Framing — reblogged from

branches of government Keith DeHavelle authors one of my favorite blogs, DeHavelle.comFraming discusses the role Aristotle’s book, Politics, played in the formulation of our Constitution.


From a discussion on Citizen Tom’s blog on the forms of government, I wrote a bit on of how the US Constitution was inspired and framed:

There are conceptual hints in Scripture and remarks by Jesus on what forms of government are disfavored, but the Framers took inspiration from Aristotle. Many Enlightenment thinkers tended to downplay Aristotle, though the re-discovery of his works is one of the factors leading to the Enlightenment. But many of the Framers read Aristotle directly as well as earlier writers he inspired including Locke and de Montesquieu.

Aristotle spends the first several chapters of Book 4 of Politics cataloging systems of government in a way reminiscent of Linnaeus taking apart the structure of species of flowers. Aristotle gets something of a bad rap here, in which he is frequently said to “favor rule by a strong and virtuous leader.” This misunderstands him, as that is not his most favored arrangement. Here he describes a government divided into three branches:

Having thus gained an appropriate basis of discussion, we will proceed to speak of the points which follow next in order. We will consider the subject not only in general but with reference to particular constitutions. All constitutions have three elements, concerning which the good lawgiver has to regard what is expedient for each constitution. When they are well-ordered, the constitution is well-ordered, and as they differ from one another, constitutions differ. There is (1) one element which deliberates about public affairs; secondly (2) that concerned with the magistrates- the question being, what they should be, over what they should exercise authority, and what should be the mode of electing to them; and thirdly (3) that which has judicial power.

(continued here)

Why is ‘s post worth checking out? Aristotle’s book is ancient. When we read it and consider what it says, we can begin to grasp how our forebears struggled for the right to be free. The notion of a constitutional republic did not just pop into the heads of the men who wrote the Constitution. In a process that took thousands of years, people — many people — slowly and painfully developed the ideas that went into our Constitution. Aristotle was one of the first theorists.

Throughout human history, slavery has been the norm, and that did not change after Aristotle wrote his book. For thousands of years scholars studied Aristotle, but few others. What changed? Why did a group of men meet in Philadelphia and write a Constitution? What motivated them?

Consider. Our success in making our constitutional republic work requires a substantial amount personal integrity and hard work from each citizen. Where people don’t care enough to protect the rights of their family, friends, and neighbors, those people have no rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. So that raises this question. How did the American people acquire such a concern for their neighbors, even people they had never personally met? How did the people who founded of this country do that, and how do we maintain such integrity? Why should we even want to do so?

Are we willing to protect the integrity our Constitution for the sake of our children. Will we work to add what improvements we can?

If you and I just don’t care, that is a bad sign for the next generation and those that follow.

11 thoughts on “Framing — reblogged from

  1. We think we are smarter.

    The attitude of presentism is both erroneous and folly. If anything, we modern humans are bigger fools than our ancient predecessors. Why? Because we have available to us all the knowledge of both good and bad experiences recorded in history that the ancients did not have.

    Regards and goodwill blogging.

    I had an minor operation last week and am just starting to catch up on followings. Seems you have been very busy. Hope you have more snowstorms so inspire you to write more posts.


    1. Well, I expect the snowstorm will be my last break for a little while. I am a government contractor. So in addition to taxes, I have a bunch of security paperwork.

      At times like these, retirement starts to look good.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I had no problem retiring. If you have interests you enjoy doing, you finally have time to do them. I think you will enjoy retirement. However, if you do not have a little nest egg to draw on, you might not be comfortable living on a pension.

        Regards and goodwill blogging.

        Regards and goodwill blogging.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Seeing as Aristotle lived in Athens during its time of democracy, the classical liberal understanding of freedom was not something Aristotle was either concerned with nor agreed with.

    Also, when Aristotle says “constitution” he does not mean a literal piece of paper. This is equivocation. Aristotle, building off of his premises found in the Organon, is arriving at the quiddity of each government type. Aristotle never thought of a separation of these powers. Not even the Romans saw it necessary to separate the power of the Senate from the power of the Patricians. That was a classical liberal idea taken from Montesquieu.

    In fact, Aristotle gives no differences based on the exact structure of government. That is, to him, a minor concern. When you consider that the Politics is merely a continuation of the Ethics and the book right before the Metaphysics, then politics for Aristotle is book-ended by two things classical liberalism has said is relative and nonexistent respectively but that Aristotle takes as vital. For in the Ethics, we see the first cause for Politics i.e. virtue and in the Metaphysics we see the final cause i.e. the attainment of the same.

    With a concept of happiness in Ethics that is limited by rational principles–against the express desires of Locke, Kant, and Rousseau–and a concept of an end outside of one’s self in Metaphysics–against the express argumentation of nearly every phenomenologist for the past three centuries or so–Aristotle is actually inconvenient for anyone who wants to say the individual has the freedom to determine what is right for themselves when happiness, for Aristotle, is an objective mean.

    The ideas that went into our Constitution were no more Aristotelian than they were Marxist. De Tocqueville documented in the first few decades of America the rationale for her “good nature” and it was not for the attainment of virtue. It was so much contrary to that end that De Tocqueville makes a point of drawing attention to the difference. Americans are, and always have been, motivated by their own self-interest. It is why conceptions about Adam Smith never extend father than misconceptions of one of his works, though it is the most voluminous. It has become apparent to me that, were I to argue Aristotle’s other points about the necessity for a polis to work for a common good, I would again be labeled a socialist.

    Let’s see how quickly “McCarran” comes to tell me that I don’t understand Aristotle, that my judgments on De Tocqueville’s observations are wrong, and that the Constitution has something to do with Aristotelian principles of government because he pointed out that there seem to be three distinct powers in a given government.


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