Aristotle’s Doctrine of Society and the StateJune 28, 2021
Aristotle begins his philosophy by criticizing Plato’s doctrine of ideal forms.
According to Aristotle, what actually exists is not the ideal, but individual beings. Therefore, Aristotle’s political philosophy is also based on his basic philosophical thoughts. Aristotle presents his political philosophy in his work named Politics. He does not paint an ideal state, as Plato does not think that ideal forms are essentially existents. Instead, he criticizes the existing state (police) and administration forms, based on his basic idea that gives priority to the existing ones.
Aristotle, like Plato, does not think that ideas have a transcendent existence to individual beings, on the contrary, the idea is immanent in the singular. Therefore, they are singular entities that actually exist.
Aristotle’s understanding of society and the state also depends on his understanding of man. According to Aristotle, man is first and foremost a “zoon politico”, a social being. This means that man can realize his possibilities only in a society and a state. Therefore, the existence of social order and the state is necessary for people to realize their own possibilities. The reason for the existence of the state is to raise virtuous citizens and to develop people in terms of virtue. It is the aims they take into account that show whether the management styles are right or wrong. The forms of government that govern the state in accordance with the purpose of making people virtuous are correct. Aristotle says, “Our own observations tell us that every state is a community founded with a good purpose” (Aristotle 2004, p. 7). According to Aristotle, the state is a political unity, a political whole. Since all associations aim at a good, every political association aims at a common good, and this common good is the state. According to Aristotle, the state is the highest good because the state exists for the well-being or common happiness of all. Since human nature always tends towards something good, the emergence of the state as a political order is also a natural necessity.
Aristotle calls the end or final cause the “good cause”. The last reason is the highest good. The nature of anything is its ultimate cause, its purpose-cause.
The cause of the state depends on the nature of man, on the fact that man is a social being. Since man is a social being by nature, Aristotle says that “the State belongs to the class of things that exist by nature”. The fact that man is a social being by nature means that he tends to a union by nature. According to Aristotle, the aspect that distinguishes humans from other animals is that they have intelligence. A rational human being is a speaking being. This nature of man leads him to live together. A person can realize all his possibilities while living together. Therefore, as a result of the coexistence of people, society was formed, villages and city-states emerged. According to Aristotle, a family is formed when two people come together for the purpose of procreation. Villages are formed when families come together. City-states emerge as villages come together.
According to Aristotle, since man is a rational and speaking being, coexistence is in his nature; Therefore, society and the state are natural entities. The reason for the existence of society and the state is based on human nature.
In the third book of Aristotle Politics, “What is the State?” asks the question. According to Aristotle, the foundation of the state is also justice, because right constitutes the basis of the political community. In this case justice is the good that is intended in the state. In order to investigate what justice is, it is necessary to investigate for whom it is. According to Aristotle, justice is good for the whole society. What matters is the common good of the whole society. That’s why Aristotle searches for the best form of government. According to Aristotle, the best form of government is the one that aims for the good of all citizens. The number of heads does not matter as long as the welfare of all citizens is aimed. The main purpose of the state is to ensure the well-being of its citizens. According to Aristotle, a constitution is a way of organizing those who live in a state and is the way the sovereign power is organized.
According to Aristotle, the ultimate purpose of the state is to ensure the well-being and happiness of its citizens.
In order to examine the state, it is necessary first to consider the citizens who compose it. Because “The State is the sum of the citizens” (Aristotle 2004, p. 70). When the state is defined as a community of citizens by Aristotle, the question of what a citizen is is asked. According to Aristotle, living in a certain country does not make a citizen a citizen. The right to sue and be sued does not make a citizen a citizen. Coming from several generations of citizens does not make a citizen a citizen either. So who is a citizen? A citizen is a person who takes political, legal and administrative duties by participating in the state administration and the judiciary. The state also means the unification of citizens in a constitution. Therefore, if the definition of a citizen is to be a person participating in the administration within a certain constitutional government, the meaning of the citizen changes depending on the form of government.