Jump to navigation Jump to search
Quotes about Politics
- Aristotle advised tyrants and oligarchs on how to preserve their position in the face of hostile public opinion; but the Politics was not a treatise on statecraft, and his advice is generally very unlike Machiavelli’s unabashed recommendation of violence and deceit. Politics was a treatise on the nature of the Greek polis, framed by a philosophical account of the nature of the good life. It explained why the skills and temperament of the statesman were useful, but it does not discuss them in detail or encourage the reader to acquire them. Aristotle’s ideal was, as he said, the rule of laws, not men. He theorized the political life, not the skills of statecraft. He made a persuasive case for the autonomy of the political realm, and for more everyday and down-to-earth values than those that Plato cared for; he provided a philosophical justification for the existence of statesmen and an account of why we should not seek to replace political leaders with philosopher-kings. Once he had explained the deficiencies of Plato’s attempted purification of political life, he needed no elaborate account of the role of philosophy in practical life, since his account of ethics and politics in the Nicomachean Ethics supplied it, along with a caution that such inquiries were not for young men but for those whose blood had cooled a little. Unlike Plato, he did not dismiss rhetoric as the art of making a bad case look good, but he made nothing of it in the Politics. The writer who made oratory central was Cicero.
- Alan Ryan, On Politics: A History of Political Thought: From Herodotus to the Present (2012), Ch. 4 : Roman Insights: Polybius and Cicero