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

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

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Example text

Each seems to be working toward good and reasonable ends, but considered closely, each end is seen to be insignificant because it does not promote the common human good. To be sure, we can all think of hardworking individuals sincerely dedicated to noble goals; the beauty of the liberal state is precisely that it allows for such individuals. My claim is not that the liberal state excludes these individuals, but the more subtle and tendentious claim that it tends to work against them. The liberal state allows them to exist, indeed prides itself on their existence; but it tends to imbue individual ends with the same purposelessness that it has.

It is tempting to say that in promoting individual freedom the liberal state is actively working against happiness. But this is too strong; for the liberal state allows individuals to associate and work together with whomever they please. The problem is subtler. First, at the theoretical level, the liberal state conceives itself as enabling each individual to pursue his own ends. So from its perspective a group activity must be understood as the sum of the individual activities in the group; a tennis game would not be a single activity but two acts of two individuals, each of whom is playing tennis.

In the first two chapters of the Nicomachean Ethics, for example, he describes the relation between the various activities, some of whose ends are subordinate to or included in the ends of others. An example is bridle-making whose end, the bridle, is used by the horseman, whose activity is, in turn, used by the general to attain his end, victory in war. But all activities in the state are used by the ruling art to achieve its end, the preservation of the state and the continued happiness of its citizens—an end identical with the proper functioning of the state.

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