Volume 87, 2013
Aristotle Now and Then
V. Bradley Lewis
Aristotle, the Common Good, and Us
While the notion of the common good figures frequently in both rhetoric and the inquiries of academic political theory, it is often neither closely examined nor precisely defined. This article examines Aristotle’s use of the idea, focusing primarily on two sets of key texts: first, Politics 1.1–2 and Nicomachean Ethics 1.2; and second, Nic. Ethics 8.9 and Politics 3.7. The first set of texts emphasizes the common good as flourishing and the city as its necessary condition; the second emphasizes the common good as the good of all citizens as distinct from that of the rulers alone and leads to Aristotle’s notion of the generic political regime with its focus on the middle class and the rule of law. The conclusion notes both continuities and discontinuities with and challenges to contemporary politics posed by Aristotle’s view, which is neither as readily supportive of modern political programs nor as opposed to modern practices as is sometimes thought.