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Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsA Treatise On Government - BOOK III - Chapter XVI
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A Treatise On Government - BOOK III - Chapter XVI Post by :Brian_Harvard Category :Nonfictions Author :Aristotle Date :January 2011 Read :3477

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A Treatise On Government - BOOK III - Chapter XVI

(1287a) We will next consider the absolute monarch that we have just
mentioned, who does everything according to his own will: for a king
governing under the direction of laws which he is obliged to follow
does not of himself create any particular species of government, as we
have already said: for in every state whatsoever, either aristocracy
or democracy, it is easy to appoint a general for life; and there are
many who entrust the administration of affairs to one person only;
such is the government at Dyrrachium, and nearly the same at Opus. As
for an absolute monarchy as it is called, that is to say, when the
whole state is wholly subject to the will of one person, namely the
king, it seems to many that it is unnatural that one man should have
the entire rule over his fellow-citizens when the state consists of
equals: for nature requires that the same right and the same rank
should necessarily take place amongst all those who are equal by
nature: for as it would be hurtful to the body for those who are of
different constitutions to observe the same regimen, either of diet or
clothing, so is it with respect to the honours of the state as
hurtful, that those who are equal in merit should be unequal in rank;
for which reason it is as much a man's duty to submit to command as to
assume it, and this also by rotation; for this is law, for order is
law; and it is more proper that law should govern than any one of the
citizens: upon the same principle, if it is advantageous to place the
supreme power in some particular persons, they should be appointed to
be only guardians, and the servants of the laws, for the supreme power
must be placed somewhere; but they say, that it is unjust that where
all are equal one person should continually enjoy it. But it seems
unlikely that man should be able to adjust that which the law cannot
determine; it may be replied, that the law having laid down the best
rules possible, leaves the adjustment and application of particulars
to the discretion of the magistrate; besides, it allows anything to be
altered which experience proves may be better established. Moreover,
he who would place the supreme power in mind, would place it in God
and the laws; but he who entrusts man with it, gives it to a wild
beast, for such his appetites sometimes make him; for passion
influences those who are in power, even the very best of men: for
which reason law is reason without desire.

The instance taken from the arts seems fallacious: wherein it is said
to be wrong for a sick person to apply for a remedy to books, but that
it would be far more eligible to employ those who are skilful in
physic; for these do nothing contrary to reason from motives of
friendship but earn their money by curing the sick, whereas those who
have the management of public affairs do many things through hatred or
favour. And, as a proof of what we have advanced, it may be observed,
that whenever a sick person suspects that his physician has been
persuaded by his enemies to be guilty of any foul practice to him in
his profession, he then rather chooses to apply to books for his cure:
and not only this (1287b) but even physicians themselves when they are
ill call in other physicians: and those who teach others the gymnastic
exercises, exercise with those of the same profession, as being
incapable from self-partiality to form a proper judgment of what
concerns themselves. From whence it is evident, that those who seek
for what is just, seek for a mean; now law is a mean. Moreover; the
moral law is far superior and conversant with far superior objects
than the written law; for the supreme magistrate is safer to be
trusted to than the one, though he is inferior to the other. But as it
is impossible that one person should have an eye to everything
himself, it will be necessary that the supreme magistrate should
employ several subordinate ones under him; why then should not this be
done at first, instead of appointing one person in this manner?
Besides, if, according to what has been already said, the man of worth
is on that account fit to govern, two men of worth are certainly
better than one: as, for instance, in Homer, "Let two together go:"
and also Agamemnon's wish; "Were ten such faithful counsel mine!" Not
but that there are even now some particular magistrates invested with
supreme power to decide, as judges, those things which the law cannot,
as being one of those cases which comes not properly under its
jurisdiction; for of those which can there is no doubt: since then
laws comprehend some things, but not all, it is necessary to enquire
and consider which of the two is preferable, that the best man or the
best law should govern; for to reduce every subject which can come
under the deliberation of man into a law is impossible.

No one then denies, that it is necessary that there should be some
person to decide those cases which cannot come under the cognisance of
a written law: but we say, that it is better to have many than one;
for though every one who decides according to the principles of the
law decides justly; yet surely it seems absurd to suppose, that one
person can see better with two eyes, and hear better with two ears, or
do better with two hands and two feet, than many can do with many: for
we see that absolute monarchs now furnish themselves with many eyes
and ears and hands and feet; for they entrust those who are friends to
them and their government with part of their power; for if they are
not friends to the monarch, they will not do what he chooses; but if
they are friends to him, they are friends also to his government: but
a friend is an equal and like his friend: if then he thinks that such
should govern, he thinks that his equal also should govern. These are
nearly the objections which are usually made to a kingly power.

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ably what we have said may be true of some persons, but not ofothers; for some men are by nature formed to be under the governmentof a master; others, of a king; others, to be the citizens of a freestate, just and useful; but a tyranny is not according to nature, northe other perverted forms of government; for they are contrary to it.But it is evident from what has been said, that among equals it isneither advantageous nor (1288a) right that one person should be lordover all where there are no established laws, but his will is the law;or where there
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But the different sorts of kingly governments may, if I may so say, bereduced to two; which we will consider more particularly. The lastspoken of, and the Lacedaemonian, for the chief of the others areplaced between these, which are as it were at the extremities, theyhaving less power than an absolute government, and yet more than theLacedaemonians; so that the whole matter in question may be reduced tothese two points; the one is, whether it is advantageous to thecitizens to have the office of general continue in one person forlife, and whether it should be confined to any particular families orwhether
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