Jaffa, Harry. "Aristotle." In Strauss, Leo, and Joseph Cropsey, eds. History of Political Philosophy. Chicago: Rand MacNally, 1972.


“The subject of Aristotle’s Politics is the polis or political community. There is no single English word that will translate polis, and to understand why is indispensable to any introduction to Aristotle’s political philosophy. The Politics begins with a definition of the polis, and the student who reads this definition of the “state,” with all the connotations alien to Aristotle in that expression, is apt to be estranged forever from his thoughts. Our word “politics,” although a noun, is the plural form of the adjective “politics.” A parallel instance is the word “athletics,” formed from the adjective “athletic.” Now athletics is what athletes do. The Greek noun athletes —from which athletic and athletics are derived—survives virtually unaltered in our language. We know what athletics is because we know when an athlete is. The latter is a concrete subject of observation while the former is an abstract general characterization of his activities. But the Greek noun polis, which does not survive in our language, is to politics what athlete is to athletics. Politics, the abstract general characterization derived from the Greek survives, but polis, the concrete subject does not.”