By Goodman, Lenn Evan; Talisse, Robert B.; Aristotle
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Extra info for Aristotle's Politics today
But it is precisely here that Aristotle stands to make the greatest contribution to contemporary political theory, that is, in teaching us how to have ends without their dictating choices. Aristotle’s ends are functional human 42 EDWARD C. HALPER communal ends that do not force us to accept a particular doctrine but to put our faculties to the greatest use. Whatever particular choices the citizens of a state make, they need to keep in mind the state’s positive goal of allowing its citizens to realize their human potential through political activity.
H. W. Atkins uses the function argument of Nicomachean Ethics. 7 to argue that the virtues Aristotle describes in his ethics are meant to be exercised in the governance of a state (1991, 75–93). C. D. C. Reeve claims that “ethics and statesmanship coincide” (1998, xxvi). To speak of the state as having a good of its own requires that it be something capable of having its own end, that is, that it be a substance of some sort. That Aristotle considers it to be such, I argue in Halper, 1995 (14–23).
But in the twenty-first century national defense can be provided only by government, and it is extremely expensive in a world plagued by belligerent states with large standing armies and weapons of mass destruction. Moreover, the recent rise in terrorism highlights the problem of controlling movements of personnel across national borders. The problem arises because defense is a public good: that is, everyone would benefit from it, but it cannot be withheld from just anyone selectively. So individuals who do not coordinate their actions have little incentive to contribute to it.