2 Aristotles Essay Ethics Major Series Thinker

1. Preliminaries

In the West, virtue ethics’ founding fathers are Plato and Aristotle, and in the East it can be traced back to Mencius and Confucius. It persisted as the dominant approach in Western moral philosophy until at least the Enlightenment, suffered a momentary eclipse during the nineteenth century, but re-emerged in Anglo-American philosophy in the late 1950s. It was heralded by Anscombe’s famous article “Modern Moral Philosophy” (Anscombe 1958) which crystallized an increasing dissatisfaction with the forms of deontology and utilitarianism then prevailing. Neither of them, at that time, paid attention to a number of topics that had always figured in the virtue ethics tradition—virtues and vices, motives and moral character, moral education, moral wisdom or discernment, friendship and family relationships, a deep concept of happiness, the role of the emotions in our moral life and the fundamentally important questions of what sorts of persons we should be and how we should live.

Its re-emergence had an invigorating effect on the other two approaches, many of whose proponents then began to address these topics in the terms of their favoured theory. (One consequence of this has been that it is now necessary to distinguish “virtue ethics” (the third approach) from “virtue theory”, a term which includes accounts of virtue within the other approaches.) Interest in Kant’s virtue theory has redirected philosophers’ attention to Kant’s long neglected Doctrine of Virtue, and utilitarians have developed consequentialist virtue theories (Driver 2001; Hurka 2001). It has also generated virtue ethical readings of philosophers other than Plato and Aristotle, such as Martineau, Hume and Nietzsche, and thereby different forms of virtue ethics have developed (Slote 2001; Swanton 2003, 2011a).

Although modern virtue ethics does not have to take a “neo-Aristotelian” or eudaimonist form (see section 2), almost any modern version still shows that its roots are in ancient Greek philosophy by the employment of three concepts derived from it. These are arête (excellence or virtue), phronesis (practical or moral wisdom) and eudaimonia (usually translated as happiness or flourishing). (See Annas 2011 for a short, clear, and authoritative account of all three.) We discuss the first two in the remainder of this section. Eudaimonia is discussed in connection with eudaimonist versions of virtue ethics in the next.

1.1 Virtue

A virtue is an excellent trait of character. It is a disposition, well entrenched in its possessor—something that, as we say, goes all the way down, unlike a habit such as being a tea-drinker—to notice, expect, value, feel, desire, choose, act, and react in certain characteristic ways. To possess a virtue is to be a certain sort of person with a certain complex mindset. A significant aspect of this mindset is the wholehearted acceptance of a distinctive range of considerations as reasons for action. An honest person cannot be identified simply as one who, for example, practices honest dealing and does not cheat. If such actions are done merely because the agent thinks that honesty is the best policy, or because they fear being caught out, rather than through recognising “To do otherwise would be dishonest” as the relevant reason, they are not the actions of an honest person. An honest person cannot be identified simply as one who, for example, tells the truth because it is the truth, for one can have the virtue of honesty without being tactless or indiscreet. The honest person recognises “That would be a lie” as a strong (though perhaps not overriding) reason for not making certain statements in certain circumstances, and gives due, but not overriding, weight to “That would be the truth” as a reason for making them.

An honest person’s reasons and choices with respect to honest and dishonest actions reflect her views about honesty, truth, and deception—but of course such views manifest themselves with respect to other actions, and to emotional reactions as well. Valuing honesty as she does, she chooses, where possible to work with honest people, to have honest friends, to bring up her children to be honest. She disapproves of, dislikes, deplores dishonesty, is not amused by certain tales of chicanery, despises or pities those who succeed through deception rather than thinking they have been clever, is unsurprised, or pleased (as appropriate) when honesty triumphs, is shocked or distressed when those near and dear to her do what is dishonest and so on. Given that a virtue is such a multi-track disposition, it would obviously be reckless to attribute one to an agent on the basis of a single observed action or even a series of similar actions, especially if you don’t know the agent’s reasons for doing as she did (Sreenivasan 2002).

Possessing a virtue is a matter of degree. To possess such a disposition fully is to possess full or perfect virtue, which is rare, and there are a number of ways of falling short of this ideal (Athanassoulis 2000). Most people who can truly be described as fairly virtuous, and certainly markedly better than those who can truly be described as dishonest, self-centred and greedy, still have their blind spots—little areas where they do not act for the reasons one would expect. So someone honest or kind in most situations, and notably so in demanding ones, may nevertheless be trivially tainted by snobbery, inclined to be disingenuous about their forebears and less than kind to strangers with the wrong accent.

Further, it is not easy to get one’s emotions in harmony with one’s rational recognition of certain reasons for action. I may be honest enough to recognise that I must own up to a mistake because it would be dishonest not to do so without my acceptance being so wholehearted that I can own up easily, with no inner conflict. Following (and adapting) Aristotle, virtue ethicists draw a distinction between full or perfect virtue and “continence”, or strength of will. The fully virtuous do what they should without a struggle against contrary desires; the continent have to control a desire or temptation to do otherwise.

Describing the continent as “falling short” of perfect virtue appears to go against the intuition that there is something particularly admirable about people who manage to act well when it is especially hard for them to do so, but the plausibility of this depends on exactly what “makes it hard” (Foot 1978: 11–14). If it is the circumstances in which the agent acts—say that she is very poor when she sees someone drop a full purse or that she is in deep grief when someone visits seeking help—then indeed it is particularly admirable of her to restore the purse or give the help when it is hard for her to do so. But if what makes it hard is an imperfection in her character—the temptation to keep what is not hers, or a callous indifference to the suffering of others—then it is not.

1.2 Practical Wisdom

Another way in which one can easily fall short of full virtue is through lacking phronesis—moral or practical wisdom.

The concept of a virtue is the concept of something that makes its possessor good: a virtuous person is a morally good, excellent or admirable person who acts and feels as she should. These are commonly accepted truisms. But it is equally common, in relation to particular (putative) examples of virtues to give these truisms up. We may say of someone that he is generous or honest “to a fault”. It is commonly asserted that someone’s compassion might lead them to act wrongly, to tell a lie they should not have told, for example, in their desire to prevent someone else’s hurt feelings. It is also said that courage, in a desperado, enables him to do far more wicked things than he would have been able to do if he were timid. So it would appear that generosity, honesty, compassion and courage despite being virtues, are sometimes faults. Someone who is generous, honest, compassionate, and courageous might not be a morally good person—or, if it is still held to be a truism that they are, then morally good people may be led by what makes them morally good to act wrongly! How have we arrived at such an odd conclusion?

The answer lies in too ready an acceptance of ordinary usage, which permits a fairly wide-ranging application of many of the virtue terms, combined, perhaps, with a modern readiness to suppose that the virtuous agent is motivated by emotion or inclination, not by rational choice. If one thinks of generosity or honesty as the disposition to be moved to action by generous or honest impulses such as the desire to give or to speak the truth, if one thinks of compassion as the disposition to be moved by the sufferings of others and to act on that emotion, if one thinks of courage as mere fearlessness or the willingness to face danger, then it will indeed seem obvious that these are all dispositions that can lead to their possessor’s acting wrongly. But it is also obvious, as soon as it is stated, that these are dispositions that can be possessed by children, and although children thus endowed (bar the “courageous” disposition) would undoubtedly be very nice children, we would not say that they were morally virtuous or admirable people. The ordinary usage, or the reliance on motivation by inclination, gives us what Aristotle calls “natural virtue”—a proto version of full virtue awaiting perfection by phronesis or practical wisdom.

Aristotle makes a number of specific remarks about phronesis that are the subject of much scholarly debate, but the (related) modern concept is best understood by thinking of what the virtuous morally mature adult has that nice children, including nice adolescents, lack. Both the virtuous adult and the nice child have good intentions, but the child is much more prone to mess things up because he is ignorant of what he needs to know in order to do what he intends. A virtuous adult is not, of course, infallible and may also, on occasion, fail to do what she intended to do through lack of knowledge, but only on those occasions on which the lack of knowledge is not culpable. So, for example, children and adolescents often harm those they intend to benefit either because they do not know how to set about securing the benefit or because their understanding of what is beneficial and harmful is limited and often mistaken. Such ignorance in small children is rarely, if ever culpable. Adults, on the other hand, are culpable if they mess things up by being thoughtless, insensitive, reckless, impulsive, shortsighted, and by assuming that what suits them will suit everyone instead of taking a more objective viewpoint. They are also culpable if their understanding of what is beneficial and harmful is mistaken. It is part of practical wisdom to know how to secure real benefits effectively; those who have practical wisdom will not make the mistake of concealing the hurtful truth from the person who really needs to know it in the belief that they are benefiting him.

Quite generally, given that good intentions are intentions to act well or “do the right thing”, we may say that practical wisdom is the knowledge or understanding that enables its possessor, unlike the nice adolescents, to do just that, in any given situation. The detailed specification of what is involved in such knowledge or understanding has not yet appeared in the literature, but some aspects of it are becoming well known. Even many deontologists now stress the point that their action-guiding rules cannot, reliably, be applied without practical wisdom, because correct application requires situational appreciation—the capacity to recognise, in any particular situation, those features of it that are morally salient. This brings out two aspects of practical wisdom.

One is that it characteristically comes only with experience of life. Amongst the morally relevant features of a situation may be the likely consequences, for the people involved, of a certain action, and this is something that adolescents are notoriously clueless about precisely because they are inexperienced. It is part of practical wisdom to be wise about human beings and human life. (It should go without saying that the virtuous are mindful of the consequences of possible actions. How could they fail to be reckless, thoughtless and short-sighted if they were not?)

The second is the practically wise agent’s capacity to recognise some features of a situation as more important than others, or indeed, in that situation, as the only relevant ones. The wise do not see things in the same way as the nice adolescents who, with their under-developed virtues, still tend to see the personally disadvantageous nature of a certain action as competing in importance with its honesty or benevolence or justice.

These aspects coalesce in the description of the practically wise as those who understand what is truly worthwhile, truly important, and thereby truly advantageous in life, who know, in short, how to live well.

2. Forms of Virtue Ethics

While all forms of virtue ethics agree that virtue is central and practical wisdom required, they differ in how they combine these and other concepts to illuminate what we should do in particular contexts and how we should live our lives as a whole. In what follows we sketch four distinct forms taken by contemporary virtue ethics, namely, a) eudaimonist virtue ethics, b) agent-based and exemplarist virtue ethics, c) target-centered virtue ethics, and d) Platonistic virtue ethics.

2.1 Eudaimonist Virtue Ethics

The distinctive feature of eudaimonist versions of virtue ethics is that they define virtues in terms of their relationship to eudaimonia. A virtue is a trait that contributes to or is a constituent of eudaimonia and we ought to develop virtues, the eudaimonist claims, precisely because they contribute to eudaimonia.

The concept of eudaimonia, a key term in ancient Greek moral philosophy, is standardly translated as “happiness” or “flourishing” and occasionally as “well-being.” Each translation has its disadvantages. The trouble with “flourishing” is that animals and even plants can flourish but eudaimonia is possible only for rational beings. The trouble with “happiness” is that in ordinary conversation it connotes something subjectively determined. It is for me, not for you, to pronounce on whether I am happy. If I think I am happy then I am—it is not something I can be wrong about (barring advanced cases of self-deception). Contrast my being healthy or flourishing. Here we have no difficulty in recognizing that I might think I was healthy, either physically or psychologically, or think that I was flourishing but be wrong. In this respect, “flourishing” is a better translation than “happiness”. It is all too easy to be mistaken about whether one’s life is eudaimon (the adjective from eudaimonia) not simply because it is easy to deceive oneself, but because it is easy to have a mistaken conception of eudaimonia, or of what it is to live well as a human being, believing it to consist largely in physical pleasure or luxury for example.

Eudaimonia is, avowedly, a moralized or value-laden concept of happiness, something like “true” or “real” happiness or “the sort of happiness worth seeking or having.” It is thereby the sort of concept about which there can be substantial disagreement between people with different views about human life that cannot be resolved by appeal to some external standard on which, despite their different views, the parties to the disagreement concur (Hursthouse 1999: 188–189).

Most versions of virtue ethics agree that living a life in accordance with virtue is necessary for eudaimonia. This supreme good is not conceived of as an independently defined state (made up of, say, a list of non-moral goods that does not include virtuous activity) which exercise of the virtues might be thought to promote. It is, within virtue ethics, already conceived of as something of which virtuous activity is at least partially constitutive (Kraut 1989). Thereby virtue ethicists claim that a human life devoted to physical pleasure or the acquisition of wealth is not eudaimon, but a wasted life.

But although all standard versions of virtue ethics insist on that conceptual link between virtue and eudaimonia, further links are matters of dispute and generate different versions. For Aristotle, virtue is necessary but not sufficient—what is also needed are external goods which are a matter of luck. For Plato and the Stoics, virtue is both necessary and sufficient for eudaimonia (Annas 1993).

According to eudaimonist virtue ethics, the good life is the eudaimon life, and the virtues are what enable a human being to be eudaimon because the virtues just are those character traits that benefit their possessor in that way, barring bad luck. So there is a link between eudaimonia and what confers virtue status on a character trait. (For a discussion of the differences between eudaimonists see Baril 2014. For recent defenses of eudaimonism see Annas 2011; LeBar 2013b; Badhwar 2014; and Bloomfield 2014.)

2.2 Agent-Based and Exemplarist Virtue Ethics

Rather than deriving the normativity of virtue from the value of eudaimonia, agent-based virtue ethicists argue that other forms of normativity—including the value of eudaimonia—are traced back to and ultimately explained in terms of the motivational and dispositional qualities of agents.

It is unclear how many other forms of normatively must be explained in terms of the qualities of agents in order for a theory to count as agent-based. The two best-known agent-based theorists, Michael Slote and Linda Zagzebski, trace a wide range of normative qualities back to the qualities of agents. For example, Slote defines rightness and wrongness in terms of agents’ motivations: “[A]gent-based virtue ethics … understands rightness in terms of good motivations and wrongness in terms of the having of bad (or insufficiently good) motives” (2001: 14). Similarly, he explains the goodness of an action, the value of eudaimonia, the justice of a law or social institution, and the normativity of practical rationality in terms of the motivational and dispositional qualities of agents (2001: 99–100, 154, 2000). Zagzebski likewise defines right and wrong actions by reference to the emotions, motives, and dispositions of virtuous and vicious agents. For example, “A wrong act = an act that the phronimos characteristically would not do, and he would feel guilty if he did = an act such that it is not the case that he might do it = an act that expresses a vice = an act that is against a requirement of virtue (the virtuous self)” (Zagzebski 2004: 160). Her definitions of duties, good and bad ends, and good and bad states of affairs are similarly grounded in the motivational and dispositional states of exemplary agents (1998, 2004, 2010).

However, there could also be less ambitious agent-based approaches to virtue ethics (see Slote 1997). At the very least, an agent-based approach must be committed to explaining what one should do by reference to the motivational and dispositional states of agents. But this is not yet a sufficient condition for counting as an agent-based approach, since the same condition will be met by every virtue ethical account. For a theory to count as an agent-based form of virtue ethics it must also be the case that the normative properties of motivations and dispositions cannot be explained in terms of the normative properties of something else (such as eudaimonia or states of affairs) which is taken to be more fundamental.

Beyond this basic commitment, there is room for agent-based theories to be developed in a number of different directions. The most important distinguishing factor has to do with how motivations and dispositions are taken to matter for the purposes of explaining other normative qualities. For Slote what matters are this particular agent’s actual motives and dispositions. The goodness of action A, for example, is derived from the agent’s motives when she performs A. If those motives are good then the action is good, if not then not. On Zagzebski’s account, by contrast, a good or bad, right or wrong action is defined not by this agent’s actual motives but rather by whether this is the sort of action a virtuously motivated agent would perform (Zagzebski 2004: 160). Appeal to the virtuous agent’s hypothetical motives and dispositions enables Zagzebski to distinguish between performing the right action and doing so for the right reasons (a distinction that, as Brady (2004) observes, Slote has trouble drawing).

Another point on which agent-based forms of virtue ethics might differ concerns how one identifies virtuous motivations and dispositions. According to Zagzebski’s exemplarist account, “We do not have criteria for goodness in advance of identifying the exemplars of goodness” (Zagzebski 2004: 41). As we observe the people around us, we find ourselves wanting to be like some of them (in at least some respects) and not wanting to be like others. The former provide us with positive exemplars and the latter with negative ones. Our understanding of better and worse motivations and virtuous and vicious dispositions is grounded in these primitive responses to exemplars (2004: 53). This is not to say that every time we act we stop and ask ourselves what one of our exemplars would do in this situations. Our moral concepts become more refined over time as we encounter a wider variety of exemplars and begin to draw systematic connections between them, noting what they have in common, how they differ, and which of these commonalities and differences matter, morally speaking. Recognizable motivational profiles emerge and come to be labeled as virtues or vices, and these, in turn, shape our understanding of the obligations we have and the ends we should pursue. However, even though the systematising of moral thought can travel a long way from our starting point, according to the exemplarist it never reaches a stage where reference to exemplars is replaced by the recognition of something more fundamental. At the end of the day, according to the exemplarist, our moral system still rests on our basic propensity to take a liking (or disliking) to exemplars. Nevertheless, one could be an agent-based theorist without advancing the exemplarist’s account of the origins or reference conditions for judgments of good and bad, virtuous and vicious.

2.3 Target-Centered Virtue Ethics

The touchstone for eudaimonist virtue ethicists is a flourishing human life. For agent-based virtue ethicists it is an exemplary agent’s motivations. The target-centered view developed by Christine Swanton (2003), by contrast, begins with our existing conceptions of the virtues. We already have a passable idea of which traits are virtues and what they involve. Of course, this untutored understanding can be clarified and improved, and it is one of the tasks of the virtue ethicist to help us do precisely that. But rather than stripping things back to something as basic as the motivations we want to imitate or building it up to something as elaborate as an entire flourishing life, the target-centered view begins where most ethics students find themselves, namely, with the idea that generosity, courage, self-discipline, compassion, and the like get a tick of approval. It then examines what these traits involve.

A complete account of virtue will map out 1) its field, 2) its mode of responsiveness, 3) its basis of moral acknowledgment, and 4) its target. Different virtues are concerned with different fields. Courage, for example, is concerned with what might harm us, whereas generosity is concerned with the sharing of time, talent, and property. The basis of acknowledgment of a virtue is the feature within the virtue’s field to which it responds. To continue with our previous examples, generosity is attentive to the benefits that others might enjoy through one’s agency, and courage responds to threats to value, status, or the bonds that exist between oneself and particular others, and the fear such threats might generate. A virtue’s mode has to do with how it responds to the bases of acknowledgment within its field. Generosity promotes a good, namely, another’s benefit, whereas courage defends a value, bond, or status. Finally, a virtue’s target is that at which it is aimed. Courage aims to control fear and handle danger, while generosity aims to share time, talents, or possessions with others in ways that benefit them.

A virtue, on a target-centered account, “is a disposition to respond to, or acknowledge, items within its field or fields in an excellent or good enough way” (Swanton 2003: 19). A virtuous act is an act that hits the target of a virtue, which is to say that it succeeds in responding to items in its field in the specified way (233). Providing a target-centered definition of a right action requires us to move beyond the analysis of a single virtue and the actions that follow from it. This is because a single action context may involve a number of different, overlapping fields. Determination might lead me to persist in trying to complete a difficult task even if doing so requires a singleness of purpose. But love for my family might make a different use of my time and attention. In order to define right action a target-centered view must explain how we handle different virtues’ conflicting claims on our resources. There are at least three different ways to address this challenge. A perfectionist target-centered account would stipulate, “An act is right if and only if it is overall virtuous, and that entails that it is the, or a, best action possible in the circumstances” (239–240). A more permissive target-centered account would not identify ‘right’ with ‘best’, but would allow an action to count as right provided “it is good enough even if not the (or a) best action” (240). A minimalist target-centered account would not even require an action to be good in order to be right. On such a view, “An act is right if and only if it is not overall vicious” (240). (For further discussion of target-centered virtue ethics see Van Zyl 2014; and Smith 2016).

2.4 Platonistic Virtue Ethics

The fourth form a virtue ethic might adopt takes its inspiration from Plato. The Socrates of Plato’s dialogues devotes a great deal of time to asking his fellow Athenians to explain the nature of virtues like justice, courage, piety, and wisdom. So it is clear that Plato counts as a virtue theorist. But it is a matter of some debate whether he should be read as a virtue ethicist (White 2015). What is not open to debate is whether Plato has had an important influence on the contemporary revival of interest in virtue ethics. A number of those who have contributed to the revival have done so as Plato scholars (e.g., Prior 1991; Kamtekar 1998; Annas 1999; and Reshotko 2006). However, often they have ended up championing a eudaimonist version of virtue ethics (see Prior 2001 and Annas 2011), rather than a version that would warrant a separate classification. Nevertheless, there are two variants that call for distinct treatment.

Timothy Chappell takes the defining feature of Platonistic virtue ethics to be that “Good agency in the truest and fullest sense presupposes the contemplation of the Form of the Good” (2014). Chappell follows Iris Murdoch in arguing that “In the moral life the enemy is the fat relentless ego” (Murdoch 1971: 51). Constantly attending to our needs, our desires, our passions, and our thoughts skews our perspective on what the world is actually like and blinds us to the goods around us. Contemplating the goodness of something we encounter—which is to say, carefully attending to it “for its own sake, in order to understand it” (Chappell 2014: 300)—breaks this natural tendency by drawing our attention away from ourselves. Contemplating such goodness with regularity makes room for new habits of thought that focus more readily and more honestly on things other than the self. It alters the quality of our consciousness. And “anything which alters consciousness in the direction of unselfishness, objectivity, and realism is to be connected with virtue” (Murdoch 1971: 82). The virtues get defined, then, in terms of qualities that help one “pierce the veil of selfish consciousness and join the world as it really is” (91). And good agency is defined by the possession and exercise of such virtues. Within Chappell’s and Murdoch’s framework, then, not all normative properties get defined in terms of virtue. Goodness, in particular, is not so defined. But the kind of goodness which is possible for creatures like us is defined by virtue, and any answer to the question of what one should do or how one should live will appeal to the virtues.

Another Platonistic variant of virtue ethics is exemplified by Robert Merrihew Adams. Unlike Murdoch and Chappell, his starting point is not a set of claims about our consciousness of goodness. Rather, he begins with an account of the metaphysics of goodness. Like Murdoch and others influenced by Platonism, Adams’s account of goodness is built around a conception of a supremely perfect good. And like Augustine, Adams takes that perfect good to be God. God is both the exemplification and the source of all goodness. Other things are good, he suggests, to the extent that they resemble God (Adams 1999).

The resemblance requirement identifies a necessary condition for being good, but it does not yet give us a sufficient condition. This is because there are ways in which finite creatures might resemble God that would not be suitable to the type of creature they are. For example, if God were all-knowing, then the belief, “I am all-knowing,” would be a suitable belief for God to have. In God, such a belief—because true—would be part of God’s perfection. However, as neither you nor I are all-knowing, the belief, “I am all-knowing,” in one of us would not be good. To rule out such cases we need to introduce another factor. That factor is the fitting response to goodness, which Adams suggests is love. Adams uses love to weed out problematic resemblances: “being excellent in the way that a finite thing can be consists in resembling God in a way that could serve God as a reason for loving the thing” (Adams 1999: 36).

Virtues come into the account as one of the ways in which some things (namely, persons) could resemble God. “[M]ost of the excellences that are most important to us, and of whose value we are most confident, are excellences of persons or of qualities or actions or works or lives or stories of persons” (1999: 42). This is one of the reasons Adams offers for conceiving of the ideal of perfection as a personal God, rather than an impersonal form of the Good. Many of the excellences of persons of which we are most confident are virtues such as love, wisdom, justice, patience, and generosity. And within many theistic traditions, including Adams’s own Christian tradition, such virtues are commonly attributed to divine agents.

A Platonistic account like the one Adams puts forward in Finite and Infinite Goods clearly does not derive all other normative properties from the virtues (for a discussion of the relationship between this view and the one he puts forward in A Theory of Virtue (2006) see Pettigrove 2014). Goodness provides the normative foundation. Virtues are not built on that foundation; rather, as one of the varieties of goodness of whose value we are most confident, virtues form part of the foundation. Obligations, by contrast, come into the account at a different level. Moral obligations, Adams argues, are determined by the expectations and demands that “arise in a relationship or system of relationships that is good or valuable” (1999: 244). Other things being equal, the more virtuous the parties to the relationship, the more binding the obligation. Thus, within Adams’s account, the good (which includes virtue) is prior to the right. However, once good relationships have given rise to obligations, those obligations take on a life of their own. Their bindingness is not traced directly to considerations of goodness. Rather, they are determined by the expectations of the parties and the demands of the relationship.

3. Objections to virtue ethics

A number of objections have been raised against virtue ethics, some of which bear more directly on one form of virtue ethics than on others. In this section we consider eight objections, namely, the a) application, b) adequacy, c) relativism, d) conflict, e) self-effacement, f) justification, g) egoism, and h) situationist problems.

a) In the early days of virtue ethics’ revival, the approach was associated with an “anti-codifiability” thesis about ethics, directed against the prevailing pretensions of normative theory. At the time, utilitarians and deontologists commonly (though not universally) held that the task of ethical theory was to come up with a code consisting of universal rules or principles (possibly only one, as in the case of act-utilitarianism) which would have two significant features: i) the rule(s) would amount to a decision procedure for determining what the right action was in any particular case; ii) the rule(s) would be stated in such terms that any non-virtuous person could understand and apply it (them) correctly.

Virtue ethicists maintained, contrary to these two claims, that it was quite unrealistic to imagine that there could be such a code (see, in particular, McDowell 1979). The results of attempts to produce and employ such a code, in the heady days of the 1960s and 1970s, when medical and then bioethics boomed and bloomed, tended to support the virtue ethicists’ claim. More and more utilitarians and deontologists found themselves agreed on their general rules but on opposite sides of the controversial moral issues in contemporary discussion. It came to be recognised that moral sensitivity, perception, imagination, and judgement informed by experience—phronesis in short—is needed to apply rules or principles correctly. Hence many (though by no means all) utilitarians and deontologists have explicitly abandoned (ii) and much less emphasis is placed on (i).

Nevertheless, the complaint that virtue ethics does not produce codifiable principles is still a commonly voiced criticism of the approach, expressed as the objection that it is, in principle, unable to provide action-guidance.

Initially, the objection was based on a misunderstanding. Blinkered by slogans that described virtue ethics as “concerned with Being rather than Doing”, as addressing “What sort of person should I be?” but not “What should I do?” as being “agent-centered rather than act-centered”, its critics maintained that it was unable to provide action-guidance and hence, rather than being a normative rival to utilitarian and deontological ethics, could claim to be no more than a valuable supplement to them. The rather odd idea was that all virtue ethics could offer was “Identify a moral exemplar and do what he would do” as though the raped fifteen-year-old trying to decide whether or not to have an abortion was supposed to ask herself “Would Socrates have had an abortion if he were in my circumstances?”

But the objection failed to take note of Anscombe’s hint that a great deal of specific action guidance could be found in rules employing the virtue and vice terms (“v-rules”) such as “Do what is honest/charitable; do not do what is dishonest/uncharitable” (Hursthouse 1999). (It is a noteworthy feature of our virtue and vice vocabulary that, although our list of generally recognised virtue terms is comparatively short, our list of vice terms is remarkably, and usefully, long, far exceeding anything that anyone who thinks in terms of standard deontological rules has ever come up with. Much invaluable action guidance comes from avoiding courses of action that would be irresponsible, feckless, lazy, inconsiderate, uncooperative, harsh, intolerant, selfish, mercenary, indiscreet, tactless, arrogant, unsympathetic, cold, incautious, unenterprising, pusillanimous, feeble, presumptuous, rude, hypocritical, self-indulgent, materialistic, grasping, short-sighted, vindictive, calculating, ungrateful, grudging, brutal, profligate, disloyal, and on and on.)

(b) A closely related objection has to do with whether virtue ethics can provide an adequate account of right action. This worry can take two forms. (i) One might think a virtue ethical account of right action is extensionally inadequate. It is possible to perform a right action without being virtuous and a virtuous person can occasionally perform the wrong action without that calling her virtue into question. If virtue is neither necessary nor sufficient for right action, one might wonder whether the relationship between rightness/wrongness and virtue/vice is close enough for the former to be identified in terms of the latter. (ii) Alternatively, even if one thought it possible to produce a virtue ethical account that picked out all (and only) right actions, one might still think that at least in some cases virtue is not what explains rightness (Adams 2006:6–8).

Some virtue ethicists respond to the adequacy objection by rejecting the assumption that virtue ethics ought to be in the business of providing an account of right action in the first place. Following in the footsteps of Anscombe (1958) and MacIntyre (1985), Talbot Brewer (2009) argues that to work with the categories of rightness and wrongness is already to get off on the wrong foot. Contemporary conceptions of right and wrong action, built as they are around a notion of moral duty that presupposes a framework of divine (or moral) law or around a conception of obligation that is defined in contrast to self-interest, carry baggage the virtue ethicist is better off without. Virtue ethics can address the questions of how one should live, what kind of person one should become, and even what one should do without that committing it to providing an account of ‘right action’. One might choose, instead, to work with aretaic concepts (defined in terms of virtues and vices) and axiological concepts (defined in terms of good and bad, better and worse) and leave out deontic notions (like right/wrong action, duty, and obligation) altogether.

Other virtue ethicists wish to retain the concept of right action but note that in the current philosophical discussion a number of distinct qualities march under that banner. In some contexts, ‘right action’ identifies the best action an agent might perform in the circumstances. In others, it designates an action that is commendable (even if not the best possible). In still others, it picks out actions that are not blameworthy (even if not commendable). A virtue ethicist might choose to define one of these—for example, the best action—in terms of virtues and vices, but appeal to other normative concepts—such as legitimate expectations—when defining other conceptions of right action.

As we observed in section 2, a virtue ethical account need not attempt to reduce all other normative concepts to virtues and vices. What is required is simply (i) that virtue is not reduced to some other normative concept that is taken to be more fundamental and (ii) that some other normative concepts are explained in terms of virtue and vice. This takes the sting out of the adequacy objection, which is most compelling against versions of virtue ethics that attempt to define all of the senses of ‘right action’ in terms of virtues. Appealing to virtues and vices makes it much easier to achieve extensional adequacy. Making room for normative concepts that are not taken to be reducible to virtue and vice concepts makes it even easier to generate a theory that is both extensionally and explanatorily adequate. Whether one needs other concepts and, if so, how many, is still a matter of debate among virtue ethicists, as is the question of whether virtue ethics even ought to be offering an account of right action. Either way virtue ethicists have resources available to them to address the adequacy objection.

Insofar as the different versions of virtue ethics all retain an emphasis on the virtues, they are open to the familiar problem of (c) the charge of cultural relativity. Is it not the case that different cultures embody different virtues, (MacIntyre 1985) and hence that the v-rules will pick out actions as right or wrong only relative to a particular culture? Different replies have been made to this charge. One—the tu quoque, or “partners in crime” response—exhibits a quite familiar pattern in virtue ethicists’ defensive strategy (Solomon 1988). They admit that, for them, cultural relativism is a challenge, but point out that it is just as much a problem for the other two approaches. The (putative) cultural variation in character traits regarded as virtues is no greater—indeed markedly less—than the cultural variation in rules of conduct, and different cultures have different ideas about what constitutes happiness or welfare. That cultural relativity should be a problem common to all three approaches is hardly surprising. It is related, after all, to the “justification problem” (see below) the quite general metaethical problem of justifying one’s moral beliefs to those who disagree, whether they be moral sceptics, pluralists or from another culture.

A bolder strategy involves claiming that virtue ethics has less difficulty with cultural relativity than the other two approaches. Much cultural disagreement arises, it may be claimed, from local understandings of the virtues, but the virtues themselves are not relative to culture (Nussbaum 1993).

Another objection to which the tu quoque response is partially appropriate is (d) “the conflict problem.” What does virtue ethics have to say about dilemmas—cases in which, apparently, the requirements of different virtues conflict because they point in opposed directions? Charity prompts me to kill the person who would be better off dead, but justice forbids it. Honesty points to telling the hurtful truth, kindness and compassion to remaining silent or even lying. What shall I do? Of course, the same sorts of dilemmas are generated by conflicts between deontological rules. Deontology and virtue ethics share the conflict problem (and are happy to take it on board rather than follow some of the utilitarians in their consequentialist resolutions of such dilemmas) and in fact their strategies for responding to it are parallel. Both aim to resolve a number of dilemmas by arguing that the conflict is merely apparent; a discriminating understanding of the virtues or rules in question, possessed only by those with practical wisdom, will perceive that, in this particular case, the virtues do not make opposing demands or that one rule outranks another, or has a certain exception clause built into it. Whether this is all there is to it depends on whether there are any irresolvable dilemmas. If there are, proponents of either normative approach may point out reasonably that it could only be a mistake to offer a resolution of what is, ex hypothesi, irresolvable.

Another problem arguably shared by all three approaches is (e), that of being self-effacing. An ethical theory is self-effacing if, roughly, whatever it claims justifies a particular action, or makes it right, had better not be the agent’s motive for doing it. Michael Stocker (1976) originally introduced it as a problem for deontology and consequentialism. He pointed out that the agent who, rightly, visits a friend in hospital will rather lessen the impact of his visit on her if he tells her either that he is doing it because it is his duty or because he thought it would maximize the general happiness. But as Simon Keller observes, she won’t be any better pleased if he tells her that he is visiting her because it is what a virtuous agent would do, so virtue ethics would appear to have the problem too (Keller 2007). However, virtue ethics’ defenders have argued that not all forms of virtue ethics are subject to this objection (Pettigrove 2011) and those that are are not seriously undermined by the problem (Martinez 2011).

Another problem for virtue ethics, which is shared by both utilitarianism and deontology, is (f) “the justification problem.” Abstractly conceived, this is the problem of how we justify or ground our ethical beliefs, an issue that is hotly debated at the level of metaethics. In its particular versions, for deontology there is the question of how to justify its claims that certain moral rules are the correct ones, and for utilitarianism of how to justify its claim that all that really matters morally are consequences for happiness or well-being. For virtue ethics, the problem concerns the question of which character traits are the virtues.

In the metaethical debate, there is widespread disagreement about the possibility of providing an external foundation for ethics—“external” in the sense of being external to ethical beliefs—and the same disagreement is found amongst deontologists and utilitarians. Some believe that their normative ethics can be placed on a secure basis, resistant to any form of scepticism, such as what anyone rationally desires, or would accept or agree on, regardless of their ethical outlook; others that it cannot.

Virtue ethicists have eschewed any attempt to ground virtue ethics in an external foundation while continuing to maintain that their claims can be validated. Some follow a form of Rawls’s coherentist approach (Slote 2001; Swanton 2003); neo-Aristotelians a form of ethical naturalism.

A misunderstanding of eudaimonia as an unmoralized concept leads some critics to suppose that the neo-Aristotelians are attempting to ground their claims in a scientific account of human nature and what counts, for a human being, as flourishing. Others assume that, if this is not what they are doing, they cannot be validating their claims that, for example, justice, charity, courage, and generosity are virtues. Either they are illegitimately helping themselves to Aristotle’s discredited natural teleology (Williams 1985) or producing mere rationalizations of their own personal or culturally inculcated values. But McDowell, Foot, MacIntyre and Hursthouse have all outlined versions of a third way between these two extremes. Eudaimonia in virtue ethics, is indeed a moralized concept, but it is not only that. Claims about what constitutes flourishing for human beings no more float free of scientific facts about what human beings are like than ethological claims about what constitutes flourishing for elephants. In both cases, the truth of the claims depends in part on what kind of animal they are and what capacities, desires and interests the humans or elephants have.

The best available science today (including evolutionary theory and psychology) supports rather than undermines the ancient Greek assumption that we are social animals, like elephants and wolves and unlike polar bears. No rationalizing explanation in terms of anything like a social contract is needed to explain why we choose to live together, subjugating our egoistic desires in order to secure the advantages of co-operation. Like other social animals, our natural impulses are not solely directed towards our own pleasures and preservation, but include altruistic and cooperative ones.

This basic fact about us should make more comprehensible the claim that the virtues are at least partially constitutive of human flourishing and also undercut the objection that virtue ethics is, in some sense, egoistic.

(g) The egoism objection has a number of sources. One is a simple confusion. Once it is understood that the fully virtuous agent characteristically does what she should without inner conflict, it is triumphantly asserted that “she is only doing what she wants to do and hence is being selfish.” So when the generous person gives gladly, as the generous are wont to do, it turns out she is not generous and unselfish after all, or at least not as generous as the one who greedily wants to hang on to everything she has but forces herself to give because she thinks she should! A related version ascribes bizarre reasons to the virtuous agent, unjustifiably assuming that she acts as she does because she believes that acting thus on this occasion will help her to achieve eudaimonia. But “the virtuous agent” is just “the agent with the virtues” and it is part of our ordinary understanding of the virtue terms that each carries with it its own typical range of reasons for acting. The virtuous agent acts as she does because she believes that someone’s suffering will be averted, or someone benefited, or the truth established, or a debt repaid, or … thereby.

It is the exercise of the virtues during one’s life that is held to be at least partially constitutive of eudaimonia, and this is consistent with recognising that bad luck may land the virtuous agent in circumstances that require her to give up her life. Given the sorts of considerations that courageous, honest, loyal, charitable people wholeheartedly recognise as reasons for action, they may find themselves compelled to face danger for a worthwhile end, to speak out in someone’s defence, or refuse to reveal the names of their comrades, even when they know that this will inevitably lead to their execution, to share their last crust and face starvation. On the view that the exercise of the virtues is necessary but not sufficient for eudaimonia, such cases are described as those in which the virtuous agent sees that, as things have unfortunately turned out, eudaimonia is not possible for them (Foot 2001, 95). On the Stoical view that it is both necessary and sufficient, a eudaimon life is a life that has been successfully lived (where “success” of course is not to be understood in a materialistic way) and such people die knowing not only that they have made a success of their lives but that they have also brought their lives to a markedly successful completion. Either way, such heroic acts can hardly be regarded as egoistic.

A lingering suggestion of egoism may be found in the misconceived distinction between so-called “self-regarding” and “other-regarding” virtues. Those who have been insulated from the ancient tradition tend to regard justice and benevolence as real virtues, which benefit others but not their possessor, and prudence, fortitude and providence (the virtue whose opposite is “improvidence” or being a spendthrift) as not real virtues at all because they benefit only their possessor. This is a mistake on two counts. Firstly, justice and benevolence do, in general, benefit their possessors, since without them eudaimonia is not possible. Secondly, given that we live together, as social animals, the “self-regarding” virtues do benefit others—those who lack them are a great drain on, and sometimes grief to, those who are close to them (as parents with improvident or imprudent adult offspring know only too well).

The most recent objection (h) to virtue ethics claims that work in “situationist” social psychology shows that there are no such things as character traits and thereby no such things as virtues for virtue ethics to be about (Doris 1998; Harman 1999). In reply, some virtue ethicists have argued that the social psychologists’ studies are irrelevant to the multi-track disposition (see above) that a virtue is supposed to be (Sreenivasan 2002; Kamtekar 2004). Mindful of just how multi-track it is, they agree that it would be reckless in the extreme to ascribe a demanding virtue such as charity to people of whom they know no more than that they have exhibited conventional decency; this would indeed be “a fundamental attribution error.” Others have worked to develop alternative, empirically grounded conceptions of character traits (Snow 2010; Miller 2013 and 2014; however see Upton 2016 for objections to Miller). There have been other responses as well (summarized helpfully in Prinz 2009 and Miller 2014). Notable among these is a response by Adams (2006, echoing Merritt 2000) who steers a middle road between “no character traits at all” and the exacting standard of the Aristotelian conception of virtue which, because of its emphasis on phronesis, requires a high level of character integration. On his conception, character traits may be “frail and fragmentary” but still virtues, and not uncommon. But giving up the idea that practical wisdom is the heart of all the virtues, as Adams has to do, is a substantial sacrifice, as Russell (2009) and Kamtekar (2010) argue.

Even though the “situationist challenge” has left traditional virtue ethicists unmoved, it has generated a healthy engagement with empirical psychological literature, which has also been fuelled by the growing literature on Foot’s Natural Goodness and, quite independently, an upsurge of interest in character education (see below).

4. Future Directions

Over the past thirty-five years most of those contributing to the revival of virtue ethics have worked within a neo-Aristotelian, eudaimonist framework. However, as noted in section 2, other forms of virtue ethics have begun to emerge. Theorists have begun to turn to philosophers like Hutcheson, Hume, Nietzsche, Martineau, and Heidegger for resources they might use to develop alternatives (see Russell 2006; Swanton 2013 and 2015; Taylor 2015; and Harcourt 2015). Others have turned their attention eastward, exploring Confucian, Buddhist, and Hindu traditions (Yu 2007; Slingerland 2011; Finnigan and Tanaka 2011; McRae 2012; Angle and Slote 2013; Davis 2014; Flanagan 2015; Perrett and Pettigrove 2015; and Sim 2015). These explorations promise to open up new avenues for the development of virtue ethics.

Although virtue ethics has grown remarkably in the last thirty-five years, it is still very much in the minority, particularly in the area of applied ethics. Many editors of big textbook collections on “moral problems” or “applied ethics” now try to include articles representative of each of the three normative approaches but are often unable to find a virtue ethics article addressing a particular issue. This is sometimes, no doubt, because “the” issue has been set up as a deontologicial/utilitarian debate, but it is often simply because no virtue ethicist has yet written on the topic. However, the last decade has seen an increase in the amount of attention applied virtue ethics has received (Walker and Ivanhoe 2007; Hartman 2013; Austin 2014; Van Hooft 2014; and Annas 2015). This area can certainly be expected to grow in the future, and it looks as though applying virtue ethics in the field of environmental ethics may prove particularly fruitful (Sandler 2007; Hursthouse 2007, 2011; Zwolinski and Schmidtz 2013; Cafaro 2015).

Whether virtue ethics can be expected to grow into “virtue politics”—i.e. to extend from moral philosophy into political philosophy—is not so clear. Gisela Striker (2006) has argued that Aristotle’s ethics cannot be understood adequately without attending to its place in his politics. That suggests that at least those virtue ethicists who take their inspiration from Aristotle should have resources to offer for the development of virtue politics. But, while Plato and Aristotle can be great inspirations as far as virtue ethics is concerned, neither, on the face of it, are attractive sources of insight where politics is concerned. However, recent work suggests that Aristotelian ideas can, after all, generate a satisfyingly liberal political philosophy (Nussbaum 2006; LeBar 2013a). Moreover, as noted above, virtue ethics does not have to be neo-Aristotelian. It may be that the virtue ethics of Hutcheson and Hume can be naturally extended into a modern political philosophy (Hursthouse 1990–91; Slote 1993).

Following Plato and Aristotle, modern virtue ethics has always emphasised the importance of moral education, not as the inculcation of rules but as the training of character. There is now a growing movement towards virtues education, amongst both academics (Carr 1999; Athanassoulis 2014; Curren 2015) and teachers in the classroom. One exciting thing about research in this area is its engagement with other academic disciplines, including psychology, educational theory, and theology (see Cline 2015; and Snow 2015).

Finally, one of the more productive developments of virtue ethics has come through the study of particular virtues and vices. There are now a number of careful studies of the cardinal virtues and capital vices (Pieper 1966; Taylor 2006; Curzer 2012; Timpe and Boyd 2014). Others have explored less widely discussed virtues or vices, such as civility, decency, truthfulness, ambition, and meekness (Calhoun 2000; Kekes 2002; Williams 2002; and Pettigrove 2007 and 2012). One of the questions these studies raise is “How many virtues are there?” A second is, “How are these virtues related to one another?” Some virtue ethicists have been happy to work on the assumption that there is no principled reason for limiting the number of virtues and plenty of reason for positing a plurality of them (Swanton 2003; Battaly 2015). Others have been concerned that such an open-handed approach to the virtues will make it difficult for virtue ethicists to come up with an adequate account of right action or deal with the conflict problem discussed above. Dan Russell has proposed cardinality and a version of the unity thesis as a solution to what he calls “the enumeration problem” (the problem of too many virtues). The apparent proliferation of virtues can be significantly reduced if we group virtues together with some being cardinal and others subordinate extensions of those cardinal virtues. Possible conflicts between the remaining virtues can then be managed if they are tied together in some way as part of a unified whole (Russell 2009). This highlights two important avenues for future research, one of which explores individual virtues and the other of which analyses how they might be related to one another.

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Acknowledgments

Parts of the introductory material above repeat what was said in the Introduction and first chapter of On Virtue Ethics (Hursthouse 1999).

1. Political Science in General

The modern word ‘political’ derives from the Greek politikos, ‘of, or pertaining to, the polis’. (The Greek term polis will be translated here as ‘city-state’. It is also translated as ‘city’ or ‘polis’, or simply anglicized as ‘polis’. City-states like Athens and Sparta were relatively small and cohesive units, in which political, religious, and cultural concerns were intertwined. The extent of their similarity to modern nation-states is controversial.) Aristotle's word for ‘politics’ is politikê, which is short for politikê epistêmê or ‘political science’. It belongs to one of the three main branches of science, which Aristotle distinguishes by their ends or objects. Contemplative science (including physics and metaphysics) is concerned with truth or knowledge for its own sake; practical science with good action; and productive science with making useful or beautiful objects (Top. VI.6.145a14–16, Met. VI.1.1025b24, XI.7.1064a16–19, EN VI.2.1139a26–8). Politics is a practical science, since it is concerned with the noble action or happiness of the citizens (although it resembles a productive science in that it seeks to create, preserve, and reform political systems). Aristotle thus understands politics as a normative or prescriptive discipline rather than as a purely empirical or descriptive inquiry.

In the Nicomachean Ethics Aristotle describes his subject matter as ‘political science’, which he characterizes as the most authoritative science. It prescribes which sciences are to be studied in the city-state, and the others — such as military science, household management, and rhetoric — fall under its authority. Since it governs the other practical sciences, their ends serve as means to its end, which is nothing less than the human good. “Even if the end is the same for an individual and for a city-state, that of the city-state seems at any rate greater and more complete to attain and preserve. For although it is worthy to attain it for only an individual, it is nobler and more divine to do so for a nation or city-state” (EN I.2.1094b7-10). Aristotle's political science thus encompasses the two fields which modern philosophers distinguish as ethics and political philosophy. (See the entry on Aristotle's ethics.) Political philosophy in the narrow sense is roughly speaking the subject of his treatise called the Politics. For a further discussion of this topic, see the following supplementary document:

Supplement: Characteristics and Problems of Aristotle's Politics

2. Aristotle's View of Politics

Political science studies the tasks of the politician or statesman (politikos), in much the way that medical science concerns the work of the physician (see Politics IV.1). It is, in fact, the body of knowledge that such practitioners, if truly expert, will also wield in pursuing their tasks. The most important task for the politician is, in the role of lawgiver (nomothetês), to frame the appropriate constitution for the city-state. This involves enduring laws, customs, and institutions (including a system of moral education) for the citizens. Once the constitution is in place, the politician needs to take the appropriate measures to maintain it, to introduce reforms when he finds them necessary, and to prevent developments which might subvert the political system. This is the province of legislative science, which Aristotle regards as more important than politics as exercised in everyday political activity such as the passing of decrees (see EN VI.8).

Aristotle frequently compares the politician to a craftsman. The analogy is imprecise because politics, in the strict sense of legislative science, is a form of practical knowledge, while a craft like architecture or medicine is a form of productive knowledge. However, the comparison is valid to the extent that the politician produces, operates, maintains a legal system according to universal principles (EN VI.8 and X.9). In order to appreciate this analogy it is helpful to observe that Aristotle explains the production of an artifact in terms of four causes: the material, formal, efficient, and final causes (Phys. II.3 and Met. A.2). For example, clay (material cause) is molded into a vase shape (formal cause) by a potter (efficient or moving cause) so that it can contain liquid (final cause). (For discussion of the four causes see the entry on Aristotle's physics.)

One can also explain the existence of the city-state in terms of the four causes. It is a kind of community (koinônia), that is, a collection of parts having some functions and interests in common (Pol. II.1.1261a18, III.1.1275b20). Hence, it is made up of parts, which Aristotle describes in various ways in different contexts: as households, or economic classes (e.g., the rich and the poor), or demes (i.e., local political units). But, ultimately, the city-state is composed of individual citizens (see III.1.1274a38–41), who, along with natural resources, are the “material” or “equipment” out of which the city-state is fashioned (see VII.14.1325b38-41).

The formal cause of the city-state is its constitution (politeia). Aristotle defines the constitution as “a certain ordering of the inhabitants of the city-state” (III.1.1274b32-41). He also speaks of the constitution of a community as “the form of the compound” and argues that whether the community is the same over time depends on whether it has the same constitution (III.3.1276b1–11). The constitution is not a written document, but an immanent organizing principle, analogous to the soul of an organism. Hence, the constitution is also “the way of life” of the citizens (IV.11.1295a40-b1, VII.8.1328b1-2). Here the citizens are that minority of the resident population who possess full political rights (III.1.1275b17–20).

The existence of the city-state also requires an efficient cause, namely, its ruler. On Aristotle's view, a community of any sort can possess order only if it has a ruling element or authority. This ruling principle is defined by the constitution, which sets criteria for political offices, particularly the sovereign office (III.6.1278b8–10; cf. IV.1.1289a15–18). However, on a deeper level, there must be an efficient cause to explain why a city-state acquires its constitution in the first place. Aristotle states that “the person who first established [the city-state] is the cause of very great benefits” (I.2.1253a30–1). This person was evidently the lawgiver (nomothetês), someone like Solon of Athens or Lycurgus of Sparta, who founded the constitution. Aristotle compares the lawgiver, or the politician more generally, to a craftsman (dêmiourgos) like a weaver or shipbuilder, who fashions material into a finished product (II.12.1273b32–3, VII.4.1325b40–1365a5).

The notion of final cause dominates Aristotle's Politics from the opening lines:

Since we see that every city-state is a sort of community and that every community is established for the sake of some good (for everyone does everything for the sake of what they believe to be good), it is clear that every community aims at some good, and the community which has the most authority of all and includes all the others aims highest, that is, at the good with the most authority. This is what is called the city-state or political community. [I.1.1252a1–7]

Soon after, he states that the city-state comes into being for the sake of life but exists for the sake of the good life (2.1252b29–30). The theme that the good life or happiness is the proper end of the city-state recurs throughout the Politics (III.6.1278b17-24, 9.1280b39; VII.2.1325a7–10).

To sum up, the city-state is a hylomorphic (i.e., matter-form) compound of a particular population (i.e., citizen-body) in a given territory (material cause) and a constitution (formal cause). The constitution itself is fashioned by the lawgiver and is governed by politicians, who are like craftsmen (efficient cause), and the constitution defines the aim of the city-state (final cause, IV.1.1289a17–18). Aristotle's hylomorphic analysis has important practical implications for him: just as a craftsman should not try to impose a form on materials for which it is unsuited (e.g. to build a house out of sand), the legislator should not lay down or change laws which are contrary to the nature of the citizens. Aristotle accordingly rejects utopian schemes such as the proposal in Plato's Republic that children and property should belong to all the citizens in common. For this runs afoul of the fact that "people give most attention to their own property, less to what is communal, or only as much as falls to them to give attention" (Pol. II.3.1261b33–5). Aristotle is also wary of casual political innovation, because it can have the deleterious side-effect of undermining the citizens' habit of obeying the law (II.8.1269a13–24). For a further discussion of the theoretical foundations of Aristotle's politics, see the following supplementary document:

Supplement: Presuppositions of Aristotle's Politics

It is in these terms, then, that Aristotle understands the fundamental normative problem of politics: What constitutional form should the lawgiver establish and preserve in what material for the sake of what end?

3. General Theory of Constitutions and Citizenship

Aristotle states that “the politician and lawgiver is wholly occupied with the city-state, and the constitution is a certain way of organizing those who inhabit the city-state” (III.1.1274b36-8). His general theory of constitutions is set forth in Politics III. He begins with a definition of the citizen (politês), since the city-state is by nature a collective entity, a multitude of citizens. Citizens are distinguished from other inhabitants, such as resident aliens and slaves; and even children and seniors are not unqualified citizens (nor are most ordinary workers). After further analysis he defines the citizen as a person who has the right (exousia) to participate in deliberative or judicial office (1275b18–21). In Athens, for example, citizens had the right to attend the assembly, the council, and other bodies, or to sit on juries. The Athenian system differed from a modern representative democracy in that the citizens were more directly involved in governing. Although full citizenship tended to be restricted in the Greek city-states (with women, slaves, foreigners, and some others excluded), the citizens were more deeply enfranchised than in modern representative democracies because they were more directly involved in governing. This is reflected in Aristotle's definition of the citizen (without qualification). Further, he defines the city-state (in the unqualified sense) as a multitude of such citizens which is adequate for a self-sufficient life (1275b20-21).

Aristotle defines the constitution (politeia) as a way of organizing the offices of the city-state, particularly the sovereign office (III.6.1278b8–10; cf. IV.1.1289a15–18). The constitution thus defines the governing body, which takes different forms: for example, in a democracy it is the people, and in an oligarchy it is a select few (the wealthy or well born). Before attempting to distinguish and evaluate various constitutions Aristotle considers two questions. First, why does a city-state come into being? He recalls the thesis, defended in Politics I.2, that human beings are by nature political animals, who naturally want to live together. For a further discussion of this topic, see the following supplementary document:

Supplement: Political Naturalism

He then adds that “the common advantage also brings them together insofar as they each attain the noble life. This is above all the end for all both in common and separately” (III.6.1278b19–24). Second, what are the different forms of rule by which one individual or group can rule over another? Aristotle distinguishes several types of rule, based on the nature of the soul of the ruler and of the subject. He first considers despotic rule, which is exemplified in the master-slave relationship. Aristotle thinks that this form of rule is justified in the case of natural slaves who (he asserts without evidence) lack a deliberative faculty and thus need a natural master to direct them (I.13.1260a12; slavery is defended at length in Politics I.4–8). Although a natural slave allegedly benefits from having a master, despotic rule is still primarily for the sake of the master and only incidentally for the slave (III.6.1278b32–7). (Aristotle provides no argument for this: if some persons are congenitally incapable of self-governance, why should they not be ruled primarily for their own sakes?) He next considers paternal and marital rule, which he also views as defensible: “the male is by nature more capable of leadership than the female, unless he is constituted in some way contrary to nature, and the elder and perfect [is by nature more capable of leadership] than the younger and imperfect” (I.12.1259a39-b4). Aristotle is persuasive when he argues that children need adult supervision because their rationality is “imperfect” (ateles) or immature. But he is unconvincing to modern readers when he alleges (without substantiation) that, although women have a deliberative faculty, it is “without authority” (akuron), so that females require male supervision (I.13.1260a13–14). (Aristotle's arguments about slaves and women appear so weak that some commentators take them to be ironic. However, what is obvious to a modern reader need not have been so to an ancient Greek, so that it is not necessary to suppose that Aristotle's discussion is ironic.) It is noteworthy, however, that paternal and marital rule are properly practiced for the sake of the ruled (for the sake of the child and of the wife respectively), just as arts like medicine or gymnastics are practiced for the sake of the patient (III.6.1278b37–1279a1). In this respect they resemble political rule, which is the form of rule appropriate when the ruler and the subject have equal and similar rational cacapacities. This is exemplified by naturally equal citizens who take turns at ruling for one another's advantage (1279a8–13). This sets the stage for the fundamental claim of Aristotle's constitutional theory: “constitutions which aim at the common advantage are correct and just without qualification, whereas those which aim only at the advantage of the rulers are deviant and unjust, because they involve despotic rule which is inappropriate for a community of free persons” (1279a17–21).

The distinction between correct and deviant constitutions is combined with the observation that the government may consist of one person, a few, or a multitude. Hence, there are six possible constitutional forms (Politics III.7):

 CorrectDeviant
One RulerKingshipTyranny
Few RulersAristocracyOligarchy
Many RulersPolityDemocracy

This six-fold classification (which is adapted from Plato's Statesman 302c-d) sets the stage for Aristotle's inquiry into the best constitution, although it is modified in various ways throughout the Politics. For example, he observes that the dominant class in oligarchy (literally rule of the oligoi, i.e., few) is typically the wealthy, whereas in democracy (literally rule of the dêmos, i.e., people) it is the poor, so that these economic classes should be included in the definition of these forms (see Politics III.8, IV.4, and VI.2 for alternative accounts). Also, polity is later characterized as a kind of “mixed” constitution typified by rule of the “middle” group of citizens, a moderately wealthy class between the rich and poor (Politics IV.11).

Aristotle's constitutional theory is based on his theory of justice, which is expounded in Nicomachean Ethics book V. Aristotle distinguishes two different but related senses of “justice” — universal and particular — both of which play an important role in his constitutional theory. Firstly, in the universal sense “justice” means “lawfuless” and is concerned with the common advantage and happiness of the political community (NE V.1.1129b11–19, cf. Pol. III.12.1282b16–17). The conception of universal justice undergirds the distinction between correct (just) and deviant (unjust) constitutions. But what exactly the “common advantage” (koinion sumpheron) entails is a matter of scholarly controversy. Some passages imply that justice involves the advantage of all the citizens; for example, every citizen of the best constitution has a just claim to private property and to an education (Pol. VII.9.1329a23–4, 13.1332a32–8). But Aristotle also allows that it might be “in a way” just to ostracize powerful citizens even when they have not been convicted of any crimes (III.13.1284b15–20). Whether Aristotle understands the common advantage as safeguarding the interests of each and every citizen has a bearing on whether he anticipates what moderns would understand as a theory of individual rights. (See Fred Miller and Richard Kraut for differing interpretations.)

Secondly, in the particular sense “justice” means “equality” or “fairness”, and this includes distributive justice, according to which different individuals have just claims to shares of some common asset such as property. Aristotle analyzes arguments for and against the different constitutions as different applications of the principle of distributive justice (III.9.1280a7–22). Everyone agrees, he says, that justice involves treating equal persons equally, and treating unequal persons unequally, but they do not agree on the standard by which individuals are deemed to be equally (or unequally) meritorious or deserving. He assumes his own analysis of distributive justice set forth in Nicomachean Ethics V.3: Justice requires that benefits be distributed to individuals in proportion to their merit or desert. The oligarchs mistakenly think that those who are superior in wealth should also have superior political rights, whereas the democrats hold that those who are equal in free birth should also have equal political rights. Both of these conceptions of political justice are mistaken in Aristotle's view, because they assume a false conception of the ultimate end of the city-state. The city-state is neither a business enterprise to maximize wealth (as the oligarchs suppose) nor an association to promote liberty and equality (as the democrats maintain). Instead, Aristotle argues, “the good life is the end of the city-state,” that is, a life consisting of noble actions (1280b39–1281a4). Hence, the correct conception of justice is aristocratic, assigning political rights to those who make a full contribution to the political community, that is, to those with virtue as well as property and freedom (1281a4–8). This is what Aristotle understands by an “aristocratic” constitution: literally, the rule of the aristoi, i.e., best persons. Aristotle explores the implications of this argument in the remainder of Politics III, considering the rival claims of the rule of law and the rule of a supremely virtuous individual. Here absolute kingship is a limiting case of aristocracy. Again, in books VII-VIII, Aristotle describes the ideal constitution in which the citizens are fully virtuous.

4. Study of Specific Constitutions

The purpose of political science is to guide “the good lawgiver and the true politician” (IV.1.1288b27). Like any complete science or craft, it must study a range of issues concerning its subject matter. For example, gymnastics (physical education) studies what sort of training is best or adapted to the body that is naturally the best, what sort of training is best for most bodies, and what capacity is appropriate for someone who does not want the condition or knowledge appropriate for athletic contests. Political science studies a comparable range of constitutions (1288b21–35): first, the constitution which is best without qualification, i.e., “most according to our prayers with no external impediment”; second, the constitution that is best under the circumstances “for it is probably impossible for many persons to attain the best constitution”; third, the constitution which serves the aim a given population happens to have, i.e., the one that is best “based on a hypothesis”: “for [the political scientist] ought to be able to study a given constitution, both how it might originally come to be, and, when it has come to be, in what manner it might be preserved for the longest time; I mean, for example, if a particular city happens neither to be governed by the best constitution, nor to be equipped even with necessary things, nor to be the [best] possible under existing circumstances, but to be a baser sort.” Hence, Aristotelian political science is not confined to the ideal system, but also investigates the second-best constitution or even inferior political systems, because this may be the closest approximation to full political justice which the lawgiver can attain under the circumstances.

Regarding the constitution that is ideal or “according to prayer,” Aristotle criticizes the views of his predecessors in Politics and then offers a rather sketchy blueprint of his own in Politics VII and VIII. Although his own political views were influenced by his teacher Plato, Aristotle is highly critical of the ideal constitution set forth in Plato's Republic on the grounds that it overvalues political unity, it embraces a system of communism that is impractical and inimical to human nature, and it neglects the happiness of the individual citizens (Politics II.1–5). In contrast, in Aristotle's “best constitution,” each and every citizen will possess moral virtue and the equipment to carry it out in practice, and thereby attain a life of excellence and complete happiness (see VII.13.1332a32–8). All of the citizens will hold political office and possess private property because “one should call the city-state happy not by looking at a part of it but at all the citizens.” (VII.9.1329a22–3). Moreover, there will be a common system of education for all the citizens, because they share the same end (Pol. VIII.1).

If (as is the case with most existing city-states) the population lacks the capacities and resources for complete happiness, however, the lawgiver must be content with fashioning a suitable constitution (Politics IV.11). The second-best system typically takes the form of a polity (in which citizens possess an inferior, more common grade of virtue) or mixed constitution (combining features of democracy, oligarchy, and, where possible, aristocracy, so that no group of citizens is in a position to abuse its rights). Aristotle argues that for city-states that fall short of the ideal, the best constitution is one controlled by a numerous middle class which stands between the rich and the poor. For those who possess the goods of fortune in moderation find it “easiest to obey the rule of reason” (Politics IV.11.1295b4–6). They are accordingly less apt than the rich or poor to act unjustly toward their fellow citizens. A constitution based on the middle class is the mean between the extremes of oligarchy (rule by the rich) and democracy (rule by the poor). “That the middle [constitution] is best is evident, for it is the freest from faction: where the middle class is numerous, there least occur factions and divisions among citizens” (IV.11.1296a7–9). The middle constitution is therefore both more stable and more just than oligarchy and democracy.

Although Aristotle classifies democracy as a deviant constitution (albeit the best of a bad lot), he argues that a case might be made for popular rule in Politics III.11, a discussion which has attracted the attention of modern democratic theorists. The central claim is that the many may turn out to be better than the virtuous few when they come together, even though the many may be inferior when considered individually. For if each individual has a portion of virtue and practical wisdom, they may pool these assets and turn out to be better rulers than even a very wise individual. This argument seems to anticipate treatments of “the wisdom of the multitude” such as Condorcet's “jury theorem.” This particular chapter has been widely discussed by in recent years in connection with topics such as democratic deliberation and public reason.

In addition, the political scientist must attend to existing constitutions even when they are bad. Aristotle notes that “to reform a constitution is no less a task [of politics] than it is to establish one from the beginning,” and in this way “the politician should also help existing constitutions” (IV.1.1289a1–7). The political scientist should also be cognizant of forces of political change which can undermine an existing regime. Aristotle criticizes his predecessors for excessive utopianism and neglect of the practical duties of a political theorist. However, he is no Machiavellian. The best constitution still serves as a regulative ideal by which to evaluate existing systems.

These topics occupy the remainder of the Politics. Books IV–VI are concerned with the existing constitutions: that is, the three deviant constitutions, as well as polity or the “mixed” constitution, which are the best attainable under most circumstances (IV.2.1289a26–38). The mixed constitution has been of special interest to scholars because it looks like a forerunner of modern republican regimes. The whole of book V investigates the causes and prevention of revolution or political change (metabolê). Books VII–VIII are devoted to the ideal constitution. As might be expected, Aristotle's attempt to carry out this program involves many difficulties, and scholars disagree about how the two series of books (IV–VI and VII–VIII) are related to each other: for example, which were written first, which were intended to be read first, and whether they are ultimately consistent with each other. For a further discussion of this topic, see the following supplementary document:

Supplement: Characteristics and Problems of Aristotle's Politics

5. Aristotle and Modern Politics

Aristotle has continued to influence thinkers up to the present throughout the political spectrum, including conservatives (such as Hannah Arendt, Leo Strauss, and Eric Voegelin), communitarians (such as Alasdair MacIntyre and Michael Sandel), liberals (such as William Galston and Martha C. Nussbaum), libertarians (such as Tibor R. Machan, Douglas B. Rasmussen, and Douglas J. Den Uyl), and democratic theorists (such as Jill Frank and Gerald M. Mara).

It is not surprising that such diverse political persuasions can lay claim to Aristotle as a source. For his method often leads to divergent interpretations. When he deals with a difficult problem, he is inclined to consider opposing arguments in a careful and nuanced manner, and he is often willing to concede that there is truth on each side. For example, though he is critical of democracy, in one passage he allows that the case for rule by the many based on the superior wisdom of the multitude “perhaps also involves some truth” (Pol. III.11.1281a39-42). Again, he sometimes applies his own principles in a questionable manner, for example, when he reasons that because associations should be governed in a rational manner, the household should be run by the husband rather than by the wife, whose rational capacity “lacks authority” (I.13.1260a13). Modern commentators sympathetic with Aristotle's general approach often contend that in this case he applies his own principles incorrectly–leaving open the question of how they should be applied. Further, the way he applies his principles may have seemed reasonable in his socio-political context–for example, that the citizen of a polity (normally the best attainable constitution) must be a hoplite soldier (cf. III.7,1297b4)–but it may be debatable how these might apply within a modern democratic nation-state.

The problem of extrapolating to modern political affairs can be illustrated more fully in connection with Aristotle's discussion of legal change in Politics II.8. He first lays out the argument for making the laws changeable. It has been beneficial in the case of medicine, for example, for it to progress from traditional ways to improved forms of treatment. An existing law may be a vestige of a primitive barbaric practice. For instance, Aristotle mentions a law in Cyme that allows an accuser to produce a number of his own relatives as witnesses to prove that a defendant is guilty of murder. “So,” Aristotle concludes, “it is evident from the foregoing that some laws should sometimes be changed. But to those who look at the matter from a different angle, caution would seem to be required” (1269a12-14). Since the law gets its force from the citizens' habit of obedience, great care should be exercised in making any change in it. It may sometimes be better to leave defective laws in place rather than encouraging lawlessness by changing the laws too frequently. Moreover, there are the problems of how the laws are to be changed and who is to change them. Although Aristotle offers valuable insights, he breaks off the discussion of this topic and never takes it up elsewhere. We might sum up his view as follows: When it comes to changing the laws, observe the mean: don't be too bound by traditional laws, but on the other hand don't be overeager in altering them. It is obvious that this precept, reasonable as it is, leaves considerable room for disagreement among contemporary “neo-Aristotelian” theorists. For example, should the laws be changed to allow self-described transsexual persons to use sexually segregated restrooms? Conservatives and liberals might agree with Aristotle's general stricture regarding legal change but differ widely on how to apply it in a particular case.

Most scholars of Aristotle make no attempt to show that he is aligned with any contemporary ideology. Rather, insofar as they find him relevant to our times, it is because he offers a remarkable synthesis of idealism and realpolitik unfolding in deep and thought-provoking discussions of perennial concerns of political philosophy: the role of human nature in politics, the relation of the individual to the state, the place of morality in politics, the theory of political justice, the rule of law, the analysis and evaluation of constitutions, the relevance of ideals to practical politics, the causes and cures of political change and revolution, and the importance of a morally educated citizenry.

Glossary of Aristotelian Terms

  • action: praxis
  • citizen: politês
  • city-state: polis (also ‘city’ or ‘state’)
  • community: koinônia
  • constitution: politeia (also ‘regime’)
  • free: eleutheros
  • good: agathos
  • happiness: eudaimonia
  • happy: eudaimôn
  • justice: dikaiosunê
  • law: nomos
  • lawgiver: nomothetês
  • master: despotês
  • nature: phusis
  • noble: kalon (also ‘beautiful’ or ‘fine’)
  • political: politikos (of, or pertaining to, the polis)
  • political science: politikê epistêmê
  • politician: politikos (also ‘statesman’)
  • practical: praktikos
  • practical wisdom: phronêsis
  • revolution: metabolê (also ‘change’)
  • right: exousia (also ‘liberty’)
  • ruler: archôn
  • self-sufficient: autarkês
  • sovereign: kurios
  • virtue: aretê (also ‘excellence’)
  • without qualification: haplôs (also ‘absolute’)
  • without authority: akuron

Bibliography

Note on Citations. Passages in Aristotle are cited as follows: title of treatise (italics), book (Roman numeral), chapter (Arabic numeral), line reference. Line references are keyed to the 1831 edition of Immanuel Bekker which had two columns (“a” and “b”) on each page. Politics is abbreviated as Pol. and Nicomachean Ethics as NE. In this article, “Pol. I.2.1252b27”, for example, refers to Politics book I, chapter 2, page 1252, column b, line 27. Most translations include the Bekker page number with column letter in the margin followed by every fifth line number.

Passages in Plato are cited in a similar fashion, except the line references are to the Stephanus edition of 1578 in which pages were divided into five parts (“a” through “e”).

A. Greek Text of Aristotle's Politics

  • Dreizehnter, Alois, Aristoteles' Politik, Munich: Wilhelm Fink, 1970.
  • Ross, W. D., Aristotelis Politica, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1957.

B. English Translations of Aristotle's Politics

  • Barker, Ernest, revised by Richard Stalley, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.
  • Jowett, Benjamin, in The Complete Works of Aristotle (Volume 2: The Revised Oxford Translation), Jonathan Barnes (ed.), Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984.
  • Lord, Carnes, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013, revised edition.
  • Rackham, H., Cambridge, London: Harvard University Press, 1932.
  • Reeve, C. D. C., Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Co., 1998.
  • Simpson, Peter L. P., Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996.
  • Sinclair, T. A., revised by Trevor J. Saunders, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1983.

The Clarendon Aristotle Series (Oxford University Press) includes translation and commentary of the Politics in four volumes:

  • Trevor J. Saunders, Politics I–II (1995).
  • Richard Robinson with a supplementary essay by David Keyt, Politics III–IV (1995).
  • David Keyt, Politics V–VI (1999).
  • Richard Kraut, Politics VII–VIII (1997).
  • Also of interest is the Constitution of Athens, an account of the history and workings of the Athenian democracy. Although it was formerly ascribed to Aristotle, it is now thought by most scholars to have been written by one of his pupils, perhaps at his direction toward the end of his life. A reliable translation with introduction and notes is by P. J. Rhodes, Aristotle: The Athenian Constitution. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1984.

C. Anthologies

  • Barnes, Jonathan, Malcolm Schofield, and Richard Sorabji (eds.), Articles on Aristotle (Volume 2: Ethics and Politics), London: Duckworth, 1977.
  • Deslauriers, Marguerite, and Pierre Destrée (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle's Politics, Cambridge: Cambridge Univerrsity Press, 2013.
  • Höffe, Otfried (ed.), Aristoteles Politik, Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2001.
  • Keyt, David, and Fred D. Miller, Jr. (eds.), A Companion to Aristotle's Politics, Oxford: Blackwell, 1991.
  • Kraut, Richard, and Steven Skultety (eds.), Aristotle's Politics: Critical Essays, Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2005.
  • Lockwood, Thornton, and Thanassis Samaras (eds.), Aristotle's Politics: A Critical Guide, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015.
  • Lord, Carnes, and David O'Connor (eds.), Essays on the Foundations of Aristotelian Political Science, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991.
  • Patzig, Günther (ed.), Aristoteles' Politik: Akten des XI. Symposium Aristotelicum, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1990.

D. Single-authored Commentaries and Overviews

  • Aquinas, Thomas, Commentary on Aristotle's Politics, Richard J. Regan (trans.), Indianapolis Publishing Co.: Hackett, 2007.
  • Barker, Ernest, The Political Thought of Plato and Aristotle, London: Methuen, 1906; reprinted, New York: Russell & Russell, 1959.
  • Bodéüs, Richard, The Political Dimensions of Aristotle's Ethics, Albany: SUNY Press, 1993.
  • Frank, Jill, A Democracy of Distinction: Aristotle and the Work of Politics, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005.
  • Hansen, Mogens Herman, Reflections on Aristotle's Politics, Copenhagen: Tusculaneum Press, 2013.
  • Keyt, David, Nature and Justice: Studies in the Ethical and Political Philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, Leuven: Peeters, 2017.
  • Kraut, Richard, Aristotle: Political Philosophy, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.
  • Miller, Fred D., Jr., Nature, Justice, and Rights in Aristotle's Politics, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.
  • Mulgan, Richard G., Aristotle's Political Theory, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977.
  • Newman, W. L., The Politics of Aristotle, 4 vols. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1887–1902; reprinted Salem, NH: Ayer, 1985.
  • Nichols, Mary, Citizens and Statesmen: A Study of Aristotle's Politics, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefied, 1992.
  • Riesbeck, David J., Aristotle on Political Community, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016.
  • Roberts, Jean, Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Aristotle and the Politics, London and New York: Routledge, 2009.
  • Schütrumpf, Eckart, Aristoteles: Politik, 4 vols. Berlin and Darmstadt: Akademie Verlag, 1999–2005.
  • Simpson, Peter, A Philosophical Commentary on the Politics of Aristotle, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998.
  • Strauss, Leo, “On Aristotle's Politics,” in The City and Man, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964, pp. 13–49.
  • Susemihl, Franz, and R. D. Hicks, The Politics of Aristotle, London: Macmillan, 1894. [Omits books IV–VI.]
  • Trott, Adriel M., Aristotle on the Nature of Community, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005.
  • Veogelin, Eric, Order and History (Volume 3: Plato and Aristotle), Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1977.
  • Yack, Bernard, The Problems of a Political Animal: Community, Justice, and Conflict in Aristotelian Political Thought, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.

E. Studies of Particular Topics

1. Biographical and Textual Studies

  • Barker, Ernest, “The Life of Aristotle and the Composition and Structure of the Politics,” Classical Review, 45 (1931), 162–72.
  • Jaeger, Werner, Aristotle: Fundamentals of the History of His Development, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1948.
  • Kelsen, Hans, “Aristotle and the Hellenic-Macedonian Policy,” in Jonathan Barnes et al. (eds.), Articles on Aristotle (Volume 2: Ethics and Politics), London: Duckworth, 1977, pp. 170–94.
  • Lord, Carnes, “The Character and Composition of Aristotle's Politics,” Political Theory, 9 (1981), 459–78.

2. Methodology and Foundations of Aristotle's Political Theory

  • Adkins, A. W. H., “The Connection between Aristotle's Ethics and Politics,” in David Keyt and Fred D. Miller, Jr. (eds.), A Companion to Aristotle's Politics, Oxford: Blackwell, 1991, pp. 75–93.
  • Depew, David J., “The Ethics of Aristotle's Politics,” in Ryan K. Balot (ed.), A Companion to Greek and Roman Political Thought, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009, pp. 399-418.
  • Frank Jill, “On Logos and Politics in Aristotle,” in Thornton Lockwood and Thanassis Samaras (eds.), Aristotle's Politics: A Critical Guide, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015, pp. 9–26.
  • Frede, Dorothea, “The Political Character of Aristotle's Ethics,” in Marguerite Deslauriers and Pierre Destrée (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle's Politics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013, pp. 14–37.
  • Irwin, Terence H., “Moral Science and Political Theory in Aristotle,” History of Political Thought, 6 (1985), pp. 150–68.
  • Kahn, Charles H., “The Normative Structure of Aristotle's Politics,” in Günther Patzig (ed.) Aristoteles' ‘Politik’, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1990, pp. 369–84.
  • Keyt, David, “Aristotle's Political Philosophy,” in David Keyt, Nature and Justice: Studies in the Ethical and Political Philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, Leuven: Peeters, 2017, 165–95.
  • Lockwood, Thornton, “Politics II: Political Critique, Plitical Theorizing, Political Innovation,” in Thornton Lockwood and Thanassis Samaras (eds.), Aristotle's Politics: A Critical Guide, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015, pp. 64–83.
  • Ober, Joshua, “Aristotle's Political Sociology: Class, Status, and Order in the Politics,” in Carnes Lord and David O'Connor (eds.), Essays on the Foundations of Aristotelian Political Science, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991.
  • Pellegrin, Pierre, “On the ‘Platonic’ Part of Aristotle's Politics,” in Willaim Wians (ed.) Aristotle's Philosophical Development, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1996, pp. 347–59.
  • –––, “Is Politics a Natural Science?” in Thornton Lockwood and Thanassis Samaras (eds.), Aristotle's Politics: A Critical Guide, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015, pp. 27–45.
  • –––, “Aristotle's Politics,” in Christopher Shields (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Aristotle, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012, pp. 558–85.
  • Rowe, Christopher J., “Aims and Methods in Aristotle's Politics,” in David Keyt and Fred D. Miller, Jr. (eds.), A Companion to Aristotle's Politics, Oxford: Blackwell, 1991, pp. 57–74.
  • Salkever, Stephen G., “Aristotle's Social Science,” Political Theory, 9 (1981), pp. 479–508; reprinted in Richard Kraut and Steven Skultety (eds.), Aristotle's Politics: Critical Essays, Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2005, pp. 27–64.
  • –––, Finding the Mean: Theory and Practice in Aristotelian Political Philosophy, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990.
  • Smith, Nicholas D. and Robert Mayhew, “Aristotle on What the Political Scientist Needs to Know,” in K. I. Boudouris (ed.) Aristotelian Political Philosophy (Volume 1), Athens: International Center for Greek Philosophy and Culture, 1995, pp. 189–98.

3. Political Naturalism

  • Ambler, Wayne, “Aristotle's Understanding of the Naturalness of the City,” Review of Politics, 47 (1985), 163–85.
  • Annas, Julia, “Aristotle on Human Nature and Political Virtue,” The Review of Metaphysics, 49 (1996), 731–54.
  • Chan, Joseph, “Does Aristotle's Political Theory Rest on a Blunder?” History of Political Thought, 13 (1992), 189–202.
  • Chappell, Timothy, “‘Naturalism’ in Aristotle's Political Philosophy,” in Ryan K. Balot (ed.), A Companion to Greek and Roman Political Thought, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009, pp. 382–98.
  • Cherry, K. and E. A. Goerner, “Does Aristotle's Polis Exist ‘By Nature’?” History of Political Thought, 27 (2006), 563–85.
  • Cooper, John M., “Political Animals and Civic Friendship,” in Günther Patzig (ed.), Aristoteles' ‘Politik’, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1990, pp. 220–41; reprinted in Richard Kraut and Steven Skultety (eds.), Aristotle's Politics: Critical Essays, Lanham MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2005, pp. 65–89.
  • DePew, David J., “Humans and Other Political Animals in Aristotle's Historia Animalium,” Phronesis, 40 (1995), 156–76.
  • Everson, Stephen, “Aristotle on the Foundations of the State,” Political Studies, 36 (1988), 89–101.
  • Keyt, David, “The Meaning of BIOS in Aristotle's Ethics and Politics,” Ancient Philosophy , 9 (1989), 15–21. Reprinted in David Keyt, Nature and Justice: Studies in the Ethical and Political Philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, Leuven: Peeters, 2017, 101–9.
  • –––, “Three Basic Theorems in Aristotle's Politics,” in David Keyt and Fred D. Miller, Jr. (eds.), A Companion to Aristotle's Politics, Oxford: Blackwell, 1991, pp. 118–41. Reprinted in David Keyt, Nature and Justice: Studies in the Ethical and Political Philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, Leuven: Peeters, 2017, 111–38.
  • Kullmann, Wolfgang, “Man as a Political Animal in Aristotle,” in David Keyt and Fred D. Miller, Jr. (eds.), A Companion to Aristotle's Politics, Oxford: Blackwell, 1991, pp. 94–117.
  • Miller, Fred D., Jr., “Aristotle: Naturalism,” in Christopher J. Rowe and Malcolm Schofield (eds.), The Cambridge History of Greek and Roman Political Thought, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000, pp. 321–43.
  • Mulgan, Richard, “Aristotle's Doctrine that Man is a Political Animal,” Hermes, 102 (1974), 438–45.
  • Reeve, C. D. C., “The Naturalness of the Polis in Aristotle,” in Georgios Anagnostopoulos (ed.), A Companion to Aristotle, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009, pp. 512–25.
  • Roberts, Jean, “Political Animals in the Nicomachean Ethics,” Phronesis, 34 (1989), 185–202.

4. Household: Women, Children, and Slaves

  • Booth, William James, “Politics and the Household: A Commentary on Aristotle's Politics Book One,” History of Political Thought, 2 (1981), 203–26.
  • Brunt, P. A., “Aristotle and Slavery,” in Studies in Greek History and Thought, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993, pp. 434–88.
  • Chambliss, J. J., “Aristotle's Conception of Children and the Poliscraft,” Educational Studies, 13 (1982), 33–43.
  • Cole, Eve Browning, “Women, Slaves, and ‘Love of Toil’ in Aristotle's Moral Psychology,” in Bat-Ami Bar On (ed.), Engendering Origins: Critical Feminist Readings in Plato and Aristotle, Albany: SUNY Press, 1994, pp. 127–44.
  • Deslauriers, Marguerite, “The Virtues of Women and Slaves,” Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy, 25 (2003), 213–31.
  • –––, “Political Rule Over Women in Politics,” in Thornton Lockwood and Thanassis Samaras (eds.), Aristotle's Politics: A Critical Guide, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015, pp. 46–63.
  • Fortenbaugh, W. W., “Aristotle on Slaves and Women,” in Jonathan Barnes et al. (eds.), Articles on Aristotle, vol. 2, Ethics and Politics. London: Duckworth, 1977, pp. 135–9.
  • Frank, Jill, “Citizens, Slaves, and Foreigners: Aristotle on Human Nature,” American Political Science Review, 98 (2004), 91–104.
  • Freeland, Cynthia, Feminist Interpretations of Aristotle, University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1998.
  • Garnsey, Peter, Ideas of Slavery from Aristotle to Augustine, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
  • Lindsay, Thomas K., “Was Aristotle Racist, Sexist, and Anti-Democratic?: A Review Essay,” Review of Politics 56 (1994), 127–51.
  • Lockwood, Thornton, “Justice in Aristotle's Household and City,” Polis, 20 (2003), 1–21.
  • –––, “Is Natural Slavery Beneficial?” Journal of the History of Philosophy, 45 (2007), 207–21.
  • Mayhew, Robert, The Female in Aristotle's Biology: Reason or Rationalization, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004.
  • Modrak, Deborah, “Aristotle: Women, Deliberation, and Nature,” in Bat-Ami Bar On (ed.), Engendering Origins: Critical Feminist Readings in Plato and Aristotle, Albany: SUNY Press, 1994, pp. 207–21.
  • Mulgan, Robert G., “Aristotle and the Political Role of Women,” History of Political Thought, 15 (1994), 179–202.
  • Nagle, D. Brendan, The Household as the Foundation of Aristotle's Polis, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.
  • Pellegrin, Pierre, “Natural Slavery,” in Marguerite Deslauriers and Pierre Destrée (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle's Politics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013, pp. 92-116.
  • Saxenhouse, Arlene W., “Family, Polity, and Unity: Aristotle on Socrates' Community of Wives,” Polity, 15 (1982), 202–19.
  • Schofield, Malcolm, “Ideology and Philosophy in Aristotle's Theory of Slavery,” in Günther Patzig (ed.) Aristoteles' ‘Politik’, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1990, pp. 1–27; reprinted in Richard Kraut and Steven Skultety (eds.), Aristotle's Politics: Critical Essays, Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2005, pp. 91–119.
  • Senack, Christine M., “Aristotle on the Woman's Soul,” in Bat-Ami Bar On (ed.), Engendering Origins: Critical Feminist Readings in Plato and Aristotle, Albany: SUNY Press, 1994, pp. 223–36.
  • Simpson, Peter, “Aristotle's Criticism of Socrates' Communism of Wives and Children,” Apeiron, 24 (1991), 99–114.
  • Smith, Nicholas D., “Plato and Aristotle on the Nature of Women,” Journal of the History of Philosophy, 21 (1983), 467–78.
  • –––, “Aristotle's Theory of Natural Slavery,” in David Keyt and Fred D. Miller, Jr. (eds.), A Companion to Aristotle's Politics, Oxford: Blackwell, 1991, pp. 142–55.
  • Spelman, E. V., “Aristotle and the Politicization of the Soul,” in Sandra Harding and M. B. Hintikka (eds) Discovering Reality: Feminist Perspectives on Epistemology, Metaphysics, Methodology, and Philosophy of Science, Dordrecht: D. Reidel, 1983, pp. 17–30.
  • –––, “Who's Who in the Polis,” in Bat-Ami Bar On (ed.), Engendering Origins: Critical Feminist Readings in Plato and Aristotle, Albany: SUNY Press, 1994, pp. 99–125.
  • Stauffer, Dana J., “Aristotle's Account of the Subjection of Women,” Journal of Politics, 70 (2008), 929–41.

5. Political Economy

  • Ambler, Wayne H., “Aristotle on Acquisition,” Canadian Journal of Political Science, 17 (1984), 487–502.
  • Dobbs, Darrell, “Aristotle's Anticommunism,” American Journal of Political Science, 29 (1985), 29–46.
  • Finley, M. I., “Aristotle and Economic Analysis,” in Jonathan Barnes et al. (eds.), Articles on Aristotle, vol. 2, Ethics and Politics. London: Duckworth, 1977, pp. 140–58.
  • Inamura, Kazutaka, “The Role of Reciprocity in Aristotle's Theory of Political Economy,” History of Political Thought, 32 (2011), 565–87.
  • Irwin, Terence H., “Aristotle's Defense of Private Property,” in David Keyt and Fred D. Miller, Jr. (eds.). A Companion to Aristotle's Politics, Oxford: Blackwell, 1991, pp. 200–25.
  • Judson, Lindsay, “Aristotle on Fair Exchange,” Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy, 15 (1997), 147–75.
  • Keyt, David, “Aristotle and the Joy of Working,” in David Keyt, Nature and Justice: Studies in the Ethical and Political Philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, Leuven: Peeters, 2017, 223–39.
  • Mayhew, Robert, “Aristotle on Property,” The Review of Metaphysics, 46 (1993), 802–31.
  • McNeill, D., “Alternative Interpretations of Aristotle on Exchange and Reciprocity,” Public Affairs Quarterly, 4 (1990), 55–68.
  • Mei, Todd S., “The Preeminence of Use: Reevaluating the Relation between Use and Exchange in Aristotle's Economic Thought,” American Journal of the History of Philosophy 47 (2009), 523–48.
  • Meikle, Scott, “Aristotle on Money” Phronesis 39 (1994), 26–44.
  • –––, Aristotle's Economic Thought, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.
  • Miller, Fred D. Jr., “Property Rights in Aristotle,” in Richard Kraut and Steven Skultety (eds.), Aristotle's Politics: Critical Essays, Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2005, pp. 121–44.
  • –––, “Was Aristotle the First Economist?” Apeiron, 31 (1998), 387–98.
  • –––, “Aristotle and Business: Friend or Foe?” in Eugene Heath and Byron Kaldis (eds.), Wealth, Commerce and Philosophy: Foundational Thinkers and Business Ethics, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017, pp. 31–52.
  • Nielsen, Karen Margrethe, “Economy and Private Property,” in Marguerite Deslauriers and Pierre Destrée (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle's Politics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013, pp. 67–91.

6. Political Justice and Injustice

  • Brunschwig, Jacques, “The Aristotelian Theory of Equity,” in Michael Frede and Gisela Striker (eds.), Rationality in Greek Thought, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 115–55.
  • Marguerite Deslauriers, “Political Unity and Inequality,” in Marguerite Deslauriers and Pierre Destrée (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle's Politics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013, pp. 117–43.
  • Georgiadis, Constantine, “Equitable and Equity in Aristotle,” in Spiro Panagiotou (ed.), Justice, Law and Method in Plato and Aristotle, Edmonton: Academic Printing & Publishing, 1987, pp. 159–72.
  • Hatzistavrou, Antony, “Faction,” in Marguerite Deslauriers and Pierre Destrée (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle's Politics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013, pp. 301–23.
  • Keyt, David, “Aristotle's Theory of Distributive Justice,” in David Keyt and Fred D. Miller, Jr. (eds.), A Companion to Aristotle's Politics, Oxford: Blackwell, 1991, pp. 238–78.
  • –––, “The Good Man and the Upright Citizen in Aristotle's Ethics> and Politics,“ in David Keyt and Fred D. Miller, Jr. (eds.), Freedom, Reason, and the Polis: Essays in Ancient Greek Political Philosophy, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007, 220–40. Reprinted in David Keyt, Nature and Justice: Studies in the Ethical and Political Philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, Leuven: Peeters, 2017, 197–221.
  • –––, “Nature and Justice.In David Keyt, Nature and Justice: Studies in the Ethical and Political Philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, Leuven: Peeters, 2017, 1–19.
  • Lockwood, Thornton, “Polity, Political Justice, and Political Mixing,” History of Political Thought, 27 (2006), 207–22.
  • Morrison, Donald, “The Common Good,” in Marguerite Deslauriers and Pierre Destrée (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle's Politics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013, pp. 176–98.
  • Nussbaum, Martha C., “Nature, Function, and Capability: Aristotle on Political Distribution,” in Günther Patzig (ed.), Aristoteles' ‘Politik’, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1990, pp. 153–87.
  • Roberts, Jean, “Justice and the Polis,” in Christopher J. Rowe and Malcolm Schofield (eds.), The Cambridge History of Greek and Roman Political Thought, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000, pp. 344–65.
  • Rosler, Andrés, “Civic Virtue: Citizenship, Ostracism, and War,” in Marguerite Deslauriers and Pierre Destrée (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle's Politics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013, pp. 144–75.
  • Saxonhouse, Arlene W., “Aristotle on the Corruption of Regimes: Resentment and Justice,” in Thornton Lockwood and Thanassis Samaras (eds.), Aristotle's Politics: A Critical Guide, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015, pp. 184–203.
  • Schütrumpf, Eckart, “Little to Do With Justice: Aristotle on Distributing Political Power,” in Thornton Lockwood and Thanassis Samaras (eds.), Aristotle's Politics: A Critical Guide, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015, pp. 163–83.
  • Young, Charles M., “Aristotle on Justice,” The Southern Journal of Philosophy, 27 (1988), 233–49.
  • Zingano, Marco, “Natural, Ethical, and Political Justice,” in Marguerite Deslauriers and Pierre Destrée (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle's Politics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013, pp. 199–222.

7. Citizenship, Civic Obligation, and Political Rights

  • Allan, D. J., “Individual and State in the Ethics and Politics,” Entretiens sur l'Antiquité Classique IX, La ‘Politique’ d'Aristote, Geneva: Fondation Hardt, 1964, pp. 53–95.
  • Barnes, Jonathan, “Aristotle and Political Liberty,” in Günther Patzig (ed.), Aristoteles' ‘Politik’, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1990, pp. 249–63; reprinted in Richard Kraut and Steven Skultety (eds.), Aristotle's Politics: Critical Essays, Lanham MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2005, pp. 185–201.
  • Collins, Susan D., Aristotle and the Rediscovery of Citizenship, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.
  • Frede, Dorothea, “Citizenship in Aristotle's Politics,” in Richard Kraut and Steven Skultety (eds.), Aristotle's Politics: Critical Essays, Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2005, pp. 167–84.
  • Horn, Christoph, “Law, Governance, and Political Obligation,” in Marguerite Deslauriers and Pierre Destrée (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle's Politics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013, pp. 223–46.
  • Irwin, Terence H., “The Good of Political Activity,” in Günther Patzig (ed.), Aristoteles' ‘Politik’, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1990, pp. 73–98.
  • Kraut, Richard, “Are There Natural Rights in Aristotle?” The Review of Metaphysics, 49 (1996), 755–74.
  • Lane, Melissa, “Claims to Rule: The Case of the Mutlitude,” in Marguerite Deslauriers and Pierre Destrée (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle's Politics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013, pp. 247–74.
  • Long, Roderick T., “Aristotle's Conception of Freedom,” The Review of Metaphysics, 49 (1996), 775–802; reprinted in Richard O. Brooks and James Bernard Murphy (eds.), Aristotle and Modern Law, Aldershot Hants, UK: Ashgate Publishing Co., 2003, pp. 384–410.
  • Miller, Fred D., Jr., “Aristotle and the Origins of Natural Rights,” The Review of Metaphysics, 49 (1996), 873–907.
  • –––, “Aristotle's Theory of Political Rights,” in Richard O. Brooks and James Bernard Murphy (eds.), Aristotle and Modern Law, Aldershot Hants, UK: Ashgate Publishing Co., 2003, pp. 309–50.
  • Morrison, Donald, “Aristotle's Definition of Citizenship: A Problem and Some Solutions,” History of Philosophy Quarterly, 16 (1999), 143–65.
  • Mulgan, Robert G., “Aristotle and the Value of Political Participation,” Political Theory, 18 (1990), 195–215.
  • Roberts, Jean, “Excellences of the Citizen and of the Individual,” in Georgios Anagnostopoulos (ed.), A Companion to Aristotle, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009, pp. 555–65.
  • Rosler, Andrés, “Civic Virtue: Citizenship, Ostracism, and War,” in Marguerite Deslauriers and Pierre Destrée (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle's Politics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013, pp. 144–75.
  • Samaras, Thanassis, “Aristotle and the Question of Citizenship,” in Thornton Lockwood and Thanassis Samaras (eds.), Aristotle's Politics: A Critical Guide, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015, pp. 123–41.
  • Schofield, Malcolm, “Sharing in the Constitution,” The Review of Metaphysics, 49 (1996), 831–58; reprinted in Richard O. Brooks and James Bernard Murphy (eds.), Aristotle and Modern Law, Aldershot Hants, UK: Ashgate Publishing Co., 2003, pp. 353–80.
  • Zuckert, Catherine H., “Aristotle on the Limits and Satisfactions of Political Life,” Interpretation, 11 (1983), 185–206.

8. Constitutional Theory

  • Balot, Ryan, “The "Mixed Regime" In Aristotle's Politics,” in Thornton Lockwood and Thanassis Samaras (eds.), Aristotle's Politics: A Critical Guide, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015, pp. 103–22.
  • Bates, Clifford A., Aristotle's “Best Regime”: Kingship, Democracy, and the Rule of Law, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2003.
  • Bobonich, Christopher, “Aristotle, Decision Making, and the Many,” in Thornton Lockwood and Thanassis Samaras (eds.), Aristotle's Politics: A Critical Guide, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015, pp. 142–62.
  • Cherry, Kevin M., “The Problem of Polity: Political Participation in Aristotle's Best Regime,” Journal of Politics, 71 (2009), 406–21.
  • Coby, Patrick, “Aristotle's Three Cities and the Problem of Faction,” Journal of Politics, 50 (1988), 896–919.
  • Destrée, Pierre, “Aristotle on Improving Imperfect Cities,” in Thornton Lockwood and Thanassis Samaras (eds.), Aristotle's Politics: A Critical Guide, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015, pp. 204–23.
  • Dietz, Mary G., “Between Polis and Empire: Aristotle's Politics,” American Political Science Review 106 (2012), 275–93.
  • Garsten, Bryan, “Deliberating and Acting Together,” in Marguerite Deslauriers and Pierre Destrée (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle's Politics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013, pp. 324–49.
  • Huxley, G., “On Aristotle's Best State,” in Paul Cartledge and F. D. Harvey (eds.), Crux: Essays Presented to G. E. M. de Ste. Croix, London: Duckworth, 1985, pp. 139–49.
  • Johnson, Curtis N., Aristotle's Theory of the State, New York: Macmillan, 1990.
  • Keyt, David, “Aristotle and Anarchism,” Reason Papers, 18 (1993), 133–52; reprinted in Richard Kraut and Steven Skultety. Aristotle's Politics: Critical Essays, Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2005, pp. 203–22.
  • Kraut, Richard, “Aristotle's Critique of False Utopias,” in Otfried Höffe, Otfried ( ed.) Aristoteles Politik, Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2001, pp. 59–73.
  • Lintott, Andrew, “Aristotle and Democracy,” The Classical Quarterly (New Series), 42 (1992), 114–28.
  • Mayhew, Robert, Aristotle's Criticism of Plato's Republic, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1997.
  • –––, “Rulers and Ruled,” in Georgios Anagnostopoulos (ed.), A Companion to Aristotle, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009, pp. 526–39.
  • Miller, Fred D., Jr., “Aristotle on the Ideal Constitution,” in Georgios Anagnostopoulos (ed.), A Companion to Aristotle, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009, pp. 540–54.
  • –––, “The Rule of Reason,” in Marguerite Deslauriers and Pierre Destrée (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle's Politics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013, pp. 38–66.
  • Mulgan, Richard, “Aristotle's Analysis of Oligarchy and Democracy,” in David Keyt and Fred D. Miller, Jr. (eds.), A Companion to Aristotle's Politics, Oxford: Blackwell, 1991, pp. 307–22.
  • –––, “Constitutions and the Purpose of the State,” in Otfried Höffe, Otfried ( ed.) Aristoteles Politik, Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2001, pp. 93–106.
  • Mulhern, J. J., “Politeia in Greek Literature, Inscriptions, and in Aristotle's Politics: Reflections on Translation and Interpretation,” in Thornton Lockwood and Thanassis Samaras (eds.), Aristotle's Politics: A Critical Guide, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015, pp. 84–102.
  • Murray, O., “Polis and Politeia in Aristotle,” in Mogens Herman Hansen (ed.), The Ancient Greek City-State, Copenhagen: Muksgaard, 1993, pp. 197–210.
  • Ober, Joshua, “Aristotle's Natural Democracy,” in Richard Kraut and Steven Skultety (eds.), Aristotle's Politics: Critical Essays, Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2005, pp. 223–43.
  • –––, “Democracy's Wisdom: An Aristotelian Middle Way for Collective Judgment,” American Political Science Review, 107 (2013), 104–22.
  • –––, “Nature, History, and Aristotle's Best Possible Regime,” in Thornton Lockwood and Thanassis Samaras (eds.), Aristotle's Politics: A Critical Guide, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015, pp. 224–43.
  • Polansky, Ronald, “Aristotle on Political Change,” in David Keyt and Fred D. Miller, Jr. (eds.), A Companion to Aristotle's Politics, Oxford: Blackwell, 1991, pp. 322–45.
  • Rosler, Andres, Political Authority and Obligation in Aristotle, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.
  • Rowe, C. J., “Reality and Utopia,” Elenchos, 10 (1989), 317–36.
  • –––, “Aristotelian Constitutions,” in Christopher J. Rowe and Malcolm Schofield (eds.), The Cambridge History of Greek and Roman Political Thought, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000, pp. 366–89.
  • Strauss, Barry, “On Aristotle's Critique of Athenian Democracy,” in Carnes Lord and David O'Connor (eds.), Essays on the Foundations of Aristotelian Political Science, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991, pp. 212–33.
  • Vander Waert, Paul A., “Kingship and Philosophy in Aristotle's Best Regime,” Phronesis, 30 (1985), 249–73.
  • Waldron, Jeremy, “The Wisdom of the Multitude: Some Reflections on Book 3, Chapter 11 of Aristotle's Politics,” Political Theory, 20 (1992), 613–41; reprinted in Richard Kraut and Steven Skultety (eds.), Aristotle's Politics: Critical Essays, Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2005, pp. 145–65.
  • Wilson, James L., “Deliberation, Democracy, and the Rule of Reason in Aristotle's Politics,” American Political Science Review, 105 (2011), 259–74.

9. Education

  • Burnyeat, Myles F., “Aristotle on Learning to Be Good,” in Amelie O. Rorty (ed.), Essays on Aristotle's Ethics, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980, pp. 69–92.
  • Curren, Randall R., Aristotle on the Necessity of Public Education, Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2000.
  • Depew, David J., “Politics, Music, and Contemplation in Aristotle's Ideal State,” in David Keyt and Fred D. Miller, Jr. (eds.), A Companion to Aristotle's Politics, Oxford: Blackwell, 1991, pp. 346–80.
  • Destrée, Pierre, “Education, Leisure, and Politics,” in Marguerite Deslauriers and Pierre Destrée (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle's Politics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013, pp. 301–23.
  • Kraut, Richard, “Aristotle on Method and Moral Education,” in Jyl Gentzler (ed.), Method in Ancient Philosophy, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998, pp. 171–90.
  • –––, “Aristotle on Becoming Good: Habituation, Reflection, and Perception,” in Christopher Shields (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Aristotle, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012, pp. 529–57.
  • Lord, Carnes, Education and Culture in the Political Thought of Aristotle, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1982.
  • Lynch, John Patrick, Aristotle's School, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972.
  • Muzio, G. D., “Aristotle on Improving One's Character,” Phronesis, 45 (2000), 205–19.
  • Stalley, Richard, “Education and the State,” in Georgios Anagnostopoulos (ed.), A Companion to Aristotle, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009, pp. 566–76.

10. Law

  • Brooks, Richard O. and James B. Murphy (eds.), Aristotle and Modern Law, Aldershot Hants, UK and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2003.
  • Burns, Tony, “Aristotle and Natural Law,” History of Political Thought, 19 (1998), 142–66.
  • Hamburger, Max, Morals and Law: The Growth of Aristotle's Legal Theory, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1951.
  • Miller, Fred D., Jr., “Aristotle's Philosophy of Law,” in Fred D. Miller, Jr. and Carrie-Ann Biondi (eds.), A History of the Philosophy of Law from the Ancient Greeks to the Scholastics [vol. 6 of A Treatise of Legal Philosophy and General Jurisprudence, ed. Enrico Pattaro]. Dordrecht: Springer, 2007, pp.79–110.
  • Schroeder, Donald N., “Aristotle on Law,” Polis, 4 (1981), 17–31; reprinted in Richard O. Brooks and James Bernard Murphy (eds.), Aristotle and Modern Law, Aldershot Hants, UK: Ashgate Publishing Co., 2003, pp. 37–51.

11. Aristotle and Contemporary Politics

  • Biondi, Carrie-Ann, “Aristotle on the Mixed Constitution and Its Relevance for American Political Thought,” in David Keyt and Fred D. Miller, Jr. (eds.), Freedom, Reason, and the Polis: Essays in Ancient Greek Political Philosophy, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007, 176–98.
  • Galston, William A., Justice and the Human Good, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980.
  • Garver, Eugene, Aristotle's Politics: Living Well and Living Together, Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2011.
  • Goodman, Lenn E. and Robert Talise (eds.), Aristotle's Politics Today, Albany: State University of New York Press, 2003.
  • Kraut, Richard, “Aristotle and Rawls on the Common Good,” in Marguerite Deslauriers and Pierre Destrée (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle's Politics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013, pp. 350–74.
  • Lord, Carnes, “Aristotle and the Idea of Liberal Education,” in Josiah Ober and Charles Hedrick (eds.), Demokrateia: A Conversation of Democracy, Ancient and Modern, Princeton: Princeton University PressOxford: Blackwell, 1996, pp. 271–88.
  • Machan, Tibor R., “Aristotle and the Moral Status of Business. ‘ Journal of Value Inquiry, 38 (2004), 217–33.
  • Mara, Gerald M., “The Culture of Democracy: Aristotle's Athênaiôn Politeia as Political Theory,” in Aristide Tessitore (ed) Aristotle and Modern Politics: The Persistence of Political Philosophy, Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2002, 307–41.
  • Miller, Fred D., Jr., “Aristotle and Business: Friend or Foe?” in Eugene Heath and Byron Kaldis (eds.), Wealth, Commerce & Philosophy: Foundational Thinkers and Business Ethics, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017, pp. 31–52.
  • Mulgan, Robert G., “Was Aristotle an ‘Aristotelian Social Democrat’?” Ethics, 111 (2000), 79–101.
  • Murphy, James Bernard, The Moral Economy of Labor: Aristotelian Themes in Economic Theory, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1993.
  • Nussbaum, Martha C., “Aristotelian Social Democracy,” in R. Bruce Douglas, Gerald M. Mara, and Henry S. Richardson (eds) Liberalism and the Good, London: Routledge, 1990, pp. 203–52.
  • –––, “Capabilities and Human Rights,” Fordham Law Review, 66 (1997), 273–300; reprinted in Richard O. Brooks and James Bernard Murphy (eds.), Aristotle and Modern Law, Aldershot Hants, UK: Ashgate Publishing Co., 2003, pp. 413–40.
  • –––, “Aristotle, Politics, and Human Capabilities: A Response to Anthony, Arneson, Charlesworth, and Mulgan,” Ethics, 111 (2000), 102–40.
  • Pack, Spencer J., “Aristotle's Difficult Relationship with Modern Economic Theory.‘ Foundations of Science, 13 (2008), 256–80.
  • Rasmussen, Douglas B. and Douglas J. Den Uyl, Liberty and Nature: An Aristotelian Defense of Liberal Order, La Salle, IL: Open Court, 1991.
  • –––, Norms of Liberty: A Perfectionist Basis for Non-Perfectionist Politics, University Park PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2005.
  • Salkever, Stephen S., Finding the Mean: Theory and Practice in Aristotelian Political Philosophy, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990.
  • Tessitore, Aristide (ed.), Aristotle and Modern Politics: The Persistence of Political Philosophy, Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2002.
  • Wallach, John C., “Contemporary Aristotelianism,” Political Theory, 20 (1992), 613–41.

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