Aristotelian Concept of Good Government

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Aristotelian Concept of Good Government

ABSTRACT

Albert Einstein, in a letter to a Rumanian friend Maurice Solvine from Princeton U.S.A. on April 10, 1938, says: “A fashion rule each age, without most people being able to see the tyrants that rule them” Although man as Aristotle opines is a political animal who desires and longs to live in a community with his species, he is the best of all the animals that rule and guided by laws. In the same vein, man could be the worst of all animals when there is anarchy. It is in the light of this that Aristotle opts for a government that would be beneficial to the people. The researcher would make an attempt to explain what a good government is, according to Aristotle, and also analyze them in the light of the Nigerian situation.

The question: Who should rule? For what purpose? And what is the best form of government are fundamental questions in
Aristotle’s concept of good government that this thesis intends to answer.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

TITLE PAGE……………….…………………………………………..……i
CERTIFICATION ……………………………………………………………….. ii
APPROVAL…………………………………………………………..………………iii
DEDICATION …………………………………………………………………… iv
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ……………………………………………………… v
ABSTRACT ……………………………………………………………………… vi
TABLE OF CONTENTS ……………………………………………………… vii
CHAPTER ONE …………………………………………………………………. 1
1. GENERAL INTRODUCTION …………………………………………………. 1
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY ………………………………………. 1
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM …………………………………….. 2
1.3 PURPOSE OF STUDY ……………………………………………………….. 5
1.4 SIGNIFICANCE OF STUDY ……………………………………………….. 5
1.5 SCOPE OF STUDY …………………………………………………………….. 6
1.6 METHODOLOGY ……………………………………………………………….. 6
1.7 LIFE AND WORKS OF ARISTOTLE ………………………………….. 8
1.8 INFLUENCE ON ARISTOTLE ………………………………………….. 10
END NOTES …………………………………………………………………… 12
CHAPTER TWO ……………………………………………………………… 13
2.1 LITERATURE REVIEW…………………………………………………….. 13
ENDNOTES ……………………………………………………………………. 30
CHAPTER THREE ………………………………………………………….. 32
3. NATURE OF GOVERNMENT ……………………………………………… 32
3.1 ETYMOLOGICAL MEANING OF GOVERNMENT …………… 32
3.2 ARMS OF GOVERNMENT ……………………………………………….. 35
3.2.1 LEGISLATURE …………………………………………………………….. 36
3.2.2 EXECUTIVE …………………………………………………………………. 37
3.2.3 JUDICIARY ………………………………………………………………….. 39
3.3 ORIGIN OF GOVERNMENT …………………………………………….. 40
3.4 THE ESSENCE OF GOVERNMENT ……………………………….. 43
3.5 PURPOSE OF GOVERNMENT ………………………………………… 45
END NOTES …………………………………………………………………… 47
CHAPTER FOUR ……………………………………………………………. 50
4. ARISTOTLE’S CONCEPT OF GOOD GOVERNMENT ……….. 50
4.1 THE NATURE OF GOVERNMENT IN ARISTOTLE ………… 50
4.2 KINDS OF GOVERNMENT IN ARISTOTLE …………………….. 52
4.2.1 MONARCHY ………………………………………………………………….. 52
4.2.2 ARISTOCRACY …………………………………………………………….. 55
4.2.3 DEMOCRACY…….…………..…………………………………….57
4.3 ARISTOTLE’S CONCEPT OF GOOD GOVERNMENT ……. 60
4.4 COMPOSITION OF GOVERNMENT …………………………………… 62
END NOTES …………………………………………………………………… 66
CHAPTER FIVE ……………………………………………………………… 69
5. EVALUATION AND CONCLUSION …………………………………….. 69
5.1 APPLICATION OF ARISTOTLE’S GOOD GOVERNMENT
TO THE NIGERIAN EXPERIENCE……………………………………………. 69
5.2 FORMS OF GOVERNMENT IN NIGERIAN POLITICAL
HISTORY ……………………………………………………………………………………. 70
5.3 CRITIQUE OF ARISTOTLE’S CONCEPT OF GOOD
GOVERNMENT ………………………………………………………………………….. 83
5.4 CONCLUSION ………………………………………………………………….. 86
END NOTES …………………………………………………………………… 89
BIBLIOGRAPHY ……………………………………………………………… 91

CHAPTER ONE

GENERAL INTRODUCTION

1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY

Government is ubiquitous, its rules and laws affect important aspects of our lives, just as its actions and inactions determine, in very significant ways, the quality of our existence. But although the activities a governments have, for a long time, been fundamental to human existence, not many people have a clear understanding of the foundations of government, particularly, it’s nature, powers and the conditions for the appropriate performance of its function. Aristotle believes that for any society to operate well, it must have a governing body. This has a practical importance to our day-to-day life. If man was left without a stable government, he would still be in a state of nature. It is to this effect that Aristotle sought for the best form of government in his era. In our present day, most people are advocating for democracy because they think it is the best system of government. But in the time of Aristotle, he agitated for Aristocracy. He also recommended a mixture or a combination of Aristocracy and democracy for a balanced government.

Aristotle’s political thought on government is very much relevant to the present day political situation. In considering his thought on what constitutes a government, one sees that everybody wants the type of government that would respect the people’s view. It is the government that unifies the people and makes them know the limitations in life and how to exercise their freedom. This research therefore is aimed at looking critically on the concept of good government as propounded by Aristotle and also to point out what is generally meant by the term ‘government’ from its etymological point of description. It is also an attempt to discover whether Nigeria has had a good
government.

1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM

The government with all its complexity is a mirror reflecting human nature with its multiple needs. Human nature is the foundation of government or the act of government. Aristotle sees government through the same nominal sense and agitates for the very best. He distinguishes a bad government from a good one. The bad government according to him is that which does not serve its aim of meeting the demands of the people and their common good while a good government he says is that which serves the common good of the people or the society. This compliments the Augustinian dictum that he who fights for the common good, fight for his own good’. Following this line of arguments, Echekwube maintained that the urge for power and quick money has plunged Nigeria as a Country into untold hardship. Arguing further, he remarked in strong terms that since independence in 1960, Nigerians have had civilian governments, which were toppled by the military who believed they had the magic wand to solve all our problems. Despite their seemingly good intentions, the Army is composed of true Nigerians who have connections with their immediate families, tribes and friends. While they have opportunity to stay in office, they are advised to accumulate as much wealth as possible for they may never pass through that way again. This attitude leads to corruption at the expense of the governed3’.

The State, as seen by J. Maritain, is a moral entity with rights as well as obligations to the citizens. He conceives the state as having flesh and blood, instincts, he regards the state as an extension of the human family good – the common good it is a work of reason, born out of the obscure efforts of reason disengaged from instinct and implying essentially a rational order. In this regards, irresponsible demagogues ought not to be entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring the survival of the state. In order that morality and good governance be entrenched in the nation’s body polity, a conscious coordination of activities of all concerned becomes a necessity; stealing, corrupt acts and betrayal of each other will mar it.

Man is the best of all the animals when he is ruled or guided by laws. In the same way, man could be the worst of all animals, when there is anarchy. It is precisely this complex and organic nature of the society that influenced Aristotle’s decision to opt for a government that would be beneficial to the people. This poses a problem for Aristotle as regards the type of government to be implemented. Among monarchy, Aristocracy and Democracy Systems of government, his preference is for Aristocracy. Aristotle favoured Aristocracy, because he want the few responsible people to govern and rule the society to enthrone justice and equity for all. Now, the question that needs to be
asked is that, why are there still injustice in Aristocracy?

Aristotle answer; it is because man is naturally selfish, he always seek his own interest first. Therefore we should not allow a man who is ruled by passion to govern. Whoever governs is to be guided by rational principles.

Aristotle when confronted with the problem of who should rule?

He uncompromisingly state that the rulers should come from the middle class. But will the upper class not influence them?

Will the lower class not initiate revolutionary campaign against them?

These are problems that Aristotle did not tackle within his politics which this research intends to look into.

1.3 PURPOSE OF STUDY

As a result of the problem raised, this research is to examine the nature of government. It is an attempt to explain what a good government is according to Aristotle and also analyze them in the light of Nigeria situation.

Furthermore, this work will help to a great extent in establishing the responsibilities of a government in any political society.

1.4 SIGNIFICANCE OF STUDY

This work is a critical look into the essence, relevance and nature of government in the philosophy of Aristotle. It is going to expose us to the concept of good government in other philosophers too. This research will be significant because it is going to expose us to the relevance and application of good government in Aristotle. The significance of an essay of this nature in this crucial time of Nigeria’s political history cannot be over-emphasized. It will serve as the basis of ideas and reference point for aspirants to political offices in Nigeria. This research is significant because it is going to show us the risk and dangers in Aristotle’s concept of good government. It is hoped that this essay would promote a better understanding of the foundations of social order and stimulate debate on the nature and purpose of government.

1.5 SCOPE OF STUDY

The researcher’s scope is going to be Aristotle’s view of good government. The researcher however will limit himself to whether Nigeria has had a good government with special attention to the military regime to the second and fourth republic. In addition, the first and the botched third republics would also be given a cursory look and they will serve as reference points. In doing this, a historical background of Nigeria political system will help a great deal in the analysis of the basic issues that this study is principally out to address: good government in Aristotle.

1.6 METHODOLOGY

The methodology will be largely analytic and evaluative. In the light of this, the methodology will rely extensively on books, newspaper, Articles and unpublished materials, the primary materials that would be used for this essay are some of the works of Aristotle, also to be consulted are books on political sciences, philosophical books, paper presented at various political conferences and lecture notes. Thus this essay shall be divided into five chapters.

Chapter one is mainly on the General introduction to the essay.

In this, I shall give the background of study, statement of the problem, purpose of study, significance of study, scope of study, methodology and a short biography of Aristotle. Chapter two will be the literature review where books on this thesis will be review.

Chapter three focuses on the nature of government from the etymological point of view. Here the nature of government would be discussed in general with particular reference to the three arms of government. The essence of governance, the origin of government, essence and purpose of government will also be discussed.

Chapter four deals with the most important aspect of this thesis, what Aristotle regards as a good government. This is not to say that only the thoughts of Aristotle would be discussed here but also other topics in relation to what constitute a good government would be discussed too. Kinds of government, the composition of government shall be discussed here. Chapter five which consists of the evaluation and conclusion shall critically X-ray governance; the Nigerian Experience tip toeing into the forms of government in Nigerian political history with particular attention to the civilian, military and interim governments. Also, the critique of Aristotle’s concept of good government will also be looked into and finally the conclusion of the work.

1.7 LIFE AND WORKS OF ARISTOTLE

Aristotle was born in 384B.C. at Stageira, a Greek colony in the Macedonian Coast. His father Nicomachus was a physician to the King of Macedon. His father died when he was young. In 367B.C., at the age of seventeen, Aristotle went to Athens to study in Plato’s academy and he stayed there for twenty years until the death of Plato, after the death of Plato, he left Athens and was engage in marine biological research at various places on the coast and island of Asia minor for few years. In 343BC, he became a tutor to the son of the King of Macedon (Alexander) who was thirteen years old. He taught his student ethics, politics and some ideas of geography of Asia. This young man he taught later became Alexander the Great. He also wrote for him a treatise on the art of ruling.

The most prominent thing is that when Aristotle was fifty years old, he went back to Athens and established his own school at Lyceum. He died in 322B.C. at the age of sixty-two. He was a philosopher, a scientific observer of men and was well known in the Mediterranean world. Aristotle wrote so many books while he was alive, and there are some of his works which are still useful till date. The politics, the ethics, the Nicomachean ethics, poetics, metaphysics, logic, physics, Biology and psychology. It is worthwhile to note that he had keen interest in the area of politics because he wanted a good and just government to exist in his lifetime.

WORKS OF ARISTOTLE

Aristotle’s own writing falls under two groups, the treatise and the literary. The treatise probably refers to the corpus of closely two doctrine of Aristotle. The literary according to Lloyd contains falsehood for general consumption5. These are consistency with Aristotle’s own usage of the world “exotic”. He further stated
that:

In the most exoteric work after the treatise chiefly in being non technical composition written for wide technical composition written for wide documentation, the force of the world exoteric itself maybe that they were more readily available to the general public outside the immediate write of Aristotle pupil.6

The treatise are comprised of the following:

(1) “The Organ on (2) Treatise on the Philosophy of nature (3) Treatise on Psychology (4) The Biological works (5) First Philosophy (6) The ethical treatise (7) The treatise on the act of speaking and writing”.7 Apart from the written works, which he authored, he also found a school called Lyceum after he left Plato’s academy.

1.8 INFLUENCE ON ARISTOTLE

Aristotle at the age of 17 became a student of Plato at the academy where he was admitted to study. As a student, he
performed excellently well. He distinguished himself as a great intellectual and enwisdomized intellectual, reputed as being “the ‘reader’ and ‘mind’ of the school”.8 Plato once spoke of him as the Nous of the academy as if to say intelligence personified.

Aristotle was colossally influenced by Plato; even though he eventually broke away from Plato’s philosophical problems.

While at his academy he wrote many dialogue in platonic styles which his contemporary praised for ‘gold stream’ of the eloquence and he eventually reaffirmed in his ‘Eudemus’, the very doctrine of the forms or ideas which he later criticized so severely.

We may draw inference also from the fact that since philosophy and science existed before Aristotle he may as well have been influenced by such pre-Aristotelian ideas. According to Renan, “Socrates gave philosophy to mankind and Aristotle gave it to science”. Aristotle was the first to make the attempt at providing natural explanation of the cosmic complexities and mysterious events. However, it would also be interesting to note that very prominent and erudite scholars like Anaximanes, Socrates etc. made up boundless list that influence Aristotle and his works,
but did Aristotle swallow all their thought whole and entire? No, rather, he reflected on them and made them as if they were a springboard for his career in philosophy.

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