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Political Science
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Ryan Balot

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POL200Y1Y L5101 1
R. Balot
L11: Politics II
June 16, 2009
6:07 PM
Today's Lecture
Finishing Aristotle on Slavery
Ancient + Modern Politics
Constitution + Polis
Criticizing Constitutions (Regimes)
Classifying Constitutions (Regimes)
Several Puzzles
Justice in Political Life
Finishing Aristotle on Slavery
Four observations
1.Engaging with the argument of Aristotle on slavery
oIt might be like trying to prove to a racist that some underprivileged groups
have a right to vote
2.Like modern racist ideology, Aristotle's theory - to the extent that it is designed to
support natural slavery - is based on bad science, prejudice, and faulty deductions
oHe does realize some of his shortcomings
3.Aristotle may have influenced his student, Alexander the Great
oAlexander used Macedonians and Greeks to govern the cities he conquered in
oHe placed the indigenous people in the underprivileged class
oAristotle urged Alexander to be a master towards the barbarians
Though this is speculative, it does make historical sense. Aristotle
may have even alluded to Alexander when he discussed absolute kingship
4.Aristotle's own best polis relies on its food production and other materials on an
underclass of serfs not part of the citizen body
oHis theory therefore is integral to his account of the best polis
oThis is a real problem
oSlavery is therefore inextricably linked to his account of the polis
Question: the Reliability of Aristotle's accounts
We're not sure about the reliability, Aristotle's works are in
quite poor condition. Nicomachean ethics was clearly written before the
politics. Did Aristotle's views evolve as he wrote?
Possibly. Some of the things he writes in the Nico ethics
contrasts what he says in the Politics
Can we form a coherent doctrine/account of Aristotle?

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POL200Y1Y L5101 2
R. Balot
This isn't really a sign of evolution in his thinking. We see
contradictory things in his other works (such as the account of
emotions in Rhetoric vs. Nico ethics)
The reason for this is that Aristotle was very careful
about the genre he wrote and would modify his works?
Now we transfer from Book I to the III and IV
oNow we deal with the institutional and legal focus of the polis
But our understanding of these concepts must be informed by
Aristotle's emphasis on the character of his citizens and the telos of the polis
Ancient + Modern Politics
Two key distinctions between ancient greek and modern politics
Modern politics
oA set of institutions/buildings/individuals that are separate from us
oThe citizens themselves were the governing body. They sat in open air
assemblies and deliberated issues. They even spoke of religious festivals. There
are NO separation of church and state. The routine exercise of political power
made citizenship a governing concept of Greece
Modern politics tend to value individual liberties. We value the state so as to protect
us individuals from pursuing diverse conceptions of the good life
Ancient Greeks believed the community to be much tighter. They tried to promote
particular beliefs of what the good life consisted in. small scale communities promoted
the belief that leading the good life would entail political participation. Aristotle has
the most respect (say in contrast to Plato) of diversity. His conception of diversity
however is very limited compared to ours. He recognized the diversity of age groups or
wealth, but not gender, gender orientation, religious, ethnicity etc. So he is a theorist of
diversity but he didnt value the same diversity we expect from our governments.
Therefore, like other Greeks generally, Aristotle believed that the city should promote
political participation and it should promote certain conceptions of the good. By
contrast, moderns believe that the state should protect our right to pursue our own
Aristotle investigates citizenship because as he says in [3.1] "the city is a certain
number of citizens"

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POL200Y1Y L5101 3
R. Balot
Citizenship for him is the defining political relationship for the city and the citizen
consists of the relationships made with this city
He offers a developmental account of citizenships and human beings in Book I. but
his most important feature of the polis is human relationships. He is therefore fleshing
out a common Greek belief that a city is the group of citizens within it.
oe.g. in book 7 of Thucydides, Nicias mentions the men being the city
Aristotle's method for citizenship
oThe data method
He gathers many types of citizenship and then scrutinizes them
e.g. he scrutinizes the belief that citizenship is dependent on
geographical location or the ability to be sued early in Book 3
Neither of these hold water
oAristotle is looking for the full exemplary paradigmatic type of citizenship
where people come together as a community in the polis for the sake of living
It cannot be a casual relationship. For Aristotle, it must be a sort of
But why does citizenship matter so much?!
oWhy should we simply want the state to not interfere (as modern people
wish). But he repudiates this belief. Citizenship is an important element of
leading a good human life. Political engagement is the arena where the moral
virtues/practical reasoning is best expressed. It is where the citizen takes part in
his distinctive development of human capacities. Humans associate politically in
order to lead the good life and to realize their highest human capacities.
Hence his conception:
oCriteria for citizenship: share in the administration of justice, hold political
offices (where he can deliberate with others about the common good)
Offices include everything from formal magistrates (being a council
member) to even participating in the assembly.
oCitizenship means rendering justice in the law courts (jury duty?)
participating in the deliberations of the public assembly (what the life of the
community should be)
His understanding seems to correspond closely with the democratic experience of
citizenship. But there are many different types of constitutions! Some may assign
deliberative/judicial powers only for a limited term.
oIn any of these particular regimes, a citizen is someone entitled to take part
in deliberative/judicial functions. His definition is true of citizenship in general.
He speaks of citizenship at a very abstract level. He speaks not of citizenship in
the best regime. Generically speaking, his definition will hold for all types of
Moreover, he even grants that some regimes give these functions to the wrong
oWhat matters is that you deliberate in public with your citizens and that you
are entitled to render justice in the courts.
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