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Deliberation, Democracy, and the Rule of Reason in Aristotle's Politics


Deliberative democratic theorists argue that important moral questions turn on whether regimes are sufficiently deliberative. To attribute “deliberativeness” to a regime, we need an account of “deliberative integration” that connects such a holistic assessment to the acts or qualities of individuals and smaller groups. I turn to Aristotle's Politics for instruction in developing such accounts, arguing that he judges regimes according to how reliably they act pursuant to excellent common deliberation—a manner of excellent rule that I call the “rule of reason.” I then interpret Aristotle's metaphorical argument for the “wisdom of the multitude” to establish the claim that democracies may best integrate citizens’ deliberations. This interpretation illuminates Aristotle's complex evaluation of regimes, including his ambivalent views on the rule of the many. It also suggests a structure for contemporary accounts of deliberative integration helpful even for those who differ from Aristotle in their basic moral concerns.

Corresponding author
James Lindley Wilson is a Ph.D. candidate, Department of Politics, Princeton University, 130 Corwin Hall, Princeton, NJ 08544-1012 (
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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Aristotle . 1984. The Politics. Trans. Carnes Lord . Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Amy Gutmann , and Dennis Thompson . 2004. Why Deliberative Democracy? Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Bernard Manin . 1997. The Principles of Representative Government. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Josiah Ober . 2008. Democracy and Knowledge: Innovation and Learning in Classical Athens. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

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American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
  • URL: /core/journals/american-political-science-review
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