Aristotelian equity (epieikeia) has often been relegated to scholarly discussions of retributive justice. Recently, however, political theorists have recast equity as the virtue of a sympathetic democratic citizen. I build on this literature by offering a more precise explanation of equity’s internal structure and political significance. In particular, I reveal equity’s deliberative dimension. For Aristotle, equitable citizens, statesmen, and legislators correct or go beyond the law, as appropriate, not only when they render retrospective judgments about matters of punishment or distribution, but also when they deliberate about future-oriented questions of legislation or political action. In addition, I show, more concretely, the role of equity in democratic citizenship. Drawing upon the Aristotelian Constitution of the Athenians, I argue that the Athenian demos exemplified equity when it brought about the reconciliation and the amnesty of 403 BC. Attention to this episode clarifies the conceptual linkages between equity, deliberation, sympathy, and democracy.
Toward the end of PoliticsV. 12, Aristotle criticizes Plato’s discussion of political change in RepublicVIII-IX. Scholars often reject Aristotle’s criticism, especially because it portrays Plato’s discussion, allegedly unfairly, as developing a historically testable theory. I argue that Aristotle’s criticism is adequate, and that the seriousness with which he considers Plato’s account of political change as an alternative to his own is both warranted and instructive. First, apart from criticizing Plato’s account for its historical inaccuracies, Aristotle also exposes theoretical insufficiencies and internal inconsistencies within it. Second, Aristotle’s criticisms of historical inaccuracies in Plato’s discussion of political change are not misdirected, since there are reasons to think that Plato does intend that discussion to accord with the historical facts.
Plato’s references to Empedocles in the myth of the Statesman perform a crucial role in the overarching political argument of the dialogue. Empedocles conceives of the cosmos as structured like a democracy, where the constituent powers ‘rule in turn’, sharing the offices of rulership equally via a cyclical exchange of power. In a complex act of philosophical appropriation, Plato takes up Empedocles’ cosmic cycles of rule in order to ‘correct’ them: instead of a democracy in which rule is shared cyclically amongst equal constituents, Plato’s cosmos undergoes cycles of the presence and absence of a single cosmic monarch who possesses ‘kingly epistēmē’. By means of a revision of Empedocles’ democratic cosmology, Plato’s richly woven myth is designed precisely to reject the appropriateness of democracy as a form of human political association and legitimate monarchy in its stead.
Against the traditional reading of Cynic cosmopolitanism, this essay advances the thesis that Diogenes’ world citizenship is a positive claim supported by philosophical argument and philosophical example. Evidence in favor of this thesis is a new interpretation of Diogenes’ syllogistic argument concerning law (nomos) (D.L. 6.72). Important to the argument are an understanding of Diogenes’ philanthropic character and his moral imperative to ‘re-stamp the currency’. Whereas Socrates understands his care as attached specially to Athens, Diogenes’ philosophical mission and form of care attach not to his native Sinope but to all humanity. An important result is that Diogenes’ Cynicism provides an ancient example of cosmopolitanism that is philanthropic, minimalistic, experimental, and utopian.