Week 4: Aristotle
PART I: who is Aristotle?
- 1. Student of Plato, founded the lyceum. Followers of aristotle;s teachings were called
‘peripatetic; (from Gr.Periapsis-walking around) because they walked around when they
- 2.foreigner in Athens
- 3.Tutor to the young alexander the great
- 4.The first political scientist-but not just a political thinker.
Why read Aristotle's politics today?
- 1.enormous influence on political theory-ancient, medieval, modern
- 2.Contributions to legal theory-‘natural law’
- 3.‘constitutional engineering’
- 4.study of the different parts of the state
- 5.the idea of the ‘mixed’ constitution
- 6.Examples of Aristotelian political analysis
How is Aristotle different from plato? Some basic observations:
1. Aristotle’s style of writing is very different-not dialogues. What we have are essentially
lecture notes in outline form.
2. Plato likes grand theorizing; Aristotle favors particular details of each specific case he
3. Aristotle is deeply concerned with proper method of analysis-causation. Substance,
classification-in all sciences, including ‘political science’.
PART 2: Politics as a subset of Ethics
- ethics is generally described as the philosopher of human nature-concerning human
values and moral conduct
- In aristotles system, politis is a part of theirs. So, to understand politics, he suggests
eel must must first get a better understanding of what humans value and why we value
- This is the aium of aristotles major work on the topicof ethics, the nicomachean ethics
(sons nameO policis cannot be sperated Aristotles doctrine of the good
- thinks one of the waus humans are discitnice is in the way we live out lives according
to a plan-unlie animal, hmans can deliberate about out actions and desired goals.
- All human actions are purposive - evey action has some purpse or end (gr. Telos )
connected to it.
- NE. 1.1 every art and every inquiry and similary every action and persuit, is thought to
aim at some good, and for ths reason the goos has rightly been …..
- But not everything is valued- some things are more valuable than others:
- NE 1.1 Th. End of the master arts are to be preferred to all the subordinate ends…..
- Aristotle speculates that there must, in theory, be some ultimate good which every per-
son desires for its own sake-not because it leads to some other good (otherwise, the
process would go on to infinity)
- whatt is this supreme good? (latin summum bonum)
- The supreme good is callec in greek eudaimonia
- Difficult to translate- happiness, living good, one whi us fully human, fully flourishing
and lving wholly complete and good life.
- It is valuable in itself
- NE 1.7 eudaimonia then us smoothie final and self sufficient and the end in all acion
- It is an activity of the coul in accordance with virtue whrn we do thigs with purpose and
achieve our deliberate goals we achieve this end.
Why is this important for politics?
- Aristotle thinks eudaimonia cannot be achieved in isolation. You can only achieve this
when you live and do things together with others in a community.
- Example of friendship- friendship is an essentially social good-you cant enjoy the ben-
efits of friendship by yourself
- the supreme good is impossible without politics
- NE 1.2 “et supreme good would seem to belong to the most authoritative art…..
- ...politics legislates as to what we are to do and what we are to obstain from….
- That is why we must study politics-the cartft or art of producing good laws practiced by
the statesman (gr.. Politikos)
- What is the unique skil of the statesman? Aristotle calls it ‘practical wisdom‘- in greek
phronesis. It is the ability to calcite and deliberate well about actions that can best bring
ow the good and happy life.
- NE 6.5- it is a true and reasonded… household or states.
- NE 6.8 practical wisdome is essential to governing well. - Practical wisdom is not the same as contemplative pr philosophical reason. V. Different
PART 3: The basics of Aristotle's political theory (politics I)
- in the last paragraph of the ethics aristotle points out that political scien has never
been studied. So he turns to study politics.
- BOOK IV of the polticis gives good statement about what he thinkis political science
- In all the skills and sciences which do not operate piecemeal but give
complete coverage….would be like if it were constructed exactly as one
- politics tries to do thi right from the start of book I with several foundational claims:
- Pol 1.1 ‘every state (polis) os am association (koinomia)
- Pol .1 every os formed with a view to some good purpose (telos)
- Pol 1.1 that association which is sovereign….the association which is po-
- Pol I.I it is an error to suppose….that the role of a stateman ...nbetwwem a
large household and a small state”
- remember ethics 6: house hold managers and statesmen both exercise poltical wis-
dom, but what is distinctive abiut the stateman, that is different from a household-man-
- Aristotle suggests we ought to look to the origins of political association.
- His most important clain is that the poli exists by nature-meaning that it is not by volun-
tary choicr, but by a natural focr o urge that the state is created
- Natural sequence in aristotle:
- We cant survive on our own, so we naturally form associations with others:
- 1. Union of male and female for reproduction
- 2. The relationship of ruler and ruled.
- note that aristotle thinks these types of relationships are ogvernemd by ‘nature’ (phas-
es) they are not governed by any social convention (gr.. Nomos)
- There is an increasing com,plenty in aristotles theory
- Private household-villages-polis(formed by many villages)
- This is what is called a ‘teleological’ argument in aristotles thery. It explains a phenom-
enon in terns of its ultimate end, or telos, here the end id all associated lufe is the polis
- Only in the polis is it possible or live the good life of eudaimonia - Pol 3.9 a state must concern itself with virtue otherwise the association is a
mere military alliance...a state is an association intended to enable its mem-
bers...ti live well; its purpose is a perfect and se