Some Medieval Readings of Aristotle’s Argument for the Collective Superiority of “the Many”

Studia Neoaristotelica 9 (2):135-153 (2012)
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Abstract

An essential challenge of Aristotle’s Politics arises from the juxtaposition of contrasting and competing arguments in favour of virtuous monarchy, on the one hand, and the collective superiority of “the many”, on the other. This paper examines the purely theoretical reception of this contrast in the writings of some late medieval Aristotelians by focusing on a key section in Politics Γ (1280a8–1284b34). After reviewing Aristotle’s problematic position, the paper discusses its interpretation in the commentaries of Albert the Great, Thomas Aquinas/Peter of Auvergne and Walter Burley, as well as its use in the works of Giles of Rome, John of Paris and Marsilius of Padua. On that basis, finally, the paper outlines some general trends with regard to how medieval scholars dealt with Aristotle’s idea of the rule of the many as opposed to that of one or few virtuous persons.

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