Aristotle's Political Virtues Essay

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Aristotle's Political Virtues ABSTRACT: This paper argues that Aristotle conceives happiness not primarily as an exercise of virtue in private or with friends, but as the exercise of virtue in governing an ideal state. The best states are knit together so tightly that the interests of one person are the same as the interests of all. Hence, a person who acts for his or her own good must also act for the good of all fellow citizens. It follows that discussions of Aristotle’s altruism and egoism are misconceived. Why does Aristotle think that the good life must be lived in a state (polis)? It is usually supposed that the state serves to provide the security and stability that individuals need for virtuous acts.(1) Though it is also…show more content…
On the contrary, instead of individual virtue aided by a concerned friend, Aristotle's account of the best friendships emphasizes mutual interest and common activity. In this paper I shall go a step further: happiness not only requires living with friends in a state, but consists of governing a state. My aim is to show that Aristotle maintains that the best states are knit together so tightly that the interests of one person are the same as the interests of all and that the virtues he describes in his ethics are meant to be exercised in the governance of such a state.(7) It is just because governing the state (or rather the polis) fulfills the individual's potential for acts of virtue that the state is said, in the Politics, to be "by nature." I That some virtues are best exercised in political activity(8) can be seen from their definitions. Courage, for example, is a disposition toward a particular behavior in battle: "Properly (kurios) the courageous man might be said to be fearless of noble death and all that suddenly brings death, most especially in war" (N.E. III.6.1115a32-34). States, not individuals, go to war; so only people who live in or act with states could be properly courageous. Likewise, Aristotle declares that political justice or, apparently equivalently, simple justice is "found in a life
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