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In this book, Kevin M. Cherry compares the views of Plato and Aristotle about the practice, study, and, above all, the p

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Plato, Aristotle, and Purpose of Politics
 9781107021679, 2011040849

Table of contents :
Introduction
1. A place for politics: the household and the city
2. The beginnings and ends of political life
3. Political knowledge and political power
4. Political inquiry in Aristotle and the Eleatic Stranger
5. Philosophy and politics in the Eleatic Stranger, Socrates, and Aristotle
6. Modern politics, the Eleatic Stranger, and Aristotle
Conclusion.

Citation preview

Plato, Aristotle, and the Purpose of Politics In this book, Kevin M. Cherry compares the views of Plato and Aristotle about the practice, study, and, above all, the purpose of politics. The first scholar to place Aristotle’s Politics in sustained dialogue with Plato’s Statesman, Cherry argues that Aristotle rejects the view of politics advanced by Plato’s Eleatic Stranger, contrasting them on topics such as the proper categorization of regimes, the usefulness and limitations of the rule of law, and the proper understanding of phron¯esis. The various differences between their respective political philosophies, however, reflect a more fundamental difference in how they view the relationship of human beings to the natural world around them. Reading the Politics in light of the Statesman sheds new light on Aristotle’s political theory and provides a better understanding of Aristotle’s criticism of Socrates. Most important, it highlights an enduring and important question: Should politics have as its primary purpose the preservation of life, or should it pursue the higher good of living well? Kevin M. Cherry is Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Richmond. His research has appeared in the American Journal of Political Science, Journal of Politics, and History of Political Thought.

Plato, Aristotle, and the Purpose of Politics

kevin m. cherry University of Richmond

cambridge university press Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, S˜ao Paulo, Delhi, Mexico City Cambridge University Press 32 Avenue of the Americas, New York, ny 10013-2473, usa www.cambridge.org Information on this title: www.cambridge.org/9781107021679  C Kevin M. Cherry 2012

This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press. First published 2012 Printed in the United States of America A catalog record for this publication is available from the British Library. Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication data Cherry, Kevin M. Plato, Aristotle, and the purpose of politics / Kevin M. Cherry. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. isbn 978-1-107-02167-9 (hardback) 1. Political science – Greece – History – To 1500. 2. Political science – Philosophy – History – To 1500. 3. Plato. Statesman. 4. Aristotle. Politics. I. Title. jc73.c47 2012 320.01–dc23 2011040849 isbn 978-1-107-02167-9 Hardback Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of urls for external or third-party Internet Web sites referred to in this publication and does not guarantee that any content on such Web sites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.

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Contents

page ix

Acknowledgments

xiii

Note on the Translations

1

Introduction 1 A Place for Politics: The Household and the City The Search for the Statesman The First Definition of the Statesman Household Rule, Despotism, Kingship, and Politics in the Politics

2 The Beginnings and Ends of Political Life The Eleatic Stranger’s Cosmology Consequences of the Eleatic’s Cosmology The Purpose of Politics in the Statesman Aristotle’s Understanding of Nature Aristotle’s Political Teleology and the Beginning of the Politics

3 Political Knowledge and Political Power A New Beginning in the Search for the Statesman The Eleatic Stranger’s Division of Regimes The Eleatic Stranger on Lawful Democracy Aristotle’s Rejection of the Eleatic’s Typology Political Communities and Political Knowledge Aristotle on the Best Regime

4 Political Inquiry According to Aristotle and the Eleatic Stranger The Eleatic’s Digression on Measure Phron¯esis and the Mean vii

14 15 23 29 37 38 42 48 57 69 74 75 78 87 92 100 107 117 118 121

viii

Contents Aristotle and the Eleatic Stranger on Innovation Aristotle and the Eleatic Stranger on the Purposes of Political Inquiry

5 Philosophy and Politics in the Eleatic Stranger, Socrates, and Aristotle The Eleatic Stranger and Socrates on Philosophy Socrates and Statesmanship Aristotle’s Critique of Socrates in Light of the Statesman Plato, Socrates, and the Eleatic Stranger

6 Modern Politics, the Eleatic Stranger, and Aristotle

126 135 144 145 155 162 172 177

The Origins and Ends of Politics in Modern Political Thought The Endless Aristotelian Revival Aristotle’s Teleology Today The Good Life for Human Beings

179 183 190 194

Conclusion

204

Bibliography

215

Index

227

Acknowledgments

As solitary a process as writing may be, few political theorists – and I am not one of them – could write a book on their own. Instead, most of us depend on conversations with our teachers, our friends, and our colleagues to spark our thinking. I have benefited from many such conversations, and this book is the fruit of some of them. My first exposure to the world of Plato and Aristotle was at The Catholic University of America in a philosophy course taught by Rev. Brian Shanley, O.P., who has remained a valuable mentor to this day. My knowledge and appreciation of their works deepened under the guidance of Jean DeGroot, Th´er`ese-Anne Druart, John McCarthy, Stephen Schneck, Msgr. Robert Sokolowski, Richard Velkley, David Walsh, and the late Rev. Kurt Pritzl, O.P. I doubt that all of these teachers will agree fully with what is written here, but I hope each can take a little pride in having passed on to me an interest in taking these books, and the arguments therein, seriously. I am particularly indebted to Brad Lewis, who was so impressive as a scholar and teacher that I decided to follow his example and attend graduate school where he did. That may have been bad reasoning, but it was nevertheless an excellent decision. The University of Notre Dame is a place where ideas are taken seriously and the resulting arguments are spirited yet friendly. My professors there were always willing to share their time and knowledge, and so I learned much from classes and conversations with, among others, Ruth Abbey, Peri Arnold, Sot Barber, Eileen Hunt Botting, Fred Dallmayr, the late Ralph McInerny, Walter Nicgorski, David O’Connor, John Roos, and Dana Villa. I also learned a great deal from conversations inside and outside of the classroom with my fellow students, many of whom remain good friends. Geoff Bowden, Jarrett Carty, Frank Colucci, and Brendan Dunn were and ix

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continue to be forthcoming with good advice and the occasional distracting Web page. Frank, in particular, was an invaluable resource as I made my way through the publishing process. Although we disagree about the Statesman, Xavier M´arquez was always willing to share his knowledge of the dialogue and help me to articulate my position in the strongest possible way. Jeffrey Church read more of this book in various stages than almost anyone else, and he never failed to find ways to improve it. (I would like to return the favor someday, but he would have to write about someone other than Hegel.) Insofar as this book represents a development and, in some places, a modification of my dissertation, I want to thank in a special way the members of my committee, who provided significant guidance not only during the process of writing the dissertation but also in thinking through how I should reshape and revise it. Despite his emeritus status, Edward Goerner was a constant presence during my time at Notre Dame, and I learned much about both Aristotle and writing from him. Mary Keys is a model of scholarly excellence: I hope I treat my interlocutors – and my students – with the same care that she does. Michael Zuckert brought his characteristic insight and enthusiasm to the task; his belief in the project encouraged me to pursue it further, and nearly all the suggestions that he made for revising the dissertation proved correct. I am most grateful to Catherine Zuckert, who directed the original dissertation and generously provided thorough and perceptive comments as I revised it during subsequent years. As readers quickly will see, I am indebted to her for my understanding of the Platonic dialogues, particularly the Sophist and the Statesman. Her Plato’s Philosophers is the most comprehensive and consequential treatment of Plato in decades, and it reveals her to be a scholar of the highest order. It does not reveal, however, the dedicated teacher and mentor that she was and continues to be. Earlier versions of these arguments were presented at various conferences, and suggestions from commentators – especially Daniel Kapust, Emily Nacol, and Devin Stauffer – and audience members improved the final version. Similarly, correspondence over the years with Ronna Burger, Mariska Leunissen, Thanassis Samaras, and Kathryn Sensen forced me to reconsider and, in some cases, alter the earlier arguments. I hold no illusions that I have replied adequately to their concerns, but the attempt to do so has surely improved my argument. I am grateful to Beatrice Rehl and Emily Spangler at Cambridge University Press for their early and consistent support of this book and for

Acknowledgments

xi

seeing it through the publication process. James Dunn of Cambridge University Press and Rebecca McCary of Aptara, Inc., oversaw the preparation of the manuscript, and they patiently bore my many questions. The reviewers for Cambridge University Press greatly improved the manuscript, both by helping me to fix several flaws in the argument and by identifying the places where it could and should be pushed farther. I am equally grateful to the University of Richmond – in particular, the School of Arts and Sciences – for its research support. My colleagues in the Department of Political Science have all been generous with advice and encouragement; some of them, however, deserve special mention. My department chairs – Vincent Wang, Dan Palazzolo, and Andrea Simpson – were instrumental in making the transition to Richmond a smooth one and ensuring that I would have the resources and time necessary to finish the book. Richard Dagger offered sound guidance on several of the issues that arose while completing this book, most importantly thinking through the issues involved in placing Aristotle in a contemporary context. Gary McDowell was one of the first to welcome me to campus, and he, too, has been a reliable source of advice about both teaching and research. I also want to acknowledge my students here at Richmond as well as at Saint Anselm College and the University of Notre Dame: I learn something new about Plato and Aristotle every time that I teach them, which is usually a result of the conversations that these students initiate in the classroom. Portions of this book have appeared elsewhere, if in different form, and I thank the following journals and publishers for permission to include them here: the American Journal of Political Science and Blackwell Publishing, Ltd., for an earlier and much shorter version of the main argument, particularly of Chapters 1 and 2 (“Aristotle and the Eleatic Stranger on the Nature and Purpose of Political Life,” AJPS 52 [1]: 1–15); the Journal of Politics and Cambridge University Press for a small portion of the argument in Chapter 3 about Aristotle’s best regime (“The Problem of Polity: Political Participation and Aristotle’s Best Regime,” JOP 71 [4]: 1406–21); and History of Political Thought and Imprint Academic for part of my discussion about Aristotle’s claim that the polis exists by nature in Chapter 2 (“Does Aristotle’s Polis Exist by Nature?,” HPT 27 [4]: 563–85, which was coauthored with E. A. Goerner). Although I am grateful to all of the teachers mentioned above, the two most important are, and always have been, my parents. When I was young, they fostered in me a love of books, a love of learning, that has only deepened over the years. When I dedicated my dissertation to them,

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I thought I fully appreciated the sacrifices they had made for me. Now that I have children of my own, I realize that I have only begun to do so. Aristotle says that you can never repay your parents; I hope he is right that loving them makes up the difference. Despite living on the opposite coast, my brother Andrew remains a trusted source of moral (and occasionally technical) support. I also thank my in-laws, who have welcomed not only me but also Plato and Aristotle into their lives and on their vacations. I am especially grateful to Kelly, for both her helpfulness and the joy she brings when she visits our house. Bruce Springsteen once said that the two most important days were the day he picked up the guitar and the day he learned to put it down. While I am grateful to all of the people who have made picking up these texts worthwhile, I am equally grateful to my children for making it worthwhile to put them down. Liza and Sammy bring more happiness into every day than I ever thought possible, and that happiness has sustained me through the completion of this book. Their curiosity about the world around them confirms Aristotle’s claim that all human beings desire to understand, and I hope they never lose that sense of wonder. Finally, I am blessed to have in my wife Lindzie not only my chief source of support and best friend but also the best possible collaborator in raising two wonderful children. She has borne the burdens of doing so while I worked on this book. I dedicate it to her with love and gratitude for all that she does for our family, and I look forward to sharing these burdens and, more important, the accompanying joys in the years to come.

Introduction

What is politics? For the ancient Greeks, the question had a simple answer: Politics was concerned with matters relating to the polis: the city-state (as it is usually although not entirely satisfactorily translated) at the center of Greek life. The polis, however, has disappeared, and it is doubtful whether polis life could be recovered and, if so, whether such a recovery would be welcome. Politics today, despite the etymological connection to the ancient Greek city-states, is situated primarily in the context of the nation-state. For us, therefore, the meaning of politics is somewhat more complicated: On the one hand, we have a narrower understanding of politics because the nation-state usually separates politics and culture, or politics and society – things that went together in the polis. The scope of politics thus is reduced because we tend to distinguish between – as they are so often phrased – the personal and the political. Yet, on the other hand, our understanding of politics is significantly broader than the Greek usage. For the Greeks, politics was concerned with life in the polis. We, however, speak of politics in a variety of settings: international politics, family politics, and even political economy. Such a broad use of the term would strike the people who first formulated it as odd insofar as they understood politics to be something unique and different from other kinds of human communities. Or so it is usually supposed. That the polis, and therefore politics, differs from other kinds of human communities is insisted on by Aristotle, who opens the Politics by declaring that his subject is not just any community but rather the community that aims at “the most authoritative good of all.” Yet, Aristotle also indicates in this passage that he is responding to a somewhat common view that denies that the polis differs from other human communities in any meaningful way. This view holds that the only difference among kingly rule, political rule, household rule, and 1

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despotic mastery over slaves is the number of people over whom the rule is exercised. Such a view, Aristotle says, is neither noble nor true. Politics differs from the other kinds of rule because the polis differs in an important way from the other kinds of human community. What the difference involves, Aristotle suggests, is not the size of the polis – something that he introduces but does not discuss until Book VII – but rather whether the political community indeed is defined by its pursuit of the highest and most authoritative good of all. For Aristotle, the polis is distinguished from other communities by the fact that it, and it alone, has as its end the good life for human beings. It is having this unique end that makes the polis different from the other communities and, indeed, limits the size of the political community. Therefore, Aristotle’s restriction on the scope of politics to the polis is due less to etymology than to his belief that the best life for human beings can be achieved only in the polis. In smaller communities, the necessities of mere life can and, perhaps, do tend to take precedence over living well. Moreover, he suggests that part of living the best life, for political animals, is to live politically. That is, thinking and deliberating in conjunction with others about the good, the just, and the advantageous are part of what it is to lead the good life. Such activities, in his view, are the very essence of and unique to politics. The modern view is significantly different: Contemporary political science often still reflects Harold Lasswell’s (1990) famous maxim that politics is about who gets what, when, and how – in short, politics is about power. This view enables us to speak about politics more freely; it becomes a concept that can be extended from the polis not only to the nation-state but also to the economy, the family, and even the world. Such a view, however, may neglect important realities about politics, particularly what it involves beyond power and the way in which politics differs from but is connected to other kinds of communities. The debate between Aristotle and those who blur the distinctions between political and other communities, therefore, is one that we should take seriously, for if Aristotle is right, then perhaps we err in speaking about office politics, international politics, and even national politics. Despite the fact that we speak as though Aristotle is wrong about the uniqueness of politics, much contemporary literature in political science has appropriated elements of Aristotle’s political theory. He is obviously an important resource for virtue ethics and the communitarian critique of liberalism, but he also has been a resource for debates about the rule of law, the mixed regime, pluralism, the dangers and possibilities of

Introduction

3

commerce, political deliberation, and even environmental politics and biopolitics. Perhaps Aristotle’s guidance on the practice of politics can be preserved without adhering to his belief about what politics is, but such a judgment first requires understanding that belief. Placing Aristotle in opposition to those who believe that there is nothing special about politics therefore would seem to be a particularly good way to grasp his understanding of the distinctiveness of political life. After all, it is in response to their claims that he begins to present his own argument. This also recommends to us an examination of those against whom Aristotle is arguing, and in the opening pages of the Politics, the most obvious target of his critique is the Eleatic Stranger in Plato’s Statesman. As I show in this book, reading the Politics through the lens of the Statesman offers rewarding insights about the origins, purpose, and practice of politics. As observed by almost everyone, Aristotle opens the Politics with a criticism of the Eleatic Stranger’s claim that there is no difference among despotic, household, political, and kingly rule except that of size.1 What few have noted is the way that the entirety of the first book of the Politics serves to distinguish the various kinds of rule. Yet, Aristotle’s contention that the specific difference of political rule is that it seeks the good life is one that guides the rest of the Politics. The disagreement about the kinds of rule therefore is rooted in a disagreement about the end, or purpose, of politics. These disagreements are the subjects of Chapters 1 and 2, respectively. As I argue in Chapter 2, Aristotle and the Eleatic Stranger emphasize different purposes of politics because they have different understandings of nature – in particular, about how human beings relate to the wider world around them. These competing claims about nature also impact the way each author understands philosophy. As I show in Chapters 3 and 4, the different theoretical views about the purpose of politics are reflected in different practical political recommendations and different approaches to the study of politics. In these chapters, I focus on two aspects of Aristotle’s thought that several recent commentators have argued are compatible with if not derivative of what the Eleatic Stranger says. In Chapter 3, I focus on the sixfold regime typologies advanced by Aristotle and the Eleatic, as well as their evaluation of the different regimes. In Chapter 4, I analyze how Aristotle and the Eleatic use common terms, such as phron¯esis and the mean, but in 1 Unless

otherwise specified, I use the word “Stranger” to refer to Plato’s Eleatic Stranger in the Sophist and the Statesman, not the Athenian Stranger of the Laws and the Epinomis.

Downloaded from https://www.cambridge.org/core. The University of St Andrews, on 07 Nov 2019 at 08:53:26, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at https://www.cambridge.org/core/terms. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139128889.002

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different ways. Despite superficial similarities, close examination reveals significant differences between Aristotle and the Eleatic and sheds light on both the Politics and the Statesman. In Chapters 5 and 6, I move beyond the immediate textual encounter between Aristotle and the Eleatic Stranger to explore the relevance of their disagreement for our understanding of Plato and Socrates, as well as contemporary political thought and practice. Both chapters, therefore, are more suggestive than conclusive, although I hope that what I suggest confirms the merits of approaching the Politics with the Statesman in mind.2 In Chapter 5, I explore the relevance of Aristotle’s critique of the Eleatic Stranger for our understanding of Socrates by way of exploring the Eleatic’s conception of philosophy, Socrates’ conception of politics, and Aristotle’s criticism of Socrates. In Chapter 6, I propose that the debate between the Eleatic Stranger and Aristotle has resonance in our own day. In particular, I suggest that precisely what makes Aristotle attractive to critics of liberalism – that is, his emphasis on the good life – depends on a particular conception of nature that has been called into question by modern science. This argument, again, is more abbreviated than my account of the differences between Aristotle and the Eleatic; but here, too, the contrasts reveal aspects of Aristotle’s thought that are relevant to the way we think about, if not the way we practice, politics today. In what follows, therefore, I explore features of Aristotle’s political thought by using the thought of the Eleatic as a foil, and I show why doing so is a worthwhile endeavor. It makes sense of the “winding road” that is Book I and helps to explain why Aristotle begins the Politics as he does. Stated briefly, because the Eleatic Stranger advances a view of politics as concerned primarily with the preservation of life, Aristotle finds it necessary to begin his investigation into politics by arguing that politics fundamentally is – or at least ought to be – about the good life. In other words, Aristotle finds it necessary to clarify the end of political life, about which he and the Eleatic disagree, before he can discuss the appropriate means to that end. It is easy to overstate the contrast between Aristotle and the Eleatic Stranger, and although I have tried to avoid doing so in the pages that 2 Insofar

as my primary argument is about the relationship of the Politics to the Statesman, I do not treat the Sophist in great detail, although it is discussed in Chapter 5. I make more use of the Nicomachean Ethics insofar as it is intimately connected to the Politics, as I discuss in Chapter 4.

Introduction

5

follow, let me be clear about it here. Aristotle defines political communities by their specific end of living well. This is not, however, their only purpose: Political communities are also, and continually, charged with the duty of helping us to live in common with others (Pol. 1278b17–30). The polis may exist for the sake of the good life, but it came into being for the sake of life. That earlier purpose never disappears entirely, for, as Aristotle is well aware, there are both external and internal dangers to cities. Indeed, much of the Politics is devoted to fostering in cities the kind of stability necessary for the good life to be pursued. This stability, on Aristotle’s account, does not come about easily, much less everywhere. Although politics ought to be about the good life, it rarely is – which is why Aristotle’s political theory insists on paying attention to that higher end. Although the Eleatic Stranger believes that politics is concerned primarily with preservation, he is not wholly inattentive to higher aspects of political life. He argues that regimes that are bearable (i.e., restrained by laws) are better than those that are not, and he claims that true statesmen will be concerned with fostering justice and a certain kind of virtue. However, the Eleatic thinks that the demands of necessity are much more pressing than Aristotle does; therefore, he suggests that the first duty of statesmen is preservation, thereby subordinating any higher purposes to that end. The contrasting perspective of the Athenian Stranger, who appears in Plato’s Laws, may prove useful for clarifying both views. Unlike his Eleatic counterpart, the Athenian Stranger defines politics as the art charged with caring for souls (Leg. 650b). However, the Athenian goes farther than Aristotle would in claiming that nothing, not even the preservation of the polis, is more important than fostering virtue in the souls of citizens (770de). Both Aristotle and the Eleatic Stranger are aware that politics involves more than one purpose. They differ, however, in their judgment about which purpose is most important. Aristotle is aware of the base elements sometimes associated with politics – and sometimes necessarily associated with it – but he still wants us to raise our expectations for political life, to look higher, lest we become absorbed in those baser elements and ask nothing more of it. It is, in fact, difficult to avoid overstating Aristotle’s views about the purpose of politics because he himself often speaks in such a way as to remind us of the higher dimensions, thereby neglecting the lower. The Eleatic Stranger, by contrast, continually reminds us of the lower dimensions, thereby

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subordinating the goals of virtue and justice to those of preservation and stability. Despite this important difference, it is unusual to use the Statesman as the avenue by which to approach the vexing question of Aristotle’s relationship to Plato. Although most commentators note that Aristotle refers to the Statesman at the beginning of the Politics, they do not pursue this reference. Instead, they generally focus on Aristotle’s criticism of the Republic in Book II of the Politics. There are, I think, two explanations for why this has been the case, each of which is rooted in a particular approach to reading Plato’s dialogues. The great difficulty facing any interpreter of Plato is that he wrote dialogues, in which philosophical arguments are advanced by a variety of figures in conversation with others while Plato himself remains silent. Scholars have generally taken two approaches to resolving this difficulty.3 The first is the developmental, or chronological, approach – dominant for much of the twentieth century – which interprets the dialogues by focusing on the order in which they allegedly were written. According to this approach, the Statesman, like the Sophist and the Laws, is a late dialogue in which Plato – perhaps because of his purported failures to influence the city of Syracuse – abandons the idealism of the Republic and, in the voice of the Athenian and Eleatic Strangers, offers a more moderate political stance that rejects his earlier Socratic position. This approach emphasizes the difference between the Eleatic Stranger and Socrates, but it maintains that both represent Plato’s own views, albeit at different times. Although adherents of the developmental approach correctly identify differences between Socrates and the Eleatic Stranger, they are – as I suggest herein – incorrect in ascribing those differences to a development in Plato’s thought. More important, those who accept the developmental view likely have overlooked the relevance of the Statesman to Aristotle’s Politics because they tend to see it as little more than an intermediate – if perhaps interesting – step in Plato’s development from the lofty idealism 3 Drew

Hyland (1995) identifies these as the developmentalist and unified views in Platonic scholarship. The former, he explains, “argue that the disparities in presentation from dialogue to dialogue can be explained primarily by reference to Plato’s intellectual maturation” (173; see also 1–4), whereas the latter argue for “a systematic unity to Plato’s thought” either through consistency throughout the dialogues or by reading certain dialogues as “pedagogically preparing the way” for fuller treatments (174).

Introduction

7

of the Republic to the grounded realism of the Laws.4 The consequence of this, I believe, has been a general neglect of the Statesman among those who study Plato from a developmental perspective, a neglect that has been remedied only recently.5 In addition to minimizing the significance of the Statesman, the advocates of this view generally neglect the differences between the two Strangers. As I have suggested, the Athenian Stranger differs significantly from the Eleatic Stranger on the fundamental question of the purpose of politics. There are more general difficulties with the developmental approach. This approach more often than not assumes rather than shows that the various philosophical figures in the dialogues are simply spokesmen for Plato. As George Klosko, a primary representative of the developmental view, states, the Eleatic Stranger is “obviously Plato’s mouthpiece in the work” (2006: 201, emphasis added).6 Moreover, because advocates of this approach contend that Plato changed his mind, or developed, over time, understanding him requires knowledge of the order in which his 4 One

example of this approach is Charles Kahn, who argues that the Statesman is “a ‘bridge’ or intermediate stage between the Republic and the Laws” (1995: 51). Kahn suggests that in his old age, Plato came to see the impossibility of rule by philosopherkings and decided to emphasize the rule of law as a bulwark against individual power (53). It is not Plato’s “political ideal” that changes or develops, according to Kahn, but rather Plato’s understanding of power that changes, which can be explained only by “a biographical or developmental perspective” (54). 5 The bibliography of Richard McKirahan (1978), which covers the years between 1958 and 1973, includes eleven articles about the Statesman, which is slightly more than the number of articles devoted to the (possibly spurious) Alcibiades I and Epinomis (nine each), equal to the Critias, and one less than the Ion. By way of comparison, Plato’s other non-Socratic political dialogue, the Laws, was the subject of forty-two studies, whereas the Statesman’s companion dialogues, the Theaetetus and the Sophist, were the focus of fifty and seventy-two studies, respectively. It is not surprising that the Republic was the most common dialogue, with 197 studies written about it in this period. No bibliography is ever fully comprehensive – in the case of the Statesman, oversights include J. S. Morrison (1958) and Frederick Crosson (1963) – but there is no reason to think that the broader point does not hold true: The Statesman, until recently, was a neglected dialogue, and its increasing prominence is largely due to the work of Mitchell Miller (2004, originally published in 1980) and, in general, to those who adopt a more unified approach. 6 Klosko accepts the developmental approach without reservation; he explains the differences between the Statesman and the Republic as the result of “Plato’s new-found regard for the rule of law” (2006: 216) – a consequence of the disastrous expeditions into Syracuse (196–8) – that is evidence of a new concern for the world of political practice rather than political ideals, and that will be further explored in the Laws. His insistence that the various philosophers – Socrates (18), Parmenides (22), and the Athenian (18), as well as the Eleatic Stranger – are simply Plato’s mouthpieces is evident throughout the text.

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works were written.7 The difficulties here are twofold: First, there is no indication in Plato’s corpus, including the letters, or anywhere else in antiquity that he changed his views. Second, and more important, the effort to arrange the dialogues in the order in which they were written has been a more difficult task than originally envisioned.8 Even Holger Thesleff, who is sympathetic to the effort, concludes that the project is “in a deplorable state of confusion” (1982: 18). In light of these problems, John M. Cooper, editor of the most recent collection of the dialogues, suggests that the usual chronological arrangement of Platonic dialogues is “not compelling” and lacks “sufficient basis” (1997: xiii). Therefore, he urges “readers not to undertake the study of Plato’s works holding in mind the customary chronological groupings of ‘early,’ ‘middle,’ and ‘late’ dialogues” (xiv). The alternative to the developmental view is the unified approach, as exemplified by Paul Shorey (1965, originally published in 1933), which argues that the teachings of the dialogues are ultimately compatible.9 Differences among the various dialogues – even those with a different primary philosophical figure – are due to, proponents argue, different dramatic features, such as the character of the interlocutors, the setting of the dialogue, and the particular question under investigation. In discussing the Statesman, Mitchell Miller states it this way: Plato wrote dramatic dialogues, situating every speech as the response of one persona to another in a specific and unfolding context of inquiry and contest; to reach his thought, accordingly, he himself requires that we begin by attending to a concretely drawn setting, to the specific perspectives and 7 As

A. E. Taylor stated, “To understand a great thinker is, of course, impossible unless we know something of the relative order of his works, and of the actual period of his life to which they belong” (1960: 16). 8 Jacob Howland (1991) is, perhaps, the most trenchant critic of the effort to order the dialogues according to the chronology of composition. Christopher Rowe similarly urges readers to avoid basing interpretations on chronology of composition except as a last resort, for the very simple reason that we lack sufficient information about the order in which Plato wrote the dialogues (2001: 64). Nevertheless, he elsewhere “assume[s]” that the Eleatic Stranger is Plato’s mouthpiece (1995: 10). Most efforts to identify when the dialogues were written agree that the Sophist and the Statesman, as well as the Laws, were late dialogues; however, it is still premature to adopt the developmental view, particularly in light of the differences I identify between the political theories of the Eleatic Stranger and the Athenian Stranger. 9 A recent expression of the view that the teachings of Socrates and both Strangers are fundamentally compatible is found in Mark Blitz (2010), who argues that “the political differences among the political dialogues . . . stem from different purposes and themes, not different understandings” of politics (276, cf. 309–10, n53). He contends that an emphasis on perceived differences among the philosophers is no more than an “afterthe-fact explanation” for Socrates’ absence (309, n53).

Introduction

9

commitments written into the fictionalized identities of his characters, and to the dramatic sequencing – the “plot” of the “action,” so to speak – that integrates the drama of their conversation. (2004: xi)

The unified approach argues that the dialogues, particularly those that feature different philosophical spokesmen, are if not identical then at least consistent, particularly when one reads through the ad hominem arguments and reaches a deeper level of philosophic understanding.10 According to the adherents of this view, Plato does not reject the teachings of Socrates and then critique them in the persona of the Athenian and Eleatic Strangers, as the developmental view claims. Rather, the teachings of Socrates are supplemented by those of the two Strangers. Each of the three perspectives is necessarily incomplete and requires the others; they are different from but ultimately consistent with and indeed dependent on one another. As Seth Benardete explains the relationship, “In the Republic, political things are examined in the light of justice, and in the Laws, of legislation, but in the Statesman, in the light of knowledge” (1984, III.83).11 Although adherents of the unified approach to the dialogues take the Statesman seriously, they generally insist that the Eleatic and Athenian Strangers are fundamentally compatible not only with each other but also with Socrates.12 As I argue in Chapter 5 – and suggest throughout this book – the significant differences in the conceptions of both politics 10 Leo

Strauss stated it this way: “The Republic and the Statesman reveal, each in its own way, the essential limitation and therewith the essential character of the city. They thus lay the foundation for answering the question of the best political order. . . . But they do not set forth that best possible order. This task is left for the Laws” (1987: 78). 11 Within the unified tradition, there is more skepticism about the Eleatic Stranger’s compatibility with Socrates than the Athenian Stranger’s (see Harvey Scodel 1987, Charles Griswold 1989, Michael Kochin 1999, Lisa Pace Vetter 2005). Catherine Zuckert (2009) is the exception: Whereas dramatically dating the dialogues is a common response to the problematic attempt to date them chronologically in order of composition, she offers the first attempt to arrange the entirety of the Platonic corpus according to the dramatic chronology and explain the purpose of that chronology. She suggests, on the basis of the dramatic date as well as philosophical content, that the Laws represents the limits of pre-Socratic philosophy, depicted by the Athenian Stranger, and thereby makes evident the need for Socratic philosophy (2009: 31–3, 51–146; cf. Zuckert 2004). For an example of the unified approach to the Laws, see V. Bradley Lewis (1998) as well as Thomas Pangle (1980) and Leo Strauss (1975). 12 For instance, Stanley Rosen concludes that “the Stranger’s political doctrine is scarcely different from the views of Socrates in the Republic or the Athenian Stranger in the Laws” (1995: 7). See also Leo Strauss (1987: 68–78) and Eric Voegelin (1985: 150). An early advocate of this view was, of course, Paul Shorey, who argues that Plato “did not really regard his Republic as realizable, and the beneficent tyrant in the Laws is invoked only as the easiest and speediest means of accomplishing the revolution. The serious doctrine of the Laws is essentially that which he goes on to expound in the Politicus” (1965: 265).

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Plato, Aristotle, and the Purpose of Politics

and philosophy held by Socrates and the Eleatic Stranger are ultimately incompatible.13 However, insofar as they believe the Eleatic to be compatible with Socrates, adherents of the unified approach have not focused on the way in which Aristotle’s critique of the Eleatic differs from his critique of Socrates. Thus, they miss essential aspects of Aristotle’s criticism of both the Eleatic Stranger and Socrates. Unlike adherents of both the developmental and unified approaches, I suggest that far from being Plato’s own beliefs – either late in or throughout his life – the political doctrine espoused by the Eleatic Stranger is one that had a great deal of currency in the fourth-century Hellenic world. This explains why Aristotle takes the Stranger’s claims so seriously that he begins the Politics by rejecting them and reiterates his objection at the beginning of the inquiry into the regime according to prayer. This also explains why Plato took the view seriously enough to place it in a dialogue – regardless of when it was written – that is situated in a context that prompts us to consider what Socrates’ response to the Eleatic’s views might have been. It is likely that – as Catherine Zuckert (2009) argues – his behavior at and after the trial is just such a response; however, as I show in Chapter 5, the political teachings that Socrates offers in dialogues such as the Republic and the Gorgias also provide ample material for comparison and contrast.14 At the end of the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle claims that an inquiry into politics is necessary for human beings to achieve the good life. The first step of that inquiry, he says, is to examine what “has been well said by our predecessors” (1181b16–17).15 Most commentators, however, read 13 One

reason for greater skepticism about the compatibility of the Eleatic Stranger and Socrates is that unlike the Athenian Stranger, the Eleatic converses with Socrates; they clearly cannot be the same person. The absence of Socrates from the Laws has allowed some scholars to propose that the Laws is a Platonic thought experiment: What if Socrates had taken Crito’s offer and fled Athens? See, for example, Pangle (1980: 378–9). 14 Zuckert argues that Socrates tries to show in the Apology and the Crito that his questions about the opinions that people held regarding the good and noble did not undermine the rule of law, which the Eleatic Stranger identifies as essential to stable political communities (2009: 736–65). In the Phaedo, Socrates responds to the philosophical critique of the forms that the Eleatic puts forth in the Sophist, emphasizing the way in which the ideas must be not only unchanging but also unmixed if they are to be knowable in themselves (786–807). 15 Some (e.g., Carnes Lord, 1981: 473, and P. A. Vander Waerdt, 1985a: 79–80) doubt either the authenticity of this passage or its applicability to the Politics. However, as Barker notes, “It is Aristotle’s first object to collect the received views on the subject which he is discussing, whether they are the ordinary or accepted popular views, or those

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Introduction

11

Book I as a prologue – that is, a necessary clarification of a certain reductionist tendency – not as the promised examination of what might have been well said by his predecessors.16 Even those few commentators who notice the connection generally do not recognize the significance of the criticism for Aristotle’s broader political theory.17 Some scholars do not focus on Aristotle’s criticism because they conclude that the Eleatic Stranger, in fact, does not hold the view that Aristotle rejects.18 Charles Griswold notes that “Aristotle’s Politics begins (1255b17–21) with a criticism of the equation . . . of the arts of the statesman, household manager, and slavemaster,” but he contends that “the S[tatesman] itself presents us with its own criticisms of the objectionable equation” (1989: 164, n16). He concludes that the Eleatic prescribes “a degree of political liberty” for citizens because “the perfect statesman is absent” from political life (161). Likewise, John Cooper recognizes that Aristotle refers to the Eleatic Stranger’s argument that there is no difference among the kinds of rule, but he insists that within the Statesman, the of previous thinkers. This is a procedure followed in theoretical works like the De Anima, but still more popular in practical treatises like the Ethics or Politics. Here it is popular opinion which is the fundamental basis of inquiry” (1959: 252). 16 This is not to say that they fail to notice the reference to the Statesman at the very beginning of the Politics but rather that they believe it to be a passing reference rather than a signal that Book I will consider, in some detail, the argument of the Eleatic Stranger. Among those who neglect to treat Book I as a critique of the Statesman are W. L. Newman (2000: I.3), Hugh Rackham (1998: 642), and Robert Mayhew (1997: 3), who claim that the critique of predecessors does not begin until Book II. Richard Kraut (2002: 183–4) questions the placement of Book I insofar as it “stands apart from the rest of the treatise.” Voegelin not only identifies Book II as the critique but also denies that Book I fits into the overall structure of the work (1985: 281). Despite doubting that the passage in the Ethics is authentic, Lord concedes that a “not wholly implausible” interpretation may be made that Book I is indeed part of the promised review (1981: 472). 17 The most provocative interpretation was offered by Roger Masters (1977), who suggested that both the Statesman and its companion the Sophist were among Aristotle’s missing dialogues. Masters has since retracted this suggestion, although primarily on the basis of literary evidence rather than recognition of the significant differences between Aristotle and the Eleatic Stranger (1979: 545–6). Masters notes Aristotle’s criticism of the Eleatic Stranger’s method of bifurcatory division in the Parts of Animals 642–3b (1979: 546). 18 Robert C. Bartlett also emphasizes the role played by the Eleatic Stranger at the beginning of Book I (2001: 128–32). However, he argues that the Stranger’s assertion amounts to a “refutation of the orders of the prophets” in favor of inquiry and freedom (131) and that despite the critique with which Aristotle begins Book I, there is “a more fundamental agreement” between Aristotle and the Eleatic; that is, “they stand together in defence of the possibility of ‘political science’ against the political claims of the inspired” (134).

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Plato, Aristotle, and the Purpose of Politics

argument is presented as “not just invalid but so flagrantly so” that the “reader is invited to place and hold a question mark above this thesis” (1999: 74–7). According to Cooper, the Stranger retracts these “noxious” claims over the course of the dialogue and instead advocates “kingly or statesmanly rule that is in fact exercised on citizens who are willingly and voluntarily governed by it” (1999: 99–100).19 Both Griswold and Cooper depict the Statesman as Plato’s accommodation to the necessity of consent in politics; I argue in Chapter 3, however, that the Eleatic’s views are not at all liberal and neither do they need to be to make Plato’s later political thought consistent. Malcolm Schofield emphasizes that “Aristotle’s immediate target” in Book I of the Politics “is clearly a passage in Plato’s Politicus (258E ff.) that asserts the identities Aristotle denies” (1990: 17). Schofield suggests that “the inadequacy of Plato’s position” is rooted in his failure to acknowledge Aristotle’s central contention: that is, the polis is “the most important kind of community, which encompasses all others” (18). Yet, Schofield fails to explain why the Eleatic denies that the political community has a specific difference from the other kinds of communities. Indeed, his focus on Aristotle’s evaluation of the different kinds of communities overlooks the fact that they are related to different ends, and it is the difference in ends that Aristotle is most concerned to prove. Evidence for this, on Schofield’s own terms, is that Aristotle reiterates frequently throughout the Politics the argument that the end of the polis is the good life.20 It is precisely this argument about the ends of politics that I emphasize here: Using the Eleatic Stranger’s teachings as a foil brings to the forefront Aristotle’s belief that the primary purpose of politics is the pursuit of the good life and not simply preservation. More common are interpretations of Aristotle that present him as an advocate of the common good; much communitarian literature, for instance, appropriates his thought for this purpose. However, as Wayne Ambler (1999) observes, the centrality of the common good is limited, by and large, to the initial division of regimes in Book III. The claim that politics is distinguished by its concern with the good life is repeated throughout the Politics, and the contrast with the Statesman helps us to see that focus.

19 Phillip

Mitsis rightly objects “that such a wholesale change on Plato’s part seems to have escaped the notice of Aristotle should perhaps give us pause” (1999: 106). 20 Schofield rightly argues that the naturalness of the polis is not the primary issue in Book I insofar as it is “barely mentioned” after Book I (1990: 17).

Introduction

13

Approaching the Politics through the lens of the Statesman also allows us to see some of the distinctive characteristics and advantages of Aristotelian political philosophy. To be sure, the last thirty years has witnessed a rebirth of interest in Aristotle’s practical philosophy, for a wide variety of reasons. Some want to offer a more “community-oriented” approach to political life than that found in contemporary liberalism; others want to revive the notion of practical judgment against ethical systems that depend on rigorous formalism; and still others admire the “virtue ethics” found in Aristotle and his emphasis on character formation and education. Looking at Aristotle’s criticism of the Eleatic Stranger speaks to this wide variety of interests, but it also articulates a vision of politics as concerned about not simply life but rather a good life. It responds to a modern cynicism and pessimism about politics, less by outlining steps for reform than by reminding us that there is – or, at least, should be – something noble about politics. It serves as an ideal toward which we, as political theorists, hope that our work can help lead. Ultimately, my intention is to do more than illuminate new aspects of classic texts: I hope that illuminating these texts provokes reflection on our own political practices and makes clearer what is implicit and at stake in our contemporary ways of thinking about politics.

1 A Place for Politics The Household and the City

At the beginning of Plato’s Statesman, the Eleatic Stranger convinces Young Socrates that there is little difference among the various kinds of human communities and therefore no difference in the kind of knowledge necessary to rule them; that knowledge alone qualifies one to rule; and that the kind of knowledge characteristic of rulers is gnostic (or theoretical) in character. These claims are rejected by Aristotle at the beginning of his Politics. In this chapter, I explain the Stranger’s argument and why it is persuasive to Young Socrates. Of course, I also explain why Aristotle denounces it as both untrue and ignoble. Many commentators find Book I of the Politics to be problematic, but understanding it as a response to the Statesman unifies the seemingly divergent threads of argument. Aristotle’s initial conclusion – that the polis is unique among the various kinds of human communities because it has as its end the good life – is one that guides his entire political analysis as he evaluates regimes depending on whether they promote that end, describes the institutions and practices that contribute to the good life, and recommends ways to improve existing regimes. The criticism of the Statesman, therefore, provides a basis for understanding the overall direction of his political theory. Aristotle counters the Stranger’s claims by distinguishing human communities according to their end and arranging them hierarchically according to those ends. In his examination of the relationship between masters and slaves, he shows how ruling depends not only on knowledge but also on the nature of those involved in the community. And in his examination of the kinds of acquisition, Aristotle points to the necessity of experience for acquiring the knowledge necessary for ruling. In short, he shows that ruling is not primarily a theoretical activity and therefore cannot be justified simply by theoretical knowledge. This difference about the kind of knowledge appropriate 14

A Place for Politics

15

to political life, as discussed in subsequent chapters, has serious consequences.

The Search for the Statesman The conversation between the Eleatic Stranger and Young Socrates recounted in Plato’s Statesman is the continuation of a longer conversation that begins the last days of Socrates’ life.1 The conversation begins with an inquiry into the possibility of knowledge in the Theaetetus and resumes after Socrates has received his indictment from the archon. Eventually, Socrates rejoins the mathematician Theodorus and his students, who introduce him to a stranger from Elea.2 Theodorus tells Socrates that the stranger is a follower of Parmenides and Zeno and a “very manly” philosopher (Soph. 216a). Socrates asks whether this Eleatic Stranger is some god who has come to “refute us who are poor in speeches” (216b). Theodorus tells him that the Stranger is neither pugnacious nor a god, although, like all philosophers, he is divine. Socrates agrees that philosophers are probably divine, but he suggests that it is difficult to determine who is truly a philosopher. Philosophers frequently are confused with many others – particularly madmen, sophists, and statesmen – and he therefore wonders whether the Eleatic school believes that the philosopher, sophist, and statesman are one, two, or three different kinds of individuals. As it happens, the Stranger had been discoursing about this very subject when Socrates arrived. The Stranger says that although philosophers, sophists, and statesmen are different, they are indeed difficult to distinguish with clarity. However, he once heard a discussion of these matters and remembers it well. In a rare alliance, Theodorus and Socrates 1 By

situating the dialogues in dramatic context, Mitchell Miller suggests that the Statesman, along with the Sophist, represented the “philosophical trial” of Socrates, immediately preceding his political trial (2004: 1–15), an interpretation echoed by Howland (1998). 2 On the meaning of xenos (i.e., “stranger” or “visitor), see Ruby Blondell (2002: 318–26), who argues that the Theaetetus, the Sophist, and the Statesman constitute a “triad” and not a “trilogy” because the interdialogue references may have been later additions to existing texts (8, n19). She also separates the triad from the dramatic end of Plato’s Socrates and argues that there is no real importance in the dramatic order of these dialogues except to provide a “philosophical and political context” for Socrates (387). Jacob Klein, however, insists that “There can be no doubt that the Platonic dialogues Theaetetus, The Sophist, and The Statesman belong together – in that order – and are meant to be a ‘trilogy,’ regardless of when they were written” (1977: 3). I am inclined more toward the latter view.

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Plato, Aristotle, and the Purpose of Politics

implore him to explain what he had heard. The Stranger’s account, therefore, is not exclusively his own; it is also the view of the Eleatic school to which he belongs.3 Referring to the way he had long ago conversed with Parmenides himself, Socrates asks the Stranger whether he would prefer to proceed by giving a speech or by conversing. Although the Stranger would prefer to give a long speech, he agrees to proceed in what appears to be the usual Socratic manner of questioning (Soph. 217e). He warns, however, that doing so is difficult without a tractable interlocutor, which prompts Socrates to recommend Theaetetus, on the basis of their earlier conversation. The Stranger accepts the recommendation, based as much on his own experience with the youth as on Socrates’ recommendation, and he and Theaetetus spend the rest of the Sophist trying to define the art or practice of a sophist, using a careful method of bifurcatory division. The Statesman begins with Socrates – who remained present but silent throughout the search for the sophist – thanking Theodorus for introducing him to the Stranger and Theaetetus. Theodorus remarks that Socrates’ debt will increase threefold once the Stranger distinguishes the statesman and philosopher. Socrates chastises the mathematician for assuming that the three types possess equal worth, for, with respect to honor, they stand much farther apart (Plt. 257b).4 That is, Theodorus implied that there is no difference of merit among sophists, statesmen, and philosophers – a view that Socrates rejects (e.g., Grg. 464b ff.). Theodorus sulks but asks the Stranger to continue. Although he is willing to do so, the Stranger requests a new interlocutor to replace the weary Theaetetus. Socrates interjects that just as Theaetetus was said to resemble him in visage (Tht. 143e, 144e), so, too, Young Socrates resembles him in name (Plt. 257de). He encourages the Stranger to choose his 3 That

the view was common among Eleatic philosophers explains, in part, Aristotle’s reference to “those who believe” that the kinds of rule are identical (Pol. 1252a7). It also leads Stanley Rosen to question the developmental approach: How can the Eleatic Stranger “be Plato’s as well as the Eleatic mouthpiece” (1983: 67)? 4 Francisco Gonzalez argues that this exchange represents “a devastating critique” of the Eleatic Stranger, even if couched as a criticism of Theodorus. For Socrates, the philosopher, sophist, and statesman are so different as to be disproportionate, whereas the Eleatic Stranger’s method – which refuses to distinguish among arts or activities on the basis of worth – ignores these differences (2000: 168). Gonzalez insists that Plato not only shows the failure of the Eleatic’s kind of philosophizing but also puts an “implicit but devastating critique into Socrates’ words at the beginning of the Statesman” (178).

A Place for Politics

17

youthful namesake for his interlocutor and, having made this suggestion, withdraws from the remainder of the dialogue. The Eleatic Stranger begins by asking Young Socrates whether the statesman possesses knowledge. Young Socrates immediately agrees that he does but is unable to say what kind of knowledge it is. Having accepted that statesmanship is a kind of knowledge, the task becomes to use the diairetic method to proceed, step by step, until the kind of knowledge that it is can be isolated from the other kinds of knowledge and then stamped with the appropriate shape []. The Stranger returns to the method of bifurcatory division used in the Sophist, but he suggests that the particular divisions useful in looking for the sophist will not help to discover the statesman. Because the statesman has been set down as someone who knows, he is quite different from the sophist, who knows only how to imitate. The Stranger is intent on separating statesmanship from sophistry, which becomes apparent in the discussion of existing regimes (291c ff.). The Stranger’s first question emphasizes not what the statesman does but rather what he knows. Consequently, he is able to raise the next two questions, which blur the distinction between statesman and household manager and suggest that one can be a statesman even without a position of power, provided that one has the necessary knowledge. Young Socrates does not grasp the meaning of the Stranger’s questions, but the Stranger is glad to take the lead – provided that Young Socrates ultimately agrees with the results of the inquiry. The Stranger’s first proposed division is between those sciences that involve a kind of production or action and those that involve cognition ( , gnostic or theoretical; 258e5).5 Yet, instead of sorting the statesman into either of these classes, he asks Young Socrates two more questions. First, he inquires whether the statesman is unique or akin to the king, slavemaster, and household manager. Second, he asks Young Socrates whether one who has such knowledge, whether he rules or not, is correctly called “royal” (259b). The Stranger asks these two questions – the answers to which thereby provoke Aristotle – to justify identifying statesmanship as a kind of gnostic knowledge.6

5 Whereas

the first division of the Sophist was of art into productive or acquisitive, the Stranger here begins by dividing knowledge into practical and gnostic. 6 Seth Benardete suggests that the Stranger places statesmanship alongside arithmetic to vindicate Theodorus against Socrates’ objection to his claim that the philosopher, the sophist, and the statesman are of equal worth (1992: 26).

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Plato, Aristotle, and the Purpose of Politics

But why should it be conceded that statesmanship is a form of knowledge? Socrates’ laments about the dearth of knowledgeable leaders in the Gorgias – in which most politicians are said to be flatterers, lacking in knowledge – still ring true in our time, and the Eleatic himself later concedes that the statesmen who rule the cities in which we live are, in fact, not knowledgeable. The Stranger’s suggestion that statesmen possess a particular kind of knowledge, not to mention one that is gnostic, would perhaps strike most Athenians as odd. It usually was held that participating in politics did not require a particular kind of knowledge. The myth recounted by Protagoras in the dialogue bearing his name argues that all human beings were given this knowledge by Zeus (Prot. 319cd, 322d–23b). As M. H. Hansen (1983) reports, the term for an expert in matters relating to the polis, the   , was almost unheard of prior to Plato’s usage. Those who led Athens were usually called rhetors and generals (36–7) – indeed, the Stranger later identifies these as among the closest relatives of statesmen (304a). However, Young Socrates, as one who esteems theoretical knowledge and believes that its possession is a mark of excellence, may be open to the Stranger’s position in a way that other young Athenians would not. While Theodorus calls philosophers divine, it would make sense for a spirited young Athenian like Young Socrates to hold the statesmen of Athens in high esteem. Socrates’ critique of Athenian politicians (i.e., Themistocles, Pericles, Cimon, and Miltiades) in the Gorgias is striking precisely because it goes against conventional opinion (Grg. 515c ff.), and there is reason to wonder just how seriously he means that critique to be taken.7 Evidence that his youthful namesake holds statesmen in high regard comes in the latter passages of the Statesman, when Young Socrates is open to the idea that he lives in an age when those who care for men are gods (271c) and, more significantly, objects to the Eleatic’s suggestion that true statesmen would rule without law (293e). Rulers without law are not statesmen; they are tyrants, and Young Socrates is quite aware – as most Athenians were – of the difference. As a student of Theodorus, however, it is likely that Young Socrates values knowledge more than most Athenians. He may believe that all

7 See,

for instance, Meno 93a–94e. The Eleatic Stranger, in discussing “the statesman,” never mentions a single historical statesman, which indicates (as I discuss in Chapter 4) a disinterest in the practice of politics. The investigation into the statesman, it is revealed, is for the sake of improving dialectical acumen rather than improving political life.

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honorable occupations require knowledge, insofar as knowledge itself is honorable; in the preceding conversation the dishonorable sophist was said to know only how to imitate that which he does not know.8 It would be sensible for Young Socrates to set the statesman down as different from the sophist, particularly in light of the Eleatic Stranger’s initial affirmation that they differ from one another – and, of course, from the philosopher. The value that Young Socrates places on knowledge is evident from the fact that he accepts the Eleatic’s claim that whoever possesses the knowledge necessary to rule should be called a ruler, regardless of whether he in fact possesses the power to put that knowledge into practice (259a ff.). At first, the Stranger claims only that anyone who is capable of advising a doctor or a king must be said to possess the science characteristic of a doctor or a king. In light of Young Socrates’ willingness to connect statesmanship and knowledge, it is not surprising that he takes the next step and claims that the possession of knowledge alone is what makes one a statesman, whether or not he is ruling. However, this claim makes sense only if the original question – that is, whether the statesman’s knowledge is practical or gnostic – already is answered.9 That is, if statesmanship were a form of practical knowledge, then it would be impossible to assert that mere possession of the knowledge is sufficient: One cannot possess the art of production without the means of production. The Eleatic has prepared Young Socrates to accept the argument from the outset by suggesting a connection between mathematics and statesmanship, as he identifies arithmetic as an example of gnostic knowledge (258d). The principles of mathematics are always true, regardless of whether they are being used properly, just as the statesman’s knowledge is true whether he has power or only advises one who does. 8 Young

Socrates was present at the conversation of the Theaetetus (147cd); therefore, the refutations of the sophists – particularly Protagoras – by Socrates also might lead him to esteem knowledge. Although Theodorus considers Protagoras to be a friend [ ] (162a4), he disowns the speeches of Protagoras and focuses only on geometry (165a). 9 There is some merit to the revised Oxford Classical Texts, which moves 259d4–6 between 259b6 and 259b7, although I think the argument works either way. See D. B. Robinson (1995: 41) for his editorial justification and John Cooper, who calls the move “a stunning example of editorial hubris and ignorance” because it introduces the conclusion – that the king is equivalent to the statesman – as a premise (1999: 75, n4). This is not the case: The conclusion sought by the Stranger is that statesmen have a kind of gnostic knowledge (259c10–d2, d7–8). Cf. Rowe (1995: ad loc. 259d3–4).

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This, of course, raises the question of how devoted Young Socrates is to mathematics, with which the Stranger associates statesmanship at the outset of the dialogue.10 Apart from what the dialogue itself suggests, there is another piece of evidence that suggests Young Socrates is susceptible to an overly mathematical approach to politics. In the Metaphysics, Aristotle refers to a “younger Socrates” [ ! " ], criticizing him for excessive abstraction from matter in definitions – particularly with regard to humans (1036b23 ff.). This error is one committed by mathematicians who do not realize how human things differ from mathematical things. The argument of Young Socrates mentioned by Aristotle is that a man can be abstracted from his body, as a circle is abstracted from the bronze of which it is made. Aristotle objects that the two cases are dissimilar, for animals are sensible, moving beings; therefore, they cannot be understood without reference to the motion of their parts. It seems, then, that there was a Young Socrates tempted to abstract too greatly from the physicality of human existence.11 That statesmanship differs from sophistry as well as mathematics does not mean that it is unique. Having gained Young Socrates’ assent to the claim that the statesman is defined by the possession of a kind of knowledge, the Stranger identifies statesmanship with other kinds of human rule. Not only kings but also household managers and slaveholders are one with the statesman, for the various communities share “one science” of ruling and differ only according to size (259bc).12 The Eleatic convinces Young Socrates of this conclusion by arguing for the similarity of the despot and household manager, the household manager and the statesman, and the statesman and the king. This move has important rhetorical consequences: Having connected the various kinds of rule, the unappealing and ignoble despot is never again mentioned 10 The

Stranger later distinguishes mathematics and statesmanship by introducing the notion of relative measure, which is discussed in Chapter 4. Nevertheless, his understanding of politics remains a gnostic one, with significant parallels to mathematics, which is presented as the paradigm of gnostic knowledge. 11 Cf. Thomas Aquinas (1986), q. 5, a. 3. We obviously cannot be sure that the Young Socrates of the dialogue is the same mentioned by Aristotle, but as Debra Nails concludes, there is no reason to believe that the persona is fictitious (2002: 269). Miller (2004) argues that Young Socrates is tempted to treat politics like mathematics but that the Stranger’s purpose in the Statesman is to cure him – and similar members of the Academy – of that Pythagorean tendency. I suggest the opposite: The Eleatic, too, has such a conception of politics. 12 The comparison with private rule in the household is not surprising, given the Stranger’s rejection of the distinction between public and private [ !] knowledge, insisting that one can be a king with or without power (259b).

A Place for Politics

21

by the Stranger. It is said to make no difference whether the knowledge is called royal, political, or economic [#! $ % & ' %  (  ' % )    *)  ] (259c). It presumably would make a difference were it to be called despotic, as shown by Young Socrates’ reaction later in the dialogue to the claim that the true statesman rules without law.13 When politics is understood as a gnostic form of knowledge, the differences between the statesman and the king, as well as those between the household manager and the despot, are minimized.14 Insofar as despotism – that is, the rule of a master over slaves – is generally a part of household management, the conflation of the two may seem unobjectionable, although Aristotle later emphasizes their differences (cf. Pol. 1252a25 ff.). The Stranger’s argument that a large household is not too different with regard to rule from a small city except in size is appealing to mathematicians such as Young Socrates: The same mathematical principles are applied to numbers large and small. What of the connection between kingship and statesmanship? The Stranger offers no argument for it, yet Young Socrates immediately accepts it as obvious (259d3–5). Such a connection may not have seemed shocking to the Stranger’s interlocutors or their contemporaries. The king with whom they were most familiar was probably the Spartan king – the dialogue is set just after the conclusion of the Peloponnesian War – and, as Aristotle notes, the Spartan king’s power was limited to matters of war and divine sacrifice (1285a3–7). He ruled in accordance with law (1285a3–4) and his power was shared with others (1313a25 ff.). Hence, Aristotle concludes that this kind of king is not a true king, for such a king can be found in any regime (1286a2–5, 1287a3–4). There are other kinds of kingship broader than the Spartan, but they existed either in much earlier times (i.e., the heroic kings and the dictators) or far away (i.e., the barbarian kings), and it is unlikely that Young Socrates would have had them in mind. The only kind of kingship that would seem wholly antithetical to political rule is that which 13 Although

despotic rule is not mentioned again in the dialogue, immediately after the myth, the Stranger says that he and Young Socrates erred in identifying the king with the tyrant (276de). 14 Aristotle suggests at the outset of the Politics that the political ruler/statesman and the king are distinguished according to whether they rule in turn or alone (1252a14–17), but this distinction is not even considered by the Stranger and Young Socrates until late in the Statesman (301b ff.). It seems that the king and statesman are identical because of the unlikelihood of more than one person possessing political knowledge.

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Aristotle characterizes as the pambasileus, who rules in all matters according to his will (1285b29–33; see the discussion in Chapter 3). The closest historical example might have been the Persian king, but the war with Persia had ended fifty years earlier; therefore, it is doubtful that Young Socrates would have had the Persian king in mind when accepting the Stranger’s identification of kingship with statesmanship.15 Young Socrates’ acceptance of the claim that there is no meaningful difference among the various kinds of rule leads the Stranger to return to his original question: Should the knowledge of the statesman/king/household manager be set down as gnostic or practical? The Stranger observes, and Young Socrates agrees, that no king can rule a city by means of his hands and body but rather rules through only his intelligence and strength of soul [ '  +, #   -)!] (259c8).16 Therefore, the Stranger concludes, the king is more at home [  . ] among the gnostic arts than the practical arts (259cd). Young Socrates, who also works with his soul rather than his hands and body, agrees that the knowledge of ruling is gnostic. Insofar as kingship is the same as the other kinds of rule – the Stranger calls household management to mind by using   – all kinds of rule are similarly more gnostic than manual or practical. This hesitance to place ruling knowledge wholly in the gnostic category is but an early indication that the Stranger may not adhere to his method of division as rigorously as he did in the Sophist.17 The argument for the gnostic character of the ruling science is successful because the Stranger chooses kingly rule as his example. A household manager could do as much with his body as with his soul for those under his care, and despotic rule is generally associated with, if not dependent on, physical force. The identification of the kinds of rule has served a clear purpose: It enables the Stranger to place all of them in the category of gnostic sciences – a placement upheld throughout the dialogue. Toward the end of the dialogue, the Eleatic praises Young Socrates for recalling that anyone who possesses the royal science should be called king (292e9–93a1) and later reasserts that the king must not act himself but rather rule over those who do act (305d1–2). 15 In his enumeration of the varieties of kingship, Aristotle says that the only kind still worth

mentioning is that which is in charge of the army when it is outside the city’s borders (Pol. 1285b17–19). 16 Xavier M´ arquez translates “strength of soul” as “charisma” (2007: 44). 17 For instance, in the Statesman, the Stranger departs from his method of bifurcatory division to introduce a myth and eventually to divide in a different way.

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It is not surprising that the Eleatic Stranger would suggest and that his audience would accept the claim that a true statesman must possess a kind of knowledge. The suggestion that political knowledge is gnostic rather than practical, however, is more puzzling, which is highlighted by the fact that the Stranger’s controversial claims that the kinds of rule are alike and that knowledge alone justifies ruling are presented as supports for the gnostic placement of ruling. Why might the Stranger want to claim that ruling is primarily gnostic? First, the disappearance of despotic rule from the dialogue indicates the Stranger’s desire to oppose the view – which still has and perhaps always will have its adherents – that politics is simply about power. If ruling is a kind of gnostic knowledge, it cannot be primarily a matter of force. Such a view, however, may abstract too much from the realities of politics: As Aristotle emphasizes, politics involves although is not exclusively about power. The Stranger also denies that the statesman brings the citizens whom he rules into being. He may shape or form them through education and regulating the marital bonds that result in procreation, but he does not bring them into being as a carpenter does a table.18 This again may be an observation prompted by the mathematicians with whom he is conversing: Mathematicians work with numbers, but they do not bring those numbers into existence. It is of no small importance, then, that unlike the other foreign visitors to Athens encountered by Socrates, the Eleatic Stranger is in the company of mathematicians rather than the wealthy and powerful.

The First Definition of the Statesman The Stranger’s first division was between practical and gnostic arts, and ruling – in all of its kinds – was placed in the latter category. The next division is of those gnostic arts that merely issue judgments of fact and those that issue commands. Unlike mathematics, the royal art is clearly an instance of theoretical knowledge that issues commands, and it commands of its own accord, unlike heraldry, which merely repeats the commands of someone else. It is never denied that the statesman’s knowledge has a practical effect (which is why it is compared to architecture, which

18 Aristotle,

in fact, agrees with this understanding: “political expertise does not create human beings but makes use of them after receiving them from nature” (Pol. 1258a21– 23). Although virtue is natural to human beings, it is not in us by nature but rather requires cultivation (NE 1103a18–26).

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generally brings about houses), but the knowledge itself is said to be theoretical.19 That the statesman rules heralds leads the Stranger to consider those over whom the statesman exercises his knowledge rather than the knowledge itself. The purpose of statesmanship is to command for the sake of bringing something into being, but being is of two kinds: soulless and ensouled. The kingly art is nobler than architecture, so it must deal with ensouled rather than soulless beings (261c9). However, perhaps because of his earlier insistence that the statesman’s knowledge is gnostic, the Eleatic quickly moves from considering what the statesman brings into being to the kind of beings over whom the statesman practices nurture [ '] and care [ )  ] (261d4–6).20 Young Socrates does not object to any of this, and he accepts the Stranger’s claim that statesmanship has more to do with care of a community than of individuals (261d8–10). Foreshadowing his criticism of Young Socrates’ impatient elevation of humanity, the Stranger praises him here for not objecting to the use of “herd nurture” [/   ] (261e). In other words, Young Socrates is praised for accepting a reduction of human communities to herds, just as he is later criticized for insisting on the distinction between humans and beasts on the basis of their ability to reason. The Stranger’s mocking definitions of human beings only heighten the sense that he is trying deliberately to undermine Young Socrates’ optimistic estimation of humanity. The praise here is tinged with irony insofar as this is precisely where the Stranger later claims that their division went awry (275d). The Stranger’s examples also introduce a distinction among kinds of rule that does not explicitly appear in the diairesis. He asks Young 19 Rosen

argues that the dialogue indicates the failure of the division into gnostic and what he calls “practico-production” for the statesman is, he claims, ultimately revealed as a producer (1995: 20). It is true, no doubt, that the statesman’s knowledge may bring something into being – as the Stranger himself concedes, the statesman is concerned with bringing something into being (261ab) – however, that does not mean that the statesman acts directly with his body. Rather, the statesman seems to be like an architect, who may bring about a building without ever using his body. The “master-builder” [/, ] does not himself build but instead rules the builders; he, too, is classified among the practitioners of the gnostic arts (259e). Aristotle similarly observes that only the people involved with day-to-day political action are considered political “since they alone act, as if they were hands-on craftsmen” [, , ], in contrast to the art of lawmaking [)0 ], which is architectonic [/,  '] (NE 1141b23–34). 20 In his final account of statesmanship, the Stranger suggests that the statesman brings into being the city, rather than the citizens thereof, by means of weaving together the moderate and manly (311bc).

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Socrates whether the statesman is like a horse groom – whose care is not only for individual horses but also private [   ] – or a horse feeder (261d). The division proceeds as though the latter category is simply that of common nurture, as distinct from private; however, much more is at stake. A horse groom has a much broader responsibility than a horse feeder. As presented in this division, individual care involves more than simple survival, whereas common care – the category in which the statesman’s art is placed – is concerned primarily with survival. Moreover, the Stranger’s division into common or private care obscures the question of whether human beings are, as Aristotle claims, naturally communal and, more important, whether they are naturally political. Apart from their common care, the Stranger does not describe what binds human communities together. Human beings, on the Stranger’s account, may be brought together for common care by force or – as I argue in the next chapter – by necessity. The Stranger later attempts to solve this problem by introducing a division between animals that can be tamed and those that cannot – insisting that the statesman’s care is of the tame rather than the savage – but he never explains whether humans are naturally tame or whether they are compelled to be so (264a).21 Apparently unaware of these problems, Young Socrates is overcome by enthusiasm and believes that he has found the statesman. He interrupts, claiming that herd nurture should be distinguished by whether it is over human beings or beasts (262a). The Eleatic Stranger praises his eagerness and manliness but chastises Young Socrates for jumping ahead of the argument. Young Socrates failed to divide through the middle; his use of the term “beasts” [0! ] was little more than a negation of human beings, not-human. No matter how apparent the distinction between human and nonhumans may appear to him – and perhaps to us – the Stranger warns that philosophically sound division should separate genus from genus until a single species remains, rather than cutting off one species in a swift stroke. Such a division as that proposed by Young Socrates is no different from separating one number from all of the others or Greeks from all other races by calling them barbarians. In fact, it would be no different and no more justifiable than cranes setting themselves in opposition to all other living things. There is more at stake in the Stranger’s rejection of this suggestion than perhaps even Young Socrates is aware. Young Socrates gives no 21 If people must be compelled to become political, this would explain further why political

rule is similar to despotic rule, which generally relies on force.

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reason for his division of humans from all other animals, but the Stranger suggests that it reflects a belief that humans are distinguished by their intelligence [  )] (263d). The Stranger denies that this is a sufficient ground for separating humans from other animals: Other animals, like cranes, might make a similar claim to intelligence. The Stranger gives little attention to the human soul and ascribes no particular importance to human intelligence; in fact, he eventually identifies human beings, for all intents and purposes, as the irrational animal (266b). Moreover, the Stranger rejects the separation of Greek from barbarian just as he rejects the separation of humans from beasts. This rejection of common, obvious political divisions is curious, for he himself introduces examples from Thessaly and Egypt with which he knows that Young Socrates is unfamiliar. The existence of different and competing political communities underlies his emphasis on the ability of these communities to defend themselves at the end of the dialogue (304e, 307e). Indeed, the Eleatic’s own status as a “stranger” [1] highlights the fact that despite what he claims is its gnostic and universal character, political rule always is exercised in particular communities.22 The Stranger’s criticism of Young Socrates’ separation of human beings is more methodological than substantive, not least because the Stranger acknowledges that Young Socrates in fact has perceived the outcome of the division: The statesman does rule over human beings. Dividing properly in accordance with kinds is only more beautiful or nobler [ ] than a premature and erroneous separation of one class from the others (262e), for the Eleatic acknowledges that being able to make an immediate and correct division is “the most beautiful thing” ( , 262b). Young Socrates has made the most beautiful kind of division, yet he is rebuked by the Stranger because it is not safe to rely on such rapid divisions. It is safer to continue dividing through the middle. As discussed in Chapter 4, maintaining the proper method of dialectic is as important to the Stranger as defining the statesman and identifying the most politically relevant trait of those he rules. Returning to the main line of argument, the Stranger concedes that he also made too hasty a division (263e). Before inquiring whether the statesman’s nurture of living things was over individuals or herds, he

22 Despite

recent suggestions (e.g., Rowe 1995, Cooper 1999, and Blondell 2002) that the Eleatic be called a “visitor” or “guest,” I retain the traditional “stranger” to highlight the itinerant character of the Stranger (note his reference to other regions in 264cd and 290d), which distinguishes him from the Athens-bound Socrates.

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should have inquired whether it was over wild or tame animals. The statesman obviously rules over tame animals but in common rather than individually. Herd animals may live in the sea or on the land, but the statesman obviously rules over the land animals, which is divided again into feathered and terrestrial. Here, the Stranger offers Young Socrates a choice, for there are two roads that will lead to the statesman: a longer and a shorter. This choice again confirms that the Eleatic Stranger is not engaged in a real dialectical search for the statesman with Young Socrates; he already has an answer to the question but desires to demonstrate for his audience the proper method of philosophy. Young Socrates asks for the longer and shorter accounts, which the Stranger provides. The “longer” path entails the division of terrestrial animals into horned and hornless, but, again, the Stranger offers Young Socrates a choice: Should they proceed by dividing according to hooves or the mode of generation? The Stranger focuses on the latter, insisting that the statesman rules those animals who do not interbreed. The Stranger identifies, by way of a mathematical illustrationcum-(bad) joke, human beings as the bipedal counterpart to four-footed pigs (266b). In other words, he reduces human beings to an animal that moves by the power of two feet, which is akin – as Young Socrates and the other mathematicians present would surely know, the Stranger observes (266a6–7) – to the Greek term for the square root of two, an irrational number (266ab).23 In defending this strange and potentially laughable conclusion, the Stranger reminds Young Socrates that their division “no more cared for the august than for what was not, any more than it has denied honor to the smaller in preference for the bigger,” pursuing only the truth (266d, cf. Soph. 227b).24 That is, the Stranger asserts that their divisions have not been made in accordance with anything but the truth, giving no attention to better or worse (which is, of course, Socrates’ characteristic way of proceeding; cf. Rep. 618c). He is, in short, more concerned with 23 The

difference from Aristotle – for whom man is the rational animal (Pol. 1253a9–10) – is clear: While the Eleatic acknowledges that human beings have intelligence, he insists that is not the most relevant trait for understanding political life. Aristotle animadverts on both of the Stranger’s definitions of human beings in the Metaphysics, shortly after criticizing younger Socrates (1037b10 ff.). In his myth, the Stranger entertains the notion that not only humans but also all animals possessed speech and philosophized in the age of Cronos (272bc). 24 The Stranger’s suggestion that their conclusion is laughable, according to Aristotle, points to a uniquely human capacity, namely that of our risibility (Parts of Animals 673a7– 8).

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evaluating things in terms of what they are or are like than whether they are beautiful, noble, and good.25 In their attempt to isolate the statesman, however, the Stranger had insisted that the statesman cared for ensouled rather than soulless beings because caring for ensouled beings is “nobler” [ ] than the architect’s art (261c9). In his recapitulation of the division, and having made this methodological restriction, the Stranger now claims that they separated care of ensouled from soulless beings because such care is not the “smallest” [) ] part of the art that commands (267b2). He thus plays on the ambiguity of small: It may refer either to the importance of the statesman’s authority, as in the initial division, or to its scope. Although the statesman issues commands about soulless beings – such as triremes, weapons, and fortifications – his greatest concern is for human beings. The Stranger next offers Young Socrates a second, “shorter” way of identifying the statesman. Instead of dividing the footed animals into horned and hornless, he divides them into those with four feet and two feet. Those with two feet are then divided into those with and without wings. Humans are now said to be no more than featherless bipeds (266e). This “shorter” way saves only one step; its brevity may stem from the fact that the Eleatic never bothers to ask Young Socrates for his approval. The Stranger then summarizes the result of the division, adopting the longer rather than the shorter way.26 The statesman and king possess the knowledge of how to nurture the human herd. Whereas Young Socrates readily assents to their definition(s), the Stranger questions whether it has indeed been “adequately produced” (267d1–2).27 In the next chapter, I explore the Stranger’s hesitation and eventual revision of the definition

25 Citing

the famous story of Heraclitus encouraging his friends to notice the divine in his kitchen, Aristotle of course believes that all of nature is worthy of wonder (Parts of Animals 645a16 ff.). However, he also insists that there is a hierarchy within that nature, such that some parts of nature are in fact better and nobler than others. This appears not only in his ethical and political works (e.g., NE 1141a20–1141b3) but also in the scientific works (e.g., PA 656a4 ff., DA 414b19). 26 Two aspects of the original diairesis seem to be omitted from the summary: first, the division between tame and wild, which is perhaps understandable given that there could be no herd nurture of savage animals; and, second, the division between aqueous and terrestrial animals, which is fairly obvious in the case of human beings. 27 The verb here, /  0 (i.e., to be finished off or completed), often connotes a sense of production or artificiality, which hints at the similarly artificial definition that has just been given.

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that his own method produced, as well as the underlying grounds for his argument. For now, however, I consider the Aristotelian critique of what has been said.

Household Rule, Despotism, Kingship, and Politics in the Politics Aristotle begins the Politics by rejecting the notion that the various kinds of rule are the same, reminding his audience that there are those who argue that there is no difference among a king, a statesman, a household manager, and a despot – assuming, he says, that “there is no difference between a large household and a small city” – and that rule is justified by having a certain kind of knowledge. “But,” Aristotle continues, “these things are not true” (1252a7–16). To be sure, Aristotle does not name the Eleatic Stranger here; however, there can be little doubt that the Stranger is among the targets of his argument and, indeed, the primary one.28 The language in Aristotle’s Politics referring to those who believe that there is no difference among the kinds of rule is almost identical to that used by the Stranger in making his assertion in the Statesman.29 In addition, Aristotle immediately links those who make this claim with those who claim that rule is justified on the basis of knowledge, as does the Stranger. Moreover, Aristotle specifically refers to the Stranger’s connection between a large household and a small city.30 As Robert Bartlett notes, Aristotle claims not only that this argument is ignoble but also that it is false, “denying to these arguments their scientific character,” which is precisely what the Stranger claims for them (2001: 128). The Eleatic may not be the only target of Aristotle’s argument, as is made clear by Book VII, but he is surely foremost on Aristotle’s mind.31 28 I

discuss the reason that Aristotle does not name the Eleatic Stranger at the end of Chapter 5. 29 Compare Aristotle’s     &   )     (Pol. 1252a7– 8) with the Stranger’s      &   !  2’) (Plt. 258e8–9). 30 Cf. also the Eleatic’s ) ! ,)  3 )  4   5 (Plt. 259b9–10) with Aristotle’s ) !   3 ) 6   (Pol. 1252a13). 31 An additional reason to suspect that Aristotle has in mind the Eleatic Stranger in Book I is that it contains several references to weaving, which the Eleatic eventually proposes as a model for statesmanship (i.e., 1253b36, 1256a6, 1256a9, 1258a25). In the last of these references, he explicitly criticizes the Stranger’s analogy: “For it does not belong to expertise in weaving to make wool, but to make use of it and to know what sort is usable and suitable, or poor and unsuitable” (cf. Stat. 283a, 305e–06a).

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Although Aristotle disagrees with the Eleatic Stranger about what justifies political rule, he is quite certain that some kind of rule or authority is necessary in any human community. The immediate question that concerns him in the Politics is the proper kind of rule for the polis – the highest of all human communities. The purpose of Book I, then, is not to understand the components of the polis for their own sake, or even to argue for the naturalness of the polis, but rather to understand the polis better by gaining a clearer perspective on how it differs from the other human communities of which it is composed.32 There is, to be sure, an important connection between the polis and other human communities – particularly the household – but the thrust of Aristotle’s argument in Book I is to show that and how the polis is different in kind as well as in size from other forms of human community. What is perhaps unclear is how the discussion of Book I advances Aristotle’s argument about the kinds of rule. The trajectory of Book I is as follows: Aristotle begins by making the general observation that every community aims at some good, but – more important for our purposes – he also claims that the political community alone aims at “the most authoritative [  !] good of all” (1252a1– 5). However, others, like the Eleatic Stranger, have held that the polis has no unique end, much less the most authoritative end, for they believe that the polis has the same end as other kinds of human community. The beginning of the Nicomachean Ethics similarly identifies a variety of practices said to be “most honored” – “generalship, household management, and rhetorical skills” – but states that despite their renown, they are “subordinate” to the art of politics because politics is architectonic: It directs the other arts as to what should and should not be done (NE 1094b2–6).33 As he does in the Politics, Aristotle not only distinguishes politics from economics but also subordinates the latter to the former. Indeed, politics is said (as it frequently is elsewhere) to be “a master art” (1094a27). The Politics begins with Aristotle’s attempt to explain the way in which politics is superior to other kinds of rule found in human communities. Aristotle undertakes an examination of the communities that compose the parts of the polis because it is by examining them that we may better 32 Cf.

Bartlett (2001), who argues that “The whole of Book I . . . is meant to establish the naturalness of the city” in order to make it a subject of philosophical inquiry (134). 33 The Eleatic Stranger similarly identifies the orator, judge, and general as the arts most akin yet subordinate to statesmanship. He obviously would not subordinate household management to statesmanship, for he claims they are fundamentally the same.

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understand the kinds of rule and, in particular, “how they differ” and whether there is a science associated with their exercise (1252a16–23). In other words, the investigations into the various human communities in Book I are for the sake of better understanding the various kinds of rule, particularly political rule, which is why controversial claims such as the naturalness of the polis and certain kinds of slavery are mentioned almost exclusively in Book I.34 The claim that the end of the polis is the good life, however, is reiterated frequently throughout the text. The central argument of Book I, therefore, is about the uniqueness of the polis and its primacy because it has as its end the good life. Aristotle’s analysis of household management and mastery makes sense given the Eleatic’s assertion that these are the same as statesmanship or kingly rule. The discussion of acquisition and exchange at the end of Book I, however, is perhaps less obviously connected to the Stranger’s argument. Aristotle’s treatment not only clarifies the role of acquisition in the subpolitical communities but also emphasizes how its purposes are not those of politics. There is a tendency, however inappropriate, to draw on (mis)understandings of despotic and household rule in exercising political rule. The tendency to emphasize unlimited acquisition of power and wealth corrupts not only the proper exercise of despotic and household rule but also the proper exercise of political rule. Rather than focusing on the good life – which, to be sure, requires external goods, although only in moderation – political rule often becomes about acquisition for its own sake. Indeed, this acquisition is not even of goods but rather of money, which is potentially limitless. The use of money to facilitate exchange over greater distances and longer periods than bartering creates an art of acquisition that is concerned not with goods or money for the sake of goods but rather with money for its own sake. This love of wealth causes problems both within and between cities. Aristotle therefore shows why expertise in acquisition – although necessary for politics as well as the household – is both different from and subordinate to politics. Whereas Aristotle agrees with the Eleatic and Young Socrates that the statesman possesses a form of knowledge, he denies the Eleatic’s other claims: that there is no difference among the kinds of rule; that a ruler

34 The

assertion about the naturalness of the polis is indeed important for understanding Aristotle’s political science, but it is introduced in Book I to support Aristotle’s argument about the uniqueness of the polis. I address what is one of Aristotle’s most criticized claims in Chapter 2.

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is defined solely on the basis of knowledge; and that ruling knowledge is gnostic. For Aristotle, the types of rule – political, kingly, household, and despotic – are distinguished according to the end of the ruling relationship: The initial relationships of male/female and (natural) master/slave are necessary for preservation (1252a26–28) and, similarly, the household – the community formed by these two earlier pairings – exists for the sake of daily life (1252b12–14). The village – a union of several households – similarly exists to secure “nondaily needs” (1252b15–16). Political rule, however, is unique to the polis, which comes into being for the sake of living but exists “for the sake of living well” (1252b27–30). Being directed toward different ends – that is, preservation, needs of daily life, nondaily needs, living well – the kinds of rule differ in ways more important than the number of those ruled. It is not that Aristotle believes the size of the polis is unimportant but rather that the size of the community does not determine whether it is, in fact, a polis. In Book III, Aristotle says that the statesman should consider the size of the polis, but he postpones this discussion until Book VII, when it is the first practical question raised in discussing the regime according to prayer (1326a5–8). In other words, the size of the political community matters and perhaps significantly so: A community of excessive size may be unable to sustain itself politically and may fail to achieve the good life for which it exists. However, size is not sufficient to distinguish a polis with certainty from other human communities; some – perhaps many – communities may have the appropriate size yet not be ruled in political fashion. Aristotle first referred to the Eleatic’s position to distinguish the various kinds of rule. Having done so, he cites the position a second time to go beyond simply distinguishing the kinds of rule and to arrange these kinds hierarchically (1253b16–19). In particular, Aristotle wants to emphasize that despotic rule, like parental and marital rule, is only a part of household rule. Aristotle separates the use of slaves – that is, despotic rule – from their acquisition (1255b30–40), but he also subordinates both the use and the acquisition of slaves to household rule (1259a37–59b1, 1259b18–21). Because using slaves is merely a part of household management, economic rule is not only different from but also superior to despotic rule. A part is defined by belonging entirely to the whole of which it is a part; despotic rule, then, belongs wholly to household management. This devaluation is especially important because despotism is a kind of rule that emphasizes physical power – particularly over the

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goods and lives of individuals – and which Aristotle, like the Eleatic, is concerned to undermine.35 Like the Eleatic Stranger, then, Aristotle divides the whole of the polis into various parts (cf. Pol. 1252a17–23, 1289b27 ff. with Plt. 287b–91a). Yet, whereas the Eleatic distinguishes parts on the basis of whether they are similar or dissimilar (Soph. 226d, 227b), Aristotle generally arranges dissimilar parts hierarchically (e.g., 1260b13–24). For Aristotle, all human communities consist of different parts; yet, to be a community and achieve some common end, these parts must be ordered hierarchically (Pol. 1252a18–23, 1254a21–26). Aristotle’s commitment to the idea that the polis is characterized by its pursuit of the good life leads him to contend that those parts of the polis that are particularly oriented toward that end – that is, the military, the adjudicative, and the deliberative parts – are more fully parts of the city than those that are related to providing what is merely necessary, such as farmers and artisans (1291a23–29).36 That these higher elements are “more a part of cities,” however, indicates that the other necessary elements remain parts of the city. Having shown that despotic rule is merely one part, and not the highest, of household management, Aristotle denies the claim of the Eleatic a third time, observing that the kinds of rule differ not only because of their ends but also with respect to the kind of people over whom rule is exercised (1255b15–20). Within a household, slaves are to be ruled despotically, the wife politically, and children in kingly fashion. The different kinds of rule are justified by the absence or presence of the deliberative part of the soul, which a slave lacks, a female has without authority, and children have incompletely (1259a37 ff.).37 The ruler, of course, must have the deliberative part of the soul in good condition to justify authority. 35 This

is not to say that they do so in the same way: The Eleatic denies that power has anything to do with whether one is a statesman; Aristotle, by contrast, acknowledges that power has something to do with politics, but he insists that the kind of power exercised in despotic rule is ignoble and therefore unsuited for political communities. 36 Aristotle’s emphasis on the deliberative part contrasts with the Stranger’s elevation of the orator: As discussed in Chapter 3, whereas Aristotle believes that the multitude – provided it is of a certain quality – should participate in politics, the Eleatic Stranger denies that the multitude should have any share in ruling, relying instead on providing them with true opinion. 37 Aristotle’s beliefs about human nature, particularly as related to the questionable justification of natural slavery, have been the subject of several recent articles; for example, see Jill Frank (2004) and Julie Ward (2005); cf. Peter Simpson (2006).

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This passage again emphasizes the ignobility of despotic rule insofar as it rules only those who are slavish by nature. Aristotle therefore instructs household managers to give greater attention to developing the virtue of free people rather than of slaves (1259b19–20).38 Because despotic rule lacks nobility, the household manager, as much as possible, turns despotic rule over to others (1255b33–37). However, even household management is not its own end, for the household is itself a part of the city. Whereas the highest purpose of household management is helping its free members acquire virtue, the virtue of a household is subordinate to the way in which the particular regime understands virtue (1260b8– 24). The conclusion of Book I, therefore, recalls Aristotle’s criticism of the Eleatic Stranger’s argument: The kinds of rule – political, despotic, and economic – differ according to their ends, but they differ in such a way that there is a hierarchy among them. Political rule guides economic rule, which in turn guides despotic rule. By arguing that political communities are distinguished by the kinds of people participating in them, Aristotle also denies the Eleatic’s claim that knowledge is a sufficient condition for ruling. The character of the ruler is as important as his knowledge: We do not call a man a master because he possesses a form of gnostic knowledge but rather because he is a certain kind of person; the same holds true with respect to slaves and free people (1255b20–23). Aristotle argues that there is a difference between intellectual virtue and ethical virtue. A person who possesses theoretical knowledge need not possess the ethical virtues, and he therefore may use the knowledge for vicious ends (NE 1129a11 ff.). To rule well, a ruler therefore must possess not only knowledge but also ethical virtue. A good father, for instance, looks to the benefit of his children in ruling them insofar as his rule mirrors kingly rule (Pol. 1259b10–11, 1278b32–79a2). Despotic rule can be justified only when one has the proper nature to rule despotically and rules only those who are suited for such rule. Aristotle, of course, agrees that knowledge is necessary to rule well despotically, but he is equally insistent that knowledge alone cannot justify despotic rule. To impose despotic rule on those who should be ruled politically is wrong: Despotic rule looks primarily to the advantage of the master, whereas political rule looks toward the common advantage (1278b32– 1279a21). Hence, “ruling reveals a man” because a position of power 38 He

does insist that masters should educate their slaves in the appropriate virtues, using admonition more than command (1260b3 ff.).

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enables us to see whether a person is virtuous, particularly with respect to whether she or he is just, dealing rightly with others (NE 1130a1). Aristotle’s understanding of the difference between political and kingly rule is not fully articulated until Book III.39 However, the response Aristotle gives there is connected to this earlier emphasis on the character of rulers. According to Aristotle, kingship is justified only when there is a permanent and radical difference between one man and the other citizens with respect to virtue (1287a8 ff.). It is not simply a matter of the size of the community or of having the right kind of knowledge; rather, it depends on being a certain kind of person. It requires superiority in virtue, not in strength, wealth, or number of friends (1284b27). It also depends on the character of those being ruled, for whereas some people are suited for kingship – indeed, some ought to be ruled despotically – other people should be ruled politically (1287b38 ff.).40 When citizens are in fact equal with respect to virtue, then political rule – which recognizes that equality – is appropriate and such rule is different from kingship. It is therefore the difference in the kinds of people who populate a community – neither knowledge nor size – that distinguishes political rule from kingship, which is discussed in greater length in Chapter 3. Having observed that ruling requires more than knowledge, Aristotle also insists that the kind of knowledge involved in ruling is practical rather than gnostic. In discussing business expertise, he asserts that experience and practice are necessary complements to knowledge derived from study (1258b9–13). Business expertise requires experience because it addresses particular facts: the terrain, the climate, the demand for certain kinds of animals and vegetables. Insofar as both households and political communities must make use of business expertise, household managers and statesmen also must have experience as well as knowledge. The practical character of political knowledge is confirmed by what Aristotle states in the Nicomachean Ethics about the intellectual virtue of phron¯esis, or practical knowledge, which involves making good judgments about a particular action (NE 1140a28–30). Phron¯esis is linked inextricably with particulars insofar as it is concerned with action, and action relies on particular facts and circumstances (NE 1141b14–16). Knowledge of particular facts and circumstances can be gained only through

39 Aristotle

acknowledges this at the conclusion of Book I, indicating that although he has distinguished household and despotic rule from political rule, he “must speak elsewhere” of how kingship is different from politics (Pol. 1260b21). 40 Aristotle denies that anyone is naturally suited to be ruled tyrannically.

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experience and not through study. Indeed, it even may require experience more than study, for we often find that people who have experience without knowledge are in fact better in matters of action than those who have knowledge acquired only through study (NE 1141b16–18). However, phron¯esis is necessary not only for individual flourishing, but also for those who rule a household or polis; therefore, the experience on which it depends also is necessary for such people (NE 1140b10–11).41 In summary, Aristotle argues that the kinds of rule are not the same because (1) the communities differ in kind according to their end and not merely by size, (2) there is a hierarchy among those communities, and (3) the different kinds of rule are determined by the kinds of people who make up the communities. Because political knowledge is a kind of phron¯esis, it depends on experience and therefore cannot be exclusively gnostic. Aristotle thus rejects the three claims with which the Statesman opens: that the kinds of rule differ only with respect to number, that a ruler is defined by his knowledge, and that the knowledge of a ruler is primarily gnostic. These differences have significant impact on their respective political theories, as discussed in subsequent chapters. In the next chapter, however, I explain why the Eleatic Stranger makes the claims to which Aristotle objects and why Aristotle responds as he does.

41 Aristotle

states that phron¯esis is a broad kind of knowledge, encompassing what is best for an individual, a household, and a city (NE 1141b29–42a11).

2 The Beginnings and Ends of Political Life

The disagreement between Aristotle and the Eleatic Stranger about whether politics has a unique end is tied to their different understandings of nature: whether the universe is a cosmos – that is, whether it is ordered. The Eleatic Stranger presents his cosmology in mythical terms, revising three common stories about the gods to show Young Socrates that human beings are responsible for their own care. Emphasizing the hostility of nature and the defenseless state of human beings, he posits a low end for politics. Politics is primarily the art of preserving human life against a variety of dangers, not the least of which is nature itself. For the Eleatic Stranger, political life is artificial rather than natural and is, in fact, constructed to respond to the danger posed by nature. To the extent that politics is concerned with virtue, that virtue is subordinate to and largely determined by the needs of preservation. Aristotle, by contrast, opens the Politics by declaring that the polis exists by nature and that politics is about securing not merely life but also the good life. Indeed, whereas other human communities aim at providing what is necessary for life, the political community is distinguished by its pursuit of the good life. Aristotle’s cosmology, as I understand it, differs from that of both the Age of Cronos and the Age of Zeus as depicted by the Stranger. In the Age of Cronos, a beneficent god provided all that human beings needed without effort or strife. In the Age of Zeus, not only does the god cease caring for human beings but also the natural world is hostile toward human survival. Aristotle, by contrast, understands nature as hospitable to human life. The world is stable and ordered in such a way that human beings are not confronted constantly by disorder and danger. This does not mean that Aristotle understands nature as simply beneficent, for he acknowledges that nature does not automatically 37

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provide everything for us. Humans are required to deliberate about what is good, just, and advantageous, but nature – by giving human beings speech – enables them to do so. The struggle between nature and humanity that the Eleatic Stranger depicts is, for Aristotle, replaced by the potential of cooperation: Nature is not as hostile as the Eleatic perceives it to be and, in fact, provides the basis for human beings to survive and even flourish. These fundamentally different understandings of nature lead to fundamentally different understandings of the end of political life and, therefore, how politics should be practiced. They also explain why Aristotle begins the Politics by disagreeing with Plato’s Eleatic Stranger.

The Eleatic Stranger’s Cosmology The Eleatic Stranger’s cosmology is presented after the initial diairesis fails to find the statesman. Although the statesman has been identified as one who nurtures the human herd, the Eleatic points out to Young Socrates that others – merchants, farmers, cooks, trainers, and doctors – will insist that they, too, nurture human beings, including the statesman himself (Plt. 267e–68a). Thus, the problem with the initial definition of the statesman is not that his knowledge was said to be gnostic or shared with despots; rather, it is that they have failed to distinguish the statesman from others who care for human beings. Because of this failure, the Eleatic says that it is necessary to make “a different beginning” (268d).1 This new beginning involves what the Stranger himself calls a lengthy myth, but its mythical character elicits two abrupt interjections from Young Socrates, both of which attempt to expedite the Stranger’s tale and thus prompt the Stranger to demand that he listen (268e, 269c). The young mathematician places little stock in traditional stories, yet the Stranger will reveal that he is, in fact, willing to accept a notion of ruling consistent with those stories. Despite his insistence that myth represents a form of child’s play (Soph. 242cd, 1 Griswold

emphasizes the centrality of the myth insofar as it provides the basis on which to judge the results of the Stranger’s diairesis (1989: 147). Similarly, Melissa Lane sees the myth (or, as she calls it, the “story”) as “the fulcrum of the dialogue” (1998: 9, 99, n1) and criticizes those who ignore the role it plays in the dialogue’s inquiry (100). Weiss suggests that the myth “marks the transition from the non-Socratic to the Socratic section of the dialogue” (1995: 217). Although I agree that the myth is essential to understanding the Eleatic’s account of both politics and philosophy, I argue that there is no “Socratic section of the dialogue.”

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Plt. 268de), the Stranger uses his myth to correct Young Socrates’ beliefs about politics.2 In its broadest outlines, the Stranger’s myth posits three cosmological events: rule by Cronos, a cosmic reversal, and rule by Zeus.3 In the Age of Cronos, life was much easier: The god provided for the needs of all men and beasts and there was neither war nor faction nor savagery. There were no regimes [  , 271e8] or families, and food was provided spontaneously, without labor (271d–72b). However, the god has withdrawn his care for the universe – because the universe is not divine, it cannot always be in the same condition – and human beings are now required to care for themselves until the god resumes his divine care. This will happen only when the universe is about to be destroyed by lack of order (273d).4 2 Griswold

(1989: 164, n17) notes that the Stranger twice refers to the myth as a logos (274b1, 277c1). See Socrates’ similar statement in the Gorgias (523a). The Stranger makes use of various traditional Greek myths but insists that he alone offers the cause [% ] behind all of them (Plt. 269bc). Neither he nor Socrates seems to regard the tales they tell as literally true, but both insist there is a true argument within them. 3 There has been much debate about whether the Stranger’s myth presents two periods or three – that is, whether the cosmic reversal constitutes its own stage. The more common interpretation (e.g., Rosen 1995, chap. 4) holds, as I do, that there are two stages of cosmic motion in the Stranger’s myth. The two-stage view of the myth is defended by Frederik Arends (1999: 103–15), who points out that not only does the Eleatic Stranger rely on binary division (at least through this point) but he also speaks about the myth in a binary way in the remainder of the dialogue (109–10). Luc Brisson, however, argues that the Stranger’s myth presents three stages (1995: 353); see also Rowe (1995: 187, ad loc. 273e3–5). The three-stage version of the myth presents a more optimistic portrayal of human life, arguing that the Age of Zeus in which we live is distinct from the age of the worst disorder and chaos depicted in the myth as well as from the age in which the god cares for human beings directly. As Brisson states, “Deux conceptions antinomiques sont rejet´ees dans le mythe du Politique: un univers domin´e par la divinit´e ou abandonn´e a` lui-mˆeme” (361). The result is a more optimistic understanding of the universe and our place in it, as exemplified by Gabriela Carone’s argument that the three-stage myth indicates the possibility of the true statesman who can realize “the best kind of politics,” which are moderately liberal (2004:90). Like Carone, Brisson and Rowe acknowledge that their interpretation depends on Plato’s other cosmological myths, in particular that of the Timaeus. Invoking the Timaeus to explain the Statesman is problematic insofar as the dialogues utilize different spokesmen and have significantly different understandings of the movement of the universe. G. R. F. Ferrari (1995) resolves some of the difficulties raised by Brisson and Rowe’s interpretation, and the discussion of the myth by Mary Margaret McCabe (1997) is helpful. 4 At 269d1, the Eleatic Stranger asserts that the universe, in the Age of Zeus, possesses phron¯esis, bequeathed to it by the god, which enables it to retain part of its original order – at least for the time being. In the absence of the god, phron¯esis is necessary to preserve oneself. Therefore, Griswold suggests that it is man’s responsibility “to imitate the cosmos’ effort to care for itself” via phron¯esis (1989: 152). However, as I argue herein,

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When the god steps back from the order he has created, the cosmos suffers a tremor that results in earthquakes and massive destruction. After this great upheaval, the cosmos acquires a “reordered” condition and cares for itself by recalling, to the extent that it can, the instruction of its craftsman and father (273b). In the immediate aftermath of the god’s withdrawal and the ensuing chaos, the cosmos imitated its previous motion more precisely and perfectly; however, because of its corporeal nature, its regularity will degenerate over time and discord will eventually reign. The Age of Zeus, then, is one in which order is degenerating into a sea of unbounded dissimilarity as it awaits the god’s return. In other words, the age in which we now live is one without a beneficent god to care for our needs. Human beings, as part of the cosmos, are thus charged to care for themselves, the Eleatic suggests, through the creation of the arts and, more important, political society.5 As Catherine Zuckert emphasizes, the Stranger’s account of the cosmic reversal is “essentially mythical”; this represents a contrast with the arguments of Plato’s Timaeus and Athenian Stranger, who emphasize the observable and orderly movements of the heavens and make them a model for human behavior (2009: 713–20). The Stranger acknowledges that anyone who could bear witness to the cosmic reversal has long since passed away and that the consequences of the cosmic reversal he depicts have their origin in speculation (271b). Indeed, the very cause of the cosmic reversal as the Stranger recounts it would be imperceptible to human beings. This leads Seth Benardete to refer to the discussion of the cosmic reversal as the “most mythical part of the myth” (1984: III.98). Although he introduces the myth as being about everything [ . . . ] (269c4), the Stranger’s focus is not what amounts to speculation about a cosmic reversal but rather the easily observable facts about the world in which we live (272b1–3). It is only when he begins to compare human life in the current age – that of Zeus – with the Age of Cronos that he says they have “at last” reached the point of the myth if this parallel is maintained, then phron¯esis is used only for the sake of preservation and is unlikely to be successful over the long term. Just as the universe continues to lose order, necessitating the return of the god, political communities also can expect to collapse (302a). 5 Protagoras also depicts a time in which human beings lived without political communities and were subject to attacks from wild beasts. However, his account does not suggest a threat posed by fellow human beings; more important, he presents the political art as a gift from Zeus – whom the Eleatic Stranger presents as unconcerned with human affairs – and one shared equally among all people rather than the exclusive purview of a few (Prot. 322a ff.).

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(274b). It would be too much work, the Stranger tells Young Socrates, to go through the difference for each of the beasts, but it is more easily done and more fitting to do so for humans. What follows paints a disturbing picture of human life in the absence of divine care. When the god withdrew, the beasts grew savage and began attacking human beings, who were not only physically defenseless [/ #  ] but also “without devices” [/), ] and “without arts” [7, ] (274bc).6 In the Age of Cronos, humans had no need for defenses: Animals were tame rather than bestial, and the god would have offered any necessary protection. Confronted with savage beasts and without a divine protector, human beings found themselves in a state of confusion [/  ]. That we no longer have to suffer in this way has led human beings to tell tales about the gods – Prometheus, Hephaestus, and Athena – who helped us escape from such a condition (274c). However, the Stranger suggests that these are “storied gifts” [ ,0] rather than the truth of the matter.7 There is no god providing for human beings; what we have has been acquired through our own efforts. Without divine protection, men have to defend themselves against a variety of dangers. Confronted by a hostile world, it is only through devices and arts – like, for instance, the art of politics – that human beings can be preserved. Most commentators recognize that understanding the Eleatic’s emphasis on the harshness of life in the Age of Zeus and the human effort such harshness requires is crucial to understanding the political teaching that follows the myth. As Stanley Rosen states, “Political existence arises from the harshness and neediness of our (normal) origins. The actual significance of the origins is that the gods do not care for us” (1995: 63). Human beings are confronted with “a changing cosmos that is largely if not entirely hostile to the stability of our existence” (45). Frederik Arends is even more specific: Human beings need communities because “in the Age of Zeus men are structurally exposed to the dangers of hunger, heat or cold, and war” (1993: 167). Through his myth, the Stranger calls attention to the danger of attempting to live in the Age of Zeus as one would in the Age of Cronos. To expect the god to care for us would be destructive of human life, 6 The

Stranger’s definition of human beings prior to the myth similarly highlighted our defenseless character: We are defined not by possessing intelligence but by lacking both the horns to fight and the wings to flee (265bcd, 266e). 7 Cf. Vetter, who suggests that even in the Age of Zeus, the arts “are bestowed by the gods” on people (2005: 97).

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as the human beings who lived – and quickly died – immediately after the reversal discovered. However, he also suggests that it would not be desirable to return to the Age of Cronos. After recounting most of the myth, the Stranger turns to Young Socrates and asks him to judge whether life was better in the Age of Cronos, about which he has just heard, or the Age of Zeus, which he knows from experience. Young Socrates admits that he is unable to do this, and the Stranger offers to make the determination for him. This, however, he does not do but merely indicates the grounds on which he would make the decision were he to possess the necessary information. If, he says, men in the Age of Cronos took advantage of their leisure time to associate in speech [ 6 ] with other men and beasts, engaging in philosophy [  ], then it would be easy to decide that such men greatly surpassed us in happiness (272bc). If, however, they merely ate and drank and did not pursue philosophy, the judgment would be different although just as easy to make. Although the Stranger dismisses the question for lack of a reliable witness, it is unlikely that philosophy would have existed in the Age of Cronos. The Stranger indicates that human beings developed their reason only in the wake of the cosmic reversal, when it proved necessary for human survival. Philosophy is only necessary, and perhaps only possible, in the Age of Zeus. This likely has the effect of dissuading Young Socrates from longing for some mythical golden age. The Stranger presents that age as remote, beyond our power to bring back, and even undesirable. The intellectual exercises that Young Socrates values so greatly – which led him to object to the length of the Stranger’s myth – would be impossible in the Age of Cronos. Despite the harshness it depicts, the Stranger’s account – with its rejection of “storied gifts” from the gods and renewed emphasis on human ingenuity – is attractive to Young Socrates. Perhaps that will dissuade him from desiring a statesman who is more like a god than a man.

Consequences of the Eleatic’s Cosmology With the myth completed, the Stranger uses it to correct two errors that he identifies in the original diairesis, one lesser and one greater. The greater error is having confused the statesman of the Age of Zeus with the divine shepherd of the human herd in the Age of Cronos. The smaller error is that they failed to distinguish adequately the statesman from his human rivals by identifying the way in which he rules the entire city

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(275a). Although most of the conversation focuses on what is said to be the smaller error, the Stranger suggests that the myth will enable them to resolve both errors: to find the statesman appropriate to the Age of Zeus and to set him adequately apart from his rivals. Statesmen in the Age of Zeus are more similar [") ] to those whom they rule than the divine shepherd was, having undergone nurture and education akin to that of their subjects (275c). Statesmen, in other words, are not divine, and it is an error to think that they are or to desire that they be. This was the problem in the first diairesis, for they erred in assigning to the statesmen responsibility for herd nurture [/   ] (275de). The statesman, unlike the god, has no direct responsibility for the feeding of those for whom he cares. The diairesis was correct to argue that the statesman’s art is directed toward a community rather than individuals, but it failed to specify adequately what that art was. The Stranger’s correction indicates that the original diairesis is not rejected in its entirety. Rather, the initial divisions that so provoke Aristotle – that the kinds of rule are the same, that ruling knowledge is gnostic, and that knowledge alone qualifies one to rule – are upheld even in the second half of the dialogue. Moreover, the very trait for which the Stranger once praised Young Socrates – that is, his willingness to ignore names and accept that the statesman nurtures the human herd (261e) – is revealed now as the stumbling block: The statesman escaped them “by way of nomenclature” [*) ] (275d6). Young Socrates is understandably perplexed, and the Stranger explains that whereas the shepherds in the Age of Cronos provided for all of the needs of their herds, the statesman is charged not with the provision of particular needs but rather with the superintendent “care of an entire human community” [89 )     /0 ! ) !   ] (276b). The rivals of the statesmen – like cooks – are better able to claim responsibility for nurturing human beings. However, cooks are unable to claim what the statesman and king can claim: the responsibility of caring for the entire community, supervising the various other arts. Their definition ascribed “nurture” of the herd to the statesman rather than “care,” but nurture is only a part of care and far from the highest. However, it is only in light of the myth that we can comprehend the purpose of the statesman’s care.8 8 Socrates

also refers to politics as caring, although he often uses 0  rather than  )  . More important, he differs in what that care involves, as I discuss in Chapter 5 (Grg. 464c, 513de; cf. 516ab, in which Socrates critiques Pericles’ care for the Athenians).

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To clarify the architectonic character of the statesman’s care, the Stranger recommends the use of a paradigm. Whereas we often are able to opine rightly about easy matters, we frequently are puzzled by more complicated issues. Paradigms help us to understand what is unfamiliar on the basis of what is familiar. To help Young Socrates better understand paradigms, the Stranger presents a paradigm of paradigms: the way in which we learn about syllables from letters.9 When confronted with unfamiliar syllables, we can look at what is familiar: the individual letters and the syllables that we recognize. By looking at those letters and observing the similarities between old and new syllables, we can understand the new syllables. When confronted by something large and unfamiliar, the best way to understand it is to reduce it to something smaller and familiar. Because the art of statesmanship is ostensibly unfamiliar – although it must be familiar to the Stranger or he would be unable to suggest an appropriate paradigm – the Stranger recommends using an art that is smaller [) ] but similar in order to understand the royal art and how it relates to the other arts within the city (278e, 285d–86b).10 The paradigm suggested by the Stranger – which he adopts without waiting for Young Socrates to assent – is weaving, a traditionally feminine art.11 The choice of this art thus suggests that the Stranger, like Plato and Aristotle, is not bound to conventional Greek notions of manliness, a theme that is raised more clearly in the discussion of the statesman’s weaving.12 The introduction of the paradigm also suggests that, again like Aristotle (e.g., Pol. 1261a29–30, 1263b7–11), the Stranger conceives of

9 Vetter

offers an excellent account of the shortcomings of the paradigm of letters, highlighting how it “observes only sameness” and therefore obscures the way in which statesmanship and weaving are related (2005: 98–103). Moreover, the Stranger emphasizes the way paradigms facilitate comparisons, which reveal common features without indicating preference, and so are “compatible with the value-neutral approach to inquiry the Stranger has insisted upon throughout the Sophist and Statesman” (113). 10 In looking for the just soul, Socrates does quite the opposite and looks for justice on a larger scale – that is, in a city (Rep. 368c ff.; cf. Plt. 278e). 11 Vetter (2005) compares the Stranger’s use of weaving with the presentations of weaving offered by Socrates in the Phaedo, Homer in the Odyssey, and Aristophanes in the Lysistrata. As she observes, weaving suggests “a tension between particular elements and the whole,” which she highlights to defend (rightly, in my view) Plato against charges of an excessive concern with universals that override particulars (5). This tension, however, also makes political communities fragile, as the Eleatic emphasizes (Plt. 302a, 311c). 12 For a thoughtful exploration of the way in which Plato and Aristotle questioned their culture’s emphasis on manliness, see Salkever (1990: 165–204).

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the task of statesmanship as making a unity of some kind from disparate elements. In any case, the ostensible reason that the Stranger introduces the paradigm of weaving is that, like the statesman, his art is architectonic. The weaver is not the only person involved in making cloaks, and his supervisory art must be distinguished from the other arts that contribute to the making of cloaks. However, it is perhaps more significant that the art of weaving is a defensive art, a point the Stranger finds important enough to make twice, despite his concern that their speech is too lengthy (279cd, 288b). The Stranger’s rapid and nondialectical diairesis reveals weaving to be an art that produces cloaks, a covering that repels winter storms (280e). Whereas some commentators take the Stranger’s use of paradigm to be a more “Socratic” approach to politics than what has been given thus far, the Stranger makes only moderate claims about the usefulness of paradigms.13 The Stranger repeats five times that paradigms help us to obtain correct opinion (three times) [*0: 1  ] or true opinion [/ !0 1] (twice; 278a9–278e2). He adds, at the end of the passage, that without paradigms we would never be able to move from false opinion to any small part of the truth [/ !0   )  )] and thereby acquire intelligence [ ! ], but he never says that the use of paradigms by itself is sufficient for such a movement. In other words, paradigms do not provide us with knowledge, only opinion. An analysis based only on paradigms therefore would be philosophically suspect. The application of the Stranger’s method of division is necessary to define precisely the statesman’s knowledge. More important, the paradigm of weaving breaks down on two methodological levels: The Stranger reveals the architectonic character of weaving by dividing down the middle as he has done throughout both dialogues to this point; however, he will soon claim that the statesman’s art is not susceptible to this kind of bifurcation. And whereas weaving is clearly a productive art, statesmanship is – or at least is said to be – gnostic rather than productive. It is likely, then, that the reason weaving is a paradigm of statesmanship is that both are defensive arts that protect human beings 13 Lane

emphasizes the role of paradigm (or, as she translates it, “example”) in her interpretation of the dialogue; she claims that “example constitutes a path from true belief to knowledge” (1998: 63). Similarly, Miller argues that paradigms are how we move from ignorance to knowledge (2004: 58) and that the discussion of paradigms justifies the replacement of the shepherd with the weaver as the paradigm for statesmanship (106–7).

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from a hostile nature. The Stranger wants Young Socrates to recognize the defensive character of politics; the architectonic character of weaving is of secondary importance. When the Stranger attempts to show how the statesman’s art is different from and yet connected to the other arts in the city, he admits that his diairetic method of bifurcatory division would make their task difficult [, ] if not impossible [/;)] (287bc). He thus recommends that they proceed dividing “limb-by-limb” rather than bisecting. The Stranger says neither why bisection would be difficult nor why it would be impossible. The change follows on the heels of his digression on measure, discussed in Chapter 4, in which he concludes that their speech should be as long as is necessary to improve their skill at dialectic – no shorter, of course, but also no longer.14 Perhaps the Stranger recognizes that the bifurcatory division is a longer way [)] (265b4) and opts for the shorter way [&, "] (266e1) of dividing limb-bylimb to adhere to his own restriction. This may be necessary in light of the great bulk of myth recounted by the Stranger earlier in the dialogue, little of which he actually uses in defining the statesman.15 Some commentators argue that the Eleatic’s rejection of the valueneutral method of bifurcation enables him to take into account what is noble and base and thus leads him to arrive at a more Socratic understanding of statesmanship.16 To be sure, the Stranger’s adoption of 14 I

discuss the Stranger’s digression on measure in Chapter 4. insists that the division continues to be dichotomous, even if less obviously so (2004: 74–82). Dorter also suggests that the change is due to the Stranger’s preference for the “shorter” way, particularly insofar as the division could be made down the middle. However, he insists that this change is made to highlight questions of value previously unacknowledged and made possible only by introduction of measurement according to the mean (1994: 206–22). Others, including Zuckert, suggest that the move to dividing limb-by-limb results from the Stranger’s need to show how statesmanship is both connected to and different from the other arts that it commands as well as those arts that are its rivals (2009: 726–7; see also Cooper 1999). The chief difficulty with this view, of course, is that the paradigm of weaving – which was offered as a paradigm because it has the same architectonic character as politics – is approached by dividing in two. Kenneth Sayre argues that although weaving is divided in bifurcatory fashion, the division progresses not by specifying the art of weaving or statesmanship with increased precision but rather “by eliminating other arts with which it shares relevant characteristics” (2006: 110–11). Both Sayre and Miller, although the former to a greater extent, have recourse to the Socratic Phaedrus in discussing the Stranger’s limb-by-limb division. 16 See, for instance, Dorter, who argues that the myth reveals the importance of the soul, requiring the Eleatic Stranger to change his method of division to one that can “recognize differences among levels of being that imply differences of value” (1994: 189 ff.). Dorter also contends, however, that the shift is “disingenuous,” for although the Stranger claims it is due to the nature of statesmanship, it is really required to take account of nonvisible features – such as the soul – that are measured by the mean (209). 15 Miller

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division limb-by-limb is reminiscent of what Socrates does in the Phaedrus as well as in the Gorgias. However, simply because his method appears to be Socratic does not mean that it is Socratic. The Eleatic’s method of questioning, after all, is not a true joint inquiry but rather another way of going through a lengthy speech with which he is familiar. To determine whether the Stranger has, in fact, become Socratic requires consideration of the result of his method as well as the method itself. The conclusions reached by the Eleatic Stranger about politics are very different from those of Socrates (and, of course, Aristotle), as discussed in the next section.17 Despite the obvious change in the appearance of his method of division, the Stranger does not intend to alter radically his procedure. In fact, he presents the change as a small one that expedites their inquiry and warns Young Socrates that even though they are abandoning the method of dividing into two, the same principle remains the ideal: One must always cut as nearly as possible to two (287c). Moreover, the Eleatic does not deviate from – indeed, he has just reiterated – an even more fundamental principle, which is that they must always “divide by species” [’ %!] (286de).18 To be sure, this is achieved most often by dividing in two, but the Stranger suggests that the change in the method of division is made only to facilitate the inquiry, not to introduce questions of noble and base. It is sufficient, he says, as long as they divide as closely as possible to two. The idea that the second half of the dialogue consists of a refutation of the first half runs afoul of the Stranger’s arguments in the second half. Much of what was said about the statesman in the initial “failed” diairesis is preserved in the account of the statesman, which is presented at the end of the dialogue. The statesman was said not only to possess a certain kind of knowledge but indeed also to be defined by that knowledge (259ab). The Stranger reiterates this in the second half of the dialogue; indeed, it is the fundamental assumption underlying his division of regimes. Royal rule is a kind of science, although its nature is still unclear (292c). One who has this science is to be addressed as a king, whether or not he rules 17 In

the Gorgias, Socrates also denies what the Stranger assumes and tries to show in the Sophist that sophistry is an art (Grg. 463b). The Stranger also suggests that rhetoric is an art, and perhaps even a science, that depends on knowledge of a mean (Plt. 304cd). For Socrates, rhetoric cannot be an art because it would require a comprehensive knowledge of the human soul – knowledge that is beyond our reach. See Phaedrus 270a ff. and the Gorgias. 18 Like the Eleatic Stranger, Socrates recommends dividing according to forms [’ 2 !], but his emphasis is on human desires and motivations, in particular the highest good [)  . . . /0:] (Phdr. 265e1–266b1, Rep. 508e ff.).

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(292e–93a). The Stranger reminds Young Socrates of this late in the dialogue: The royal art must not act but only rule those who act (305d). Although the claim that so provokes Aristotle – that there is no difference among royal, political, economic, and despotic rule (259c) – is not explicitly reaffirmed in the second half of the dialogue, the connection between political and royal rule is evident, and the Stranger’s denial of the relevance of force in the exercise of statesmanship (293ab, 296b ff.) strongly suggests that the claim is still accepted. That these idiosyncratic claims are preserved throughout the dialogue should indicate to us that the Stranger does not fundamentally change his initial presentation of statesmanship even as he begins to divide limb-by-limb.

The Purpose of Politics in the Statesman There are many arts in the city, but most of them are easily distinguished from statesmanship. To be sure, the people who make things such as ships, as well as those who obtain the wood for those ships, are necessary parts of the polis, but such laborers are rarely, if ever, confused with the statesman. There are, however, certain people in the polis who appear to resemble the statesman and, given the initial question posed to the Stranger by Socrates at the beginning of the Sophist, it is not surprising that foremost among those imitators are the sophists. To distinguish sophists from statesmen, the Stranger contrasts the ignorance of the sophists with the knowledge of the statesmen (292c).19 The right regime, the Eleatic says, is one in which the rulers employ “science and the just and, in keeping it [the city] safe, make it better from worse to the best of their ability” [6 #) ] (293de).20 The Stranger’s conception of statesmanship, in other words, subordinates making the citizens better to keeping the city safe. There may be – and, as we shall see, is – a way in which the promotion of at least partial virtue is necessary for the safety of the city. However, that is not the same as promoting the fullness of virtue, much less promoting virtue insofar as human flourishing requires – indeed, is defined by – having and exercising it. Following as it does the paradigm of the defensive art of weaving and a medical analogy – in which the doctor is praised for

19 I

discuss the Stranger’s division of regimes in Chapter 3.

20 Even the task of making citizens “better from worse” [ ,  &  ] is not necessarily

a requirement to foster virtue in the soul: The doctor has the same task in curing patients’ bodies (cf. 293d9–10 with 293b8).

The Beginnings and Ends of Political Life

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caring for bodies – it is likely that bodily protection, not the good of souls, is the primary focus of the statesman’s care for the community.21 This supposition is strengthened by the fact that the Eleatic Stranger makes no mention of developing the intellectual virtues of citizens. For Aristotle, the intellectual virtues are an essential component of the good life.22 Miller suggests that the training in dialectics that the Stranger offers to Young Socrates is analogous to the studies said to be “propaedeutic to philosophy and philosophical statesmanship according to the elder Socrates in the Republic” (2004: 99, emphasis in original).23 In the Statesman, however, such studies seem to be embarked on for their own sake, not for the sake of statesmanship. Political education, as depicted by the Stranger, is limited to fostering steadfast “true opinion” (309c). There is never a suggestion that citizens should aspire to anything higher than mere opinion or that the statesman himself requires the philosopher’s dialectical acumen. The Stranger argues that good rulers are to “always distribute to those in the city that which with mind and art is most just, and can keep them safe, and make them better from worse as far as possible” [6  ] (297a5–b3).24 Here, the statesman’s first task is to distribute what is “most just” [  ], but the problem is that the central question of the Republic – namely, “What is justice?” – is never addressed much less answered in the Statesman. The Stranger’s only hint comes when he laments that the legislator cannot write laws that are perfectly precise in regulating justice and joint agreements (295a). That is, he suggests that the laws should be directed toward securing justice in exchanges and contracts; however, this is, as Aristotle notes (NE 1130b30–31a9), only 21 Although

it conflicts with the standard Socratic reading of the dialogue, several commentators (e.g., Scodel 1987, Griswold 1989, Kochin 1999, Vetter 2005, and Zuckert 2005, 2009) noted this flattening of the horizons of political life. Even Stanley Rosen, who ultimately argues for the compatibility of Socrates and the Stranger, concedes that “there is an unmistakable tendency in the Statesman to consider politics from the standpoint of the body” and that the Stranger “is driven to give priority to the body over the soul in the domain of politics. This is true even when he speaks of the soul as primary, since it is treated as an ingredient in the construction of the stable because harmonious city” (1995: 68–9). 22 I discuss the role of intellectual virtue in Aristotle’s conception of the good life in Chapter 6. 23 Mara rightly observes that “the Republic’s just city is replaced by what Glaucon calls a ‘still finer’ city, that devoted to philosophy. In the Statesman, no such replacement occurs” (1981: 364). 24 Arends suggests that the statesman is responsible for the preservation [ ] of the polis rather than of any individuals within it (1993: 159).

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one part of justice and not the highest. . . .  ] for one man to be so superior to the rest of his community that he would deserve unlimited personal rule (1288a26–28).67 Because of the connotations of development inherent in the Greek word for “nature” [ #  and its verb form #], we may interpret Aristotle as saying that it does not accord with development for one man to have such rule. Aristotle does not deny that in certain places and times, a community may have a nature suitable for kingship (1287b38). However, the development of this community over time – except for an accident that prevents the development’s natural course of growth – will be in a direction to make rule increasingly political (i.e., shared among equals who rule and are ruled in turn). In discussing the best regime, Aristotle indicates that aristocracy is much like kingship because both require the necessary material conditions so that the virtuous may rule (1289a30–33). However, like kingship, an aristocracy established solely on the basis of virtue – assuming that it has the necessary equipment – excludes most citizens from participation and therefore, again like kingship, moves away from being a political 66 Thus,

Cooper observes that although Aristotle recognizes “kingship as one just and valid form of rule in a   . . . and under certain circumstances the best and most just” form of rule, “he still refuses to call it a    kind of rule” (1999: 75, n5). Similarly, Davis observes that “there seems to be no form of kingship as political rule. . . . For a king to rule without consent may be good household management, but it is not political justice. For him to rule with consent may be political rule, but it is not kingship” (1996: 58). 67 Indeed, Aristotle says, the superlative virtue required for such rule is greater than what accords with human nature [)  / 3 ’/0 ! # ] or, again, growth (1286b26–27). In other words, the outstanding virtue characteristic of kings is not consistent with human development and, as communities develop, they cease being kingly and become political.

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regime. To the extent that an aristocracy approximates a polity by incorporating other parts of the city – which Aristotle explicitly says those aristocracies that are possible for cities to sustain will do (1295a31–34) – it is a more fully political community, even if at the expense of losing its exclusively aristocratic character.68 What then are we to make of the regime according to prayer – that is, the best regime simply – discussed in Book VII? It is important to note at the outset that Aristotle never refers explicitly to this regime as an aristocracy. It has little in common with existing aristocracies, either those “so-called” aristocracies that include claims to rule other than virtue or those “true” aristocracies that exclude the vast majority of citizens from participating in political life. Rather, I suggest, it has more in common with polity in that both regimes justify widespread political participation on the basis of virtue (albeit different levels of virtue in the different regimes).69 Although a true aristocracy includes those who are “best simply on the basis of virtue” (1293b3–5), Aristotle refrains from calling the city according to prayer an aristocracy to highlight the way it differs from the aristocracies with which we have experience (1293b7 ff.). Rather, by referring to it frequently as the best politeia, he repeatedly calls to mind its connection with polity. In particular, Aristotle emphasizes the way that the regime according to prayer will be run not by one or by few but rather by a multitude. A great city is one that has a multitude capable of achieving the highest end of the city: living well (1326a10–25). The best regime needs a multitude capable of judging what is advantageous and just in order to be selfsufficient (1328b12–23, 1329a2–7). In other words, rule in the best regime simply will be similar to that of rule in a polity: A multitude of citizens will rule and be ruled in turn, selecting and auditing the highest offices of the city. The difference is that, in the best regime simply, more citizens will have sufficient wealth and leisure to develop a higher level of virtue and therefore will be able to do more than participate in the

68 Nichols

emphasizes this latter part of Aristotle’s argument, which leads her to conclude that polity is the simply best regime (1992: 89–90, 99). Stephen Salkever (2007) argues that this regime is the object of prayer not for Aristotle but rather for those who see no horizon beyond the political life, which is why it tolerates what seems to be unjust slavery. 69 Cf. Samaras, who argues that the city according to prayer, as depicted in Books VII and VIII, is “a clear-cut aristocracy – an aristocracy both in general and in Aristotelian terms” (2007: 77). He alleges that this is because Aristotle is committed to “the aristocratic ideology of the classical period” (82–3).

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assembly as a collective body. They will be able to serve as individuals in those high offices, thus better exemplifying political rule by turn. In other words, even Aristotle’s best regime simply – to say nothing of the best regime generally possible – provides for significant participation by a multitude on the basis of its virtue and knowledge. This stands in significant contrast to the Eleatic Stranger’s insistence that no multitude can ever possess political knowledge; therefore, the one right regime must be ruled by a single king or statesman. However, as discussed herein, a regime in which one person has complete power is, for Aristotle, a relic of a bygone age. This is not to say that such a ruler belonged to the Age of Cronos, which is never mentioned in the Politics. Aristotle is well aware that many communities are still ruled by various kinds of kings and that some peoples are justly ruled by kings in a way that benefits the subjects. Yet, the thrust of Aristotle’s argument is that such communities are in a state of arrested development. The kind of regime depicted by the Eleatic Stranger – far from being the most correct regime – represents a failure to develop in accord with nature. To be sure, the Eleatic would not envision nature having an end. The differences between their analysis of regimes, therefore, are largely a consequence of the difference in cosmologies discussed in Chapter 2. Yet, in many ways, the most significant difference between Aristotle and the Eleatic Stranger in terms of their division of regimes is less the substance of the classification than the purpose. The Stranger calls his classification a by-product of the inquiry into the knowledge of the statesman, whereas Aristotle insists that understanding the nature and kinds of regimes is central to understanding political life. Aristotle takes the inquiry into political life much more seriously than the Stranger, as we see in Chapter 4.

4 Political Inquiry According to Aristotle and the Eleatic Stranger

Thus far, I have discussed how Aristotle and the Eleatic Stranger’s different understandings of nature affect their understanding of the purpose of politics and, in turn, how this affects their practical political analyses. Seeing nature as hostile to human life, the Eleatic Stranger suggests that all kinds of human community, including the polis, share one primary end: survival. As a result, he does not distinguish between regimes on the basis of their end but only of the extent to which they are bearable. He argues that in the absence of the true statesman, lawful regimes are a necessary bulwark against the abuse of political power, but he neglects the character of those laws and those who make them. Aristotle, by contrast, depicts nature as fundamentally hospitable to human life. He argues that political communities are different from others in having as their end living well, rather than merely living, and that political communities themselves differ in the extent to which they achieve that end. He therefore gives significant attention to the character of laws and the character of rulers, concluding that the best regime is one in which the multitude has a significant role. However, the different understandings of nature and the purpose of politics also are reflected in the different attitudes taken toward the study of politics by Aristotle and the Eleatic Stranger. For the Eleatic, politics is a realm unworthy of attention for its own sake, as evidenced by his revelation that the inquiry into the statesman is for the sake of improving dialectical ability. For Aristotle, by contrast, politics is an important realm of human action and plays a significant part in human flourishing. These different understandings of the purpose of political theory are reflections of different understandings of the purpose of politics.

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The Eleatic’s Digression on Measure In the wake of his cosmological myth, the Eleatic Stranger makes use of the paradigm of weaving to illustrate the architectonic character of political knowledge. After completing the diairesis of weaving, the Stranger asks Young Socrates whether he believes that their speech about weaving was too long. Although Young Socrates believes that it was not, the Eleatic admits that some people might think otherwise and they would complain about its length. The Stranger therefore proposes to examine what it means to be “too much” or “too little” so that they might praise speeches of the appropriate length and blame those that are either too short or too long. This is a topic well suited for the mathematical Young Socrates because the art that judges excess and deficiency is measurement [)! '] (283d1). Like so much else, measurement is divided by the Stranger into two kinds. The first involves the relative size of two objects, in which one object is more or less than the other (283de). Such measurement makes use of a common standard – feet, inches, dollars, or pounds – against which both objects are measured. This is the measurement common to mathematics, with which Young Socrates is familiar. The second kind of measurement, however, is less familiar and requires not only explanation but also proof of its existence. Rather than measuring an object in reference to another object by a common standard, it involves determining whether something is greater or less than “the mean” [; ) ], a kind of measurement applicable to speeches and perhaps also to deeds [   %   2 ] (283e3–4). The true art of measurement is not what Young Socrates thought because it involves not only judging the greater and lesser according to a common standard but also judging by measurement according to the mean. As a mathematician, Young Socrates is more familiar with and inclined toward the relative measurement, and the Stranger therefore must explain why measurement according to the mean is necessary (283e).1 Both the political art and the art of weaving would be unable to serve their purpose if they were forced to measure their actions only by 1 That

Young Socrates prefers or at least is more familiar with the more mathematical art of measurement can be seen by comparing his responses to the Stranger’s explanations of each kind. When asked about measurement according to greater or lesser, Young Socrates says “Yes, it is” [2) , highlighting his own belief], but when asked about measurement relating to the mean, he is more cautious: “It appears so” [   ] (283e2, 7).

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a common standard. The arts that bring things into being rely on measurement according to the mean, although it is difficult to attain (284ab). For instance, we should measure the speech about weaving not by how long it was but whether it was longer or shorter than it needed to be to explain the way in which weaving is a paradigm for statesmanship. The Stranger tells Young Socrates that it is only “by preserving the mean” that the various arts bring into being “all that is good and fine” [  /06   6] (284b1–2).2 The notion of the measure according to “the mean” requires a defense as much as the existence of nonbeing in the conversation with Theaetetus.3 The Stranger even says that a defense of measurement according to the mean would be “more extensive” than the argument that “compelled ‘that which is not’ to be” in the Sophist (284bc; cf. Soph. 241d). Such a defense is a necessary part of their search for the statesman, for the denial of measurement according to the mean might well lead one to deny that the statesman – who is concerned with the deeds and speeches that characterize political life – has a kind of science or knowledge about actions [ 6  1   )], which was the very first trait ascribed to him in the dialogue (284c2–3). Yet, the Stranger, having pointed to both the difficulty and the necessity of defending measurement according to the mean, does not fulfill his promise to defend the existence of the mean, or the precise, itself. Instead, he says that it is sufficient as well as noble for them to prove that measurement according to the mean exists (284d). This is done rather quickly: Having agreed that the arts exist and that the arts make use of measurement

2I

follow Rowe in translating  6 as “fine” rather than “noble” or “beautiful” to highlight the ethically neutral aspect of the Eleatic’s discussion. As Rosen explains, the Stranger claims that all the arts – weaving as much as statesmanship – pursue the mean, and “some means can be used to fulfill evil intentions.” The Stranger not only fails to distinguish adequately between “technical efficacy and moral virtue” but also seems to be more concerned about the former than the latter (1995: 125–7). 3 Sayre observes that this defense is the central passage of the dialogue and takes it as the basis for his interpretation of the dialogue as a whole (2006: 182–3). Sayre’s analysis of measurement brings out many features of the Stranger’s discussion, but I disagree with several key elements of his argument: Sayre’s purpose in analyzing the passage on measurement is to discover elements of Plato’s unwritten teachings; he draws no distinction between the various spokesmen in Plato and thus explains the Statesman by way of other dialogues, such as the Philebus (2006:177–8); and he gives no attention to the larger context of the dialogue (i.e., the search for the statesman) (2006: 6). Although he is of course correct to note that the Stranger states that the purpose of the dialogue is to improve the capacity for dialectic, it is still relevant that he does so by investigating the political art instead of, say, philosophy or weaving.

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according to the mean, measurement according to the mean also must exist. It is good that the Stranger does not undertake the lengthy task of proving the existence of the precise itself, as Young Socrates impatiently asks what the next point is. The Eleatic explains that many people – especially the clever [)+:] – admit that the arts depend on measurement but insist that the only kind of measurement is that of relative measure. They ignore if not deny measurement according to the mean [ ) ], the appropriate [ ], the timely [  ], and the necessary [ ] (284e–85a).4 Their problem, the Stranger says, is that they have not divided properly the art of measurement according to species [’ 2 !] (285a4). Therefore, they believe that the statesman’s art of measurement – and all arts that deal with actions and production – must proceed according to relative measure if it is to count as knowledge at all. The possibility of the true statesman’s art therefore hinges on the philosopher’s ability to defend measurement according to the mean. It is at this moment that the Stranger abruptly stops discussing the two kinds of measurement to explain the real purpose of the dialogue. Just as their inquiry into weaving is made for the sake of the inquiry into the statesman, so, too, their inquiry into the statesman has been for the sake of improving their skill in dialectics about everything (285d2–8).5 The myth and digression about measurement may have seemed long, but they should be measured and judged only in terms of whether they were “fitting” for the purpose of improving the dialectical acumen of the participants (286b–d). A speech may be measured by the length of time that it takes to deliver (e.g., relative measurement employing minutes), but that kind of measurement does not tell us whether it was too long or too short to achieve its purpose (i.e., measurement according to the mean). For instance, the Gettysburg Address may be a short speech when measured using a watch, but it may well have been sufficiently long for its purpose. The proper way of judging the digression about measurement, the myth, and the paradigm of weaving is not by how long it is or whether the statesman could have been found more quickly. Rather, the speech 4 Miller suggests that this criticism refers to the Pythagoreans, who believed everything was

mathematical (2004: 68). The influence of Pythagoras over the Academy, he says, was not small, and he interprets this division – if not the dialogue as a whole – as an attempt to correct the errors of the Pythagorean approach to philosophy. Rowe (1995: ad loc. 285a1–2) makes a similar suggestion. 5 Another potential “by-product” of their speech is “pleasure” [G'] (286d5). Perhaps defining the statesman is no more important than enjoying the conversation.

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should be judged on whether it improved their ability to divide by species (286de). The discussion of measurement, to be sure, suggests that there is more to life than the mode of mathematical measurement with which Young Socrates is most comfortable. One can – and, in some cases, should – measure by what is appropriate to the thing or to the moment – that is, what is fitting. However, the Eleatic Stranger suggests only that the statesman will seek the precise, or fitting, in itself, not the good in itself.6 As discussed herein, his notions of both phron¯esis and the mean are significantly different from Aristotle’s.

Phron¯esis and the Mean Many scholars who believe that there is a practical dimension to the statesman’s knowledge cite the Stranger’s introduction of the notion of the mean – that is, the fitting, the timely, and the necessary – in support of their position. Such commentators perceive the introduction of phron¯esis in the Stranger’s discussion of the true and correct regime as indicative of the kind of knowledge necessary for statesmanship – that is, the kind of knowledge connected to measurement according to the mean.7 Jacob Howland, for instance, contends that the Stranger defines the statesman’s art as “the acquisition of phron¯esis,” which enables him to employ “due measure” to achieve his ends (1998: 224, 250, 269; cf. 272c1). In other words, it is argued that the Stranger abandons the theoretical or gnostic knowledge championed at the dialogue’s outset in 6 Pace

Seth Benardete, who claims that “the precise itself looks like another name for the idea of the good or the good itself” (1984: III.116). Klein similarly conflates the Stranger’s “the precise itself” with Socrates’ “the good itself” and thus concludes that the statesman must be a philosopher (1977: 175–7). This, of course, runs afoul of the Eleatic’s opening statement that he believes the philosopher, the sophist, and the statesman to be three. 7 See also Rosen, who argues that “if there is a genuine king, his or her activity cannot be technical at all, but must instead be the activity of phron¯esis or commanding judgment” (1995: 156, cf. 119; 1983: 25). Similarly, Stern argues that the statesman’s knowledge is revealed as “both practical-productive and theoretical (gnostic),” employing phron¯esis to determine the just in the variable circumstances that arise in the Age of Zeus (1997: 266–9). Griswold asserts that “although the ES never explicitly acknowledges the change, it seems safe to say that after the myth political science [politik¯e epist¯em¯e ] is pursued under the branch of “praktik¯e epist¯em¯e ” rather than “gnostik¯e epist¯em¯e ” (1989: 146). Political epist¯em¯e involves recognizing the imperfect conditions in the Age of Zeus and moderating our expectations accordingly – that is, making use of “the prudent political art” (Griswold 1989: 156) in order to know “what to do and when in order to keep the polis safe” (152).

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favor of an understanding of the statesman’s knowledge as practical.8 Noticing that the initial division into gnostic or practical is absent from the Stranger’s recapitulation at 292b3–c3, Charles Griswold argues that in contrast to the first half of the dialogue – in which the objects of the statesman’s knowledge are more like “objects of arithmetic” – after the myth, the Stranger treats the statesman’s knowledge as practical rather than theoretical: “[P]olitical beings are in a certain sense artifacts produced by political science” (1989: 148–9). However, the Stranger shortly thereafter repeats the conclusion of the initial query, praising Young Socrates for recalling that whoever has royal knowledge deserves to be called a king whether he rules in a city or not – precisely the basis for the original assertion that the statesman’s knowledge is gnostic (292e9– 93a1). Moreover, the identification of the royal art as one that does not act but only orders others to act is repeated later (305d1–2). Such emphasis on phron¯esis is therefore somewhat misguided. The Eleatic uses the term phron¯esis sparingly in the dialogue, much less frequently than he refers to the knowledge of the statesman as an epist¯em¯e. Although the true king is said to possess phron¯esis at 294a8, most of the other references suggest that it is not the king but rather the philosopher who possesses, or at least seeks, phron¯esis (see 261e7, 272c5, 278e2; cf. 269d1, where it is ascribed to the bodily universe created by the god).9 Associating the knowledge of the statesman with the knowledge of the philosopher might make sense on Socratic and perhaps even Aristotelian terms, but the Eleatic, as previously noted, begins the Sophist by distinguishing between the philosopher and the statesman. Nothing he has said suggests that he has changed his original answer.10 The introduction of phron¯esis is connected to the Eleatic’s discussion of the mean and measurement according to it. Many commentators, therefore, read the Eleatic as moving in an Aristotelian direction. Kenneth Dorter, for instance, states that “the rule-free flexibility of the science of the mean corresponds to Aristotle’s concept of practical wisdom . . . the capacity for discerning in practical situations the mean that embodies what is right or good” (1994: 204). To be sure, phron¯esis is essential to 8 Xavier

M´arquez, rightly in my view, defends the Stranger’s definition of political knowledge as gnostic and argues that this understanding is maintained throughout the dialogue (2007: 31–2, 39–43). 9 Perhaps the philosopher’s phron¯esis consists in knowing how long speeches should be to improve skill in dialectical inquiry. 10 The Eleatic, in the initial diairesis, had denied that phron¯esis was unique to humans, suggesting that it could be claimed by cranes as well (263d).

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Aristotle’s ethical theory, as is the notion of the mean. Aristotle even says that virtuous individuals are able to choose the mean precisely because they possess the virtue of phron¯esis (1107a1–2). However, it is not clear that the Eleatic’s understanding of these terms is similar to that of Aristotle. The mean, for the Stranger, was related to what is fitting, what is opportune, and what is necessary. The Aristotelian mean may include all of these attributes, similarly shirking both excess and deficiency (e.g., NE 1104a11–13), but it also adds an element absent from the Stranger’s account: beauty or nobility [to kalon].11 Virtuous actions – that is, those that achieve the mean – are undertaken “for the sake of the beautiful” [or noble, ;  ;] (1115b12–13, 1122b6–7). A virtuous individual is one who has the ability to discern and to choose what is truly beautiful or noble (1113a29–b2). Whereas the Stranger contends that all arts and actions rely on the mean, Aristotle insists that some passions and actions – for example, schadenfreude, envy, adultery, theft, and murder – have no mean and are simply base. No matter how such actions are performed, regardless of how such emotions are felt, they are wrong (1107a8 ff.). Vicious actions, for Aristotle, aim at the extremes, not the mean. To be able to choose the mean requires having a virtuous disposition (1113b3 ff.). This disposition, according to Aristotle, is largely dependent on the education that we receive in our youth. Indeed, it is this need for good laws to guide the development of our habits that leads Aristotle to move from the conclusion of the Nicomachean Ethics to the Politics. Yet, the Eleatic Stranger says nothing about the character of the person who is able to choose the mean, and he certainly does not discuss the necessary ethical qualities for choosing the mean. This is particularly true for the statesman, who after all has been defined on the basis of his knowledge, not character. According to the Eleatic Stranger, measurement according to the mean is not inherently connected to ethical or virtuous behavior. Attaining to the mean is necessary not only for statesmanship but also for all arts and speeches.12 In other words, the Stranger’s concept of the mean 11 As

discussed in the previous section, the Stranger does make one reference to to kalon (284b2), but the thrust of his discussion indicates that he means something different than Aristotle. 12 Lane argues that the Stranger “wrests the kairos from the proud claims of the orators, making it instead the exclusive property of the political art” (1998: 135). She describes the function of the statesman’s mastery of kairos in this way: “commanding when each expert should perform his work and so coordinating the work of different experts” (1998: 3).

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is ethically neutral in that it is pursued equally by the sophist and the statesman. The Eleatic’s understanding of phron¯esis, therefore, is not that of a virtue because activities of all kinds – vicious as well as virtuous, the production of crafts as well as actions – require due measure to achieve their purpose. Aristotle, however, states that phron¯esis is the ability to “deliberate nobly” about what is not only advantageous but also good (NE 1140a24–28). He explicitly denies that phron¯esis is necessary for decisions about health and strength; it is not necessary for the doctor or trainer to have phron¯esis. It is, rather, about what is necessary to live well. Aristotle distinguishes between the virtue of phron¯esis and the capacity for art and, likewise, the performance of actions and the production of things. In fact, he says, achieving the mean is not always desirable in art, whereas phron¯esis always seeks the mean: “[I]n art, someone who makes an error willingly is preferable [to one who errs unknowingly], while in connection with phron¯esis this is worse, as it is in connection with the virtues” (1140b21–24). Indeed, Aristotle concludes, phron¯esis is a virtue whereas art is not (1140b24– 25). Aristotle also distinguishes phron¯esis from the knowledge that the Eleatic Stranger attributes to the statesman: Phron¯esis is neither science nor art [> I %! G !   )! >$ ,!] (1140b1–2). Unlike the Stranger, Aristotle insists that phron¯esis is neither ethically neutral nor concerned with the products of the arts. It is not a kind of scientific knowledge but rather a guide for action. It is concerned with only those actions that are “just and noble and good” (1143b21–23).13 Although the Eleatic’s concept of the fitting seems to have little to do with Aristotelian phron¯esis, it perhaps may resemble what Aristotle calls To this extent, the Stranger’s view has little in common with Aristotle’s, who ascribes it to various arts without mentioning the statesman (NE 1096a30–34). Other commentators, however, present the kairos as characteristic of a broader array of arts. Sayre emphasizes that all of the arts require “due measure,” or the fitting (2006: 143); the political art is no different because the “practical mastery of the art of statesmanship constitutes its ability to achieve due measure in political affairs managed under its guidance” (2006: 185). Likewise, Miller argues that “the statesman and the weaver and every artisan concerned with praxis are guided by essential measure” (2004: 67). Statesmanship is like the other arts in its reliance on the mean or due measure and is distinguished from them only by its architectonic character. 13 These are precisely the things about which the Eleatic Stranger insists the citizens must have correct opinions (309c5). However, unlike Aristotle, he does not believe that citizens should develop the ability to discern these things for themselves. Even Mark Blitz, who argues that Socrates and the Eleatic have similar understandings of politics, acknowledges that “cleaving to the city’s enduring opinions, rather than exercising practical judgment, is the order of the day” (2010: 260).

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“cleverness” (1144a23 ff.). Aristotle says that the capacity called cleverness [ !] is that which enables a person to achieve his or her ends, regardless of whether those ends are noble or shameless (1144a23–27). Such a capacity is similar to phron¯esis, but Aristotle insists that they are different insofar as phron¯esis is intimately connected with ethical virtue (1144a29–31). Cleverness and phron¯esis are two different powers of the soul, both directed toward forming opinions about what ought to be done, but phron¯esis alone is the “right reason” that makes virtuous action possible (1144b27–28). Cleverness demands only that one have an end in mind, not that it be a good end; phron¯esis, on the other hand, identifies the action necessary to achieve the best end, but such an end is apparent only “to a good person” (1144a31–34). The Eleatic’s phron¯esis thus resembles more the capacity that Aristotle calls cleverness than Aristotelian phron¯esis. Even those who contend that the Eleatic Stranger’s introduction of the mean and phron¯esis move him in an Aristotelian direction concede much of this.14 As Griswold admits, “the ES’s political science does not seem guided by ‘moral virtue,’ at least not in any sense of ‘virtue’ more edified than that useful to a city and its citizens for their survival” (1989: 153). Survival is obviously a good, yet Aristotle rejects the notion that phron¯esis is concerned with things like health and strength; it is concerned with performing virtuous, noble actions and living well. Although the Stranger’s understanding of the mean lends itself to a wide variety of actions with a wide variety of purposes, it does not have any significant connection with what is noble or fine. This is, I think, a reflection of his broader understanding of politics – namely, that it is not especially concerned with living well or finely. Aristotle’s understanding of phron¯esis as directed toward the good and noble recalls his understanding of the purpose of politics. As discussed herein, Aristotle indicates that the capacity for deliberating well about what is good for a city involves the same disposition [J1 ] as the capacity for deliberating well about what is good for an individual (NE 1141b23– 24).On Aristotle’s account of the purpose of politics, this makes sense: 14 Rosen

admits that the Stranger does not distinguish between measurement of effectiveness and that of virtue, yet he insists that the Stranger’s argument points in the direction of measurement as concerned with ethical virtue (1995: 126–7). The Stranger’s eventual discussion of the statesman’s weaving, however, reveals that the political art, even if it aims at due measure or what is fitting, does not aim at virtue. The Eleatic does not conceive of the statesman’s task as making the manly moderate or the moderate manly so much as effectively balancing their tendencies.

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Both the statesman and the individual seek to know, and to do, what is necessary for living well; therefore, both require a kind of phron¯esis.15 There is thus “no noble deed either of a man or of a city that is separate from virtue and phron¯esis” (Pol. 1323b32–33).That both the polis and the individual seek to live well may explain Aristotle’s remark that the end of the polis is the same as that of the individual (NE 1094b7–10; Pol. 1324a5 ff.).

Aristotle and the Eleatic Stranger on Innovation Whereas Aristotle and the Eleatic Stranger disagree about what phron¯esis is, they agree that few regimes are ruled by those who possess it. The Eleatic Stranger believes that those regimes that lack rulers who have knowledge will have laws based only on experience. He therefore praises those regimes that abide by their laws because of the way in which individuals or groups who want to change laws often do so not on the basis of knowing what is better but rather for their own advantage. The Eleatic’s understanding of politics as a science leads to an extremely conservative, antiphilosophical stance.16 Lisa Pace Vetter aptly characterizes the Stranger’s city as a “static artifact” (2005: 120). The Stranger’s praise of the rule of law in imitative regimes concludes with a thinly veiled threat against one – perhaps someone like the elder Socrates, sitting and (presumably) listening to the conversation – who would question the laws of a city. Imitative regimes, if they want to preserve their resemblance to the best regime, must never act against the laws and customs that they have established (301a). Anyone who questions the laws and their regulations of the various arts therefore should be considered “a talker about highfalutin things, a kind of garrulous sophist.” Such an individual should be put on trial for corrupting the youth by convincing them to practice the arts in violation of what the laws command (299b2–c3).17 15 In

a similar way, both the household manager and statesman must have expertise in business to obtain what is necessary (Pol. 1258a19–25, 1259a32–36). However, what is required for the city will differ, and not merely in size, from what is required by the household. 16 To be sure, the Stranger’s explicit prohibition on questioning applies only to questioning the laws; perhaps the polis he envisions would be permissive of his own kind of philosophizing, which does not have the same consequences as Socratic philosophizing. 17 Cf. Miller 2004: 85–6. Rather than speculating as the Eleatic does about whether Socrates’ “inquiry into everything, while good in itself, was problematic” insofar as “it shook the ancestral ways,” Joseph Cropsey instead emphasizes that Plato encouraged his

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Given the dramatic setting – the day after Socrates received his indictment and, in the ordering of dialogues by dramatic date, immediately before the Apology – Plato’s readers cannot help but be reminded of Socrates.18 In the Sophist, the Stranger and Theaetetus defined the sophist in a way that can only remind us of Plato’s Socrates: an individual who refutes people in private without himself having knowledge (268b).19 The Eleatic Stranger seems to be charging Socrates with practicing a kind of sophistry that is not only radically different from statesmanship but also has negative consequences for politics. Although Theaetetus gladly accepted this definition of the sophist, Young Socrates is more skeptical about the Eleatic’s statement that cities must prohibit anyone from questioning the various laws that regulate the arts in the city. Young Socrates objects that if the arts were not allowed to undergo change, they could not improve. Precluding improvements in the arts would make life – which, having learned from the myth, he says is already difficult enough – altogether unlivable [/& ] (299e8– 10). The Stranger responds that permitting change in the laws in fact may be worse than forbidding progress in the arts (300a1–7). Although he acknowledges the danger of restricting innovation in the arts, he insists that there is a greater danger in not restricting such innovation in imitative regimes.20 According to the Eleatic Stranger, the laws of imitative regimes are derived from “much trial and error” when some advisors are able to persuade the multitude to adopt their beliefs as laws (300b2–4). Experience and persuasion, not knowledge, are the basis for legislation in the imitative regimes. Insofar as the multitude can never have any art, much audience to “reflect on the profundity of the wisdom that would reconcile the demand for amendment with the inviolability of the ways of the fathers” (1995: 132). 18 Miller claims that all the characteristics mentioned by the Stranger, especially the “thinly veiled trial of Socrates,” make it clear that the Stranger is referring to Athens (2004: 96). See also Howland (1998) and Rowe (2001). 19 There is widespread agreement (a notable exception is Blondell 2002) that the Eleatic Stranger is accusing Socrates of sophistry. There is also widespread disagreement about the particulars of the charge – that is, which definition of the sophist applies to Socrates. Howland (1998), for instance, finds Socrates in the fifth division (231b); Dorter (1987) finds him early in the dialogue (225d). With Catherine Zuckert (2000), I locate Socrates in the Stranger’s last and presumably best definition of the sophist. 20 David DePew rightly observes that Aristotle is equally aware that philosophical inquiry can be destabilizing to politics. However, he argues, Aristotle ultimately believes in the transcendence of this conflict between contemplation and politics because of “his deep confidence in the practical wisdom (phron¯esis) of autonomous political agents” (1991: 379).

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less the political art, the Stranger argues that any change in the laws will likely be for the worse. The laws that they do have were based on experience, and any attempt to change them – because it cannot be based on knowledge – is bound to be “for profit or private whim” (300a5). The imitative regimes that do not adhere to their laws are feverish and ignorant [ 0)   7 ] and hence – if ruled by one person – tyrannical (301c2–4). It would be best, of course, if beneficial change in the laws could take place under the watchful guise of the true statesman of the correct regime, but the “second sailing” [#  ;] requires that in all imitative regimes, any change in the laws must be prohibited (300c2).21 As many commentators note, this discussion sounds as though the Eleatic Stranger is justifying the condemnation and death of Socrates at the hands of Athens. The Stranger advocates “extreme penalties” for anyone who tries to persuade others that he is “wiser than the laws” (299c3– 6). Such penalties may include even death [0 ] (297e2). In an attempt to avoid the conclusion that Plato himself accepts the necessity of “killing Socrates,” Christopher Rowe argues that Socrates’ death is necessary only in the law-abiding imitative regimes. The laws of those regimes, Rowe continues, “will have no connection, except accidentally, with those of the ideal state,” and so they are not praised by Plato but rather condemned for their ignorance (2001: 73–4). A law-abiding but unknowing democracy will be forced to “do absurd things, including killing people like Socrates” (74). Despite their lawful character, the “second-best” imitative regimes, Rowe concludes, have very little to recommend them; therefore, Plato endorses neither them nor “killing Socrates.”22 In another attempt to avoid the impression that Plato approves of the Eleatic’s condemnation of Socrates, Griswold argues that the Stranger does not actually preclude changing the laws, only disobeying them. He points out that without the freedom to change laws, the arts would be unable to progress and life would be unbearable – which was the reason for enacting laws in the first place (1989: 167, n27).23 To be sure, the Eleatic does not explicitly state that laws may never be changed, but I 21 The

famous Socratic reference to the second sailing is Phaedo 99cd; Protarchus also uses the phrase at Philebus 19c. Socrates explains that his second sailing, studying speeches rather than beings, was undertaken in order to protect his soul from harm. Howland thus argues that the Eleatic’s second sailing differs from Socrates’ in that it is for the sake of protecting the body rather than the soul (1998: 276–7). 22 On my account, of course, the Eleatic Stranger does not speak for Plato and so the problem does not arise. I discuss this at greater length in Chapter 5. 23 Similar interpretations are offered by Benardete (1984: III.134–6) and Miller (2004: 98–100).

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think the text suggests and the argument requires such a conclusion. To improve existing laws in the absence of knowledge would require new experience, but new experience presumably would involve practicing the arts contrary to what the laws suggest, which is clearly forbidden by the Stranger (299b). When he recommends auditing rulers to punish those who violated the laws, the Stranger makes no exception for those who violated them to improve the existing laws or propose new ones. Indeed, to recommend new laws is implicitly to question the wisdom of the old laws, which is explicitly forbidden by the Stranger (299c). However, the critical textual evidence is the Stranger’s exchange with Young Socrates about the limitations of such a restrictive regime. The Stranger asks Young Socrates what would happen if the arts were required to be practiced only in conformity with laws, and Young Socrates responds that the arts would perish and life would be even more unbearable (299e). The Stranger does not say that Young Socrates is wrong. Rather, he suggests that as bad as requiring the arts to conform to existing law might be, it is surely better than what would happen if rulers were allowed to violate the writings to advance their own interests (300a). This, the Stranger says, would be an even greater evil than changing laws and prohibiting innovation in the arts, and Young Socrates agrees: “Most true” [’K !0 ] (300a8). The very reason why Griswold believes that the Eleatic must allow change in the laws is denied by the Stranger himself: Although restricting innovation will make life difficult, there is an even greater cost to allowing innovation and change in laws. Thus, the Stranger concludes, there must be a law that prohibits any individual or any multitude from doing anything contrary to the laws of the city (300c). In discussing the rule of the true statesman, the Stranger asks Young Socrates whether laws should be changed if a person were to persuade the city to adopt the changes. Young Socrates asks, “Isn’t that right?” but the Stranger says only “Perhaps” and emphasizes instead the right of the true statesman to change the laws without the consent of the city (296a–c). By contrast, the Stranger compares law to a stubborn, ignorant person who refuses to allow anyone to disobey or even to question his orders, even if it turns out that something new is better than what previously had been ordered (294c). It is not merely obedience to the laws that is required but also a reverence for them. It is not merely disobedience that is prohibited but also questioning, challenging, and amending the laws of the city.24 24 The

Stranger presents two different versions of the prohibition against innovation, the second stricter than the first. The Stranger first insists that the city’s rulers be audited

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Aristotle is not wholly unsympathetic to the idea that laws should never be changed. In his curiously ad hominem criticism of Hippodamus in the Politics, he chastises the fop for proposing a reward for “those who discover something advantageous for the city” (1268b22–23 ff.).25 Although rewarding those who discover beneficial changes for the city may sound useful, Aristotle fears that it may encourage a change in regimes [   . . .   ] – that is, a kind of revolution. Aristotle does not doubt – neither does he even deny – that some changes in the laws would be advantageous for the city, yet he still hesitates to endorse change in the laws despite doing so with regard to the arts and other capacities. Aristotle suggests that the Stranger’s analogy between laws and the arts of medicine and sailing is faulty: Unlike the arts, cities frequently do not benefit so much from improvement in laws as they are harmed by the fact of change. Because law derives its strength largely from habit, and habit requires continuity over time, a change in law is more dangerous than a change in the arts, where strength is derived from its successful practice (1269a19–24). However, Aristotle suggests that the earliest human beings grew out of the earth or perhaps were saved from a cataclysm (1268b25 ff.); in either case, they were presumably of average or even below average intelligence. These limitations make clear that some change in the laws and customs they ordained is necessary and, in fact, would constitute progress. The Eleatic Stranger, of course, depicts human beings as both autochthonous and survivors (Plt. 271a and 273a ff., respectively). We are, therefore, more than justified in comparing Aristotle with the Eleatic Stranger on this point. Whereas Leo Strauss contends that Aristotle critiques Hippodamus for praising “the virtues of innovation” (1964: 21), Mary Nichols writes that despite his criticisms of Hippodamus, Aristotle’s “own political science is one of reform” (1992: 141). Nichols, I think, reflects Aristotle’s views more closely: Even in criticizing the proposal of Hippodamus to give following their term of service, and they are audited based on whether they ruled in conformity with the laws (299a). The Stranger then adds a second restriction, one that applies not only to rulers but also to “all these cases.” Here, the proscription against breaking the laws is expanded to include anyone who seeks to improve the laws through questioning (299bc). Cf. Zuckert, who suggests that the Eleatic allows change in the laws on the basis of experience over time; the same experience that makes laws also can make them better, although it is never knowledge (2009: 732). 25 Hippodamus also offers, according to Aristotle, a fundamentally mathematical approach to politics (1267b22 ff.) and, as Rosen notes in considering the Statesman, the group of mathematicians somehow makes for an inappropriate audience for a discussion of politics (1995: 18). See also Pangle 2011, especially pp. 85–6.

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prizes and honors to those who recommend innovations, Aristotle indicates that it is, in fact, worth considering which kinds of laws should be changed, as well as how and by whom. Aristotle’s conservatism in this regard has a different justification than the Eleatic Stranger’s. Although the Eleatic insists on adherence to laws because of the danger of changing the laws, he argues that written laws are always inferior to the judgment of the true statesman. The Stranger asserts that law is never able to account for the variety in human life. In other words, law may be necessary and desirable, particularly in the absence of the true statesman, but it is always flawed and thus rarely suitable for that which it judges. Aristotle, by contrast, argues that whereas some things cannot be judged rightly on a universal account, good laws, in fact, do apply to the majority of cases; therefore, the errors that arise are in some way the exception rather than the rule (NE 1137b11–24; see Pol. 1287a23–27). He emphasizes that neither the laws nor those who made them are in error in such cases. Part of the reason for Aristotle’s position is that he believes laws based on experience are not as deficient as the Eleatic Stranger believes. Indeed, in those particular cases in which the law fails to order what is just, Aristotle indicates that the basis of reparative equitable judgments is not an abstract theoretical knowledge but rather people’s experience (Pol. 1287a27–28). Because experience has this important part in determining the applicability of laws to a particular case, Aristotle concludes that the multitude, when taken collectively, should be responsible for this judgment. Indeed, this passage in the Politics takes issue with two of the very examples that the Stranger uses to make his case: doctors and trainers (cf. Plt. 294d–96d). The Eleatic recommends restricting the practice of these arts to what the assembly has been persuaded is correct out of the fear that they will use these arts to their own advantage (298ab). Aristotle, however, disagrees: The trainer and the doctor are usually rewarded only if they benefit those who employ them. For this reason, they rarely deviate from what is best for their patients, whereas politicians act in order to gain favor (1287a32–37; cf. Rep. I). It is not surprising, therefore, that Aristotle dissents from the Stranger’s endorsement of both a best regime ruled according to the true statesman’s knowledge and a second-best regime of absolute obedience to laws in the absence of one with that knowledge. He endorses instead the rule of law supplemented by judgments based on experience. Although there is no extended consideration of such questions in the Politics as we know it, there is ample evidence throughout the text that Aristotle

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would dissent from the Stranger’s refusal to allow any questioning of the laws. Indeed, Aristotle explicitly calls making beneficial changes in a city’s laws the “second sailing” (again, # $  ;) that is required when the original lawgiver fails to constitute the regime properly at its founding (1284b19). In other words, whereas the Eleatic contends that the second sailing requires prohibiting any change in existing laws, Aristotle believes the second sailing requires changing the laws! Although the immediate context is a discussion of ostracism, it is likely that Aristotle would consider changing the laws to be a necessary part of all but the best regime. Regimes often suffer from mistakes at their founding that will eventually require repair if the regime is to be preserved (1302a2–7). One of the explicit tasks for political science, therefore, is the discovery of how to preserve regimes in existence (1288b28–33). Because political science, for Aristotle, is a practical science, it recommends change in the laws based on what it discovers in studying what preserves regimes. Unlike the Stranger, Aristotle also suggests that the failure of laws in regimes other than the best is not always because they were made badly. The people and the land that compose cities often change.26 Although factious conflict between citizens may require a change in laws to ameliorate potential violence (1303b26 ff., 1304a17–20, 1304a38–b4), “a cooperative spirit” also may arise in a previously factious city and so require new and better laws (1303a25–26). Indeed, Aristotle generally prescribes institutional arrangements that will lead to the development of greater harmony in the city. For instance, having offices open to all, although without pay, pleases both oligarchs and democrats: The rich enjoy the honor of ruling and the poor believe themselves to be part of the regime. However, the interest of the former becomes more public than economic as they serve in office, whereas the latter will see their wealth increase as they spend their time working (1308b40–a14).27 In this way, it is the excellence of the lawgiver that will require a change in laws as the citizen body becomes more equal and, it is hoped, more virtuous. The infamous advice to tyrants contained in Book V.11 also recommends change in the regime. Indeed, kingships as well as tyrannies are preserved, Aristotle says, by becoming more moderate (1313a19–20). 26 Although

Aristotle does recommend renewing particular laws from earlier times, such as those that forbade the possession of excessive amounts of land (1319a6–10), he often recommends adjusting laws based on what contributes to preserving a farming class (V.8, VI.4, 7). 27 This is brought out by Nichols (1992: 90–103). See also Frank (2005: 76–8, 172–5).

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He praises Theopompus for sacrificing some of the powers of the Spartan kingship so that his son received a lesser but more durable kingship (1313a25–33). However, Aristotle’s advice to tyrants is far more extensive: They should moderate their rule in almost every conceivable way. Changing the way a tyrant rules does not necessarily involve a change in laws because tyrants may rule lawlessly. However, in encouraging a tyrant to become more like a king (1315a40–b3), Aristotle encourages what we may call – and what he in his discussion of Hippodamus called (1268b25) – a “regime change,” which is surely broader than a change in one particular law.28 The change in laws that Aristotle cautiously recommends is necessary because so few regimes are well constituted at their founding (1301a25– 28). When one group in the city does not share in the regime, it frequently forms a faction and disrupts the regime (1301a35–b4). Hence, no constitution based on only democratic or oligarchic conceptions of justice can long endure (1302a2–5). Revolutions can occur in two fundamental ways: (1) when a group tries to take power under the same kind of regime, perhaps making it more or less oligarchic or democratic; and (2) when a group tries to change the regime from one kind to another (1301b6–17). Aristotle tries especially to minimize the latter problem by encouraging oligarchs to share power with democrats and vice versa.29 The task of political reform – and therefore a necessary object of study for Aristotelian political science – is finding a way to combine the multitude of the poor and the few wealthy or to increase the middle class, thereby avoiding the problem of inequality that gives rise to faction (1308b25–31). Aristotle does recognize that a kind of “weaving” is necessary – although he depicts it as weaving the rich and the poor rather than moderate and manly, insisting that courage and moderation are both virtues – but he also recommends, more than the Stranger, avoiding the two extremes by cultivating a middle ground. Insofar as the middle class contributes to political stability and good political life, Aristotle insists that increasing the middle class is an important part of the statesman’s work. Even when a middle class is small, Aristotle’s proposal for resolving disputes between the rich and the poor 28 A

tyrant may well choose to enact and obey laws based on Aristotle’s advice. He says that the longest-lasting tyranny and oligarchy were those in which rulers were “slaves to the laws” [ )  # ] (1315b15–16). 29 Aristotle suggests that democracy is more stable than oligarchy for two reasons: First, more people favor the preservation of the regime under democratic rule; and second, oligarchs tend to fight among themselves, which also destroys the regime (1302a8–15).

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in mixed regimes also fosters civic harmony because it encourages members of each class to find common ground with members of the other class (1318a30–b1). In some cases, the rich will even discover they have more in common with certain democrats than they do with their wealthy peers. Aristotle is thus an advocate of cautious innovation. Few regimes, if any, are the best regime simply; therefore, they will require change to endure. Change for the sake of change is certainly to be discouraged, and even changes that produce only minimal improvements are looked on with skepticism. In certain cases, however, the good caused by adherence to existing laws is outweighed by the improvement that new laws – and even a gradual move to a new regime – would bring. The Eleatic Stranger recognizes that because they have laws based only on experience, most regimes will soon suffer destruction – although some are surprisingly durable. Aristotle would agree in this description of the usual, precarious position of cities. However, because of his higher regard for practical wisdom based on experience and his higher expectations for political life, Aristotle recommends – albeit with his typical restraint – changes in the laws that will moderate cities and thereby preserve them from faction, civil strife, revolution, and destruction. According to Aristotle, the political knowledge that can preserve regimes requires practical experience. Therefore, he observes, better regimes come to be founded only after people see the faults of defective laws. One of the explicit tasks for political science, after all, is the discovery of how to preserve regimes in existence. The Eleatic recognizes that the rule of law itself was based on a kind of practical experience: trial and error. Aristotle suggests that the same kind of experience can and should produce incremental modifications and improvements in existing cities over time. Unlike the Stranger, Aristotle recognizes that the multitude’s experience can be helpful in evaluating the possible consequences of political action, which is why polity, as a mixed regime, makes use of the experience of the multitude in evaluating proposals (1282a14 ff.). By emphasizing the importance of experience in political life, Aristotle is thus more selective about his audience when discussing political matters than the Eleatic Stranger. Shakespeare (1988/1998) famously alluded to this in Troilus and Cressida when Hector likens his brothers to the “young men whom Aristotle thought unfit to hear moral philosophy” (II.ii.164–66). Aristotle believes that young people are an improper audience for discussions of political life: Although they may have acquired the theoretical knowledge necessary for mathematics, as an

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appropriate example, they almost certainly lack the necessary experience in particulars to be good judges in political matters (NE 1142a11–20). This confirms that experience is an important part of political science for Aristotle, but it also raises an intriguing possibility: Might Aristotle criticize the Eleatic’s choice of the younger Socrates as interlocutor – particularly when the elder Socrates, who spent much of his life discussing the different excellences of the human soul and other topics relevant to political life, is also available for questioning? To be sure, Young Socrates gives us no reason to think that Aristotle was wrong. Perhaps the Stranger’s choice of interlocutors, however, is motivated by a different purpose.

Aristotle and the Eleatic Stranger on the Purposes of Political Inquiry Perhaps the Eleatic Stranger does not converse with the elder Socrates about the fundamental questions of political life because he understands not only the purpose of politics but also the inquiry into politics differently than Aristotle or Socrates. Insofar as he believes that the possession of a particular kind of knowledge makes a person a statesman or king, the Eleatic Stranger investigates what that kind of knowledge is and, as Griswold states, not critical questions such as “the statesman’s character, education, soul, or how he is to get hold of political power” (1989: 142). All of these questions are treated with varying degrees of clarity in the Republic as well as in the Politics. In other words, although the Stranger gives an account, however problematic, of the statesman’s knowledge, he says nothing about why anyone would want to acquire that knowledge or if someone happened to desire that knowledge, how he would go about doing so. The Stranger says little about the ends or purposes of human beings.30 Indeed, about halfway through the dialogue, the Stranger reveals that the real purpose of their investigation is neither understanding statesmanship nor distinguishing the statesman from the philosopher; the search for the statesman, he tells Young Socrates, is not to improve our 30 M´ arquez

argues that the Stranger’s definitions of the various arts do, in fact, incorporate ends in the sense of immediate purposes (e.g., the function of sophistry is to appear wise). However, he acknowledges that they do not answer the more fundamental question of why anyone would want to practice a particular art (e.g., why someone would want to appear wise). “This is a question that the Stranger does not openly discuss, unlike Socrates” (2005: 56, n66).

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understanding of politics but rather to become better dialecticians about everything [         0 ] (285d6–7). Unlike Socrates, the Stranger gives priority to questions about being rather than what is good for human beings.31 The inquiry into statesmanship is only an intellectual training exercise, and there seems to be no reason that another topic could have served the purpose equally well except perhaps to dissuade his young interlocutor from taking politics – with its questions about what is noble and base – too seriously. Having stated that political science is a part of the gnostic arts, toward the middle of the first diairesis, the Eleatic tells Young Socrates that their investigation into the statesman has refused to care for the noble more than the ignoble but has instead pursued only what is truest (Plt. 266d7– 10).32 This is, in short, a denial that their endeavor will be directed toward understanding action, which would be evaluated in terms of better or worse and not true or false. The Stranger says something similar to Theaetetus in the Sophist: Dialectic attempts to understand the relationships, or lack thereof, among all arts and “honors all of them equally.” The Stranger pointedly adds that no art is more laughable [  ] than the others (Soph. 227b4). As an example, he explains that dialectic does not honor a general more than it does a lice catcher or a doctor more than a bather. The Stranger’s “value-free” inquiry into political life perhaps strikes us as untrue to the phenomena of political life, but it is compatible with his understanding of political knowledge as gnostic. An understanding of political knowledge that emphasized action would have to be concerned with questions of good or bad rather than true or false. The Statesman tries to determine only what truly can be said of the statesman and his knowledge. Of course, there is good reason for the Stranger’s hesitation to encourage anyone to acquire the political art. People cannot distinguish the true statesman – that is, the king with knowledge – from the tyrant. On 31 Thus,

Cicero’s observation that Socrates was the first political philosopher insofar as he was the first to turn away from natural philosophy and inquire instead into the questions of human life and virtue (Tusculan Disputations V.iv.1–3). 32 The Eleatic Stranger urges Young Socrates to pay no heed to what is more noble or august [), 266d7–8]. Socrates himself is skeptical of what is commonly taken to be august (e.g., Grg. 502b; cf. 511d) but he does not, I think, reject the noble or august as such. That people are generally wrong about what is truly august does not mean that nothing is in fact august; one might read several of the Platonic dialogues – including the Gorgias itself – as Socratic attempts to redefine what is august or solemn. In the Republic, for instance, Socrates wishes not to abolish the gods but rather to present them as they are or must be (379c ff.).

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his account, the necessity of preserving the rule of law in the Age of Zeus requires punishing anyone who claims to be wiser than the laws; and so anyone who acquires political knowledge would be unable to put it into practice. In the best scenario, such an individual would be mocked; in the worst scenario, he would be killed. Perhaps even the attempt to acquire political knowledge would bring one into conflict with the political community.33 That the Stranger is relatively uninterested in political matters is visible from his action as well as his argument. Unlike Socrates, who remains in Athens, discussing political matters with young Athenians in an attempt to benefit them, the Stranger travels from place to place, caring not for the ethical improvement as much as the intellectual – or, more precisely, the dialectical – improvement of the people he encounters. Indeed, whereas Socrates is quite concerned about with whom and in what way he engages in dialectic (cf. Tht. 143d ff. and Plt. 257d–58a), the Eleatic Stranger is much less so (Soph. 217c ff. and Plt. 258b). Philosophy is a theoretical enterprise that should be separate from political concerns. The contrast with Aristotle, who is himself a “stranger” in Athens, on the purpose and character of political inquiry is readily apparent. The transition from the end of the Ethics to the Politics (NE 1180a29 ff.) is only one example, although perhaps the best, of Aristotle’s inquiry not only considering questions of worth but also having a practical intent. The end of the Ethics points to its fulfillment in the Politics: The understanding of virtue articulated in the Ethics would be worthless if it were not put into practice, and that requires politics (1179a33 ff.). This conclusion is foreshadowed at the very beginning of the Ethics, in fact, because Aristotle declares that the responsibility not only for grasping the good but also attaining it belongs to the supreme and architectonic art, which seems to be politics (1094a26–1094b3). He reiterates this shortly thereafter: The end of politics is the highest good [7 ], and political life has as its greatest task to develop citizens who are good and capable of performing noble actions (1099b29–33). At the beginning of the Ethics as well as the Politics, then, Aristotle signifies two fundamental differences with the Stranger: Political life is defined by the end [ ] inherent in it, and that end is the good life.

33 The Eleatic Stranger obviously believes that Socrates’ attempt to understand political life

undermined the authority of the laws. His silence about how political knowledge, as he understands it, is acquired prevents us from knowing with certainty whether all attempts to acquire political knowledge are similarly disruptive to political life.

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At the beginning of Book II of the Ethics, Aristotle states quite boldly – without using his characteristic “seems” or “appears” – that the investigation into virtue is not for the sake of contemplation as are other studies. They are not inquiring to discover what virtue is but rather to become virtuous. If the study of virtue does not result in becoming virtuous, it would not be worthwhile (1103b26–30) – even, presumably, if it made one a better dialectician. Aristotle reiterates at the end of the Ethics that the end or purpose [ ] in matters of action is not simply contemplation or understanding but rather doing (1179a35–b2). The practical purpose of the inquiry into politics is equally evident in the Politics itself, which is not surprising given the conclusion of the Ethics. In Book IV, Aristotle enumerates four subjects of political inquiry: (1) the best regime simply, (2) which regime befits which cities, (3) how any regime might arise and be preserved, and (4) the regime most appropriate for all cities (1288b21–39). Whatever the theoretical significance of these tasks, Aristotle immediately reminds us that the function of political science, although proceeding – in part – on theoretical grounds, is ultimately practical: The statesman must do more than describe regimes or know what would help them. In fact, he must be able to help them – and Aristotle emphasizes, contrary to the Stranger, that the statesman must be able to help existing regimes (1289a5–7). This kind of practical knowledge depends on some amount of theoretical knowledge but, if anything, the latter is subordinate to the former for the purposes of political science. Living well, for Aristotle, consists not only in the proper identification of aims and ends but also in knowing which actions achieve the end (1331b26–29). The excellence of a city is achieved not by chance or fortune but by “knowledge and intentional choice” – that is, putting into practice what we learn through political science (1332a32– 33). However, what we learn through political science is intended to be put into practice and not to remain theoretical. Aristotle’s emphasis on the practical usage of political knowledge highlights the fact that his practical philosophy – that of the Nicomachean Ethics, the Eudemian Ethics, and the Politics – is directed toward not only knowledge but also, and perhaps more important, action. Whereas the Stranger begins by asserting that the science possessed by the statesman is gnostic, Aristotle begins the Nicomachean Ethics by proclaiming that every art, every inquiry, every action, and every choice seem to aim at some good (1094a1–2). Theoretical sciences aim at the good of truth; the practical sciences, by contrast, aim at the good of action (1139a21–31, 1140b4–7). Inquiry into the practical sciences, therefore, likewise aims

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not simply at the acquisition of knowledge – not at defining, as it were, the statesman, for the sake of defining him, much less for the sake of improving our ability at dialectic – but also at the improvement of our character and our political communities. In addition to denying that statesmanship is simply the possession of a kind of knowledge, Aristotle’s investigation into political matters is motivated by a concern for action toward happiness and virtue, whereas that of the Stranger is purely for intellectual knowledge. The capacity for politics [G   ' #) ] is the greatest good insofar as it seeks the common advantage (Pol. 1282b14–16). However, the successful exercise of the political capacity, Aristotle suggests, requires political philosophy [     ], the only such reference in Aristotle’s extant works (1282b23). Unlike the Eleatic Stranger, Aristotle believes that political philosophy can improve political life. The question, of course, is the extent to which experience influences the acquisition of political knowledge. In other words: Can political knowledge be acquired without experience? Because the Eleatic Stranger envisions no practical purpose of the inquiry into the statesman’s knowledge – except for improving the ability to sort by kinds – he does not explain how political knowledge is to be acquired. Aristotle, however, does explain, or at least suggest, how political knowledge is acquired.34 In Chapter 3, I discussed the phron¯esis of the multitude that justified including it in the offices of the city. The phron¯esis of a statesman – what is generally called politik¯e – is different. Aristotle considers phron¯esis to be a broad genus within which there is “much difference”; it includes the knowledge about one’s individual good as well as the goods of the household and the city (1141b29–42a2). With regard to political knowledge, Aristotle also distinguishes between the kind of phron¯esis relevant to the city “in the overarching [/,  '] sense,” in which case it is called lawgiving [)0 ] – an example of which is Solon or Lycurgus – and the more common appellation of “politics” [  ] when it addresses particular matters (1141b23–26).35 Aristotle laments this terminology. He believes that )0 , the comprehensive act of lawgiving, is more truly political action and thus 34 See

also the discussion in Chapter 3. I focus there on the political knowledge of the multitude and the way in which it justified its inclusion in political life. I focus here, as does Aristotle, on a higher kind of political knowledge: that which is characteristic of a statesman. 35 To illustrate the distinction, one might understand a distinction between the writing of the Constitution and the writing of laws subordinate to and governed by that document.

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deserves the name of politics (cf. NE 1094a26–94b7).36 Insofar as Aristotle insists that the architectonic art of politics involves giving laws, he differs from the Stranger, who argues that the true statesman or king should not be bound by laws. Aristotle also differs from common opinion, however, which holds that political action is defined by the day-today political activity of the assembly insofar as that activity alone seems to result in decrees that order actions, just as the work of craftsmen results in products. This indicates popular confusion about the kinds of human action, for Aristotle distinguishes between “making” and “doing” (NE 1140a1 ff.). Doing (praxis) is higher than making insofar as it is an end in itself rather than for the sake of something else, such as the product made (NE 1139b1 ff.). As Aristotle reiterates in the Politics, “[L]ife is doing things, not making them” (1254a7). More relevant, insofar as it is a kind of phron¯esis, political action need not result in products the way that crafts do. Common opinion, therefore, mistakes the kind of activity that politics should be and so elevates the lower kind to the higher place. Aristotle, although indicating his disagreement, defers to that opinion in his linguistic usage.37 Whereas the multitude’s knowledge is based almost exclusively on experience, the knowledge of statesmen and lawgivers – although it requires experience – includes more than that. However, precisely because it includes more, it requires a more rigorous education. At the end of the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle investigates – in a way that the Stranger never does – how one might acquire the knowledge characteristic of the statesman. Such knowledge requires not only experience but also the study of existing regimes and regimes in speech. Aristotle does not disagree with the Eleatic that many of those who claim to have political knowledge and therefore are able to teach it are merely sophists.38 However, Aristotle suggests that the reason that sophists fail to teach about politics is that they have not practiced politics; 36 As

argued in Cherry and Goerner (2006: 566–7) and Cherry (2009: 1407–10), Aristotle frequently engages in a linguistic practice in which the name for an entire class is shared with the highest type within that class. The most obvious example is friendship, in which “friendship” refers to both the general phenomenon and the true friendship among the virtuous. Friendships of pleasure or utility are lesser and are differently named. Here, Aristotle would prefer that the “common” term of politics apply to the higher, more comprehensive activity of lawgiving. 37 Aristotle contends that lawgiving, the highest form of political action, is not in fact making but rather doing. See also Terence Irwin (1999): 245–6. 38 Another point of agreement is that both deny that rhetoric is political knowledge and make it subservient to that higher end (e.g., NE 1181a9–24).

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they lack experience and rely only on theorizing. Insofar as politics relies on experience, then, one would expect a person to acquire political knowledge from statesmen, just as one learns to cobble from a cobbler. Yet, Aristotle thinks this is unlikely: Those who, in fact, are statesmen are as unable to make others into statesmen as the sophists. Yet, statesmen fail to teach statesmanship for a different reason. They possess political knowledge, but they have that knowledge based only on experience and “some capacity” rather than on study [  ] (NE 1181a2–3). Had statesmen reflected adequately about politics, Aristotle suggests, they would have been able to make their own sons or friends into statesmen, which none of them did.39 Experience is necessary – Aristotle never retreats from that – but it is not sufficient to become a statesman. It seems to be sufficient, however, for members of the assembly, provided that along with experience they have a certain level of virtue. Unlike the Eleatic Stranger, Aristotle helps us to see how political knowledge can be acquired and suggests that a combination of theory and practice is necessary. Just as a medical textbook is useless without the experience of a doctor, so also is theoretical reflection on constitutions in the absence of experience. Yet, experience, too, requires something more, and Aristotle suggests that the “something” is studying laws and constitutions, as he does in preparation for the Politics.40 Such a study would not profit someone without experience unless that person had the spontaneous ability to judge laws well (NE 1181b11). For one who has the necessary experience, however, such a study would enable that person to discover the laws that are most conducive to determining which kind of regime is best, how each kind is best arranged, what makes regimes well governed, and what preserves as well as destroys regimes. This, Aristotle says, is the culmination of the philosophical study of human affairs [ 6 /0      0] (1181b15). It is a philosophical study that, unlike the Stranger’s, has a practical purpose. I began this chapter by investigating the Stranger’s concept of measurement according to the mean and his understanding of phron¯esis. Although several commentators interpret the Stranger to be moving in an Aristotelian direction with the introduction of these ideas, a closer 39 Socrates

charges the famed leaders of Athens – Pericles, Themistocles, Aristides, and Thucydides – with the same failure in the Meno (93c–94e). 40 Aristotle emphasizes the study of “writings” [)) ]: laws and constitutions (1181b2–3). The Eleatic Stranger concedes that although the true statesman will use writings, he does so only out of necessity (295a ff.). Moreover, those who make use of the statesman’s writings during his absence do not seem to learn anything from doing so.

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investigation reveals that they are, in fact, quite different. The mean for Aristotle is always virtuous and never vicious; for him, phron¯esis is a virtue applicable to a limited sphere. The Stranger has a broader sense, applying measurement according to the mean to all arts, but it is a sense that is truncated by rejecting the Aristotelian insistence on the noble or beautiful as the object of the mean and phron¯esis. Like politics, phron¯esis has a lower end for the Stranger. The Stranger’s understanding of political knowledge as theoretical has a radical consequence in that it leads to the prohibition on not only disobeying laws but also questioning them. The laws of the imitative regimes are deeply flawed, based as they must be on only experience and not knowledge, yet it is worse to allow people in power to change the laws to suit their private interests. The Stranger therefore endorses, in short, a radically conservative politics that leaves no room for political philosophy. The result of the Stranger’s prohibition, although perhaps not to justify the execution of Socrates by Athens, is to identify Socratic political philosophy as dangerous to the political community. Aristotle, however, has a higher estimation of the contribution that experience can make to good laws, so he accepts the need to change laws and sometimes even to change regimes. He is careful not to endorse radical or whimsical changes in the laws, but he recognizes that laws may need to be changed to achieve better the ends of political life. The higher end of politics makes worthwhile the dangers of innovation, but that danger is somewhat mitigated by the real value that experience brings to political life. Yet perhaps the most significant difference is that Aristotle takes the investigation into political life more seriously than the Eleatic Stranger, who reveals that they are investigating the statesman only to improve their capacity for dialectics. The Stranger also adds that in defining the statesman and his knowledge, their method must avoid invoking questions of nobility and worth in favor of investigating like and dislike. Aristotle, by contrast, paints their inquiry as fundamentally practical: We study political life not only to improve our understanding but also to improve political life. Just as the investigation of the Ethics leads to the Politics, so does an investigation of the good life for human beings lead to an investigation of how to achieve that good life. Why might the Eleatic exhibit such disinterest in political practice? In other words, why is he no more than a xenos? Much of what we find puzzling or counterintuitive about the Eleatic Stranger makes sense if we consider his conception of nature. He thinks nature is disordered

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and hostile to human life and, therefore, he understands politics to be dedicated primarily to the preservation of life. Because politics is fundamentally about the necessary, it is not a particularly interesting topic for philosophical investigation. Because he conceives of political communities as fragile and limited in their ends, he is profoundly skeptical of change that is likely to do more harm than good. Yet, because stability is necessary for philosophy to take place, the Eleatic Stranger does not demand virtuous as much as effective action by statesmen. Philosophy must not be Socratic lest it undermine the bulwark offered by the rule of law by questioning those laws. Aristotle, by contrast, believes that politics should be about the good life. It is therefore a worthy topic of investigation not only for understanding but also for action. Because politics aims at the good life, Aristotle has higher expectations for it and is willing to take greater risks, such as permitting change in the laws. This risk is minimized by the fact that unlike the Stranger, he believes that nature is hospitable rather than hostile to human life. Moreover, Aristotle does not believe that only the statesman’s theoretical knowledge can sustain a good regime: The experience of the multitude, especially when coupled with the experience and study of statesmen and lawgivers, can provide a sufficiently stable basis for political life to pursue its distinctive end of the good life. Thus far, we have seen how Aristotle and the Eleatic Stranger disagree about the purpose and therefore the uniqueness of politics; the relationship of nature to human beings; the nature of political knowledge; the nature of the best regime; and the character and purpose of political inquiry. In Chapters 5 and 6, I examine how these differences contribute to our understanding of Plato’s Socrates – relative to the Eleatic Stranger as well as Aristotle – and contemporary political thought and practice.

5 Philosophy and Politics in the Eleatic Stranger, Socrates, and Aristotle

I have suggested throughout this book that there are significant differences between the Eleatic Stranger and Socrates, and I now offer a fuller account of those differences. There is, of course, more that could – and should – be said about them. A fuller interpretation would require nuanced readings of several additional Platonic dialogues and demand more extensive consideration of the issues that I raise. I hope here only to show how my account of Aristotle’s debate with the Eleatic Stranger illuminates our understanding of Plato’s Socrates and so would contribute to that larger effort. Even on this limited scale, however, several significant differences between the Eleatic Stranger and Socrates are clear. They disagree about the proper method of philosophizing as well as the nature of being and the basis of philosophy. Most important for our purposes, they disagree about politics and the relationship between philosophy and politics. The Eleatic’s political theory is concerned primarily with the preservation of human life, with the improvement of souls as a subordinate concern. The Eleatic himself leads an itinerant life, unattached to any political community. Socrates, by contrast, paints a picture of politics as dedicated to the cultivation of souls; he spends – or at least claims to spend – his life engaging in that cultivation, in conversations with his fellow Athenians as well as those who claim to be able to teach the Athenians. As with Aristotle, looking at the contrasts with the Eleatic Stranger helps us to understand better Socrates and confirms the interpretation of the Eleatic that I advance in this book. Considering Aristotle’s response to the Eleatic also can improve our understanding of Aristotle’s response to Socrates. Aristotle stands in a middle ground between the Eleatic Stranger and Plato’s Socrates in matters of politics. Like Socrates, Aristotle holds that politics is about more 144

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than simply preservation; it is also and more fundamentally about the good life. However, he also agrees with the Eleatic insofar as both emphasize that politics is about communities rather than dialectical encounters with individuals. Socratic “soulcraft,” on Aristotle’s view, can never be statecraft; its ad hominem character prevents it from being the basis for a properly political life. The critiques of the Republic in the Politics evidence Aristotle’s concern for the communal character of political life, which he finds threatened by Socrates’ emphasis on making the city as unified as possible. Indeed, Aristotle believes that Socrates’ proposals fail to achieve the end that Socrates himself identifies as the purpose of politics: improving the soul.

The Eleatic Stranger and Socrates on Philosophy One difference between Socrates and the Eleatic Stranger presented at the very outset of the Sophist is the way in which the Eleatic’s method of philosophic inquiry is different from that of Socrates. As many college and law school students know, Plato’s Socrates proceeds by the elenchus, what is commonly called the Socratic method: Rather than engaging in lengthy speeches, Socrates prefers to trade questions and answers with others – briefly, if possible (Grg. 449bc) – demanding of his partners candor, intelligence, and goodwill (Grg. 487a).1 This, of course, does not always happen – we think, for instance, of the later books of the Republic – but it remains the Socratic ideal. It is consistently defended as the best method of seeking truth, and when he departs from it, Socrates apologizes (Rep. 536c; Grg. 465e), denies responsibility (Rep. 509c; Grg. 519d), or emphasizes that his statements have been no more than hypotheses (Phd. 92d, 99e ff.), images (Rep. 488a, 506de), or the result of divine inspiration (Symp. 201d; Phdr. 262d; Crat. 396d). One reason for his reliance on this method is that Socrates does not believe knowledge can be acquired or passed on by instruction alone. As the famous periagoge passage of the Republic explains: Education is not what the professions of certain men assert it to be. They presumably assert that they put into the soul knowledge that isn’t in it, as though they were putting sight into blind eyes. . . . But the present argument on the other hand . . . indicates that this power is in the soul of each, and that the instrument with which each learns – just as an eye is not able to turn 1 In

the dialogue, Socrates’ ascription of these traits to his interlocutor, Callicles, may well be ironic.

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toward the light from the dark without the whole body – must be turned around from that which is coming into being together with the whole soul until it is able to endure looking at that which is and the brightest part of that which is (Rep. 518bc).

In other words, when it is successful (and it is not always successful), Socratic education involves bringing the interlocutor to see something for himself, as is exemplified by “teaching” the slave in the Meno. The Stranger does not share Socrates’ views about the nature of philosophy, however. First, he believes that making long speeches is a legitimate mode of philosophizing and teaching (Soph. 217c–e). The only reason that he does not offer a lengthy explanation of the sophist and the statesman in the dialogues is the presence of Socrates, who disdains such speeches. From a sense of shame and propriety as befitting a guest (Soph. 217d–18a), the Stranger agrees to proceed by questioning others rather than making a long speech. Socrates, however, explicitly compares the Eleatic’s kind of questioning with that of Parmenides rather than his own (Soph. 217c; cf. Parm. 136d ff.). Like Parmenides in the dialogue bearing his name, the Stranger begins by indicating that he already has an answer to the question at hand and even has explained it previously (Soph. 217b; cf. Parm. 137a). Like Parmenides, he acknowledges that he could, and perhaps may prefer to, present his views in a speech rather than through questioning; if compelled to use a partner, he insists on a tractable one (Soph. 217d; Parm. 137b).2 Whereas Socrates at least paints his conversations with others as a joint inquiry, the Eleatic Stranger is unmistakably directing the conversations of the Sophist and the Statesman. His examples of the angler and weaver, seemingly chosen at random, instead are calculated to make necessary points in the discussion. He is quite open about this: He is not thinking through these matters for the first time; rather, he is recounting to Socrates and the mathematicians what he has already learned from 2 Most

scholars (e.g., Taylor 1960, Blondell 2002) recognize that the Stranger’s mode of proceeding is significantly less dialectical than that of Socrates. Rosen even claims that the Stranger regards the conversation in the Sophist as a “monologue” (1983: 22). Miller demurs and argues that the Eleatic dialogues represent “a new form of philosophical dialogue” (2004: xxvi; cf. xxiv–xxxiii). By contrast, Rowe takes the non-Socratic character of the inquiry as a sign that Plato no longer adheres to the Socratic notion of philosophy as inherently dialectical (1996: 175). Michael Frede (1992, 1996) argues that the later Platonic dialogues – in particular, the Sophist, which he claims is perhaps the “most dogmatic” of Plato’s dialogues (1996: 135) – are characterized not by the disappearance of the dialogue form but rather by a different use of it: Plato retains the use of the dialogue form to distance himself from the Eleatic’s way of philosophizing.

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his comrades in Elea (Soph. 217b). To be sure, he insists that he and his interlocutor must agree on their conclusions (Soph. 218c, 221b; Plt. 258d, 277a), but this apparently means little more than that his interlocutor must come to accept, if not understand, the teaching that he is propounding (Soph. 236d; Plt. 262ab). Parmenides, of course, was no different, insisting to Young Aristotle that they “must agree” on the results of the investigation (Parm. 142b). In addition, just as Parmenides’ conversation with Young Aristotle is undertaken not to benefit Aristotle but rather to provide an example for Socrates about how philosophical investigations should be conducted, the Eleatic’s conversations with Theaetetus and Young Socrates are conducted similarly, at least in part, to make Socrates aware of the sophistic and politically dangerous character of his philosophizing.3 The Stranger explains to Socrates not only how the sophist, the statesman, and the philosopher are understood by his comrades in Elea but also how to become a better dialectician. He does so in a manner that appears to be Socratic because of the presence of Socrates. Despite preferring to give a lengthy speech, the Stranger implies that he can present his doctrines through questions and answers provided his respondent is sufficiently tractable. To be sure, employing a tractable partner does avoid some of the risks associated with Socratic conversations. It is unlikely, for instance, that Young Socrates will be provoked the way that Callicles is provoked by Socrates in the Gorgias. This is not entirely a function of the Eleatic’s preference for a tractable interlocutor, however; it is equally significant that the Eleatic’s manner of questioning is less provocative than Socrates’. The Eleatic, as Catherine Zuckert points out, “proposes a statement or alternatives and asks his interlocutor whether he agrees.” He does not ask for his interlocutor’s opinion in order to reveal his ignorance and reduce him to aporia, as Socrates so often does (2009: 687). Of course, Socratic dialectic aims to improve its participants ethically as well as intellectually, and admitting ignorance about the most important questions is the first step in discovering the truth about them. The Eleatic’s dialectic, in contrast, aims to improve only the faculty of dividing into kinds. Socrates would charge that the Eleatic’s mode of conversing therefore fails to truly improve his interlocutors. 3 That

Parmenides in fact did not benefit Young Aristotle is evident from the fact that he is reported by Thucydides to be one of the Thirty Tyrants who governed Athens after her defeat by Sparta (see Nails 2002: 57–8).

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Several scholars, however, contend that the Eleatic in the Sophist and the Statesman does in fact try to improve his interlocutors. He is said to engage in the weaving of moderate and manly characteristic of the true statesman, emboldening Theaetetus and moderating Young Socrates.4 Although we know from the prologue to the Theaetetus that the young mathematician will suffer greatly in military service to Athens (142b), the Stranger takes no credit for his bravery: He claims that he has come to know Theaetetus and that his nature would improve over time, “even without the speeches from us” (Soph. 265de). By contrast, Socrates remarks in the Theaetetus that Theaetetus will be better served in his future “on account of the present review” (Tht. 210c) and not because he has studied with Theodorus, who was already full of praise for the young mathematician (143e–44b). Moreover, the claim that Theaetetus has been emboldened by the Stranger is undermined by the end of the dialogue: In the last diairesis, the Stranger asks Theaetetus whether the sophisticated, ironic imitator should be further subdivided to discover the sophist. The young mathematician demurs and insists that the Stranger make the final division. The resulting distinction – between the sophist and the popular speaker [!)  ] – is one that Theaetetus is still not bold enough to guess (Soph. 268a11). Similarly, there is little evidence that the Stranger tames Young Socrates’ manliness or impetuosity, although he may try (263d; cf. 293a, 299e). As Gerald Mara notes, the Stranger takes no credit for improving Young Socrates’ character but rather only his ability to divide according to kinds (1981: 378, n40). These differences in philosophical method are significant, but more significant are the different beliefs that Socrates and the Eleatic have about the world that philosophy attempts to understand.5 In many ways, the Eleatic’s myth in the Statesman explains as much about his philosophy as it does his politics. Whereas in the Statesman, the myth illuminates the conditions faced by human beings in the Age of Zeus, his approach to philosophy – as evident in both the Sophist and the Statesman – is 4 See,

for example, Dorter 1999 and Miller 2004. is obviously an abbreviated treatment; see Zuckert (2009, especially 681–92) for a longer discussion. Because I am focusing primarily on Socratic politics, I emphasize his explicitly political conversations: the Republic, the Apology, and the Gorgias. In the first, Socrates engages in his lengthiest discussion of political life; the second presents Socrates’ only public statement about his activity; and, in the last, Socrates suggests that he is the only one in Athens who possesses the art of politics. The tension between Socrates’ account of politics in the Republic and the way he acts in the Socratic dialogues is discussed well by Mary Nichols (1987, e.g., 36–7) and Gerald Mara (1997, especially chap. 4).

5 This

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connected to his depiction of the universe in the Age of Zeus as lacking in order. Although the Eleatic does refer to a ), this relatively frequent usage perhaps serves to highlight the fact that the universe can be said to be a “cosmos” – that is, ordered – only when the god rules the world (273e).6 In the absence of the god, the whole tries to remember its old order, but it does so with increasing difficulty as it dissolves into a sea of dissimilarity (273cd). In the Age of Zeus, according to the Eleatic, the whole is not only changing but also decaying and losing its order. The god has made the universe in such a way as to be indestructible – for he returns when it is about to be destroyed – but it is not, in his absence, wholly intelligible. This understanding of the whole underlies the Eleatic’s “parricide” in the Sophist, in which he presents an understanding of being to rival that proposed by “father” Parmenides. The Eleatic claims that reality is not an undivided One but rather consists of various kinds of beings, some of which mix together and some of which do not (254bc). Whereas Parmenides suggested that all being was one, the Eleatic asserts that being exists only in differentiated kinds, participating not only in rest and sameness but also in motion and otherness. Emphasizing the way in which being participates in sameness, the Eleatic is firmly opposed to those who, like Heraclitus, insist that everything is in flux and that the beings are therefore unknowable. Things are not constantly in motion; they partake equally of rest. However, things still do not exist in themselves, simply being a certain kind, because they participate equally in difference, in not-being certain other kinds. The remnants of the divine order allow us to have partial, although never complete, knowledge, according to the Eleatic. Socrates would agree that we cannot have complete knowledge of the world we encounter, insofar as it is the realm of becoming rather than of being (e.g., Rep. 525b ff.). However, the Eleatic does not posit the existence of immaterial and unchanging “forms” that, in theory, can be known in themselves, and he in fact criticizes those who, like Socrates, argue in this way (Soph. 248a). Because the whole is unstable and thus unknowable, the Eleatic suggests that we should not define things in themselves but only in relation, or contrast, to other things.7 It is not, the 6 See

269d7, e8; 272e5; 273a1, b7, d4, e3, e7; 274a4, d7. These refer generally although not always to the condition of the universe under the god’s control. 7 Socrates would not disagree that the things of this world are unknowable, but he posits – unlike the Stranger – a realm of being that is stable and unchanging and to which we have some access.

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Eleatic tells Theaetetus, because of “its own nature” [' C; # ] that we can identify each kind but rather because of how each kind participates in the “look” [] of difference (Soph. 255e5). As a result, he depicts the relationships between kinds as constructed rather than inherent. This explains how the Eleatic can employ the same method and yet arrive at different definitions of the same thing, such as the various definitions of the sophist and the longer and shorter ways of finding the statesman. Much depends on which “difference” he chooses to focus. In other words, philosophy consists less in trying to know the forms or things as they are, as it does for Socrates, and more in stamping [   0 ] forms on the things that we encounter by separating them from everything else (Plt. 258c5). The Eleatic’s kind of philosophy has a productive dimension that is missing from Socratic (or, I would argue, Aristotelian) philosophizing. The Eleatic Stranger’s focus on being and its various kinds seems to come at the cost of excluding questions of the value of the various kinds of being. This is, however, another way in which his doctrine is Eleatic. In conversing with the elder Socrates many years earlier, Parmenides had accused him of doing just what the Eleatic Stranger now forbids. Socrates was sure of the existence of the forms of justice, beauty, and the good (Parm. 130b), and Parmenides therefore accused him of giving too much attention to people’s opinions about the good and noble.8 Because of his youth, Parmenides charged, Socrates followed common opinion, but he predicted that as Socrates aged and philosophy took hold of him, he would cease esteeming such forms above all others (130c–e).9 Socrates’ premature concern with questions about the beautiful, the just, and the good, according to Parmenides, put his philosophical development at risk (135cd). The Stranger likewise argues that true dialectical improvement comes from a philosophical method that emphasizes questions of like/dislike rather than noble/base. According to the Stranger, the most fundamental genera are being, rest, motion, sameness, and difference (Soph. 254e ff.). Philosophy therefore consists of a sorting of things according to their kinds, recognizing 8 Plato’s Socrates presents his argument about the ideas as no more than a hypothesis in the

Phaedo, but it is a hypothesis to which he has adhered over the course of approximately thirty conversations and fifty years. See Paul Stern 2008: 297 ff. 9 Rosen notes the important qualification that Parmenides tells Socrates only that he should “not dishonor low things,” which is different from the Stranger’s injunction to “disregard the honorable altogether” (1983: 119, n1).

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both their similarities and their differences. However, this sorting proceeds according to whether things are similar or dissimilar, not according to the relative worth of the things in question. The Socratic principles of noble/base, good/bad, and beautiful/ugly are not mentioned by the Stranger in this context, who is explicit in both the Sophist and the Statesman that his investigation takes its bearings not from questions of noble or base but rather from questions of like or dislike. In the Sophist, the Eleatic considers two kinds of methods of division [   ] and, in doing so, distinguishes his own kind of dialectic from that of Socrates. One method – here unnamed – of dividing is that of the Eleatic, which distinguishes like from like. The other kind of division – that in which Socrates engages – attempts to distinguish better from worse. The Stranger denies that this kind of division is dialectical or philosophical; it is rather a kind of purification [0)] (226d10). Purification attempts to improve the soul or body of others, which relies on being able to distinguish better conditions of the body or soul from worse conditions. It does not care, according to the Stranger, whether the improvement is significant (227ab). Bodies of soulless as well as ensouled beings can be purified, and they can be purified by means both high and low. Gymnastics and medicine are kinds of purification but so are cosmetics and bathing.10 People may laugh at some of these arts, but the Stranger is not among them: No art is more or less laughable. The attempt to acquire understanding of the different arts requires trying to understand the arts in terms of only similarity and dissimilarity, and it therefore honors all of them equally. The general’s art is no more honorable than that of a louse catcher, although the general is vainer (227ab). Although the Stranger distinguishes arts on the basis of what they cure (i.e., soul or body) and how they do so, he insists that we should not distinguish these arts on the basis of honor or even on how much the cure benefits us.11 After Theaetetus accepts these divisions and the methodological restriction, the Stranger divides the purification of souls into two kinds. Just as the body can be cured of illness or ugliness, the soul also can be cured of both wickedness and ignorance. One kind of purification, therefore, is like gymnastics and attempts to improve the 10 Socrates denies that cosmetics is an art, calling it instead a knack that imitates gymnastics

(Grg. 465bc). Stranger thus suggests – at least here – an equivalence between care of the soul and care of the body that Socrates rejects (e.g., Grg. 477cd). Aristotle also elevates the good of the soul above that of the body (e.g., Pol. 1323b16–21; NE 1098b12–22).

11 The

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soul by curing it of vices such as hubris, cowardice, and injustice through a kind of punishment. The other kind is like medicine and cures the soul of its ignorance, and it is this that the Stranger calls the art of instruction and claims to provide (228e29a).12 The art of purification of souls through refutation is eventually revealed to be the province of “noble and grand” sophists (231b), whereas the ability to distinguish properly one species from another, to separate like from like, and to cure ignorance is revealed to be philosophy (253c ff.). This kind of philosophy, of course, is different from Socratic philosophy. Socrates investigates things like virtue, courage, moderation, knowledge, justice, and beauty. He is interested primarily in these ideas and discusses the nature of being only insofar as it is necessary to understand them. For Socrates, the form of the good is not only beyond being (Rep. 509b) but also is, in fact, the cause of everything that is true and beautiful (517c–d).13 The good becomes a more fundamental category than being for Socrates; therefore, he suggests, no one can engage successfully in dialectic without having attained knowledge of the form of the good (534bc). Socrates attempts to know – although he never claims to achieve this knowledge – the things in themselves (e.g., Rep. 506a, 537d). The Eleatic Stranger, in both his account of the whole and his statement that the kinds of being participate in both motion and otherness, suggests that things must be defined in relation to what they are not. By insisting that he seeks what always is and never passes away (Rep. 527b), Socrates indicates a desire for knowledge that is secure and unchanging. Such knowledge cannot be based on what is in flux (Rep. 529b–d). In the Republic, for instance, Socrates seeks to understand what justice is in and of itself, stripped of its consequences (354b; cf. 367b, 435b). To be sure, Socrates arrives at a definition of justice by distinguishing the other virtues in the city and then identifying the remainder as justice (432d). However, he immediately proposes that this definition must be 12 The

Stranger’s divisions here closely resemble those of Socrates in the Gorgias (464bc). Socrates, however, does not treat these arts equally. He differs from the Eleatic not only in distinguishing those arts that actually improve human beings from their imitations but also in giving priority to those that improve the soul over those that improve the body. He himself, although he acknowledges that medicine and gymnastics do improve the body (and perhaps the soul as well; Rep. 411e–12a), practices only the arts that attempt to improve the soul. 13 Aristotle, of course, has his own critique of relying on the form of the good (NE 1096a11 ff.). However, he agrees with Plato and/or Socrates that an inquiry into what is good is necessary for human happiness; immediately following his criticism, he states, “[L]et us go back again to the good that is being sought” (1097a15–16).

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tested (434d ff.) and ultimately rejects this method in favor of “a longer and further road,” which he does not take in the dialogue (435d). His consideration of injustice is intended less to understand justice better than to show his interlocutors that justice is better than injustice (444e– 45a, 543c–44b). His knowledge of these things, or his attempt to know them, is not in relation to other things – even their opposites – but as they are in themselves.14 The Eleatic Stranger not only never endorses the Socratic claim that the form of the good is central to proper dialectical method, but he also claims (in the Sophist) that the beautiful or noble and just have no greater share in being than their opposites, that is, the ugly or base and unjust (257d–58a). The Eleatic’s methodology offers no reason to prioritize some questions over others, whereas Socrates emphasizes that his troublesome inquiries have been an attempt to discover “the noble and the good” [  /0] (Apol. 21d4). When Socrates interrogated the craftsmen of Athens, he learned that they knew their crafts but lacked knowledge – as well as knowledge of their ignorance – about the “greatest things” [6 ) ] (22d7). Acquiring knowledge of these things, he insisted, was most important for human beings; ignorance about them was cause for great concern. More important, the Eleatic Stranger, in separating the kinds of purification, distinguishes two evils of the soul – ignorance and vice – that Socrates believes are connected, pointing to a substantive as well as methodological dispute. By distinguishing the cures for vices like injustice and evils like ignorance, the Stranger thus denies the key Socratic claim that the virtues require knowledge and, indeed, that knowledge is what unites the various virtues. Socrates’ attempt to learn about the opinions of his interlocutors is related to his belief that it is only by directly engaging them that they can admit their ignorance and thus be improved (Apol. 29e–30a; e.g., Men. 75d).15 The Socratic method – which the Eleatic’s method resembles in appearance but not in purpose – is designed to cure the soul of both ignorance and vice, which he believes are related.16 14 In

discussing justice, Aristotle acknowledges that sometimes we come to learn about our active conditions, including virtues and vices, through their opposites (NE 1129a17–21). If he differs from Socrates in this, however, he also differs from the Eleatic Stranger by immediately distinguishing between good and bad conditions. For Aristotle, what we learn from the study of contraries seems to be the first rather than only step. 15 Socrates in the Apology here emphasizes not only his service but also his particular care for Athens and her citizens, in contrast to the itinerant Eleatic Stranger. 16 Cf. NE 1145b21–27. Ronna Burger (2008) argues that despite appearances, Aristotle eventually comes to accept the Socratic claim that virtue is knowledge. Although

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Whereas the Eleatic distinguishes between the cure for ignorance and the cure for vice, Socratic conversations aim to cure both ills of the soul at once. However, the Meno should remind us of the undesirable consequences of Socrates’ attempt to benefit his fellow citizens. According to Xenophon’s Anabasis, Meno learned little from conversing with Socrates: Employing deceit against those who believed him their friend, Meno sought to do injustice without punishment.17 This is, of course, what Socrates considers to be the worst outcome for an unjust person (Grg. 469bc, 479e). According to Xenophon’s source, Meno met with a brutal fate: Unlike his other conspirators against Artaxerxes, who were swiftly beheaded, Meno was tortured for a year. Other sources do not disagree about Meno’s character; however, they suggest that Meno’s life was spared – but only because he was willing to betray his fellow Greeks. Both accounts, therefore, confirm that he learned little about virtue from his conversation with Socrates. More pertinent, the conversation between Socrates and Meno depicted by Plato is interrupted by Anytus, one of Socrates’ three accusers – perhaps the most influential of them (Apol. 36a). Although Anytus is already angry when he enters, Socrates does nothing to assuage him. Socrates’ parting request that Meno calm Anytus apparently goes unheeded. Socrates’ investigations into the good and beautiful frequently fail to benefit his interlocutors, and they often result in angry withdrawals from the conversation. The Eleatic Stranger would not be surprised by this outcome. As he informs both the young and old Socrates, a city cannot tolerate its laws being questioned. Although he criticizes existing regimes for their lack of knowledge, he still counsels obedience to their laws as a necessary second sailing in the absence of the true statesman. He therefore charges that Socrates, rather than improving his fellow Athenians, has made the city worse by his questioning, which has the effect of undermining the laws. The real surprise, therefore, is not the execution of Socrates but rather how long it takes Athens to put him on trial. According to the Eleatic Stranger, Socratic philosophy – which by investigating questions of better

I disagree with her conclusion, her interpretation of the Nicomachean Ethics as Aristotle’s “dialogue with Socrates” reveals much about Aristotle’s understanding of virtuous action, and I hope my use of the Eleatic Stranger as Aristotle’s foil in the Politics does the same. 17 My account of Meno’s life draws on Nails 2002: 204–5.

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and worse reveals the ignorance of those who lead the community – is a danger to the political community as well as, eventually, its practitioners.

Socrates and Statesmanship Socrates believed that it was only through questioning individuals that he could help them become aware of their own ignorance about the greatest things and, becoming so aware, they could join him in an effort to seek the truth about these things, for there is no greater good in life. Such questioning, as he notes in the Apology (29cd), was not a violation of the laws of Athens. Indeed, Socrates presents himself throughout his first speech as the most law-abiding of Athenians. However, he was fully aware of the risks inherent in his practice (Apol. 21cd, 28a; Grg. 522bc; cf. 486bc), which indicates that he did not believe that preserving his own life is the greatest good. In the various Platonic dialogues recounting his trial, imprisonment, and death, Socrates insists that behaving justly is far better than preserving his life (e.g., Apol. 32a, 38e–39a; Grg. 512e–13a). No human being is immortal, and what matters is the condition of the soul at the end of life (Apol. 30b, 35a; Grg. 512e–13a; Rep. 621c). This does not mean that Socrates eagerly courted death: Fully aware of the dangers of opposing the regime – especially the multitude (Apol. 31de) – he avoided what we commonly call politics and instead practiced his “political” art by questioning people in private (36bc). The stated purpose of these interrogations was to make his fellow citizens better by encouraging them to care for their soul (30b). For Socrates, unlike the Eleatic Stranger, the purpose of politics is the education of souls and the acquisition of virtue, and preservation is subordinate to that end (Grg. 515c). In the Republic, Socrates even recommends allowing bodies with an incurably bad soul to die (Rep. 410a). This understanding of the purpose of politics is why Socrates asserts, in the Gorgias, that the reputed great statesmen of Athens in fact failed to be statesmen: They did not improve the Athenians. Pericles, Themistocles, Cimon, and Miltiades made the Athenians safer; they expanded the Athenian empire and made Athens wealthier (Grg. 502e ff.).18 However, they failed to make the citizens better, as is evidenced by the way 18 Friedrich

Schleiermacher connected Socrates’ indictment of these Athenian leaders to “the great mass of modern politicians, whose highest problem is ever only how they may increase the public wealth” (1836: 269). This would point back to the Aristotelian

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they were treated by those same people (Grg. 517b). It is not that these leaders lacked any skill or knowledge; they were excellent servants of the people, as is evidenced by the reputation they enjoyed. However, they did not fulfill what Socrates believed to be the true task of statesmanship: improving the souls of the people (Grg. 464b).19 A fundamental difference between Socrates and the Eleatic Stranger is that Socrates believes that these Athenian leaders could never have been genuine statesmen. It is not only the end that they pursued but also the means they choose – that is, speaking to the multitude (Grg. 503a). Politics, for Socrates, is inherently individual: It is only through the interrogation and refutation of a person’s own opinions that he can realize his ignorance about the greatest things and begin to pursue virtue. Socrates’ attempt to practice what he calls in the Gorgias the true art of politics [L / !0:    ,] is directed at individuals, to encourage them to pursue what is truly best rather than what simply appears to be good (Grg. 521d). For the Eleatic, by contrast, politics is about dealing with human beings in groups, if not herds (Plt. 263c, 294d– 95b). The kind of questioning of individuals that the Eleatic claims is not only philosophically suspect but also politically subversive is fundamental to Socrates’ political art. Socrates also suggests that the interrogations of individuals are part of what enables him to acquire the knowledge necessary to practice his own political art, the knowledge of the human soul. It is suggested at the conclusion of the Phaedrus that rhetoricians must understand the soul before they can attempt to help people acquire virtue (270c–71a; cf. Grg. 453a).20 One of the commonly recognized flaws of the definition of justice in the Republic is that Socrates speaks at length about the soul without ever saying what it is.21 The Stranger’s statesman has no knowledge of the soul and, therefore – as argued herein – little interest in improving it. For Socrates, however, politics is fundamentally about caring for souls, and it is only by confronting one’s own beliefs that one’s criticism of the Eleatic Stranger’s blurring of the difference between household management and politics, as well as the confusion about the importance of acquisition to both kinds of rule. 19 We could fairly ask whether Socrates had much more success: In the Gorgias, he himself notes that he only attempts to practice the true art of politics (521d7). Both Plato and Xenophon, however, bear witness to the fact that the historical Socrates’ conversations were not fruitless. 20 In the Gorgias, Socrates learns more about Callicles’ soul than either of the two rhetoricians with whom he presumably has been studying. 21 See, for example, Stanley Rosen (2005: 58, 70–1, 148).

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soul can be improved and self-knowledge can be acquired (Grg. 472b, 495e; Apol. 30ab; cf. Phdr. 229e). He asks other Athenians to do the same thing to him (and his sons; Apol. 41e) that he does to them (Apol. 26a). The purpose of political communities – that is, making citizens better – can be achieved only through individual conversations. In the Gorgias, Socrates claims to be the one Athenian alive who attempts to practice politics [   6   6] (521d7–8). Yet, he suggests that there are two different kinds of the political art: The legislative art is comparable to the care of the body through gymnastics, and justice is comparable to the care of the body through medicine.22 The former arts presumably aim to keep bodies and souls in good condition, but the latter arts improve them once they are ill (464bc). Yet, Socrates, as presented in the Platonic dialogues, seems to practice only the latter art. For him, politics is not fundamentally legislative but rather corrective. Laws can inculcate only habits and not true virtue.23 It is through Socrates’ art of punishment through refutation – what he describes as justice, one part of the political art – that people’s souls can be improved and avoid the necessary punishment in the afterlife (Grg. 525b ff.). Being justly punished is good for people because it releases them from immoderation and injustice (Grg. 477a–78d). This is profitable, if unpleasant, and it seemingly cannot be done through legislation: It is best to be free of evil in the soul but second best to be released from it. In the Republic, Socrates actually proposes very few laws (412b, 425b ff.; cf. Pol. 1264b26–65a2). In particular, what Socrates calls the “greatest, fairest, and first” of laws – those regarding religious matters – are left unlegislated (427b).24 The reason for this, he says, is that healthy political communities will have no need of many laws and unhealthy communities will not benefit from them (427a). However, there is a more significant problem with laws: Like rhetoric – which, in the Gorgias, is presented as an imitation of legislation – laws cannot teach;

22 The

Stranger, of course, considered the gymnastics of the soul to cure ignorance and the medicine of the soul to cure vice. For Socrates, both gymnastics and medicine have analogues that cure the soul of vice. 23 The Eleatic Stranger would not disagree with Socrates on this point. However, unlike Socrates, he does not propose anything beyond the laws for the education of citizens and certainly not a philosophical education culminating in the form of the good. 24 Socrates, however, proposes the laws regarding the education of the guardians, which would be of the utmost importance to the city.

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they can only persuade.25 Socrates’ own statements later in the Republic suggest that people who act rightly only on the basis of law are, in fact, not virtuous (Rep. 518de); in the myth of Er, such people are revealed to choose the worst kind of life (619cd). To become truly virtuous requires acquiring self-knowledge, which is acquired only through the punitive, refutative political art practiced by Socrates, not through legislation. For Socrates, making people better means helping them acquire selfknowledge, which brings with it the remainder of the virtues. Although he never explains fully how the various virtues relate to one another, Socrates does assert a unity of the various virtues, linked together by knowledge or phron¯esis (Rep. 484d ff., 522ab).26 Power without knowledge is not good for a person; neither are any of the things usually called good, such as wealth (Grg. 466e–67a). Indeed, the good is the cause of all our actions: We always act in pursuit of what we believe to be good. It is only when we have knowledge of the good, however, that we in fact can act in the best way possible. To acquire fully the various virtues is a difficult task: It requires the correct education and habituation from birth, as well as engaging in dialectic (Rep. 518d ff., 619cd). The Eleatic Stranger, of course, suggests that citizens will be unable to possess both courage as well as moderation because he believes that those virtues are naturally opposed. According to the Eleatic, it is only those skilled in eristics – like Socrates – who present them as unified (Plt. 306a). The Eleatic thus presents the statesman’s task as ameliorating the natural conflict between moderate and manly through both divine and human bonds. For Socrates, however, such a conflict is far from inevitable. Due to their love of wisdom, philosophers will possess all the cardinal virtues: wisdom, moderation, courage, and justice (Rep. 485b ff.). Indeed, even those who will be auxiliaries also are required to have both courage and moderation in some form and presumably without knowledge (375d–76c). The fundamental political conflict for Socrates does not arise from the tension between moderate and manly. Although Socrates does not believe that courage and moderation cause the problems in the city, he does identify two problematic passions all

25 Socrates’ belief that rhetoric cannot teach [>   ] echoes the Eleatic’s descrip-

tion of orators as having the duty to persuade but not to teach [)'  6  ,] (Grg. 455a1; cf. Plt. 304d1–2). 26 See especially Prot. 329c6–d2 and Laches 198a1–b2.

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but ignored by the Stranger: thumos (spirit) and desire (eros).27 Neither term appears in the Statesman but, according to Socrates, these passions – which are not virtues – are perhaps the fundamental causes of political conflict.28 The excess of spirit provokes anger and perhaps rashness (Rep. 440a ff.), whereas an excess of desire is characteristic of the tyrant (578a). It is also, of course, characteristic of the philosopher: Socrates claims to know little more than ta erotika, the erotic things (Symp. 177d). However, because he – unlike the Stranger – recognizes these passions as potentially problematic, Socrates recommends ways of educating people so that these passions can be tamed and put into the service of the community. Spirit is to be joined to the calculating part of the soul (Rep. 441a), and desire is to be turned toward a good greater than the hedonistic (403a ff.). Ideally, both the spirited love of honor and the erotic desires would be directed toward the truth, making one a philosopher and thereby mitigating the consequences of these passions (485b). However, it seems that eros remains and always will remain a potential problem for politics: On Socrates’ account, it is the inability to subordinate eros entirely to reason that accounts for the eventual and inevitable decline of the city in speech (Rep. 546b). It is not an external enemy or the conflict between moderate and manly natures that will destroy the city but rather something inherent in those who live in the city. Socrates introduces the guardians into the city as a response to the possibility of external threats, but the danger from other cities plays little role in the remainder of the Republic. More of the Republic is concerned with trying to avoid any division or faction among the citizens of the city in speech. Even so, according to Socrates, the best regime eventually decays. The Eleatic Stranger, by contrast, implies that the reason cities collapse is because they lack a statesman with knowledge and are governed by laws based only on experience. A regime in which the true statesman ruled would not be subject to the same decay as other regimes, according to the Eleatic. Socrates’ attention to eros and thumos also reveals a concern with what motivates human beings to act in certain ways. Socrates famously remains in prison because he believes that it is best to do so, that to do otherwise 27 Rosen suggests that Glaucon is reflective of eros and Adeimantus of thumos, and concludes

that the Republic is a demonstration of the impossibility of satisfying the philosophic eros (2005: 8, 82). Philosophers both do and do not desire to rule. 28 The Eleatic refers to eros once in the Sophist (222e3), asserting that erotic expertise – that which Socrates claims in the Symposium to have – is no more than the hunting of lovers by means of gifts.

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would be unjust, and not because of the way that the bones and muscles in his body are arranged (Phd. 98cd). He is concerned with understanding human purposes, which requires looking past particular behaviors and interrogating individuals to understand why they behave as they do. It is only in this way that Socrates can help people to see what they are seeking and how it differs from what they truly desire, what is truly good. In investigating the various arts, however, the Eleatic seems to be unconcerned with what motivates human beings. He does not ask, for instance, why the sophist engages in the production of images, why the statesman would want to acquire political knowledge, or even why he himself philosophizes.29 Socrates, however, explains that insofar as the greatest of evils is being inconsistent with oneself about the greatest good (Grg. 482bc), the purpose of his dialectical conversations is that he – as well as those with whom he converses – may be released from the evil of ignorance (458a). Socrates philosophizes, in short, because it is good. A final significant difference between Socrates and the Eleatic Stranger, then, is about the role of philosophy in politics. For the Stranger, as discussed herein, the two are different: Philosophy takes little interest in politics, and good politics does not require philosophy. The Eleatic denies that dialectic is dependent on the study of the good, and he claims that statesmen do not need to engage in dialectic.30 For Socrates, of course, matters are quite different. Socrates believes that philosophy is necessary for rulers to be good rulers. It is only through practicing dialectic – with a focus on learning about the form of the good – that rulers can come to know what is truly rather than apparently good and advantageous (Rep. 505a, 520c). In the absence of this knowledge, what appears to be virtue is merely good habit and true opinion (518de, Grg. 466e–68b). Yet, perhaps paradoxically, although Socrates believes that the best regime requires philosophers to be rulers, he does not ultimately justify 29 Socrates

by contrast suggests that sophists, like rhetoricians, are defined by their purpose – specifically, their preference for the pleasant over the good (e.g., Grg. 465a–c) – as does Aristotle (Rhet. 1355b17–18). Rosen (1983) and Gonzalez (2000) thus insist that the Eleatic, who ignores questions of motivation, therefore will be unable to define the sophist accurately. The Eleatic may be able to describe the activity of a sophist, but he will not be able to account for why one might engage in the activity. 30 Many commentators (e.g., Stern, 1997), of course, associate the statesman’s knowledge with dialectic, but this assumes that there is a connection between the statesman and the philosopher – a connection that the Eleatic himself denies at the beginning of the Sophist. The dialectical science as presented in the Sophist, after all, is one that separates, whereas the political science of the Statesman binds together.

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their rule on the basis of their knowledge but rather on their character. He concludes – and reasonably so in light of his skepticism elsewhere about philosophers ever possessing wisdom rather than desiring it – that philosophers are the best rulers because their love of wisdom prevents them from desiring political power (Rep. 521ab). It is the knowledge that there is something greater than ruling that makes them “most prudent” [  ) ], and this prudence is what brings together all of the virtues. Socrates suggests in the Gorgias that a moderate soul will possess all of the other virtues: It will be just, pious, courageous, and thus happy (507ab).31 In contrast to the Eleatic’s argument, Socrates contends that philosophers ought to rule on the basis of their character as much as on the basis of their knowledge. Indeed, the Eleatic gives little attention to the character of the statesman, but Socrates believes that possession as well as knowledge of the virtues is necessary to make citizens virtuous and thereby fulfill the true purpose of politics. In the absence of such character and knowledge, Socrates believes, politics is limited in what it can accomplish. As the beginning of the Republic reveals, it is not always possible to persuade people, particularly if they refuse to listen. Socrates claims in the Apology that he could have persuaded the jury to exculpate him (37ab) had he been willing to act unjustly. However, he would have been unable to teach them about the nature of justice in such a brief time (37ab). The Eleatic Stranger, by contrast, suggests no limitations on the efficacy of the orator who works under the statesman’s direction; however, this may be because he believes that the orator’s work is no more than to persuade people to hold certain opinions, not to help them acquire knowledge. We should not be surprised by these differences between Socrates’ and the Stranger’s understandings of politics. The Sophist, which takes place immediately before the Statesman, began with the Stranger’s assertion that the philosopher, the sophist, and the statesman possess three distinct kinds of knowledge or kinds of art, although they often are difficult to distinguish (Soph. 217ab). For the Stranger, philosophy is always different from statesmanship; Socratic philosophy, precisely because of 31 Wisdom

is not mentioned here, although Socrates insists later that intelligence [;] is necessary to live a good life (511bc). The reason for the absence of wisdom is the presence of Callicles, who has already indicated his disdain for the philosophic life (484c ff.). Socrates therefore claims to present only the speech of Zethus rather than Amphion (506b; cf. 485e); in Euripides’ lost Antiope, Amphion defended the contemplative life against his brother’s praise of the active life. Socrates is quite clearly arguing on Callicles’ terms.

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its proximity to politics, is not statesmanship but rather a destabilizing sophistry (Plt. 299b–d). By contrast, Socrates proclaims in the Gorgias that he is the only Athenian even trying to practice the true statesman’s art (521d7–8), indicating a close connection between philosophy and politics that also is suggested by the notion of the “philosopher–kings” (Rep. 473d). In the Timaeus, Socrates wonders what men who are “philosophers and statesmen” [@)   . . .    :] would do in time of war (19e). For this reason, I disagree with those who ascribe the last line of the Statesman – an endorsement of the Stranger’s definition of the political art – to the elder Socrates.32 Socrates would not praise the Stranger for a definition of statesmanship, as well as of politics, that diverges so greatly from his own. I suggest, therefore, that the last line be ascribed to Young Socrates. At the end of the Sophist, Theaetetus praises the Stranger for his definition of the sophist.33 Because Socrates refrained from approving that definition, it is unlikely that he would approve of the definition of the statesman, which is so starkly opposed to his understanding of politics.

Aristotle’s Critique of Socrates in Light of the Statesman Despite what I have argued about the importance of the Statesman to the Politics, Aristotle’s more famous critique of Plato’s political theory, of course, is the criticism of the Republic with which he opens Book II. However, I believe that appreciating Aristotle’s criticism of the Eleatic Stranger can help us better understand his criticism of Socrates’ proposals, which often puzzle commentators.34 Most important, recognizing the 32 For

instance, Rowe (1995: ad loc. 310c7–8). Gonzalez observes, both the Sophist and the Parmenides – that is, the other Eleatic dialogues – conclude with approving remarks of young interlocutors, Theaetetus and Young Aristotle, respectively (2000: 177, n50). It would make sense, therefore, for the Statesman to conclude with Young Socrates’ approval. 34 For instance, Trevor Saunders complains that Aristotle shows no “awareness . . . of the elements of fantasy, satire, and irony common in literary utopias” like Plato’s Republic (1995: 105). Simpson counters that “it was never [Aristotle’s] intention to comment on the Republic as such but rather to examine those things in it that Plato makes Socrates say about the best regime as such. So if Aristotle, in pursuit of his own intention to study politics, finds things in the Republic that are improper to a discussion of the best regime, that does not mean he must find them improper to Plato’s intention” (1998: 93, n37). Michael Davis likewise insists that Aristotle’s criticisms are of “the republic and not the Republic” (1996: 40). Yet, as Darrell Dobbs notes, nowhere else in Aristotle’s corpus does he make such an extensive critique of a Platonic dialogue (1985: 31); therefore, Dobbs argues that Aristotle must address the most unique part of the Republic (i.e., the 33 As

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difference between Aristotle and the Eleatic Stranger highlights for us a fundamental similarity between Aristotle and Socrates. Whatever their differences on the proper political institutions, they agree – and both disagree with the Eleatic – about the purpose of politics: Politics exists primarily for the sake of the good life of the soul. The institutions of the best regime, therefore, should be constructed with a view to fostering the excellence of citizens’ souls. It is, in fact, Aristotle’s insistence that politics achieve the good life of the soul that animates several of his concerns in Book II. It is not that Socrates is incorrect about the proper end of politics but rather, according to Aristotle, that the means he recommends prevent its attainment. In his criticism of the communism of women and children as well as that of property, Aristotle observes that these institutions prevent human beings from practicing certain virtues – namely, moderation and liberality. Because they are constituent parts of human excellence and perfection, a regime that prevents their development is problematic, especially when that regime claims to aim at virtue. Aristotle also objects to the destruction of the family, a community that he believes is natural and – through speech about justice and the good – contributes to political life. Whereas Socrates perceives eros as a threat to the order of the city-in-speech and therefore recommends the abolition of the family in order to ameliorate its effects, Aristotle indicates that the community of husband and wife is essential to the creation of the polis and that it continues to have a role in human development even once the polis has been brought into existence.35 For Aristotle, the household contributes – or at least can contribute – to the common good of the polis more than it undermines the polis; human beings develop their capacity for speaking and arguing about the just, good, and advantageous in the household as well as in the polis. The early education provided by the household is essential to the acquisition of virtue later in life. Eliminating the household does more than eliminate eros – although Aristotle charges it will fail even to do

philosopher–kings) and that he does so by showing how the institutions prescribed by Socrates prevent the development of the philosopher–king. 35 For Aristotle, the household comes about for the sake of providing what is necessary for daily life, but it seems to have another cause in the simple desire of male and female to be together not only for procreation but also friendship (NE 1162a16–19). Socrates and the Eleatic Stranger, however, both suggest that the polis arises in response to human neediness rather than eros; whereas the Eleatic ignores its power, Socrates tries to eliminate it. See Rosen 2005: 72–6.

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that (Pol. 1262a32–37) – and the overall impact is negative rather than positive. Fostering virtue is important to both Aristotle and Socrates, but Aristotle charges Socrates with limiting rather than promoting its development by removing the possibility for moderation and liberality with respect to women and possessions, respectively, and by removing the household as a locus for ethical education and habituation.36 The importance of virtue also is evident in Aristotle’s disagreement with Socrates about who should rule. In the Republic, Socrates argues that those who are in charge of the polis must have a certain virtuous character, eventually concluding that the guardians originally introduced as the rulers of the kallipolis must be replaced by philosopher–kings, who have virtue as well as – perhaps because of – knowledge. Aristotle’s disagreement is not with the claim that only those with virtue should have political authority but rather with the insistence of Socrates that only philosophers can have the virtues. Aristotle, as we have seen, believes that certain multitudes possess the necessary virtue for sharing in rule of a city, and he never asserts that philosophical wisdom is necessary for holding the highest offices of a city. The virtue of phron¯esis is one that requires experience and, although Socrates suggests that the philosopher–kings would have experience (Rep. 484d, 539e), he emphasizes instead the study of the form of the good and “experience of truth” as necessary for rulers (519bc). Aristotle, by contrast, emphasizes the way in which experience is a necessary constituent – perhaps more than study – of phron¯esis, the virtue that allows one to rule well a city, a household, or a private life. Indeed, whereas both Aristotle and Plato’s Socrates insist that the statesman or ruler must know about the soul, they differ with regard to the precision with which the soul must be known. Socrates repeatedly suggests that both rhetoric and statesmanship require knowing not only about the soul in general but also the particular soul of individuals. Aristotle, by contrast, indicates that the statesman must know about the soul but only to the extent necessary for political life. It is sufficient if a statesman’s understanding of the soul reflects what is well said in popular discourse (e.g., that it is divided into rational and irrational parts) (NE 1102a18– 32). The whole truth about the soul is not necessary for political life.37 36 Despite

the need for legislation that helps citizens become virtuous, Aristotle believes that the household has an important role in whether we become virtuous (NE 1180a29 ff.). 37 Aristotle begins the De Anima by acknowledging the difficulty of coming to understand the soul (402a10–11). In that work, as distinct from the Ethics and the Politics, Aristotle attempts to give an account of what the soul is in its nature (402a1–10).

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Whereas Socrates emphasizes an education in mathematics that culminates in the study of the form of the good, Aristotle has a much more practical study that he believes necessary for statesmen: the study of regimes, whether they exist in speech or in fact, said to be good. This is precisely what he recommends as the first step in studying politics at the end of the Nicomachean Ethics (1181b1 ff.) and what he himself undertakes in the Politics. The collection and study of constitutions undertaken by Aristotle and his students have an obvious impact on the analysis of the Politics. Aristotle even suggests that undertaking an account of the best regime without having identified the flaws in existing regimes can make one appear like a sophist (Pol. 1260b33–36; NE 1180b35 ff.). Although he obviously is familiar with the regime of Athens (as well as Sparta and Crete, see Crito 53a), such a study is not undertaken by Socrates; by contrast, the Athenian Stranger indicates that he in fact has undertaken this kind of study and encourages the citizens of Magnesia to do something similar (Leg. 950d ff.). It is not that laws are unimportant for Socrates. In the Apology, after all, he defends himself from accusations of injustice by referring to his (failed) attempt to uphold the Athenian laws in the trial of the generals after Arginusae. Indeed, Socrates also believes that the kind of laws that are upheld matters a great deal: He also highlights his refusal to obey the command to bring Leon to the Thirty Tyrants for execution (32a–d). Like Aristotle, Socrates believes that having laws is better than not having them and that the kind of laws that are enacted also is important. However, the reason that a study of existing constitutions is so critical for Aristotle – and probably for the Athenian Stranger as well – is irrelevant to Socrates’ political art. The study of existing regimes helps to determine what kind of laws help citizens to acquire virtue (NE 1180b23–25). Aristotle acknowledges that people might be better educated to virtue through private one-on-one conversations, but he also insists that the ability to provide a personal education still relies on a broader knowledge of what is true and good (1180b7–28). Possessing that knowledge enables one to care for the many as well as the few or the one. It is this kind of knowledge that he believes can be at least partially attained through the study of existing regimes and regimes in speech said to be best. Socrates, however, does not undertake such studies because the political art that he practices is directed only at individuals, not a community. As Vetter observes (2005: 87), whereas the Eleatic Stranger insists that no ruler – not even a true statesman – could ever give individual instruction

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to those under his care (295b), Socrates in the Apology claims to do precisely that (31b). Aristotle does not commit himself to whether one person, in fact, could do all of that (cf. Pol. 1285b29 ff.); he does contend, however, that paternal admonition is insufficient for making people virtuous. Although paternal admonition is indeed a great good, it is not enough: Laws are more powerful, and they have the power to compel without being hated – unlike, perhaps, the kind of conversations Socrates sees as necessary to develop virtue (NE 1180a18–24). Like most of us, Aristotle and the Eleatic Stranger understand politics to be about communities (Plt. 276b8; Pol. 1252a1), whereas Socrates understands politics to be about individuals. To state it in terms of the distinction that Socrates drew in the Gorgias, he practices only the punitive or corrective aspect of politics, not the legislative. He is more like a doctor than a trainer. However, what Socrates considers the political art is, according to Aristotle, not sufficiently political insofar as it cannot preserve, much less improve, an entire community. To make people good, more than personal admonition is required, and that requires the careful consideration of laws, education, and habituation – the very reason Aristotle moves to consider political life at the conclusion of the Nicomachean Ethics. Aristotle’s rejection of the individual focus of Socrates’ political art is, I think, related to his more well-known criticism of Socrates’ proposals in the Republic: In neither his practice nor his proposals does Socrates recognize properly the way in which politics involves a community. In practicing his political art, Socrates neglects entirely the community in favor of conversing with individuals. In his political proposals in the Republic, Aristotle argues, Socrates destroys the community in favor of an unnatural and inappropriate unity. Insofar as Socrates, in his practice, fails to recognize the communal character of politics, it is not surprising that his attempts to found a political community, even if only in speech, would suffer from a misunderstanding of what that community should be. Socrates’ failure to understand the way in which the polis should be a community is visible, according to Aristotle, in his proposals for the community of wives, children, and property. These proposals, as noted previously, would prevent the development of certain virtues, but Aristotle also holds that these institutions would reduce the city to a household or even to one person, destroying its plural character and therefore its self-sufficiency. Aristotle argues that abolishing the family would fail to achieve Socrates’ stated purpose and, in fact, would be worse than the current

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state of affairs. People would suspect their relatives on the basis of physical resemblance, and a failure to know one’s family members would add impiety to the variety of crimes that one could commit while preventing the possibility of expiation through the proper sacrifices. Moreover, Aristotle charges, the attempt to unify the city through sharing in women (and, of course, men) and children would in fact lead to less unity. The bonds that bind family members together cannot be extended to an entire community. Instead of being multiplied, the bonds among citizens are weakened. The affection that should bind a city together and prevent faction is destroyed rather than increased through abolishing the particular bonds that make a family, through trying to reduce the polis to a family. Similarly, abolishing private property would result in less care for the common property and less unity. Although both Socrates and Aristotle are aware of the way in which faction related to wealth plagues cities, Aristotle adds to this the simple empirical observation that people have more disagreements with those they encounter most. He claims, therefore, that having possessions in common would cause more disagreements among the citizens than having property in private. Having property in common also would fail to create unity because the vices associated with property would not be abolished simply because private property would be abolished.38 Aristotle wonders why Socrates would try to unify the city through a material unification rather than doing so through education – that is, through “habits, philosophy, and laws” (1263b40). Socrates’ proposals also fail to solve a more trenchant problem of division in the city. This is not, as the Eleatic would claim, that of moderate and manly but rather those who rule and those who do not. Aristotle believes that Socrates fails to specify adequately the way in which the classes other than the guardians will share in the regime. Will they share in the community of women, children, and property? If not, the result will be a city divided against itself, and the guardians will have a difficult task in persuading the class of farmers to accept their rule. If they do, why would they then be precluded from sharing in the ruling of the city? In this way, Socrates fails to achieve the requisite unity by neglecting to consider adequately the entirety of the community. More important, the radical institutions recommended in the Republic would rob us of the opportunity to practice certain virtues. They limit our 38 Much

of this analysis is presented more clearly in Aristotle’s critique of Phaleas, which follows the critique of Plato’s Laws. The criticism of Socrates is in some ways muted.

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ability to become moderate and generous, preventing faction through the impossibility of vice rather than encouraging virtue. Aristotle believes that Socrates ultimately relies more on the regulation of behavior than on the education in virtue that he so highly praises – that is, making people act justly rather than making them just (cf. Pol. 1280b8–12). Aristotle’s difference from Socrates in this regard is reflected in his verdict regarding the question of whether the city according to prayer should have walls: It should, but statesmen should not let the existence of those walls preclude citizens from developing the virtue of courage (1330b33 ff.). Socrates, in effect, attempts an excessive kind of unity and ultimately relies on institutions rather than education to achieve that incorrect unity. Aristotle begins and nearly ends his critique of the Republic by emphasizing his agreement with Socrates that a polis be a unity. However, he insists with equal vigor that the polis be the proper kind of unity – that is, a community, rather than an organic whole. A political community does require unity, but that unity is not the kind appropriate to a person, a household, or even a village. The unity appropriate to a polis requires a greater amount of diversity because it achieves its self-sufficiency not merely by living but also by living well. The self-sufficiency that makes possible the pursuit of the good life requires various kinds of people. Aristotle insists that in communities where people are equal and all deserve to share in ruling, rotation in office is necessary and just because it recognizes the contributions that each person makes to the common good. The unity of political communities results from education, habituation, and affection (Pol. 1309a33 ff., 1310a12 ff.; NE 1155a22 ff.), and Socrates’ proposals neglect these aspects.39 Turning the polis into a household or a person by attempting an excessive unity destroys rather than preserves politics. 39 Dobbs emphasizes the role played by homonoia, or like-mindedness, in Aristotle’s criticism

of Socrates (1985: 36–8). Both Aristotle and Socrates are intent on replacing the Eleatic’s weaving of moderate and manly with something more truly integrative and lasting. However, whereas Socrates tries to extend homonoia through asking citizens to say “the same things,” Aristotle recognizes it matters less whether citizens all say the same thing and more that they all – or at least the greater part of them – want the same thing: the continuance of the community (Pol. 1296b15–16). Frank puts it well: “[T]here is homonoia among citizens when they agree about the objects and ends of political life, about the laws, the specifications of justice, and the other things – advantageous and harmful, right and wrong – that it is the business of the polity to address” (2005: 175). For Aristotle, homonoia culminates in friendship among citizens (NE 1155a22 ff.); therefore, legislators encourage it. The Eleatic says little about friendship.

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Both the Eleatic Stranger and Socrates suggest that if politics is concerned with a community, it cannot have as its focus living well. Aristotle, however, insists otherwise. Aristotle agrees with the Eleatic that politics is about a community but agrees with Socrates that the end or purpose of politics is the good life. The polis may not develop in its citizens the highest forms of ethical or intellectual virtue – although Aristotle suggests that this is possible, if not likely, in the best regime – but the kind of virtue it can promote among its citizens is indeed real and valuable. On this view, the questions about justice that animate Socratic political philosophy need not be obscured, as they are by the Eleatic’s conception of statesmanship. Aristotle believes that a stable political community requires agreement on – or at least agreeable conversation about – what is just. The better a regime is, the better its conversations about justice will be. A regime that lacks conversations about justice is tyrannical and, in fact, not a regime in any meaningful way. In a criticism that occurs later in the Politics (i.e., Book V), Aristotle criticizes the degeneration of regimes that Socrates describes in Books VIII and IX of the Republic (1316a1 ff.) that reflects these earlier concerns. Socrates suggests that the city in speech declines as a result of an improperly calculated number of births, resulting in citizens who are incapable of education. This account, of course, is not intended to be historically accurate because it begins with the degeneration of a city that never existed. Aristotle treats it seriously, however, complaining that Socrates is wrong to ascribe this failure to the city in speech because it can happen in all regimes in which proper attention is not given to the education and character of citizens. Aristotle also criticizes Socrates for suggesting that the change in regimes always occurs predictably – oligarchy, for instance, into democracy and democracy into tyranny. Aristotle’s empirical study makes clear that oligarchies may change into democracies but that democracies also may revert to oligarchies. Aristotle suggests that Socrates makes this mistake because he fails not only to understand why regimes undergo revolution but also what, in fact, regimes are.40 Socrates misunderstands, for instance, what it is to be an oligarchy: It is not simply the desire for money, Aristotle argues; rather, it is more fundamentally a belief about

40 The Greek title of Plato’s Republic is, of course, EMN )] (1178a7–8).

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action better but also to act better (1179a35–b2), and to do this requires legislation. Aristotle therefore emphasizes the necessity of political life for us to lead a good contemplative life. To be sure, a good political order is necessary so that we develop the right kind of habits that make intellectual virtue possible – philosophy, after all, is easily confused with sophistry, as both Socrates and the Eleatic Stranger acknowledge – but perhaps there is more to be said about the relationship of politics to the good life.35 It is, after all, the specific difference of the political community that it has living well rather than merely living as its end, the very point with which Aristotle begins the Politics. Yet, it is not until Book VII that Aristotle engages in a dialectical discussion of what kind of life is the most choiceworthy and therefore should be the end of a well-ordered polis. As he begins to discuss the character of the regime according to prayer, Aristotle reiterates that politics should have as its primary end the good life.36 Yet, that requires us to understand what the good life is, and Aristotle makes no reference to the culmination of the Nicomachean Ethics in resolving this question.37 He does make use of what was said in the “exoteric discourses” [1   ] about the distinction between external goods and those of the body and soul (1323a22–23). He does 35 On

the need for ethical education to prevent philosophy from degenerating into sophistry, see Gerald Mara (1987). It may well be that the recognition of contemplation as our highest activity in fact requires phron¯esis and the ethical virtues on which it depends. 36 The placement of Books VII and VIII is a matter of some dispute. Some scholars – for example, Simpson (1998: 195) and W. L. Newman (2000: III.xxxiv–xxxv) – move these two books prior to what are commonly considered Books IV–VI, noting that the last sentence of Book III is almost identical to the first sentence of the traditional Book VII (1288b2–6, 1323a14–16). For a defense of the usual order of the books, see Salkever (2009: 235 ff.). 37 Like Strauss (1964: 49), Bartlett (1994b) concedes that the subordination of politics to philosophy proclaimed in the Nicomachean Ethics is masked in the Politics but contends that such concealment is necessary given the more political context of the latter work (see also 1994a). This relies on a distinction between the two works – for instance, in their audience and purpose, to say nothing of their conclusions – that I find unconvincing: The end of the Ethics clearly leads into the Politics, particularly if we read Book I as fulfilling Aristotle’s promise to begin by considering the views of his predecessors. See also Salkever (2009: 209), who argues that the two works “present themselves as a ¨ (1993). single course of lectures,” as well as Simpson (1998: 1–13) and Richard Bod´eus David Roochnik claims that the superiority of the theoretical life to the political life is “decisively” evident in the Politics (2008: 714). In my view, Roochnik does not consider sufficiently Aristotle’s criticism of the philosophic life characteristic of a stranger. Indeed, he asserts that Aristotle praises the life of the philosophic stranger as “the best of all” (731).

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not consider, however, the Ethics to have proven that the simply contemplative life is best because the debate – in its starkest terms – is framed as one about the choice between “the political and the philosophic” lives (1324a32).38 Aristotle’s inquiry considers whether it is better to share in political life or to be a 1 (literally, a “stranger”) who is “divorced from the political partnership” (1324a13–17).39 The life of such a stranger, Aristotle explains, is one that rejects entirely external things in favor of some kind of study. Some even consider this, although wrongly, to be “the only philosophic way of life” (1324a28–9). Just as it is a certain understanding of philosophy that provokes this disagreement, so too is it a certain understanding of politics, which conceives of politics as a kind of mastery: ruling over one’s neighbors without concern for whether such rule is just. Regimes like Sparta and Crete, as well as non-Greeks like the Persians and Thracians, direct their laws and their education toward conquest and the ability to rule despotically over others in a spirit of domination, whether or not they deserve to be ruled in such a way. This understanding of politics seems to be shared by those who believe that this is the only life worth living as well as those who believe that such an enterprise is profoundly unjust and to be shunned. Aristotle, however, believes that both sides misunderstand politics: The matter of war is one that may be noble, at least sometimes, but it is not the highest end of the city or the individual and not the end of politics. It is undertaken for the sake of something higher than itself. What is higher, of course, is the peaceful exercise of virtue, but the disagreement rears its head yet again. Some hold that to live happily is to live freely and that politics, because it is fundamentally a kind of mastery, prevents one from living freely and thus happily. Others, of course, respond that to live happily requires activity and that a life separate from politics is devoid of activity and thus happiness. In contrast to what he is so often taken to say in Book X of the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle does not side entirely with the view that political life is an obstacle to happiness. Rather, he argues that there is some truth and some error in each position. 38 Aristotle

here associates, to borrow a Shakespearean phrase, “vaulting ambition” – literally, love of honor [  ) ] – with those who choose such a philosophic life as well as those who choose a political life (1324a30). Yet, in the Ethics, the association of political life with honor is one reason why the contemplative life is said to be superior to the political (1095b22 ff., 1177b12 ff.). 39 Aristotle’s term is /  ), which – given its connotations of death – perhaps implies something more than what is suggested by Lord’s translation of “divorced.”

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Those who argue that mastery is incompatible with true freedom and living happily are correct, but they are incorrect to think that all political life has the character of mastery. There is as much difference between political rule and despotic rule as there is between the very freedom such people praise and the slavery they despise. Whereas there is nothing noble about inactivity, for living well requires action, true action is not what the defenders of mastery believe it to be. True political activity within communities composed of relative equals consists in ruling and being ruled in turn, as Aristotle maintains throughout the Politics. This kind of activity is noble as well as just (1325b7) and, as Terence Irwin suggests, it need not be so burdensome that it prevents a person from practicing the intellectual virtues (1990: 81). Indeed, insofar as this activity involves the joint exercise of logos, it may even foster the development of those virtues. Aristotle argues that the most choiceworthy way of life does not involve conquest and domination; neither does it involve those activities we do for the sake of their results. However, certain activities result, by themselves, in no external action. Such activities include study and thought [0     ] but also the thoughts of master craftsmen [/, ], which result in buildings only through the actions of others (1325b20– 23; cf. 1324b41–25a4).40 A life that is not concerned with external things – such as the goods mentioned previously: wealth, power, and reputation (1323a37) – is freer and better than one concerned with external things. If this life is best for individuals, we must look for its parallel in the polis. Aristotle says that certain political communities – those that live independently – also are capable of participating in autotelic actions, devoid of external results. If a community avoids the attempt to acquire wealth, power, and reputation through external engagements, its actions can be directed inward, dealing with the proper arrangement of its constituent parts. Such an arrangement of parts within a city is always a matter of dispute in politics: Who rules? It is precisely in response to this problem that Aristotle indicates that philosophy has a political dimension. Regimes cannot be stable – let alone good – without being just, but understanding justice is the task of political philosophy [     ] (Pol. 1282b23). In their plurality, communities are confronted with a variety of claims to rule justly, such as wealth, free birth, and excellence. In 40 Cf.

NE 1141b23–29 and Plt. 259e–60b. Both Aristotle and the Eleatic Stranger suggest that the statesman’s knowledge is architectonic.

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this way, cities need political philosophy to have a significant role as the various claimants make arguments about justice if those arguments are to be well resolved. As Am´elie Rorty argues, ‘‘[N]othing about the practical life . . . prevents its also being contemplative and even enhanced by being contemplative’’ (1980: 377). It is for this reason that Aristotle is critical not only of certain understandings of politics but also certain understandings of philosophy. If Aristotle is aware of the dangers of certain understandings of political life for human flourishing, he is equally aware that a certain kind of philosophic life can also prevent us from living the good life insofar as it leads us to separate ourselves from the communities in which a certain kind of philosophy takes place. In other words, when an unavoidable conflict between politics and philosophy is posed, it generally bespeaks a misunderstanding of either politics or philosophy or the human good at which both lives should aim. Political communities are constituted on the basis of shared reasoning and speech about the just and unjust, as well as the good and the bad and the advantageous and the disadvantageous (1253a14–18). The resolution of those claims must result in a particular arrangement of offices in every polis, but the process of resolution is one that points beyond the immediate circumstances. Questions about what is just, good, and advantageous in the here and now are related intimately to questions about what is just, good, and advantageous simply (e.g., Pol. 1280a9– 11). Of course, the attempt to resolve questions about justice reaches beyond introducing the questions of political philosophy into the city; there is precedent in classical political philosophy – Plato’s Republic is the most notable example – for leading people to philosophy through an investigation into justice (cf. Pol. 1279b11–15).41 When members of political communities engage in these debates, they are engaging in political deliberations, to be sure, but also political philosophy. Not all kinds of politics are separate from philosophy, just as not all kinds of philosophy are separate from politics. Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and the Politics bear witness to the fact that he found these subjects worthy of the very the¯oria he praises in Book X. Indeed, Aristotle uses forms of the¯oria several times in the Politics to describe what he is doing, which suggests that a life of the¯oria need not reject politics. Indeed, 41 Mara

suggests that “dialectical inquiry leads from political opinions to political wisdom, to a more accurate understanding of what is just. . . . [E]xcellent practice can lead to a kind of philosophy, but it need not” (1987: 395–8).

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lawgivers – no less than those who want to understand politics better – are called to engage in the¯oria about the following political matters: naturally existing communities of master and slave and husband and wife (Pol. 1252a26), what in fact a polis is (1280b28), various kinds of regimes (1288b22), the best regime (1260b27, 1289a31), and sources of preservation and revolution in existing regimes (1258b11, 1304b20). Aristotle in one place even calls his investigation into the best way of life for a city and the best regime both political thought and theory [       0 ] (1324a19–20). As I argue in Chapter 2 and herein, the way in which we understand the natural world and our place within it has a significant impact on our actions. Moreover, the first two books of the Politics – and much else therein – reflects Aristotle’s recognition of the fact that how we think about politics is important for the way we act politically. He begins the Politics by criticizing people who did not participate in political life: Plato’s Socrates and the Eleatic and Athenian Strangers, Hippodamus, and Phaleas. The charge against them is not that they engaged in pointless speculation about political matters but rather that what they said about politics is untrue and destructive of good political order.42 It is only after criticizing these regimes in speech that Aristotle turns to examine the existing regimes said to be fine: Sparta, Crete, and Carthage. I suggest that we have particular reason to think of the Eleatic Stranger in the context of this debate between the philosophic and political lives. He is surely not the sole target of Aristotle’s argument – Aristotle is also criticizing Sparta as well as her admirers who confuse power with virtue. However, the reference to the distinction between politics and mastery in Book I (1325a30–31), the connection of architectonic knowledge and politics, and, most important, the perspective of the “stranger” who believes that the only philosophic life is one separate from politics all provide justification for reflecting once more on the differences between Aristotle’s Politics and the Eleatic Stranger’s claims in the Statesman. No one doubts that Aristotle is critical of Sparta’s focus on military domination and the way it tempts people to mistake mastery and conquest for politics. However, presenting the distinction between the political and philosophical lives in the way he does emphasizes that he is equally 42 Nichols

suggests, rightly I think, that philosophers who do not give attention to politics will fail to understand themselves rightly; after all, even they are political animals (1992: 134–5). Socrates, too, expresses such a concern in the Timaeus, where he states that the sophists who travel from city to city cannot know what it is to be a statesman or a philosopher (19e).

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concerned about an understanding of philosophy that diminishes political life. Like the Spartan view, the “stranger” of Book VII believes that politics does not differ in any important way from mastery.43 This is, of course, the same view that Aristotle criticizes in Book I; the Eleatic Stranger, therefore, would be among those whom Aristotle charges with misunderstanding the specific difference of politics and the reason why a political life is choiceworthy. Aristotle similarly would disagree with the Eleatic’s belief – a belief confirmed by the Eleatic’s own practice – that a philosophic life should be separate from politics. Aristotle does not deny the value of philosophy, but he does recommend a different kind of philosophical life than that of a stranger, just as he recommends a different kind of a political life than one concerned solely with mastery. Aristotle understands that if politics is concerned only with external goods – that is, those necessary for preservation – then a philosopher might be tempted to separate from it; however, if politics is about more than simple preservation, there is more to be said in favor of participating in political life. It opens up space for greater human discussion and deliberation, drawing on the same capacities that are part of the philosophic life. Citizens doubtlessly will reason and speak about what should be done, and they frequently will disagree; this is the nature of political life. However, insofar as it engages the same discussions of the good and the bad, the just and the unjust, the advantageous and the disadvantageous, as well as possible tensions among them, political life raises the same kinds of “political questions” that interest philosophers – or at least certain kinds of philosophers: Plato, Aristotle, and of course Socrates, who claimed not only to be a philosopher but also the only statesman in Athens. Aristotle’s emphasis on joint investigation into political questions as a component of human flourishing separates him from the Eleatic Stranger and other advocates of a purely theoretical conception of human flourishing. The Eleatic, as discussed, forbids questioning the laws or arrangements of the city lest such activities undermine the protection against nature that only the city can provide. For Aristotle, however, 43 DePew

highlights the danger of the stranger’s position, which I argue implicates the Eleatic Stranger: “No one is as likely as the exclusively contemplative person to fail to distinguish within the world of actual states cases that are better or more promising than others, let alone cases where the good life is genuinely prized over mere life.” For this reason, the detached philosopher – no less than the “conventionally political man” – will fail to “see the extent to which the acquisitive and despotic lives are antithetical to the political life properly construed” (1991: 355–6).

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such questioning is important not only to improving defective regimes – which all existing regimes will be – but also to developing to the fullest our peculiarly human capacity for reasoning about the highest questions. The political life is not the ultimate horizon of human beings; friendship, for an obvious example, also has an essential role.44 Politics, however, is a necessary part of human life that helps us to develop both intellectual and ethical virtue. In its better – and here I do not mean only its ideal – forms, it allows us to exercise those virtues to benefit ourselves, our families, our friends, and our fellow citizens. The practice of thinking about politics – and the desire to base our politics on what is reasonable rather than the desire for power, wealth, or even honor – exemplifies the kind of life that Aristotle wanted human beings to live: a life of acting in accord with reason, in pursuit of what is truly good for us. Such activity perhaps is not contemplative in the way that Aristotle presents it in Book X of the Nicomachean Ethics but it may and, on Aristotle’s account, should be philosophic. 44 See

Frank’s account of the value of friendship in political communities, including those that are imperfect (2005, ch. 5).

Conclusion

In their first, failed attempt at defining the knowledge of the statesman, the Eleatic Stranger rebukes Young Socrates for impetuously dividing human beings from the rest of the animals. There is, of course, a methodological reason for this – that is, dividing down the middle makes it more likely that we divide properly into kinds – but the Stranger’s real intention is to admonish the mathematician for taking excessive pride in his intelligence. We cannot understand political life, the Stranger suggests, by looking at human beings as rational animals. He treats human beings as one particular kind of herd animal and emphasizes as the fundamental political fact our neediness in the face of a hostile nature. For Aristotle, of course, things are quite different. Human beings are not the only political animals, Aristotle concedes; other animals also live politically, such as the very herd animals mentioned by the Eleatic (1253a8). Yet, human beings are much more political than those other animals and, Aristotle says, this is because human beings alone possess logos, reason and speech. It is only by understanding human beings as rational animals – something that the Eleatic explicitly declines to do – that we can understand them as political animals. This capacity for reasoned speech – which Aristotle identifies as a gift of nature – is what allows human beings not only to work together but also to decide what to do and how to do it. In the absence of reasoned speech, we would be reduced to either following our instincts or acting randomly. In either case, we would be deprived of choosing how to order our lives. Logos is what makes us human. Of course, it also causes problems: Because human beings cannot live their lives on the basis of pure instinct or pure reason, they will continually face problems when it comes to living 204

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together.1 However, these problems are the unavoidable consequences of living as human beings, as something between beasts and gods. It is precisely because of this understanding of human beings, as well as the challenges and possibilities it offers us, that I think that Aristotle’s political theory offers some advantages for contemporary political thought and practice, especially when compared to that of the Eleatic Stranger. The first and perhaps most obvious advantage in light of the preceding discussion is that Aristotelian political theory offers a more optimistic understanding of humanity’s relationship to nature than an understanding such as the Eleatic’s. For Aristotle, nature provides a guide for human life. To be sure, nature identifies limits to our activities insofar as they adversely impact the natural world of which we are a part. However, perhaps more than contemporary environmentalists, Aristotle emphasizes the way in which the violation of those limits affects not only the world around us but also the character of the life we ourselves lead and the kinds of people we become. In addition, Aristotle’s understanding of political communities as constituted by shared speech about the just and the unjust and the advantageous and the disadvantageous is more consonant with contemporary discourse theories of politics than the Eleatic’s static community of steadfast opinion. Thinkers such as J¨urgen Habermas argue that the purpose of politics is to facilitate an “ideal speech situation” in which human beings can discuss and debate what should be done and how, freed from all the constraints that interfere with “communicative rationality.” This obviously is a reflection, although one that obscures the tensions noted by Salkever and Yack, of Aristotle’s understanding of what politics is, but Hilary Putnam suggests that Aristotle in fact is a necessary resource for discourse theories – and a better one than many contemporary alternatives – because he has a richer notion of what the good for human beings actually is (e.g., 1987: 55–8, 1992: 198, 2004: 26–7). The Eleatic Stranger, however, not only precludes citizens from disagreeing with the laws but also prevents them from full participation in any political debates insofar as he limits them to having true opinion rather than knowledge. 1 For

this reason, communitarian interpretations of Aristotle often are accused – and not wholly without reason – of ignoring or minimizing this aspect of Aristotle’s political thought. As Aristotle writes, “[i]n general, to live together and be partners in any human matter is difficult” (Pol. 1263a15–16). See Salkever (1990, esp. 71–91) and Bernard Yack (1993). Salkever in particular emphasizes the difficulty of reconciling the three aspects of communal life in Aristotle: living, living well, and living together.

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Citizens are to be persuaded, not to speak, and such a position is at odds with one important trend in contemporary political thought. Likewise, Aristotle is a stronger advocate of popular participation in government than the Eleatic Stranger. Aristotle’s hierarchical understanding of practical knowledge concedes that there is a need for specialized political knowledge and also justifies placing those who have that knowledge under the control of the multitude, provided that the multitude is of a certain quality. It is a positive capacity of the multitude that justifies its role in governing the regime; popular participation in government is not merely a more effective means of guaranteeing political stability or protecting rights from encroachment. Popular participation also helps support the rule of law insofar as the people are involved with its formation, even if indirectly. Aristotle thus offers a more robust justification for the rule of law than the Eleatic Stranger. The Eleatic recommends the rule of law as the second-best alternative in the absence of a statesman in order to prevent the worst abuses of government. Aristotle recommends law as the best guarantor of good rule; the laws of good regimes generally are correct, requiring dispensation in only a few cases. They reflect wisdom and offer guidance in such a way that most individuals who live under them can recognize their merits and legitimacy, even if they disagree with the particular laws in place. By not only permitting but even encouraging speech about the just and the unjust, Aristotle provides an outlet for discontent with current laws in such a way that respect for the rule of law is maintained. Precluding change in the laws, as the Eleatic does, prevents not only making the laws keep pace with the changes in arts but also making the laws more just. Most important, however, Aristotle’s belief that the purpose of politics is the pursuit of the good life offers richer possibilities for political practice than does a conception of politics concerned primarily with preservation. It is a corrective to the disdain – if not outright contempt – that most people have for politics today. By contrast, the Eleatic Stranger not only lowers the ends of politics but also effectively requires acceptance of the existing political order. Yet, despite his emphasis on the highest ends of politics, Aristotle’s political theory is not utopian or revolutionary. He not only calls attention to what politics can and should be in its most desirable form but also offers insights and recommendations, many of which are still relevant today, as to how the best possible political order for a given circumstance may be achieved or at least more closely approximated.

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Aristotle’s hierarchical understanding of politics also helps us to think more clearly about the study of politics. I suggested in the Introduction that modern political science frequently uses the term “politics” rather broadly – ranging from “international politics” to “office politics.” This often is due to, I suggest, an equation of politics with power, a concept that exists in communities larger and smaller than the polis as well as within the polis.2 Power, to be sure, is an important component of political communities – and other communities – but it is not, I think, the only or even the most important component. The Eleatic Stranger’s abstraction from questions of power in his definition of statesmanship therefore is refreshing precisely because so many understandings of politics emphasize the importance of power. This was as true in Plato and Aristotle’s time as it is in our own, as made clear at the beginning of Book VII of the Politics. The Stranger’s disinterest in questions of power is evident from the outset of the dialogue, in which he insists that whether one is a statesman depends on only whether he possesses a certain kind of knowledge. A consequence of this disinterest, however, is that he is unable to distinguish the use of power in different communities. He blurs the distinction between public (i.e., kingly and political) and private (i.e., household and despotic) rule, which also leads him to ignore the way that despotic rule, in particular, is characterized by force. He similarly rejects Young Socrates’ fairly commonsensical objection to any rule – even that of the true statesman – that lacks law or consent. It does not matter, he claims, whether the rulers use force, provided they have knowledge (293a–c, 296bc). To the extent, then, that modern politics is concerned with “who gets what,” it is more cognizant than the Eleatic Stranger is of the realities of power that exist in human communities, particularly political communities. Like the Eleatic, however, modern politics tends to conflate things that may be, and that Aristotle insists are, in fact quite different. Whether politics is conceived as nothing more than a kind of knowledge or nothing more than power, a reduction of politics to the way in which its ends are achieved tends to lose sight of what makes politics different from the 2 In

a recent volume dedicated to answering the question “What is politics?,” all respondents except one focused on “power” in their answers (Leftwich 2004: 25, 45, 60, 88, 109–10, 121–2, 147, 173–6). Adrian Leftwich, the volume’s editor, summarizes matters this way in his introduction: “There is one overriding concern of those who study politics and that is a concern with power, political power and its effects” (19). Even those responses that want to downplay the importance of power do so by insisting that political conflict is sui generis insofar as it is nonviolent (e.g., 97–8).

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rule appropriate to other kinds of human communities. I thus conclude by suggesting a way in which Aristotle’s critique of the Eleatic Stranger may help us to think about politics in both the narrow and the broad senses. Aristotle is fully aware of the role that power has in politics as well as in other communities. He begins the Politics not by asking whether rule exists or is necessary but rather how many kinds of rule there are and what distinguishes them. Indeed, the central question of politics, in effect, is: Who rules? Whereas Aristotle acknowledges that political communities are defined by the kind of people who compose them (i.e., people who are different yet equal) and a particular way of ruling over them (i.e., ruling and being ruled in turn on the basis of reasoned speech about the just, the advantageous, and the good), the specific difference of political communities is their end of the good life. His understanding of politics thus depends on not only who has power in the polis but also the way in which the rulers’ conception of what that good life is affects other communities that exist within the polis. The architectonic character of the polis means that the conception of the good life it pursues invariably will shape the way other communities are structured. Aristotle is convinced that the conception of the good life held by the authoritative element of the polis is so influential that we cannot even understand the virtues appropriate to husbands, wives, and children without first understanding the regime in which they live. Yet, although Aristotle distinguishes political power and political communities from other kinds of power and communities, he does so in a way that enables us to use the term “politics” to refer to what happens in other communities. There is evidence, in fact, for Aristotle himself using politics in both narrow and broad senses in the Politics. Aristotle’s usage of political metaphors to describe family relationships is one example of this tendency: We can understand the rule of a father over his children as a kind of kingly rule and a husband over his wife as a kind of political rule – although, unfortunately, one in which there is no alteration between ruler and ruled (1259a37–b17).3 In addition, if we take strictly the idea that the polis is concerned with the good life, then it would be nearly impossible for Aristotle to have spoken about politics at all insofar as no existing polis instantiated what he believed to be necessary to achieve that end. The fact that he 3 There

is a valuable discussion of this issue in Nichols 1992: 29–33.

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speaks about politics in Sparta, for instance, shows that he uses the term in discussing less-than-ideal regimes. Similarly, although he lists tyranny among the initial divisions of regimes and treats it as one, he does so last: Tyranny may be a regime, but it is also farthest from being a regime. Finally, Aristotle acknowledges that in addition to humans, other animals (e.g., bees) are political (1253a7–9).4 If we can speak about politics, even in an attenuated way, among bees, then why not about politics among nations, for instance? Whatever the merits of his understanding of politics, a benefit of Aristotle’s tendency to view relationships as hierarchical rather than dichotomous – as “more or less political” rather than “political or not” – is that we are able to speak of not only things like political animals and the political rule of husbands over wives but also things like the politics of the family, international politics, and environmental politics. I cannot offer here a complete account of what Aristotle would say about such usages, but I think that his understanding of politics can help us to become clearer in thinking about how non–political relationships may be said to be political. In particular, and notwithstanding the other traits characteristic of political communities (e.g., equality and shared speech about the just, good, and advantageous), Aristotle’s understanding of politics as concerned primarily with living well helps us to distinguish – on his terms at least – political communities from other communities insofar as what is political about the others generally is related to the necessary preconditions for the good life rather than the good life itself.5 Aristotle’s Politics is aware of many of the issues currently studied by international politics: Alliances, trade, and war are all discussed at various points. However, the provision of material necessities for a city is far from being part of the good life and, in fact, can be a danger to the good life. Aristotle therefore recommends regulating the conditions of trade to avoid any ill consequences (1327a11 ff.) and even restricting citizens from engaging in trade to preserve their virtue (1328b34 ff., 1331a30 ff.). The city’s trade is for the sake of what is needed; excessive 4 Humans,

by virtue of having perception of the good and the just and the ability to express those perceptions, are “much more” political than those other animals; however, that does not mean that the other animals are apolitical, only less political (cf. History of Animals 487b33–488a13). 5 I do not think that this is all that an Aristotelian account would have to offer: Aristotle also might point to the nonpolitical ways in which power is employed. For instance, the resort to force in international affairs is dramatically different from the joint exercise of reasoned speech that should characterize politics.

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wealth, if not always harmful to the good life, is unnecessary for it (NE 1179a5 ff.).6 Similarly, although Aristotle acknowledges that there must be soldiers in the polis, primarily for the sake of defense, he is emphatic that alliances for the sake of preservation are not political communities.7 The polis exists primarily for the sake of living well, and communities that do no more than prevent suffering and injustice or facilitate trade therefore are not political. A city, to be sure, must prevent injustice and provide what is necessary, but it also must do more to be worthy of the name “polis” (1280b29–35). Aristotle states that war is for the sake of peace (1333a30 ff.) and therefore an instrumental good, but it is also an instrumental good that threatens to undermine the real good of virtue by making an end of conquest (1324b1 ff.). To be sure, we do ask political questions in international affairs: Which trade policies might be advantageous? Which military endeavors are necessary and just? However, these questions are concerned primarily with securing the conditions for the good life rather than pursuing the good life itself; therefore, international politics fails to be political in the full sense of the term. What about domestic politics? There is no term for the rule of a husband over his wife, as Aristotle notes (1253b8–10), and he chooses not to coin one, perhaps because of the way that this relationship is fraught with potential for abuse.8 Aristotle discusses whether admonition or command is better used with children and slaves (1260b5–7), yet he does not say how wives should be ruled. However, insofar as he characterizes the relationship of husband and wife as “political” and therefore one of relative equals, it seems that such rule should be based on shared logos about 6 This

echoes, I think, Aristotle’s account of household management in Book I (1257b19 ff.). 7 Aristotle envisions the possibility of using the city’s soldiers for the sake of conquering natural slaves (1334a2; cf. 1256b23 ff.). This too would be a clear case of securing what is necessary for the good life rather than part of the good life itself. 8 He instead calls it the marital art [) ]. Aristotle similarly refrains from calling the art of ruling children paternal, choosing instead to coin a term related more to the begetting than the education of children [ ! ]. This perhaps suggests that the art may be possessed by mothers as well as fathers (1253b8–11). Aristotle’s theory, therefore, is not simply “patriarchal,” as alleged by Ernest Barker (1959: 274). Dana Jalbert Stauffer (2008) argues that the origin of the relationship between men and women is simply male domination and that, separated from the polis, men tend to subjugate women in nonpolitical fashion. Nagle similarly contends that the household required the polis for its improvement (2006: 250). My argument here focuses on the household after the polis comes into existence.

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the good, the advantageous, and the just rather than either admonition or command and should aim at the benefit of both man and woman. To the extent that the relationship between a husband and a wife is one of equals, characterized by reasoned speech about the good and the just, we may think that using the term “politics” to describe issues of power in the household would be appropriate, as Aristotle’s analogy suggests. Moreover, the household, as he points out in the Ethics and the Politics, has an important role in the ethical if not the intellectual upbringing of future citizens of the regime – not least by the way husbands and wives engage in and thereby model reasoned speech – thereby contributing to the good life in this way. However, as his critics often point out, Aristotle qualifies the equality between husbands and wives.9 Whatever equality exists is insufficient to make a wife a full partner in ruling; there is no ruling and being ruled in turn as generally characterizes truly political rule. The virtue of a wife differs from that of her husband, not least because her deliberative capacity is said to lack authority (1260a13). Therefore, despite Aristotle’s insistence that the marital relationship should be one of friendship (NE 1162a16 ff.; cf. 1157a10–14), it is still a relationship of superior to inferior (1158b13–14). Moreover, on Aristotle’s understanding if not our own, the household is primarily concerned with providing the needs of daily life and not living the good life. To be sure, few of us live on a farm or build our own house, but this in fact may highlight the way in which we are even less self-sufficient than citizens in Aristotle’s time. Much of the activity of the household therefore is concerned with procuring food and shelter, which are necessary for the good life but not part of it. This, in turn, limits the leisure time that Aristotle believes is necessary for the full flourishing of virtue. The smaller size of the household prevents it from achieving true self-sufficiency with material things but also, I think, with regard to the development of virtues. The virtues as they exist only in relationships of the household are not virtues in the fullest sense. Like friendship, the justice that exists between husbands and wives, as well as parents and children, is in some ways incomplete (1134b8–18). As Brendan 9 In the Ethics, Aristotle describes the relationship between husband and wife as aristocratic:

“[T]he man rules as a result of worthiness,” although he acknowledges that a husband who aggrandizes authority turns it into an oligarchy (1160b32–1161a2). Nichols emphasizes the temptation to despotism in such a relationship and highlights the contributions of women to the household (1992: 29–33).

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Nagle summarizes, “While a particular virtue might be practiced within the confines of a household, the same virtue practiced in the public realm would reflect a more perfect, more complete form of that virtue” (2006: 175).10 Part of the reason for this, of course, is the insufficiency of paternal admonition for developing virtue, which is why Aristotle suggests that justice is truly – although problematically – found within the city (1253a37–39). The household is an important foundation for the polis but it remains, for Aristotle, a foundation. In other words, Aristotle’s recognition that politics is primarily but not exclusively about the good life enables us to distinguish between various uses of the term “politics.” Some communities, like some regimes, are more closely connected to the purpose of politics than others: The polis and the good regimes of Book III are therefore more properly political than the household or the deviant regimes. Although politics is especially concerned with the good life, it is not unaware of the demands of “mere life.” Providing for that is therefore also part of the purpose of politics. Thus, other regimes and other communities – insofar as they act on the basis of logos and help to provide what is necessary although not sufficient for the good life – have something in common with politics in the proper sense. This hierarchical use of the word “politics” also enables us to see how what takes place in contemporary nation-states can be called “political.” Providing defense against attacks from abroad and against injustice from fellow citizens, as Aristotle said, is something that all political communities must do; therefore, the appellation is appropriate, even in communities far larger than anything Aristotle envisioned. To be sure, politics in a stricter sense would involve more concern for the good life, in fact, than contemporary political practice evidences.11 Still, to the extent that questions of justice and advantage are raised, there is a truly political dimension to the activities of the nation-state.12 All this discussion, I think, shows that Aristotle’s political theory can be helpful in working through the various ways in which contemporary 10 Nagle

(2006), in general, is an excellent account of the connection between the household and the polis. 11 This issue also is discussed by MacIntyre (1998) and Simpson (1990). Both authors highlight the way in which a modern nation-state such as the United States may be thought of as a kind of Aristotelian league, freeing smaller communities within the nation to pursue the good life. 12 Again invoking Aristotle’s hierarchical sense, we may suggest that even on the level of the nation-state, some questions – perhaps those dealing with citizenship and education – are more political than others.

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political scientists use the word “politics.” However, the most important lesson we can learn from Aristotle is to raise our expectations for political life. Like the early modern founders of the nation-state, both Aristotle and the Eleatic Stranger envision politics coming about for the purpose of preservation. For the Eleatic, the hostility of nature to human beings places limits on any attempt to transcend that purpose in the pursuit of the good life. For Aristotle, however, nature provides us with the resources of speech and reason to form and sustain political communities, and her hospitality to human life enables those communities to have as their purpose the good life rather than mere life. Aristotle and the Eleatic Stranger thus offer different understandings of the purposes that politics should have. When we choose between them, we should perhaps think of this: It is only by expecting more from political life that we will obtain more from it.

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