The History of Political Philosophy: From Plato to Rothbard

2. Aristotle

The History of Political Philosophy
David Gordon

Aristotle, 384-322 BC, joined Plato’s Academy in Athens at eighteen and remained there until the age of thirty-seven. He was not a citizen of Athens. His writings constitute the first comprehensive system of Western philosophy. He tutored Alexander the Great. That experience provided him with an abundance of supplies to work with. He established a library in the Lyceum.

After Plato’s death, Aristotle shifted from Platonism to empiricism. Aristotle’s two main works in philosophy were about ethics [Nicomachean Ethics] and politics [Politics]. Aristotelian ethics were more practical than theoretical. He aimed at becoming good and doing good as an individual. Reason is the distinguishing characteristic of human beings. 

Aristotle’s work Politics addressed the city (polis), which he viewed as organic. He stated that “man is by nature a political animal.” Kingship, aristocracy and polity are the three good groups of the polis. The aim of the city was to allow some citizens the possibility to live a good life and to perform beautiful acts. Aristotle did favor government education. He, also, felt that some men were slaves by nature and were better off being ruled by others.

Lecture 2 of 10 from David Gordon’s The History of Politcal Philosophy: From Plato to Rothbard.