Bust of Aristotle. Marble, Roman copy after a Greek bronze original by Lysippos from 330 BC; the alabaster mantle is a modern addition. Via Wikimedia. Public Domain

Selected Passages Chosen From  “Preserving Democracy,“  by Aristotle

From Democracy in the Politics of Aristotle, edited by Thomas R. Martin, with Neel Smith & Jennifer F.Stuart, edition of July 26, 2003

1276b: 28-29: …The task of citizens is the preservation of the partnership that is their system of government…

1308b: 10-19: ..In all systems of government no one is allowed to become overly great [so as to threaten the stability of the state]. Acquiring great prerogatives quickly tends to corrupt people, for not everyone can stand good fortune. Above all, the laws should prevent anyone from becoming especially preeminent in the power derived from his supporters or his wealth; if the laws cannot prevent this, then such persons should be sent to spend time abroad…

1313a: 41-1313b6: …Education, debate, and social groups dedicated to inquiry and discussion are enemies of tyranny, since they encourage intelligent thought and trust [among citizens]…

1260b: 15-20: …It is necessary to educate women and children with an eye to the system of government, if the state is to be worthy. For women make up half of the free population, and from the children will come the partners in the system of government…

1308b: 31-33: …It is of the greatest importance in all systems of government to have laws and the rest of governmental administration so arranged that magistrates cannot profit financially from their offices…

1263b: 36-37: … Since a city-state is a multitude, it is necessary to use education to make it into a partnership and a unity…

1337a: 11-1337b3: …Everyone would agree that law makers should make the education of the young a special priority. City-states that fail to do this injure their systems of government. The education must suit the system of government, for this preserves it. Since a city-state has a single goal (telos), education must, of necessity, be the same and be given to everyone. Its oversight should be a public matter, not as it is now, with everyone overseeing his own children’s education privately and having them taught what he believes best. Training for things that are shared should be a shared activity done in common. The Spartans might well deserve praise on this score, since they, more than anyone, devote effort to their children, and as a shared task…

1310a: 12-36: …The greatest thing of everything that has been mentioned for preserving a system of government, although this is the thing everyone slights, is providing education in accordance with the system of government. For even the most beneficial and widely approved laws bring no benefit if they are not going to be inculcated through education and the habits of the citizens. Education appropriate for a democratic system of government is not to be guided by what brings enjoyment to the partisans of democracy but rather by what makes it possible to run a system of government democratically. In the democracies that seem to be the most democratic, they do what is not advantageous because they define freedom badly. For democracy is thought to be defined by two things: by the majority having authority and by freedom. Justice is then thought of as equality, and equality as that whatever the multitude decides is what is authoritative. Freedom and equality are doing whatever one wishes. So in this sort of democracy everybody lives as he wants and for whatever goal he craves. This is a contemptible thing. Living according to one’s system of government should not be thought of as slavery, but rather as preservation…

1308a: 11-16: …Where there are many people in government, legal rules of a democratic cast are advantageous, such as limiting term in office to six months so that everyone who is alike can have a share in filling public posts…

1321a: 1-2: …Democracies are generally preserved by having a large citizen body…

1326b: 2-7:… A city-state must be populous enough to be self-sufficient, but too large a state cannot be a city-state because it is not easy to have a system of government in it. It is too large to be effectively managed militarily, and no herald can shout loud enough [to conduct the assembly meetings of a large population]…

1296a: 13-16: …Democracies are more secure than oligarchies and more enduring since they have more “middle” people with a greater share in [political] prerogatives…

2018-10-01T12:04:24+00:00

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