Aristotle is without a doubt one of antiquities most enlightened thinkers. His points are sometimes misguided and others are still being used and quoted over 2300 years later. His thoughts on happiness are spot on and very accurate, but his view on the political community has some issues in its modern day practicality.
Aristotle’s view on the political community leaves me in bewilderment when he asserts that a political community is natural. “It is clear that all partnerships aim at some good, and that the partnership that is most authoritative of all and embraces all the others does so particularly, and aims at the most authoritative good of all. This is what is called the city or the political partnership” Contrary to enlightenment thinkers such as Locke, Rousseau, and Hobbes who argue that the individual makes the state; Aristotle argues that the latter makes the former. He would agree that the political community hinges on its citizens but by saying, “city is excellent, at any rate, by its citizens’ – those sharing in the regime – being excellent; and in our case all the citizens share in the regime”(Politics,1332a34). Aristotle pays homage to the role being played in the system by its inhabitants, at the same time by using “sharing” as the verb he asserts that the people draw their unity from the community and not the community drawing power from its citizens. An anti-individualistic view that is undoubtedly a direct result of Plato’s teaching. This viewpoint of subordinating the individual to the state is interesting but completely false. The power of the community originates from the people within it. It starts with the population forming bonds with one another even before the community can begin. Even after it’s inception the political community is only as strong as the network among the citizens. Take a look at the United States back in 1776 up until recent times, the Government was at the will of what the people wanted. The United States government is at the will of the people, not the other way around. Not to say that Aristotle is completely wrong in thinking that the subordination of the people isn’t feasible as seen with Rome and many other monarchies or empires. However the most recent examples of Nazi Germany, Soviet Union, and Cuba have not proven to be the perfect form of political community.
In Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle talks about how Happiness is the end goal for all men’s actions. “Happiness, therefore, being found to be something final and self-sufficient, is the End at which all actions aim.”(Nicomachean Ethics, 1097b9) Most, if not all, actions people take are to satiate their appetite for happiness as they define it. Regardless of the varying definitions of what “happiness” may end up being, Aristotle believes that all actions lead to the same resolution. We all desire money, pleasure, and honor as a means to an end. Aristotle believes that we only desire goods such as these as a means of obtaining happiness. It is very hard to argue against Aristotle’s point that happiness is what we all seek no matter which route we take to ascertain it. Even if you look at the ambitions of the most sinister people in antiquity like Hitler or Stalin, there is a common denominator of the pursuit of happiness in each one. Aristotle would not argue this but in fact would reinforce this notion. “The function of man is to live a certain kind of life, and this activity implies a rational principle, and the function of a good man is the good and noble performance of these, and if any action is well performed it is performed in accord with the appropriate excellence: if this is the case, then