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Ethics, in which Aristotle gives his view of the relation of Ethics to Politics. There are three ways, he says, in which men become good ; they are good by nature, or by precept, or by custom. The first is a happy chance that we cannot control ; the second is uncertain unless the minds of the hearers have been prepared beforehand so that the seed is sown on good ground. Hence it is the last way, the way of custom, that must be used by the legislator. Nothing but a general and thorough system of moral education will give us a virtuous community. We must have laws for the whole of life from infancy upwards. In other words, we must conquer human nature by obeying it and reform human society by adopting the very methods by which society has grown up to what it is, and using not only its written but its unwritten laws.3
The difficulty that meets Aristotle at this point is the difficulty that meets every one who tries to show that whatever is, is in a sense right. If Justice differs in different States, is it not in all equally conventional or equally natural ? His answer is that there is one best form of government and the justice that prevails in that is the natural one, being that for which men are born and to which they ought to come. While he allows that none of the existing States are perfect, he contends that the development of the State from family and village was quite natural. He distinguishes too the right sort of States (those in which the government aims at the public advantage) from the wrong (in which it seeks the advantage of individuals). It is clear then that their laws and customs must, according to his own admissions, have a great deal of substantial truth in them; and accordingly his severest criticisms are directed against those who leave the path of history and experience and, like Plato, construct constitutions on abstract principles.
First and foremost he objects to Plato's Republic that it turns back the hands of the clock. It tries to perfect the unity of the State by destroying the variety in the life of its members. By abolishing the family it reduces the State itself to a family, and the next step would be
2 Eth., X. (9), 6-2 Pol., 111. 6, 11.
1 X. (9). 4 Eth., V. (7)
3 ib., 14 ; cf. VIII. (13), 5. 1 Pol., ΙΙ. 1: γινομένη τε μία μάλλον, οικία μεν εκ πόλεως, άνθρωπος δ' εξ οικίας έσται.
to reduce it from a family to an individual. Unity must not be uniformity. Though the criticism is not wholly justified, it is true that in his own Ideal State Aristotle not only preserves the historical elements which disappear in the Platonic State, or in its select circles, but finds a place for various social groups (including clubs and partnerships) ranked under the general head of "friendships," and serving as a bridge between the exclusiveness of the family and the comprehensiveness of the State. There is no such continuity in Plato. The two books of Aristotle on Friendship (Ethics
, VIII., IX.) are really a treatise on the different forms of social intercourse and communion, from the highest (the friendship between two good men) to mere attachments from pleasure and partnerships from utility.
He does not consider society by any means as constituted by this last class of associations, and the motive of self-advancement is never regarded by him as at all commendable, still less as worthy of dominating an entire society of human beings. Self-love, he says, is natural and in moderation pardonable, but it is never admirable except in the good man, regarded as loving the goodness that is in himself, which he will value above all things else in the world. A civil society, the dominant aim of whose members was commercial ambition, would be to him a degradation of the State. There is not even the notion that every man must earn his own livelihood by his own labour. His philosophy reduces the economical element in Society to a very humble place.
On the other hand he fully allows for human weakness. If all men were good, Society would have all its wants supplied. It may be allowed, he says, that friendship dispenses with law, yet true friendship is only between the good ; the good are rare, and a friendship on the part
2 Eth., VIII. (9) and (10). See Mr. E. Poste's note (p. 97 of his transl., 2nd. ed.) on Aristotle's 'Aonvalwv roditela, Section LII. [dika] έρανικαί και κοινωνικαι. .
3 Pol., II. 2. It is immoderate, he adds, when it means love of money.
Eth., IX. 8.
5 IX. 8, 7.
6 VIII. 1, 4.
of all citizens towards each other is inconceivable ; the wider the circle the more "watery” is the feeling .
His way is accordingly a via media. He has no notion of modern individualism ; the individualism of his own day taught by the Cynics and Cyrenaics implied the hostility of the individual to Society, whereas modern individualism is distinctly a phase of social life. Aristotle sees that there is no salvation, physical or moral, for the individual outside of the State. Man is not only a social but a political animal; the expression in Greek implies on the whole far more of the latter than of the former. Man is born for the life of a citizen in a State, straitly regulated in all departments of his life by its laws and by the customs of his people, while at the same time he is allowed a family life of his own, property of his own, and free choice of a career in life. To have all things in common would mean to have nothing well cared for. So far the personal motives must have free course in regard to material wealth.
Even if we suppressed them because they are often intemperate and therefore mischievous to the commonweal, we should not eradicate evil so long as the desires of pleasure and of worldly distinction remained.2
In his criticism of current socialistic theories, Aristotle no doubt uses what are sometimes considered strictly economical arguments ; he would, for instance, demand from the socialists of his day that if they made all wealth common they should restrict population. But he lays far more stress on his own positive argumerit that, if you direct men to their proper chief end, you secure the good of socialism without the evil ; you equalize not the possessions but the desires of men ; you make the possession private but the use public. The modern notion of property as held in trust for the public good is foreshadowed.
The chief end of man, however, is not allowed to be the chief end of one large body of men, the slaves, who are mere "living tools." The slave is one who is "born to be dependent on another." 5 Nature has made some men
1 Pol., II. 2.
2 Pol., II. 4. 3 Pol., II. 4, in relation to Phaleas of Chalcedon.
Compare Rhct., Ι. 9, 27, ελευθέρον το μή προς άλλον ζην.
4 II. 2.
to be slaves as it has made others to rule.
As long as we have this notion that men as well as things can be mere instruments, we cannot have the notion of economics as now understood, in which the world of men stands over against the world of things as a world of ends to a world of means.
Perhaps the most remarkable feature in Aristotle's conception of the chief end of man, is that it is not directly social at all. The highest good is contemplation of truth, the next best is development of the virtues. The first involves seclusion from politics, and is the lot of a few highly gifted minds ; it is the second that is open to the ordinary citizen. Aristotle was perhaps conscious that the Greek State was no longer to be the Alpha and Omega of civilized life. The history of his own country was making this painfully clear. When the State and Civil Society could no longer furnish a rule of life, some other guides must be sought; and they were sought in the individual rather than in the social nature of man.
STOICS AND EPICUREANS.
IN Plato and Aristotle we have seen that wealth does no more than furnish foothold and room for the practice of virtue and the perfect exercise of human faculties. A certain measure of material resources is no doubt held indispensable, but it is viewed as a fixed factor. The progressive increase of wealth in a people is regarded as an evil rather than a good. Anything beyond the necessaries of life is thought to tend to evil; and the necessaries of life are not conceived as expanding with spiritual needs, but (especially in Plato) as rather diminishing than increasing with the growth of extraordinary powers and gifts. This had probably been the teaching of Socrates himself, who practised plain living and high thinking, though on occasion he could share the pleasures of gay society. He thought that to have few wants was godlike and therefore best for man. ?
This independence, which was in the case of Socrates himself the independence of a citizen of a free State, was interpreted by some of his contemporaries and followers in an anti-political if not anti-social sense. Aristippus, the founder of the Cyrenaic Philosophy, which regarded the pleasure of the moment as the chief happiness and end of man, was by his own account a citizen of no State, but “a stranger everywhere.” His independence consisted in making the best of the world as it stood, and getting the utmost enjoyment out of the good things of this life, without any regardeven to scientific acquirements. It was the philosophical expression of the characteristically Greek joy of living. But this adapting of wants to circumstances was really a departure from the teachings of Socrates. Antisthenes and the Cynics were more truly
1 Plato, Sympos. ; cf. Xen. Mem., I. 111. 5., VI. I, etc., etc.