The Wise Ruling The Unwise Essay, Research Paper
The Wise Ruling the Unwise: Seeking the Consent of the Masses
The most difficult thing for a regime to achieve is that of acquiring the best ruler, with the consent of the ruled. Aristotle acknowledges this in his works The Politics, and Caius Marcius Coriolanus faces this difficult task in the Shakespeare play The Tragedy of Coriolanus. We even see this same difficult task arise in contemporary politics, as the masses are wooed one way or the other with sound bites, and talk show appearances, by candidates who may not be the best leader for the republic. To this day I don t know if there is a real solution for this dilemma. There is, however, a better way to go about seeking the consent of the ruled then the route Coriolanus took, and there is a good way to go about achieving a threshold in our republic where we better our chances so that those who Know have the consent of those who do not Know, so that the common good can be achieved.
Aristotle believed that those who ruled must be wise. They must possess certain virtues and knowledge that can allow for him to rule for the common good. For someone to Know, he must understand man and the common good of man. Aristotle believed every man is by nature a political animal. Man must forge partnerships with other humans to live the good life. Man is not self-sufficient. It is these partnerships that provide for the basis of the polis or city-state. There is a natural hierarchy of partnerships that lead to the polis. The most basic is that of the family. Marriage is in essence a political partnership. There are certain tasks and duties that neither a man nor a woman can do without another therefore making marriage a necessity for the good life. Following the family, there is the tribe, village and eventually the polis. It is the polis that Aristotle believes to be the pinnacle of political partnerships. He believes that a man without a city is either a beast or a god, since man is not self-sufficient.
All partnerships aim at some good. The polis, being a multitude of partnerships, also aims at good. Good, the activity of the soul in conformity with virtue is possible because of the partnerships existing between the citizens of the city. This idea can be a dilemma for any regime, even our own. The key is for two things to occur: 1) the soul must rule the body. 2) Reason must rule over a well-ordered soul. A soul, Aristotle believes is made up of three parts: logos, thymos, and eros. Each part possesses a virtue necessary for justice to rule the soul. This will occur if each virtue minds its own business.
Logos is the element of the soul that separates us from the animals. It controls rationality, speech, and reason. An animal can be taught to do many tricks, but an animal cannot be taught to contemplate complex philosophical ideas or quantitative physics equations. Logos must allow wisdom to govern.
Thymos is the part of the soul that gives man his will to do the right thing and stand up for what is right. It must be governed by courage. Thymos, in its correct sense is facing danger the way it should be faced. It is brave and virtuous to lead an army onto the battlefield for a noble cause even though the odds may not necessarily be in your favor. It is wrong and stupid to try and take on a whole army by yourself. Thymos allows for you to make correct distinctions between these two things.
Eros is the part of the soul that controls natural appetites. These appetites include eating, drinking, and sex. Eros must be governed by moderation. If eros addresses the natural passions and appetites of man in the right way, this will help man achieve happiness. The Rule of the Golden Mean, everything in moderation, is difficult for many people to practice, but is necessary. It is unnatural and wrong for many to live life drunk, just like it is equally unnatural for man to not drink at all. There is a natural appetite that must be met correctly. The unhappy man comes to be when eros rules thymos, and logos.
There are rare occasions when a human lacks logos and the ability to reason to the extent where living independently is impossible. By nature they are slaves and their interests are best served if someone else rules them. These instances are rare, but they do occur. Someone who possesses a mental deficiency will live a life of misery and confusion unless someone takes them in and sort of steps in for the absence of logos. When this occurs, the natural slave s best interests are served. However, conventional slavery, that being by force and law rather then the natural order of things, is unjust and arbitrary, says Aristotle.
Aristotle also believes there is a natural order when it comes to the role and duties of men and women. Men s expertise, he believed, was that of commerce and business undertakings. He believed men did best when they took part in natural modes of acquisition such as farming, piracy/war, fishing, nomadic gathering, and hunting. Women, Aristotle reasoned, allowed emotion to trump reason during their menstrual cycle and therefore were suited for a job inside the home such as childrearing, and household management, perhaps, not as glorifying as her male counterparts jobs, but nonetheless equally important. Human beings, all being different, are equal in the fact that they are unequal in many ways.
To forge the best regime with the right ruler, you must factor in all the complexities of man. The best regime is difficult to achieve but it can be if several measures are taken. All things must be private in the regime, except education and character formation. This is the common bond that unites a city-state. Also there must be a true authoritative leadership that does everything else that the masses cannot do, since they are performing the necessary things for the city to operate. This leader must possess prudence and know what is best and possible in any given situation. He must balance courage along with the circumstances. He must know justice and what is best. If this leader does these things he will foster a rational citizenry united in concord of love, virtue and reason. The city will be made up of good men who will always do the right thing, not because the laws says so but rather because the conscience and sense of what s right and wrong dictates their decisions. This will only occur if all parts of the citizenry are educated both for the mind and character. Even women too, should be educated along with their male counterparts, which is a bold idea for Aristotle s time.
Aristotle also reasons that the best regime should be governed by an institutional grouping of law and wisdom. Rule of law by itself cannot anticipate every circumstance. No matter what, the law will always apply to everyone in the same manner, regardless of circumstances. Law, in accordance with the wisdom of man can weigh every situation balancing the law along with the situation. This helps reiterate the idea that justice is in fact the equality of unequals. Not every person is equal in everyway just like, not all circumstances are equal. By giving everyone what they deserve, the law is just. The more you give to the regime, the more you get.
A regime consists of the offices, institutions and the ideas that establishes the institutions. There is no right or wrong regime. Each type of regime has a good end, and a bad end. Democracy, oligarchy, and tyranny each are forms of unjust regimes. Polity, aristocracy, and monarchy are their just counterparts. Within these regimes, the citizenship must be defined. Aristotle believes citizens are those who hold office, not just the ones who obey the laws. A Good Citizen is an active participant in making the laws; he is both ruler and ruled. The Good Man and the Good Citizen are sometimes the same and sometimes they re different, depending on the regime. But, in the best regime, the Good Man and the Good Citizen are the same only to the extent that the Good Citizen is ruled.
In The Tragedy of Coriolanus, Coriolanus has done battle with the Volsce s and has returned to Rome triumphant where he fought nobly and valiantly, becoming wounded in battle. The people honor him with the name Coriolanus, a tribute to the place of battle. Coriolanus, however, is not concerned with this pomp and circumstance rather he is more interested in lashing out at the mass of people who did not fight for Rome in the war. He belittles the majority of citizens and believes they should not even be a part of Rome, since they have given nothing to the city by not going to battle. He feels that he deserves to hold office because he gave more to Rome. Coriolanus feels that since he deserves the office, he needs not ask for it. At the same time, those who did nothing ought not have a say in who holds the office.
Coriolanus is uncompromising in his beliefs and ideals. He believes the lowly Tribunes, who represent those who didn t go to battle, should have no say in the governance. The regime, Coriolanus believes should be pure, in the sense that only the best and highest should rule. It is this stubbornness that leads to the downfall of Coriolanus. When Coriolanus has to ask for the support of the ones he hates most, and put on the clothes of humility, he does so in a half-hearted way. Then afterwards he is condescending, angering the tribunes and people. If Coriolanus, the warrior, was Coriolanus the statesmen, then he would have been more successful at attaining office. He should placed aside his strong feelings towards the people, and allowed reason to govern his thoughts and actions. He succumbs, though, to his angry passions, which lead to his demise in the end of the tragedy.
There is an answer to this dilemma that is almost as timeless as the idea of representative government itself. Aristotle believes there is a way for the Common Good to be achieved with the ruler being the true one that knows and deserves the authoritative office along with the consent of the ruled. The Common Good, according to Aristotle, is a multitude of incommensurable partnerships where the prudent man brings his reason to that partnership, where deliberation takes place. He tells us what Justice is and the citizenry comes to understand it through deliberation. The citizens obey it and carry it out. The citizenry then distributes justice amongst each other making everyone friends. Then, by refraining from injuring each other we achieve Happiness. This regime s legal order must reflect the natural order of things, and the rule of law must be carried out be gentlemen. Finally, the ruler and the ruled must share Justice, moderation, and courage. The ruler, though, should also possess prudence.
If these actions, as described by Aristotle, are carried out then the best ruler will receive the consent of the ruled without compromising the uniqueness of the ruler. Had Coriolanus been moderate in his actions and applied Aristotle s belief of government and its relationship with man perhaps he would not have met his demise in the end. Aristotle s The Politics and Shakespeare s Tragedy of Coriolanus leave future generations with lessons on representative government. Coriolanus shows us how those deserving office should not go about seeking the consent of the ruled, while Aristotle provides a timeless observation of man and how government applies to his existence here on earth. If we apply these two schools of thought to today s governing process we will have a clear, and reasonable way for the wise ruler to have the consent of the unwise masses.