Delba Winthrop: Aristotle: Democracy and Political Science
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“That democracy is the best, not to mention the only legitimate, form of government is undoubtedly the most vigorously asserted and least examined political opinion of our day.” So late Delba Winthrop wrote in 1974 in a manuscript published this year, more than a decade after her untimely death. She was right then, and she is right now, at least in the West, although the regimes of today’s China and Russia no longer trouble to call themselves democracies. A philosopher will interrogate holders of unexamined opinions, having judged the unexamined life not worth living. In so doing, Winthrop consults that eminent questioner of regime partisans, Aristotle.
Aristotle finds democrats valorizing freedom, which they define as “living as one wishes.” Knowing that such a life requires governmental protection against those who would constrain them, democrats agree “to rule and be ruled, so far as is necessary, equally with other men who similarly do not wish to be ruled.” This puts democrats in...