Aristotle's "Politics": Second Edition

by Aristotle, Carnes Lord

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One of the fundamental works of Western political thought, Aristotle’s masterwork is the first systematic treatise on the science of politics. For almost three decades, Carnes Lord’s justly acclaimed translation has served as the standard English edition. Widely regarded as the most faithful to both the original Greek and Aristotle’s distinctive style, it is also written in clear, contemporary English.

This new edition of the Politics retains and adds to Lord’s already extensive notes, clarifying the flow of Aristotle’s argument and identifying literary and historical references. A glossary defines key terms in Aristotle’s philosophical-political vocabulary. Lord has made revisions to problematic passages throughout the translation in order to enhance both its accuracy and its readability. He has also substantially revised his introduction for the new edition, presenting an account of Aristotle’s life in relation to political events of his time; the character and history of his writings and of the Politics in particular; his overall conception of political science; and his impact on subsequent political thought from antiquity to the present. Further enhancing this new edition is an up-to-date selected bibliography.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780226921853
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication date: 03/29/2013
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 496,432
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Carnes Lord is professor of strategic leadership at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. He is the author of Education and Culture in the Political Thought of Aristotle and The Modern Prince: What Leaders Need to Know Now, among other works.

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ISBN: 978-0-226-92184-6

Chapter One

Book 1


(1) Since we see that every city is some sort of community, and that every community is constituted for the sake of some good (for everyone does every thing for the sake of what is held to be good), it is clear that all communities aim at some good, and that the community that is most authoritative of all and embraces all the others does so particularly, and aims at the most authoritative good of all. This is what is called the city or the political community.

(2) Those who suppose that the same person is expert in political rule, kingly rule, managing the household, and being a master of slaves do not argue finely. For they consider that each of these differs in the number or fewness of those ruled and not in kind—for example, the ruler of a few is a master, of more a household manager, and of still more a political or kingly ruler—the assumption being that there is no difference between a large household and a small city; and as for the political and kingly rulers, they consider a kingly ruler one who has charge himself, and a political ruler one who, on the basis of the precepts of this sort of science, rules and is ruled in turn. But these things are not true. (3) This will be clear to those investigating in accordance with our normal sort of inquiry. For just as it is necessary elsewhere to divide a compound into its uncompounded elements (for these are the smallest parts of the whole), so too by investigating what the city is composed of we shall gain a better view concerning these kinds of rulers as well, both as to how they differ from one another and as to whether there is some artful expertise that can be acquired in connection with each of those mentioned.


(1) Now in these matters as elsewhere it is by looking at how things develop naturally from the beginning that one may best study them. (2) First, then, there must of necessity be a conjoining of persons who cannot exist without one another: on the one hand, male and female, for the sake of reproduction (which occurs not from intentional choice but—as is also the case with the other animals and plants—from a natural striving to leave behind another that is like oneself ); on the other, the naturally ruling and ruled, on account of preservation. For that which can foresee with the mind is the naturally ruling and naturally mastering element, while that which can do these things with the body is the naturally ruled and slave; hence the same thing is advantageous for the master and slave. (3) Now the female is distinguished by nature from the slave. For nature makes nothing in an economizing spirit, as smiths make the Delphic knife, but one thing with a view to one thing; and each instrument would perform most finely if it served one task rather than many. (4) The barbarians, though, have the same arrangement for female and slave. The reason for this is that they have no naturally ruling element; with them, the community of man and woman is that of female slave and male slave. This is why the poets say "it is fitting for Greeks to rule barbarians"—the assumption being that barbarian and slave are by nature the same thing.

(5) From these two communities, then, the household first arose, and Hesiod's verse is rightly spoken: "first a house, and woman, and ox for ploughing"—for poor persons have an ox instead of a servant. The household is the community constituted by nature for the needs of daily life; Charondas calls its members "mess-mates," Epimenides of Crete "stable-mates." The first community arising from several households and for the sake of non-daily needs is the village. (6) By nature the village seems to be above all an extension of the household. Its members some call "milk-mates"; they are "the children and the children's children." This is why cities were at first under kings, and nations are even now. For those who joined together were already under kings: every household is under the eldest as king, and so also were the extensions [of the household making up the village] as a result of kinship. (7) This is what Homer meant when he says that "each acts as law to his children and wives"; for men were scattered and used to dwell in this manner in ancient times. And it is for this reason that all assert that the gods are under a king—because they themselves are under kings now, or were in ancient times. For human beings assimilate not only the looks of the gods to themselves, but their ways of life as well.

(8) The complete community, arising from several villages, is the city. It reaches a level of full self-sufficiency, so to speak; and while coming into being for the sake of living, it exists for the sake of living well. Every city, therefore, exists by nature, if such also are the first communities. For the city is their end, and nature is an end: what each thing is—for example, a human being, a horse, or a household—when its coming into being is complete is, we assert, the nature of that thing. (9) Again, that for the sake of which a thing exists, or the end, is what is best; and self-sufficiency is an end and what is best.

From these things it is evident, then, that the city belongs among the things that exist by nature, and that man is by nature a political animal. He who is without a city through nature rather than chance is either a mean sort or superior to man; he is "without clan, without law, without hearth," like the person reproved by Homer; (10) for the one who is such by nature has by this fact a desire for war, as if he were an isolated piece in a game of backgammon. That man is much more a political animal than any kind of bee or any herd animal is clear. For, as we assert, nature does nothing in vain; and man alone among the animals has speech. (11) The voice indeed indicates the painful or pleasant, and hence is present in other animals as well; for their nature has come this far, that they have a perception of the painful and pleasant and signal these things to each other. But speech serves to reveal the advantageous and the harmful, and hence also the just and the unjust. (12) For it is peculiar to man as compared to the other animals that he alone has a perception of good and bad and just and unjust and the other things of this sort; and community in these things is what makes a household and a city.

The city is thus prior by nature to the household and to each of us. (13) For the whole must of necessity be prior to the part; for if the whole body is destroyed there will not be a foot or a hand, unless in the sense that the term is similar (as when one speaks of a hand made of stone), but the thing itself will be defective. Everything is defined by its function and its capacity, and if it is no longer the same in these respects it should not be spoken of in the same way, but only as something similarly termed. (14) That the city is both by nature and prior to each individual, then, is clear. For if the individual when separated from it is not self-sufficient, he will be in a condition similar to that of the other parts in relation to the whole. One who is incapable of sharing or who is in need of nothing through being self-sufficient is no part of a city, and so is either a beast or a god.

(15) Accordingly, there is in everyone by nature an impulse toward this sort of community. And yet he who first founded one is responsible for the greatest of goods. For just as man is the best of the animals when completed, when separated from law and adjudication he is the worst of all. (16) For injustice is harshest when it is furnished with arms; and man is born naturally possessing arms for [the use of] prudence and virtue which are nevertheless very susceptible to being used for their opposites. This is why, without virtue, he is the most unholy and the most savage of the animals, and the worst with regard to sex and food. Justice is a thing belonging to the city. For adjudication is an arrangement of the political community, and justice is judgment as to what is just.


(1) Since it is evident out of what parts the city is constituted, it is necessary first to speak of household management; for every city is composed of households. The parts of household management correspond to the parts out of which the household itself is constituted. Now the complete household is made up of slaves and free persons. Since everything is to be sought for first in its smallest elements, and the first and smallest parts of the household are master, slave, husband, wife, father, and children, three things must be investigated to determine what each is and what sort of thing it ought to be. (2) These are mastery, marital rule (there is no term for the union of man and woman), and thirdly procreative rule (this too has not been assigned a term of its own). (3) So much, then, for the three we spoke of. There is a certain part of it, however, which some hold to be the same as household management, and others its greatest part; how the matter really stands has to be studied. I am speaking of what is called the art of getting goods.

Let us speak first about master and slave, so that we may see at the same time what relates to necessary needs and whether we cannot acquire something in the way of knowledge about these things that is better than current conceptions. (4) For some hold that mastery is a kind of science, and that managing the household, mastery, and political and kingly rule are the same, as we said at the beginning. Others hold that exercising mastery is against nature; for [as they believe] it is by law that one person is slave and another free, there being no difference by nature, and hence it is not just, since it rests on force.


(1) Now property is a part of the household, and the art of acquiring it a part of household management (for without the necessary things it is impossible either to live or to live well); and just as the specialized arts must of necessity have their proper instruments if their function is to be performed, so too must the household manager. (2) Now of instruments some are inanimate and others animate—the pilot's rudder, for example, is an inanimate instrument, but his lookout an animate one; for the subordinate is a kind of in strument whatever the art. A possession too, then, is an instrument for the purposes of life, and one's property is the aggregate of such instruments; and the slave is a possession of the animate sort. Every subordinate, moreover, is an instrument that wields many instruments, (3) for if each of the instruments were able to perform its function on command or by anticipation, as they assert those of Daedalus did, or the tripods of Hephaestus (which the poet says "of their own accord came to the gods' gathering"), so that shuttles would weave themselves and picks play the lyre, master craftsmen would no longer have a need for subordinates, or masters for slaves. (4) Now the instruments mentioned are productive instruments, but a possession is an instrument of action. For from the shuttle comes something apart from the use of it, while from clothing or a bed the use alone. Further, since production and action differ in kind and both require instruments, these must of necessity reflect the same difference. (5) Life is action, not production; the slave is therefore a subordinate in matters concerning action.

A possession is spoken of in the same way as a part. A part is not only part of something else, but belongs wholly to something else; similarly with a possession. Accordingly, while the master is only master of the slave and does not belong to him, the slave is not only slave to the master but belongs wholly to him.

(6) What the nature of the slave is and what his capacity, then, is clear from these things. For one who does not belong to himself by nature but is another's, though a human being, is by nature a slave; a human being is another's who, though a human being, is a possession; and a possession is an instrument of action and separate from its owner.


(1) Whether anyone is of this sort by nature or not, and whether it is better and just for anyone to be a slave or not, but rather all slavery is against nature, must be investigated next. It is not difficult either to discern the answer by reasoning or to learn it from what actually happens. (2) Ruling and being ruled belong among not only necessary but also advantageous things. And immediately from birth certain things diverge, some toward being ruled, others toward ruling. There are many kinds of things both ruling and ruled, and the rule is always better over ruled things that are better, for example over a human being rather than a beast; (3) for the work performed by the better is better, and wherever something rules and something is ruled there is a certain work belonging to these together. For whatever is constituted out of a number of things—whether continuous or discrete—and becomes a single common thing always displays a ruling and a ruled element; (4) this is something that animate things derive from all of nature, for even in things that do not partake in life there is a sort of rule, for example in a harmony. But these matters perhaps belong to a more external sort of investigation. But an animal is the first thing constituted out of soul and body, of which the former is the ruling element by nature, the other the ruled. (5) It is in things whose condition is according to nature that one ought particularly to investigate what is by nature, not in things that are defective. Thus the human being to be studied is one whose state is best both in body and in soul—in him this is clear; for in the case of the depraved, or those in a depraved condition, the body is oft en held to rule the soul on account of their being in a condition that is bad and unnatural.

(6) It is then in an animal, as we were saying, that one can first discern both the sort of rule of a master and political rule. For the soul rules the body with the rule of a master, while intellect rules appetite with political and kingly rule; and this makes it evident that it is according to nature and advantageous for the body to be ruled by the soul, and the passionate part of the soul by intellect and the part having reason, while it is harmful to both if the relation is equal or reversed. (7) The same holds with respect to man and the other animals: tame animals have a better nature than wild ones, and it is better for all of them to be ruled by man, since in this way their preservation is ensured. Further, the relation of male to female is by nature a relation of superior to inferior and ruler to ruled. The same must of necessity hold in the case of human beings generally.

(8) Accordingly, those who are as different from other men as the soul from the body or man from beast—and they are in this state if their work is the use of the body, and if this is the best that can come from them—are slaves by nature. For them it is better to be ruled in accordance with this sort of rule, if such is the case for the other things mentioned. (9) For he is a slave by nature who is capable of belonging to another—which is also why he belongs to another—and who participates in reason only to the extent of perceiving it, but does not have it. (The other animals, not perceiving reason, obey their passions.) Moreover, the need for them differs only slightly: bodily assistance in the necessary things is forthcoming from both, from slaves and from tame animals alike.

(10) Nature indeed wishes to make the bodies of free persons and slaves different as well as their souls—those of the latter strong with a view to necessary needs, those of the former straight and useless for such tasks, but useful with a view to a political way of life (which is itself divided between the needs of war and those of peace); yet the opposite oft en results, some having the bodies of free persons while others have the souls. It is evident, at any rate, that if they were to be born as different only in body as the images of the gods, everyone would assert that those not so favored merited being their slaves. (11) But if this is true in the case of the body, it is much more justifiable to make this distinction in the case of the soul; yet it is not as easy to see the beauty of the soul as it is that of the body. That some persons are free and others slaves by nature, therefore, and that for these slavery is both advantageous and just, is evident.


(1) That those who assert the opposite are in a certain manner correct, however, is not difficult to see. Slavery and the slave are spoken of in a double sense. There is also a sort of slave or enslaved person according to convention, the convention being a certain agreement under which things conquered in war are said to belong to the conquerors. (2) This [plea of] justice is challenged by many of those conversant with the laws—as they would challenge an orator—on a motion of illegality, on the grounds that it is a terrible thing if what yields to force is to be enslaved and ruled by what is able to apply force and is superior in power. And there are some of the wise as well who hold this opinion, though some hold the other. (3) The cause of this dispute—and what makes the arguments converge—is that virtue, once it obtains the necessary resources, is in a certain manner particularly able to apply force, and what is dominant is always preeminent in some good, so it is held that there is no force without virtue, and that the dispute concerns only [the plea of] justice; (4) for on this account the ones hold that good will is [the measure of ] what is just, while the others hold that this very thing, the rule of the superior, is just. At any rate, if these arguments are set on one side, the other arguments—which assume that what is better in virtue ought not to rule or be master—have neither strength nor persuasiveness. (5) Those who regard the slavery that results from war as just adhere wholly, as they suppose, to a sort of justice (for law is just in a certain sense); yet at the same time they deny [implicitly that it is in fact always just]. For the beginnings of wars are not always just, and no one would assert that someone not meriting enslavement ought ever to be a slave. Otherwise, the result will be that those held to be the best born will become slaves and the offspring of slaves if they happen to be captured and sold. (6) Accordingly, they do not want to speak of these as slaves, but rather barbarians. When they say this, however, they are in search of nothing other than the slave by nature of which we spoke at the beginning; for they must necessarily assert that there are some persons who are everywhere slaves, and others who are so nowhere. (7) It is the same way with good birth as well; for they consider themselves well born not only among their own but everywhere, but barbarians only at home—the assumption being that there is something well born and free simply, and something not simply [but relatively], as Theodectes's Helen says:

As offshoot of divine roots on either side Who would dare call me serving-maid?


Excerpted from ARISTOTLE'S Politics Copyright © 2013 by The University of Chicago. Excerpted by permission of The University of Chicago Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

Abbreviations of Aristotle’s Works Introduction: Aristotle’s Politics: Living Well and Living Together

I. Six Chapters to Living Well and Living Together
II. Book IV.1–2: The Four Kinds of Best and Aristotle’s Four Causes
III. Ethics and Politics
IV. What Can the Politics Tell Us About Politics?

1. Book I: Slavery and the Will to Power
I. Slavery: Incomplete Actions and Incomplete Souls
II. Slavery and Slavishness
III. Despotism
IV. Slavery, Despotism, and Human Nature
V. Natural Rulers, Political and Despotic
VI. Thumos: Domination and Friendship
VII. Aristotle’s Slavery and Contemporary Problems

2. Book II: Aristotle’s State as a Work of Art
I. The Ideal State and Its Problems
II. Property and a Unified Polis
III. Private Property, Ancient and Modern
IV. Property versus Education as a Unifying Force
V. The Modesty and Ambition of the
VI. Politics as Practical, not Productive
VII. From the Preface to Politics to Politics Itself

3. The Justice of Book III and the Incompleteness of the Normative
I. Aristotle versus Liberalism: The Right and the Good
II. The Meaning of “Form” in Book III
III. The Definition of “Citizen”: Book III.1–3
IV. The Good Man and the Good Citizen: Book III.4–5
V. The Kinds of Constitutions: Book III.6–8
VI. Justice as Proportional to Merit: Book III.9–13
VII. The Rule of the Best versus the Rule of Law: Book III.14–18
VIII. Conclusion

4. Practical Knowledge and the Four Orientations to the Best 107
I. The Kinds of Constitutions: Book IV.3–10
II. Polity and the Best in General
III. The Best in Particular Circumstances: Book IV.12–13
IV. Formal Possibilities and the Best in Particular Circumstances: Book IV.14–16
V. Conclusion

5. Factions and the Paradox of Aristotelian Practical Science
I. Asymmetries, Epistemological and Ethical
II. Faction and Constitutional Change
III. Book V.1–4: Faction in General
IV. Book V.4: A Fifth Cause?
V. Book V.5–7: Faction and Particular Constitutions
VI. Book V.8–9: Preservation (and Improvement?)
VII. Preserving the Constitution and the Arts of Appearance
VIII. Stopping Factions versus Preserving the Constitution
IX. The Revolt of the Just
X. Political Philosophy: Inside or Outside the Polis?
XI. Philosophy and
Phronēsis: Logos andĒthos

6. The Best Life and the Common Life
I. Book VII.1
II. Nature versus Justice
III. Book VII.2
IV. Book VII.3
V. Book VII.4–7
VI. Book VII.8
VII. Book VII.13
VIII. Book VIII: Virtue and Music
IX. The Ideal and the Practical

Conclusion: People as Political Animals

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