Chapter

The Best Constitution

Fred D. Miller

in Nature, Justice, and Rights in Aristotle's Politics

Published in print May 1997 | ISBN: 9780198237266
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191598043 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/019823726X.003.0006
The Best Constitution

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Aristotle states that ‘there is only one constitution which is everywhere according to nature the best.’ This constitution (Aristotle's version of utopia) is unqualifiedly just and ‘according to nature’ because it promotes the common advantage (or public interest). The interpretation of ‘common advantage’ is problematic: does it consist in the advantage of the citizens considered as distinct individuals (individualism) or the advantage of the polis (city‐state) considered as a whole (holism or collectivism)? Only on the former, individualistic interpretation would the best constitution be deeply committed to individual rights, and it is argued that a moderate version of individualism is the correct interpretation of Aristotle's best constitution. The chapter goes on to consider difficulties in Aristotle's account of the best constitution, including his views on education and the question of which is better: virtuous kingship or the rule of law.

Keywords: Aristotle; citizen; collectivism; common advantage (or public interest); holism; constitution; individualism; justice; rights; utopia

Chapter.  28886 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ancient Philosophy

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