The Politics of Philosophy: A Commentary on Aristotle's Politics

By Michael Davis | Go to book overview

Chapter Two
Parricide and Politics:
Politics Book 2

The second book of the Politics seems not so much to advance Aristotle's own argument as to clear the way of competing alternatives. As a survey of regimes (politeiai) in theory and in practice it does not seem to have, or to need, a unifying principle other than to point out the defects of each regime considered. Nevertheless three things prove rather odd about the second book. In Book 1 Aristotle remarks on his procedure that

if, as in other things so also in these, one should look at things growing naturally from the beginning, in this way one would theorize beautifully. (1252a24-26)

Fair enough—he then proceeds to trace the development of the polis from its beginning in the household. But then close to the outset of the second book he announces that "a first beginning must be made which is by nature the beginning of this inquiry" (1260b35-36). A first beginning? In Book 2? Now, the different beginnings may simply signal different things begun. Perhaps the natural beginning of political life (Book 1) is not the same as the natural beginning of the inquiry into political life (Book 2). And it is surely no accident that, while in Book 1 the issue is the polis, from Book 2 on it will be the politeia. 12 It is probably also significant that this second "first beginning" has to be made whereas in Book 1 Aristotle began with

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