Thursday, July 29, 2010

Aristotle's Politics, A.1-2

...in a translation of my own devising. Notes and thoughts to follow.

Aristotle, Politics [that is: “what is proper to the citizen”]

(1252a1) Since we see that every city is a sort of community and that every community is joined together for the sake of some good – for everyone does everything for the favor of what seems to be good – then clearly, as every community endeavors for some good, doubtless (5) the most sovereign of all will endeavor for the most sovereign of all goods and the one encompassing all the others. And this community is called the city or the political community.

And so those who suppose that what is proper to a citizen and to a king and to the head of a household and to a master are all the same do not speak beautifully. For they hold that each of these is (10) distinguished by being many or few, but not by its form, such that a few would be proper to a master, more to the head of a household, and yet more to a citizen or a king, as if there were no distinction between a large household and a small city. And as for what is proper to a citizen and to a king, whenever one is set above, this is kingly, and whenever, one in part rules and in part is ruled, (15) according to the account of science, this is civic. But none of this is true.

What has just been said will become clear if we investigate according to the usual mode of inquiry. For just as in other cases what is put together must be separated until one reaches what is not put together – for these are the least (20) parts of all – so also if we look out for what lies together in the city, we will better see both how these things we have spoken about are distinguished from one another and whether it is possible to take hold of some technique regarding each of them.

If we were to observe how each of these matters was engendered from the beginning (25), just as in other cases also in this one, we would contemplate it most beautifully. First, of necessity, there is the coupling together of those who are not able to be without one another: 1) as the female and the male, for the sake of generation – for this is not from deliberate decision but, just as in the other animals and plants, from a natural bidding (30) to leave behind an other that is like oneself – and 2) as the by nature ruling and ruled, for safety. For that which is able to foresee by thought is by nature ruling and by nature mastering, but that which is able to gain this by the labor of the body is ruled and by nature a slave. Because of this, the same thing benefits master and slave.

(1252b) Now the female and the slave are distinguished by nature – for nature makes nothing in the way that smiths make the Delphic knife, poorly, but one for one; for thus would each tool bring the work to its end most beautifully, not being a slave to many works, (5) but to one. But among the barbarians, the female and the slave have the same rank. The cause of this is that they do not have what is by nature ruling, but the community comes to be the same as that of female slave and male slave. Because of this, the poets say: “It is fitting that Hellenes rule barbarians,” (Euripides, Iphegenia in Aulis, line 1400) – as if, by nature, barbarian and slave are the same.

And so from these (10) two communities the household first arises, and Hesiod rightly says in his poem: “A house, first of all, a wife, and an ox for the plough” (Works and Days, line 405) – for a poor person has an ox rather than a servant. And so the community in everything ephemeral, joined together according to nature, is the household; and Charonides calls these “bowl-mates,” and Epimedides (15) of Krete “manger-mates.”

And the first community arising from several households for the sake of non-ephemeral needs is the village. Very much according to nature, the village seems to be a colony of the household; some call these “milk-mates,” children and children of children. Because of this the first cities were ruled by kings, and the (20) nomadic peoples are still yet. For those joined together were ruled by kings; for every household was a kingship under the eldest, and thus also were the colonies, through kinship. And this is what Homer says: “each declares right for children and wives” (Odyssey, book 9, line 114) – for they were scattered; and they dwelled thus in ancient times. And because of this everyone says (25) the gods are ruled by a king, since they themselves are still now, or were in ancient times, ruled by kings, and just as humans make the gods like themselves in form, so too in way of life.

The city is the complete community arising from several villages, already having attained the limit of self-sufficiency, in a manner of speaking, coming to be for the sake of (30) life, but being for the sake of living well. Because of this, every city is by nature, if indeed the first communities were. For this is the end of those, and the nature is the end. For as each thing is at the completion of its coming into being, this we say is the nature of each, as with a human being, a horse, or a household. Further, that for the sake of which and the end is best (1253a), and self-sufficiency is also the end and best.

From these things, then, it is apparent that the city is by nature, and that the human being is a political animal by nature, and that the one without a city, through nature and not through chance, is truly low, or else superior to human being, and, just like (5) the one Homer reviled: “without clan, without right, without home,” (Iliad, book 9, line 63) – for one who is like that by nature is, just like that, one who longs for war, just as is the unyoked piece in draughts.

Because of this, clearly, the human being is more political an animal than all bees and all herding animals. For, as we say, nature makes nothing fruitlessly. Among the animals, (10) only the human being has speech. The voice is a sign of pain and pleasure, and because of this is present in the other animals – for their nature comes as far as this, to have perception of pain and pleasure, and also to signal this to one another – but speech is to make clear the advantageous and (15) the harmful, and also the just and the unjust. For human beings alone, as opposed to the other animals, have this only, the perception of good and evil and just and unjust and the others. And the community of these makes a household and a city.

(20) And the city and the household are prior to each of us by nature. For the whole is, of necessity, prior to the parts. For if you do away with the whole, neither the foot nor the hand will be, except by homonym – just as if one spoke of a stone foot or hand – for in this regard it is utterly destroyed. Everything is defined by its work and its ability, such that if, in this regard, it is no longer, it is not to be spoken of as the same, except by homology. (25) And so, that the city is prior to each is clear. For if each is not self-sufficient separately, each will have the like condition as other parts in relation to the whole; and the one who is incapable of communing, or who needs nothing through being self-sufficient, is no part of a city, like a beast or a god.

And so, there is in everyone by nature an impetus (30) towards this sort of community; and the first who brought it together is responsible for the greatest good. For just as the human being, when completed, is the best of the animals, so also, when separated from law and justice, the human being is the worst of all. For armed injustice is most dangerous, and the human being is born armed for prudence and (35) virtue, which arms are very useful for the opposite. Because of this, without virtue the human being is most unholy and savage, and the worst regarding sex and food. Justice is of the city, for justice is the order of the political community, and righteousness is a decision about what is just.

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