Aristotle on the Authority of the Many: Politics III 11, 1281a40–b21

Apeiron 54 (2):203-232 (2021)
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Abstract

In this article I propose a new interpretation of Aristotle’s arguments about the authority of the many at Politics III 11, 1281a40–b21. It consists of the following main tenets. First, the multitude that Aristotle refers to in his arguments should be understood on the model of the multitude which rules in polities and the members of which are accomplished in only a part of political excellence, namely, military excellence. Second, the best citizens with whom he compares that multitude in his arguments do not possess complete political excellence but rather the highest degree of military excellence among their fellow citizens in a polity. Third, the members of that multitude are collectively superior to the best citizens in making decisions about political particulars, for example, decisions about specific policies. Fourth, their superiority can be explained by reference to the fact that they collectively possess superior experience than the best citizens, though they have individually and collectively inferior political understanding. Finally, their collective superiority in making political decisions is the outcome of the aggregation of their individual political judgements that are based on experience rather than the outcome of some form of public deliberation that enables them to grasp the political reasons which support their decisions.

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Antony Hatzistavrou
University of Hull

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