The State and the People

Reading a bit more of the Politics and it is interesting to note that Aristotle sees citizens as part of the state (1260b12-15, Politics Bk I, Ch 13). This seems distinct from how we tend to view the state as another entity among the many individuals which then imposes something upon us. Aristotle begins with the family which is constituted by the relationships between all of the people. The family itself is a whole made of several parts. Analogously, the state is a whole made of many parts, i.e. the citizens. In this analogy, we see that there are rulers as the father and followers as the mother and children. The virtue of the whole, that is the excellence of the state, is dependent upon the virtue of the parts in accord with their position.

This could potentially devolve into a collectivism where the individuals are lost in the whole of the state. However, this does provide a better framework for understanding the common good and the role of the state and the rulers. The rulers are not the state imposing laws upon the not-state. The rulers are the people with a particular duty in the state just as others have particular duties.

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