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He decided on a balanced one based on the Greek principle that the extremes in life should be avoided in favor of the moderate middle. One should neither eat too much nor too little. One should neither exercise excessively nor spend most of the time sleeping. As in life, so with government, Aristotle believed. Aristotle concluded that mixing two extreme "wrong" constitutions, oligarchy and democracy, would result in a moderate "right" one.

In this case, two "wrongs" would make a "right. At Philadelphia some 2, years after Aristotle's time, a group of men were also searching for the best constitution. America was in many ways quite different from Aristotle's Greece. For one thing, the 13 American states were a lot bigger than Athens or any of the other ancient Greek city-states. Still, the framers at Philadelphia understood Aristotle's political ideas and passed them on to us in the document they created.

Among these ideas are the belief in the rule of law, moderation and a government that serves the common interest of all citizens. The world has changed a great deal since Aristotle's time. Are there still forms of government similar to the ones he described?

7. The Mixed Regime and the Rule of Law: Aristotle's Politics, I, III

What do each of the following quotations from Aristotle's Politics mean? The complete text of the U. Since you have nowhere else to go, you must choose one of these countries in which to live.

Which one would you pick? After discussing the choices above in small groups, meet as a class and vote on which country you prefer. Then discuss the following questions:. Barker, Ernest, ed. The Politics of Aristotle. Hornblower, Simon. The Greek World. Diversity Pipeline More.


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Aristotle: Politics

Forgot login? In Search of the Best Constitution He who commands that law should rule may thus be regarded as commanding God and reason alone should rule; he who commands that a man should rule adds the character of the beast. Instead, they set about creating a new system of government. Since the delegates to the Philadelphia convention represented so many different interests, this would prove no easy task.


  1. What the New Congress Can Learn From Aristotle.
  2. You are here.
  3. The Politics of the Middle Class: Aristotle and the American Founding.
  4. America, Aristotle, and the Politics of a Middle Class: A Review;
  5. The Physiological Bases of Cognitive and Behavioral Disorders.
  6. There were Northerners and Southerners. There were men from big states and small. Some came from rural farming areas while others represented cities where manufacturing or trade dominated. They had studied history and great political philosophers such as Locke and Montesquieu. Through that long, hot summer in Philadelphia, great ideas from the past would inspire the delegates in shaping the future of the United States.

    One of the political philosophers who influenced the framers was an ancient Greek, Aristotle.

    America, Aristotle, and the Politics of a Middle Class

    He lived, taught and wrote more than 2, years earlier. The writings of Aristotle helped guide the Philadelphia delegates in writing the new American Constitution. Student, Teacher, Scientist Born in B. At age 17, he entered the Academy at Athens, a noted Greek school headed at the time by the famous philosopher Plato. Here Aristotle studied mathematics, astronomy, medicine, biology, ethics and the law. He remained at the Academy, as Plato's best student, for 20 years.

    In B. A reader can usefully approach the essays as a series of attempts to suggest the continuing relevance of Aristotle's political thought. In what follows, I offer brief summaries of the individual essays, with even briefer comments of my own about the strengths or weaknesses of each. At the review's conclusion I comment on the volume as a whole. Fred D. Miller, Jr. Miller illustrates this claim with a brief discussion of statecraft in a libertarian minimal state. Central to his argument are two aspects of Aristotle's political theory. First is the necessity for the theorist to operate on multiple levels, which Miller labels 'ideal theory' identifying the best constitution possible under the most favorable conditions , 'second-best theory' identifying the best constitution possible for a particular political community , and 'ordinary political theory' considering how to reform an actual, existing constitution.

    Aristotle on Democracy and Government

    Second is the centrality of a ranked order of constitutional regimes within Aristotle's analysis, so that the fundamental questions of statecraft deal with the effects of various laws and policies on the underlying constitutional order. Combining these considerations, Miller suggests that the goal of applied Aristotelian statecraft is "approximation," the attempt to nudge one's own constitution in a more ideal direction as circumstances permit. This discussion of Aristotelian statecraft is an excellent, brief account of Aristotle's approach and would be helpful for students.

    Miller's attempt to demonstrate the usefulness of his approach by applying it to the minimal state seems to me less successful. His discussion hinges on the distinctions between ideal, second-best, and ordinary theory in adjusting libertarian ideals to actual circumstances. But since many theorists--John Rawls is a prominent example--adopt some such distinction between ideal and non-ideal theory, Miller's illustration here does not seem distinctively Aristotelian.

    Forms of Government

    More basic might be the question whether a principled commitment to the minimal state is sufficiently attentive to the cultural preconditions of regime preservation to be compatible with the constitutional focus of Aristotelian statecraft. Both Edward C. Talisse "Why Democrats Need the Virtues" argue that Aristotle provides a necessary complement or corrective to contemporary liberalism. Halper focuses on liberalism's neutrality among competing visions of the good. Liberalism permits citizens to pursue diverse substantive conceptions of the good life, provided these remain private pursuits, but it abstains from any commitment to a shared, public good.

    The result, Halper suggests, is to trivialize whatever goods private individuals pursue, which must not be regarded as sufficiently important to engage the community publically on their behalf. This is the "supreme irony of the liberal state: individuals are free to do nearly everything, but only because nothing that any of them could do is deemed really to matter" Yet, if Aristotle is correct that happiness is possible only in association with other persons, the refusal to recognize the existence of genuinely public goods must inevitably prove frustrating.

    Fortunately, there is an exit from this dilemma. The institutions of American liberal democracy resemble those of the Aristotelian polity, the best regime possible for most states. We could therefore, suggests Halper, pursue an Aristotelian form of liberalism, leaving our institutions relatively unchanged but recognizing a common good that we pursue together. As a candidate for such a good he recommends the realization of important human faculties that is an essential component of personal autonomy and that political activity makes possible.

    Halper's brief essay goes into little detail about what it would mean to understand the realization of human faculties as a substantive public good, and his conclusion remains vague about what actual consequences he expects should we choose "to think of ourselves differently" 42 , as he recommends. The concept of autonomy is central in much contemporary political theory, but it is also controversial, so Halper's line of argument requires further elaboration. Talisse focuses specifically on debates over deliberative democracy.

    He argues that both liberals and communitarians have become defenders of deliberative democracy, but in ways that replicate their own initial disagreements.

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    Liberals support deliberation but hedge it in with restrictions designed to ensure only liberal outcomes; communitarians support deliberation but assume unreasonably that it will reveal a previously existing moral consensus. Genuine deliberation, by contrast, must be truly open and will not necessarily result in consensus.

    Such deliberation requires that its participants possess certain "epistemic traits," or in Talisse's phrase, "deliberative virtues" These include various qualities such as an "open mind," the willingness "to change our opinions or preferences because others persuade us," and a "disposition to listen to others [and] treat them with respect" 51; Talisse is here quoting political theorist Iris Young. In this essay he remains content only to make the suggestion and does not attempt to develop it further.