Johnson, Peter. "Reclaiming the Aristotelian ruler." (1994). Reprinted in Horton, John, and Susan
Mendus. After Macintyre: Critical Perspectives on the Work of Alasdair Macintyre.
Oxford: Polity Press, 1994, 45-63. Print.
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Johnson argues that Aristotle’s political theory still matters today despite the opposition of a Machiavellian worldview that privileges power over virtue. Machiavelli represents the idea that might is right. Aristotle represents the idea that the practice of virtue trumps might, even though we live in a morally compromised world that puts constrictions on making virtue successful. Johnson remarks that even though the “Aristotelian mode of thinking” may not be evident in modernity, it is still possible to argue that Aristotle’s political theory, based in an ethics of morality, must “reject this [the Machiavellian] conclusion” (45). Johnson’s thesis is that the virtue ethics of Aristotle still makes sense in the modern world where it seems corruption is the expedient way to order a society.
Johnson thinks together utilitarian ethics with Machiavellianism. The utilitarian argues that immoral means, if they are to reach a desirable good, can be justified. Johnson argues that Aristotle is right to place action at the heart of political theory. The problem is to determine how does a satisfactory rejection of a worldview that privileges “getting one’s hand dirty” take place. How is it justified? Aristotle helps us to avoid a wider gap between public and private, by bringing them closer together, which Johnson thinks can help stop political corruption (45). Aristotle’s political philosophy is placed in the idea of establishing a practical man of wisdom as ruler, but how to counteract Aristotle’s idea of moderation and balance with the political reality that privileges deception and bribery? All one has to do is read the current news headlines to see that politicians are always in trouble and accused of immoral acts....