So I am diving into Aristotle’s Politics, which seemed appropriate after Rousseau, and I’m finding him to be a slightly ridiculous old fool. I’m sure he says some good things as well, but so far he seems like nothing more than an extremely accomplished intellectual bullshitter. It doesn’t help that I’ve mentally cast him as Grand Maester Pycelle from Game Of Thrones. Here is a good extended passage of what strikes me as something approaching gibberish:
Hence it is evident that the state is a creature of nature, and that man is by nature a political animal. And he who by nature and not by mere accident is without a state is either above humanity or below it; he is the “tribeless, lawless, heartless one” whom Homer denounces—the outcast who is a lover of war; he may be compared to a bird which flies alone.
Now, the reason why man is more of a political animal than bees or any other gregarious animals is evident. Nature, as we often say, makes nothing in vain, and man is the only animal whom she has endowed with the gift of speech. And whereas mere voice is but an indication of pleasure or pain, and is therefore to be found in other animals (for their nature attains to the perception of pleasure and pain and the intimation of them to one another, and no further), the power of speech is intended to set forth the expedient and inexpedient, and likewise the just and the unjust. And it is characteristic of man that he alone has any sense of good and evil, of just and unjust; and the association of living beings who have this sense makes a family and a state.
Thus the state is by nature clearly prior to the family and to the individual, since the whole is of necessity prior to the part; for example, if the whole body be destroyed, there will be no foot or hand, except in an equivocal sense, as we might speak of a stone hand; for when destroyed the hand will be no better than that. But things are defined by their working and power; and we ought not to say that they are the same when they are no longer the same, but only that they have the same name. The proof that the state is a creation of nature and prior to the individual is that the individual when isolated, is not self-sufficing; and therefore he is like a part in relation to the whole.
What?! I mean seriously, what exactly the fuck? Here is a shorter passage of idiocy, this one at least clear because it’s a bald assertion rather than a tortured analogy:
But is there anyone thus intended by nature to be a slave, and for whom such a condition is expedient and right? Or rather is not all slavery a violation of nature?
There is no difficulty in answering this question, on grounds both of reason and fact. For that some should rule, and others be ruled is a thing not only necessary but expedient; from the hour of their birth some are marked out for subjection, others for rule.
Presumably he was dictating to a slave at the time, which probably was not awkward at all. He goes on for some time on the rightness of slavery, but it doesn’t get any better or more convincing.
I’m ten pages into a 180 page volume, which is beginning to feel like it may be a slog.
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