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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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American Political Science Review
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