Aristotle's Strengths And Limitations Of Democracy

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“Man is by nature a political animal” is perhaps the most quoted phrase from Aristotle’s Politics despite the observation that the context in which this claim was made has not always been properly understood. Recently, however, frustrations with the lack of political participation in modern liberal democracies have contributed to renewed interest in some of Aristotle’s ideas—namely, democratic theory. Throughout chapters 9 to 13 of Book 3 of Politics, Aristotle provides an empirical assessment of democracy’s strengths and limitations. He argues that democracy may have some merit as a regime because there is some truth to the democratic view that ordinary citizens may have a legitimate claim to political power in a city. Nevertheless, …show more content…
In fact, he concedes that although democracy is a perversion of the rule of the many, the democratic view that ordinary citizens may have a claim to power does hold some merit due to: 1) the citizenry’s collective intelligence, and 2) the way that political office is organized in a democracy. On page 108, Aristotle states that “[f]or when there are many, each has his own share of goodness and practical wisdom; and, when all meet together, the people may thus become like a single person, who as he has many feet many hands, and many senses, may also have many qualities of character and intelligence”. Furthermore, “provided…the people is not too debased in character [,] each individual may indeed be a worse judge than the experts; but all, when they meet together, are either better than experts or at any rate no worse” (Aristotle 110). Taken together, the two aforementioned quotations indicate that, for Aristotle, there is some merit in the democratic view that ordinary citizens can have a legitimate claim to political power in a city because the diversity of experiences and skills in the citizen body necessarily contributes to the formation of collective intelligence in the citizenry. This collective intelligence, according to Aristotle, will enable the citizenry to be act cohesively as one decision-maker who …show more content…
Hence, the two aforementioned quotations indicate Aristotle’s belief that the democratic view that the people should rule may also have merit because the political offices in a democracy are organized in such a manner that the important political decisions of the city are made by the citizen body collectively—enabling it to draw on its collective intelligence. For instance, according to Aristotle, key institutions such as the courts, the assembly, and the council—although bestowed with important deliberative and judicial functions—require the participation of a large body of citizens in order to make

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