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By Goodman, Lenn Evan; Talisse, Robert B.; Aristotle

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This anecdote was reported by Pierce Butler during the debates on the United States Constitution in 1787, and was echoed in the Federalist Paper No. 38 by James Madison. 7. ” It should be noted that unanimity is only a criterion of correctness. Aristotle is not anticipating modern theories of popular sovereignty by deriving the legitimacy of government from the will of the governed. Aristotle holds that a government is legitimate to the extent that it promotes the common advantage, and he assumes that a government that promotes everyone’s interests will have everyone’s approval.

He argues that one can be a good citizen without being a good ARISTOTLE AND THE LIBERAL STATE 43 man, but there is one case where the two are, indeed, identical, the ruler (1277a27– 29; cf. 1277b25–26). This qualification of the scope of the identity does not undermine the fact of the identity between the individual good and the political good. Even though most good citizens do not attain the type or degree of the virtue possessed by a good man, they do attain some semblance of that good through their offices in the state.

30 FRED D. MILLER, JR. CONCLUSION Aristotle’s theory of statecraft has enduring value for the modern political theorist. The modern statesman would do well to follow Aristotle in distinguishing three levels of political prescription: the ideal, the second best, and the ordinary. This approach is incremental approximism. It involves devising important reforms that are politically feasible and that will move the existing system closer to the regulative ideal. Modern statesmen are also well advised to keep in view Aristotle’s suggestions for practical politics.

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