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Does Aristotle's political theory rest on a ‘blunder’?

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Abstract:

We may sum up the five roles which human beings might play in the existence of the polis in the following way: (1) Human nature plays the role of the inner principle of change which explains the type of human relation a polis takes (the polis as a type); (2) General patterns of human behaviours, together with patterns of societal conditions, play the role of material conditions which explain the variety of forms of polis; (3) Statesmen or politicians play the role of political craftsmen which explains the particular form of the natural type a polis actually takes; (4) Human effort plays the role of one of the external conditions which explains the occurrence of a polis; (5) Individual human persons or groups play the role of an artificer which is responsible for and wholly explains the type of the human relation a polis takes.

What I have argued in this paper is, firstly, that (1) is compatible with (2), (3) and (4), but not with (5), and secondly, that Aristotle affirms (1), (2), (3) and (4), but denies (5). Aristotle's theory of the naturalness of the polis is, therefore, not the blundered doctrine its critics suppose it to be.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Hong Kong.

Publication date: January 1, 1992

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