When looking at the way Aristotle viewed the world and comparing it to the British Tradition you first need an understanding of each. In this paper I want to first discuss what I’ve learned about Aristotle, The British Tradition, and then compare and contrast the two. Aristotle was a disciple of Plato, but they saw society a bit differently. Plato would be considered in this day and age as someone who believes in collectivism. A collectivist believes that the needs of society as a whole are more important than the needs of the individual. On the other hand, Aristotle would have been a supporter of individualism.
Individualism refers to the philosophy that an individual should have freedom in his or her economic and political pursuits. In contrast to collectivism, individualism stresses that the interests of the individual should take precedence over the interests of the state. You could say that Aristotle believed in democracy. “The best state could signify one that is conceived according to an abstract ideal; one that is considered best for human communities in general; one that is best for a particular community under given conditions; or one that, while in no sense ideal, is as good as can be attained under the circumstances.
” (Levine PG. 108) Aristotle also believed in three domains. The first domain is personal action or “ethos”. This is an idea to live by. Aristotle though that people were simple enough that we could live by one code or ethos. Aristotle called this “The Good Life”. The second domain is household or “oikos”. This is economics or how to manage a household. Aristotle believed that the goal in the household should be different from the goals of the other domains.
“In the household, for example, a man should manifest different concerns toward children as their father than toward his wife as her husband, and he should be able to acquire, preserve, improve, and properly utilize property. The responsibilities of the head of a polis differ from those of a head of household, and rulers should discharge them in ways to attend to the welfare of all its members, not just one or a few. ” (Levine Pg. 118) The third domain is city state or “polis”. This also stood for politics.
Aristotle believed that we live in groups so naturally we have to make decisions together, therefore we have to be political beings. Of course this is where Aristotle sounds much like one of the founding fathers of our country. He thought women were too irrational for politics and that slaves and common workers were too busy to be involved. Aristotle believed that to be politically involved you needed free time to develop the necessary skills and knowledge. In other words Aristotle was an elitist democrat. Aristotle’s social theory was to create an environment conducive to good habits.
He believed that we were are good by nature. In this environment we can then develop our virtues. He also believed that everyone had potential, but actualizing that potential was difficult. He also believed that public deliberation among those with virtuous habits and developed reasoning skills was good for society. As far as the British Tradition goes, they believe in a fixed human nature and that there are predictable social outcomes based on this human nature. I’ll focus on three different Brits and their different views on human propensities and how they affect society.
Hobbes believed that humans were naturally bad and born with selfish propensities. He believed that this could only lead to a negative outcome, unless someone with absolute power were to control society. I believe Hobbes would be somewhat totalitarian or perhaps be someone who was in favor of some sort of martial law. Locke on the other hand was basically the opposite of Hobbes. He believed people were pretty nice and this would lead to beneficial consequences for everyone. “Locke endeavored to refute the Hobbesian defense of political absolutism.
In so doing, he introduced two notions that would guide centuries of British revisionism: that the human animal manifests socially benign dispositions, and that human selfish dispositions can have socially benign consequences. ” (Levine Pg. 130) The third Brit that I’ll look at is Smith. He is essentially split between Hobbes and Locke. Smith believes that humans do have natural selfish propensities, but that these propensities are to the benefit of society. So when comparing Aristotle to the British Tradition it’s obvious that there are some pretty big differences.
Aristotle didn’t believe in a fixed human nature like the Brits. Aristotle would say that you are a product of the society in which you are raised. A good society will produce good citizens, and bad society will have the opposite effect. Aristotle would also argue that at any point during a persons life they can make the decision to develop their potentials and become a better person. The Brits on the other hand believed that you were either born good or bad and based on that there would be predictable outcomes.