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

By Michael Davis | Go to book overview

Chapter Three
The Poverty of Philosophy:
Politics Book 3

Book 3 of the Politics is unusually aporetic. Aristotle discusses various issues at length only to leave them explicitly unresolved. He asks whether a newly formed regime is responsible for the actions of the oligarchy or tyranny that preceded it. 22 At stake is the question of the self-identity of the city over time. To ask when the city remains the same is to ask what it really is. After considerable argument, Aristotle seems to answer that the being of the city is its regime—its politeia. But rather than drawing what might appear the obvious conclusion—that a city under a new regime is not responsible for the acts of the previous regime—he says that this practical question of liability would require another account. The city apparently is and is not the regime. Book 3 also ends with an aporia. While the long argument concerning the relative merits of the rule of law and the rule of active intelligence (1286a8‐ 1287b35) seems to prove the rule of law superior, it is immediately followed by the claim that the best regime is the rule of the best man (1288a32-b2).

Other issues, apparently resolved, might as well have been aporetic. At 1275a21-23, Aristotle defines a citizen "simply" (haplôs) as one participating in judging (krisis) and rule (arkhê). But this is an ambiguous "simply."—In Athenskrisis and arkhê need mean no more than jury duty and magistracy. While their general sense does indeed point to something like full participation in the affairs of

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