According to Aristotle, the “democratic” freedom treasured by the exponents of ancient Greek democracy has two marks, one personal and one political: (i) to live as one wishes and (ii) to rule and be ruled in turn. Though Aristotle is a critic of such freedom, it has been claimed that he has no notion of his own to set against it. This chapter counters this claim by showing the development within Aristotle’s Politics of a conception of “aristocratic” freedom that is richer than the democratic. By this aristocratic conception a person is free to the extent that he is able to live a life of politics and philosophy, and a polis is free to the extent that its institutions promote such a life for each and every citizen by removing the impediments to its realization such as unfavorable political institutions, lack of moral and intellectual education, and insufficient material resources.
Neera K. Badhwar and Russell E. Jones
On Aristotle’s account of philia in the Nicomachean Ethics, friends who love each other because of their virtue rather than their incidental properties are most fully friends, because they love each other for who they really are. Alongside his picture of ideal virtue, Aristotle offers a realistic account on which people can develop virtue to varying extents and in different domains. His character friends are good but imperfect people who love each other for the specific way virtue takes shape in their lives, share interests and delight in each other’s company, bring out the best in each other, and pursue each other’s good for the other’s own sake. If one brackets his faulty conception of female nature, his account of moral development allows a character friendship of equals between husbands and wives, even in societies where women’s opportunities are severely limited.
Is there something like an Aristotelian political thought or philosophy? Apparently so: we have a special treatise by Aristotle that takes as its object the consideration of the city (polis)—its components, its functioning, and, most of all, the different possible forms of constitution it may have. This treatise was probably given its title, Politics, by Aristotle himself, whose political philosophy, if any, is based upon an analysis, objective as well as prescriptive, of the political reality of his day. According to Plato, at least in the Republic, there is no real political science, because there is only one science, which he calls “dialectic”, which encompasses everything. This article explores the position of politics in Aristotle's thought, the relationship between politics and theory, the family and the city, the politics of slavery, citizens and constitutions, and political science and realpolitik.
This essay offers an overview of the fortune of Aristotle’s philosophy in antiquity. It argues that the reception of Aristotle can be divided into a Hellenistic and a post-Hellenistic period. It also argues that the post-Hellenistic period, which begins in the first century BC, is characterized by a critical engagement with the text of Aristotle’s writings. This engagement took different forms, including that of the philosophical commentary. And yet even after the so-called return to Aristotle, certain aspects of his philosophy (most notably, his biology) remained at the margins of the philosophical tradition. For a full appreciation of these aspects, we have to go beyond antiquity.