PHIL 41150: Political Philosophy
Dr. Robert Lane
Lecture Notes: Friday February 14, 2003


[7.] Achieving Eudaimonia (Politics VII-which-is-fourth:13-15).


Aris tells us the work that's left to be done:


The object we have in view is to discover the best constitution. The best constitution is that under which the city is best constituted. The best constituted city is the city which possesses the greatest possibility of achieving happiness. (1332a, p.268)


It follows that the best constitution is the one under which the polis has the greatest possibility of achieving happiness, i.e. the good life (eudaimonia) -- and so the question we need to answer is: what sort of constitution does this? In other words, how can a city achieve eudaimonia? (what are the means by which we can reach that end?


Aris' answer involves nature, habit, and reason.

·         nature, natural impulse: It is part of human nature, and only of human nature, to seek happiness or the good life. Only humans are capable of this, and only humans go about actually trying to attain it. No other species can live the good life / can be happy.


If an individual is to achieve happiness (a life of activity in accord with reason), "then these [three powers of man] must be tuned to agree: men are often led by reason not to follow habit and natural impulse, once they have been persuaded that some other course is better." (1332b, p.269) [Sounds like Plato! Aris is implying that a condition of living a good life is that an individual's rational abilities be capable of overriding both his natural impulses and his acquired habits.]


This will involve education: the inculcation of habits and the instruction of the reason. So what sort of education is best? Education should emphasize the higher aspects, those with intrinsic value:

·         war is only valuable insofar as it is a means of attaining peace

·         work is only valuable insofar as it is a means of attaining leisure

For this reason, "the legislator should make leisure and peace the cardinal aims of all legislation bearing on war -- or indeed, for that matter, on anything else." (1333b, p.271)


There are two aspects of Aris' account of education:

1.       addresses war/peace and work/leisure and the virtues these require

2.       addresses the structure of the soul


[7.1.] War/Peace and Work/Leisure.


It must be a system of education that takes account of conclusions reached earlier:

·         that all citizens will share in ruling

·         but not at the same time (the younger will be ruled and the older will rule)


This is why the constitution of Sparta is not conducive to the good life: it emphasizes training its citizens for war and conquest above all else.

Obviously, Aris thinks that a polis should train its citizens for war. But it shouldn't be the Spartan sort of training which emphasizes conquering other cities; rather, it should emphasize:

·         defense ("to prevent us from ever becoming enslaved ourselves")

·         leadership -- the sort needed by the leaders of free men (i.e., the leadership young citizens will need when they become rulers themselves)

·         being a good master to natural slaves


Having identified the intrinsically valuable conditions of peace and leisure, Aris now describes the virtues required for the good use of these things:




                             courage                                                              wisdom





*Temperance and justice are "automatically imposed" by war -- they're especially needed by those enjoying peace and leisure, since without them people enjoying peace and leisure can become "overbearing."



[7.2.] The Structure of the Soul and the Order of Education.


Given all this, which should come first, training in habit or training in reasoning? Aris lists the following points:


1.       The end (goal, outcome) of a human being is thinking, reasoning, rational functioning; so training should be regulated so as to promote thought.


2.       The body should be trained before the soul, and the irrational aspect of the soul should be trained before the rational aspect...


The Soul

the rational aspect

(the better aspect)

reasoning, thought


the irrational aspect

(the worse aspect)

appetites, will, desire

(eventually) capable of rational control

present at birth (evident in infants)

practical reasoning

speculative reasoning



But every step of training should be directed towards the eventual benefit of the rational aspect of the soul, i.e. the mind. (1334b, p.272)


Book VII-which-is-fourth keeps going for another couple of books, giving details of education from infancy to adulthood. At first the focus is on the education of the body, and this begins before conception! The legislator will decide who can marry for the purpose of procreation, and at ages they can begin -- ideally women will be 18 and men around 37 -- this is so that (a) each stops being able to procreate at the same time and (b) they don't have children when they're too young, since the children of young parents tend to be less healthy. Lots more details here... (including dietary advice, e.g. feed infants milk, not wine).


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