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Aristotle on Freedom and Equality

  • David KeytEmail author
Chapter
Part of the Philosophical Studies Series book series (PSSP, volume 132)

Abstract

The two watchwords of ancient Greece democracy were ‘freedom’ and ‘equality’. Aristotle is sharply critical of the democratic understanding of both terms but, as a champion of true aristocracy, does not wish to surrender such rhetorically charged words to his ideological opponents. He thus tries to preserve a portion of the concepts signified by each of these terms for his favored political system. With respect to equality he is explicit. He distinguishes proportional equality from numerical equality and associates the former with aristocracy and the latter with democracy. With respect to freedom he is not so explicit. Although he often uses the term ‘free’ (eleutheros) and its cognates in the Politics to signify a freedom that is more robust than democratic freedom, he never discusses or analyses such a concept. But by using a general analysis of freedom as a triadic relation involving an agent, a goal, and an (obstructing or disabling) obstacle, one can piece together Aristotle’s understanding of ‘true’, or aristocratic, freedom. It thus turns out that ‘freedom’ and ‘equality’ can be watchwords, not only of democracy, but of true aristocracy as well.

Keywords

Aristocracy Democracy Equality Freedom Ruling 

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of ArizonaTucsonUSA

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