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Politics

Aristotle

Study Questions and Suggested Essay Topics

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Study Questions

What does Aristotle mean when he says "man is a political animal"?

According to Aristotle, the end goal of human life is happiness, which is found in the application of reason. This life of good quality is not possible except within the confines of a city. Man needs the leisure and the social interaction that citizens in a polis enjoy in order to enjoy achieve this happiness. As a result, non-citizens are unable to attain true happiness or rationality and are thus less complete, less human than citizens. To realize his true human nature, man must take part in political life, and so, Aristotle concludes, he is a political animal.

What are Aristotle's main arguments in defense of private property?

Aristotle argues that private property is not the root of man's wickedness, but rather a manifestation. Because man's wickedness runs deep, eliminating private property will not make man better. Aristotle suggests instead that education and moderation will eliminate vice. He also points out that the important virtue of generosity would not be possible if there were no private property with which to be generous.

Is a good citizen the same thing as a good man? Why or why not?

The ideal citizen is someone who best serves the ends of the city. Because there are many different kinds of constitutions, and each constitution calls for many different kinds of citizens, there must necessarily be many different standards for excellence in a citizen. However, there is only one universal standard for excellence in a man. Thus it is possible for a good citizen not to be a good man. The end goal of every city is to make a life of good quality possible for its citizens, but only the best citizens in the best city will be able to attain this end. A good leader, Aristotle suggests, is practiced at both ruling and being ruled, and so has all the necessary qualities that make a good man.

Suggested Essay Topics

Explain Aristotle's concept of distributive justice.

In what cases and in what ways can an oligarchy and democracy resemble one another? (Hint: demagoguery vs. dynasty.)

Why does Aristotle think that a strong middle class is important? How is this linked with his conclusions in the ##Nicomachean Ethics##?

According to Aristotle, what is the root cause of all constitutional change? Why are certain kinds of constitutions more susceptible to change than others?

Why does Aristotle give instructions on how to preserve a tyranny if he thinks tyrannies are evil?

Aristotle comes up with two conceptions of liberty: (1) an even interchange between ruling and being ruled; and (2) the freedom to do as one pleases. Which of these does he prefer, and why? What is the significance of simultaneously ruling and being ruled?

Trace Aristotle's debate between the life of political activity and the life of philosophical speculation. What arguments does he provide for each? Which does he ultimately conclude is better?

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The Mere Acquisition of Coin

by readingthegreat, July 25, 2013

Early in book one, Aristotle states, “for mankind always act in order to obtain that which they think good.” The wording of “they think” in his statement implies that humankind seeks “good” based on their subjective definition of the term. If humankind seeks what they think is good, it naturally falls that individuals will seek what they believe to be good for themselves, which then seems to lead naturally to the accumulation of coin because of its ability to bring material comforts.

I want to believe that money does not b... Read more

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