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  • Print publication year: 2000
  • Online publication date: March 2008

18 - Aristotelian constitutions

Plato gives grounds enough for Aristotle's generalized complaint about others who write about constitutions, that they say nothing of practical use. Though a more generous, and probably more accurate, reading would be that the cities of the Republic and the Laws are meant to provide models, to which societies would approximate by selecting, modifying and adapting the ideal institutions and laws in accordance with the prevailing conditions. Even a cursory comparison of the Politics with Plato's Republic, Politicus and Laws is sufficient to demonstrate the very close connections between Aristotle's political thinking and Plato's. Under Aristotelian kingship and aristocracy, and the special constitutional form called polity, by contrast, is put to proper use. The form of constitution called politeia or polity is clearly central to Aristotle's scheme. It is probably best described as an attainable ideal, which has close connections with something people call, not wholly misleadingly, aristocracy.
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