The Sovereignty of the Lawcode in Aristotle

Dissertation, Mcgill University (Canada) (2002)

Authors
Denis Vlahovic
Carleton College
Abstract
In contrast with the procedural orientation of Athenian law in his day, Aristotle thinks that the lawcode should include principles which explain the rules of the lawcode and guide the interpretation of these rules in difficult cases. It should be determined by majority vote whether the decisions and proposals of political experts are consistent with the principles of the lawcode. Aristotle's views on practical explanation support his views on political deliberation. Someone has a techne rather than mere empeiria if he can give an account of the principles of an art and is able to explain the results of his deliberations in the art in terms of the principles. Such explanation does not have the same status as apodeixis in the epistemai, in that such an explanation cannot demonstrate that a conclusion follows necessarily from the principles of the art. However, a person who has experience in the art is able to evaluate deliberative options based on such arguments. ;Aristotle has an account of practical intellection which, like Plato's, is theory-based. Aristotle's account is an adjustment of Plato's account in the light of Isocrates' criticisms of Plato. Aristotle combines the accounts of Plato and Isocrates---the emphasis of the one on explanation and the emphasis of the other on practical principles. Aristotle's views on practical intellection allow him to solve a problem associated with Plato's proposals in the Laws, which resemble in important respects Aristotle's own proposals. Plato intends in the Laws to introduce an arrangement on which the polis is governed by non-philosopher citizens educated by the lawcode. However, because of his views on practical intellection, Plato is forced to put the 'Nocturnal Council' in charge of 'preserving the laws'. Because of his views on practical intellection, Aristotle can accept that the majority can be in charge of preserving the law. Aristotle's views on practical intellection also allow him to say that one ought to spell out the principles of the lawcode and privilege them in the interpretation of the law---which is different from the Athenian, procedural approach to the law---even though no universally true claims are possible on practical issues
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