Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Ascending the Swampland

I'm having trouble responding to the first book of Aristotle's Ethics--it is markedly more disjointed than those that follow it, with countless instances of "Enough of this" or "We will return to this later"--but I would like to bring attention to his early mention of the political sphere:

[The good] would seem to be the supreme and most authoritative art; and that appears to be politics. Politics decides what arts should be given a place in states, which should be learned by each class of persons, and how far their study should go. We observe that the most esteemed skills come under politics, such as generalship, estate management, and persuasive speaking, i.e., oratory. Politics then, employs the other arts and legislates as to what we should and should not do; therefore, the end of politics will embrace the objects of the other arts, so that this this will be the good for man. Even if it is the same for individual and for state, the good of the state is greater and more complete, both to attain and to keep. It is desirable for one individual to obtain, but finer and more godlike for countries and whole states.

The framing of politics as the final reflection and expression of a nation's culture and priorities--as if it were a natural outgrowth of a people rather than the end result of obscene amounts of spending and an obsessive consumption and manipulation of information and news by a small slice of the population--is bracing in its optimism.

1 comment:

  1. . . . and now you know why we political theorists so like Aristotle.