Spartan society and Aristotelian liberals

First, how was the Spartan society organized?

The first Spartan civilization had culture in art and class, but this disappeared halfway through the 6th century BC. Why?

In the late 8th century BC, Sparta conquers Messenia in order to take over the land and acquire the Messenians as slaves (helots). The slaves were ten times as many as the Spartans, and in the 7th century BC, the slaves revolted. This forced the Spartans to establish a military, which changed the course of Spartan history for all time. Gone was the devotion to the arts and culture, gone went anything that was not vital to creating a strong military by enlisting young men. No longer would the Spartans appreciate creative virtue, but the harsh virtue of the military lifestyle … and this became the Spartan’s one focus.

So important was their military in Spartan culture that they were forever trying to have a strong military full of more and more men, who of course started out as boys. Reproduction was seen as admirable and normal, and a bachelor was considered a criminal. He was forced to walk the streets naked, telling onlookers of his disobedience to the law and base actions.

The government system consisted of two different kings, a council of 28 elders, and a group of 5 advisors (organizers, judges.) There was an assembly of citizens who decided the laws, by shouting “yes” and “no”. The loudest side won!

Spartan children were kept under extreme government control. The girls were kept at home (until marriage) but were forced to engage in many rigorous activities to keep them strong and well in order that they would bear healthy children. The boys left home at the age of 7 for 13 years of military training (consisting of strict obedience, no shoes, only one garment for the cold winters, being forced to kill slaves, and being fed on barely anything. As long as the boys didn’t get caught stealing food, which the government knew they would try to do, the boys didn’t get punished. This taught boys to be smart and resourceful.) At 20 they became a part of the army and could get married – but were not allowed to visit their wives … so, like the issue of the food, they snuck around in order to visit them.

At age 30 they became citizens … but they again had very little rights, they still belonged to the army, and the food was awful! The Spartan army grew to be magnificent, but they only began their small navy when they needed one for the Peloponnesian wars.

Next, “How have libertarians, or “Aristotelian liberals,” argued for liberty on the basis of Aristotle’s ideas?”

First off, let us define Aristotelian liberals. Aristotelian liberals take Aristotle’s ideas and show that even though he never used the words “individual rights” per se, his convictions show us that he believed in some form of liberalism: that is, freedom of choice to all men in all classes.

There are Aristotelian Values which, according to Miller, have a libertarian bent …

  • There are permissible things to do to a person and there are things you should NOT do to a person.
  • The state should protect your life.
  • The governed must consent to be ruled by a government.
  • If a government does not respect its citizen’s right it may legitimately be overthrown.

Some people say “Aristotle was not libertarian, because he believed that the government held a higher position than the common people.” Aristotelian liberals counter by saying that Aristotle’s principles say otherwise – they can be used to support freedom.

Aristotelian liberals say that our rights are based upon the requirements of the search for ‘eudaimonia’, the exercise of virtue. (Eudaimonia is the Greek word used to express the concept of ‘happiness’, or, ‘the root reason why we do anything in our life.’) But Aristotelian liberals believe that virtue is only virtue if its freely chosen. It cannot be forced. When you are in your parent’s home, and they tell you to do something virtuous, you do it because you pretty much have to. But if you didn’t have to, and you didn’t want to, you wouldn’t do it, UNLESS you had VIRTUE.

The current government forces us into (what they call) “virtue” when they impose rules upon us that don’t align with our personal convictions, like taxes for unemployment handouts, or taxes to help with abortion clinics, or carbon tax. (Taxes in general!)

Therefore, Aristotelian liberals believe that in order for us to flourish in virtue, we need to decide to do it ourselves. If we are forced, it isn’t virtue.

The third main idea in Aristotelian liberalism (which is an apparent theme in this essay) is that we should not coerce people to do something they don’t want to do. We should use reason and logic and work hand-in-hand with others. Animals use force and coercion. Since we humans have the ability to reason, that is what we should do.



3 thoughts on “Spartan society and Aristotelian liberals

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s