Aristotle was not an Athenian but a native of Stagira in Thrace, where he as born in 384. He was probably attracted to Plato’s school in the first placebecause it was the best place in Greece to carry on advanced studies.
In 335 Aristotle opened his own School in Athens, the second of the four great philosophical Schools, and during the next twelve yearsmost of his books were written, though they probably included work began during the earlier period.
The Aristotelian writings present a problem very different from that of Plato’s Dialogues. The newscience was to be general; that is, it should deal with actual as well as ideal forms of government and it should teach the art of governing and organizing states of any sort in any desired manner.The new general science of politics, therefore, was not only empirical and descriptive but even in some respects independent of any ethical purpose.
The whole science of politics, according to thenew idea, included the knowledge both of the political good, relative as well as absolute, and also of political mechanics employed perhaps for an inferior or even a bad end. This enlargement of thedefinition of political philosophy is Aristotle’s most characteristic conception.
In short, Aristotle’s is the soberer if less original genius. He feels that too great a departure from common experienceprobably has a fallacy in it somewhere, even though it appears to be irreproachably logical.
One essential difference between Plato and Aristotle is apparent in all parts of the Politics that haveto do with the ideal state: what Aristotle calls the ideal state is always Plato’s second-best state.
Aristotle accepted from the start the point of view of the Laws, that in any good state the lawmust be the ultimate sovereign and not any person whatsoever. He accepted this not as a concession to human frailty but as an intrinsic part of good government and therefore as characteristic of an...