Aristotle on the body politic

‘The city-state is prior in nature to the household and to each of us individually. For the whole must necessarily be prior to the part; since when the whole body is destroyed, foot or hand will not exist except in an equivocal sense, like the sense in which one speaks of a hand sculptured in stone as a hand; because a hand in those circumstances will be a hand spoiled, and all things are defined by their function and capacity, so that when they are no longer such as to perform their function they must not be said to be the same things, but to bear their names in an equivocal sense. It is clear therefore that the state is also prior by nature to the individual.’

Aristotle, Politics, in Aristotle, translated by H. Rackham, 23 vols. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1944), 21, 1253a.

Posted in Ideas and Papers.

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