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on 23 November 2004
Aristotle was an important thinker, born in 384 BCE at Stagirus (a Greek colony), who is considered by many the founder of the realist tradition in Philosophy. He wrote many noteworthy books, among which "The Politics" stands out. "The Politics" is one of the first books I read at university, and even though it took me a lot of time to read it, I ended up being grateful to the professor that included it as obligatory reading material for History of Political Ideas I :)
In "The Politics", the author begins by analyzing the human being, that is in his opinion a political animal by nature. Afterwards, he explains what are, for him, the origins of the polis: family, small village and then, polis. Aristotle says that even though the polis is the last chronologically, it is all the same the most important, because it is autarchic. The polis (not exactly like our states, but similar to them in some aspects) is a natural community, because it answers to something that human beings need. Only in the polis will men find perfection, only there will they be completely human. Aristotle distinguishes between citizens and non-citizens (the vast majority), and points out that only citizens have political rights. The author delves in many other themes, for example the causes of revolution, the good and bad forms of government, and the "ideal" form of government. What is more, he also considers several constitutions, and talks about the adequate education that forms good citizens for the polis.
Now, why should you read a book that was written many centuries ago and that on top of that isn't especially easy to read?. The answer is quite simple: "The Politics" is worth it. Of course, you will find faults in some of Aristotle's opinions (for instance, he thought that slaves were "live property", and that slavery was a natural institution), but you cannot ignore that most of his book is as relevant today as it was when he wrote it. "The Politics" is a book that teaches the reader to analyze reality, and to watch things differently, from another perspective. It also mentions several times that it is always necessary to take into account the context, because there are not perfect solutions good for every circumstance. Even though that seems merely common sense, it is an often forgotten truth...
On the whole, I can recommend this book to all those who are interested in Political Science, History of Ideas, or simply curious. I can guarantee that if you are patient enough to end it, you will learn a lot.
Belen Alcat
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on 20 October 2001
I'm not a philosopher or philosophy student, but I like The Politics a lot -- some of it. I think what I find boring in the book is what Aristotle found most interesting: the analysis of different types of constitution, which was best, the flaws of each and so on. To my pragmatic mind this seems a strange interest. You live under a certain constitution, and it has flaws and benefits to a greater or lesser degree, and that's it! What does it matter that another constitution is better or worse; or that one can imagine a better or worse constitution! I must say that Aristotle's obsession with the mean seems bonkers to me. "The law is the mean" seems more helpful to me than his application of this idea to ethics. He must have been a passionate man, subject to violent extremes of behaviour.
Aside from this idee fixe -- the doomed philosophical wish to regulate human behaviour -- Aristotle seems immensely sensible. I love his characterisation of wealth as a tool, or the comment that an official becomes worthy of respect when they become an official (which applies to royalty too), or the comment that the drawback of communal ownership is that people take less care of things owned by many people than things they own themselves, or the comment that it s pleasant to have money because only then can we make a gift of it. Aristotle seems much more aware of human nature than Plato is, although I enjoy The Republic, not as a practical plan of a state but as an immense artistic creation, like a novel or a play, or (because of the depth of the thought) like an author's whole oeuvre: Shakespeare or Dickens or Henry James.
My favourite part of The Politics is the last two books, on education. It's astonishing to learn of the importance the Greeks attached to music. When did music become a pastime for us? Although reading these last two books I have the persistent thought that civilisation has declined, and that we live like visitors to a clockwork shop, surrounded by useless technical marvels which we look at with glazed eyes. The Benthamite view of education (it's necessary for the economy) or art (it's useful for the economy) make me weep when they are put beside Aristotle's notion of education as work itself, and his idea that you need to learn precisely *for* leisure (how cheap our notion of leisure is beside this!) "But to be constantly asking 'What is the use of?' is unbecoming to those of superior mentality and free birth" -- this might profitably be disseminated in our society.
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on 2 February 2015
Very interesting - but a reminder that Aristotle never fully freed himself from Plato's collectivism. Still, full disclosure, I am on Lycophron's side of the argument - I do not believe that the state exists to make people "just and good" or that it is the job of "the legislator" to map out the lives or character of people. I hold that law exists to apply the non aggression principle of justice - hands-off non aggression in terms of the bodies and goods of individuals and voluntary associations, this view is attacked by Aristotle just as Plato attacks it.
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on 5 February 2016
great value. great service,
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on 12 January 2016
excellent
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on 5 December 2015
Satisfied
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on 14 January 2016
Yes
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on 25 September 2014
Excellent value and service
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on 10 August 2014
Great job, would recommend
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on 28 December 2014
My basic reference
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