It is a commonplace that Aristotle, like his teacher Plato, was a critic of democracy. This is, to a certain extent, true: Plato and Aristotle both saw democracy, at least as practiced in Athens, as prone to tumultuousness and imprudence. The failed Sicilian expedition, the execution of Socrates, the failure to heed Demosthenes's warnings about Philip of Macedon and Aristotle's own reported flight from Athens all highlighted the weaknesses of Athenian democratic institutions. Yet Aristotle's understanding of political science requires him to consider not only what the simply best regime might be, as Socrates purports to do in the Republic, but also the characteristic advantages and disadvantages of all kinds of regimes, including democracy. This is, in fact, particularly true with regard to democracy: Aristotle suggests that it is unlikely that any regime other than democracy will come into being (Pol. 1286620-22) and, insofar as his political science is intended to be practical, understanding its strengths and limitations is of great importance.
Copyright © 2018 Bloomsbury Academic. This chapter first appeared in Democratic Moments: Reading Democratic Texts.
Edited by Xavier Márquez
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Cherry, Kevin M. "Aristotle on Democracy and Democracies." In Democratic Moments: Reading Democratic Texts, edited by Xavier Márquez, 25-32. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2018.