Page:Aristotle - The Politics, 1905.djvu/11

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Introduction

discusses the nature of individual happiness or well-being ; in the Politics he treats of the state as one of the chief means through which the individual attains to happiness. The object of the Politics is both practical and speculative ; to explain the nature of the ideal city in which the end of happiness may be completely realized ; to suggest some methods of making existent states more useful to the individual citizen than they were in Aristotle s time, or had been in the past.

Aristotle is not, strictly speaking, the founder of political science. In the age of Pericles, and earlier still, statesmen and philosophers had theorized about the origin of society, the relative merits of various constitutions, and other kindred topics. Though Socrates was more concerned with ethics than with politics, he applied the powerful solvent of his dialectic to many of the political ideas which were fashionable in his day. The conceptions of utility as the ideal which the statesman should pursue, and of scientific knowledge as the indispensable equipment of the statesman, would seem to have had their birth in the Socratic circle. Plato, the pupil of Socrates, not content with developing the suggestions of his master and with giving to the Socratic formulae a deeper meaning, essayed a more systematic discussion of the nature of the state and its right organization. In the Republic he describes the state as it would appear if founded and governed by philosophers ; in the Laws he offered to the statesmen of his age a model more practicable and more nearly related to the experience of the past ; a model which the legislator for a new colony might follow without undue violence to Greek prejudices and opinions. Although the views of Plato are sharply, and not always justly, criticized by Aristotle, the influence of the Republic and the Laws is perceptible in many places of the Politics where they are not mentioned.

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