POL200Y1Y L5101 1
L10: Politics I
June 11, 2009
•Aristotle is our Contemporary
•Aristotle's Ethics + Politics
•Polis + Household
•What is a polis?
•Aristotle on Slavery
Aristotle is our Contemporary
•He did not believe in a personal god, but his understanding of human psychology
leant itself to thinkers who tried to
•He was useful for Christian thought
•He had a teleological view of the natural world and believed there was an overall
functional design which could be attributed to something with an overall vision
oHence he supported Christianity
•But with Hobbes, these ideas were replaced with the advent of the mechanistic
understanding of matter in motion
•Natural phenomena don't make sense in terms of intelligent design
•Today, there has been a revival of Aristotolieanism due to his theories of human
goodness. He has become our contemporary. It is no longer Aristotelian science or
teleology. But his understanding of human kind.
•Aristotle understood human beings to have a specific telos. Human beings could live
well, in his view, only if their political cultures helped them to develop the moral
virtues (justice, courage, generosity, friendship). He gave an account of the good life
based upon an understanding for developing human capacities. He understood human
societies to have the telos of making the good life possible for citizens by cultivating
character and intellect within them.
•Aristotle continued the Platonic project of understanding the political life where
citizens could be educated and thrive.
•Yet, contrasted to Plato, Aristotle laid quite a bit of emphasis of politics directly
contributing to citizens well being
oThe liberation - where citizens discuss what is good for their city.
Deliberative prudence was important. This is to render good justice in courts of
•Aristotle has become popular again due to the dissatisfaction with contemporary
liberal theory. Modern political analysts have observed the disengagement of citizens in
the worlds most powerful democracies. The level of ignorance among democratic
citizens is on the rise.
POL200Y1Y L5101 2
oe.g. America voted in George Bush twice. And they do not know basic
features of their government
oLiberal democratic society therefore has emphasized the private sphere at
expense of political engagement. Liberal society has emphasized the private
sphere because it is traditionally avoided offering any public account of the human
good. Human goodness is taken to be a subjective matter. The state should not
intervene too heavy handedly . The point of liberal theory is to keep the state's role
in the educational process very small.
oLiberal theory, starting from Locke and beyond Rawls has tended to be
suspicious from publicly cultivating the virtues, saying that we live in a pluralistic
society where everyone deserves the right to develop how they see fit.
The main deficiencies
•The lack of any account of citizenship. And
•A lack of the account of the human good
Critics of liberal politics theory have turned to Aristotle to remedy
•Aristotle can explain why political life is not a chore to be avoided.
And why political power is something that should not be alienated and
handed over to our government. Therefore, Aristotle has been recovered
as a theorist of citizenship. In light of his theories we can see all over
again that the development of civic prudence all have their role in
creating good lives for us all. That sort of Aristotelian conception has
reawakened the drive to motivate us to develop our deliberative virtues
and enter the public sphere.
Aristotle can't provide answers to specific questions, but his theory
has been invoked to explain why its important for citizens to live a good life
and take an active role in public.
•Hence, Aristotle is a theory used to address the liberal belief that human goodness
should be left in the private sphere or that we don't know if its an objective and
subjective matter and should be left to individual
oAristotelian theory leaves us a language that provides a basis for public
conversation about the human good. Aristotle provides a theory for the description
of human goodness. He provides a plausible and secular religious basis for
constructing a theory of the human good which can lay claim to objectivity
This is important for politics because it is about creating a good life for
Its possible therefore for a political community to come together to
decide on questions of human goodness.
•e.g. its system of education and which qualities we'd like to teach to
our young, discussing our dedication to citizenship
•Aristotle reminds us that as political gents we have the responsibility where to place
emphasis and education
•Aristotelian theory helps us emphasize the importance of civic deliberation and that
active deliberation can be effective
POL200Y1Y L5101 3
•Aristotle himself provides a model to analyze the goods of deliberation
•Questions: the American founders questioned the validity of majority participation.
The roman model. That’s why in the US there is a Senate and a President. Aristotelian
theory can raise a challenge to this conception if you can understand Aristotle as
putting forward as a democracy of distinction.
Aristotle's Ethics + Politics
•The origins of modern political theory originates in Hobbes and Locke. Hobbes,
centered much of his critical political theory on Aristotle. He had to undermine the
Aristotelian approach to ethics and politics in order to clear the playing field.
•Aristotelians seems to provide certain challenges which constitute the political life.
By contrast to the dominate theories of liberal theory where questions of the good life
are not included and private/public morality are kept separate.
oAristotle's ethic sand politics are meant to operate together. The aim of
science of politics if achieve the human good. This can only exist in the small
political community that educates it citizens and is self-sufficient. Hence, only in
the context of a well functioning Greek polis.
•Political science is the explicit science of the politics. Political science is the art/body
of knowledge whose goal is to help human beings live well. In order to achieve the,
the statesmen must possess knowledge about human beings and their highest
goods (the subject of Nico Ethics). The Nico ethics canvasses a variety of answers to
that question. He wants an answer that says if human beings have that good they will
have a life worth living. This good, for Aristotle , is called eudaimonia. This is not really
happiness, but human flourishing. He is looking for eudaimonia so that the human life
is worth choosing. He was searching for the a good that was worth having for its own
sake. His own answer is a certain kind of activity for the soul.
•It is the activity of the soul in accordance with excellence. What does this mean?
Aristotle foregrounds the excellence and the highest human activity with philosophical
work. Because, for Aristotle, this kind of life realizes most fully our highest natural
human capacity. Think about this in concrete terms. He wanted to separate humanity
in terms of its capacities from other animals. Theoretical intellect and moral virtue
(justice, courage, moderation) are important capacities. But a human being can only
realize these capacities are in the polis.
•In order to connect his ethics and politics, the legislator is best able to envision and
crate in practice conditions where the good life can be lived. A well lived polis.
Individuals must live in accordance with the excellences where they are capable. But
the city must educate them properly. THIS is the responsibility and duty of the city. A
human being cannot realize virtue if the city does not educate them .
•Hence for Aristotle, all adult citizens train themselves to legislate in order to achieve
the best. Political science must produce something good. He writes for the statesmen in
order to best produce a flourishing moral order in order to achieve virtue within the