Study Guide

The Nicomachean Ethics Book 8, Chapter 10 (1160a35-1161a9)

By Aristotle

Book 8, Chapter 10 (1160a35-1161a9)

  • To continue a discussion of community, Aristotle moves on to the issue of rule.
  • He names three types of regimes: 1) kingship; 2) aristocracy; 3) timocracy, a type of rule of the people.
  • There are also three ways these regimes can go wrong. For kingship, it's tyranny.
  • A tyrant seeks only his own advantage, while a true king looks out for his subjects. Since a king needs nothing for himself, he works for the good of his people.
  • Aristocracies can crumble into oligarchies—a despotic system where a group of the most powerful people runs the government.
  • Aristotle says that the rise of oligarchies happens when there's an unjust distribution of goods on the part of the ruling class. In this system, wealth—not the common good—rules.
  • A timocracy can morph into—gasp!—a democracy. Aristotle thinks that a democracy is the least corrupt of these deviant regime types because it's still a rule of the people.
  • Why does Aristotle bring all this political stuff up? Because it's reflected in the microcosm of daily life.
  • So we're meant to see each of these types of rule—and the relationships that pop up in them—even down to the level of an individual household.
  • The community of a father and his family = kingship (or tyranny, depending on the dad); husband/wife = aristocracy (ruling class); brothers = timocracy (since all are equal).
  • Democracy happens in households when there's no proper master around to keep everyone in line. This is a horror in Aristotle's eyes.