Ethics as Politics:
John V. Strang
ABSTRACT: This paper argues that the assertion of Nicomachean Ethics I.ii that the art that treats of ethics is politics is to be understood properly not in the sense of politics qua nomothetike but just as politike, i.e., direct, participatory politics as was enjoyed in the Athenian polis and as the formed background to Aristotles philosophizing on the nature of ethics. The ethical import of politics can be retrieved from Aristotles Ethics (in both versions) and Politics by dwelling on the connection of eudaimonia and humanitys function as such. Aristotle does not construe this function as contemplation but rather as the practical application of reason-reason leading to action. This, however, is the subject of politics. This specific human function, the function that makes us homo sapiens, can not be displayed in rule-be-ruled institutions such as the oikos (household) since such institutions and their collateral behaviors are predetermined based on rank or role. But achieving the distinctively human telos requires that such rule-be-ruled relations and behaviors be transcended since those relations and behaviors exclude the free exercise of deliberative intelligence.
I begin with a proposition: that ethics (in the classical sense) (1) requires politics as the venue of its implementation; indeed, that ethics in a fundamental sense is politics. Ethics is politics inasmuch as the achievement of human happiness"the activity of the soul in accordance with excellence, lasting a lifetime"is public, both in that the achievement requires the presence of co-equals as the condition of its emergence, and in the sense that the excellence achieved (one's character) is publicly recognizable.
I will follow that proposition with a second proposition: that the understanding of ethics as politics was not only the conception that was operative for ancient polis tradition (upon which tradition Aristotle drew in formulating his ethics) but that it is an understanding which is operative here and now in the modern complexly pluralistic, technologically-driven, mega-state known as the American Republic: but this fact is one of which we ("we academics, we intellectuals" in particular) are unaware. In a word, I suggest that increasingly for us (as for republican antiquity) ethics expresses itself as politics, by which I emphatically do not mean "ethics is ideological politics," but ethics increasingly expresses itself for us as direct, participatory politics. (2)
In saying that ethics expresses itself as politics I mean that political activity itself, not the policies or institutions it seeks to implement, functions as ethical ground.
Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics commences with thefor modernsstartling suggestion that the art that treats of ethics is politics. (3) While Aristotle does not immediately make plain the sense in which politics is "authoritative and architectonic" for ethics, he later (Book VI.viii.l/2; 1141b25) specifies it as nomothetike, i.e., the legislative (or better, constitutional) branch of politike. Aristotle concedes a source of confusion here: nomothetike is one branch of a body of knowledge (politike); but the other branch, for its part, goes by the same name: politike! (1141b25-26). Of politics in this other sense Aristotle notes that "it is concerned with action and deliberation," and he glosses, "this is why only those persons who treat of particular events are said to be engaged in politics, because they alone exhibit actions . . ." (1141b28-30).
While it is understandable that Aristotle, as philosopher-observer and as outsider, should place emphasis on the nomothetic aspect of politics in describing its ethical implications, the fact is that the political aspect of politike was what was fundamental for ancient practice. Bluntly: ancients called themselves "political" not insofar as they were engaged in legislation or constitution-making, (4) but insofar as they were engaged in direct deliberation, participation, decision-making, and follow-through. To a degree hitherto unparalleled in history, Greek democratic (better isonomic (5)) polis-life was participatory, and its preeminent achievements were not laws as products but actions as embodiments of practical intelligence.
Aristotle himself is elsewhere well aware of this. In Politics I.ii.6 (1254a8-9) he tells us that human life is action, not production and in saying this, he only corroborates what he concedes when he says that politics is "concerned with action and deliberation," and that to be engaged in politics means to exhibit actions. (6)
The late historian of antiquity, M.I. Finley, neatly summarized the politically saturated life of the ancient republics in his Politics in the Ancient World (1983). A citation of a number of Finley's findings pertinent to this topic is given below, (7) but for the purposes of this paper I will draw out several of the characteristics of the participatory political culture of antiquity as illustrated by that example for which we possess the largest amount of information: fifth-to-fourth century B.C. Athens.
The explicit intention of the Athenian Constitution was to encourage, indeed, demand, maximum citizen participation. Terms in office were designedly restricted: republican Athens implemented "Term Limits" far more thoroughgoing and radical than any proposed in the contemporary United States. Unlike the case of republican Rome, with its cursus honorum- tradition, (8) the Athenian conception did not encourage the career politician. Offices were geographically spread to ensure wide citizen participation; many offices were in fact chosen by lot to further the same goal. There were no mechanisms, such as were common in Roman republican (or modern American) politics to perpetuate specific families or clans in "the career of politics"with politics understood as a specialty. Politics fundamentally was not understood as a specialty at all but a common activity for which general practical knowledge was desired. (9) Not only were terms of office of officials restricted; not only was reelection restricted or eliminated, but the functions and authority of those who were elected was likewise very specific and narrow and the prerogatives of ordinary citizens to monitor the behavior of such officers correspondingly enhanced.
Citizens could preview and pass judgment on candidates for office and they could to so directly, not through putative "experts" such as we meet with in today's congressional reviews. Following fulfillment of office, citizens' rights of review of performance were explicit and extensive. There were explicit constitutional limits on the role of what we would today call "governmental authorities." Indeed, in a fundamental sense the very word "government" is inappropriate to describe the character of the Athenian polis: to a degree more radical than what Abraham Lincoln envisioned, Athenian politics was truly government by the people. Which is to say that it was not "government" at all. It is evident that the Athenian Constitution sought to encourage the role of the Citizen Generalist as opposed to that of the Expert Specialist who was the darling of Plato's constitutional scheme in Republic. (10)
Another feature of Athenian republican politics follows from this emphasis on citizen-generalists: there was little disjunction between the body of people who decided on actions and the body of people who had to implement those decisions. The Athenian Constitution, and Athenian republican practice, (11) discerned a link between citizenship and military servicethis was indeed a powerful (though unarticulated) reason for the policy of denying full citizenship to females. Military service was the first stage of republican citizenship.
Just as we are struck by the absence of institutions and figures we take for granted as associated with contemporary representative democratic practice"bureaucracy, " "consultants," "experts," even "political parties" (with the manifold sub-institutions such as whips, spokesmen, PR people, etc.)so we are struck by the evident significance in such a form of political life of the skill of rhetoric. The political life of the ancient citizen was largely unmediated, the result of direct and personal deliberative engagement, an engagement the ancient citizen had to embody in his own person. Politics in fact was the medium of the expression of that personhood, and the ancient citizen's ethical potential was directly impacted by this direct politics.
The Athenian polis fostered maximum citizen participation: which is to say, maximum opportunity for citizens to exhibit the defining human trait of Action. Although Aristotle himself in the early Eudemian Ethics (12) suggested that oikonomike, the science of the oikos or household, might serve, this position is altered in the later Nicomachean Ethics. "Man is a political animal" is nothing but confirmation of the preeminence of politics and political life. Preeminence for what, ultimately? For ethics.
We can see why this is so by considering the character of just that institution Aristotle first considered: the oikos. The household is famously the most familiar human institution. In terms of the history of ethics it can be salt that most ethical systems are indeed based on the household. Aristotle concurs that ethics begins there. (13) More to the point, oikos-based ethics work because their explicit and implicit lines of authorityreflected in hierarchical rankings of household-membersprovide for a stability and permanence that could not be replicated in republican politics.
Recall the following familiar images of religious ethical systems: the child owes obedience to the paren; the father commands; the child obeys; God is father-creator; Gods creatures are utterly dependent, His servants; goodness consists in obeying the fathers commands, in being a dutiful child, a dutiful servant; otherseven non-believersare also Gods children; they are "brothers and sisters" to the believer. Or consider the institutions of religious ethical systems: priest stands locally for God the Father, bishop stands at remove, and pope globallyor if these institutions are not accepted, at a minimum minister stands as interpreter of the Father's word, as annunciator of rule and rule-based order, just as God stands in place of father in the oikos.
Rule-be-ruled structures, relationships, concepts, behaviorsand virtues!characterize oikos-based ethics: so much so that it is not clear that religions could survive without them.
But if religious ethical systems are oikos-based, and this accounts in no small part for their resilience, (14) then what may be said of the limitations of oikos-based institutions, rankings and behaviors? The fundamental limitation is that within such rule-be-ruled structures, the horizon of one's ethical being is predetermined based on the rank one occupies. If we take the father of the household as illustration, his being is expressed in the following way: qua husband, he has sexual, emotional and supportive obligations; qua parent, he has prescriptive or "role-modeling" obligations; qua wage-earner, he has economic obligations. The household's members' horizons in general are predetermined this wayand the rebellious teenage son who finds the determinations restrictive and departs, in his turn will replicate the same rule-be-ruled relationships in the household he will share in founding.
Now while many human functions can be articulated within the household"man as lover," "man as procreator," "man as parent," "man as economic being"one function can not be. The distinctive function, the distinctive telos, that makes man man: the function of Man as Such. Households work because of the stability proffered by their predetermined rule-be-ruled arrangements. But the distinctive human telos can not be achieved in rule-be-ruled institutions but requires freedom for its implementation.
Freedom, however, can not exist in the household. Family members are in a profound sense not free to refrain from their predetermined obligations. The "man of the house" is not free not to behave as husband (to default on the sexual, emotional and supportive obligations to his spouse is to risk the very existence of the household); he is not free not to perform as parent; he is not free not to earn his, and his family's income. Husband has obligations to wife, to children, to home; and family members in general have comparable obligations based on their function in the household. Although the late 20th century, with its curious intellectual conceits, has made bold to assert "free and equal rights" for all household members, such rights realistically can not exist. The closest to which they can approach is the quasi-equality of husband and wife (which individual couples, for us as for Greeks of Aristotle's time, (15) work out on their own). If adolescents challenge, or are suffered to challenge, the hierarchy of the household, that is an indication that the household is in a state of collapse, not that it is becoming more "enlightened" or "progressive." The household works because its members have specific obligations and functions: because freedom and equality are not allowed to intrude.
The introduction of "equality" is no accident. Equality can not be found in the household (except in the special sense just mentioned: the equality individual husbands and wives work out between themselves). Subadult house members are precisely not equal to their adult parents; if they are in doubt about this, the household is threatened. If parents indulge them, the household is undermined.
The function of Man as Such is not among the functions to be found in the household because this function can not be fixed in advance based on rules. It requires freedom in order to come about. But freedom requires equality in order to come about.
Aristotle speaks of the function of man as such as the exercise of the soul's faculties in accordance with reasonby which it becomes clear that he means practical not theoretical reason. (16) Practical reason is reason as deliberation issuing in action. This, however, is the subject matter of politics.
The effective Greek discovery was that man's characteristic function can not be exhibited in any institution in which human behavior is predetermined based on one's role or rank. Freedom was essential for the exhibition of that function. Freedom was missing from the household for eminently sound reasons: the free exercise of choice on the part of family members would have torn the household asunder. So if one sought freedom, one had to look beyond the household. One had to create a location for it. The Greeks did this searching and creating in the 6th and 5th centuries B.C. (17) and the resulting institution they called "isonomy" or the state of equality mandated by human law, and of equality before that law.
Isonomy, the original name for democracy, (18) is still a better descriptive expression for what we call "the democratic experience" than democracy, because what distinguishes modern democratic states is not so much the active "rule" of the "people," but the fact that citizens stand in a relation of coequality (by law) and that they are treated equally (by law). It is this coequality of opportunity, treatment and action (capacity for action) that is the first indicator of the spread of "democratic institutions"even before otherwise democratic forms of behavior or institutions have been implemented. But this coequality is likewise precisely ethical in its horizons: because no limits on ones capacity to become excellent are presupposed. In aristotelian language, the exercise of the soul's faculties in accordance with reason is not prescribed based on subordinate human functions. "The activity of the soul in accordance with excellence" is not significantly achievable if the horizon of ones possible excellence is predetermined.
Much of what has been said here is not new to historians of ancient politics; what seems to have escaped notice is that the decision to opt for isonomy was an ethical decisionand the willingness to permit it has profound ethical implications. The aristocrats of Athens who found their authority and power diluted by the acceptance of isonomy did not revolt against this radical alteration to the contour and significance of politics. (19) Why not? What did they and non-aristocratic Athenians see that made them accept what was genuinely among the "rarest of human activities," (20) politics?
What made them accept this radical change (and this reason has also escaped notice) is that politics as isonomy genuinely did permit menat least the adult male, head-of-household, born- of-Athenian parents men of Athens (21)to become better human beings. Politics enhanced ethics. Politics opens up the shared field or common space (recall: res publica) within which an individualwho otherwise is defined (and who conceives himself) only as sexual, progenerative, managerial or economic beingcan begin to conceive himself as fully human. As free, not bound by nature. Without this new opening, he would only have his oikos-based self and oikos-reinforced concepts to determine his range of actions and possibilities. And if, as was the case in most cultures in history, the oikos structure is adopted as the model for social organization as such (the "state" as mega-oikos, with monarch as ersatz father), or as model for religious organization (with God occupying that role and with priest as ersatz God), none of these amendments or innovations really allow the individual to discover and articulate his ethical being either: for these are only forms of the oikos writ large and thus prescribe an oikos-like behavior writ large. The individual in isonomic politics does not perhaps intend to transcend the specialist roles characteristic of the household and institutions modeled on itno more than the novice in a sport may intend to excel. But with direct participatory politics (and note that this is not the case with representative politics in which deliberative reason is exercised by proxies at many removes) the individual finds himself confronted by a noveltyother (male) heads of household who are now "by nomos" (law) his "isos" (equal). This is novel because neither the oikos nor any other natural institution exhibits equality, no more than it exhibits freedom. For the Greeks more clearly than for us, freedom and equality are not natural but just the result of deliberative intelligence and ethical will. Man in a state of nature would exhibit behaviors characteristic of nature and natural institutions. (22)
The allusion to sport has another significance. The excellent athlete requires the presence of other excellent athletes in order to be (become) excellentrequires, that is, coequals. And whatever role psychological preparation plays for the athlete, his or her performance in the field of competition (in team sports, in collaborative competition within a frame of higher competition) is what ultimately counts. There is no hierarchy, no ranking of competitors; (23) and the excellence that emerges in the sport is the outcome of individual commitment to excellence, to be sure, but an individual commitment that presupposes the presence of co-equals in competition. Without that presence, without that competition, there could be no excellence. Because what constitutes excellence cannot be predetermined or even articulated apart from the athletic actiivity itself. It is in the playing of the game that the player is "tested," his or her "leadership skills" explored and expressed, and the consequences of his or her "choices" and "decisions" made evident, almost immediately, to player, co-player, rival and spectator.
The actual practice of politics, when it is direct, serves in its own right as ethical foundation. Politics opens the "field," establishes the res publica within which the individual can become excellent as human being as such. The confrontation of free and equal citizen with free and equal citizen compels the individual to transcend specialism in favor of a generalism that hallmarks public activities and goals. In discovering goals that are no longer particular but universal (albeit within the polis), the individual discovers the possibility of articulating Man as Such. As the Greeks put it, he discovers eudaimonia. This is precisely an ethical discovery.
(1) I concur with majority scholarly opinion that Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics (=NE) is the statement of "classical ethics" in antiquity, notwithstanding attempts (e.g., Kenny) to show that the Eudemian Ethics (EE) is later. Even if Kenny's interpretation were shown to be correct, philosophical tradition has consistently taken NE and not EE as canonical.
(2) Although this second "proposition" is presented here, it is not defended within this paper. I have introduced it to indicate the current pertinence of the political context of ancient Greek ethics.
(3) NE, I.ii (1094al9-bl2). Similar passages are in EE, I.viii, Politics (=P) I.i (1252a1-9) and III.vii.1 (1282bl5ff), and Magna Moralia (=MM) I.i (1181b25-1182al). Translations herein (unless otherwise shown) are my own.
(4) See in general Christian Meier, The Greek Discovery of Politics (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990), particularly the opening chapter. Also P.J. Rhodes, The Greek City States: A Source Book (Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1986), 124, notes. The classic statement and philosophical elaboration of this position occurs in Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1989 ), 194-196, which reads in part: " . . . [T]he Greeks, in distinction from all later developments, did not count legislating among the political activities. In their opinion, the lawmaker was like the builder of the city wall, someone who had to do and finish his work before political activity could begin. He therefore was treated like any other craftsman or architect and could be called from abroad and commissioned without having to be a citizen, whereas the right to politeuesthai, to engage in the numerous activities which eventually went on in the polis, was entirely restricted to citizens." (194)
(5) Isonomia or isonomy literally means "equality by law" and "equality before law." The original designation for democracy, isonomy was coined to designate a political life in which not ruling (archein, kratein) but equality was determinative. For a fuller account of isonomy and its scholarly exploration see below, footnote 17.
(6) See NE, VI.viii.l/2 (1141b22-29): Politike (i.e., "politics" itself as opposed to politike as comprehending both nomothetike and politics) "is concerned with action and deliberation," and "only those persons who deal with particular events are said to be engaged in politics, because they alone exhibit actions. " See also MM, I.i (1181b25-1182al): "The treatment of character is both part of, and the beginning point of, political techne and the whole is correctly designated politics, not ethics." Compare also EE, I.v.12 (1216a24-27) and P, VIII.iii.3 (1338bl5) where we are warned against the threat of educating boys and youths "in one virtue only," and enjoined to avoid activities which "render the body or soul or intellect of free men useless for the goals and actions of virtue." (1337b10).
(7) M.I. Finley, Politics in the Ancient World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), here cited in the "Canto" edition (1991):
"Politics in our sense rank among the rarer of human activities in the pre-modern world. In effect they were a Greek invention, more correctly, perhaps, the separate inventions of the Greeks and of the Etruscans and/or Romans. . . . I stress the originality chiefly for its corollary, the iron compulsion both Greeks and Romans were under to be continuously inventive, as new and often unanticipated problems or difficulties arose that had to be resolved without the aid of precedents or models. . . (53).
In principle there was . . . no separation between the civil and the military departments of government. Not only was the army . . . a citizen's militia, but the commanding officers were the ranking civilian officials. . . The ten Athenian strategoi were elected annually and their roster in the fifth century includes the best known political leaders of the time, chosen to hold the highest military office because of their political influence, not the other way round. . . . (58) . . .
It would be difficult to overestimate the impact of war on ancient politics. . . there were few years in the history of most Greek city-states . . . and hardly any years in succession, without some military engagements. We must also bear constantly in mind that the brunt of the fighting was borne by citizen militias; furthermore . . . the men who made the decisions to fight were largely those who went straight into battle themselves. . . (60-61).
Athens and Rome . . . for all their differences . . . had in common an element of popular participation. Hence the political leaders . . . were compelled not only to manoeuvre among themselves but also to manoeuvre so as to secure popular support for various purposes. That is politics, and the tendency among historians to stress the lack of initiative among the mass of the citzenry and then to conclude that they therefore counted for little 'in reality' evades all the questions. . . (63).
The majority of the citizens who participated directly in . . . decision-making had already had personal experience of war and could reasonably expect to be called upon again. The army was a citizen militia in the strict sense: there was no military class, no proper officer caste distinct from the social hierarchy in its civilian aspect. The requirement that political leaders shall have had, and continue to demonstrate, military distinction was therefore serious and comprehensible. . . (67).
The equation democracy = electoral regime is so strongly entrenched in our culture that a conscious effort to put it wholly aside is required in the study of ancient politics. 'Electoral regime' is a completely wrong label for Greece, an inadequate one for Rome. There were elections, and they had their element of ritual, their pretensions and conventions, their apathetic voters. But there were also assemblies with the (at least formal) power of final decision on issues. There was, in short; a measure of genuine popular participation. . . . (70).
Meetings of the [Athenian] Assembly [the Ekklesia] were open to every citizen who chose to attend. There he had direct vote on proposals, which were openly debated, amended if desired, and sometimes initiated; and he voted openly before his fellow citizens. In principle the powers of the Assembly were boundless. . . . The Council's [Boule] members were selected by lot from all citizens over the age of thirty who chose to allow their names to go forward, with a compulsory geographical spread. Their term of office was one year and a man could serve only twice in his lifetime. . .(71).
Nearly all the officials were also selected by lota hallmark of democracy for the Greeks (Aristotle, Rhetoric, 1365b30-31) and they were restricted to a single year in office, not renewable. Their qualifications (more precisely, their worthiness) could be challenged beforehand by formal procedures open to every citizen, and they had to submit an account of stewardship at the end of their term. Such controls, entailing the risk of heavy penalties, clearly weakened the power of officials with respect to the Assembly and the courts. So did the extensive fragmentation of offices and duties and also the absence of a hierarchical service within which an individual was expected to proceed by election in an orderly sequence (such as the Roman cursus honorum). Although property qualifications survived for a few posts de iure, they were in most cases eventually allowed to disappear de facto (Aristotle, Constitution of Athens 47.1). Most court cases, finally, were in the hands of bodies (usually large) open to all citizens. . .(71-72).
The Assembly was not a parliament with a fixed membership; no doubt fewer ordinary citizens took the trouble to attend routine sessions but it is unimaginable that the question of whether or not to go to war with Sparta met with similar disinterest. Even peasants, the most underemployed occupational group in any society, could take the time off; so could self-employed artisans and shopkeepers in the city. In Aristotle's day, the Assembly normally met on forty days evenly spaced throughout the year . . . not a large inroad into anyone's time, especially as meetings often lasted less than a full day and never more. . . (73).
In any decade, something between a fourth and a third of the total citizenry over thirty would have been Council members, serving daily (in principle) throughout the year and for a tenth of that year on full duty as so-called prytaneis. . . Then one must add the thousands who had court experience, . . . the hundreds of officials, from market wardens to archons, each selected by lot and restricted to a single, unrepeatable tenure of one year; and the men who had served abroad in the army and the navy. These experienced men, it must not be forgotten, were free to attend Assembly meetings at any time, whether in or out of office. At least half the Athenian multitude deciding from ignorance on matters of state, a favorite target of Thucydides and Plato and many modern historians, thus melts away on close examination. . . (74-75).
[W]e must concentrate our minds and our imaginations on a political system without modern parallels: there were no structured political parties and there was no government in the sense of an appointed or elected group of men formally entrusted for the moment with the right or the duty to make policy proposals to the Assembly, which had the more or less unrestricted power of making binding decisions. . . . Nor was there an official opposition. . . . A mass meeting of several thousand men who chose to be present on [a given] occasion listened to speakersto men who had opted to take the floor, without holding any office, without any formal duty or obligationand then voted by show of hands, all in one day or less than a day. On controversial matters the debates were real: there were no formal party line-ups, no whips, no machinery to predetermine the final vote irrespective of the speech-making. It was in those debates that leadership was tested, that politics were made and unmade. . . . (75-76).
The range of requisite knowledge was considerable, as Socrates had suggested to Glaucon [Xenophon, Memorabila, III.vi] in the absence of a bureaucracy or of a party, direct personal participation was necessary all the time. . . (76).
(8) Finley, op cit., 71-72.
(9) Cf. NE, II.ii (1103b26ff) (that ethics is a practical not theoretical science; that its subject matter is the realm of human volition and decision; that specific rules here are irrelevant but that what counts is the general); NE, I.iii (1094bl3) (that politics is not an exact science; I.vii [1098a21-34] to the same point); NE, I.iii (1095alf) (that politike presupposes general knowledge, by which is meant general experience of life); NE, VI.viii (discussion of phronesis in general). The very significance of the intellectual virtue phronesis (in the ethical sense) lies in its indeed being fundamentally political in this sense. Thus Aristotle comments that "the phronimos in general is one who is good at deliberating in general" (EN, VI vii.6; 1141bl0-11)moreover, the sphere of deliberation is specifically that of praxis not techne and of course not the theoretic or discursive activities (NE, VI.v.3; 1140a32-b8). "Phronesis is concerned with human affairs as such" (1141b9). Cf. also NE, VI.viii (1141b23-24); P, III.ii.ll (that phronesis is the virtue distinctive of those who rule, i.e., citizensnot those who are ruled); P, III.i.8 (that a citizen is defined as one who has a right to participate in deliberative and judicial office in general).
(10) Cf. Republic II; 369b and following (the account of the origin of the polis, and specifically, that the polis comes about in order to satisfy economic needs and that therefore specialization is a political desideratum [369e-370b]; that specializationeach to do that for which he is especially suitedis recommended because it is "natural" and this "naturalness" or suitability by nature is accepted as an added reason why it should be politically relevant [370bl). Republic II and III are largely given over to the argument for "unity" in the cityonce again culminating in the claim that the cardinal virtue, Justice, will be achieved in the city only when "one does the job for which he is most naturally fitted," and that Justice "in a sense is just to stick to ones own job" (to ta hautou prattein) (433a/b). From such specialization emerge, of course, the classes of Plato's ideal city; and concomitant with that emergence not only is democracy destroyed but more significantly politics itself as "the government of men who are free and equal" (Aristotle, P, I.ii.21; 1255b21) since, of course, the platonic city is not made up of classes "free and equal" at all. ("Freedom" and "equality," Plato might have added, are "not natural" and this would, from his viewpoint, have been an added reason for rejecting them in his city.).
(11) Aristotle, Constitution of Athens, XLII: military service is compulsory for two years for young Athenian males from age 18. This requirement of citizenship became obligatory in Athenian law only from 334 B.C. but had de facto been observed for generations before: cf. Rhodes, op. cit., 112.
(12) EE, I.viii.19-20 (1218b7-15).
(13) NE, X.ix.14 (1180b4-5) (much of this chapter represents an argument for the view that a public education is best, but when this is lacking, second-best is the authority of the parent in his house: "for paternal demands and family habits hold sway in the household just as legal statutes and customs do in the polis.") Cf. also P, VIII.i.2 and elsewhere (VIII, I) for Aristotles criticisms of the shortcomings of the oikos (in P, I.ii.3-4 he does so precisely in the context of the critique of Plato's unity-metaphysics argument of Republic alluded to in note 10 above). In general, it may be said of Aristotles evaluation of the oikos that it is essential to the polis in being the scene in which wealth and therefore freedom of action are attained (P, III.vii.6: "Wealth and freedom are necessary for a polis's existence, as justice and virtue for its good governance")and hence, is pre-political.
(14) At the end of the 20th century it can not go unremarked that in a century of unparalleled brutality and moral degradation as represented by two world wars and dozens of significant regional wars and conflicts and by the rise and systematic repressiveness of totalitarian ideologies and dictatorships throughout much of the globe, the main function of ethics"not to teach what goodness is but to teach how to be good" (NE II.ii)is a function better understood and displayed by religious ethics than by any philosophical or intellectualist counterpart. Consider among a host of examples: the resistance of the fundamentalist Huguenot community in Vichy France to the anti-Semitic prescriptions of that government and the occupying German forces, illustrated most notably in the willingness of Huguenot households to shield Jewish children and otherwise protect adult Jews at certain risk to their own lives; the role of the Lutheran Church in the former GDR in terminating Communist rule in that part of Germany in 1989; the role of the various Christian churches throughout central and eastern Europe in sustaining moral resistance to Soviet totalitarianism; the moral resistance of Catholic priests in Communist China today. Likewise, the role of religious belief in sustaining the characters of American POWs in Vietnam and Korea; the religious grounds of resistance to Nazism by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Franz Jaegerstaetter, Edith Stein, Fr. Maximilian Kolbe, Helmuth James von Moltke, Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg, Karl Goederler; the religious grounds of resistance to Communism expressed by Solzhenitsyn in the former USSR, by Armando Valladares in Castro's Cuba; and many other examples.
(15) NE, V.vi.9 (especially 1134bl6ff).
(16) The link between the human function as such and reason in its practical employment is established already at NE, I.vii.13 (1098a3-7): "There remains therefore what may be called the practical life of the rational part of man. (This part has two divisions, one rational as obedient to principle, the other as possessing principle and exercising intelligence.) Rational life again has two meanings: let us assume that we are here concerned with its active exercise." (Rackham's translation).
(17) On isonomia see the like-named article by Victor Ehrenberg in Pauly-Wissowa, Encyklopaedie der klassischen Altertumswissenschaft, Supplementband VI, 294-301 (Stuttgart: Metzlersche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1940). Ehrenberg notes (294) that the oldest reference to the expression (late 6th c. B.C.) is a famous skolion praising the "Tyrannenmoerder" Harmodios and Aristogeiton ("I shall bear my sword within a branch of myrtle/as did Harmodios and Aristogeiton/when they killed the tyrannos/and made Athenians equal by law") (=Diels II1, 184, 10-13, as cited in part by Ehrenberg). Hannah Arendt has discussed isonomy in On Revolution (New York: Viking, 1963), 22ff, 289. Also note Meier, op. cit., as cited below, note 18.
(18) Meier, op. cit., chapters two ("the Political in Ancient Greece"), three ("The Emergence of the Trend Toward Isonomy") and four ("Cleisthenes and the Institutionalizing of the Civic Presence in Athens").
(19) Recall Aristotle's definition of democracy: "[Politeiai] in which all [citizens] participate in all activities." (P, VII.viii.l; 1382b35). Regarding citizenship, recall that Kleisthenes expanded the rolls by enfranchising resident aliens (P, III.i.10).
(20) Finley, op. cit., 53.
(21) This is an appropriate place to comment on the common contemporary criticism of Athenian democracy as too restrictive to merit the name, i.e., on Athens' exclusion of wide strata of the population, including resident aliens, metoikoi, and of course slaves and women. Regarding first the topic of restrictiveness in general: Historian N.J.G. Pounds collected population estimates for 5th century B.C. Athens by Julius Beloch, Victor Ehrenberg, Ulrich Kahrstedt, A.W. Gomme and Marcus N. Tod and concluded that "the arguments and conclusions of Beloch have, in fact, stood up to the criticisms of the last 80 years." (A Historical Geography of Europe, 450 B.C to 1330 A.D. [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973], 53). Beloch's estimates are: citizens, 35,000 (with families, 135,000); metoikai: 5,000; slaves: 100,000 yielding a total population of up to 285,000. The highest estimates were those of Gomme: citizens: 43,000 (with families, 172,000); metoikoi: between 9,000 and 28,000; slaves: 115,000 for a total of up to 355,000. All the estimators agrees that Athens was among the most densely populated areas of the ancient Mediterranean in the 5th century, and all likewise agreed on the low ratio of slaves to citizens. By way of a comparison to modern states: the 1991 population of Kuwait was over 2,000,000. Of that number, the actual citizens amounted to about 60,000. Concerning exclusion of the young, recall EE, II.viii.6 (1224a28-30): "We do not speak of a child as acting, nor of an animal, but only of one who arrives at actions by reasoning." (Cf. also 1224a27-28). And NE I.ix.10 (1100a2-4) where it is said that children can not seek eudaimonia "for they are not old enough to engage in actions." Concerning the "threat" the banausos represents to healthy, virtue-oriented citizenship see P, VIII.ii.l; iii.l; iv.7; etc. (It cannot escape notice that Aristotle's strictures against banausoi can also be construed as strictures against specializationmuch of the burden of P, VIII is implicit affirmation of the notion that a public, political context is the only viable one for the young to exhibit the virtues; otherwise they will be seduced by activities "that render the body or soul or intellect of free men useless for the purposes and actions of virtue. [1337bl0l]). Concerning the exclusion of slaves: P, I.ii.13-15 (1254bl7-1255a3), which says in part, "He is by nature a slave who . . . partakes of reason insofar as apprehending it but not possessing it. . . ." And P.v.10 (1280a32-33): "Slaves and animals do not partake of eudaimonia and purposive life." Also P, I.ii.21; I.ii.10-11 and II.ii.9. (Aristotle's own uncertainty about the allegedly natural slavethe Greek words for slave derive from "prisoner of war" and thus are obviously not particularly "natural" at allcomes across in such places as P, I.ii.15.) Finally, concerning the exclusion of women from ancient citizenship: P, I.v.2 (1259blff): " . . . The male is better suited by nature to lead... The male stands in this relation to the female constantly." See also P, I.ii.12 and recall III.iii.1 (1277b36ff): "A true citizen is one who is capable of leading." Better than any explicit statements concerning the role (or rather, non-role) of women in ancient Greek politics, however, is the evidence concerning education deemed appropriate for women in the poleis. Xenophon's Oikonomikos VII gives the classic model for education of women in pre-Hellenistic Greece, and the same author's Memorabilia I.v.2 has Socrates saying that the main responsibilities of a head of household are three: his son's education, his daughter's virginity, and his household's prosperity. The breakdown neatly delimits the zones of public vs. private spheres of life: the first-mentioned is public, the second is private and the third is precondition for the private (and indirectly for the public). Apart from exceptions like Lacedaemon (always odd-man-out among the Greeks), education of girls in antiquity throughout the period with which we are concerned (i.e., to the end of Aristotle's lifetime) was conducted in the oikos. For changes (affecting both intellectual and physical education) that transpired in the Hellenistic era, see H. I. Marrou, A History of Education in Antiquity (New York: Sheed and Wart, 1956), 148, 167, 202. It is interesting to note that the few pre-Hellenistic cities that offered public opportunity for females to compete and distinguish themselves (Marrou mentions Lesbos and Tenedos) included among the contests that of skill in oikonomia not exactly a "public" talent (op. cit., 62, citing Theophrastos). Even more striking than the pre-Hellenistic exclusion of women from public education is that when public education (i.e., primary, secondary and philosophical) was opened up (starting at the end of the 4th c. B.C.) to girls and women (schools of rhetoric with their obvious political relevance seem to have remained an exception), this significant shift in Greek educational philosophy was accompanied by the demise of active direct political experience on the part of the (male) citizenry. That is to say: girls and women entered the public realm, educationally speaking, only after the public realm had ceased to be distinctively political. Arguably, the two events are not merely coincidental.
(22) If one wishes a modern metaphor for the political and ethical consequences of lapsing into a state of nature: the history of the Bounty mutineers (1789 and following) and their settlement of Pitcairn Island and the ensuing rapid self-destruction of the adult male population until, within four years of the settlements founding, only four men and ten women remained alive, and within a further seven years, all remaining men had been murdered except for one who was left as sole adult male dominating a community of females and juveniles.
(23) The absence of a hierarchy of competitors refers to practices within a given sport category: competitors within a given Class A league are co-equalsbut this does not imply the exclusion of other (higher or lower) sport categories (e.g., AA vs. A or AAA vs. AA) based on such factors as competitors' size, size of competitor pool, and so on.