Political participation and Eudaimonia in Aristotle's Politics

History of Political Thought 19 (1):21-34 (1998)

Abstract
Current debates surrounding Aristotle's Politics involve attempts to explain the role of political participation in the pursuit of Aristotle's human telos, eudaimonia. Many argue that political participation is crucial to eudaimonia, equating the good man with the good citizen. Often this argument is based on Aristotle's labelling of humans as zoon politikon, or ‘political animal’, and the misleading translation of eudaimonia as ‘happiness’. We provide supported explanations of eudaimonia and zoon politikon which do not force us to equate the good man and the good citizen. We illustrate Aristotle's analogy between the eudaimon man and the eudaimon polis and emphasize the role political participation sometimes plays in the pursuit of eudaimonia. On the basis of this evidence, we argue that Aristotle did not equate the good man with the good citizen necessarily, nor did he find political participation essential to eudaimonia. We then demonstrate that even without political participation, the polis plays a unique role in the pursuit of eudaimonia
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