Staying on the subject of Dark Age myths:
References and Further Reading 1. Biography and History Aristotle's life was primarily that of a scholar. However, like the other ancient philosophers, it was not the stereotypical ivory tower existence. Clearly, Aristotle had significant firsthand experience with politics, though scholars disagree about how much influence, if any, this experience had on Aristotle's thought.
There is certainly no evidence that Alexander's subsequent career was much influenced by Aristotle's teaching, which is uniformly critical of war and conquest as goals for human beings and which praises the intellectual, contemplative lifestyle.
It is noteworthy that although Aristotle praises the politically active life, he spent most of his own life in Athens, where he was not a citizen and would not have been allowed to participate directly in politics although of course anyone who wrote as extensively and well about politics as Aristotle did was likely to be politically influential.
As a scholar, Aristotle had a wide range of interests. He wrote about meteorology, biology, physics, poetry, logic, rhetoric, and politics and ethics, among other subjects. His writings on many of these interests remained definitive for almost two millennia.
They remained, and remain, so valuable in part because of the comprehensiveness of his efforts. For example, in order to understand political phenomena, he had his students collect information on the political organization and history of different cities.
The question of how these writings should be unified into a consistent whole if that is even possible is an open one and beyond the scope of this article. This article will not attempt to organize all of Aristotle's work into a coherent whole, but will draw on different texts as they are necessary to complete one version of Aristotle's view of politics.
The Texts The most important text for understanding Aristotle's political philosophy, not surprisingly, is the Politics. However, it is also important to read Nicomachean Ethics in order to fully understand Aristotle's political project.
This is because Aristotle believed that ethics and politics were closely linked, and that in fact the ethical and virtuous life is only available to someone who participates in politics, while moral education is the main purpose of the political community.
As he says in Nicomachean Ethics at b30, "The end [or goal] of politics is the best of ends; and the main concern of politics is to engender a certain character in the citizens and to make them good and disposed to perform noble actions.
We are likely to regard politics and politicians as aiming at ignoble, selfish ends, such as wealth and power, rather than the "best end", and many people regard the idea that politics is or should be primarily concerned with creating a particular moral character in citizens as a dangerous intrusion on individual freedom, in large part because we do not agree about what the "best end" is.
In fact, what people in Western societies generally ask from politics and the government is that they keep each of us safe from other people through the provision of police and military forces so that each of us can choose and pursue our own ends, whatever they may be.
This has been the case in Western political philosophy at least since John Locke. Development of individual character is left up to the individual, with help from family, religion, and other non-governmental institutions.
More will be said about this later, but the reader should keep in mind that this is an important way in which our political and ethical beliefs are not Aristotle's.
The reader is also cautioned against immediately concluding from this that Ar istotle was wrong and we are right. This may be so, but it is important to understand why, and the contrast between Aristotle's beliefs and ours can help to bring the strengths and weaknesses of our own beliefs into greater clarity.
The reference above to "Nicomachean Ethics at b30" makes use of what is called Bekker pagination.Sep 25, · With member countries, staff from more than countries, and offices in over locations, the World Bank Group is a unique global partnership: five institutions working for sustainable solutions that reduce poverty and build shared prosperity in developing countries.
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