The Political Dimensions of Aristotle's Ethics

By Richard Bodeus
Translated by Jan Garrett

Subjects: Ancient Greek Philosophy
Series: SUNY series in Ancient Greek Philosophy
Paperback : 9780791416105, 250 pages, October 1993
Hardcover : 9780791416099, 250 pages, November 1993

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Table of contents

Author's Preface to the English Edition

Translator's Preface



Chapter 1 In Search of Aristotle's Project

I. Difficulties peculiar to the interpretation of Aristotle

II. 1. The Corpus in the catalog of Andronicus of Rhodes

2. Conceptions inherent in the principles of division

3. The supposed foundations of the systematizing interpretation

III. 1. The first set of interpretive categories

2. A second set of interpretive categories

3. A third set of interpretive categories

4. Provisional balance sheet

IV . 1. The common plan of the Ethics and the Politics : Ancient testimonies

2. Modern exegesis

V. 1. A key-concept:

2. Prudential knowledge

3. Conclusions

VI. The meaning of Aristotle's project

Chapter 2 The Justification for a Political Teaching

I . 1. A privileged document

2. A reflection in the Socratic-Platonic tradition

3. The limits of discourse in education

II. 1. On the insufficiency of discourse for forming the good person

2. On the need for laws

3. On the formation of the lawgiver

III. 1. The purpose of the lectures contained in the Ethics and the Politics

2. The intellectual nature of legislative activity

IV. Philosophy to the aid of the lawgiver

Chapter 3 The Development of Aristotle's Philosophy and Aristotle's Position in the Development of Philosophy

I. The problem

II. 1. Affinities with Politics vii-viii

2. Affinities with the Protrepticus

III. Aristotle and the development of philosophy

Chapter 4 The Public Character of Aristotle's Discourses

I. Introduction

1. The complex nature of the documents

2. Oral communications

3. Lectures of a more or less private nature

4. An opening of the school to the city?

5. Differences with Plato

II. 1. Obscure material circumstances

2. The traces of didactic precaution

3. A basic aspect of the discourse: The methodological statements

Chapter 5 The Audience of the Political Discourses

I. The concerns of the "speaker"

II. Prerequisites for the discourse

1. The limits of language as instrument of knowledge

2. The experience required of the listener

3. The faculty of "comprehension"

III. Education and critical aptitude

1. In music

2. In drawing

3. In medicine

4. Conclusion

IV. The need to be educated

1. The unity of the concept "educated"

2. The deficiencies of the traditional interpretation

3. Results of to be avoided

4. General education and politics

V. The practical relevance of education

1. New preliminaries for the discourse

2. "Good moral habits" and practical education

Conclusion Education, Ethics and Politics



Index of Passages from Plato and Aristotle

Index of Ancient and Medieval Names

Index of More Important Greek Terms

Subject Index


A study in the best tradition of classical scholarship, showing mastery of commentary and scholarship in eight languages, this book argues that the Ethics is integral to a series of politically oriented philosophical addresses aimed at morally mature political leaders. Bodeus's critical review of the major approaches to Aristotle's texts is an excellent introduction to the subject.

Richard Bodeus is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Montreal. He is author of Politique et philosophie chez Aristote. Jan Garrett is Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Western Kentucky University.


"By renewing, with an economy of means and a rare discretion, our reading of an entire panorama of Aristotelianism, The Political Dimensions of Aristotle's Ethics seems to me to be epoch-making in current Aristotelian studies. The astonishing originality of Bodeus's text begins by taking the form of a reassembly: like those dismembered mythic heroes whose parts rearrange themselves of their own accord, the territories hitherto disjoined of the ethical and political continent of Aristotle organized themselves into a system--into an assemblage that makes sense. Hence the strange impression, not of deja-vu, for the originality of Bodeus's work is incontestable, but of astonishment that no one had previously defended the theses he proposes.

"Bodeus provides answers to questions too enormous to have been posed clearly before: For whom did Aristotle write his ethical and political treatises? For Aristotle, it was essential that legislators be developed who would endow the state, no matter what its geographical, political, or social location, with excellent laws that would spread virtue, and thus happiness, in society. The philosopher concerned with ethics and politics thus found that he had been assigned a new task, but one perfectly in agreement with the expectations of the Greeks of his time. Bodeus has produced a great book. After him many opinions about Aristotelian practical philosophy, and consequently also about the very structure of Aristotelianism, have become unsustainable." -- Pierre Pellegrin