The good man and the good citizen are not one and the
same. What can be said about one cannot be necessarily said about the other. It is essential for the good man to be a good citizen. It is not, though, vital for the good citizen to be a good man. This distinction is important to make, because it helps one understand that the qualities a good man possesses far supersede those of a good citizen.
A good citizen does what is best for the community, his city. As long as he is no harm to his surroundings, and cares for the improvement and betterment of his city, he is a good citizen. Who a person is doesn’t greatly affect what kind of citizen he will be. What if a man is a secret murderer? If we were to say that he only kills people outside of his city, would he be affecting the city in any way? If he was a great politician and lived this secret life as well would he still be a great citizen? The answer is yes. This is because the good citizen doesn’t have to care about others. He can allow his desires to overpower his calculating. He doesn’t have to have a well-ordered soul. In other words, he doesn’t have to be a good man.
Aristotle chooses to search for the difference between the good man and the good citizen by examining and analyzing their virtues. He concludes that, “Hence, the virtue of a citizen must be suited to his constitution. Consequently, if indeed there are several kinds of constitution, it is clear that there cannot be a single virtue that is the virtue-of a good citizen. But the good man, we say, does express a single virtue: the complete one. Evidently, then, it is possible for someone to be a good citizen without having acquired the virtue expressed by a good man” (1276b). What Aristotle doesn’t tell us is who is better off. Is it sufficient to be the good citizen or is it definitely more satisfying to be the good man? The good man is recognizably superior to the good citizen.
The good man possesses everything that is good. He does what is just and what is just is beneficial to himself and to those around him. His soul is completely well-ordered and, therefore, cannot allow for his desires to take over and commit evil or injustice of any kind. This can’t be said about the good citizen and that is what makes the good man superior. He is the good citizen and a whole lot more.
The distinction between the good citizen and the good man is an important one to make. If it is to be assumed that they are equal, then we wouldn’t even have a grasp on the definition of the complete virtue. It would be assumed that there isn’t just one way a person should be, considering the good citizen’s virtue is dependent on his varying kind of constitution. By making the distinction, an example is set for others to follow. It is as if someone is saying, “This is the good man so try to be like him.” If it were believed that the good citizen is the same as the good man, there would exist a lot more injustice in the world.