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The Politics: Novel Summary: Chapter 1

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Aristotle begins his loosely (to say the least) organized dissertation with his ideas about the household and the building blocks of community. He begins by talking about natural unions. First comes the union between man and woman. This union is aimed at the goal of fulfilling certain natural needs, namely the desire to reproduce. Next, is the union of the family, where the man, as with his wife, is the natural ruler of his children. He has great authority and responsibility in this role. He rules over his wife for her own good. Aristotle believes that men possess a natural role as masters. Yet the man's wife and family are not slaves, because the man looks out for their interests (unlike the slave-master union in which the master principally looks out for his own interests, not the slave's). After several families begin living with one another in a community of sorts, a village forms. Several villages, likewise, form a polis- the vital system of societal preservation. All these unions, on every level have one purpose- to promote goodness, which is a natural human phenomenon. Aristotle admits, "The final and perfect association formed from a number of villages, is the polis...it exists for the sake of a good life."
Indeed man is a "political animal"-- a being who has a natural goal (telos) to live in a polis and engage in politics. Government is not a human invention, but a natural outgrowth of community life. The purpose of government is to maintain justice. Aristotle asserts, "Man, when perfected, is the best of animals; but if he is isolated from law and justice he is the worse of all."
Next, Aristotle justifies his defense of property- namely, slavery. He maintains that slaves are simply possessions of other men, destined by nature to serve. He asserts that the union between slave and master is indeed natural, for both parties receive mutual benefits. The master receives service and labor while the slave in turn receives protection and a means to express his natural sense of duty to the master. Aristotle concludes, "...there are species in which a distinction is already marked, immediately at birth, between those of its members who are intended for being ruled and those who are intended to rule..." Here slavery, like any other natural union, is a means to the end of goodness. The interests of the master, not the slave, are that goodness.
Later, Aristotle rejects Plato's socialism. Aristotle is a strong proponent of private, not communal property. Through his many practical observations (something Plato doesn't deem important), Aristotle realizes that the idealistic concept of shared possessions is simply an ideal, certainly not attainable by humans, since it contradicts the laws of nature.




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