Aristotle's Politics today by Goodman, Lenn Evan; Talisse, Robert B.; Aristotle

By Goodman, Lenn Evan; Talisse, Robert B.; Aristotle

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We do not need to sacrifice personal interest to pursue the public good. We can achieve our personal good in the act of fostering the public good. This personal good that is also a public good is within the reach of nearly all. It requires only the simplest and most difficult of changes: to think of ourselves differently. NOTES 1. As John Stuart Mill puts it in On Liberty: “The sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection.

This sort of attitude is found in many modern splinter parties that refuse to make common ground with the major party closest to their own position and may even forge alliances instead with other radical factions whose principles are diametrically opposed to their own. This misguided utopianism results from confusing the task of ideal theory with that of ordinary politics. It is comparable to the mistake of a gymnastics coach who tries to impose on run-of-the-mill pupils a regimen appropriate for Olympic champions.

2. Until recently, the predominant view in the literature assimilated the Aristotelian state to the liberal one and, accordingly, saw the state’s role as making possible private pursuits of individuals. One expression of this view occurs in Mulgan (1987, 7). Mulgan denies that a life of moral virtue is “primarily concerned with specifically public or political activity” (32–33). Another occurs in the introduction to Stephen Everson, The Politics (1988, xxvii). On the other hand, Julia Annas thinks that political activity is a necessary part of human activity; our lives would be “stunted” without participation in it (1993, 150–52).

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