Aristotle’s Political Ideal Aristotle’s Political Ideal “It is not Fortune’s power to make a city good; that is a matter of scientific planning and deliberative policy.” Aristotle, along with most of the prominent thinkers of his time, theorized upon what the Ideal Political State would be and through what means it could be obtained. Aristotle wrote on this discussion of the Ideal State in books VII and VIII of The Politics. What Aristotle observed around him were the prevalent city-states of ancient Greece. It is commonly believed that he did not have a vision of the large nation-state and especially not such great federations as the United States and Russia. What Aristotle referred to when he spoke about state, is a limited sized city-state that is formed by the grouping of several villages.
He also believed that a nation is too large for a state: his state was about the right size so that all members of the state could meet in a single assembly. Aristotle’s state was nearly self-sufficient so that the bare needs of life were met and continued “for the sake of a good life” for its people. This continuing prosperity for the sake of a good life is what Aristotle believes the goal of the ideal state should be. Aristotle said “that life is best, both for the individuals and for the cities, which has virtue sufficiently supported by material wealth to enable it to perform the action that virtue calls for it”. He feels that since man, as individuals, strives for happiness, then man, as a collective group, should strive for the happiness of the state.
Since it is now established what the ideal state should aim for, we may begin at what and by the Ideal State is composed. The Ideal State, of which Aristotle thought of, has as its quality of land that which is most universally productive. This would include natural resources, such as wood and crops, so that the inhabitants of the cities would have adequate amounts of food and other resources in order to be self-sufficient. The Ideal State should be a size such as the citizens can live a life of a free man where he is adequately provided for, but not a life where he lives through a vice of extravagance. (Aristotle made a clear distinction as to who should and should not be a citizen of the state. His ideal state is certainly not a democratic one that enables all who live there to be a citizen.) The main city of the state should be positioned so that it is easily accessible from both sea and land.
Aristotle also felt that walls and other such defensive protections should guard the town itself. The defenders of the town must always seek additional means of defense by the aid of scientific inquiry. He believed that the proper positioning of the city between sea and land will give way to three distinct advantages: “first it will be equally well-placed for the operations in all direction; also it will form and entrepot for the receipt of incoming foodstuffs; and it will have access to timber and other raw materials the land may be able to produce.” Aristotle’s Ideal State should be situated in such a place so that it would be hard for an enemy to attract and easy for an expeditionary force to depart from. The city should be developed on a slope. This will allow for good health when combined with being faced east, with the winds blowing from the direction of the sunrise.
The town should be organized in a quincunx (the same pattern used to plant vines), and make sure that the whole city is not laid out in geometric intervals. This will allow for both safety and good appearance of the city. Plato, in his Republic, expressed a great disapproval of seaports, navies, foreign trade, and foreign travel in his writings on the political ideal. Aristotle on the other hand felt that seaports are a necessary part of the Ideal State. He believed that it was necessary for people to import things that they do not produce themselves, and export those products of which they have a surplus.
Aristotle explained that the Ideal State should be able to establish itself as a formidable power, or be able to render aid on both land and sea. Aristotle expressed the need for adequate amounts of water, and for clean, unpolluted drinking water. He said that “water, and especially spring water, should be abundant and if possible under immediate control in time of war.” Aristotle later added the need of water to preserve proper health when he declared that “air and water, being just those things we make most frequent and constant use of, have the greatest effect on our bodily condition.” This drinking water should be separated from all-purpose water. Aristotle, in his designing of the Ideal State, was quite concerned with the health and well being of the state’s citizens. This may be why Aristotle believed that the best ruled state would be ruled by a wise and experienced group of elder citizens. In order for there to be a large enough populous of elder citizens to maintain the management of the city it is critical that they must maintain the proper health so that they will be enabled to do so. Who should make up the state is a simple question – citizens should make up the state.
But exactly whom did Aristotle consider a citizen? Aristotle believes that a citizen is not an individual with common residence or blood relationship, but one who is in direct participation in the deliberative and judicial functions of the community. This excludes resident aliens, children, women, slaves, and members of the working class. The citizens should be Greek, as Aristotle believed that Europeans have drive without intelligence, and the Asiatic’s have intelligence without drive. Aristotle believed that only those that are able to give time to the government should be able to participate in it. This is why he felt that only some could be members of the ruling government while others could not. Aristotle did not believe in representative government, he believed in a direct government ruled by qualified and educated citizens whose goal was the wellness of the state and not their own political gain.
By modern definition, Aristotle would surely be considered racist, classist and sexist all at the same time and this is true. Aristotle is known to have criticized Sparta for the freedom given to women there, but at the same time he condemns Sparta’s oppressive serfdom. Aristotle is a scientist, and as such, he observes and interprets what he sees. Slavery was a universally accepted thing, yet Aristotle grants the slave the faculty of reason, the capacity of freedom, and the right to look forward to freedom. But Aristotle still held the view of his time that the slave was subhuman, and therefore was able to be ruled over. This was inhere …