Aristotle: Politics

Sanzio_01_Plato_AristotleAristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics addresses the character and the behavior of the individual (virtue ethics.) At the end of this book, he declares that the inquiry into ethics necessarily leads to politics, and his book Politics therefore deals with the “philosophy of human affairs” in the city.  The city is for him a natural community, therefore he is not concerned with questions that were raised by later philosophers, like what is the basis of the “social contract.”  Aristotle considers the city or the “political community” (koinōnia politikē) to be the basic unit of the social field, prior to the family, and prior to the individual, because “the whole must of necessity be prior to the part.”  For him, the nature of the human being is to be  “a political animal.”  The political system or the state is for Aristotle not like a social machine, but more like a natural organism, that evolves and cycles through natural stages of transformation.


The argument for a need to write a treatise about politics can be found in the Nicomachean Ethics, chapter 9:

The Incompleteness of the Ethics (1179a33)
The Need for Legislation (1179b18)
The Need for Legislators (1180a24)
How to Become a Legislator: The Need for the Politics (1180b28)


Here is a chapter outline of the treatise Politics:


Book One: The Primacy of the City


Chapter 1    The Primacy of the City (1252a1)

Chapter 2    The City and Its Parts. The Household (1252a24). The City (1252b27)

Chapter 3    Household Management and Its Parts (1253b1)

Chapter 4    Slavery The Definition of the Slave (1253b23)

Chapter 5    Slave and Master by Nature.   First Proof (1254a17). Second Proof (1254b20)

Chapter 6    Slave and Master by Law. Against Those Who Altogether Condemn Slavery (1255a3) Against Those Who Altogether Approve of Slavery (1255a21) Summary (1255b4)

Chapter 7    Mastery as Rule and as Science (1255b16)

Chapter 8   Property. The Questions about Business (1256a1). The Science of Property and Household Management (1256a15)

Chapter 9    The Two Kinds of Business. The Science of Property and Exchange (1256b40)
The Emergence from Exchange of Another Kind of Business (1257a30)
Reason for Its Emergence (1257b40)

Chapter 10  Business as Part of Household Management (1258a19)

Chapter 11  The Practice of Business (1258b9)

Chapter 12  Husband and Wife, Father and Child (1259a37)

Chapter 14  Virtue as the Overall Concern of Household Management Virtue as the Overall Concern of Household (1259b18) How to Secure Virtue in the Household (1260a33)


Book Two: Regimes Said by Others to Be Best

Chapter 1    Reason and Order of the Examination (1260b27)

Chapter 2    The Regime of Plato’s Republic. Common Wives and Children (1261a10)
Failure to Qualify the Fundamental Supposition about Unity (1261a15)

Chapter 3    Unity as Appealed to in the Proof  Is Impossible
The Word “All” (1261b16)
The Word “Mine” (1262a1)

Chapter 4    The Result Is the Opposite of That Intended (1262a25)

Chapter 5    Common Property (1262b37). Communism in General (1263b7)
The Regime as a Whole. Subjects (1264a11). Rulers (1264b6)

Chapter 6    The Regime of Plato’s Laws. From the Regime of the Republic to That of the Laws (1264b26). Presuppositions of the Regime (1265a10). The Regime as a Whole (1265b26)

Chapter 7    The Regime of Phaleas of Chalcedon. Phaleas’ Materialism (1266a31). Criticism of Phaleas (1266b8)

Chapter 8    The Regime of Hippodamus of Miletus. Hippodamus as Man and as Legislator (1267b22). Criticism of Hippodamus. Citizens and Land (1268a16). Jurors (1268b4). The Law about Discovering Something of Advantage to the City (1268b22)

Chapter 9    The Regime of the Spartans. Slavery (1269a29). Women (1269b13). Property (1270a11). Offices. The Ephorate (1270b6). The Senate (1270b35). Kings, Common Messes, and Admirals (1271a18). Supposition of the Regime and Finances (1271a41)

Chapter 10  The Regime of the Cretans. How It Is Like the Regime of the Spartans (1271b20)
How It is Better and Worse than the Regime of the Spartans (1272a12)

Chapter 11  The Regime of the Carthaginians. How It is Better than the Regime of the Spartans and Cretans (1272b24). Deviations in the Regime of the Carthaginians. Deviations in General (1273a2). Particular Oligarchic Deviations (1273a21)

Chapter 12  Other Legislators. Framers of Regimes (1273b27). Framers of Laws (1274b9)

Book Three: Definition and Division of  Regime


Chapter 1    Definition of City and Citizen. Priority of Citizen  (1274b32). Preliminary Definition of Citizen (1275a5). Precise Definition of Citizen and City (1275a34)

Chapter 2    Confirmation of the Definitions (1275b22)

Chapter 3    Resolution of Disputes. As Regard the City (1276a6)

Chapter 4    As Regard the Citizen. Virtue of Man and Citizen (1276b16)
That the Virtue of Both Cannot in Every Case Be the Same (1276b31)
That the Virtue of Both Can in Some Cases Be the Same (1277a13)

Chapter 5    Citizenship and Virtue of the Vulgar. Preliminary Discussion (1277b33) Determinative Answer (1278a13)

Chapter 6    Definition and Division of Regime. Definition of Regime (1278b6)
Division of Regime. First Part of the Division (1278b15)

Chapter 7    Second Part of the Division (1279a22)

Chapter 8    Confirmation of the Division against Certain Difficulties
First Difficulty: Whether the Deviant Regimes Are Rightly Defined (1279b11)
First Part of the Solution: Quantity and Quality in the Definition (1279b34)

Chapter 9    Second Part of the Solution: Despotism in the Definition
That Oligarchic and Democratic Justice Are Partial (1280a7)
Why Oligarchic and Democratic Justice Are Partial (1280a25)

Chapter 10  Second Difficulty: Whether Any of the Regimes is Correct. Statement of the Difficulty (1281a11)

Chapter 11  Partial Solution Specific to Polity. Statement and Illustration of the Solution (1281a39). Answers to Objections (1281b38)

Chapter 12  Complete Solution General to All Regimes. Who May Justly Make Claims to Rule (1282b14)

Chapter 13  Who May Justly Make Claims to Have Control of Rule. Preliminary Discussion (1283a23). The Case for Polity (1283b27). The Case for Aristocracy and Kingship (1284a3)

Chapter 14  Third Difficulty: Whether Kingship is a Correct Regime. The Kinds of Kingship (1284b35)

Chapter 15  Difficulties with Total Kingship. Arguments for Rule of Law Rather Than Rule by One Man (1285b33)

Chapter 16  Arguments against Total Kingship (1287a1)

Chapter 17  Answer to the Difficulties (1287b36)

Chapter 18  Transition to Investigation of the Best Regime (1288a32)

Book Four: The Best Regime[**see note below]


Chapter 1    Preface to the Discussion: The Best Way of Life. That the Life of Virtue Is the Best Life for Everyone (1323a14). That the Life of Virtue Is the Best Life for the City (1323a29)

Chapter 2    What the Life of Virtue Is. The Kinds of Virtuous Life (1324a13). That the Life of Virtue Is Not Despotic Rule over Neighbors (1324a35)

Chapter 3    That the Life of Virtue Is Both Practical and Philosophic (1325a16)

Chapter 4    Presuppositions of the Best Regime. The Amount and Sort of Material (1325b33). The Number of Human Beings (1326a8)

Chapter 5    The Amount and Sort of Territory. Amount and Quality (1326b26). Topology and Size of the City. As Regards the Territory (1326b39)

Chapter 6    As Regards the Sea (1327a11)

Chapter 7    The Sort of Human Beings (1327b18)

Chapter 8    The Disposition of the Material. The Classes of Human Beings Necessary in a City (1328a21)

Chapter 9    The Separation of the Classes from Each Other. Statement and Proof of the Separation (1328b24)

Chapter 10  Confirmation from Ancient Precedents (1329a40). The Division of the Territory. With Respect to Farming (1329b36)

Chapter 11  With Respect to the Site of the City. Health (1330a34). Military Action and Nobility (1330a41)

Chapter 12  Political Action and Nobility (1331a19)

Chapter 13  The Best Regime Itself. The Goal That the Regime Must Be Capable of Achieving (1331b24). That Achieving This Goal Requires Education (1332a28)

Chapter 14  The Education Required. Education Is to Train Both Ruled and Rulers (1332b12)
Education Must Follow the Division of the Soul. What the Division Is (1333a16)
Refutation of the Opposing View (1333b5)

Chapter 15  What Virtues Education Must Inculcate (1334a11). The Order of Education (1334b6)

Chapter 16  Preliminary Stages. Childbirth (1334b29)

Chapter 17  Infancy to Age Seven (1326a3). Education Proper. The Division of Education and Questions to Examine (1336b37)

Book Five: Education in the Best Regime [** see note below]

Chapter 1    That Education Is Necessary and Must Be Common (1337a11)

Chapter 2    The Content and Manner of Education. Review of Difficulties (1337a33). Solution to Difficulties. Education Must Be Liberal (1337b4)

Chapter 3    Education Must be for Noble Leisure (1337b21)

Chapter 4    Treatment of Particular Subjects. Gymnastics (1338b4)

Chapter 5    Music. Preliminary Discussion (1339a11). The Purposes of Music and Education in Music. For Play and Cultured Pursuits (1339b10). For Contribution to Character (1339b42)

Chapter 6    The Music the Young Should Be Taught. As Regards Performance (1340b20)

Chapter 7    As Regards Modes and Rhythms (1341b19)

Book Six: Division and Description of the Other Regimes [** see note below]


Chapter 1    The Questions Political Science Must Study (1288b10)\

Chapter 2    The Questions Remaining to Be Studied and Their Order (1289a26)

Chapter 3    First Question:  The Differences among Regimes. That There Are Several Kinds of Regime (1289b27)
Restatement of the Correct View against the Common View (1290a13)

Chapter 4    Falsity of the Common View (1290a30). Proof of the Correct View and Reason for the Common View (1290b21)
That There Are Also Several Kinds of Democracy and Oligarchy (1291b14). Kinds of Democracy (1291b30)

Chapter 5    Kinds of Oligarchy (1292a39)
Reason for These Kinds of Democracy and Oligarchy
Preliminary Clarification (1292b11)

Chapter 6    Relation to the Kinds of Populace and Notables (1292b22)

Chapter 7    That There Are Also Several Kinds of Aristocracy, Polity, and Tyranny. Kinds of So-called Aristocracy (1293a35)

Chapter 8    Kinds of Polity (1293b22)

Chapter 9    Reasons for These Kinds of Aristocracy and Polity (1294a30)

Chapter 10  Kinds of Tyranny (1295a1)

Chapter 11  Second Question: The Most Common and Most Choiceworthy Regime after the Best
That This Regime Is the Middle Sort of Regime (1295a25)
Why Most Regimes Are Not of the Middle Sort (1296a22)
That Other Regimes Are Better or Worse by Reference to the Middle (1296b2)

Chapter 12  Third Question: Which Regime Is Preferable for Whom. Democracies and Oligarchies (1296b13). Mixed Regimes. The General Case (1296b38)

Chapter 13  Particular Applications (1297a14)

Chapter 14  Fourth Question: How to Set Up These Regimes. By Means of the Deliberative Body (1297b35)

Chapter 15  By Means of the Offices. The Differences among Offices (1299a3). The Appointment of Offices (1300a9)

Chapter 16  By Means of the Law Courts (1300b13)

Book Seven: Destruction and Preservation of the Other Regimes [** see note below]


Chapter 1    Fifth Question: Destruction and Preservation of Regimes. Destruction of Regimes in General. The Starting Point of Change (1301a19). Kinds of Change and Which Regimes Suffer Them (1301b4)

Chapter 2    Beginnings and Causes of Change. Their Kinds and Number (1302a16)

Chapter 3    The Power of Their Operation (1302a16)

Chapter 4    Occasion and Means of Their Operation (1302b5)

Chapter 5    Destruction of Regimes in Particular. Destruction of Democracies (1304b19)

Chapter 6    Destruction of Oligarchies (130537)

Chapter 7    Destruction of Mixed Regimes (1306b22)

Chapter 8    Preservation of Regimes in Particular (1307b26)

Chapter 9    Preservation of Regimes in General (1309a33)

Chapter 10  Destruction of Monarchies. How Kingships and Tyrannies Are Like Regimes (1310a39). That They Are Destroyed in Similar Ways. In General (1311a22). In Particular (1313a34)

Chapter 11  Preservation of Monarchies. Kingships (1313a18). Tyrannies (1313a34)

Chapter 12  Durability of Tyrannies (1315b11). Refutation of the Rival Views of Socrates (1316a1)

Book Eight: Addendum on Setting Up the Other Regimes [** see note below]


Chapter 1    Reason and Order of the Addendum (1316b31). The Setting Up of Democracies (1317a18)

Chapter 2    The Features of Democracy (1317a40)

Chapter 3    How to Set Up the Kinds of Democracy. The First or Rhetorical Democracy (1318a3)

Chapter 4    The Other Democracies (1318b6)

Chapter 5    How to Make the Kinds of Democracy Endure (1319b33)

Chapter 6    The Setting Up of Oligarchies. How to Set Up the Kinds of Oligarchy (1320b18)

Chapter 7    How to Make the Kinds of Oligarchy Endure (1321a5)

Chapter 8    The Setting Up of the Combination of Regimes
The Elements of Rule Available for Combining (1321b4)


**Note: The order of chapters in this summary is adapted from Peter Simpson’s Translation of Politics. He reorders and renumbers the order of the Books of the Politics, This may cause some confusion in referring to other editions, so to clarify things please note that:


Simpson’s Book Number          The Traditional Order


Book 1                                      Book 1

Book 2                                      Book 2

Book 3                                      Book 3

Book 4                                      Book 7

Book 5                                      Book 8

Book 6                                      Book 4

Book 7                                      Book 5

Book 8                                      Book 6


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