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Aristotle on the common good

Dolan, Thomas E. (2018) Aristotle on the common good. Undergraduate Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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In this paper I seek to explicate Aristotle’s conception of the common good as it applies to communities or koinōniai in general and the polis in particular. According to Aristotle, every koinōnia constitutes a distinct whole insofar as it contains a number of individual parts standing in certain relations to one another. And because Aristotle claims that every koinōnia is established for the sake of some good, it follows that a given koinōnia’s arrangement of parts constitutes at least an instrumental good that is common to all its members, although it is possible for a specific arrangement to possess more than mere instrumental value. I then argue that the polis is such a non-instrumental arrangement insofar as it constitutes a part of our highest good, namely, happiness or eudaimonia, since Aristotle claims that we are by nature political animals, that is, beings who are meant to live in poleis of some kind. In particular, the good that the polis achieves includes the ability for its members to actively contribute to a complete and self-sufficient way of life characterized by rational deliberation and choice rather than by accident or chance. The way of life specific to the polis therefore centers on the exercise of political rule. I then argue that the polis’ arrangement, insofar as it represents a non-instrumental good, can be shared in common by its members only if they stand to the arrangement in a particular way, namely, as political rulers. I conclude by demonstrating that on this account, the existence of economic classes within a polis is sufficient to exclude certain groups from participating in the polis’ common good qua arrangement. In other words, the existence of classes entails that there is a stable separation between rulers and ruled such that those who are ruled cannot share in the highest good of the polis’ arrangement unless they become, either individually or collectively, the ruling class.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Dolan, Thomas E.ted24@pitt.eduted24
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairWhiting,
Date: 26 April 2018
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 3 April 2018
Approval Date: 26 April 2018
Submission Date: 23 April 2018
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Number of Pages: 45
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: David C. Frederick Honors College
Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Politics and Philosophy
Degree: BPhil - Bachelor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Undergraduate Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Aristotle, polis, community, class conflict, sovereignty, holism, political activity
Date Deposited: 26 Apr 2018 16:09
Last Modified: 26 Apr 2023 05:15


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