Volume 25, Issue 2, Spring 2021
The Intimate Relationship of Life and Law in Aristotle's Politics
The Rise and Decline of the Ancient Greek Polis
This essay argues that the fundamental premise of Aristotle’s political philosophy is that free citizens are those who rule and are ruled in turn. The virtuous community sustains a mean between these two dimensions of political life, and the decadent regime errs by excess or deficiency from this ideal. Aristotle sees the production and exercise of law as essential to preserve the continuity of the arrangements between citizens. In the production of law, the process of ruling together is best exemplified, and, at the same time, the citizens give themselves over to be ruled by the principles that have been laid down. Since living well is carried out in the realm of the political, we have to learn how to express our life in relationship to the whole that is shared with others. The life of law is achieved when the citizens become lawful.