Skip to main content Accessibility help

Aristotle and the Concept of Law1

  • W. von Leyden (a1)


These then are the four main strands in Aristotle's thought concerning the law, or in other words, the four elements he might have distinguished in his conception of law. The analysis I have attempted seems to me to reflect both Aristotle's view of the complex nature of law and also what he would look upon as the different grounds for its validity. I think that the several elements in his doctrine are fundamentally independent of one another, and similarly that they do not compete with one another since they embody answers to different questions concerning law. Also the recurrent theme of my own comments has been the assumption that 'law' is a complex term, comprising in its application a number of different definitions concerning rules and validity, authority and obligation, sources of law, and the like. In my opinion it is the merit of Aristotle's conception of law that he appears to recognise the multiple meaning of the word ‘law’ and, accordingly, the need for a multiple definition.



Hide All

page 1 note 2 Critique of Pure Reason, in Werke (Akademic edition, Berlin, 1902, etc., second ed. 1940, etc.), vol. III, p. 544.

page 2 note 1 Friedrich, C. J., The Philosophy of Law in Historical Perspective Chicago, 1958, p. 24.

page 3 note 1 Rhetoric, Bk. I, ch. x, para. 3; ch. xiii, para. 2; ch. xv, para. 6; Nicomachean Ethics, Bk. V, ch. vii.

page 3 note 2 Nicomachean Ethics, Bk. V, ch. vi, 1134 a 26.

page 3 note 3 The Politics of Aristotle, Oxford, 1946, p. 364.

page 4 note 1 Nicomachean Ethics, Bk. V, ch. vii, 1134 b 24–27.

page 4 note 2 Rhetoric, Bk. I, ch. i, para. 7.

page 5 note 1 Which ultimately can be traced back to Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, Bk. V, ch. x, 1137 b 27–29. Locke,Second Treatise of Government, paras. 156, 158, 159 ff.

page 6 note 1 Rhetoric, Bk. I, ch. xiii, para. 19.

page 7 note 1 See my paper ‘On Justifying Inequality’, Political Studies, Vol. XI, February 1963.

page 7 note 2 Eaton, R. M., General Logic, New York, 1931, pp. 343–4.

page 7 note 3 Rhetoric, Bk. I, ch. xiii, paras. 12–13. For prima facie gaps in the law and its necessary universality of scope see Cohen, J. and Hart, H. L. A., ‘Theory and Definition in Jurisprudence’, Aristotelian Society, Supp. Vol. XXIX, 1955, pp. 227, 253–4, 258 ff.

page 8 note 1 Nicomachean Ethics, Bk. V, ch. x, 1137 b 23–24.

page 9 note 1 Nicomachean Ethics, Bk. X, ch. ix, para. 12.

page 9 note 2 The Analogy of Religion, Pt. II, ch. viii, sect. 25 (Gladstone's ed. of Butler's Works, 1896, vol. I, p. 368).

page 9 note 3 Politics, Bk. III, ch. xvi, para. 5.

page 10 note 1 E.g. Mannheim, K., Man and Society, London, 1940, Part I, ch. v.

page 10 note 2 The Idea of Nature, Oxford, 1945, pp. 17 ff.

page 11 note 1 Politics, Bk. VII, ch. iv, para. 11.

page 11 note 2 Thomas Aquinas, De regimine principum, Bk. I, ch. ii.

page 11 note 3 Cf. Wilson, J. Cook, Statement and Inference, Oxford, 1926, vol. I, p. 328.

page 12 note 1 The Concept of Law, Oxford, 1961, p. 181.

page 12 note 2 Politics, Bk. III, ch. xiii, paras. 13–14.

page 13 note 1 Politics, Bk. IV, ch. viii, para. 6.

page 13 note 2 Rhetoric, Bk. I, ch. xv, para. 8; cf. also ch. xiv, para, 7.

page 13 note 3 For details see H. L. A. Hart, The Concept of Law, pp. 168 ff.

page 14 note 1 Politics, Bk. II, ch. viii, para. 24.

page 14 note 2 Institutes of the Laws of England, 1628, Bk. IV, Introductory Essay.

page 15 note 1 Politics, Bk. III, ch. xvi, para. 9.

page 15 note 2 Politics, Bk. V, ch. ix, paras. 11–12.

page 15 note 3 Politics, Bk. II, ch. viii, paras. 16 ff.

page 16 note 1 Social Principles and the Democratic State, London, 1959, p. 62.

page 17 note 1 See for details my John Locke: Essays on the Law of Nature, Oxford, 1954, pp. 44 ff.; and ‘John Locke and Natural Law’, Philosophy, vol. XXXI, January 1956, pp. 27 ff.

page 18 note 1 Cf. S. I. Benn and R. S. Peters, Social Principles and the Democratic State, p. 72.

page 18 note 2 H. L. A. Hart, The Concept of Law, pp. 100, 247.

1 Paper read to the Senior Political Theory Seminar, Manchester University.


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed