Aristotle Begins The Politics By Defining The City As A Political Partnership Essay example

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Pol320Y5 Essay 2: How Would Marx and Mill respond to Aristotle’s claim that man is a political animal?

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Aristotle begins the Politics by defining the city as a political partnership. Aristotle believed that cities and communities form because of natural partnerships between “persons who cannot exist without one another” (8): males and females for the sake of reproduction and the “naturally ruling elements with the element which is naturally ruled” (8). These complex relationships form a family and the joining of numerous families forms a village. However, a city is not merely a large village, for “while it comes into existence for the sake of mere life, it exists for the sake of good life” (10). For Aristotle, the good life was based on politics and life in the city sharing the benefits of political associations was necessary for anyone who wished to be fully human. Specifically regarding human nature, Aristotle claims that “man is by nature a political animal” (10) and his natural condition is to live with others. Although Marx disagreed with some of Aristotle’s edicts, such as the notion that some forms of slavery were natural, his thoughts that the human essence is social is compatible with Aristotle’s claim that humans are political animals. The highest realization of community for both philosophers was community. However, Marx’s theory is centered in the idea that there exists in all humans an innate economic principle which guides their actions. All human relations are guided, consciously or not, by this principle and thus all ethical theories formed are also influenced by this principle. Capitalism is community in an alienated form combined with domination expressed through the exploitation of workers. In order to fully realize the human essence, man must transcend this alienation of the political state in favor of community. Such a process, achieved through communism, holds that what is good for the collective is good for the individual. By contrast, Mill believed that what was good for the collective was not necessarily good for the individual and attempts to force individuals to conform to a social standard should be viewed as suspect. For Mill, the only way to ensure happiness for man was to maximize his liberty. Although Mill might agree with Marx that general theories of ethics are meaningless, he believed the utility principle combined with the no harm principle could ensure the greatest good for the greatest number. Far from being absolute, ethics and morality are fluid and all actions can be judged as moral if they produce happiness for those affected by it and immoral if they produce unhappiness. The ultimate goal of leadership and society is not to free man from labour of necessity, but rather to create an environment which allowed individuals to think critically and evaluate the morality of their actions. To accomplish this, it is necessary for governments to maximize the freedom and choice of the individual. All three philosophers sought to elevate humans and allow them to live the good life yet differed greatly on methodology. An examination of the works of Marx and Mill will not only illuminate areas in which they differed and were in consensus, but will allow a postulation on how each might have responded to Aristotle’s claim that man is by nature a political animal.
In The German Ideology, Marx emphasises that “real human beings” are productive in that they must produce the commodities necessary to satisfy their material needs. However, once these needs are satisfied, they transform in increase and an epoch of social revolution occurs which produces a society capable of meeting these new needs. Change is the consequence of an economic structure that is no longer able to continue to develop the required forces of production. The formation of new societies and the destruction of old is driven by human productive forces. Marx theory states