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The State is related to the individual citizens of the state and to the smaller social organisms—the household-life and the local community—as the absolutely determining and enlivening whole to the members,—is not so much the product as rather the ground of all morality. The threefold gradation of dependence in the household-life, and above all, the relation of master and slave, as resting upon a primitive nature-destination, is the presupposition of the state. Placing a higher worth upon the natural social relations than Plato, and confining himself more fully to historical 116reality, Aristotle escapes the unpractical idealism of Plato, but also attains to less definite results, and furnishes rather a criticism than a self-consistent theory of the nature of the state. Emphasizing the development of the individual citizen to free self-determination more strongly than Plato, he modifies the despotic absolutism of the latter, and presents as the moral chief-task of the state the moral disciplining of the free citizens. But the state-idea attains to a universally-human significancy neither in its outward nor its inward relation; humanity both in the barbarian and in the slave, is of an imperfect grade, and capable of no moral emancipation.
Of the Politics of Aristotle we have to do only with the more strictly ethical contents. He does not connect this work directly with his Ethics, but treats of its subject-matter from a more practical stand-point; hence he gives, on the one hand, in his Ethics, the more general thoughts of the doctrine of the state, and, on the other, he repeats in his Politics some of the thoughts of his Ethics.
The state is the highest moral communion, and hence realizes the highest of all goods. Its type is the household-life; its task is not merely to afford protection and help for the life of the individuals, but essentially to found and promote the true life, that is, the spiritually moral life, of the whole. The state is not itself the product of the already developed moral life of the individuals, but it is the presupposition thereof; outside of the state there is no moral development; only he who belongs to the state can be moral; the whole is antecedent to the parts, and the rational man is a part of the state; the state is the first, the citizen of the state the second; outside of the state lives only the animal or God (Pol., i, 1, 2). Hence the moral relation of the household-life is a presupposition of the state only in so far as it is a constituent element of the same, but not in such a sense as to imply that it already existed before the state and independently of the same. 117It is peculiarly characteristic that of the threefold foundation of the household-life, as stated by Aristotle, namely, the relation of man to wife, of father to children, and of master to slave, he treats of the first two only merely incidentally and briefly, but of the third chiefly, and very thoroughly. Aristotle furnishes for the first time, and in its entirety, a formal theory of slavery,—a phenomenon very significant for the history of ethics.
The opinion that slavery is not a something entirely natural, but is based only upon violence and arbitrary laws, Aristotle emphatically rejects. A household-life without possessions and without serving instruments is not conceivable, and hence also not without slaves, which are in fact living instruments and possessions. Even as the artist and artisan stand in need of instruments, so the housefather, of slaves, which are consequently absolutely his property, and subject to his discretion; this is a natural, and not a merely legal relation, strictly analogous to the relation of soul and body,—the former as the absolutely dominating, the latter as the absolutely dominated factor. And reality corresponds to the want. Men differ in fact from each other in such a manner that the ones, as being really rational, possess themselves, and represent the soul of humanity, whereas the others represent the body of humanity,—are corporeally strong, and adapted for bodily toil, but are spiritually unfree and ignoble, and, though distinguished by reason from the brute, are yet not governed by reason but by sensuous desires. These are destined by nature to be slaves, and it is well for them that, as the property of others, they are spiritually dominated (Pol., i, 3-5). And Aristotle expressly says that those who are destined by nature to slavery are the non-Greeks, the barbarians. Greek prisoners-of-war are slaves not indeed by nature, but by law, and hence legitimately.—What the significance of slavery is, appears clear from the fact that it is a characteristic of a slave that he may be injured with impunity (Nic., v, 8),—that the notion of justness holds good only between such persons as have rights, and hence not between master and slave; that the legitimate and uncensurable manner of ruling over slaves is the tyrannical, the end of which is simply the profit of the master (Nic., viii, 12; Pol., 118i, 8, 9), and that to a slave as such a relation of love or friendship can as little have place as to a horse or ox,—in which connection, however, it is to be observed, that in so far as the slave is also a human being a certain inferior form of love is admissible. The slave has indeed also a degree of virtue, for he is required to obey and to be modest and -temperate, but his morality differs from that of the master, not merely in degree but in essence; while the master is capable of all virtue, the slave is utterly incapable of the power of deliberation (το βουλευτικόν) and hence evidently of the thought-virtues—prudence and wisdom (Pol., i, 9). The more humane directions as to the treatment of slaves (Oecon., i, 5; of questionable authenticity) are to be interpreted in the light of these principles.
Aristotle subjects the Platonic state to a very keen and sound criticism; the community of goods and of wives he rejects, as both unnatural and morally corrupting, and even impossible (Oecon., ii, 2 sqq.). Of his own views Aristotle is more reticent than Plato, and he gives rather merely general thoughts than specific details. Only that one should take active part in political life who possesses all civic virtue, and especially far-seeing insight; but such virtue can exist only where there is leisure for its development, that is, in such persons as are free from the necessity of laboring for the common wants of life,—and hence not in day-laborers, artisans, or farmers (Oecon., iii, 5; vii, 9). The soil must be cultivated by slaves. Leisure stands higher than labor, and is indeed per se happiness. A proper state-constitution must have for its end the weal of all the free citizens constituting the state; it may be equally well monarchic, or aristocratic, or republican (the latter being that wherein all the truly free citizens take part), and over against these stand as their perversions: tyranny, oligarchy, and democracy, all of which look to the good, not of the whole, but only of individual persons, or of classes in society (Oecon., iii, 6-8; iv, 1 sqq.). It is best for the State when the best citizens bear rule; and the best one is not to be bound by trammeling laws, but stands free above the law, although in general Aristotle places the validity of the law higher than Plato, and is not hopeful of finding such “best” ones very frequently. The mass of 119free citizens are indeed to have part in deliberating upon the laws and in promoting justice, but not in actually governing (Oecon., iii, 9 sqq.). Aristotle inclines most strongly to a monarchy limited by laws, and, in this, has his eye manifestly upon Alexander the Great.
The state provides for the public worship and for the moral culture of the citizens; hence it prescribes, in order to the obtaining of a vigorous population, the institution of marriage. Maidens are to marry at their eighteenth year, and men at about the age of thirty-seven, in order that the children may stand in a proper relation to the age of the parents, and in order that the differing duration of the productive period of the two sexes may stand in some degree of harmony, and the children be robust. The laws are to prescribe the manner of life of the woman while pregnant, and the physical and spiritual training of the children. In relation to the exposing of children, the maxim holds good, “that no physically imperfect (πεπηρωμένον) child is to be raised.” Where, however, the traditional usages forbid the exposing of children, there the excessive increase of the population is to be prevented by forbidding the procreating of more than a legally fixed number, and the fetus is to be destroyed before the period of sensation and quickening (Oecon., vii, 15, 16). The education of the children stands, as a matter of high importance, under the care of the state; overseeing this education up to the seventh year, the state then actually undertakes it itself; for the citizens belong not to themselves, but to the state. The boys—and the question is only as to these—are to be instructed in grammar and drawing, because of the utility of these sciences, and in gymnastics in order to the development of courage, and in music in order to the employment of the leisure which becomes the free citizen (labor being confined to the slave), and in order to the awakening of the sense for harmony (Oecon., viii, 3-7).
Though Aristotle presents numerous forms of state-constitution as possible, and as good and appropriate according to existing circumstances, yet to the state of true human freedom he is not capable of rising. Even his most free and most democratic constitution rests absolutely on the basis of 120slavery, and on the antithesis of the Greeks, as true men, to the slave-like barbarians. The education of the citizens is, in Aristotle, quite similar to the education of a cavalier in the age of Louis XIV. and XV. It is easy enough to be liberal-minded when all the labor falls to the lot of those who, as unfree, have no share in political life. The fact that a so-called anti-Christian “humanistic” culture of modern times regards the Greeks as the champions of true humanity, of humanitarianism in the broadest sense of the word, and their age and their world-theory as “the paradise of the human mind,” from which we of modern times have to learn and receive true humanitarian notions,—is no striking evidence of great impartiality of view. Though Aristotle concedes to the different classes of citizens in the state a somewhat greater freedom and independency of development than Plato, in that he does not attribute all right exclusively to the absolutism of the state, still this recognition of a relatively free self-development does not by any means reach down to the laboring classes; the laborers are absolutely passive and for the most part personally rightless members of the state,—are but the immovably soil-bound roots of the tree whose richly-developed branches and leaves wave freely in the air above. The distinction and the classification of the ranks in society are not a moral ordinance, but a merely natural and hence unfree one,—rests not upon a moral self-subordination to a moral idea, but upon the compulsory necessity of extra-moral nature-differences,—springs not from a like moral dignity and task; but from the naturally different moral nature of the different classes of mankind. The slave and the laborer are morally entirely different and inferior beings, and have neither the task nor the capability of even comprehending the full moral idea, much less that of realizing it; this is the privilege of the higher classes of free citizens. A moral redemption of the great multitude from this ban of moral unfreedom and incapacity is an utterly foreign thought even to the philosopher; nay, he would feel called upon, should he conceive of even the possibility of such a redemption, to assail and prevent it with all his might, for with it would fall to the ground, for the Greek, not merely all reality of the state, but also all possibility of a social community-121life. It is only among the rudest barbarians that he can conceive of a moral equality of the individuals; and the Christian idea of humanity, as moral, must have appeared to the Greek as well as to the Roman as a falling back into rude barbarism; and the war of life and death as carried on against Christianity by the otherwise so tolerant Romans, had, at bottom, not so much a religious as rather a social motive; it was the perfectly correct consciousness, that Christianity, although essentially a purely religiously-moral power, would inevitably radically undermine the foundation-principles of the heathen state, and shatter to pieces the entire absolutely slave-based social fabric. The thought of recognizing the slave and the barbarian as morally equal to the freeman, and as called to equal moral dignity and eternal glory, appeared to the Greek, no less than to the Roman, as a treason to human society, as a high crime against the solely possible foundations of a rational state. Beyond this world-theory Plato and Aristotle did not rise.
As in relation to those within the Greek state, so also in relation to the non-Greeks, is the thought of humanity, in Aristotle, radically defective. The non-Greeks belong only in a very loose sense to humanity at all,—are really but half-men, destined by nature to be dominated over by the Greeks, as born for ruling. War upon them is treated of by Aristotle, unhesitatingly, under the head of the legitimate occupations of life, and more specifically under that of the chase: “War is, in its very nature, a branch of industry; for the chase is a form of the industrial activity, which comes to application as well in relation to wild beasts, as also in relation to those men who are destined by nature to be ruled over (πεφυκότες ἀρχεσθαι) but are not willing thereto,—so that consequently such a war is a just one ” (Oecon., i, 8). War is regarded by no means as an evil, but as a normal life-manifestation of the nations, as a necessary condition of the virtualizing of one of the most essential of the virtues. The relation of the moral community-life to the rest of mankind is consequently in no sense one which looks to the realizing of a moral communion, but is a purely negating and destructive one. Ethics proclaims not peace but war,—aims not at emancipating and redeeming, but at subjugating; non-Greek humanity is not 122an object of moral influencing, but of violent subjugating. The Greek knows no mission of the word, but only of the sword.
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