Aristotle: Political Philosophy

Kraut, Richard. Aristotle: Political Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 2002.


“To understand and assess Aristotle’s contributions to political thought, we must come to terms not only with the treatise whose political content is advertised by its title—the Politics—but also with the work that bears the peculiar name, Nicomachean Ethics.  For  Aristotle announces, at a very early point in the ethical treatise, that the subject he has chosen to examine—the good of human beings—is one that belongs to the science of politics. He holds that understanding where our good lies is of central importance to the way we conduct our lives; and that since politics is the science that controls all other practical disciplines, it’s proper business is to undertake an investigation of the human good, and to regulate human affairs in light of what it discovers. As Aristotle continues his discussion in the Ethics, he frequently reminds his audience of the political nature of his material. Finally, when he comes to the concluding chapter of this treatise, he dwells at length on the importance of turning next to a detailed examination of laws and the proper arrangement of the political community. For those who have studied his treatment of virtue, friendship, and pleasure (the topics to which he has been led, in his examination of the human good)  will not be able to put what they have learned into practice, and will therefore not have profited from their study, unless they complete their investigation by moving on to the questions examined in the politics: what preserves and destroys cities, what makes them well or poorly governed, what laws and customs would exist in the best kind of political system?