Date of Award
Restricted to Claremont Colleges Dissertation
Political Science, PhD
School of Social Science, Politics, and Evaluation
Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member
James H. Nichols
Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.
© 2019 Kenneth Andrew A Leonardo
In Plato’s Republic, Socrates presents an image of human beings in a cave to portray the political situation. I contend a close reading of Aristotle’s extant Corpus Aristotelicum reveals a possible path to liberation from his version of the cave. For Aristotle, human beings are slaves if they are unable to follow the rule of the soul. Within the soul, the intellect is the ruling part. Following Simpson, I think it is plausible that all four surviving ethical works were written by Aristotle with the possibility that each had a particular audience. An exegesis of these works as well as his treatise on politics brings to light the liberal education that he intends for some of his students. This education appears to begin with habituation toward the virtues culminating in the attainment of the virtue of prudence such that the student will be liberated both from excessive pursuit of external goods and the passions of the body. Once free, this student will be able to solely pursue the intellectual virtue of wisdom and find happiness in the contemplative life. For Aristotle, the peak of human life is found in the attainment of nobility-and-goodness as described in the Eudemian Ethics. The noble-and-good human being has all the necessary and measured amounts of both the external goods and the goods of the body. This human being also has complete virtue and pursues the goods of the soul to excess culminating in a life devoted to contemplating the god, which I take to be a reference to the motionless first mover. The Great Ethics appears to be addressed to a politically ambitious student and it seems that Aristotle specifically attempts to persuade this student toward a serious pursuit of virtue, justice, and prudence with a view to both citizenship and friendship. The audience of this treatise is repeatedly told that it is just and prudent to give up wealth and rule to those of greater virtue. Otherwise, such goods would be harmful to those without the proper virtues. Although serious is a neutral term itself, when it is combined with the verb to rule, the term can take on a negative connotation. This combined word means to scheme, to intrigue, or to be eager for office, and is found in the Politics. For Aristotle, democracies undergo revolution and turmoil when those eager for office act as demagogues. Regarding the other works, I assert the Eudemian Ethics is likely addressed to someone who has experience with or at least knows of the theoretical or natural sciences. The Nicomachean Ethics appears to be addressed to those especially from the standpoint of the judge, ruler, and lawgiver. On Virtues and Vices seems to be directed to a younger audience and almost anyone in the polis or political community concerned with virtue and vice. Overall, education in youth is directed toward the free, the noble, and the true. Aristotle gives the impression that this education is an early preparation for the contemplative life. Later education has an openness to this life and generally comes into being through a combination of following the law, habituation, and being persuaded by speech or teaching. Overall, Aristotle seems to direct certain students or audiences to specific ends. Some could be led to pursue wisdom, some might pursue prudence in light of possibly serving as judges, rulers, or lawgivers, while others may pursue prudence with a view to both citizenship and friendship. Lastly, Aristotelian freedom differs from liberty in liberal democracy in a few important ways. First, liberal democracy overemphasizes external freedom within the regime. Second, in liberal democracy there is an excessive pursuit of property and a later push towards absolute equality that is unjust by Aristotle’s standards. Third, in liberal democracy and early modern political philosophy, education is an entirely separate topic and there is no longer a direct connection between education and the regime as found in Aristotelian political philosophy.
Leonardo, Kenneth Andrew Andres. (2019). Liberal Education and the Best Regime: Aristotle’s Freedom of the Soul. CGU Theses & Dissertations, 323. https://scholarship.claremont.edu/cgu_etd/323.