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In this chapter, I review the pre-twentieth-century philosophical origins of thinking about intelligence. I review work going back to Homer, and extending through Plato and Aristotle up to the work of John Stuart Mill. Many contemporary ideas about intelligence can be found to have their origins in early philosophical thinking. I also emphasize Mill’s point that intelligence, taken by itself, is not sufficient to guarantee a positive future for humankind.
The question of Aristotle’s natural law credentials has often divided interpreters. In the current chapter, I argue that much of this disagreement stems from insufficient attentiveness to both the details of Aristotle’s account of the just by nature in Nicomachean Ethics V.7 and the ambiguity of the term ‘natural law.’ The chapter thus proceeds from the assumption that a precondition for any adequate assessment of Aristotle’s status as a natural law theorist is a close analysis of the V.7 discussion of natural justice. Such an investigation, the main concern of section 1, reveals that Aristotle’s characterization of the politically just as partly natural and partly conventional does indeed entail that nature serves as a normative ground for law. With this conclusion in place, section 2 then turns more directly to Aristotle’s relation to the natural law tradition. Despite important differences between Aristotle’s account of the normative foundations of law and those found in the paradigmatic natural law teachings of the Stoics and Aquinas, I argue, there are nonetheless features of later natural law thought on the purpose and evaluation of law which are genuinely Aristotelian in orientation.
In this opening chapter I closely examine Aristotle’s discussions of the topic of nomos in Nicomachean Ethics X.9 and Politics III.15-16. These passages contain famous statements which associate law with rationality, the promotion of virtue, universality and impartiality. A selective reading of these statements can suggest that law is strictly identifiable with reason. As a corrective to such a one-sided intellectualist reading, I seek to place the rationalism of Aristotelian nomos in its broader political context. This requires engagement with Aristotle’s acknowledgment of the law’s necessary use of constraint over resistant passions in its attempt to guide citizens towards virtue. While Aristotle undoubtedly regards good law as both an achievement of the architectonic legislator’s practical reason and as rational in its content, its effective political application does not presuppose that the majority of citizens grasp the reasons for its directives. Aristotle’s conception of nomos thus resists easy assimilation to the intellectualist view that a political community’s laws are a set of reasons for action directed to autonomous rational agents. Section 1 sets the scene by considering the major passages which have led many interpreters to propose readings of Aristotelian nomos with an intellectualist slant. In section 2, I examine the terms of Aristotle’s informal definition of law in X.9 of the Nicomachean Ethics. Section 3 then situates this definition in the broader frame of X.9 in order to demonstrate the role of nomos as a constraint on desire and the implications of this for the ideal of the rule of law. Finally, section 4 discusses educational laws as a privileged example of the interplay of reason and compulsion in the political applications of nomos.
The ultimate telos for an architectonic legislator intending to establish a good constitution and laws, the previous chapters have argued, is eudaimonia. As an activity of the soul in accord with the best virtue (NE I.7, 1098a17), eudaimonia nonetheless presupposes a political community with just laws that are directed to the common advantage. Aristotle accordingly characterises the common advantage (to koine[i] sumpheron) as the aim of law and associates it with the promotion of eudaimonia in the polis (NE V.1, 1129b15-19). The common advantage may thus be regarded as the proximate final cause of legislative activity. Aristotle’s account of the common advantage nonetheless seems to equivocate between its status as an instrumental good serving the ends of individuals and as an intrinsically desirable state of affairs. In the current chapter, I seek to resolve this tension by conceptualising the common advantage as both a motivational reason leading individuals to enter the polis and a normative reason – identifiable with the political good of justice – which should guide the enactment of law. Section 1 considers some interpretative preliminaries to a correct understanding of the common advantage. Section 2 then examines the motivational role of the common advantage as a reason for political participation and its relation to instrumental and aggregative accounts of the common good. In section 3, I turn to the common advantage’s status as a normative reason identifiable with political justice. Section 4 then argues for the reconcilability of motivational and normative aspects of the common advantage by reference to the medieval interpretation of the polis as a unity of order.
If humans are political animals by nature, then the ordering of their communal life requires the guidance of a prudent law-giver and practically reasonable laws. The purpose of the political community is both to allow individuals to satisfy basic wants and to realise the potentiality of human flourishing. Neither the political community in its fully developed sense nor its laws, are, however, at least without further assistance, naturally arising. They rather emerge through the direction of a law-maker who employs insight and practical rationality to legislate for the community’s good. This ordering of a political community, on the basis of a legislator’s practical wisdom, and prevailing authoritative opinions about justice, is nothing other than its law.
Aristotle does not propound a systematic legal theory in the modern sense. While the Nicomachean Ethics and the Politics contain several memorable statements on nomos, at no point in the practical works does Aristotle purport to provide a scientific account of law as an autonomous system or an analysis of the necessary truths about law that explain it.1 The absence of a systematic legal theory in Aristotle cannot, moreover, simply be attributed to the dictum that an educated person should only seek as much precision as a subject matter allows (NE I.3, 1094b24–5). That such a conclusion would be facile may be seen by a comparison with Aristotle’s treatments of justice and the constitution. These two concepts frame Book V of the Nicomachean Ethics and Book III of the Politics (if not the Politics as a whole) respectively and their explanatory value is confirmed when they are deployed to elucidate other important political phenomena such as stability and change. By contrast, Aristotle’s tendency is to deal with nomos in the context of an examination of more fundamental political concepts. Law accordingly seems to have a derivative explanatory status.
For Aristotle, as seen in chapter 1, the rational content of the law derives from the practical reason of the lawgiver. In the central case, the legislator’s enactments will be oriented by the ends of virtue and human flourishing. Aristotle’s attribution of a decisive role to the practical reason of the lawgiver seems, however, to be in tension with better-known aspects of his political thought. In particular, it is far from self-evident that a robust account of legislative agency is in harmony with political naturalism. The famous assertion in Politics I.2 that there is a natural impulse to form political communities is immediately contraposed with the claim that the person responsible for their foundation is the cause (aitios) of the greatest of goods (Pol. 1253a33). Yet if the polis truly exists by nature and humans are by nature political animals (1253a1-2), then the obvious question arises as to why active intervention by the legislator is necessary at all for a polis. Conversely, if the polis is an artefact of the architectonic legislator’s practical reason, then the distinction between products of the intellect and natural entities seems to preclude the status of the polis as natural. In light of this apparent tension within Aristotle’s account of the origins of political communities, the current chapter seeks to demonstrate their reconcilability. Section 1 considers the architectonic legislator in light of broader Greek assumptions regarding foundational law-making. Section 2 then turns to the status of law-making expertise as a part of political science and examines the mode of practical reason exercised by the legislative founder. Finally, in section 3, and building on recent interpretations which have emphasised that Aristotle operates with an extended teleological conception of nature, I argue that acts of legislative founding and nature can consistently serve as joint causes of the polis because the ‘products’ of the practical rationality of the legislator are themselves an expression of distinctly human nature.
The first two chapters have demonstrated that for Aristotle nomos in the focal sense is a standard for conduct derived from the practical reason of an architectonic legislator. Legislative expertise, on this view, is a privileged sub-branch of true political expertise and it enacts laws with a view to the human good inclusive of the promotion of the conditions for virtue and well-being. The full implications of Aristotle’s thesis that lawmaking is a part of political expertise can only be understood, however, by reference to the claim that legislators should and do enact laws (nomoi) relative to the constitution (Pol. III.11, 1282b8-13, IV.1, 1289a14-22). In its simplest sense, the constitutional relativity of law entails that legislators should and do enact laws that are consistent with the priorities of their regime. More fundamentally, the constitutional relativity of law reflects the dependence of law on the explicit or implicit conceptions of the good life which inform alternative arrangements of ruling offices. In this chapter, I argue that the constitutional relativity of law is best interpreted through the lens of Aristotle’s theory of explanatory causes. On this interpretation, the politeia is the formal cause of the polis and it is structured by the conception of eudaimonia prevalent among the dominant political element. Section 1 defends both the general claim that Aristotle’s constitutional analysis is informed by his theory of explanatory causes and the specific claim that the politeia is a formal cause. In section two, I then connect the status of the politeia as a formal cause to the different conceptions of eudaimonia which determine diverse regime-types and their laws. Finally, in section 3, I examine whether the constitutional relativity of law entails that all law is necessarily partisan by considering its applicability to the best regime.
If a just and well-ordered political community is integral to the good for an individual, then it would seem incumbent on the architectonic legislator and prudent statesperson to aim at the optimal condition of the polis and hence to reform defective regimes and laws. The normative structure of Aristotle’s constitutional theory – with its conception of the best regime as an ideal and appeal to the common advantage as a central criterion for distinguishing correct and defective constitutions – likewise suggests a progressive stance towards correction of political injustice. The overall attitude towards the reform of constitutions and laws which emerges from the Nicomachean Ethics and Politics is nonetheless cautious and conservative. In the current chapter I consider the motivations for this circumspection and argue that it reflects both the importance of habituation to the effective functioning of law and a recognition of the limits of law’s capacity to promote virtue and human flourishing. Section 1 engages in a close reading of Aristotle’s treatment of the advantages and disadvantages of legal reform in the Politics Book II.8 discussion of Hippodamus’ legislative proposal to honour innovation. In section 2, I examine Aristotle’s account of constitutional change and stability in light of his theory of ethical virtue. Finally, in section 3, I turn to political obedience and argue for its dual justification within Aristotle’s practical thought.
Aristotle’s discussion of equity (epieikeia) is perhaps his most influential contribution to jurisprudence. Like the English doctrine of equity it informed, Aristotelian epieikeia is intended to rectify deficiencies arising from the strict application of the letter of the law to all circumstances. The extension of the concept of the ‘decent’ or equitable into the legal domain might nonetheless seem to undermine some of the most desirable features of the rule of law, including impartiality and predictability. In this final chapter, I argue that Aristotle addresses this concern regarding potential arbitrariness by deriving equitable decisions from the rational content of the legislative expert’s judgments. More generally, while the exemplary ethical agent is a measure of practical reasonableness, it is the content of their judgments which ultimately serves as ‘normative bedrock.’ Section 1 examines Aristotle’s use of equity to balance the universality of the law’s pronouncements with the need for adjudicators to assess particular circumstances. Section 2 then turns to Aristotle’s appeal to the judgments of the exemplary practically reasonable agent as a normative criterion and contends that this need not culminate in arbitrariness or decisionism.
Thomas Hobbes claims that he set political philosophy on its proper footing for the first time in On the Citizen. We examine the opening argument (1.1-1.2), in which Hobbes seeks to remove and replace the longstanding Aristotelian foundation, that human beings are political animals. Hobbes associates this idea with the view that human society is made possible by “mutual love” and a desire for association for its own sake. We argue that Hobbes is particularly targeting the Nicomachean Ethics on philia (friendship or love) and its role in the polis. One might nonetheless doubt that Hobbes’s arguments were at all successful. Although Hobbes certainly takes pleasure in portraying Aristotle’s views in a maximally absurd light, we show that Hobbes’s argument is more sophisticated than it first appears, and that it brings out genuine difficulties for Aristotle’s view. Finally, we consider Hobbes’s revisitation of the idea of “political animals” in a later section of On the Citizen. What emerges from this discussion is that Hobbes’s disagreement with Aristotle does not only – perhaps, not primarily – concern the nature of human motivation, but rather the essence of politics. The idea of a naturally political animal turns out to be an oxymoron.
This chapter provides definitions of contrasting classical and medieval approaches to meteorology. It outlines the relevant works of Aristotle, as well as the means by which selections from these were transferred to Roman writers. The roles of Pliny and Virgil are considered, together with their own reception by early medieval writers. A key point is that patristic writers, especially Augustine, integrated this knowledge of the natural world into Christian teachings on cosmology. However, Aristotle’s arguments on meteorology were primarily transmitted to Latin Europe in Islamicate versions, and came accompanied by new information on astronomy. The chapter then offers an account of the transition from classical, theoretical models of climate to more detailed calculation of planetary movements and their alleged meteorological effects. An important argument is that early medieval scientific work is often presented in diagrams and tables, themselves found in monastic works on the ecclesiastical year, and are easy to miss or underestimate.
The fifth chapter lays out Arendt’s critical dismantling of classical political philosophy. Socrates understood the dialogical and aporetic nature of essential thought, she argued, and Socratic thought is compatible with the openness and endlessness of political persuasion. By contrast, Plato aimed to replace political persuasion with government by philosopher-kings, whose knowledge entitled them to rule over citizens, as the expertise of master craftsmen entitled them to give orders to subordinates. But this aim led Plato both to misunderstand the realities of political life and to misconceive the nature of political theory. Aristotle also derived some of his basic terms from the sphere of production, Arendt argued, so that his metaphysical concepts led him to conceive the political philosopher on the model of a craftsman, the polis on the model of a product, and political action on the model of making. The chapter then traces Arendt’s genealogies of the concepts of freedom, authority, law, and principle in classical philosophy. This account of classical political theory leads to the question of the next chapter: How did Arendt rethink the basic realities of politics?
Chapter Four builds an Islamic theory of natural law from Ibn Rushd’s (Averroes’) Middle Commentary on Aristotle’s Rhetoric (Talkhi? Kitab al-Kha?aba li Aris?u). This chapter provides original exegesis on Ibn Rushd’s text, particularly those passages concerning what Ibn Rushd describes as an unwritten law of nature (sunan ghayr maktuba fi ?abi?at al-jami?). It expounds upon what I argue is a theory of natural law in the commentary that is largely consonant with Aristotelian natural justice as well as thoroughly Islamic in such a way that it can, and even ought to, inform contemporary understandings of shari?a. This chapter contains the most in-depth discussion of the relationship between revealed religion and natural law, as well as the most detailed proposal for a natural law epistemology.
Nineteenth and early twentieth century scholars thought Cicero a bad source for Hellenistic philosophy. They thought that the speeches in his dialogues were translated, often badly, from single sources. Thus they read him only to reconstruct his sources by Quellenforschung. I first give a sympathetic account of these scholars’ projects, which is often dismissed too easily today. Second, I give a complete argument that these scholars were wrong, and that today’s more positive, but often incompletely defended, view of Cicero is correct. Third, I argue that Cicero wrote dialogues not only to introduce Hellenistic philosophy to a Latin audience, but also as literary unities to impress a learned Roman audience who already knew philosophy in Greek. His models for the dialogue form were Plato, Aristotle, and Heraclides of Pontus, but he adapted it to to serve his radical Academic skepticism, in which he followed Carneades and Clitomachus. He hoped to be the model for a Latin tradition of good writing about philosophy, that would "illuminate" both philosophy and Latin. Cicero’s creativity as a philosophical author shows why Quellenforschung failed, and that he is a good source for Hellenistic thought.
Chapter Three moves into the first analysis of divine, natural, and human law in the context of a religious tradition, specifically, medieval Judaism. Maimonides’ philosophical rendering of the nature of law and its link with nature itself suggests how divine law might remain integral even in the face of changing human circumstances. To Maimonides, all of the commandments of the Torah can be reduced to two principles: the betterment of soul and the betterment of body. This teleological approach to divine law allows human reason to interpret the rabbinic (divine) law in ways that would ease the conflict of human and divine law. Still, to Maimonides, this was necessarily an exercise bound by nature – “the Law, though not a product of Nature, is nevertheless not entirely foreign to Nature” (Guide II chapter 40) – which suggests the roots of a Maimonidean natural law.
In this chapter, I continue to follow the manner in which Alfarabi describes the historical development of scientific awareness out of the murky depths of pre-scientific activity. Towards the peak of this development is the emergence and elaboration of the dialectical art, whose uses for science is Alfarabi's special concern in what follows. Dialectic is the method to the fundamental premises of all science. For instance, the Organon itself culminates in the Topics. Even if we regard the Posterior Analytics as the supreme analytical art, we cannot help but notice the way in which Aristotle carefully points out the ultimately hypothetical character of science (episteēmeē). Because of what may be described as the hypothetical character of scientific knowledge––that is, due to the fact that so much depends on the investigator's conviction regarding the truth of those first principles that provide the foundation of science––there will be those, according to Aristotle and Alfarabi, who deny the very possibility of scientific knowledge. The difficult problems that emerge over the status of scientific knowledge force us to confront the issue concerning the proper starting points (archai) or principles from which a syllogism proceeds but which are not reached by syllogism.
In this chapter, I examine how the art of dialectic might be used to resolve (or at least bring to light) the ‘perplexities’ that surround Aristotle’s presentation of the natural world. Contemporary scholars have noticed the strange fact that Aristotle’s procedure in the Physics resembles not so much the strict progression of demonstrative proof as outlined in the Posterior Analytics but, instead, the dialectical method described in the Topics. This accords with Maimonides’ claim in the Guide of the Perplexed that Aristotle was aware of the fact that the level of argumentation in Physics and De Caelo is less than demonstrative. Now, if it is the case, as Maimonides stresses in the Guide, that the ‘true perplexity’ concerns the incompatibility of Aristotelian physics and Ptolemaic astronomy, and if Aristotelian physics has been presented in dialectical form, how might dialectic be used to resolve this most profound perplexity?
The introduction concerns my division of the entire Arabic text and a brief discussion of the ways in which the various parts of the discussion fit into the larger whole. It groups the numerous divisions into parts and explains why my commentary will consider the parts in a specific order. It also offers a brief biography of Alfarabi including notes on his intellectual successors, a survey of historical reports concerning the ways in which his expansive body of work was received, in addition to a brief treatment of the art of dialectic as it was depicted by Plato’s Socrates and Aristotle.