Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Plato, Aristotle, & Machiavelli

FLG has been thinking more about this.  He has some basic thoughts, but nothing coherent yet.

It's interesting that all three come from periods of warring city-states.  Makes FLG think of The Third Man.

The most important thing, FLG believes, is Machiavelli's rejection of a teleology.  To be honest, it makes it almost impossible to put him in either Plato's or Aristotle's camp based on this alone.

As far as FLG is concerned, about the only thing Machiavelli and Plato have in common is the idea that one ruler is best for maintaining order.  (Although, regular readers will remember that FLG views the philosopher king, and indeed the entire structure of the Republic, far less literally than most people, more as a way to illustrate the correct ordering of an individual soul than the structuring of an actual republic.)

Aristotle and Machiavelli are far more in agreement in their approaches, both of which FLG would characterize as more bottom up, observational, and even empirical.  The big issue, again, is Aristotle's teleological thinking versus Machiavelli's non-teleological.  Aristotle without the teleology, very well might be Machiavelli, but on the other hand Aristotle without the teleology is nonsensical as well, like the Bible without God.

All of this is pretty obvious so far.  What FLG is thinking about is whether Aristotle's teleology is essential to his conception of the spoudaios.  The question is whether the spoudaios is "excellent/good" or "serious" or whether we are talking about the man or the citizen.

FLG was mulling over some paragraphs:
Whether the virtue of a good man and a good citizen is the same or not. But, before entering on this discussion, we must certainly first obtain some general notion of the virtue of the citizen. Like the sailor, the citizen is a member of a community. Now, sailors have different functions, for one of them is a rower, another a pilot, and a third a look-out man, a fourth is described by some similar term; and while the precise definition of each individual's virtue applies exclusively to him, there is, at the same time, a common definition applicable to them all. For they have all of them a common object, which is safety in navigation. Similarly, one citizen differs from another, but the salvation of the community is the common business of them all. This community is the constitution; the virtue of the citizen must therefore be relative to the constitution of which he is a member. If, then, there are many forms of government, it is evident that there is not one single virtue of the good citizen which is perfect virtue. But we say that the good man is he who has one single virtue which is perfect virtue. Hence it is evident that the good citizen need not of necessity possess the virtue which makes a good man. 
Since there are many forms of government there must be many varieties of citizen and especially of citizens who are subjects; so that under some governments the mechanic and the laborer will be citizens, but not in others, as, for example, in aristocracy or the so-called government of the best (if there be such an one), in which honors are given according to virtue and merit; for no man can practice virtue who is living the life of a mechanic or laborer. In oligarchies the qualification for office is high, and therefore no laborer can ever be a citizen; but a mechanic may, for an actual majority of them are rich. At Thebes there was a law that no man could hold office who had not retired from business for ten years. But in many states the law goes to the length of admitting aliens; for in some democracies a man is a citizen though his mother only be a citizen; and a similar principle is applied to illegitimate children; the law is relaxed when there is a dearth of population. But when the number of citizens increases, first the children of a male or a female slave are excluded; then those whose mothers only are citizens; and at last the right of citizenship is confined to those whose fathers and mothers are both citizens.  
As to the question whether the virtue of the good man is the same as that of the good citizen, the considerations already adduced prove that in some states the good man and the good citizen are the same, and in others different. When they are the same it is not every citizen who is a good man, but only the statesman and those who have or may have, alone or in conjunction with others, the conduct of public affairs. 

1 comment:

Miss Self-Important said...

Ok, so there is the objection to the "all philosophy is either Plato or Aristotle" thesis. It sank my ship too during exams.

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