Whose Prayer? The Best Regime of Book 7 and the Lessons of Aristotle's "Politics"

Political Theory 35 (1):29 - 46 (2007)
Most modern readers of Aristotle's "Politics" assume that the regime "according to prayer" (kat' euchên) in Book 7 is the culmination of the work as a whole, a utopia designed to guide political reform. I say no. This polis is not an ideal to be applied to practice, but one aspiration among several to be seriously examined and consulted by political people as they deliberate about what to do in particular situations. The prayer presented in chapters 4-12 is not meant to be understood as Aristotle's own, but as coming from one imagined voice among the several presented in the "Nicomachean Ethics" and "Politics." Would Aristotle pray for this regime? No. It is instead the prayer of a "real man" (an anêr) fully committed to political life, someone who, unlike Aristotle, can imagine nothing more beautiful than a beautiful polis. Aristotle's subtlety here has important implications for understanding the philosophy/politics relationship.
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