Elements of Biology in Aristotle’s Political Science

In Sophia M. Connell (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle's Biology. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. pp. 211-227 (2021)
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Abstract

Aristotle is a political scientist and a student of biology. Political science, in his view, is concerned with the human good and thus it includes the study of ethics. He approaches many subjects from the perspective of both political science and biology: the virtues, the function of humans, and the political nature of humans. In light of the overlap between the two disciplines, I look at whether or not Aristotle’s views in biology influence or explain some of his theses in political science. I show that we should not seek a unified answer to this question, for the relationship between the two disciplines varies depending on the topic. In some cases, e.g. the nature of the human function, the biological background is likely to be endorsed as one of the presuppositions of the ethical enquiry. In other cases, e.g. the study of social hierarchies, even though the ethical works and the biological works come to similar conclusions, it is hard to establish that the biological approach is intended to provide support to the ethico-political approach. In conclusion, I show that Aristotle’s political science and his biology are in conflict at least in two important cases: his account of justice towards non-human animals and his exhortation to contemplate.

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Elena Cagnoli Fiecconi
University College London

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