By Goodman, Lenn Evan; Talisse, Robert B.; Aristotle
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Extra resources for Aristotle's Politics today
It weakens established institutions and threatens habits of obedience. Moreover, alterations often have unintended consequences, bad as well as good, affecting other parts of the political system. The would-be reformer should consider such potential consequences as carefully as possible and include the risks in his calculations. Modern statesmen should keep in mind that they can err by going to either of two extremes. One is the unprincipled pragmatism espoused by the sophists and practiced by the tyrants and demagogues of Aristotle’s day.
We do not need to sacrifice personal interest to pursue the public good. We can achieve our personal good in the act of fostering the public good. This personal good that is also a public good is within the reach of nearly all. It requires only the simplest and most difficult of changes: to think of ourselves differently. NOTES 1. As John Stuart Mill puts it in On Liberty: “The sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection.
This initial covenant was to be prescriptive for further decisions made to preserve the state. Now leaving aside the general lack of historical evidence for any such covenant, indeed, its utter historical implausibility, we should ask whether there is any real and intrinsic difference between a state conceived from its origin and one conceived from its end. What makes it doubtful that there is a difference is that, from whichever direction we begin, it is necessary that self-preservation loom large in political decision making.