The good man and the upright citizen in Aristotle's ethics and politics

Social Philosophy and Policy 24 (2):220-240 (2007)
This essay deals with Aristotle's complex account in Politics III.4 of the good man and the upright citizen. By this account the goodness of an upright citizen is relative to the city of which he is a citizen, whereas the goodness of a good man is absolute. Aristotle holds that the goodness of a good man and the goodness of an upright citizen are identical in one case only, that of a full citizen of his ideal city. In a non-ideal city the two are always distinct. One would expect, then, that cases would arise where the goodness of an upright citizen would demand, and the goodness of a good man forbid, the very same action. Aristotle, however, never discusses such cases directly, and many scholars have thought that he skirts the issue entirely. I argue, on the contrary, that Aristotle believes that there are cases where a good man will act differently from an upright citizen and that, consequently, he believes, as we would hope he would believe, that there are limits to political obligation. Footnotesa I am indebted to Fred Miller, the other contributors to this volume, and especially my wife, Christine Keyt, for helpful comments on earlier versions of this essay.
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DOI 10.1017/S0265052507070239
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