Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Stagirite

In days of old, "Stagyrite" was the customary translitaration of Στάγειρα, but as we know from the poetry of Robert Frost: "So dawn goes down to day/Nothing gold can stay": thus "Stagirite". And who might he be?

Well, he's one of those old, dead white guys whose work supposedly no longer merits study, never mind that his work is one of the springs from which Western Civilization first flowed. The prevailing belief at the Institute is that those who don't have at least a passing knowledge of Aristotle and the Politics are not likely to find themselves overly interested in the Subsidiarity Principle or public banking or any other subject requiring critical thinking ability. Consider the Politics an entry-level textbook. 

Aristotle did not believe that governing a household, a village and other smaller social units could be equated with governing a polis, the highest form of community in his philosophical system. The term can correspond to a monarchy, a tyranny, a democracy and so on, but it always refers to a city-state, the largest political collective of the time. As to the smallest unit, the household (not the individual), the philosopher is unabashedly patriarchal in his views, claiming that what matters in governing a household is instilling virtue in his wife and children. Aristotle was a sexist!

That's not all he was. Reading the classics, we are exposed to civilization building concepts that nowadays, well, they're simply passé, which is an effete (Whoops! Trigger word! "Classist" is gender-neutral and modern!) and polyglotist way of saying "not cool". Aristotle had very uncool ideas and therefore his work must be expunged from curricula and his name added to the urn of the deplorables.

The bust of Aristotle as pictured above, however, belongs on the frieze of the Subsidiarity Institute's pantheon, still in the planning stage. He envisioned a society constructed from the bottom up, beginning with a man and his slave (Whoops! How dare he?), followed by the family, the village and so on. Globalists don't appreciate such antiquated notions, knowing as they do that it takes a village just to raise a child and hoi polloi need constant instruction and supervision from above, not just in an entire nation but over the surface of the entire globe, by gosh!

His views on citizenship also land him in the political-correctness pokey: "a citizen is defined to be one of whom both the parents are citizens; others insist on going further back; say two or three or more grandparents". This cannot be considered acceptable in a top-down world requiring a rootless and atomized lumpenproletariat to provide labor to the moneyed oligarchy!

Oligarchy, considered as one of the unjust forms of governance by Arsitotle's master Plato (Homophobe! Burn his books!), receives short shrift at the hands of the Stagirite as well. Just as every man is king of his castle in the Aristotelian cosmos, so a monarchy is deemed a just form of government for the polis. A brief examination of present day monarchs as anything but nostalgic decorative personages leads one to take issue with Aristotle on this issue. If, however, he had in mind the ideal ruler we find in the Daodejing (once transliterated as T'ao Te Ching, but...), we here at the Institute will consider it: " Bestowing no honors/keeps people from fighting/prizing no treasures/keeps people from stealing/displaying no attractions/keeps people from making trouble/thus the rule of the sage/empties the mind/but fills the stomach/weakens the will/but strengthens the bones/by keeping people from knowing or wanting/and those who know from daring to act/he thus governs them all" (chap. 3 in Red Pine's excellent annotated translation).

Aristotle was less concerned than was Plato with determining the ideal form of government as he was with identifying the aims of the ideal government, to wit: the virtue, justice and happiness of the citizenry. He believed this could be accomplished by various combinations of forms.

Aristotle's writings addressed many more subjects than mere politics. The Stagirite was a Renaissance man more than fifteen centuries before the Renaissance, writing at a time when Athens, the principle city-state of what amounted to the Western world, was estimated to have been around a maximum of 200,000 human beings, many of whom lived in rural conditions. Think present day Asheville, North Carolina; Pamplona, Spain;  Catamarca or San Luis, Argentina to put that in perspective.

The Stagerite was one of the wisest and certainly most erudite men of his time and world whose works have come down to us. On other shores, in recondite places, in wattle-and-daub huts, there were almost certainly may have been other sages, but it is our misfortune never to have known them.

A humble suggestion: become better acquainted with or renew your acquaintance with Aristotle. He'd likely have been just as happy teaching at the Subsidiarity Institute than he'd probably been at the Lyceum, although we enjoy a better view.

No comments:

Post a Comment