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PROJECT TOPIC: AN EXAMINATION OF THE CONCEPT OF MORALITY AND POLITICS IN ARISTOTLE’S PHILOSOPHY.

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CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1       BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY

The political situation in some societies today has grossly degenerated. The democracy which we practice in our country is not encouraging. We see democracy only in theory but in practice, we experience tyranny. In January, 2012, the government of Nigeria decided to impose fuel subsidy on its citizens. This they did, without considering the public opinion. The citizens of Nigeria did not think it will lead to a better life for them. Moreover, the people were not properly consulted. This stirred up a kind of rebellion among the people against the government. This act opposes the political and moral theory of Aristotle. Because for him, a state can only be good if its rulers seek the welfare of the people they govern, by striving to attain the good life for the individuals.  In his moral philosophy, Aristotle posits that every action should have an ‘end’. And that end Aristotle calls “happiness”.  When a ruler imposes laws which does not uphold equality and justice, and does not aim at the highest good of the citizens, that leader cannot be said to be a good leader.

A cursory look at the concept of morality and politics appears unambiguous. When, however, critically surveyed, it cannot but reveal its ambiguity. The equivocal nature of the concept has ardently led great thinkers in the course of centuries to develop different theories and views about it. Morality is primitively conceived as consisting in obedience to a tribal custom which is ultimately regarded as essential for the individual. The atomist such as Democritus maintains “morality is dominated by the idea of happiness which can only be achieved through the moderate cultivation of culture as the surest way of attaining the most desirable goal of life.”1 Socrates posits that no one is intentionally vicious. This means that whenever we do something wrong — including something morally wrong. It is out of ignorance rather than evil. In his ethical perspective, Aristotle holds a crucial idea known as eudemonism (happiness) according to which the good life is the happy life.

            Aristotle in his ethical theories views morality as teleological. Under this teleological conception, morality is looked upon as a fundamental conception; morality is looked upon as a fundamental matter of self- expression or self realization.

            Thus, he primarily asserts in his Nichomachean Ethics that “every art and every inquiry and similarly every action and pursuit is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the good is rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim.”2

            More so, having stated that all actions aim at an “end”, Aristotle delves into distinguishing the two main kinds of ends. These two ends are instrumental end and intrinsic end. The former implies actions which are carried out as means for other ends while the latter indicates actions which are done for their own sake. The goal is action for its own sake for which any other activity is only a means. For Aristotle, this invariably must be the “good” of man, the supreme good which is eudemonia (happiness).

            On the other hand, Aristotle in his politics as in ethics stresses the element of purpose. The state, like man, is endowed by nature with a distinctive function. Combining these two ideas, Aristotle says that “it is evident that the state is a creature of nature and that man is by nature a political animal”3.  So closely does he relate man and the state as to conclude that “he who is unable to live in society, or who has no need because he is sufficient for himself, must be either a beast or a god”4.  Not only is man by nature destined to live in a state, but the state, as every other community, is established with the view to some good exists for some end. But unlike Plato, Aristotle did not create a blueprint for an ideal state.

            The  nature of the ultimate “good” for man in the community or state are also exposed in this study. Three things which make men good and excellent in the state include nature, habit, reasons and they must be in harmony. Just as in a state, the rulers should have no marked superiority over the ruled, equality should ensure that all citizens alike should take their turn of governing and being governed. So there should be the same treatment of similar persons as no government can stand which is not founded upon justice. And when a government is unjust, everyone in  the country unites with the governed in the desire to have a revolution. And it not possible for the members of the government to out power all their enemies put together.


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