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

By Michael Davis | Go to book overview

Chapter Six
Democracy and the Haphazard:
Politics Book 6

The first three books of the Politics consider the polis from the point of view of its perfection. Accordingly, Book 3 culminates in an account of kingship as a form of familial—that is, non‐ political—rule. The polis, like the beings for whom it is the comprehensive association, is a class jumper. It is the sort of being that can only be understood in terms of a perfection to which it points but which is quite other than it and excludes it. The best city is not a city. The subject of Politics 1-3 is, therefore, political philosophy—an account of the being of the city, of the city at rest, even though the city can never be at rest. 84 Politics 4-6 considers the polis as a polis—as a being the very being of which is to be in motion and so necessarily imperfect. Beginning in Book 4, Aristotle refers to this account of the political in its own terms as political science or knowledge. It is an attempt to describe a structure of change (itself at rest) that will be an account of the necessary motion of any city. The best city is not best. This second part of the Politics culminates in a more elaborate consideration of democracy, although it is not at first blush clear why. That is, having treated democracy in various ways in Books 3, 4, and 5, why does Aristotle think it necessary to return to it at such length in Book 6?

This problem is especially acute given the way Aristotle begins Book 6. After summarizing Books 4-5, he remarks that there hap

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