The Character and Composition of Aristotle’s Politics

Lord, Carnes. “The Character and Composition of Aristotle’s Politics.” Political Theory 9 : 459-78, 1981.


“If Aristotle’s Politics continues to be less studied than might seem appropriate for a work of its unchallenged eminence in the tradition of political theory, much of the reason surely lies in the unresolved tangle of questions bearing on the character and composition of the Politics and of Aristotle’s extant writings generally. It is convenient to imagine that such questions do not fundamentally touch the substance of Aristotle’s thought, and might therefore be safely abandoned to the care of the law just. Yet, to begin with, and interpretation of the Politics, as of any work of clinical theory, must have been put to play on the interpreter’s view of the kind of work it is and the audience for which it was composed, or what one may call the literary character of the work in a broad sense. Is the Politics a finished book composed with at least ordinary (and possibly with extraordinary) care? Or is it an accretion of notes by Aristotle as the basis of a course of lectures? Is the Politics a theoretical treatise addressed only to advanced students within Aristotle’s school, or is it more in the nature of a technical handbook addressed primarily to less advanced students or to a wider audience whose concerns are predominantly practical? Obvious and fundamental as they are, these questions are too frequently raised in inadequate fashion when they are raised at all; and even when raised and answered, they too  with frequently lack of operational significance for the interpretive effort.”

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