that the law is not authori-
tative simply, he does not then rush to embrace relativism. Contrary
to liberal thought, Aristotle does not make the good relative to the
individual™s desire or wish, or even, simply speaking, to each circum-
stance. Rather, he indicates ¬rst the necessity of wisdom. Choices must
be made, actions taken, and when the law falls short, it requires guid-
ance from a source other than itself. In the ¬rst place, that is, wisdom
comes to sight as a corrective of, if a potential competitor to, law, which
cannot judge its own de¬ciencies or the departures from its command
that may be necessary and good. More importantly, Aristotle ultimately
looks beyond the law to settle the question over which the political com-
munity claims purview: Wisdom provides guidance, he argues in the
latter half of the Nicomachean Ethics, because it constitutes the highest
good of a human being.
Aristotle™s investigation of citizenship thus speaks to the individual,
suggesting that for those who seek the good and are “ambitious with
a view to virtue,” there are two possibilities: the political life and the
theoretical life. The question of the good does not remain open in
this regard “ a political life of noble and just action is not the same
life as one devoted to contemplation or theoretical activity. According
to Aristotle, the choice between the two depends most fundamentally
on a judgment about which kind of action is better, and he lays out
the grounds on which he ranks theoretical activity as best in the latter
half of the Ethics. This is a ranking that his investigation of citizenship
and the political community prepares for but does not establish. As we
have seen, in preparing the way, Aristotle gives full due to the nobility
and greatness of the political life, but he also illuminates the tensions
within it, the necessities underpinning the law, the dispute over dis-
tributive justice that informs every regime, the limits that this dispute
places on the political community™s highest end, and the signi¬cance
of these limits for both the community and the individual. Aristotle™s
care in presenting the full scope of politics “ its heights as well as its
necessities “ re¬‚ects the seriousness and greatness of political life while
moderating the good citizen™s highest hopes regarding its possibilities.
Aristotle and the Rediscovery of Citizenship

His care on both counts is worthy of emulation, since our own redis-
covery of citizenship continues to obscure the link between citizenship
and the good while insisting on new programs of civic education. More
importantly, in helping us to recall the view of justice and law that lib-
eral thought rejected in the name of the individual good, Aristotle™s
investigation of the citizen proves to be necessary for understanding
our good, especially in its connection with justice and nobility. For
Aristotle speaks to those “deepest convictions about the sources of
value and meaning” that we claim are reserved for the private sphere
of freedom. He thus compels us not only to confront fully our own
doubts about this claim, but also to recollect problems and concerns
that our thought obscures or resists. For us especially, Aristotle redraws
the terrain within which we must explore the question of the good,
and in showing the connection of this question with citizenship and
the life of moral virtue, he makes it possible for us to consider fully the
“source of their value and meaning” and the hopes, for happiness in
particular, that attend them.
By recovering a central part of Aristotle™s philosophy of human
affairs “ a philosophy that, in speaking to enduring human concerns,
has traveled across traditions and eras “ this study has sought to show
how the “old Morall Philosopher” continues to enlighten us today
regarding the life of the citizen. Aristotle™s thought cannot solve our
every problem, nor does it always ¬‚atter us. But one need not deny the
great political achievements of liberalism to recognize also its defects
or de¬ciencies, and in times such as these, when we confront both
doubts from within and challenges from without, Aristotle™s investi-
gation of citizenship “ his rich account of its relation to moral virtue
and the good, connection with the law and justice, and signi¬cance for
education and happiness “ serves to correct these defects and de¬cien-
cies. His wisdom thus offers guidance for us, as it did for generations
past, and it will persevere as long as there are political communities
that require citizens, and citizens who love justice and seek the wisdom
to which his philosophy of human affairs ¬nally gives pride of place.

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irony, 150“4, 159, 163, 164
Allen, Anita L., 15
justice, 45, 50, 117, 147, 174
Ambler, Wayne H., 103, 105
equity, 80, 86“9, 117, 142
Annas, Julia, 136
general justice, 68“72, 76
Anscombe, G. E. M., 13
natural justice, 80, 84“6, 117
Aquinas, Thomas, 46, 48, 57, 58, 70,
particular justice, 68“9, 71“3,
75, 85, 102, 159
Arendt, Hannah, 23, 105, 173 76“80
political justice, 82“5, 137,
Aristotelianism, 2, 7, 166
Aristotle 138
reciprocity, 69, 73“6, 82, 175
Nicomachean Ethics
law, 2“4, 22, 42“6, 52, 54, 65,
courage, 45, 48, 50“8, 63“4, 69,
69“89, 91“4, 98“101, 117,
77, 79, 151, 171“4
education, 2“4, 5, 22, 40“6, 54, 142, 146, 154, 157“8, 160,
162“3, 175“8
78“80, 94“101, 157, 171, 174,
leisure, 160“2
liberality, 48, 58“9, 64, 65, 77,
friendliness, 49, 147, 148“50,
magnanimity, 45, 48, 52, 59“64,
friendship, 93, 96, 98, 117, 147,
68, 70, 77, 115, 151“2, 159,
148, 163, 164, 165
gentleness, 49, 69, 147“8 174
magni¬cence, 48, 59“61, 159
good life, 2, 4, 43, 82, 96“8, 173
moderation, 48, 50, 58, 69, 81,
human good, 2, 3“4, 5, 40“6,
171, 174
63, 68, 74, 76“8, 82“4,
moral virtue, 2, 3, 22, 40“6, 47,
89“90, 92“8, 100“2, 108, 163,
55, 56, 61, 64, 65, 73, 78“81,
164, 175“8
intellectual virtue, 44, 89, 91, 89, 92“8, 108, 125, 148, 160,
163, 165, 176, 178
92, 95


moderation, 110, 114, 125,
Aristotle (cont.)
nameless virtues, 49, 148“9, 153 127“8, 146
noble (to kalon), 110“11, 114“15,
noble (to kalon), 4, 43, 45,
52“61, 79, 89, 98“9, 150,
philosophy, 112, 116“17, 146,
151“3, 159, 163, 165, 171“3
philosophy, 97, 101, 162, 178 161
prudence, 110“11, 117, 125,
piety, 159
prudence, 5, 90, 91, 92, 93“4, 127“8, 162
regime (politeia), 4, 5, 46, 73,
regime (politeia), 69, 72“3, 76, 82, 90, 102, 106, 109, 112“13,
115, 126, 129“34, 136“45,
78, 86, 97“8, 100, 162
right reason, 42, 44, 80“2, 89, 158, 176, 177
wisdom, 106, 117
91“2, 99, 117
works other than NE and Pol.
truthfulness, 49, 147, 149“54,
Eudemian Ethics, 64, 131,
wisdom, 46, 86, 92“7, 117, 163, 147
Posterior Analytics, 65, 152
165, 177
wittiness, 5, 49, 146, 147, 154“6, Rhetoric, 158
Arnhart, Larry, 60, 62
158, 159, 160, 162“4, 165, 174
Aspasius, 53, 63
Aubenque, Pierre, 67
best regime, 64“6, 108“9, 111,
112, 116“17, 124“30, 131, 138,
Bartlett, Robert C., 51, 78, 116, 135,
142, 145, 156, 157, 160, 173,
141, 143, 160
Beiner, Ronald, 26
citizen virtue, 107, 115, 129,
Berkowitz, Peter, 2, 10, 16, 18, 23, 27,
145, 173, 176
courage, 110, 111, 113 37, 40, 69, 136
Berns, Walter, 39
education, 5, 108, 115“17, 126,
Bod´ us, Richard, 45, 85, 88, 92, 93,

130, 131, 144“6, 154“7,
94, 98, 100, 109, 116
160“2, 174
Bohman, James, 23, 28
good citizen and good man, 66,
Broadie, Sarah, 92
117, 124“9, 130, 145
Burnet, John, 42, 59, 62, 73, 75, 78,
good life, 107“14, 116, 136
human good, 4, 5, 119, 146 80, 81, 125, 147, 151
intellectual virtue, 128, 162
Cooper, John M., 44, 94, 107
justice, 5, 102, 105“11, 114,
Copleston, Frederick, 48, 85
122“8, 134, 136, 146
Crisp, Roger, 13, 67
law, 3, 4, 46, 82, 90, 101“8,
Cropsey, Joseph, 60
115“18, 120, 130“2, 135“46,
174, 176
Delaney, C. F., 10
leisure, 116“17, 145“6, 156,
Dobbs, Darrell, 51, 115
Index 191

Downing, Lyle A., 16 Johnson, Curtis, 121, 122
Dworkin, Ronald, 34, 35 Jolif, J. Y., 45, 48, 50, 85, 93, 150, 152

Elshtain, Jean Bethke, 51 Kant, Immanuel, 1, 7, 8“13, 14, 16,
Etzioni, Amitai, 10 19, 21, 36, 41, 42
Euben, Peter, 165 Keyt, David, 74, 131
Konstan, David, 97
Krause, Sharon, 16
Fish, Stanley, 25
Kraut, Richard, 43, 51, 60, 68, 77, 85,
Foot, Philippa, 13
Frank, Jill, 40, 74, 97, 103, 136, 173 88, 89
Kukathas, Chandran, 21
Kymlicka, Will, 39
Galston, William, 2, 7, 10, 13, 14, 15,
16, 18, 20, 21, 23, 25, 26, 29,
Larmore, Charles, 29
32“40, 43, 69, 95, 136, 165,
Levy, Harold, 51
168, 169, 170, 171, 172, 173
Gauthier, R. A., 45, 48, 50, 63, 85,
citizen virtue, 30, 171
93, 150, 152
citizenship, 6, 11, 18, 28“30, 34
Grant, Sir Alexander, 45, 47, 48, 53,
education, 3, 18, 22, 23, 27“9, 31,
56, 57, 69, 81, 85, 147, 149,
35, 37, 40, 172, 178
158, 164
enlightenment, 3, 7, 8, 9, 17, 21
Griswold, Charles, 10
good citizen and good human
Gutmann, Amy, 2, 18, 22“6, 28, 33,
being, 37
39, 136, 169
human good, 8, 20, 22, 26“7,
Habermas, Jurgen, 10, 11, 17, 19
¨ 35“7, 40, 168“70, 172, 173
Lindsay, Thomas K., 51, 136, 141,
Halberstam, David, 1, 5
Hanley, Ryan Patrick, 61, 62 143, 144
Lister, Ruth, 40
Hardie, W. F. R., 46, 48, 62, 85, 92
Locke, John, 8, 28, 30, 107, 139
Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich, 9,
Lord, Carnes, 67, 109, 116, 156, 158,
Hobbes, Thomas, 1, 2, 8, 28, 81, 107, 160, 161, 162, 165
166, 175
Macedo, Stephen, 2, 10, 18, 23, 24,
Howland, Jacob, 45, 53, 61, 62, 63,
29“33, 34“5, 36, 40, 69, 136,
Hursthouse, Rosalind, 13, 67 169, 172, 173
MacIntyre, Alasdair, 2, 7, 9“10, 13,
Irwin, Terence, 81 14, 17, 26, 43, 49, 63, 95
Mans¬eld, Harvey C., 122, 137, 143,
Jaffa, Harry V., 46, 48, 60, 63, 65, 85 145
Miller, David, 40
Janoski, Thomas, 39
Miller, Fred D., 74, 85, 107, 136,
Joachim, H. H., 45, 47, 49, 62, 85,

Ritchie, D. G., 74, 75, 79
Morrison, Donald, 129, 134, 136
Rorty, Am´ lie Oksenberg, 51, 67
Mulgan, Richard, 136
Rorty, Richard, 2, 10, 11, 17, 21, 25“6,
Newell, W. R., 141, 144 39, 170
Ross, David, 46, 47, 48, 142, 147
Newman, W. L., 109, 110, 120,
Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, 1, 8, 12, 28
123, 124, 125, 126, 134,
142, 144
Salkever, Stephen G., 7, 16, 19, 43,
Nichols, Mary P., 52, 107, 127, 128,
45, 50, 51, 52, 69, 104, 186
Sandel, Michael, 2, 10, 11, 12“15, 17,
Nietzsche, Friedrich, 9
Nussbaum, Martha, 2, 10, 16, 17, 39, 18, 21, 22, 25“8, 36, 40, 173,
43, 51, 95, 136, 165, 173
Saxonhouse, Arlene, 51
Scho¬eld, Malcolm, 10, 49, 103, 107,
O™Connor, David, 67, 70, 71, 78
Okin, Susan Mollar, 17 119
Shklar, Judith, 6
Simpson, Peter, 7, 13, 44, 102, 108,
Pakaluk, Michael, 96
Pangle, Lorraine Smith, 96 109, 116, 119, 124, 126, 127,
Pangle, Thomas, 28 134, 136, 161, 162
Slote, Michael, 13, 67
Plato, 98, 145, 152
Smith, Adam, 175
Apology of Socrates, 152, 153
Smith, Thomas W., 45, 53, 61, 63, 64,
Republic, 70, 150, 152
65, 67, 70, 71, 77, 80, 95, 96,
Symposium, 156
Price, A. W., 96 97, 125, 131
Socrates, 38, 152“4, 156, 159, 163
Stern-Gillet, Suzanne, 97
Rahe, Paul, 105, 106
Stewart, J. A., 45, 48, 53, 56, 57, 61,
Ramsauer, G., 42, 83
Ravitch, Diane, 39 64, 70, 81, 83, 85, 88, 98, 147,
Rawls, John, 17, 18, 36 149, 151, 152, 160
Strauss, Leo, 85, 159
A Theory of Justice, 7, 11, 17, 19
Swanson, Judith, 51, 52
constitutional democracy, 23“4
justice, 12, 19“20, 25
Taylor, Charles, 15
liberalism, 2, 13, 19, 25“30, 32, 36,
Tessitore, Aristide, 10, 45, 61, 63, 65,
40, 166, 168, 170, 171
pluralism, 22, 25, 171 71, 77, 80, 88, 94, 96, 152
Thigpen, Robert B., 16
political liberalism, 3, 16, 19, 20,
Thompson, Dennis, 2, 18, 22“6, 33,
Political Liberalism, 16, 25
public reason, 19, 20, 32
Vander Waerdt, P. A., 94, 102, 116,
Reeve, C. D. C., 92, 94
Regan Jr., Milton C., 15 138, 142, 145
Villa, Dana, 40
Rehg, William, 11, 23, 28
Index 193

Walzer, Michael, 9, 16 Yack, Bernard, 85, 125,
Ward, Lee, 53, 54, 65 145
Welldon, J. E. C., 147, 150 Young, Iris Marion, 29
Williams, Bernard, 67
Winthrop, Delba, 75, 79 Zuckert, Catherine H., 105


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