Aristotelianism (4TH CENTURY BC- )

Theory of politics derived from the work of the Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-322 BC).

Humans are naturally political, and the political life of the free citizen in the self-governing state or polisis the highest form of life, the essence of the ‘good life’. Inequalities breed envy which is disruptive of political stability.

The best form of constitution is a mixture of leadership, aristocracy, and citizen participation.

The Aristotelianism ideal of political life as an end in itself, not a means to other ends, has underlain much liberal thinking about politics, the vote, and citizenship.

Also see: Aristotle’s four causes

Source:
J Barnes, Aristotle (Oxford, 1982)

Aristotelianism (/ˌærɪstəˈtliənɪzəm/ ARR-i-stə-TEE-lee-ə-niz-əm) is a tradition of philosophy that takes its defining inspiration from the work of Aristotle. Aristotle was a prolific writer whose works cover many subjects including physics, biology, metaphysics, logic, ethics, aesthetics, poetry, theatre, music, rhetoric, psychology, linguistics, economics, politics, and government. Any school of thought that takes one of Aristotle’s distinctive positions as its starting point can be considered “Aristotelian” in the widest sense. This means that different Aristotelian theories (e.g. in ethics or in ontology) may not have much in common as far as their actual content is concerned besides their shared reference to Aristotle.

In Aristotle’s time, philosophy included natural philosophy, which preceded the advent of modern science during the Scientific Revolution. The works of Aristotle were initially defended by the members of the Peripatetic school and later on by the Neoplatonists, who produced many commentaries on Aristotle’s writings. In the Islamic Golden Age, Avicenna and Averroes translated the works of Aristotle into Arabic and under them, along with philosophers such as Al-Kindi and Al-Farabi, Aristotelianism became a major part of early Islamic philosophy.

Moses Maimonides adopted Aristotelianism from the Islamic scholars and based his Guide for the Perplexed on it and that became the basis of Jewish scholastic philosophy. Although some of Aristotle’s logical works were known to western Europe, it was not until the Latin translations of the 12th century and the rise of scholasticism that the works of Aristotle and his Arabic commentators became widely available. Scholars such as Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas interpreted and systematized Aristotle’s works in accordance with Catholic theology.

After retreating under criticism from modern natural philosophers, the distinctively Aristotelian idea of teleology was transmitted through Wolff and Kant to Hegel, who applied it to history as a totality. However, this project was criticized by Trendelenburg and Brentano as non-Aristotelian, Hegel’s influence is now often said to be responsible for an important Aristotelian influence upon Marx.

Recent Aristotelian ethical and “practical” philosophy, such as that of Gadamer and McDowell, is often premissed upon a rejection of Aristotelianism’s traditional metaphysical or theoretical philosophy. From this viewpoint, the early modern tradition of political republicanism, which views the res publica, public sphere or state as constituted by its citizens’ virtuous activity, can appear thoroughly Aristotelian.

The most famous contemporary Aristotelian philosopher is Alasdair MacIntyre. Especially famous for helping to revive virtue ethics in his book After Virtue, MacIntyre revises Aristotelianism with the argument that the highest temporal goods, which are internal to human beings, are actualized through participation in social practices.

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