Aristotle, Politics

LCL 264: 222-223

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Politics, III. VI.

together may be better, not individually but collectively, than those who are so, just as public dinners to which many contribute are better than those supplied at one man’s cost; for where there are many, each individual, it may be argued, has some portion of virtue and wisdom, and when they have come together, just as the multitude becomes a single man with many feet and many hands and many senses, so also it becomes one personality as regards the moral and intellectual faculties. This is why the general public is a better judge of the works of music and those of the poets, because different men can judge a different part of the performance, and all of them all of it. But the superiority of good men over the mass of men individually, like that of handsome men, so it is said, over plain men and of the works of the painter’s art over the real objects, really consists in this, that a number of scattered good points have been collected together into one example; since if the features be taken separately, the eye of one real person is more beautiful than that of the man in the picture, and some other feature of somebody else. It is not indeed clear whether this collective superiority of the many compared with the few good men can possibly exist in regard to every democracy and every multitude, and perhaps it may be urged that it is manifestly impossible in the case of some—for the same argument would also apply to animals, yet what difference is there, practically, between some multitudes and animals?—but nothing prevents what has been said from being true about some particular6 multitude. One might therefore employ these considerations to solve not only the previously stated

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.aristotle-politics.1932