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Citizens, Slaves, and Foreigners: Aristotle on Human Nature

  • JILL FRANK (a1)

To most readers, Aristotle's many references to nature throughout the first book of the Politics imply a foundational role for nature outside and prior to politics. Aristotle, they claim, pairs nature with necessity and, thus, sets nature as a standard that fixes the boundaries of inclusion and exclusion in political life. Through readings of Aristotle on the nature of citizens, slaves, and foreigners in the Politics, this essay argues, in contrast, that, to Aristotle, nature, especially human nature, is changeable and shaped by politics. Through an analysis of Aristotle's philosophical and scientific treatments of nature in the Metaphysics and Physics, this essay demonstrates that in order to preserve what he takes to be characteristic and also constitutive of a distinctively human way of living—prohairetic activity—Aristotle is especially keen to guard against any assimilation of nature to necessity.

Corresponding author
Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208 (
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Aristotle Texts

Aristotle. 1991 De Anima. Translated by R. D. Hicks. Buffalo: Prometheus Books.
Aristotle. 1980 Metaphysics I–IX. Translated by Hugh Tredennick. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Aristotle. 1980 Nicomachean Ethics. Translated by David Ross, revised by J. L. Ackrill and J. O. Urmson. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Aristotle. 1982 Nicomachean Ethics. Translated by H. Rackham. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Aristotle. 1985 Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics. Translated by Terence Irwin. Indianpolis: Hackett.
Aristotle. 1996 Physics. Translated by Robin Waterfield. With an Introduction and Notes by David Bostock. New York: Oxford University Press.
Aristotle. 1969 The Politics of Aristotle. Translated by Ernest Barker. New York: Oxford University Press.
Aristotle. 1977 Politics. Translated by H. Rackham. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Aristotle. 1984 The Politics. Translated by Carnes Lord. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Aristotle. 1995 Aristotle Politics: Books I and II. Translated and with a commentary by Trevor J. Saunders. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Aristotle. 1995 Aristotle Politics: Books III and IV. Translated with introduction and comments by Richard Robinson. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Aristotle. 1996 The Politics and the Constitution of Athens. Translated by Benjamin Jowett and J. M. Moore (respectively). Edited by Stephen Everson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Aristotle. 1998 Aristotle: Politics. Translated by C. D. C. Reeve. Indianapolis: Hackett.

Other Texts

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Barker Ernest. 1959 The Political Thought of Plato and Aristotle. New York: Dover.
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American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
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