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In Nicomachean Ethics V.6 Aristotle contrasts political justice (which exists between citizens) with household justice (between husband and wife), paternal justice (between father and son), and despotic justice (between master and slave) (1134b8–18). My paper expands upon Aristotle’s sometimes enigmatic remarks about political justice through an examination of his account of justice within the oikia or ‘household’. Understanding political justice requires explicating the concepts of freedom and equality, but for Aristotle, the children and wife within the household are free people even if not citizens, and there exists proportionate equality between a husband and wife. Additionally, Aristotle’s articulation and defence of political justice arises out of his examination of despotic justice in the first book of the Politics. Not only are the polis and the oikia similar insofar as they are associations, but Nicomachean Ethics VIII.9–11 suggests they are even isomorphic with respect to justice and friendship. Thus, in this paper I explore the relationships between father and son, husband and wife, master and slave, and between siblings in order to see what they tell us about Aristotle’s understanding of freedom, equality, and justice.

In: Polis: The Journal for Ancient Greek and Roman Political Thought
Editor-in-Chief: Thornton C. Lockwood
Polis (AGPT) was founded in 1977 to provide a forum for publication to scholars specializing in what was then a neglected sub-field – ancient Greek political thought. In the years since, Polis has expanded its coverage to include Hellenistic and Roman political thought. Over the years Polis evolved into a fully-fledged academic journal that publishes material of interest to those who study ancient Greek and Roman political thought broadly understood, whether they do so as classicists, ancient historians, philosophers, intellectual historians, or political scientists. Polis also welcomes articles on the reception of ancient Greek and Roman political thought in Europe, America, or elsewhere. Since its inception the journal speaks for no particular perspective or methodology and it is devoted to the publication of original papers, even though extensive literature reviews, critiques of contemporary research, and review essays are also included.

Polis publishes contributions written in English, French and German. Submissions are peer-reviewed, and an editorial decision is made on the basis of these reviews. The views and opinions expressed in peer-reviewed articles published in Polis are those of the authors and do not reflect the position of the journal.

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In: Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy


Aristotle’s claim that poetry is “a more philosophic and better thing” than history (Poet. 9.1451b5–6) and his description of the “poetic universal” have been the source of much scholarly discussion. Although many scholars have mined Poetics 9 as a source of Aristotle’s views toward history, in my contribution I caution against doing so. Critics of Aristotle’s remarks have often failed to appreciate the expository principle that governs Poetics 6–12, which begins with a definition of tragedy and then elucidates the terms of that definition by means of a series of juxtapositions. The juxtaposition between poetry and history is one such instance that seeks to elucidate what sort of plot exemplifies a causal unity such that the events of a play unfold with likelihood or necessity. Within that context, Aristotle compares history and poetry in order to elucidate the object of poetic mimesis rather than to criticize history as a discipline. Viewing Aristotle as antagonistic toward history fails to appreciate the expository structure of the Poetics and obscures the resource that history provides to the poet, a point that I explore by considering what Aristotle would have thought of an “historical” tragedy like Aeschylus’s Persians.

In: Reading Aristotle


Politics VII.1-3 enacts a contest that concludes that ‘whether for a whole city-state in common or for an individual, the best way of life would be a practical one’ (ἄριστος βίος ὁ πρακτικός [VII.3 1325b15-16]). Scholarship on VII.1-3 has focused on the best way of life for an individual to the neglect and even misunderstanding of the best way of life for a polis. The best way of life for a polis is, I argue, a specification of the foreign policy or ‘inter-polis’ relations for the best constitution. Such a foreign policy appears to include the possibilities of both isolationism and regional hegemony, although Politics VII-VIII more broadly suggests that such latitude is constrained by the teleology of life, which shows that war should be pursued only for the sake of peace.

In: Volume null: Issue null: Polis: The Journal for Ancient Greek and Roman Political Thought