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

By Michael Davis | Go to book overview

Chapter Seven
Politics and Poetry:
Politics Book 7

It is odd that the regime with the least political principle—doing whatever one wishes—should in its extreme form politicize everything. When the dêmos say, "We are the polis," the private sphere disappears, and everything gets understood in terms of justice or, in our age, rights. In a way, this is simply the consequence of the new beginning at the outset of Book 4. When we take our bearings by the necessarily defective character of all regimes, politics becomes aporetic—problematic; we understand ourselves as needy or poor—aporoi: "For the weaker always seek the equal and the just, but the strong give them no thought" (1318b5-6). On the other hand, the regime that at first seems most political ends by depoliticizing everything. The pambasileus of Book 3 is not so much a king as a father. He understands human beings in terms of what is good for them; the just disappears.

The whole structure of the Politics can be understood in terms of this tension between the just and the good. Regimes may take their bearings by freedom or by wisdom. Their emphasis is either on choosing the good or on doing the good. We have seen this before as the battle between knowing and doing. 95 In Book 3, the pambasileus is so superior because he has a kind of knowledge that no one else in the city has. But his knowledge of distributive justice, of political philosophy, so distinguishes him that, were he to receive his just deserts, all others in the city would be deprived of

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