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→ Passages: Defining the City State.

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Democracy in the Politics of Aristotle  

Thomas R. Martin, with Neel Smith & Jennifer F.Stuart, edition of July 26, 2003

page 5 of 13

· Passages: Defining the City State ·

1253a: 2-3: Human beings are, by nature, creatures who live in a city-state (polis). [The same remark occurs at 1278b19.] 1274b: 33-34: It is a disputed question what exactly the city-state is.

1279a: 21: A city-state is a partnership of the free.

1255b: 16-20: Rule in a city-state is the rule of those who are free and equal. This is not the same as mastery, where one is a slave and the other is a ruler.

1276b: 1-2: A city-state is a partnership of citizens in a system of government.

1252a: 1-7: Every city-state is a kind of partnership, and every partnership is created for the sake of something good. Political partnership, which is called the city-state, aims at the most authoritative good of all.

1275b: 17-21: Given the definition of a citizen in 1275a: 22-23, a city-state is a multitude of such persons large enough for self-sufficiency of life.

1252b: 29-30: The city-state comes into being for the sake of living, but it exists for the sake of living “well” (to eu zen). [This phrase implies more than what is usually meant by “living well” in English, which is to say “being prosperous.” The Greek phrase implies above all a life lived in accordance with excellence (arete). Living a prosperous life is not necessarily in conflict with this notion but is certainly not the principal implication of living “well” in Greek. See the next passage.]

1280b: 29-1281a8: A city-state is clearly not just living together in a shared territory for mutual defense and the exchange of goods. It is rather a partnership among households, clans, and villages for living “well,” for the sake of a fully developed and self-sufficient life. Those who contribute most to a partnership of this sort have a greater part in the city than those who are equal or greater in freedom or family, but unequal in political excellence, or those who outdo them in wealth, but are outdone in excellence.

1278b: 21-25: The goal or purpose (telos) of the city-state certainly encompasses physical existence and survival, but it is also more than that, namely, living “finely” (to zen kalos).

1280b: 6-8: The city-state that is truly a city-state must be concerned with excellence (arete).

1323b: 30-34: The best city-state is happy and acts finely. It is impossible for those who do not do fine things to act finely. There is no fine action of man or city-state apart from excellence and thinking.

1253a: 37: Justice is a thing of the city-state.

1282b: 16-18: The political good is justice, and justice is the common advantage.

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page 5 of 13