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Aristotle on Democracy - Dictionary of Arguments

Höffe I 67
Democracy/Aristoteles/Höffe: Depending on the circle of citizens admitted to rule and the
Höffe I 68
scope of their authority to rule, Aristotle distinguishes five forms of democracy. In this way he tacitly introduces a comparative concept, a concept of more-or-less democracy(1).
The first three forms are still bound by the law. In the fourth, extreme form, all citizens are capable of ruling, which we consider positive today. However, according to the negative side, they are allowed to exempt themselves from all legal requirements, even to commit blatant violations of the law.
Radical democracy: Because they do not aim at the common good but at their own good, radical democracy, as Mill will repeat, appears as a tyranny of the majority.(2)
Constitution: "where there is no law, there is no constitution (politeia).
Laws: (...) the law must rule the whole, but those who govern must rule the individual cases".(3)
Rule of law: Here Aristotle pleads for a core element of the modern understanding of democracy, for a constitutional state.
Since [Aristotle] (...) favours a mixed constitution that combines oligarchic with democratic elements, commits them to the common good and allows the People's Assembly to make the important decisions, Aristotle can be considered largely democratic in the modern sense of the word. ((s) But see >Inequality/Aristotle.)


1. Arist. Politika IV 4
2. IV 4, 1292a15 ff.).
3. 1292a32–34

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Gaus I 314
Democracy/Aristotle/Keyt/Miller: Aristotle is more favourable to democracy than Plato, and in his famous 'summation' argument, which applies his favoured standard for distributing political power to men taken collectively as well as individually (Pol. Ill. I l), he even offers an 'aristocratic' justification (for which see Keyt, 1991a(1): 270—2; Waldron, 1995(2)). >Governance/Aristotle, >Constitution/Aristotle, >Tyranny/Aristotle, >Nomos/Aristotle, >Politics/Aristotle; Cf. >Family/Aristotle, >Equal rights/Aristotle.

Pol: Aristotle Politics


1. Keyt, David (1991a) 'Aristotle's theory of distributive justice'. In David Keyt and Fred D. Miller, eds, A Companion to Aristotle's Politics. Oxford: Blackwell.
2. Waldron, Jeremy (1995) 'The wisdom of the multitude: some reflections on Book 3, Chapter Il of Aristotle's Politics'. Political Theory, 23: 563-84.

Keyt, David and Miller, Fred D. jr. 2004. „Ancient Greek Political Thought“. In: Gaus, Gerald F. & Kukathas, Chandran 2004. Handbook of Political Theory. SAGE Publications


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.

Höffe I
Otfried Höffe
Geschichte des politischen Denkens München 2016

Gaus I
Gerald F. Gaus
Chandran Kukathas
Handbook of Political Theory London 2004


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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2021-05-12
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