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Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsA Treatise On Government - BOOK III - Chapter IX
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A Treatise On Government - BOOK III - Chapter IX Post by :Donbaba Category :Nonfictions Author :Aristotle Date :January 2011 Read :2406

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A Treatise On Government - BOOK III - Chapter IX

Let us first determine what are the proper limits of an oligarchy and
a democracy, and what is just in each of these states; for all men
have some natural inclination to justice; but they proceed therein
only to a certain degree; nor can they universally point out what is
absolutely just; as, for instance, what is equal appears just, and is
so; but not to all; only among those who are equals: and what is
unequal appears just, and is so; but not to all, only amongst those
who are unequals; which circumstance some people neglect, and
therefore judge ill; the reason for which is, they judge for
themselves, and every one almost is the worst judge in his own cause.
Since then justice has reference to persons, the same distinctions
must be made with respect to persons which are made with respect to
things, in the manner that I have already described in my Ethics.

As to the equality of the things, these they agree in; but their
dispute is concerning the equality of the persons, and chiefly for the
reason above assigned; because they judge ill in their own cause; and
also because each party thinks, that if they admit what is right in
some particulars, they have done justice on the whole: thus, for
instance, if some persons are unequal in riches, they suppose them
unequal in the whole; or, on the contrary, if they are equal in
liberty, they suppose them equal in the whole: but what is absolutely
just they omit; for if civil society was founded for the sake of
preserving and increasing property, every one's right in the city
would be equal to his fortune; and then the reasoning of those who
insist upon an oligarchy would be valid; for it would not be right
that he who contributed one mina should have an equal share in the
hundred along with him who brought in all the rest, either of the
original money or what was afterwards acquired.

Nor was civil society founded merely to preserve the lives of its
members; but that they might live well: for otherwise a state might
be composed of slaves, or the animal creation: but this is not so; for
these have no share in the happiness of it; nor do they live after
their own choice; nor is it an alliance mutually to defend each other
from injuries, or for a commercial intercourse: for then the
Tyrrhenians and Carthaginians, and all other nations between whom
treaties of commerce subsist, would be citizens of one city; for they
have articles to regulate their exports and imports, and engagements
for mutual protection, and alliances for mutual defence; but (1280b)
yet they have not all the same magistrates established among them, but
they are different among the different people; nor does the one take
any care, that the morals of the other should be as they ought, or
that none of those who have entered into the common agreements should
be unjust, or in any degree vicious, only that they do not injure any
member of the confederacy. But whosoever endeavours to establish
wholesome laws in a state, attends to the virtues and the vices of
each individual who composes it; from whence it is evident, that the
first care of him who would found a city, truly deserving that name,
and not nominally so, must be to have his citizens virtuous; for
otherwise it is merely an alliance for self-defence; differing from
those of the same cast which are made between different people only in
place: for law is an agreement and a pledge, as the sophist Lycophron
says, between the citizens of their intending to do justice to each
other, though not sufficient to make all the citizens just and good:
and that this is fiact is evident, for could any one bring different
places together, as, for instance, enclose Megara and Corinth in a
wall, yet they would not be one city, not even if the inhabitants
intermarried with each other, though this inter-community contributes
much to make a place one city. Besides, could we suppose a set of
people to live separate from each other, but within such a distance as
would admit of an intercourse, and that there were laws subsisting
between each party, to prevent their injuring one another in their
mutual dealings, supposing one a carpenter, another a husbandman,
shoemaker, and the like, and that their numbers were ten thousand,
still all that they would have together in common would be a tariff
for trade, or an alliance for mutual defence, but not the same city.
And why? not because their mutual intercourse is not near enough, for
even if persons so situated should come to one place, and every one
should live in his own house as in his native city, and there should
be alliances subsisting between each party to mutually assist and
prevent any injury being done to the other, still they would not be
admitted to be a city by those who think correctly, if they preserved
the same customs when they were together as when they were separate.

It is evident, then, that a city is not a community of place; nor
established for the sake of mutual safety or traffic with each other;
but that these things are the necessary consequences of a city,
although they may all exist where there is no city: but a city is a
society of people joining together with their families and their
children to live agreeably for the sake of having their lives as happy
and as independent as possible: and for this purpose it is necessary
that they should live in one place and intermarry with each other:
hence in ail cities there are family-meetings, clubs, sacrifices, and
public entertainments to promote friendship; for a love of sociability
is friendship itself; so that the end then for which a city is
established is, that the inhabitants of it may live happy, and these
things are conducive to that end: for it is a community of families
and villages for the sake of a perfect independent life; that is, as
we have already said, for the sake of living well and happily. It is
not therefore founded for the purpose of men's merely (1281a) living
together, but for their living as men ought; for which reason those
who contribute most to this end deserve to have greater power in the
city than those who are their equals in family and freedom, but their
inferiors in civil virtue, or those who excel them in wealth but are
below them in worth. It is evident from what has been said, that in
all disputes upon government each party says something that is just.

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ay also be a doubt where the supreme power ought to be lodged.Shall it be with the majority, or the wealthy, with a number of properpersons, or one better than the rest, or with a tyrant? But whicheverof these we prefer some difficulty will arise. For what? shall thepoor have it because they are the majority? they may then divide amongthemselves, what belongs to the rich: nor is this unjust; becausetruly it has been so judged by the supreme power. But what avails itto point out what is the height of injustice if this is not? Again, ifthe many seize into
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ill be necessary to enlarge a little more upon the nature of eachof these states, which is not without some difficulty, for he whowould enter into a philosophical inquiry into the principles of them,and not content himself with a superficial view of their outwardconduct, must pass over and omit nothing, but explain the true spiritof each of them. A tyranny then is, as has been said, a monarchy,where one person has an absolute and despotic power over the wholecommunity and every member therein: an oligarchy the supremepower of the state is lodged with the rich: a democracy, on thecontrary, is
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