Aristotle ([]-[])

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Transcript Aristotle ([]-[])

Aristotle (384-322 BCE):
First theorist of democracy
PHIL 2011
Semester I 2006-07
• Major political thinker;
• First theorist of democracy (Plato hated
• Biologist; used scientific method to analyze
political institutions;
• Database of 158 constitutions, all but one
lost: the Constitution of Athens
• Developed logic (the ‘organon’, or tool).
384 born in Stagira (in Macedonia)
Son of a court physician, Nicomachus;
367-347 studied in Plato’s Academy, Athens
347 Plato dies; Aristotle leaves Athens for Assos,
Mytilene and Macedonia;
In Asia Minor he studied marine organisms
described in his biological works
342 tutored the Macedonian prince, Alexander;
little discernible influence
335 returned to Athens;
Could not become an Athenian citizen b/c his
parents were not Athenian.
Map of Ancient Greece
Athens in Aristotle’s Day
• Greek city-state involved in commerce and trade, located
by the sea (very important for economics and politics);
Democracy; demos = people; cracy = rule, i.e. rule of the
Ancient democracy very different from modern;
No concepts of rights (i.e. no liberal democracy)
Citizens had duties and obligations to their city:
– ‘We do not say that man who is not interested in politics is a man
who minds his own business, we say that he has no business here
at all’ (Pericles, in Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War)
• Approx. 1/3 of population slaves, born of slaves or
captured in war;
• Foreigners (metics) and women could not become citizens.
School of Athens by Raphael
Relationship to Plato
Soul-Society Analogy
• soul: 3 pts: reason, spirit,
• Society: rulers, guardians,
• Method; determine the Form of
the Good;
Absolutist: the philosopher-king
should rule the city;
No democracy!.
Soul-Society Analogy
Soul: 2 pts: reason and appetite
Society: rulers and ruled (all
• Method: empirical: examine
phenomena & opinion
• Relativist: different regimes for
different cities
• Democracy not best, but best of
worst regimes.
• Greeks debated: what is good life, or what is
Man on the street’s answer: wealth, fame, beauty.
But what is man? What is his function (goal/telos),
I.e. what is natural for him?
Key premise: man has reason, and his telos (final
end) is to use that reason;
Happiness is an activity of the soul (the reasoning
part of our being) in accordance with virtue
(Nicomachean Ethics).
Even contemplation, the highest life for man, is an
activity (Pol. 7.3).
Aristotle’s Biology
• Biology informs Aristotle’s view of human
happiness, the good life and telos;
• Major idea: teleology (study of purpose); we
understand things by their purpose or end;
• Telos = goal or end; the end of an acorn is to
become an oak; that is natural for acorns.
• This can be done for man and society as well as
organisms, i.e. what is the final end of man?
Aristotle the biologist
• Major Works in Zoology:
– Parts of Animals
– History of Animals
– Movements of Animals
• Recall that Aristotle’s father was a
• Aristotle studied marine organisms and
other animals!
Aristotle’s Hierarchy of Beings
• 3 kinds of soul:
– Vegetative: plants
– Sensitive: animals
– Rational: man
These ideas still used in the 17th century by Descartes.
What is unique to man is reasoning ability and his highest
good/goal/telos is to exercise that ability.
Plants and animals have different goals than man because
they have different natures/souls.
• Everything has a virtue
• Virtue means acting well, in accordance
with one’s nature;
• Slaves, plants, animals, humans all have
virtues, just as they have goods;
• Man’s particular virtue to act from reason,
and unless he is a philosopher, to act for his
Aristotle’s Political Thought
Father of political science: his Lyceum, a rival to Plato’s
Academy, launched first scientific study of politics;
Political science is the master science as it directs all the
others, e.g. music, mathematics and gymnastic;
Database: constitutions of 158 Greek cities (all lost) except
• Constitution of Athens: political history and description of
contemporary constitution;
• Aristotle classifies regimes according to which interests are
dominant (the rich, the poor, the middle class);
• Analyzes diseases of political regimes, by looking at parts
of regimes and their variations, by analogy to biology
Major Political Ideas of Aristotle
Philosophical inquiry should examine the Good, the highest
life for man
• What is the telos or purpose of man? He “is by nature a
political animal.”
• The Polis (city-state) provides the highest life for man, by
enabling him to fulfill his purpose.
• Another end for man is the life of contemplation (i.e.
philosophy) because man is the reasoning animal;
• Philosophy is a kind of activity, and hence not passive.
Major Political Ideas, cont.
• The best regime promotes the good of all, not just
of one class, group or section of the population.
A city is not a mere alliance for defense or a
trading association; it has a higher purpose or end;
Hierarchy is natural (Pol., Bk I).
Plato’s advocacy of communism is misguided
(Pol., Bk II); private property is best, but not too
much, and not from trade (agricultural economy is
Limits on property, population and economic
activity are desirable.
Aristotle’s Ideal City
• Describes the necessary natural resources, planning,
economic and religious activities, community life;
Stipulates right conditions for marriage and procreation;
Separates economic from political activity;
Analyzes the purpose of the state, does not simply take it
as a given;
Stipulates that education is for good of city so it should be
a common (not private) endeavour;
Stipulates the best kind of music for citizens to hear.
• .
Important Quotes
• “…man is by nature a political animal”
(emph. added; Pol. I.2)
• “He who would inquire into the essence and
attributes of various kinds of government
must first of all determine what a state is”
(Pol. III.1).
• “…the identity of a city is not constituted
by its walls” (Pol. III.3).