Politics Book III: What Makes a Good Citizen?

Aristotle believed in complete citizens as the subject of his discussion, because hardly any deficiency would be found among them in order to disprove their citizenship. Thus, the definition for a citizen, or rather requirement—is he who directly participate in the judicial and executive part of government in any city, with sufficient rights to attaining all purposed of life; And a city is a collective body made up by these citizens. However, Aristotle did imply about other definition of citizenship—the masters did possess the knowledge of how to perform necessary offices, but rather rely on the labor of the others. This is called a family government, and Aristotle mentioned about the slaves as the “others” of the common family business. Leaving the necessary jobs to the slaves is clearly turning others into a servile state, this was further confirmed by Aristotle “it’s not proper for any man of honor, or any citizen……. to learn these servile employments.” Here Aristotle is implying that the citizens should be the ones that enjoy the servitude of the others, while themselves held public offices. One significant impact this alternative definition of citizenship might incur is the justification of natural slavery, since the citizens would enjoy the labors of the other people, then the others, not citizens, most likely will be slaves. Therefore, Aristotle provided a potential argument for those who believed in natural slavery, which might have inspired the Spanish cruelty at Mesoamerica in 16th century—17th century.



It has been doubted, as Aristotle pointed out, that what was and what was not the act of the city. When a government experienced changes, like democracy arises from tyranny and aristocracy, it would also be experiencing changes in contracts. For example, if the right to tax the citizens was made in a tyranny, and then the state changed into a democracy, should the state still possess the power to tax the citizens even if the structure of the state has changed already? Aristotle stated that anything done by those who have the management of public affairs in a democracy should be considered as the actions of the state, the same method works in oligarchy and tyranny—But this still haven’t answer the question of whether the change of government would dictate its functions or not. However, Aristotle later provided justification for the claim that differentiates a city, which means what makes a city the same or different. Aristotle stated that the community or composition is said to be different if the species of composition is different, this refers to the city as being the same when the government established remained unchanged. Thus, if the government underwent revolutions that overthrew the previous administration, it is said to be a different state, despite the people is still the same people.


Since there are different sorts of governments, then it is reasonable to assume that the actions that constitute the virtue of a citizen in one community would not constitute in another—thus the virtue of such one cannot be perfect. However, the virtues of good man would be perfect, this makes an excellent citizen does not possess that virtue which constitutes a good man. Moreover, since the city is composed of many different parts and dissimilar individuals, the virtues of all the citizens cannot be the same. There’s only one regime that the virtue of a good man is as the same of a good citizen, and it is relatively idealistic, which is all the citizens in a well-regulated state were necessarily virtuous. The effect of this unachievable equity between the virtue of a good man and of a good citizen would be the diverged virtues between the magistrate and citizens. Since the ruler would need to have an education peculiar to themselves, the virtues of good man and a good magistrate might be the same. However, since the citizen would be the one that obeys the regime, as Aristotle pointed out, then the virtues of the magistrate must be different from the virtue of the citizen. Since it is recommended that the virtue of a good man would consist only being able to command, while the virtue of a good citizen would be both being able to command and to obey—it causes both he who commands and he who obeys would learn their separate business.

Aristotle’s political naturalism asserted that all human beings are political animals, and they would want to live together. Thus, the mutual advantages would induce them to live with others. For example, the master would desire his slave to do the labors, while the slaves would expect to live under the master. After the needs of few households like this combined gradually, it would later develop into villages, then city-states. Thus, in all political governments are established to preserve the equality of the citizens within it. At the initial state of this establishment, everyone would expect the ones that run the offices to put the public good first, then the private good. However, as time passed on, more and more people would become ambitious and desirous to maintain his position. Therefore, the good regime would be the ones that have a common good in view and justly established the society. The deviant regime, one the other hand, would be the ones that put the private interests of the rulers first, and formed a tyranny upon its people, the people—citizens, would then be treated as slaves.


Aristotle puts six types of regime into the vision, three regimes as the ideal form of governance, and served the public good; while the other three regimes as the degenerated ones of the previous regimes. First, the aristocracy, this means the ruling of the most virtuous few best citizens, that they would rule their regime from their virtuous qualities. Second, it is the kingdom (monarchy), which is ruled by one virtuous ruler, and they would also pursue the public interests of the citizens. Third, the state (polity), which is ruled by the masses of virtuous citizens which would keep the public interests of the entire population. Now Aristotle turned to the degenerated types of governments—First, oligarchy, when the aristocracy corrupted, its ruling class will be the ones that pursued wealth. Second, tyranny, when the virtuous ruler became corrupted from the kingdom, and instead went for his own private interest. The third, is democracy, which means only the poor majority right now would rule the regime and become a demagoguery. United States would be mostly similar to the regime of aristocracy, where the people gave up their direct votes to the representatives they selected, and then these representatives would represent the people to vote and make legislative decisions, thus the president has certain amount of power, the Legislative branch still can balance with the president—rules by the few.

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