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Donald Trump and the Great Souled Man

with 3 comments

Well, the good news is that it took  me this long to get to the blog today.  I actually did some work I  might want to  keep.  Yay.

But mostly what I have to say has to do w ith yesterday’s post, and Lymaree’s comment that Aristotle’s Great Souled Man is Donald Trump.


Aristotle would have considered Trump beneath contempt.

First, because Trump actively engages in business and pursues profit.

The Great Souled Man does not.  He simply “has” enough  money never to have to think about it.  Aristotle never says this money is hereditary, but it’s hard to see what else it could be.

The Great Souled Man never pursues profit–such a pursuit is, by definition, beneath him.

Second, Trump is an active self promoter.  He’s always out there, being conspicuous about his claims of being rich and famous and important.

Aristotle’s Great Souled Man wouldn’t stoop to  pursuing such publicity.   He does not pursue fame.  Fame pursues him. 

Third, Trump seems to have done nothing but scrounge for money.

The Great  Souled Man pursues Great Achievements–in war, for instance.

In other words, Aristotle’s Great Souled Man was almost assuredly modeled on Philip of Macedon.

If Aristotle had lived in the modern era, he might have liked various Kings of England, and almost certain General George Patton.

Of course, Patton thought he was the reincaration of a soldier who fought for Rome, so there might be some justice in that one.

At the moment, Aristotle is outlining more virtues and vices, and working very hard to fit everything good in the world into a definition of the mean.

It takes a certain amount of creativity.

Written by janeh

August 14th, 2013 at 8:22 am

Posted in Uncategorized

3 Responses to 'Donald Trump and the Great Souled Man'

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  1. It’s a problem. Work out how many people have to cultivate fields, make pottery or engage in commerce to support a great-souled man, and discount the necessary family members such as wives and children who can’t themselves be great-souled, and you wind up with an ethical code applicable to about 1% of the population.

    But that’s only true if only the great-souled men can practice ethical behavior, and it does not seem to me that the ethical code described altogether required this degree of independence. A hoplite who must cultivate his own field, or even a peltast who has no field to cultivate can surely still seek that mean between cowardice and rashness, and even a slave or a woman can choose not to steal or commit adultery.

    That said, it’s common in classical philosophy to despise the acquisition of wealth by trade or production, leaving only inheritance and war. I suspect it’s one of the reasons economic progress seems to stop more or less with Pericles. Tell your brightest most eager students that studying the mechanical arts is beneath them and that while wealth is necessary profit is dirty, and after a while you’ll find them all lapping up tax money rather than creating wealth.

    The problem is not unknown in the modern era.


    14 Aug 13 at 10:47 am

  2. It has been a long time since I studied Athenian history but if my memory is correct, Athens was a direct democracy. All male citizens were expected to attend assemblies and vote on issues. And if they voted for war, all physically fit males would serve. The men were expected to provide their own armor and weapons and keep themselves fit and in training.

    I think part of Aristotle’s ideas came from that. A farmer or tradesman would not have time to discuss political problems and would not have time for the necessary military drills. Only the “idle rich” could spare the time.


    14 Aug 13 at 5:58 pm

  3. jd, the small farmers seem to have constituted the hoplite class–armor, weapons, training and all. The idle rich were the hippeis who had to provide their own horses. I think about 300 in Periclean Athens.

    But political participation–and military activity–in Athens went all the way down to rowers in the fleet. Even the Thirty would have left the hoplites with the franchise.

    Every now and then someone tells me as though it were news that Presidents aren’t expected to draw fire any more. They don’t mention that they themselves can drive around with FREE TIBET bumper stickers without being parachuted into Lhasa.

    But participation in warfare doesn’t seem to have made classical Athens very peace-loving. Ah, well…


    14 Aug 13 at 8:13 pm

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