Aristotle on citizenship - Essay Example

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Aristotle has included several very powerful chapters about citizenship in his Politics. The great philosopher believed that citizens are people who should be aware of the characters of each other on order to be responsible and able to perform the duties appropriately…
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Aristotle on citizenship
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Aristotle has included several very powerful chapters about citizenship in his Politics. The great philosopher believed that citizens are people who should be aware of the characters of each other on order to be responsible and able to perform the duties appropriately. Of course, this definition applies only to the very small communities and is much idealized. Aristotle proposed that a citizen is the man who has the opportunity to enjoy the rights of being the participant in deliberative or judicial office for some period of time. As it becomes clear, women and children had no right to be called citizens for their inability to be the political figures.
Citizenship for Aristotle was of great importance and, in his understanding, every man strived to participate in politics in order to be called a citizen. Therefore, citizenship was considered to be the social standing for men - political activity has become the major activity of male behavior and only in politics the full potential of personality could be achieved. However, there were other factors which made citizenship very attractive for every men - tangible benefits which made the life better. Just to name few, citizenship was the way to freedom, pursuing well being and the opportunity to win honor through guiding and taking the side of the general community (Bambrough 19-20). Only those individuals who already had higher social standing and were respected by the majority of people had the chance to be called citizens.
Being the member of polis was not enough for a man to become the citizen. Citizenship had to be earned and the citizen had to prove to the community that he deserves such name. Those who set aside their civil duties, did not attend assemblies, voting and neglected the military service were given another name "idions" which was not only humiliating but destroying for the former citizens . The modern word for idion is idiot and its meaning has not changed since the time of Aristotle (Cohen 154-155).
In the contrary to idions, good citizens were required not only to have enough knowledge to lead the community but have the capacity both to rule and be rules. Privileges to rule were not given to all who expressed the desire to participate in the polis. Children, women, foreigners, slaves and workers were excluded from the candidate lists. Aristotle invested a lot of effort in distinguishing between the true citizens and those who failed to justify the given title. Other factors which excluded people from the right to become citizens were immaturity and infirmity. Moreover, those who could decide which side to take in the most important decisions have lost their membership in the polis. The modern politicians have the better working conditions and if they are not decided in some case, they receive additional time. Probably, at the time of Aristotle being the citizen was more about the responsibilities rather than benefits and tights which could be claimed by entitled.
As it is clear from the above passages, the citizen may not be a good man (being a nice person) but he has to do the god service to people he is responsible for. Citizen is the one who is able to rule as well as obey. The roots of this Aristotelian position are very easy to understand because at the time of Aristotle the democratic moods started to spread among the members of assemblies (Adler 116-118). Politicians favored the system when the greatest good for the common people was sought. In the past most of the rulers were tyrannical and thought only about personal benefits. With Aristotle such ruling became unacceptable.
In conclusion, citizenship is something which needs to be held in the great esteem and if Aristotle would live today he would argue to crave citizenship in the United States. For this philosopher, citizenship was more than just simple living in the particular place. For him it was participating in the government and accepting all the duties which come with the privilege to decide on the lives of thousands. Moreover, he believed that citizens should be highly cooperative and belong to one another as well as to the state. The democratic political system is probably the best to fit the definition of citizenship by Aristotle. Under democracy people are encouraged to take an active role in the government through electing the candidates. The political individuals are most often rich, influential people who strive to rule responsibly and for the greatest good.
Works Cited
Adler, Mortimer. Aristotle for Everybody. Touchstone Press, 1997.
Bambrough, Renford, Creed, J. L. and A. E. Wardman. The Philosophy of Aristotle. Signet Classics Publishing, 2003.
Cohen, Elliot. What Would Aristotle Do Self-Control Through the Power of Reason. Prometheus Books, 2003. Read More
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