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Aristotle on the Sources of the Ethical Life$
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Sylvia Berryman

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780198835004

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198835004.001.0001

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Naturalism in Aristotle’s Politics

Naturalism in Aristotle’s Politics

(p.80) 5 Naturalism in Aristotle’s Politics
Aristotle on the Sources of the Ethical Life

Sylvia Berryman

Oxford University Press

The use of substantive appeals to human nature to justify slavery and the subordination of women, as well as to argue for the polis as the ideal form of political organization, are prominent features of Book One of Aristotle’s Politics. These appeals seem like evidence for an Archimedean ethical naturalism. I argue against this conclusion, however, on the grounds that the Politics is an early work, and does not exhibit a notion of nature that could be investigated from a value-neutral or descriptive point of view. The notion of phusis found in the Politics is out of step with that of the biological work, adhering closer to the sophistic nomos–phusis distinction, i.e. a stand-in for the notion that certain practices are legitimate and not arbitrary impositions. The chapter concludes that Politics Book One does not support the case for Archimedean naturalism.

Keywords:   Aristotle’s Politics, slavery, Archimedean ethical naturalism, Aristotle’s biology, nomos–phusis distinction

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