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Does Aristotle's Polis Exist 'By Nature'?

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Abstract:

Aristotle claims man is a political animal and that the polis exists by nature. Taking literally his analogy between the legislator and the craftsman, Aristotle's critics contend that he 'blunders' because the polis is artificial, devised by a legislator/founder and imposed on a people. We defend Aristotle's claims by showing, first, how Aristotle's claim that man is by nature an animal possessing logos -- speech/reason -- grounds his account of the natural development of the polis out of the earliest partnerships (which the critics concede are natural); second, that the person who first brought people together in a polis may well have done so without realizing the scope of his actions; and, finally, that the developmental process is clearly one of praxis (action), not poisis (making, the imposition of a form on matter). Aristotle's claims are evidenced by the Homeric hero Philoctetes, whom one critic takes to disprove Aristotle's theses.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Dept of Political Science, University of Notre Dame, 217 O'Shaughnessy Hall, Notre Dame, IN 46556, USA., Email: kcherry@nd.edu.

Publication date: 2006-01-01

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