THE RELATION BETWEEN VIRTUE AND PROSPERITY
The seventh and eighth books belong closely to each other and stand somewhat apart from the preceding six. They make an unfinished essay on a favourite theme of Greek thinkers, ‘What is the ideal form of state and constitution?’ The first three chapters of VII form a philosophical introduction: Aristotle debates, in the light of his own teleological moral theory, the nature of that ‘best life’ which the ideal state facilitates. The ‘best life’ is of course a well-worn but inexhaustible subject: both the Ethics and the Politics are full of it, and so are Aristotle’s more popular works and public lectures – if indeed either of these are what he means by the ‘external discourses’ to which he refers here and in III vi.
Although in VII and VIII Aristotle is seeking to define the conditions of an ideal or perfect state, he still wants it to be within the bounds of possibility (see iv. where he begins to discuss practical details). His method and approach are therefore far removed from those of Plato’s Republic, and much more like those of the Laws.
The phrases used in the fourth paragraph of VII i about the happiness of an individual or a state are impossible to translate effectively; yet they are important, since Aristotle reinforces his argument by certain verbal similarities, not to say ambiguities. Newman comments:1 ‘When Aristotle sought to show… that the chief ingredient in eudaimonia [happiness] is virtue, his work was half done for him by the ordinary use of the Greek language.’ Aristotle argues that a state cannot (a) be ‘happy’ unless it (b) prospers (the common Greek expression prattein kalōs, literally ‘do well, finely’); but it cannot prosper unless it (c) does good actions (prattein kala, literally ‘do good things’); and it cannot do good things/actions unless it (d) has virtue (aretē). Requirement (c), particularly in view of its dependence on (d), seems to be a moral one; and its verbal resemblance to the prudential prattein kalōs facilitates Aristotle’s argument that prosperity is dependent on virtue. And in so far as this argument applies to an individual also, it seems to follow that the same kind of activity – i.e. way of life – is required for the happiness both of the individual and of the state, which is, after all, individuals in the mass.
The connection between (a) and (b) is perhaps obvious, or at least plausible enough. But what are we to make of the rest of the argument? Aristotle can hardly be asserting, in the connection he makes between (b) and (c), that one cannot be prosperous unless one performs prosperous actions: that would seem sterile indeed. On the other hand an argument that ‘moral’ (kala) acts (i.e. acts which may be other than prudential), are needed for being prosperous (prattein kalōs) would hardly be supported by experience. The crucial connection for Aristotle is between (d) and (cb): thekala, ‘prosperous’, deeds essential to prattein kalōs, prosperity, will not be done in the absence of virtue, aretē, which is a state of the soul which disposes and prompts the person to do them. The argument is therefore purely prudential: the expression prattein kala is a bridge between ‘virtue’ and prosperity, neatly calculated, by its similarity to prattein kalōs, to facilitate a connection between prosperity and mental or spiritual dispositions. In short, human happiness depends, in Aristotle’s view, on ‘virtue’ (separated out in this chapter into the traditional four ‘virtues’) – a theme which is a fitting introduction to discussion of the ‘best’ state and, in Books VII xiii–xvii and VIII, its educational system, by which ‘virtue’ is fostered.
The identity of the schools of thought reported in these first three chapters is not known for sure; for suggestions, see the commentaries.
1323a14 If we wish to investigate the best constitution appropriately, we must first decide what is the most desirable life; for if we do not know that, the best constitution is also bound to elude us. For those who live under the best-ordered constitution (so far as their circumstances allow) may be expected, barring accidents, to be those whose affairs proceed best. We must therefore first come to some agreement as to what is the most desirable life for all men, or nearly all, and then decide whether it is one and the same life that is most desirable for them both as individuals and in the mass, or different ones. 1323a21 In the belief that the subject of the best life has been fully and adequately discussed, even in the external discourses,2 I propose to make use of this material now. Certainly nobody will dispute one division: that there are three ingredients which must all be present to make us blessed – our bodily existence, our intellectual and moral qualities, and all that is external.3 (No one would call blessed a man who is entirely without courage or self-control or practical wisdom or a sense of justice, who is scared of flies buzzing past, who will stop at nothing to gratify his desire for eating or drinking, who will ruin his closest friends for a paltry profit, and whose mind also is as witless and deluded as a child’s or a lunatic’s.) But while there is general agreement about these three, there is much difference of opinion about their extent and their order of superiority. Thus people suppose that it is sufficient to have a certain amount of virtue, but they set no limit to the pursuit of wealth, power, property, reputation, and the like.
1323a38 Our answer to such people will be twofold. First, it is easy to arrive at a firm conviction on these matters by simply observing the facts: it is not by means of external goods that men acquire and keep the virtues, but the other way round; and to live happily, whether men suppose it to consist in enjoyment or in virtue or in both, does in fact accrue more to those who are outstandingly well-equipped in character and intellect, and only moderately so in the possession of externally acquired goods – more, that is, than to those who have more goods than they need but are deficient in the other qualities. Yet the matter can be considered on the theoretical level too, and the same result will be seen easily enough. External goods, being like a collection of tools each useful for some purpose, have a limit: one can have too many of them, and that is bound to be of no benefit, or even a positive injury, to their possessors. It is quite otherwise with the goods of the soul: the more there is of each the more useful each will be (if indeed one ought to apply to these the term ‘useful’, as well as ‘admirable’). So clearly, putting it in general terms, we shall maintain that the best condition of anything in relation to the best condition of4 any other thing is commensurate in point of superiority with the relationship between the things themselves of which we say these conditions are conditions. Hence as the soul is a more precious thing (both absolutely and relatively to ourselves) than both property and the body, its best condition too will necessarily show a proportionate relationship to that of4 each of the others. Moreover, it is for the sake of our souls that these things are to be desired, and all right-minded persons ought to desire them; it would be wrong to reverse this priority.
1323b21 Let this then be agreed upon at the start: to each man there comes just so much happiness as he has of virtue and of practical wisdom, and performs actions dependent thereon. God himself is an indication of the truth of this. He is blessed and happy not on account of any of the external goods but because of himself and what he is by his own nature. And for these reasons good fortune must be something different from happiness; for the acquisition of goods external to the soul is due either to the coincidence of events5or to fortune, but no man is just or restrained as a result of, or because of, fortune. A connected point, depending on the same arguments, applies with equal force to the state: the best and welldoing6 state is the happy state. But it is impossible for those who do not do good actions to do well,6 and there is no such thing as a man’s or a state’s good action without virtue and practical wisdom. The courage of a state, or its sense of justice, or its practical wisdom, or its restraint have exactly the same effect and are manifested in the same form as the qualities which the individual has to share in if he is to be called courageous, just, wise7 or restrained.
1323b36 These remarks must suffice to introduce the subject; it was impossible to start without saying something, equally impossible to try to develop every relevant argument, for that would be a task for another session. For the present let this be our fundamental basis: the life which is best for men, both separately, as individuals, and in the mass, as states, is the life which has virtue sufficiently supported by material resources to facilitate participation in the actions that virtue calls for. As for objectors,8 if there is anyone who does not believe what has been said, we must pass them by for the purposes of our present inquiry and deal with them on some future occasion.
THE ACTIVE LIFE AND THE PHILOSOPHIC LIFE (l)
The question raised at the beginning of this book, ‘Which is the most desirable kind of life?’, has not yet been answered in detail: the preliminaries just referred to are still in progress and continue to the end of iii. So far, the ‘happiness’ (eudaimonia) of both state and individual has been shown to be inseparable from the ‘good’ life and therefore from virtue. On ‘happiness’ see the Nicomachean Ethics I, where in Chapter xiii it is defined as ‘an activity of the soul according to perfect virtue’.
Aristotle now asks, is the happy life one that is busy and active in public affairs, or is it contemplative and philosophic? Little is said of the latter option; the main purpose of the chapter seems to rule out of consideration one view of the active life, namely that it should be directed towards enabling the state to aggrandize itself by conquest and mastery of neighbouring states. He lists some states which encourage military virtue above all (cf. Plato, Laws init.), and in an anthropological spirit mentions some devices they use in order to do so. He then attacks such an attitude by a number of arguments of which perhaps the most interesting is from the ‘ladder of nature’: no doubt some animals are naturally intended for forcible exploitation by us, e.g. those we hunt for food – but not our fellow-men. War, he maintains, is a means of defending the good life; it is not the good life itself.
1324a5 It remains to ask whether we are to say that happiness is the same for the individual human being and for the state, or not. The answer is again obvious: all would agree that it is the same. For those who hold the view that the good life of an individual depends on wealth will likewise, if the whole state be wealthy, count it blessed; and those who prize most highly the life of a tyrant will deem most happy that state which rules over the greatest number of people. So too one who commends the single individual on the basis of his virtue will also judge the more sound state to be the happier.
1324a13 But there are still these two questions needing consideration: (a) Which life is more desirable, the life of participation in the work of the state and constitution, or one like a foreigner’s, cut off from the association of the state?1 (b) What constitution are we to lay down as best, and what is the best condition for the state to be in (whether we assume that participation in the state is desirable for all or only for the majority)? The first question was a matter of what is desirable for an individual; the second belongs to political theory and insight, and we have chosen to examine it now. The other question would be merely incidental, this second one is the business of our inquiry.
1324a23 Obviously the best constitution must be one which is so ordered that any person whatsoever may prosper best and live blessedly; but it is disputed, even by those who admit that the life of virtue is the most desirable, whether the active life of a statesman2 is preferable to one which is cut off from all external influences, i.e. the contemplative life, which some say is the only life for a philosopher. Both in earlier and in modern times men most ambitious for virtue seem generally to have preferred these two kinds of life, the statesman’s or the philosopher’s. It makes a considerable difference which of the two is correct, because we must, if we are right-minded people, direct ourselves to the better of the two aims, whichever it may be; and this equally as individuals and collectively as members of a constitution. Some hold that to rule over one’s neighbours in the manner of a slave-master involves the greatest injustice, but that to do so in a statesmanlike way3 involves none, though it does mean making inroads on the comfort of the ruler. Others hold pretty well the opposite, namely that the life of active statesmanship is the only one worthy of a man, and activity springing from each of the individual virtues is just as much open to those who take part in public affairs under the constitution as to private persons. That is one view, but there is also a set of people who say that the only style of constitution that brings happiness is one modelled on tyranny and on mastery of slaves. And in some places the definitive purpose both of the laws and of the constitution is to facilitate mastery of the neighbouring peoples.
1324b5 Hence, even though in most places the legal provisions4 have for the most part been established on virtually no fixed principle, yet if it is anywhere true that the laws have a single purpose, they all aim at domination. Thus in Sparta and Crete the educational system and the bulk of the laws are directed almost exclusively to purposes of war; and outside the Greek peoples all such nations as are strong enough to aggrandize themselves, like the Scythians, Persians, Thracians, and Celts, have always set great store by military power. In some places there are also laws designed to foster military virtue, as at Carthage, where men reputedly receive decorations in the form of armlets to the number of the campaigns in which they have served. There used also to be a law in Macedonia that a man had to be girdled with his halter until he had slain his first enemy; and at a certain Scythian feast when the cup was passed round only those were allowed to drink from it who had killed an enemy. Among the Iberians, a warlike race, the tombs of their warriors have little spikes stuck around them showing the number of enemy slain. There are many other such practices, some established by law and some by custom, among different peoples.
1324b22 Yet surely, if we are prepared to examine the point carefully, we shall see how completely unreasonable it would be if the work of a statesman were to be reduced to an ability to work out how to rule and be master over neighbouring peoples, with or without their consent! How could that be a part of statecraft or lawgiving, when it is not even lawful5 in itself? To rule at all costs, not only justly but unjustly, is unlawful, and merely to have the upper hand is not necessarily to have a just title to it. Nor does one find this in the other fields of knowledge: it is not the job of a doctor or a ship’s captain to persuade or to force patients or passengers. Certainly most people seem to think that mastery is statesmanship, and they have no compunction about inflicting upon others what in their own community they regard as neither just nor beneficial if applied to themselves. They themselves ask for just government among themselves; but in the treatment of others they do not worry at all about what measures are just. Of course we may be sure that nature has made some things fit to be ruled by a master and others not, and if this is so, we must try to exercise master-like rule not over all people but only over those fit for such treatment – just as we should not pursue human beings for food or sacrifice, but only such wild animals as are edible and so suitable to be hunted for this purpose.
1324b41 Surely too a single state could be happy even on its own (provided of course that its constitution runs well), since it is possible for a state to be administered in isolation in some place or other, following its own sound laws: the organization of its constitution will not be directed to war or the defeat of enemies, for the non-existence of these is postulated. The conclusion is obvious: we regard every provision made for war as admirable, not as a supreme end but only as serving the needs of that end. It is the task of a sound legislator to survey the state, the clan, and every other association and to see how they can be brought to share in the good life and in whatever degree of happiness is possible for them. There will of course be different rules laid down in different places; if there are neighbouring peoples, it will be part of the legislative function to decide what sort of attitude is to be adopted to this sort and that sort, and how to employ towards each the proper rules for dealing with each. But this question, ‘What end should the best constitution have in view?’, will be properly examined at a later stage.6
THE ACTIVE LIFE AND THE PHILOSOPHIC LIFE (2)
Aristotle now returns to the general theme of these three introductory chapters – the good life. Is the happy life for the individual one of philosophy and reflection, or one of action and contribution to public affairs? In effect, the chapter seeks to rid their respective partisans of certain misconceptions. A partisan of the philosophic life might object to the active life by arguing that since happiness (eudaimonia) is prosperity or ‘doing well’ (eu prattein), unlimited power, used ‘despotically’ as a slave-master (despotēs) uses his over his slaves, is needed to ensure maximum prosperity. Aristotle points out in reply that a slave-master’s rule is a fairly humdrum thing, and no model for a ‘statesman’ to emulate, whose ruling of his peers and being ruled by them in turn is just as effective in achieving prosperity. Besides, unlimited power to do good is rarely used to do only good; it needs to be conjoined with virtue (aretē). On the other hand, Aristotle is anxious to assert, as against partisans of the active life who (pardonably, perhaps) suppose that the philosophic life is not active (and therefore presumably not happy either), that reflection can lead to action, and that (a very subtle argument this – see note 3) thought is ‘active’ in a special sense. The final paragraph argues that a state living an ‘isolated’ life need not be ‘inactive’, since its internal ‘parts’ may relate to each other in an active way (indeed how could they not?).
Underlying the entire argumentation of these first three chapters is Aristotle’s fundamental teleological conviction that ‘happiness’ is a form of activity: activity is obviously what man, as an animal, is made for, and he cannot be happy if he is not active. Successful action depends on virtue (see introduction to VII i, and its fourth paragraph).
1325a16 We must now deal with those who, while agreeing that the life which is conjoined with virtue is the most desirable, differ as to how it is to be followed. Some reject altogether the holding of state-offices, regarding the life of a free man as different from that of a statesman, and as the most desirable of all lives. Others say that the statesman’s life is best, on the grounds that a man who does nothing cannot be doing well, and happiness and doing well are the same thing.1 To both parties we may say in reply, ‘You are both of you partly right and partly wrong. Certainly it is true, as some of you maintain, that the life of a free man is better than the life like that of a master of slaves: there is no dignity in using a slave, qua slave, for issuing instructions to do this or that routine job is no part of noble activity. But not all rule is rule by a master, and those who think it is are mistaken. The difference between ruling over free men and ruling over slaves is as great as the difference between the naturally free and the natural slave, a distinction which has been sufficiently defined in an earlier passage.2 And we cannot agree that it is right to value doing nothing more than doing something. For happiness is action; and the actions of just and restrained men represent the consummation of many fine things.’
1325a34 But perhaps someone will suppose that if we define things in this way, it means that absolute sovereignty is best, because then one is in a sovereign position to perform the greatest number of fine actions; and so anyone who is in a position to rule ought not to yield that position to his neighbour, but take and keep it for himself without any regard for the claims of his parents or his children or friends in general, sacrificing everything to the principle that the best is most to be desired and nothing could be better than to do well.1 Perhaps there is some truth in this, but only if we suppose that this most desirable of things is in fact going to accrue to those who use robbery and violence. But maybe this is impossible and the supposition is false. For a man who does not show as much superiority over his fellows as husband over wife, or father over children, or master over slave – how can his actions be fine actions? So he who departs from the path of virtue will never be able to go sufficiently straight to make up entirely for his previous errors. As between similar people, the fine and just thing is to take turns, which satisfies the demands of equality and similarity. Non-equality given to equals, dissimilar positions given to similar persons – these are contrary to nature and nothing that is contrary to nature is fine. Hence it is only when one man is superior in virtue, and in ability to perform the best actions, that it becomes fine to serve him and just to obey him. But it should be remembered that virtue in itself is not enough; there must also be the power to translate it into action.
1325b14 If all this is true and if happiness is to be equated with doing well,1 then the active life will be the best both for any state as a whole community and for the individual. But the active life need not, as some suppose, be always concerned with our relations with other people, nor is intelligence ‘active’ only when it is directed towards results that flow from action. On the contrary, thinking and speculation that are their own end and are done for their own sake are more ‘active’, because the aim in such thinking is to do well, and therefore also, in a sense, action.3 Master-craftsmen in particular, even though the actions they direct by their intellect are external to them, are nevertheless said to ‘act’, in a sovereign sense.
1325b23 As for states that are set up away from others and have chosen to live thus in isolation, there is nothing in that to oblige them to lead a life of inaction. Activity too may take place as among parts: the parts of a state provide numerous associations that enter into relations with each other. The same is true of any individual person; for otherwise God himself and the whole universe would scarcely be in a fine condition, for they have no external activities, only those proper to themselves. It is therefore clear that the same life must inevitably be the best both for individuals and collectively for states and mankind.
THE SIZE OF THE IDEAL STATE
The preliminary remarks are now complete, and it remains to discuss and describe the ideal state. In Book II, where others’ accounts of it were criticized, Plato’s Laws had been much less severely handled than his Republic, and less systematically. What now follows (chapters iv to xii) is similar in method and principles, but not always in detail, to the Laws. Aristotle treats first the materials and the conditions of the ideal state, its population, size, situation and climate (iv–vii); next its institutions, social, political, and religious, especially as concerns citizenship, ownership of land, and division into classes (viii–x); and then the siting and layout of the ideal state itself (xi–xii). All this is somewhat external; the account of the constitution as such begins at Chapter xiii with a discussion of education, which is the main subject of the rest of Book VII and all that remains of Book VIII. However, nowhere in the Politics is there an account of a constitutional framework such as Plato in his Laws described in detail.
As for the size of the ideal state, Plato had advocated (Laws 737e ff.) the mathematically convenient number of 5,040 citizen farmers, plus their families and slaves, and an admixture of resident aliens. Aristotle, however, does not commit himself to a particular number: he is content to suggest only empirical guidelines for determining the maximum and minimum. True to his teleological principles, he argues that the population must be neither too large nor too small to prevent the state from fulfilling its function.
1325b33 Now that our introduction to these matters is finished, and since we have earlier discussed the other constitutions, the first part of what remains to be discussed will deal with the question, ‘What are the fundamental postulates for a state which is to be constructed exactly as one would wish, and provided with all the appropriate material equipment, without which it could not be the best state?’ We must therefore postulate everything as we would wish it to be, remembering however that nothing must be outside the bounds of possibility. I mean for example with respect to a body of citizens, and territory. Other craftsmen, say a weaver or a boatmaker, must have a supply of their materials in a state suitable for the exercise of their craft; and the better these materials are prepared, the finer will inevitably be the result which the craftsmen’s skill will produce. So too a statesman or lawgiver must have the proper material in suitable condition.
1326a5 The first part of a state’s equipment is a body of men, and we must consider both how many they ought to be and with what natural qualities. The second is territory; we shall need to determine both its extent and its character. Most people think that if a state is to be happy it has to be great. This may be true, but they do not know how to judge greatness and smallness in a state. They judge greatness by the number of people living in it; but one ought to look not at numbers but at capacity. A state too has a function to perform, and the state which is most capable of discharging that function must be regarded as greatest, rather in the same way that one might say that Hippocrates was ‘bigger’, not as a man but as a physician, than one of greater bodily size. However, even granting that we must have regard to numbers, we must not do so without discrimination: although we must allow for the necessary presence in states of many slaves and foreigners (resident or visitors), our real concern is only with those who form part of the state, i.e. with those elements of which a state properly consists. Pre-eminence in numbers of these is a mark of a great state, but a state cannot possibly be great which can put into the field only a handful of heavy-armed soldiers1 along with a large crowd of mechanics. A great state and a populous one are not the same.
1326a25 Moreover, experience has also shown that it is difficult, if not impossible, for a populous state to be run by good laws; at any rate, we know of no state with a reputation for a well-run constitution that does not restrict its numbers. The language itself makes this certain. For law is itself a kind of order, and to live under good laws is necessarily to live in good order. But an excessively large number cannot take on any degree of order; that would require the operation of a divine power, such as actually holds together the universe. Moreover, beauty commonly arises in a context of size and number; so the state, too, will necessarily be most beautiful if, though large, it conforms to the limitation just mentioned.2 But there must also be a norm for the size of a state, as there is a normal size for everything else – animals, plants, instruments, and so on. Each of these can only keep the power that belongs to it if it is neither too large nor too small; otherwise its essential nature will be either entirely lost or seriously impaired. Thus a boat a span long will not really be a boat at all, nor one that is two stades long.3 There is a certain size at which it will become either too large or too small to be navigated well.
1326b2 It is just the same with a state: if it has too few people it cannot be self-sufficient, whereas a state is a self-sufficient thing. If it has too many people, it can certainly be self-sufficient in its basic requirements, but as a nation, not as a state, because it is difficult for a constitution to subsist in it. For who will be military commander of this excessive population? Who will be their crier unless he has the voice of a Stentor? Therefore, when the population first becomes large enough to be sufficient for itself in all that is needed for living the good life after the manner of an association which is a state, then that must be a state of a primitive kind.4 It is possible to go on from there; a state greater in population than that will be a larger state, but as we have said, this process is not unlimited.
1326b11 What the limit of the extra should be can easily be determined by an examination of the facts. The activities of a state are those of the rulers and those of the ruled, and the functions of the ruler are decision and direction. In order to give decisions on matters of justice, and for the purpose of distributing offices on merit, it is necessary that the citizens should know each other and know what kind of people they are. Where this condition does not exist, both decisions and appointments to office are bound to suffer, because it is not just in either of these matters to proceed haphazardly, which is clearly what does happen where the population is excessive. Another drawback is that it becomes easy for foreigners, and aliens resident in the country, to become possessed of citizenship,5 because the excessive size of the population makes detection difficult. Here then we have ready to hand the best limit of a state: it must have the largest population consistent with catering for the needs of a self-sufficient life, but not so large that it cannot be easily surveyed. Let that be our way of describing the size of a state.
THE TERRITORY OF THE IDEAL STATE
For the Platonic background to this chapter and the next, see Laws IV, init., 760a ff., 842b ff., 949e ff.
1326b26 The case is similar when we turn our attention to the territory. As regards quality of land, everyone would be in favour of the most self-sufficient; that is to say, it must be the most universally productive, for to have everything on hand and nothing lacking is to be self-sufficient. As to size and extent, these should be such that the inhabitants can live a life that affords the leisure of a free man, but one lived in a spirit of moderation. Whether this definition is good or bad is a point into which we must later1 go in greater detail, when we come to discuss the general question of property and abundance of possessions, and ask what procedures and arrangements ought to govern their use. It is a question with many points of dispute, because of those who pull to extremes, some to extravagance of life-style, others to niggardliness.
1326b39 The general configuration of the land is not difficult to state (though there are some points on which we must also take the opinion of those who have experience of conducting operations of war): it ought to be hard for a hostile force to invade, easy for an expeditionary force to depart from. Apart from that, just as we remarked that the population ought to be easily surveyed, so we say the same of the territory; in a country that can easily be surveyed it is easy to bring up assistance at any point. Next, the position of the state: if we are to put it exactly where we would like best, it should be conveniently situated for both sea and land. One definitive requirement, mentioned above, is that it should be well placed for sending assistance in all directions; a second is that it should form a centre for the easy receipt of crops as well as of timber, and of any other similar raw material for whatever manufacturing processes the land may possess.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE SEA
The advantages of a maritime situation are now argued in greater detail, perhaps partly in answer to Plato, who constantly expressed disapproval of sea-ports and navies, foreign trade and travel (see e.g. Laws IV init., and 949 ff.). Aristotle in this chapter gives first some positive advantages, then some ways in which drawbacks can be met; for he agreed with Plato in holding it to have been a disastrous policy for Athens to extend citizenship to the lower social groups, in deference to their position as rowers in the navy, on which the Athenians relied for their political hegemony in Greece and for their food-supply. Aristotle, like Plato, regards such people, however important to a state, as not ‘part’ of it, i.e. as not deserving citizenship; cf. VII viii.
1327a11 There is a good deal of argument about communication with the sea and whether it is a help or a hindrance to states governed by good laws. Some say that to open one’s state to foreigners, brought up in a different legal code, is detrimental to government by good laws, and so is the large population, which, they say, results from the using of the sea to dispatch and receive large numbers of traders, and is inimical to running a good constitution. If these evil consequences can be avoided, it is obviously better both for ensuring an abundance of necessities and for defensive reasons that the state and its territory should have access to the sea. To facilitate resistance to an enemy and ensure survival, the population needs to be in a position to be readily defended both by sea and by land, and even if they cannot strike a blow against invaders on both elements, it will be easier to strike on one, if they have access to both. So too people must import the things which they do not themselves produce, and export those of which they have a surplus. For a state’s trading must be in its own interest and not in others’. Some throw their state open as a market for all comers for the sake of the revenue they bring; but a state in which such aggrandisement is illegitimate ought not to possess that kind of trading-centre at all. We see in modern times also many states and territories in possession of anchorages and harbours conveniently situated for the city, not so near as to encroach and become part of the same town, but close enough to be controlled by walls and other such defence-works. It is therefore clear that if communication with those places is productive of good, then that good will accrue to the state; but if of evil, it is easy to guard against that by laying down laws to prescribe who are and who are not to be allowed to come into contact with each other.
1327a40 Then there is this matter of naval forces. Clearly it is excellent that there should be a certain quantity of these available, for it is important that by sea as well as by land a state should be formidable and able to render aid, not only internally but to certain of its neighbours. The number and size of the naval force will have to be decided in the light of the way of living of the state concerned. If it is to play an active role as a leading state,1 it will need naval as well as land forces large enough for such activities. The large population associated with a mob of seamen need not swell the membership of the state, of which they should form no part. The troops that are carried on board are free men belonging to the infantry; they are in sovereign authority and have control over the crews. A plentiful supply of sailors is sure to exist wherever the outlying dwellers2 and agricultural labourers are numerous. We can see examples of this even today: at Heraclea, though their city is of comparatively modest size, they find crews for many triremes. So much then for territory, harbours, cities, sea and naval forces; we pass now to the citizen population.
THE INFLUENCE OF CLIMATE
In this chapter Aristotle is probably indebted to the ‘Airs, Waters, Places’ of Hippocrates, a work dealing with the effect of the climate of a country on the health and character of the inhabitants (translated in Hippocratic Writings, ed. G. E. R. Lloyd, Pelican Classics, 1978; cf. VII xi and Plato,Laws 747de).
It may seem unfortunate that Aristotle does not develop the theme, casually suggested in the first paragraph, of a unification of Hellas as a world-ruling power; but perhaps he intended it only as a formal and theoretical possibility, not to be taken seriously.
In the second paragraph Aristotle discusses one of the desirable qualities possessed by some Greeks: thumos, ‘spirit’, treated by Plato in the Republic as the self-assertive part of the soul, the seat of ambition, enterprise and righteous indignation. Aristotle makes the interesting but (on the face of it) somewhat implausible suggestion that thumos must be responsible for friendly feelings, because we are more indignant when ill-treated by our friends than we are when ill-treated by others. And as in II i–vi, he is not at his best when commenting on Plato, who, while requiring a combination of friendliness and aggression in his Guardians, did not actually require them to be aggressive towards strangers as such, in spite of Aristotle’s querulous suggestio falsi.
1327b18 We have already spoken1 about limiting the number of citizens; we must now ask what kind of natural qualities they should have. We could form a fair notion of the answer if we glanced first at the most famous Greek states, and then at the divisions between nations in the whole inhabited world. The nations that live in cold regions and those of Europe are full of spirit, but somewhat lacking in skill and intellect; for this reason, while remaining relatively free, they lack political cohesion2 and the ability to rule over their neighbours. On the other hand the Asiatic nations have in their souls both intellect and skill, but are lacking in spirit; so they remain enslaved and subject. The Hellenic race, occupying a mid-position geographically, has a measure of both, being both spirited and intelligent. Hence it continues to be free, to live under the best constitutions, and, given a single constitution, to be capable of ruling all other people. But we observe the same differences among the Greek nations themselves when we compare one with another: some are by nature one-sided, in others both these natural faculties, of intellect and courage, are well combined. Clearly both are needed if men are to be easily guided by a lawgiver towards virtue.
1327b38 Some say that to feel friendly at the sight of familiar faces and fierce at the approach of strangers is a requirement for the Guardians.3 Now friendliness springs from spirit, from the power in our souls whereby we love. We see this from the fact that our spirit is aroused more if it thinks that our intimates and friends neglect us than by the conduct of those whom we do not know. (Hence the lines of Archilochus, reproaching his friends but addressed to his own spirit, are aptly spoken: ‘About your friends you choke.’)4 The urge we all have to be free and in command springs from this faculty, spirit, because spirit is something imperious and unsubdued. But what he says about harshness to strangers is, I think, quite wrong; one ought not to behave thus to anyone, andfierceness is not a mark of natural greatness of mind except towards wrongdoers. As we have said, it is aroused the more strongly with respect to intimates, when we believe ourselves to be wrongly used by them. And this is understandable: where men expect to receive kindness as their due, they reckon that they are actually deprived of it, quite apart from the harm they suffer. Hence the proverbial sayings, ‘Grievous is fraternal strife’ and ‘Excessive love turns to excessive hate’.5
1328a17 So much for the members of the state, their proper number and natural character, and so much for the right size and kind of territory; we need say no more, because one cannot expect the same attention to detail in theoretical discussions as one would in the case of data perceived by the senses.
MEMBERSHIP AND ESSENTIAL FUNCTIONS OF THE STATE
Since this is a theoretical discussion and not an analysis of empirical data, Aristotle now leaves that part of the subject and turns to consider the ideal state itself. He opens with one of his now familiar generalizations, incidentally reminding us that a polis is something in accordance with nature. He draws a distinction between a part of an organism and, as he puts it, a ‘without which not’, a ‘sine qua non’, which, though indispensable, need not be a part in the strict sense. The list of products and activities in the third and fourth paragraphs includes those both of the citizens (genuinely ‘parts’ of the state), and of slaves, craftsmen, foreigners etc. (mere ‘sine qua nons’).
Once again we have it starkly brought home to us just how exclusive is Aristotle’s view of membership of the state, and how his teleology colours his whole treatment of this question. The state is ‘for’ happiness and the good life, which is the full use of all our distinctively human capacities; some occupations – notably handicraft and trading – preclude such use; therefore traders and craftsmen, and a fortiori slaves, cannot be members (‘parts’) of the state: they are in the service of those who are (i.e. citizens). That craftsmen and traders are essential to the state does not affect the issue, as Aristotle is keen to point out. It is hardly enough to dismiss this doctrine as exploded metaphysics buttressing class-prejudice: Aristotle poses, in his own terms, problems that are still with us. For example, can a man with some menial and grindingly repetitive job lay claim to social and political wisdom entitling him to a say in public affairs? Aristotle would say ‘no’, but the answer ‘yes’ may on examination be found to depend on assumptions about merit, virtue, judgement, and the good life, which are just as arbitrary as his.
1328a21 Just as, in the case of any other compound object that exists in nature, those things without which the whole would not exist are not ‘parts’ of that compound, so too we must not list as parts of a state the indispensable conditions of its existence; nor must we treat in that manner any other form of community1 that makes up something single in kind – because all the members,1 irrespective of whether their degree of participation is equal or unequal, necessarily have some one single identical thing in common,1 e.g. food-supply, an extent of territory, or the like. But whenever one thing is a means and another an end, there can be no other thing in common between them than this – that the one acts, the other is acted upon. Take any tool and consider it along with its users in relation to the work which they produce, for example a house and its builder. There is nothing in common between house and builder, but the builder’s skill is a means towards building a house. 1328a33 Hence a state needs to own property, but the property is no part of the state, even though many parts of the property are living creatures.2 A state is an association of similar persons whose aim is the best life possible. What is best is happiness, and to be happy is an active exercise of virtue and a complete employment of it. It so happens that some can get a share of happiness, while others can get little or none. Here then we clearly have the reason for the existence of different kinds and varieties of states and the plurality of constitutions. Different sets of people seek their happiness in different ways and by different means, and so make for themselves different lives and different constitutions.
1328b2 We must also ask how many are those things without which there can be no states. (We include what we call ‘parts’ of the state, because their presence too in the list3 is essential.) Let us therefore make a count of all the functions, for that will show the answer. They concern (a) food, (b) skills (for life requires many tools), (c) arms. Arms are included because the members of the association must carry them even among themselves, both for internal government in the event of disobedience and to repel attempts at wrongdoing coming from outside, (d) A good supply of money, too, is required both for military and for internal needs. Then (e, though it might have been put first) religion, responsibility for which we call a priesthood; and, most essential of all, (f) a method of arriving at decisions about matters of expedience and justice as between one person and another.
1328b15 These then are the essential functions; every state, we may say, has need of them. For a state is not a chance agglomeration but, we repeat, a body of men which is self-sufficient for the purposes of life; and if any of these six is lacking, it will be impossible for the association concerned to be thoroughly self-sufficient. It is therefore essential, in setting up a state, to make provision for all these operations. So a number of agricultural workers will be needed to supply food; and skilled workmen will be required, and fighting men, and wealthy men, and priests, and judges of what is necessary and expedient.
CITIZENSHIP AND AGE-GROUPS
This chapter contains some of Aristotle’s most characteristic observations on society. The governing element in the state, he maintains, must be the citizens, all of whom have by definition sufficient ‘virtue’ to enable them to make legal and political decisions, to bear arms, and to live a kind of gentleman’s life. Now, however, Aristotle finds himself in some slight difficulty: if all citizens are to share in the central activities of the state – military, legal etc. – then we have the odd result that old men will have to be soldiers, and young men (who typically have an undeveloped judgement) will function as judges and ‘statesmen’; and yet if these age-groups do not perform these functions they will not be doing what citizens should. He therefore prescribes, sensibly enough, that the citizens will, in their various ‘primes of life’ (the Greek for ‘age-group’, in effect), be successively (a) soldiers, (b) judges and statesmen, being finally pensioned off to (c) priesthoods – a provision which nicely reveals the non-professional nature of that office in ancient Greece.
1328b24 This enumeration being finished, it remains to consider whether they should all take part in all these activities, everybody being farmer and skilled workman and deliberator and judge (for this is not impossible) – or shall we postulate different persons for each task? Or again, are not some of the jobs necessarily confined to some people, while others may be thrown open to all? The situation is not the same in every constitution; for as we have said,1 it is equally possible for all to share in everything and for some to share in some things. These features are what make the constitution different: in democracies all share in all things, in oligarchies the opposing practice prevails.
1328b33 But since our present inquiry is directed towards the best constitution, that is to say, the one which would make a state most happy, and since we have already said2 that happiness cannot exist apart from virtue, it becomes clear that in the state with the finest constitution, which possesses just men who are just absolutely and not relatively to the assumed situation,3 the citizens must not live a mechanical or commercial life. Such a life is not noble, and it militates against virtue. Nor must those who are to be citizens be agricultural workers, for they must have leisure to develop their virtue, and for the activities of a citizen.
1329a2 The state has within it one element concerned with defence, and another with deliberation about what policy is expedient and with deciding about questions of justice; and these elements are obviously to a special degree parts of it. And when we ask whether these roles are to be assigned to different persons or to be kept both together in the hands of the same people, our answer is clear here also: partly the one alternative and partly the other. In so far as the two tasks themselves differ in the prime of life best for their performance, one requiring practical wisdom, the other strength, they should be assigned to different people. But in so far as it is impossible to secure that those who are strong enough to resort to force or stand up to it shall tolerate being ruled by others for ever,4 to that extent the tasks must be assigned to the same people. For those who are in sovereign control of arms are in a sovereign position to decide whether the constitution is to continue or not. So we are left with this conclusion: that the constitution should put both these tasks into the hands of the same persons, but not simultaneously.5 Rather we should follow nature: the young have strength, the older have practical wisdom, so it seems both just and expedient that the distribution of tasks should be made on that basis, to both, because this is a division which takes into account fitness6 for the work.
1329a17 Property too must belong to these people; it is essential that the citizens should have ample subsistence, and these are citizens. The mechanical element has no part in the state nor has any other class7 that is not productive of virtue.8 This is evident from our principle: for being happy must occur in conjunction with virtue, and in pronouncing a state happy we must have regard not to part of it but to all its citizens. It is also clear that property must belong to these, since the agricultural workers must be slaves, or non-Greeks dwelling in the country roundabout.9
1329a27 Of the list which we made earlier there remains the class7 of priests. The arrangement here too is clear: no farmer or mechanic should be made a priest, since it is only right and proper that the gods should be worshipped by the citizens. Now as we have divided the citizen element into two parts, the military10 and the deliberative, and as it is right and proper that those who have thus spent themselves in long service should both serve the gods and enjoy their retirement, it is they who should be appointed to the priestly offices.
1329a34 We have now stated what the essential requirements of a state are, and how many parts it has. There must be farmers and skilled workers and hired labourers; but as to parts of the state, these are the military10 and deliberative elements. Each is separated, either permanently or successively.11
THE FOOD-SUPPLY AND THE DIVISION OF THE TERRITORY
The first two paragraphs of this chapter form a digression, perhaps inserted by an editor (there is no reason to suppose that Aristotle was not the author). It is partly an historical and geographical sketch of the early history of ‘Italy’ (i.e. what we would today call the ‘toe’ of Italy – see the map on p. 515 of Susemihl/Hicks), partly a brief defence of the value of studying antiquity and of the view that inventions are made independently and repeatedly in various places in the course of time, and are in general not traceable to a single source. As a whole, this half of the chapter is not concerned with the ideal state as such, but seems to occur here because it refers to social groups and common meals – just after Aristotle’s discussion of the former and just before his recommendations for the financing of the latter.
Many of the provisions of the second half of the chapter are reminiscent of those in Plato’s Laws (see especially 739a ff., 776b ff., 779d ff.); on the common meals see also II ix and x.
1329a40 That a division of the state into classes is necessary, and that the fighting class should be different from the agricultural, seems not to be a modern or even a recent discovery of political philosophers.1 In Egypt this pattern still exists today, and in Crete too; Sesostris is said to have introduced laws in this sense for Egypt, Minos for Crete. The system of communal feeding also appears to be ancient, and to have been introduced in Crete in the reign of Minos, but in Italy very much earlier. For the chroniclers of the settlers there tell us of a certain I talus who became king of Oenotria, after whom the people of Oenotria changed their name to Italians, and the name Italy was given to that part of the promontory of Europe which lies within the Scylletic and Lampetic gulfs, where the distance across is half a day’s journey. This Italus, they tell us, transformed the Oenotrians from a pastoral people into farmers, and in addition to other laws which he laid down for them instituted the common meals. So even to this day some of his successors keep up the common meals and follow some of his laws. On the Tyrrhenian side dwelt the Opicians, called Ausonians both in ancient and modern times; on the other side, that of Iapygia and the Ionian Sea, there was the land called Siritis; and the Chonians also were by race Oenotrians. The system of common messing, then, originated thence, whereas class-distinctions within the population of the state originated in Egypt, for the kingship of Sesostris goes back very much farther than that of Minos.
1329b25 We must, I think, regard it as fairly certain that the other institutions as well have been in the course of the ages discovered many times over, or rather infinitely often. In the first place there are things we cannot do without, and need itself probably teaches us them. Secondly, when once these are available, the process presumably goes on tending towards more comfort and greater abundance. So we should accept it as a fact that the same process takes place in the case of constitutional features too. That these are all ancient is shown by Egyptian history: the Egyptians are reputed to be the most ancient people, and they have always had laws and a constitutional system. Thus we ought to make full use of what has already been discovered, while endeavouring to find what has not.
1329b36 We stated earlier2 (a) that the land ought to be possessed by those who have arms and participate in the constitution, (b) why the cultivators should be different from them, and (c) the nature and extent of the territory required. We must speak first about the division of the land and about those who cultivate it: who should they be, and what kind of person? We do not agree with those3 who have said that property should be communally owned, but we do believe that there should be a friendly arrangement for its common use, and that none of the citizens should be without means of support.
1330a3 Next as to communal meals: it is universally agreed that this is a useful institution in a well-constructed state, and why we too are of this opinion we will say later.4 All citizens should partake of them, though it is not easy for those who are badly off to pay from their private resources the contribution fixed and to keep a household going at the same time. Another thing that should be a common charge on the whole state is the worship of the gods. Thus it becomes necessary to divide the land into two parts, one communally owned, the other privately. Each of these has to be further divided into two, and one part of the common land will support the public service of the gods, while the other will meet the expenses of the communal feeding.
1330a14 Of the privately owned land one part will be near the frontier, the other near the city, so that each man may have two estates and everyone may have a share of both localities. This is not only in accordance with justice and equality, but makes also for greater unity in the face of wars with bordering peoples. Without this dual arrangement, some underestimate the dangers of frontier quarrels, others regard them too cautiously, even sacrificing honour in order to avoid them.5 Hence in some countries it is the law that when war against a neighbour is under consideration, those who live near the border should be excluded from the discussion as being too personally involved to be able to give advice honourably. It is therefore important that the territory should for the reasons given be divided in the manner stated.
1330a25 As for those who are to till the land, the best thing (if we are to describe the ideal) is that they should be slaves. They should not be all of one stock nor men of spirit; this will ensure that they will be useful workers and no danger as potential rebels. A second best alternative to slaves is non-Greek ‘peripheral’6 people, men of the same nature as the slaves just mentioned. They fall into two groups according to whether they ought to work privately, as the private possessions of individual owners of property, or in communal ownership on the common land. I hope later on4 to say how slaves ought to be treated, and why it is a good thing that all slaves should have before them the prospect of receiving their freedom as a reward.
THE SITING AND DEFENCE OF THE CITY
The chapter which follows is a good example of the way in which Aristotle resumes his earlier discussions (in this case VII, v, vi, and vii) in order to elaborate on them However, the four things to be looked for in siting a city – good air, good water, administrative convenience, defensive possibilities (if these are indeed the ‘four considerations’ mentioned in the first paragraph) – are handled unevenly and unsystematically. Once again we note his probable debt to the ‘Airs, Waters, Places’ of Hippocrates; cf. VII vii. His grim remarks about contemporary advances in the precision of military ‘hardware’, and about ‘escalation’ in warfare, have a distinctly modern ring.
In this chapter (cf. VII vi) polis is usually translated as ‘city’, as distinct from surrounding territory; the combination of the two makes a ‘state’.
1330a34 We have already noted1 that so far as conditions allow a city should have equally easy communication with the sea, the mainland and the whole of its territory. We must hope, as an ideal, that the land upon which the city itself is to be sited will be sloping, and we should keep four considerations in mind. First, it is essential that the situation be a healthy one. A slope facing east, with winds blowing from the direction of sunrise, gives a healthier site, but second-best is one on the lee side of north, which gives more shelter in winter. One other point is that it should be well situated for carrying out all its civil and military activities. For the purposes of the latter, the site should be one from which the inhabitants can easily go out, but which attackers will find difficult to approach and difficult to surround. Water, and especially spring water, should be abundant and if possible originate on site; alternatively, a way has been discovered of catching rain water in large vessels numerous enough to ensure a substitute supply whenever fighting prevents the defenders from going out into their territory.
1330b8 Since consideration must be given to the health of the inhabitants, which is partly a matter of its site being in the best place and facing the right way, partly also dependent on a supply of pure water, this too must receive careful attention – because those things that our bodies use most frequently and in greatest quantity make the greatest contribution to our health, and this is the scale on which air and water have a natural capacity to affect us. Hence, a state will be well advised to keep water for human consumption separate from water for all other uses, unless of course all the water is alike and there are plenty of springs that are drinkable.
1330b17 In the matter of defensive positions, what is advantageous for one constitution is not so good for another. A lofty central citadel2 suits both oligarchy and monarchy, a level plain democracy; neither suits an aristocracy, which prefers a series of strongly held points. As for the layout of private dwelling-houses, the modern or Hippodamean3 scheme of regularity is more attractive and more useful for all activities except ensuring safety in war, for which the old-fashioned layout was better, being hard for foreign forces to get into and to penetrate in their attack. It follows that both methods should be used, and this is quite possible: arrange the buildings in the same pattern as is used in fields for planting vines, in what some people call clusters, and do not lay out the whole city with geometric regularity but only certain parts and localities.4 This will meet the needs both of safety and of good appearance.
1330b32 As for walls, it is quite out of date to say, as some do,5 that cities that lay claim to valour 6 should not have them; such people can after all see that cities which made that boast are condemned by events. Doubtless there is something dishonourable in seeking safety behind strong walls, at any rate against an enemy equal in number or only very slightly superior. But it can happen that the superiority of the attackers is too much for the valour6 both of the average man and of a choice few. If then they are to save themselves and avoid misery and oppression, we must reckon that to secure the greatest degree of protection that strong walls can afford is also the best military measure. The truth of this is emphasized by all the modern improvements in the accuracy of missiles and artillery for attacking a besieged town. Deliberately to give cities no walls at all is like choosing an easily attacked territory and clearing away the surrounding high ground; it is as if we were to refrain from putting walls round private houses for fear of rendering the inhabitants unmanly. Another thing that should not be lost sight of is that those who have provided their city with a wall round it are in a position to regard that city in both ways, to treat it either as a fortified or as an unfortified city. Those who have no walls have no such choice. And if this is so, then it is a duty not only to build encircling walls but also to maintain them in a manner suitable both for the city’s good appearance and for its military needs, particularly those which have come to light in modern times. For just as the attacking side is always on the lookout for methods which will give them an advantage, so too the defenders must investigate and study7 means of defence additional to those already discovered. An enemy will not even attempt an attack in the first place on those who are well prepared to meet it.
THE SITING OF MARKETS,
TEMPLES AND COMMUNAL REFECTORIES
Aristotle now gives further details of the physical layout of the ideal state, before declining to go into further petty detail (cf. Plato’s similar disdain for the niceties of administration, Republic 425c ff.). On the duties of officials in charge of markets, streets, countryside etc., see VI viii. The meeting-place or square (agora) for free men is known in Persia also; according to Xenophon, Education of Cyrus, I 2, iii, its main purpose was to keep them from acquiring a taste for the degrading practice of trade. This agoratherefore reinforces, like numerous other physical and administrative details in Aristotle’s ‘utopia’, the social and political structure of the state.
1331a19 Since the body of citizens should be distributed over a number of feeding-centres, and the walls should be furnished at suitable points with towers and garrison-posts, it is obviously required that some of the feeding-centres should be located in these posts. So much for how one might arrange that. Buildings devoted to the service of the gods, and the chief feeding-places of members of committees, should have a suitable position on the same site, unless the law or some pronouncement of the Pythian oracle requires any of the sacred buildings to be erected somewhere apart. Our purpose would be well served by a site which provides a suitable balance between conspicuousness and excellence of location, and is at the same time comparatively easy to defend in relation to the neighbouring parts of the city.
1331a30 Just below this is the proper place to lay out a square1 of the kind which in fact they keep up in Thessaly under the name of ‘free’ square. Here nothing may be bought or sold, and no mechanic or farmer or anyone else like that may be admitted unless summoned by the authorities. This area could be made attractive if the gymnasia of the older folk were also laid out there; for in this amenity also there should be separation of age-groups, the younger in one place, the older in another; the latter should follow this pursuit in the company of the officials, and some of the officials should mingle with the younger men, since the presence of authority’s watchful eye instils genuine deference – dread as felt by a free man.2 The market1 proper, where buying and selling are done, must be a different one, in a separate place, conveniently situated for all goods sent up from the sea and brought in from the country.
1331b4 The government, of the state being divided into officials and priests, it is right that the latter too should have their eating-places established round the sacred buildings. As for the boards concerned with contracts, with the registering of suits-at-law, with summonses, and with the ordering of such matters generally (also surveillance of markets1 and what is called ‘wardenship of the city’) – these should all be located near a market and general meeting-place. This will, of course, be the area intended for the market it is essential to have – the one for the transaction of essential business; the upper one that we mentioned is intended for leisure. A similar arrangement should be applied to the country districts, for there too the officials. Forest Wardens or Field-Wardens or whatever they may be called, must have eating-places and garrison-posts to enable them to carry out their work of protection; likewise shrines in honour of gods and heroes must be distributed over the countryside.
1331b18 But it is really not necessary now to go on describing all these matters in detail. It is not at all difficult to think what things are needed, though it is quite another matter to provide them. Our talk is the expression of our desires, but the outcome is in Fortune’s hands. Therefore we will say no more about such matters now.
HAPPINESS AS THE AIM OF THE CONSTITUTION
Dismissing the rather humdrum matters of the preceding chapters, Aristotle deals next with what for him is clearly the most important part of the business – the politeia and all that that untranslatable word stands for: the whole social, political, legal and economic structure of the state. At this point we should remember that a politeia is essentially a collection of people. Whether they be many or few, they are a body of ‘sound’ men, united in their acceptance of all the standards, moral and spiritual, intellectual and artistic, which belong to and are prescribed by the constitution by which they live. It follows that these standards will have to be learned by all the citizens; a man must know the nomoi (laws) of his polis (state), and he must start learning them when he is quite young. Hence the most important part of any constitution is, as both Plato and Aristotle saw, the education of those who are going to be its members; and this is especially true when we are looking for the ideal state, for then we must also look for the ideal education. So all the rest of Aristotle’s Politics as we have it, from here to the end of Book VIII, deals with education, its aims and its methods. But first Aristotle discusses happiness, since the aim of education is the good and happy life; and this is a point which Plato, according to Aristotle, had effectively neglected (see II v, at the end).
Nicomachean Ethics I vii ff. will be invaluable background reading for the philosophical argument of this chapter. Briefly slated, Aristotle’s position is that happiness (eudaimonia) is the complete and perfect use of all our faculties under the guidance of aretē(‘virtue’); hence the best constitution, in order to produce happiness, must consist of and be operated by men who are ‘utilizing virtue’ and are therefore ‘sound’ (spoudaioi). In the final paragraph Aristotle swiftly enumerates the three factors which go to make thespoudaios: nature, habit and reason (logos), the last being a distinctively human faculty. All three are open to influence by the educational programme worked out by the legislator.
1331b24 We must now discuss the constitution itself, and ask ourselves what people, and what kind of people, the state ought to be composed of if it is going to be blessed and have a well-run constitution. The well-being of all men depends on two things: one is the right choice of target, of the end to which actions should tend, the other lies in finding the actions that lead to that end. These two may just as easily conflict with each other as coincide. Sometimes, for example, the aim is well-chosen, but in action men fail to attain it. At other times they successfully perform everything that conduces to the end, but the end itself was badly chosen. Or they may fail in both, as sometimes happens in the practice of medicine, when doctors neither rightly discern what kind of condition a healthy body ought to be in, nor discover the means which will enable their goal to be attained. Wherever skill and knowledge come into play, these two must both be mastered: the end and the actions which are means to the end.
1331b39 It is clear then that all men aim at happiness and the good life,1 but some men have an opportunity to get it, others have not. This may be due to their nature, or to some stroke of fortune, for the good life needs certain material resources (and when a man’s disposition is comparatively good, the need is for a lesser amount of these, a greater amount when it is comparatively bad). Some indeed, who start with the opportunity, go wrong from the very beginning of the pursuit of happiness. But as our object is to find thebest constitution, and that means the one whereby a state will be best ordered,2 and since we call that state best ordered in which the possibilities of happiness are greatest, it is clear that we must keep constantly in mind what happiness is.
1332a7 We defined this in our Ethics3 (if those discussions were worth anything), and we here state, again, that happiness is an activity and a complete utilization of virtue, not conditionally but absolutely. By ‘conditionally’ in this connection I refer to things that are necessary, and by ‘absolutely’ I mean moral.4 For example, actions relating to justice, the infliction of just chastisements and punishments, spring from virtue; but they are ‘necessary’, and whatever good4 is in them is there by necessity. (It is preferable to have a state of affairs in which such things would beunnecessary both for state and for individual.) But actions directed towards honours and abundant resources are noblest5 actions, in an absolute sense. For the former actions are but the removal of some evil, the latter sort are not; they are on the contrary the creation and the begetting of positive goods.
1332a19 A sound man will nobly4 utilize ill-health, poverty and other misfortunes; but blessedness requires the opposite of these. (This definition too was given in our ethical discussions6 – that the sound man is the sort of man for whom things absolutely good are good, on account of his own virtue; and clearly his utilization of them must be sound and noble4 absolutely.) Hence men imagine that the causes of happiness lie in external goods. This is as if they were to ascribe fine7 and brilliant lyre-playing to the quality of the instrument rather than to the skill of the player.
1332a28 From what has been said it follows that, while some things must be there from the start, others must be provided by a lawgiver. Ideally, then, we wish for the structure of our state all that Fortune has it in her sovereign power to bestow (that she is sovereign, we take for granted). But it is not Fortune’s business to make a state sound; that is a task for knowledge and deliberate choice. On the other hand, a state’s being sound requires the citizens who share in the constitution to be sound; and for our purposes all the citizens share in the constitution. The question then is, ‘How does a man become sound?’ Of course, even if it is possible for all to be sound,8 and not just each citizen taken individually, the latter is preferable, since each entails all.
1332a38 However, men become sound and good because of three things. These are nature, habit, and reason. First, nature: a man must be born, and he must be born a man and not some other animal; so too he must have body and soul with certain characteristics. It may be of no advantage to be born with some of these qualities, because habits cause changes; for there are some qualities which by nature have a dual possibility, in that subsequent habits will make them either better or worse. Other creatures live by nature only; some live by habit also to some extent. Man, however, lives by reason as well: he alone has reason, and so needs all three working concertedly. Reason causes men to do many things contrary to habit and to nature, whenever they are convinced that this is the better course. In an earlier place9 we described what men’s nature should be if they are to respond easily to handling by the legislator. After that it becomes a task of education, for men learn partly by habituation and partly by listening.
EDUCATION FOR CITIZENSHIP
Aristotle now seeks to relate his educational programme to the duties of citizenship. If the principle of continuous personal rule were to be accepted, and the conditions necessary for it were forthcoming, the education of the citizens would be quite different from that required in the kind of constitution favoured by Aristotle, under which they are expected to hold office by turns. In this consideration of the ideal state Aristotle does not altogether reject the former type of rule, any more than he did in III xvii–xviii, where he discussed absolute monarchical rule; but he lays it aside as not practicable. So he now asks how a man is to be educated for citizenship, i.e. how he is to be made morally and intellectually fit to hold office in his turn and to behave himself when it is not his turn. Such an alternation will satisfy the demand for equality, which it is dangerous to leave unsatisfied, and will at the same time do justice to merit and ability. Within the citizen or governing class only a distinction of age-group will operate, as in VII ix.
In the third paragraph Aristotle begins his description of the educational process by linking it with the psychology on which it is based. The soul has two ‘parts’, the rational and the irrational, and the aim of education affects mainly the former. The aim is ‘leisure’, scholē, i.e. not rest and recreation so much as the undistracted opportunity to devote oneself to something worth while: the pursuits of citizenship and ‘statesmanship’ in time of peace. Aristotle complains that these aims are not always recognized. Spartan education in particular he held at fault for being directed predominantly to the waging of war. Spartan militarism he criticized towards the end of II ix (cf. references there to Plato’s Laws), and he now renews the topic with more emphasis on the founder of the system (here unnamed, but presumably Lycurgus). However, the Spartan military supremacy had come to an end by the time this chapter was written.
1332b12 Since every association of persons forming a state1 consists of rulers and ruled, we must ask whether those who rule and those who are ruled ought to be different persons or the same throughout life; for the education which will be needed will depend upon which way we make this distinction.2 If one group of persons were as far superior to all the rest as we believe gods and heroes to be superior to men. and if they had both bodies and souls of such outstanding quality that the superiority of the rulers were indisputable and evident to those ruled by them, then it would obviously be better that the same set of persons should always rule and the others always be ruled, once and for all. But since this is not a condition that can easily be obtained, and since rulers are not so greatly superior to their subjects as Scylax3 says the kings are in India, it is clear that, for a variety of reasons, all must share alike in the business of ruling and being ruled by turns. For equality means giving the same to those who are alike, and the established constitution can hardly be long maintained if it is contrary to justice. Otherwise everyone all over the country combines with the ruled in a desire to introduce innovations, and it is quite impossible for even a numerous citizen-body to be strong enough to withstand such a combination.
1332b32 Yet it cannot be disputed that rulers have to be superior to those who are ruled. It therefore becomes the duty of the lawgiver to consider how this is to be brought about and how they shall do the sharing. We noted earlier4 that nature herself has provided one way to choose: that very element which in respect of birth is all the same she has divided into older and younger, the former being fit for ruling, the latter for being ruled. No one objects to being thus ruled on grounds of age, or thinks himself too good for it; after all, once he reaches the required age, he will get back his contribution to the pool.5 There is then a sense in which we must say the ‘same’ persons rule and are ruled, and a sense in which we must say that they are ‘different’ persons. So their education too must be in one sense the same, in another different; for, as is often said, one who is to become a good ruler must first himself be ruled. (Rule, as was said in our first discussions,6 is of two kinds, according as it is exercised for the sake of the ruler, which we say is master-like rule, or for the sake of the ruled, which we say is rule over free men; and some instructions that are given
differ not in the actual tasks to be performed, but in their purpose,7 which is why many jobs generally considered servile may be honourably8 performed even by free men, by the younger among them. For the question whether a job is honourable8 or not is to be decided less with reference to the actions themselves than in the light of their end and purpose.)7 But since we hold that the virtue of citizen and ruler is the same as that of the best man, and that the same man should be first ruled and later ruler, it immediately becomes an essential task of the lawgiver to ensure that they both may become good men, and to consider what practices will make them so, and what is the aim of the best life.
1333a16 Two parts of the soul are distinguished, one intrinsically possessing reason, the other not possessing reason intrinsically but capable of listening to it. To these belong, we think, the virtues which qualify a man to be called in some sense ‘good’. To those who accept our division of the soul there is no difficulty in answering the question ‘In which of the two parts, more than in the other, does the end lie?’ For what is inferior is always for the sake of what is superior; this is equally clear both in matters of skill and in those of nature; and the superior is that which is possessed of reason. There is a further two-fold division, which follows from our custom of making a distinction between practical reason and theoretical reason; so clearly we must divide this part9 similarly. Actions, we shall say, follow suit: those of that which is by nature better9 must be regarded as preferable by those who are in a position to attain all three10 or two of them. For each man, that which is the very highest that he can attain is the thing most to be preferred. 1333a30Again, all of life can be divided into work and leisure, war and peace, and some things done have moral worth,11while others are merely necessary and useful. In this connection the same principle of choice must be applied, both to the parts of the soul and to their respective actions – that is to say, we should choose war for the sake of peace, work for the sake of leisure, necessary and useful things for the sake of the noble.11 The statesman must therefore take into consideration the parts of the soul and their respective actions, and in making laws must have an eye to all those things,12 but more especially to the better ones and to the ends in view; and he must regard men’s lives and their choice of what they do in the same light. For one must be. able to work and to fight, but even more to be at peace and have leisure; to do the necessary and the useful things, yes, but still more those of moral worth.11 These then are the targets at which education should be aimed, whether children’s education or that of such later age-groups as require it.
1333b5 It is obvious however that those Greeks who have today a reputation for running the best constitutions, and the lawgivers who drew up those constitutions, did not in fact construct their constitutional plans with the best possible aim, and did not direct their laws and education towards producing all the virtues; but instead, following the vulgar way of thinking, they turned aside to pursue virtues that appeared to be useful and more lucrative. And in a similar manner to these some more recent writers have voiced the same opinion: they express their approval of the Lacedaemonians’ constitution and admire the aim of their lawgiver, because he ordered all his legislation with a view to war and conquest. This is a view which can easily be refuted by reasoning, and already in our own day has been refuted by the facts. Just as most men crave to be master of many others, because success in this brings an abundance of worldly goods, so the writer Thibron13 is clearly an admirer of the Laconian lawgiver, and so too is each of the others who, writing about the Spartan constitution, have stated that thanks to their being trained to face dangers they came to rule over many others. But since today the Spartan rule is no more, it is clear that they are not happy and their lawgiver was not a good one. There is also something laughable in the fact that, for all their keeping to his laws, and with no one to stop them from using those laws, they have lost the good life.14
1333b26 They are also wrong in their notion of the kind of rule for which a lawgiver ought to display admiration; for rule over free men is nobler15 than master-like rule, and more connected with virtue. To say that a state has trained itself in the acquisition of power with a view to ruling its neighbours – that is no ground for calling it happy or applauding its lawgiver. Such an argument may have dangerous consequences: its acceptance obviously requires any citizen who can to make it his ambition to be able to rule in his own city – the very thing that the Lacedaemonians accuse King Pausanias of seeking, and that too though he was already in a position of such high honour. So none of these theories or laws is of any value for a statesman, and they are neither useful nor true. The same things are best for a community and for individuals, and it is these that a lawgiver must instil into the souls of men.
1333b37 And as for military training, the object in practising it regularly is not to bring into subjection those not deserving of such treatment, but to enable men (a) to save themselves from becoming subject to others, (b) to win a position of leadership, exercised for the benefit of the ruled, not with a view to being the master of all, and (c) to exercise the rule of a master over those who deserve to be slaves. The lawgiver should make particularly sure that his aim both in his military legislation and in his legislation in general is to provide peace and leisure. And facts support theory here, for though most military states survive while they are fighting wars, they fall when they have established their rule. Like steel, they lose their fine temper when they are at peace; and the lawgiver who has not educated them to be able to employ their leisure is to blame.
THE PROPER EDUCATION FOR CULTURED LEISURE
Aristotle has one more chapter of preliminary discussion before coming to detailed recommendations for the educational programme of the ideal state. He discusses first the virtues required for the procuring and employment of leisure (srholē). and then, in a careful paragraph of teleological and empirical argument, concludes that the education of the body and of the appetitive element of the soul must precede that of the soul’s rational part. The aim of the educational programme as a whole is to inculcate the virtues needed for the proper employment of leisure in cultural, intellectual and political’ activities.
A modern educationist may not wish to criticize Aristotle’s recommendations about the chronological priority of the education of the body and the emotions over that of the intellect; but he will almost certainly object to Aristotle’s teleological mode of reasoning. No doubt in natural processes earlier stages lead up to and are in some sense ‘for’ the later; but that does not entail that since intellectual training is a late stage in the educational process, the other and earlier stages are ‘for its sake’, as something grander and better and the real natural ‘aim’ of the whole sequence. Put differently, Aristotle’s view of the development of human faculties is reasonable enough, though the distinction between appetite/emotion and reason may seem over-simple; subject to the same caveat, his recommended sequence in education is similarly reasonable; but his imposition on all this of a value judgement about the natural superiority of reason and the intellect is perhaps to be resisted. The cultured leisure of an educated man – perhaps the ‘gentleman scholar’ of a later age – is as an aspiration civilized and superb; but are Aristotle’s arguments for it good enough? If they are, do we have to conclude that those who do not attain to it are morally inferior?
1334a11 Since it seems that men have the same ends whether they are acting as individuals or as a community, and that the best man and the best constitution must have the same definitive purpose, it becomes evident that there must be present the virtues needed for leisure; for, as has often been said,1 the end of war is peace and leisure is the end of work. Of the virtues useful for leisure and civilized pursuits, some function in a period of leisure, others in a period of work – because a lot of essential things need to be provided before leisure can become possible. Hence a state must be self-restrained, courageous and steadfast; for as the proverb says, ‘no leisure for slaves’, and those who cannot bravely face danger are the slaves of their attackers. We need courage and steadfastness for our work, philosophy2 for leisure, and restraint and a sense of justice in both contexts, but particularly in times of leisure and peace. For war forces men to be just and restrained, but the enjoyment of prosperity, and leisure in peacetime, are apt rather to make them arrogant. Therefore a great sense of justice and much self-restraint are demanded of those who are thought to be successful and to enjoy everything the world regards as a blessing, men such as might be living, in the poets’ phrase, in the Isles of the Blest.3 For these especially will need philosophy,2 restraint, and a sense of justice; and the greater the leisure that flows from an abundance of such blessings, the greater that need will be. Clearly then the state, too, if it is to be sound and happy, must have a share in these virtues. For if it is a mark of disgrace not to be able to use advantages, it is especially so in a period of leisure – to display good qualities when working or on military service, but in leisure and peace to be no better than slaves.
1334a40 Training in virtue, therefore, should not follow the Lacedaemonian model. The difference between them and other nations lies not in any disagreement about what are the greatest goods but in their view that there is a certain4 virtue which will produce them with particular effectiveness. Since they value good things and their enjoyment more than the… of the virtues,… and that… for its own sake, is clear from these things; and we have to consider how and by what means.5
1334b6 We have already6 distinguished three essentials – nature, habit, and reason. Of these we have already dealt with the first,7 determining the qualities we should have by natural endowment; next we must ask whether education should first proceed by means of reason or by the formation of habits. Certainly these must chime in perfect unison; for it is possible to make an error of reason about the best principle, and to find oneself equally led astray by one’s habits.
1334b12 One thing is clear from the start: just as in everything else, so here too coming into being originates in a beginning, and the end which originates in some beginning is itself the beginning of another end;8 and for us, reason and intelligence are the end to which our nature tends. Thus it is to these that the training of our habits, as well as our coming into being, must be directed. Next, as soul and body are two, so also we note two parts of the soul, the reasoning and the unreasoning; and each of these has its own condition, of intelligence9 in the former case, of appetition10 in the latter. And just as the body comes into being earlier than the soul, so also the unreasoning is prior to that which possesses reason. This is shown by the fact that, while passion and will as well as desire are to be found in children even right from birth, reasoning and intelligence come into their possession as they grow older. Therefore the care of the body must begin before the care of the soul, then the training of the appetitive element,10 but this latter for the sake of the intelligence, and the body’s training for the sake of the soul.
SEX, MARRIAGE AND EUGENICS
The general conditions of life, climate, race, etc., in which it is desirable to be born were stated in Chapters iv–vii and x–xii of this book. Now, dealing with the upbringing of children from the very start, Aristotle gives advice on birth itself, marriage, parenthood, and procreation. In ancient Greece when a child was born, it was a matter for the father’s decision whether it was to be reared or left to die in an exposed place. This practice must have come under criticism by the fourth century, for Aristotle makes it clear that there was a body of opinion opposed to using exposure of healthy infants merely for the purpose of keeping down the population. But in spite of the textual difficulties in this part of the chapter, it is beyond doubt that Aristotle was prepared to countenance (a) exposure of deformed births, and (b) abortion of the embryo before it acquires sensation and life, as a measure of population control, at least in certain circumstances. Tantalizingly, he does not say when he supposes the embryo to reach this crucial stage.
1334b29 Now as it is a lawgiver’s duty to start from the very beginning in looking for ways to secure the best possible physique for the young who are reared, he must consider first the union of their parents, and ask what kind of people should come together in marriage, and when. In making regulations about this partnership he should have regard both to the spouses themselves and to their length of life, in order that they may arrive at the right ages together at the same time, and so that the period of the father’s ability to beget and that of the mother’s to bear children may coincide. A period when one of the two is capable and the other not leads to mutual strife and quarrels. Next, as regards the timing of the children’s succession,1 there should not be too great a gap in age between father and children; for then there is no good that the young can do by showing gratitude to elderly parents, and their fathers are of no help to them. Nor should they be too close in age, for this causes the relationship to be strained: like contemporaries, people in such a position feel less respect, and the nearness in age leads to bickering in household affairs. And further, to go back to the point we started from, one should ensure that the physique of the children that are produced2 shall be in accordance with the wishes of the legislator.
1335a6 All these purposes can be fulfilled, or nearly so, if we pay sufficient attention to one thing. Since, generally speaking, the upper limit of age for the begetting of children is for men seventy years and for women fifty, the beginning of their union should be at ages such that they will arrive at this stage of life simultaneously. But the intercourse of a very young couple is not good for child-bearing. In all animals the offspring of early unions are defective, inclined to produce females, and diminutive; so the same kind of results are bound to follow in human beings too. And there is evidence that this is so: in states where early unions are the rule, the people are small in stature and defective. A further objection is that young women have greater difficulty in giving birth and more of them die. (Some say that here we have also the reason for the oracle given to the people of Troezen:3 there is no reference to the harvesting of crops, but to the fact that the marrying of girls at too young an age was causing many deaths.) It is also more conducive to restraint that daughters should be no longer young when their fathers bestow them in marriage, because it seems that women who have sexual intercourse at an early age are more likely to be dissolute. On the male side too it is held that if they have intercourse while the seed is just growing, it interferes with their bodily growth; for the seed is subject to a fixed limit of time, after which it ceases to be replenished except on a small scale. Accordingly we conclude that the appropriate age for the union is about the eighteenth year for girls and for men the thirty-seventh. With such timing, their union will take place when they are physically in their prime, and it will bring them down together to the end of procreation at exactly the right moment for both. And the children’s succession,1 if births take place promptly at the expected time, will occur when they are at the beginning of their prime and their parents are past their peak, the father now approaching his seventieth year.
1335a35 We have spoken now about the time when the union should take place, but not about the seasons of the year best suited for establishing this form4 of living together. However, the common practice of choosing winter is satisfactory. The spouses too should study for themselves, in good time, the advice of doctors and natural scientists to assist them in bearing children; the former give suitable information about crucial stages in the life of the body, the latter about the winds (they recommend the northerly ones rather than the southerly). To the question of what kind of physique is most advantageous for the offspring that are produced,2 we must give closer attention in the works5 on the training of children; for our present purpose the following outline will suffice. The condition of an athlete does not make for the physical fitness needed by a citizen, nor for health and the production of offspring. A condition of much coddling and of unfitness for hard work is equally undesirable. Something between the two is needed, a condition of one inured to hard but not violently hard toil, directed not all in one direction as an athlete’s, but towards the various activities typical of men who are free. These requirements are applicable to men and women alike.
1335b12 Further, it is important that women should look after their bodies during pregnancy. They must not relax unduly, or go on a meagre diet. It is easy for a legislator to ensure this by making it a rule that they shall each day take a walk, the object of which is to worship regularly the gods whose office is to look after childbirth. But while the body should be exercised, the intellect should follow a more relaxed regime, for the unborn infant2 appears to be influenced by her who is carrying it as plants are by the earth.
1335b19 With regard to the choice between abandoning an infant or rearing it, let there be a law that no cripple child be reared. But since the ordinance of custom forbids the exposure of infants on account of their numbers, there must be a limit to the production of children. If contrary to these arrangements copulation does take place and a child is conceived, abortion should be procured before the embryo has acquired life and sensation; the presence of life and sensation will be the mark of division between right and wrong6here.
1335b26 Since we have already decided the beginning of the period of life at which male and female should enter on their union, we must also decide upon the length of time during which it is proper that they should render the service7 of producing children. The offspring of elderly people, like the offspring of the unduly young, are imperfect both in intellect and in body; and those of the aged are feeble. We should therefore be guided by the highest point of intellectual development, and this in most cases is the age mentioned by certain poets8 who measure life by periods of seven years, that is to say about the fiftieth year of life.9 Thus anyone who has passed this age by four or five years ought to give up bringing children into the world. But provided it is clearly for the sake of health or other such reason intercourse may continue.
1335b38 As for extra-marital intercourse, it should, in general, be a disgrace10 to be detected in intimacy of any kind whatever, so long as one is a husband and so addressed. If anyone is found to be acting thus during the period of his begetting of children, let him be punished by such measure of disgrace as is appropriate to his misdemeanour.
THE MAIN PERIODS OF EDUCATION; CENSORSHIP
‘Aristotle in this chapter’, remarks Newman (III 478), ‘says little which has not already been said by Plato’ (chiefly in the seventh book of the Laws). Education up to five years of age needs no formal teaching; from five to seven visual methods may be used. The main periods are the next two, seven to fourteen and fourteen to twenty-one. The digression on censorship interrupts the sequence, and deals with the young in general, especially adolescents. The final paragraph sketches a programme of inquiry for the next (and last) book.
There is one important feature of Plato’s educational proposals in the Laws that is conspicuously missing from Aristotle’s in this chapter: the polemic against change. Plato wished to preserve the same educational programme in perpetuity, even down to small details like the children’s games (Laws 797a ff.) on the grounds that novelty makes for social instability. To that extent, Aristotle is a less ‘utopian’ thinker than Plato: he shows no desire to ‘freeze’ society permanently into one particular form. Perhaps his detailed study of the various constitutions had left him too impressed by their mutability to think it realistic to seek any kind of permanence as an ideal.
1336a3 Once he is born, the quality of the nourishment given to a child must be reckoned to make a big difference to the strength of his body. It is clear, from an examination both of other animals and of those nations that make a point of rearing their young to be in a condition ready for war, that an abundant milk diet is very suitable for their bodies; so too one that includes comparatively little wine, because of the illnesses wine produces. Next, it is good for them to make all the bodily movements that they are capable of at that age. (To prevent the still soft limbs from becoming bent, some nations still make use of mechanical devices which keep the children’s bodies straight.) From earliest infancy, it is good for them to be used to cold also; to be thus habituated is most useful for health and for the activities of warfare. Hence among many non-Greek peoples it is the custom to dip newly born infants in cold river-water; many others, for example the Celts, put on them very little clothing. It is certainly better to start very young in accustoming children to such things as it is possible to accustom them to, but the process must be gradual; and the warmth of the young body gives it a condition well-suited for training to resist cold. In these and similar ways, then, it is advantageous to care for children in infancy.
1336a23 The next stage is up to five years of age. During this period it is not a good plan to try to teach them anything, or make them do demanding tasks that would interfere with their growth. At the same time they must have sufficient exercise, through play in particular and other activities also, to prevent their bodies from getting slack. Their games, like everything else, should be worthy of free men and neither laborious nor undemanding. The officials known as Trainers of Children ought to pay attention to deciding what kind of stories and legends children of this age are to hear; for all that kind of thing should be preparation for their subsequent occupations. Hence their games ought to consist largely in imitating what they will later be doing in earnest. It is wrong to forbid small children to cry and dilate their lungs, a prohibition found in the Laws;1 it is in effect gymnastic training for the body, which is beneficial for its growth, because holding one’s breath gives extra strength in exertion, and this is the effect on children too when they dilate their lungs.
1336a39 In keeping an eye on the children’s way of life in general, the Trainers of Children should particularly see that as little time as possible is spent in the company of slaves, because children of this age and up to seven must unavoidably be brought up at home, when even as young as that they presumably pick up behaviour unworthy of a free man, either by eye or by ear.
1336b3 The legislator ought to banish utterly from the state, as he would any other evil, all unseemly talk; for the unseemly remark lightly dropped results in conduct of a like kind. Especially, therefore, must it be kept away from youth; let them not hear or see anything of that kind. If anyone is found doing or saying any of the forbidden things, he shall, if he is of free birth but not yet entitled to recline at the common tables, be punished by measures of dishonour and a whipping; while anyone who is rather older shall be punished by measures of dishonour not normally visited on free men, precisely because his conduct has been that of a slave. And since we exclude all unseemly talk, we must also forbid gazing at debased paintings or stories.2 Let it therefore be a duty of the rulers to see that there shall be nothing at all, statue or painting, that is a representation of unseemly actions, except in the shrines of certain gods3 whose province is such that the law does actually permit scurrility. The law further allows men who have reached the appropriate age to pay honour to these gods on behalf of their wives, their children and themselves. But it should be laid down that younger persons shall not be spectators at comedies or recitals of iambics,4 not, that is to say, until they have reached the age at which they come to recline at banquets with others and share in the drinking; by this time their education will have rendered them completely immune to any harm that might come from such spectacles.
1336b24 What we have just been saying has been said only incidentally; we must later5 think hard about the question and decide it in greater detail, debating first whether or not they ought to watch, and, if so, under what conditions. We have only said as much as would serve the present occasion. Theodorus the tragic actor used to make what is perhaps an apt remark. He never allowed any other actor, even quite an inferior one, to appear on the stage before him – because, he said, an audience always takes kindly to the first voice that meets their ears. The same thing is true of men’s relations both with each other and the things they encounter: we always delight more in what comes first. Therefore we must keep all that is of inferior quality unfamiliar to the young, particularly things with an ingredient of wickedness or hostility.
1336b35 When they have completed their fifth year, they should for the next two years observe lessons6 in whatever they will be required to learn. Education after that must be divided into two stages – from the seventh year to puberty, and from puberty to the completion of twenty-one years. For those who divide life into periods of seven years7 are not far wrong, and we ought to keep to the divisions that nature makes. For all skill and education aim at filling the gaps that nature leaves. It therefore becomes our business to inquire whether we ought to set up some organization to deal with children, then whether it is advisable to make the responsibility for them a public one, or leave it in private hands (as is the usual practice in states even at the present time), and thirdly to discuss the proper form of this responsibility.