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Community through Aristotle and Cicero’s Eyes This essay will analyze through comparison, the differences between Aristotle and Cicero’s views on community. The analyzation will focus on answering two questions: “How is Cicero’s conception of the political community different from Aristotle’s?” and “How do their opinions differ regarding the best form of rule?”
During his political aspirations Cicero largely took on many beliefs of Stoicism. As such, his thinking gradually combined his beliefs on universalism with that of the stoics leading him to the conclusion that the universe is a place where all humans are members of a rational larger world community. (Tannenbaum, Donald, Inventors of Ideas: Introduction to Western Political Philosophy, p. 49) The philosophy of Stoicism was born of the declination of the Greek city states redefining the relationship between individual and collective. (Tannenbaum, Donald, 2012, p.48) Thus, the philosophy of Stoicism came to be considered on the order of the universe in that it was a precisely ordered cosmos.
This philosophy maintained that man needed to harmonize with the universe implying that only then would there be wisdom and that resisting the natural order was sinful. Also, this philosophy created the belief that nature had a natural plan whereby man was to fulfill the role of living in accord with that plan, making man’s purpose to procure order in the universe by harmonizing with it. (http://www.novelguide.com/reportessay/european history/cicero) In addition to taking on the view of Stoicism, Cicero continually referred back to the history of the Romans in that his minds eye saw them as the perfect example of the best republic. I believe his perspective in this regard was due to the what was seen as an inward focus of political thought in Greek politics. As such, the Greeks believed said focus promoted a common citizenship within the polis. (Tannenbaum, Donald, 2012, p. 49) Ultimately, Cicero saw political community as a whole that encompassed everyone.
Aristotle’s perspective “to be human, … is by definition to be part of a community. All communities originate from the need to preserve human life but have as their ultimate goal the happiness of their members.” (Tannenbaum, Donald, 2012, p. 37) Aristotle was of the mind that one of the most important needs that had to be met in the pursuit of the good life was political stability as that was what would bring the community together and keep it together. Although Aristotle saw the household least important part of community, he recognized its importance with regard to family life. The village was middle of the road because Aristotle was of the opinion that the social community came from the coming together of the polis as most important because it was composed of the whole population (a larger community) and allowed rational men to contribute to the political process to attain the sought after happiness and virtue, which provided a better result than that of the smaller community.
The constitution, “… an organization of offices in a state, by which the method of their distribution is fixed, the sovereign authority is determined, and the nature of the end to be pursued by the association and all its members is prescribed.” (Tannenbaum, Donald, 2012, p. 40) During Aristotle’s and Cicero’s time, was what we now refer to as the government, was known as the constitution. According to Dr. Woodcock’s mini lecture, “Aristotle and Citizenship,” Aristotle believed that the state was a natural entity and that citizenship was a legal status. He also believed that citizenship was an activity and as such, its importance to the human condition that we must participate by doing what the state required. Dr. Woodcock goes on to describe Aristotle’s reference to the three levels of government (good versus bad): monarchy versus tyranny, aristocracy versus oligarchy, and polity versus democracy. Aristotle considered these levels or forms based on who would be concerned with the interests of everybody versus self-interest. Thus, Aristotle’s determination that the best form of rule was that of monarchy or a kingship which would be governed by one person. Aristotle believed that “all true constitutions have a telos that is just, or in the public interest of all, meaning that there is a mixed government in which a number of classes are represented and law is supreme.” (Tannenbaum, Donald, 2012, 41)
According to Tannenbaum, Cicero was aware of the three pure forms of government: monarch, aristocracy, and democracy and although he believed as Aristotle, that the best pure form (monarchy) was ideally the best form of rule, he concluded that a government which utilized a combination of all three forms would be the most stable and as such it would be the most practical. (Tannenbaum, Donald, 2012, p. 55) Cicero favored this form of rule from his practical thinking standpoint because a mixed state would bring about a societal balance of rights and duties. He also believed it was important for the societal classes to provide checks and balances through their governmental roles so as to deter the potential excessiveness of others through selfishness, going against the public good. Ultimately, at some point Cicero held so much reverence for the republic of Rome’s past that he continually sought ways to restore it because to him, that was the best form of rule. The readings and additional materials on Aristotle and Cicero’s views, has lead me to be of the opinion that Aristotle viewed the community as three subdivisions: household, village and the polis while Cicero’s viewed the community through his ideals of universalism. Additionally, Aristotle was of the belief that the best form of rule was aristocracy while Cicero was of the belief that restoring the Roman republic provided the best form of rule.
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