Aristotle's politikos: Statesmanship, magnanimity, and the rule of the many

Patrick Overeem*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Present-day political theory pays much attention to citizenship but hardly any to statesmanship. Classical political philosophy, by contrast, discussed the latter at least as much as, if not more than the former. This chapter inquires how Aristotle conceived of the statesman in relation to on the one hand his moral ideal of the virtuous man and on the other that of the politeia as the best practically possible form of government. Studying Aristotle's conception of statesmanship is important, because much too often Aristotle is presented, in contrast with Plato, as an anti-elitist champion of citizenship and political participation, without a serious role for statesmanship. But Aristotle saw roles for both citizens and statesmen, without equating them. For Aristotle, statesmanship is closely connected but not identical to his conception of the good man and it is possible in various but not all forms of government. So Aristotle's notion of the politikos offers a useful entrance to various core issues at the nexus of his moral and political thought. And the topic is a stepping-stone to timely questions about statesmanship (as well as virtue and honor) in modern constitutional democracies.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAristotle's Practical Philosophy
Subtitle of host publicationOn the Relationship between His Ethics and Politics
EditorsEmma Cohen de Lara, René Brouwer
Place of PublicationCham
PublisherSpringer International Publishing Switzerland
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9783319648255
ISBN (Print)9783319648248
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Aristotle
  • politikos
  • statesmanship

VU Research Profile

  • Governance for Society


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