Aristotle's Argument of the Polis Essay

Aristotle's Argument of the Polis Essay

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In what follows, I shall consider Aristotle's’ argument of the polis, or the city-state, as presented in his Politics I.2, and expound on the philosophical implications of this particular thesis; namely, a thesis which claims that the city-state exists by nature, and correspondingly, that a human being is ‘by nature a political animal’. Along the way, I shall present two objections leveled against each claim. The first pertains to the invalidity of the argument on ends; specifically, I shall protest that when a thing’s process of coming to be is completed, even if we regard this as an end, this does not necessarily confer that such an end is a natural end, for artificial processes too, like natural processes, share the potential to arrive at ends. The second pertains to the ‘part-whole’ argument, which in a sense takes from the argument of function. Here, I shall discuss that it is not quite clear whether the claim that human beings - as parts of the whole - are necessarily political animals, and so the view that the state is ‘prior by nature’ is uncertain. After that, I will present two Aristotelian responses against these objections; and judge whether or not these appear succeed. I conclude that he is correct in asserting that the city-state exists by nature, and correspondingly, that a human being is a political animal.
Let us begin briefly by rehearsing Aristotle’s account of the growth and origin of the city-state. In the first place, Aristotle suggests, couples come to be because of the natural impulse for reproduction; namely, a male and a female pair form so that their race may continue to exist, for without this union, which arises not from deliberate reason but from the inherent desire for preservation, the continuing ...


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... against him. With regard to the second objection, Aristotle can begin by accepting that whereas it is indeed true that the parts prior to the whole or the polis - the single associations, respectively - do not contain the virtue for the achievement of eudaimonia in themselves alone, it is through the conjunction of them all that the capacity for this virtue emerges. Indeed, the parts of the city-state are not to be taken distinctively. For instance, whereas five separate individuals alone may not have the capacity to each lift a 900 lbs piano, the five together, nonetheless, can be said to be able to accomplish this. Similarly, it is the city-state with all of its parts that can achieve the good life. In any case, it remains that humankind is essentially political since it fulfills the function of reason, and this function is best performed under the city-state.



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