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

By Michael Davis | Go to book overview

Chapter Four
The Soul of the Polis:
Politics Book 4

Since Book 4 begins something quite new in the Politics, its place in the whole is of some importance. There is an established scholarly dispute about the order of the books. 44 Book 4 contains several references (e.g., 1289a, 1290a, 1293b) to "earlier" passages in the Politics easily understood as references to Books 7 and 8. This, along with the fact that Book 7 begins with almost the same words that conclude Book 3, leads many editors to place Books 7-8 after Books 1-3 and conclude the Politics with Books 4-6, a radical change given that every apparent reference in Book 4 to Books 7-8 can be understood unproblematically as a reference to Book 3. In addition, Aristotle ends the Nicomachean Ethics with a sketch of the order of his inquiry into the politeia that, with the exception of Book 1, seems to correspond to the traditional order of the Politics. Finally, while the beginning of Book 7 is surely similar to the end of Book 3, the two passages are not identical. In fact, the differences are substantial. Barker, Lord, and Rackham construe the very last words of Book 3 as a sentence fragment. Others ( Jowett and Sinclair) leave it out altogether. 45 However, it seems possible, if a little awkward, to translate it as part of the previous sentence, as follows:

Having already defined these things, concerning the best politeia, we must try to say what way it comes to be by nature and how it is in fact necessary for the one intending to make an appropriate inquiry (skepsin) about it to establish it. (1288b3-8)

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