Issues About Politics and Government

Topics: Political philosophy, Politics, Aristotle Pages: 16 (5833 words) Published: February 24, 2013
Aristotle and Civil Society Theory
Paper for: WIMPS presentation Tuesday, October 28, 2008 1:00 – 2:30 Walker II Building conference room, #201-B IUPUI By: Marty Sulek Ph.D. Candidate Indiana University Center On Philanthropy Phone: (765) 468-4909 Cell: (765) 546-0859 E-mail: Box 236 103B North Main St. Farmland, IN 47340

Marty Sulek is currently a Ph.D. candidate in philanthropic studies, with a minor in philosophy. He was born and raised in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and earned his B.A. with an honours certificate in political science and philosophy at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick. Before coming to the Center On Philanthropy to pursue graduate studies, he worked for several years as a non-profit development professional. Marty’s primary academic interest is in political philosophy, both ancient and modern, for the light it sheds on contemporary understanding of civil society and philanthropy. The working title of his dissertation is: Gifts of Fire – Promethean Imagery and Philosophical Philanthropy in Plato, Bacon and Nietzsche.


Aristotle and Civil Society Theory
Aristotle’s Life Aristotle (384-322 BCE) is one of the most famous philosophers of antiquity, and a founding figure of Western philosophy. A student of Plato and a teacher of Alexander the Great, Aristotle founded the Lyceum, one of the earliest and most influential philosophical schools of the ancient world. By some accounts, he also invented political science as a distinct academic discipline (Strauss, 1978, pg. 21). There is a rich biographical tradition on Aristotle in ancient sources, of which Düring (1957) provides a useful scholarly inventory. One of the most extensive extant ancient accounts is provided by Diogenes Laertius (‘DL’) in the fifth book of his Lives of the Eminent Philosophers, written sometime in the 2nd century AD. In the introduction to his translation of Aristotle’s Politics, Lord (1984) also provides a speculative biography, extrapolated from the biographical record, that traces the philosopher’s likely, though for political reasons never explicitly stated, political activities. Aristotle was born in 384 in Stageiria, a Greek colony on the Chalcidice peninsula, on the Gulf of Strymon, in the northern Aegean Sea. He remained a citizen of Stageiria his entire life, despite living elsewhere for most of it. Later in life, he performed great services for his home polis, including drafting its written code of laws. His mother, Phaestis, originally hailed from Chalcis, on the island of Euboea, and his father, Nicomachus, was an Asclepiad, retained as court physician by King Amyntas II of Macedon. Aristotle thus received his early education in an aristocratic setting at the Macedonian royal court. His mother died when he was still very young, and his father died when he was ten. Thereafter, he was brought up under the guardianship of Proxenus, the husband of his sister, Arimneste. At the age of 17, Aristotle moved to Athens to pursue his advanced education. He may have initially enrolled in Isocrates’ oratorical school, as evinced by his keen interest in deliberative and forensic rhetoric and logic. The fact that Plato was away in Sicily in 367 would support this thesis. In any event, Aristotle likely enrolled at Plato’s Academy fairly soon after his arrival in Athens. It is commonly held that he studied there continuously until Plato’s death in May of 347; DL, on the other hand, cites sources contending he seceded from the Academy while Plato was still alive. Chroust (1967) offers a plausible scenario in which Aristotle likely left Athens in the autumn of 348, due to anti-Macedonian sentiment among the Athenians arising from events of the Olynthian War earlier that year. Around the same time, Aristotle successfully petitioned the king of Macedon, Phillip II, to restore Stageiria, which the Macedonian army had destroyed during that conflict. In any event, Plato was succeeded as head of the Academy by his...

References: and Further Readings Bartlett, Robert C. (Mar., 1994): ‘Aristotle’s Science of the Best Regime’, The American Political Science Review, Vol. 88, No. 1, 143-155 Chroust, Anton-Hermann (1967): ‘Aristotle Leaves the Academy’, Greece & Rome, 2nd Ser., Vol. 14, No. 1. (Apr., 1967), pp. 39-43 Coby, Patrick (Nov., 1988): ‘Aristotle’s Three Cities and the Problem of Faction’, The Journal of Politics, Vol. 50, No. 4, pp. 896-919 Düring, Ingemar (1957): Aristotle in the Ancient Biographical Tradition, Göteborg (distr.: Almqvist & Wiksell, Stockholm) Edwards, Michael (2004): Civil Society, Cambridge, UK: Polity Press Kraut, Richard (2002): Aristotle Political Philosophy, New York: Oxford Univ. Press Kumar, Krishan (Sep., 1993): ‘An Inquiry into the Usefulness of an Historical Term’, The British Journal of Sociology, Vol. 44, No. 3, pp. 375-395 Loos, Isaac (Nov., 1897): ‘The Political Philosophy of Aristotle’, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 10, pp. 1-21 Lord, Carnes (1987 [1st publ. 1963+): ‘Aristotle’, In Strauss, L. & Cropsey, J., eds., The History of Political Philosophy, Chicago: The Univ. of Chicago Press MacIntyre, Alasdair C. (1984): After Virtue: a study in moral theory (2nd ed.), Notre Dame: Univ. of Notre Dame Press Marcianus of Heraclea (1962): Vita Aristotelis Marciana, ed. Olof Gigon, Berlin: De Gruyter Strauss, Leo (1978 [1st publ. 1964]): The City and Man, Chicago: The Univ. of Chicago Press Tessitore, Aristide, ed. (2002): Aristotle and Modern Politics – The Persistence of Political Philosophy, Notre Dame: Univ. of Notre Dame Press
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