The Political Thought of Plato and Aristotle

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English Pages [592] Year 1959

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The Political Thought of Plato and Aristotle

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The Library of Congress has cataloged this book as follows:

Barker, Sir Ernest, 1874-

Political thought of Plato and Aristotle. Russell & Russell, 1959. 559 p.

New York,

23 cm.

1. Plato. Respublica. ence—Hist.—Greece.



2. Aristoteles.



Library of Congress

Printed in the United States of America by Hallmark Lithographers, Inc.

!. Political sci-

59-7621 %

PREFACE ' I ’HIS book began, some seven years ago, as an in* troduction to the Politics of Aristotle. I found, however, as I began to delve into my subject, that my introduction would itself need to be introduced by a preface of some length. It seemed to me necessary, first and foremost, to explain, as best I could, the political views of Plato. Aristotle had sat at his feet, and listened to his lectures; nor could he, if he had been pressed, have done otherwise than acknowledge Plato (as Laud afterwards acknowledged Aristotle) for “ his master in humanis,” and pre-eminently in politicis. But Plato in turn had his master, a master whom he always loyally and chivalrously acknowledged; and to speak of Plato without speaking of Socrates would only have offended Plato’s ghost. On the other hand, Plato had also his enemies : he wrote not only to defend Socrates, but also to attack the Sophists. Some account of the Sophists, therefore, and of Sophistic views of the State, seemed necessary to explain the polemics, and even the con¬ structive theory, of the Republic. When the matter had been pushed so far back, the result was inevitable, that I should, as Aristotle himself would say, “ begin from the beginning,” and, in defiance of Horace, commence my tale gemino ab ovo. Finally, reflecting on the later history of Aristotle, Maestro di color die sanno, and on his influence during the Middle Ages, I could not re¬ frain myself from touching upon Aquinas and Marsilio,



or from treating of the times of contempt of Aristotle, when Dryden could say : The longest tyranny that ever swayed Was that wherein our ancestors betrayed Their free-born reason to the Stagirite, And made his torch their universal light.

In this way the book grew to something wider than the original design. But its growth has seemed to me, if I may be allowed the expression, to bring it nearer to the spirit of Aristotle. The systematiser of Greek knowledge, he always regarded the contributions of his predecessors to that knowledge as matter for serious study, whether they were criticised and found wanting, or approved and adopted into the system. He saw in knowledge a development; and each of his treatises can only be properly studied in the light of the develop¬ ment of the subject with which it deals. We shall best understand his ideas when we see them growing from their simplest original expression to the technical shape which they assume in his system. Et S77 n? ig apxys Ta npaypara (f>vop.eva fikerpeiev, coaTrep iu tois dA.\ois, kcu iv tovtols KaWicrr’ ay ovtco deojprjcreLey.

While thus “looking backward,” I have, in a sense, attempted to look forward. While attempting to refer Aristotelian conceptions to their sources in past specula¬ tion, and to their basis in contemporary Greek politics, I have also attempted to discuss the value of those con¬ ceptions to-day, and the extent to which they can be applied to modern politics. I have taken, for instance, Aristotle’s conception of citizenship, of democracy, and of distributive justice, and I have tried to show how far they can be used to illustrate, and what light they can be made to throw, on the conditions of modern citizen¬ ship, the problems of modern democracy, and the distribution of political power in the modern State.



The seven chapters (v.-xi.) which are directly con¬ cerned with the Politics have been arranged on the following scheme. Chapter v. is meant to sketch the background of the Politics — its relation to contem¬ porary history and to Aristotle’s philosophical system. In chapters vi. and vii. the two conceptions of “end” and “ whole ” are considered, and the results are deduced which follow upon their application to politics. Chapter viii. deals with the moral aspect of the life of a political association, and chapter ix. with its material or economic side; but since economics are considered by Aristotle from an ethical point of view, the moral life of the State really comes under discussion in both chapters. All these five chapters may be regarded as general “ prolegomena ” : they are based on the first three books of the Politics. In the last two chapters particular States are considered. Chapter x. is occupied by a sketch of Aristotle’s ideal State: its basis is the two books (vii. and viii. in the old order; iv. and v. in the new) in which Aristotle propounds his ideal. Chapter xi. is concerned with actual States—principally oligarchy and democracy, and with Aristotle’s suggestions for their amelioration—especially the Polity; and here I have used the three books (iv., v. and vi. in the old order ; vi., vii. and viii. in the new) in which Aristotle deals with contemporary politics. My debts are many. My general conception of political science I owe to T. H. Green’s Principles of Political Obligation; and it is with his teaching that I have contrasted, or (more often) compared, that of Plato and Aristotle. In chapter i. I am indebted to Professor Burnet’s Early Greek Philosophy, and to his article in the International Journal of Ethics on the antithesis of Averts and vogos (vii., 328 sqq.); to Gom-



perz’s Griechische Denker, volume i. ; to Pfleiderer’s Sokrates und Plato; to Dtimmler’s pamphlet, Prolegomena zu Platon's Staat; and to McCunn’s article on the Cynics in the International Journal of Ethics (xiv., 185 sqq.). Both in this chapter and in the rest of the book, I have been helped by Hildenbrand’s Geschichte und System der Rechts- und Staatsphilosophie (Band i., Der klassiche Alterihum, a consecutive history of the develop¬ ment of Greek political thought, somewhat external, and written from a modern point of view), and by Henkel’s Studien zur GeschicMe der Griechischen Lehre vom Staat (a book which says rravpa p4v aXka paXa Xiyews). In the chapters dealing with Plato (ii., iii. and iv.), I have used Nettleship’s lectures on the Republic, to which I owe whatever there is of any value in chapter iii., and Pfleiderer’s Sokrates und Plato, which I found suggestive and stimulating. I have also used Pohlmann’s Ges¬ chichte des A7itiken Kommunismus und Sozialismus,1 the second volume of Gomperz’s Griechische Denker, and Jowett’s translation of the Platonic Dialogues, to which I am indebted for the rendering of most of the passages I have quoted from Plato. The chapters which are concerned with Aristotle (v.-xi.) may be regarded as Tegdxr) tcov rOprjpov Selnvoiv—fragments from Newman’s great edition of the Politics, which has been constantly by me. Much as I owe to the introduction, I should also like to acknowledge particularly my debt to the notes. From A. C. Bradley’s essay on the Politics in Hellenica I acquired my first interest in the Politics; and I believe that his method of dealing with Aris¬ totelian conceptions in that essay has influenced me more than I consciously realise. To Oncken’s die 11 may also refer to P. Natorp, Platos Staat und die Idee der Sozialpadagogik, which came to my knowledge too late to be used in chapter iii.



Staatslehre des Aristoteles I owe, as far as I know, but little : the book seemed to me vigorous, but erroneous. In chapter v. I am indebted to several books. In section 2 I have followed, with some reservations, von Wilamowitz-Mollendorffs Aristoteles und. Athen; in section 3 I have used Eucken’s die Methode der Aristotelischen Forschung; in section 6 I owe everything to Shute’s History of the Aristotelian Writings. Professor Burnet’s edition of the Ethics helped me in many places ; and I should like to acknowledge the use which I have made of Congreve’s edition of the Politics. My obliga¬ tions to a number of other authors whom I have used I have tried to acknowledge in the text. In conclusion I have to acknowledge, with very cor¬ dial thanks, the help which I have received from Mr. Wells, Fellow of Wadham College, who was kind enough to read chapter xi. and to suggest corrections and altera¬ tions ; Mr. Ross, Fellow of Oriel College, who has read for me almost the whole of the book, and helped me greatly by his sound Aristotelian scholarship; Mr. Unwin, author of Industrial Organisation in the Six¬ teenth and Seventeenth Centuries, who read the Introduc¬ tion and chapter i.; and Mr. Lennard, of New College, to whose kindness and diligence I am much indebted throughout, especially in matters of style and punctua¬ tion. August, 1906

E. B.


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