‘Not Slavery, but Salvation’

Aristotle on Constitution and Government

In: Polis: The Journal for Ancient Greek and Roman Political Thought
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  • 1 Wabash College, Crawfordsville, in 47933, USA

This paper argues that Aristotle challenges the view of Athenian democrats that all rule is master rule – the imposition of the will of the powerful on the powerless – by arguing that the politeuma, or government, should be identical with the politeia, understood both as the constitution and the collectivity of citizens. I examine Aristotle’s analysis and response to democrats’ skepticism of the law that the constitution embodies. Aristotle argues that democrats think law limits license even when the source of law is the people themselves. The view of citizens as the source of law coupled with the view of the law as a commitment to collective determinations regarding the end makes law salvation rather than slavery.

  • 3

    M. Schofield, ‘Sharing in the Constitution’, The Review of Metaphysics, 49 (1996), pp. 831-58. Cf. J. Frank, Democracy of Distinction: Aristotle and the Work of Politics (Chicago, il: University of Chicago Press, 2005).

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  • 15

    C. Johnson, ‘The Hobbesian Conception of Sovereignty and Aristotle’s Politics’, Journal of the History of Ideas, 46 (1985), pp. 327-47, 334.

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  • 32

    Schofield, ‘Sharing in the Constitution’, p. 836.

  • 33

    R.C. Bartlett and S.D. Collins, Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2011). Schofield, ‘Sharing in the Constitution’, p. 850.

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  • 52

    F. Sparshott, Taking Life Seriously: A Study of the Argument of the Nicomachean Ethics (Toronto: University of Toronto, 1994), p. 7.

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