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Translation of the Second Instruction

Aristotle deals in this book called Politics chiefly with forms of government. And truly there are six general kinds of simple forms of government, and each of these


kinds is divided into several varieties. And from these six kinds of government and from their varieties are composed and combined all other forms of government. And thus these six forms of government are basic and are also like the elements and foundations of all the others. And for this reason they are portrayed and represented here at the beginning of the book. And three are good—that is to say, kingship, aristocracy, and timocracy. And there are three others which are deviations or corruptions of the good ones, that is to say, tyranny, oligarchy, and democracy. And these words are explained at the end of the book of Ethics and also at the end of the Politics .

Item, the three good ones promote the common good. And the other three promote the good of the governors.

Item, in every form of government it is necessary that power and sovereignty be held either by one person, or by a small number, or by a large multitude.

Item, according to this, there are six forms of government. For if one person rules and for the common good, that is kingship. And if it is for his own profit, it is tyranny.

Item, if a small number rules for the common good, it is aristocracy. And if it is for their own profit, it is oligarchy.

Item, if a large multitude rules for the common good, that is timocracy. And if it is for their own benefit, it is democracy.

Item, of the three sound forms of government, timocracy is good. And aristocracy is better. And kingship is the best. And of the corrupt ones, democracy is bad. And oligarchy is worse. And tyranny is the worst. And it is to be understood that these three are somewhat bad, for none is entirely bad and without any virtuous person.

Here ends the second instruction or declaration of the six forms of government which are contained in this book and which are portrayed and represented here at the beginning of the whole book.


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