Metaphysics is a Statesman

I was reading Aquinas’ Commentary on Aristotle’s Metaphysics and came across an interesting line in the prologue. He is attempting to determine what the highest science is, and drops this line:

We can discover which science this is and the sorts of things with which it is concerned by carefully examining the qualities of a good ruler; for just as men of superior intelligence are naturally the rulers and masters of others, whereas those of great physical strength and little intelligence are naturally slaves, as the Philosopher says in the aforementioned book, in a similar way that science which is intellectual in the highest degree should be naturally the ruler of others.

The order of the sciences is argued to be parallel to the proper order of a society, with the more intellectual ruling the less intellectual. While I don’t think he is wrong, I was struck by the casual way in which he said it. For Aquinas, it seems that the qualities of a good ruler were obvious.

It seems to me that we generally esteem someone who represents our interests much more than we esteem someone who is wise. In other words, a modern “good ruler” is one who defends my in-group and gives me what I want. Whatever my desires, that ruler needs to make sure I can satisfy them. Opposed to this is the notion of the statesman, as found in Plato and Aristotle, whose goal is the good of the people. The real good of the people, not the apparent good. It is such a ruler that is the proper model for first philosophy, not the demagogue or tyrant.

2 thoughts on “Metaphysics is a Statesman”

  1. Do you think it was easier to identify/accept/agree upon the real good of the people and consequently a good ruler when with a more homogenous populace?

    1. Undoubtedly that helps. But there are many causes for the general malaise. A famous twitter anon explained post-modernity as the failure of metanarratives. Is it possible to believe, unironically, in anything? Much less believing in the “Return of the King.”

      I don’t know if we can go back. I do find it _interesting_ that Aquinas uses this example.

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