The Politics of Aristotle

The Politics of Aristotle

The Politics of Aristotle

The Politics of Aristotle


The "Politics, Aristotle's classic work on the nature of political community, has been a touchstone of Western debates about society and government. Here, Peter Simpson presents a thorough analysis of the logical structure of the entire text and each of its constitutive arguments and conclusions. A valuable commentary on the philosophical argument in the "Politics, the book will also serve as a sound basis for future study of Aristotle's political thought.


First Proof. The question whether anyone is by nature a slave can be answered both by reason and also by appeal to what actually occurs. For, as regards what actually occurs, ruling and being ruled are something necessary and beneficial; some things are separated into ruler and ruled at generation; rulers and ruled come in several forms; and rule over better subjects is better. For ruler and ruled appear in every composite whole. Examples are the political rule of intellect over appetite and of male over female and the despotic rule of soul over body and of humans over animals. So any human beings related to others as body to soul or as animal to human are slaves by nature, and such are those whose best work is the use of the body.

1254a17 The next thing to investigate is whether or not anyone is by nature like this and whether serving as a slave is better and just for anyone or whether instead all slavery is against nature. But it is not hard to study by reason what the answer is, nor to learn it from what actually occurs. For ruling and being ruled are not only necessary but beneficial, and in the case of some things a separation of them into ruler and ruled occurs immediately at generation. There are many kinds of rulers and ruled, and rule over better subjects is always better (as rule over a human is better than over an animal), since from better materials a better work is completed, and when one thing rules and another is ruled, there is always some work they have.

1254a28 For in everything that is fashioned into a common unity from the combination of several parts, whether the parts be continuous or discrete, a ruling and a ruled part are apparent, and this inheres in living things from the whole of nature. For rule exists even in lifeless things, as in the case of harmony -- though that is a rather extraneous topic of investigation. The living animal, however, is composed first of soul and body, where by nature the former is the ruler and the latter the ruled. But what is natural must be looked for in things whose disposition accords with nature, not in things that have been corrupted. Hence we must look at that human being who has the best disposition both in body and soul, since what is natural will be clear in him. For in those who are depraved or in a depraved condition the body often seems to dominate the soul because their condition is base and against nature.

1254b2 But it is, as we say, first possible in the living animal to study both despotic and political rule, for the soul rules the body with despotic rule and the intellect rules appetite with political or royal rule. Here it is manifestly natural and beneficial for the body to be ruled by the soul and for the passionate part of the soul to be ruled by the intellect (the part that possesses . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.