HomeLiterature Study GuidesThe PoliticsBook 7 Chapters 11 17 Summary

The Politics | Study Guide

Aristotle

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The Politics | Book 7, Chapters 11–17 | Summary

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Summary

Book 7, Chapter 11

If circumstances allow, a city should have access to both the sea and land. Cities that slope toward the east are generally healthier because of the incoming winds. Cities should also have essential natural resources, such as fresh water. Inhabitants' health should be the first consideration when choosing the location for a city. The layout of a city can reflect the political reality. Oligarchies are often at a fortified height to intimidate and reflect grandness, while democracies have a sort of levelness. Straight rows of dwellings for citizens are helpful. Some farmers live in a vine shape. A city designed with a sense of order is important. Walls around a city can be helpful to prevent attacks, but military technology has advanced so walls aren't as necessary as they once were. Cities with walls around them have a different character from cities with no walls.

Book 7, Chapter 12

Cities require temples and buildings for the law; they need not always be separate, but it is wise to fortify them. Often a market is placed right below these buildings. Buildings should include common areas for priests and government officials. Cities may choose to build an upper market for leisure and a lower market for necessities. Most cities can determine optimal building placement on their own; they need not adopt one universal plan.

Book 7, Chapter 13

Cities must decide on an aim to work toward. People achieve happiness and a satisfying life in different ways. Some cities are more fortunate than others and naturally possess important qualities; others must develop such qualities. Natural skills are no more valuable than the degree to which they are cultivated; therefore, education is key.

Book 7, Chapter 14

Equality and justice are the same thing. Unjust regimes cannot endure. Older people should rule because they have a deeper sense of morality. Young people who hope to rule should occupy themselves with servant-like tasks. The soul has both reason and unreason, but the unreasoning half is capable of learning reason. Life is divided into occupation and leisure, war and peace. Children should be educated while they are still young so they can better serve the community. Any citizen capable of doing so should acquire the knowledge to rule his city.

Book 7, Chapter 15

Peace is the end of war; leisure is the end of occupation. Cities need these different modes and should pursue moderation in everything. Cities capable of pursuing good should do so; it is shameful to waste resources on lesser goals. It is important to find a balance between the binaries of the soul and the city.

Book 7, Chapter 16

Relationships between men and women are important for the future of the city. Cities can pass legislation to permit couples to marry, as well as to indicate at what age couples should produce offspring. A father and his sons should be fairly close in age for purposes of household management. Because most Greek men (in Aristotle's time) become infertile by age 70 and most women by age 50, people should form unions before these ages. Older women should not be with younger men. Aristotle advises against females getting pregnant at an early age because their bodies may be too fragile. He believes the ideal age for marriage is 18 for women and 37 for men; this is when their bodies are at their prime. Doctors can give advice on best times to procreate. Bodies of offspring should vary; not all need be athletes. Pregnant women should take care of their bodies and not be idle. Aristotle also states that no "deformed child should be raised." Cities should outline an ideal number for procreation and seek to reach it.

Book 7, Chapter 17

Babies should be fed milk and be well protected and cared for. Children should pursue moderation and engage in activities to help them develop, but they should not go to school at an early age. Children should not interact with slaves and should be allowed to scream and cry as necessary. Foul speech and behavior should be banned in the city. Young people should not attend comedy shows until they are of proper age because they need education to understand such performances. Children develop most during two periods: ages 7 to puberty and puberty to 21; therefore these are particularly important times in their education.

Analysis

The seventh book differs from the previous books because here Aristotle seeks to outline the ideal form of government, beyond what is practical: "The city that is to be constituted on the basis of what one would pray for." He outlines his utopia and describes how things would be if he had authority to determine people's behavior. Aristotle says the ideal city needn't be the biggest; it is the one best managed and most orderly. Following Plato's thinking, Aristotle says population should be controlled in order to achieve stability. The luxury of the political life he describes is accessible only if noncitizens perform surplus labor. Without the work of noncitizens, citizens won't have free time to engage in politics.

The second part of this book outlines the roles of women and children, the importance of spirituality, and the ideal locations for cities. Women are rarely discussed in Politics; their primary role is procreation. Aristotle's ideas about marriage were pretty universal until recent times: he recommends monogamous heterosexual couplings of older men and younger women to ensure virility. Aristotle doesn't think men should pair with women under age 18 because these females are not strong enough for procreation. Aristotle believes solid and consistent relationships, as the basis of households, create a foundation for strong cities.

Aristotle says cities can be designed in certain ways to be optimally healthy. Relying on popular science of his time, he says cities should face east to benefit from the wind. Aristotle believes an orderly city layout will make orderly citizens; a city's design impacts people's feelings and behavior; therefore, he recommends putting houses in rows. Aristotle also says a city should utilize design to show its values. In his outline, buildings with government and spiritual uses are at the highest point of the city, and the marketplace is directly below them.

Aristotle frequently mentions Sparta in his analysis. Sparta was a Greek state whose central concern was military power. For this reason, most male children were trained solely to fight. Aristotle thinks this leads to an imbalanced life. There were systems in which all Spartan children were trained in military skills, and the resources of the government centered on the military. This system of government differed from most other city-states in ancient Greece. Aristotle uses Sparta as an example of a place too centered on one skill. Military is important for a city-state, but it isn't everything. Aristotle uses Sparta to show how different city-states govern themselves and to show that a diversified existence is his utopia. He believes the only way for a city to be successful is through education.

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