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BOOK REVIEWS 335 Mary P. Nichols. Citizens and Statesmen. Savage, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers , 1992. Pp. ix + ~33. Paper, $19.95. Judith A. Swanson. The Public and the Private in Aristotle's Political Philosophy. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 199~. Pp. xiv + ~44. Cloth, $32.95 . The sentences we read in Aristotle's Politics are tentative statements. Aristotle makes a claim, e.g., that man is a political animal, that there is a slave by nature, that the citizen shares in offices and judgments, and so forth, but these statements are put forth as challenges, not assertions. There is always a hidden question mark that transforms these apparent assertions into fields of exploration where the definitions are twisted and evaluated, tested against what people say, what makes sense, what we see with our eyes. The difficulty with scholarship on Aristotle has not infrequently been the willingness to turn sentences posed as problems into Aristotelian dogma at the heart of Aristotelian political theory. Take his definition of citizenship as an example. At 1275a22 he defines the citizen "in an unqualified sense" as one who shares in judgment and office. By the end of the first chapter of Book 3, the citizen is the one who has the opportunity or freedom (hexousia) to share in the deliberative offices and judgments (1275b18). The differences between the two definitions are subtle but important and the result of Aristotle's intermediary reflections on how citizens fit into regimes, how offices are defined, and what sharing might mean. Again, his original defense of the wisdom of the many soon falters as he confronts the problem of exactly who is to be included in the many (3.11). Aristotle persistantly poses puzzles for his readers as he reflects on assertions that at first seem clear-cut, but which, as he carries his reflections further, fail to be so obvious. The two books under review recognize this quality of Aristotle's Politics and instead of accepting Aristotle's initial assertions follow the complex developments of his thought which, as often as not, lead to a state of aporia or perplexity rather than to closure. In so doing, however, they come to almost antithetical conclusions. Exploring the twists and turns of Aristotle's arguments each book brings him to the modern age, an educator for those who live in liberal democracies that abstract from discussions of virtue, whether public or private. Judith A. Swanson makes Aristotle acceptable to liberals by showing him defending the sanctity of the private world, for the sake of which the public world exists. Her Aristotle enlightens the modern liberal by showing a private world of virtue, affection, friendship, and philosophy, not one of crass economic self-satisfaction. The Aristotle of Mary P. Nichols presents modern liberals with the defense of a world of statesmen and citizenship, where rule is for the sake of cultivating public virtue in one's subjects. At the heart of Nichols's analysis is a critique of those who see Aristotle as the defender of natural hierarchies, which have been used to justify natural slavery or the subjection of women. Her exploration of the ins and outs of Aristotle's own explorations of the topic finds a thinker who posits an openness in nature that creates opportunities for actors, and who replaces hierarchy with exhortations for masters and slaves to become friends. The master, drawing on the openness of nature, is to develop the potential of the slave, making him more equal rather than perpetuating the hierarchi- 336 JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY 33:~ APRIL 199 5 cal relationship. This model then informs Nichols's analysis of Aristotle's teaching about the role of the statesman: he is to draw out the political potential of his subjects, transforming them into citizens. Despotism and even the "all-over king" (1285b36) (praised by those offering an "aristocratic" interpretation of Aristotle), not statesmanship , perpetuate a hierarchy that denies the fluidity of nature. The Aristotle Nichols finds in her careful reading is a moderator between master and slave, between statesman and citizen, between difference and similarity, between necessity and choice, between the claims of participatory democracy and aristocratic rule. The political challenge, as she...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 335-337
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
N
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