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Summary.

Introduction.

→ Glossary.

Instructions for reading passages.

Passages: Defining the City State.

Passages: Defining the Citizen.

Passages: Defining the System of Government.

Passages: Defining Democracy.

Passages: Types of Democracy.

Passages: Creating Democracy.

Passages: Preserving Democracy.

Passages: Destroying Democracy.

Selective Bibliography.

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Democracy in the Politics of Aristotle  

Thomas R. Martin, with Neel Smith & Jennifer F.Stuart, edition of July 26, 2003

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· Glossary ·

Every attempt has been made to be consistent in the translation of crucial Greek terms, such as polis, but the flexibility of meaning of some of them makes absolute consistency impossible. The following translations are used as consistently as possible:

“Polity” for politeia when Aristotle uses the word in its particular sense to indicate rule by the many in what he defines as the straight or correct system of government of this type. (By contrast, he refers to rule by the many in a diverging and thus “erroneous” system as “democracy.”) (See this word in selections from Aristotle, courtesy of the Perseus Digital Library; see this word in all Perseus texts.)

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United States.
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“System of government” for politeia when Aristotle uses the word in its generic sense, which is conventionally translated into English as “constitution.” (This departure from convention is to avoid the potential ambiguity of the term “constitution,” which as a familiar term in the United States today is usually taken to mean a formal, written document prescribing the structure of government. The “constitutions” of ancient Greek city-states were often not written down, a tradition found today, for example, in the United Kingdom.) (See this word in Perseus selections from Aristotle; see this word in all Perseus texts.)

“Diverging system of government” for parekbasis . The diverging systems are tyranny, oligarchy, and democracy, which are those systems that “diverge” ( parekbaino ) from the three “straight systems of government” ( orthai politeiai ), which are kingship, aristocracy, and polity. (See parekbasis in Perseus selections from Aristotle; see parekbasis in all Perseus texts. See occurences of orthos within five words of politeia in Perseus selections from Aristotle; in all Perseus texts.)

“Excellence” for arete , which is conventionally translated “virtue.” Excellence in the Greek sense can and often does pertain to ethical qualities and morality, but it can also pertain to, for example, physical strength or courage. (See this word in Perseus selections from Aristotle; see this word in all Perseus texts.)

“Partnership” for koinonia , literally “a sharing or taking part in a thing with others.” (See this word in Perseus selections from Aristotle; see this word in all Perseus texts.)

“Goal” for telos , literally “end, purpose.” (See this word in Perseus selections from Aristotle; see this word in all Perseus texts.)

“Multitude” for plethos , which can also mean “majority” or, by extension, “democracy.” (See this word in Perseus selections from Aristotle; see this word in all Perseus texts.)

“People” for demos , which can also, by extension, mean “democracy.” (See this word in Perseus selections from Aristotle; see this word in all Perseus texts.)

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