[1.3.15] Aristotle on the Political Structure of the City-State

Aristotle (384-322 BC) elaborates his political theory in the treatise Politics. In this work he sustains, that:

  • political science is Practical Science (see [1.3.10]),
  • political structures can be understood using the causal (see [1.3.4]) and hylomorphic (see [1.3.5]) analysis.

The following OntoUML diagram shows the main classes of his political theory:

Aristotle on the city-state
City-StatePolis, the city-state is composed of individual citizens, who, along with natural resources, are the ‘material’ or ‘equipment’ out of which the city-state is fashioned… the city-state is a hylomorphic (i.e., matter-form) compound of a particular population (i.e., citizen-body) in a given territory (material cause) and a constitution (formal cause).”aims to GoodLife
Territory and assets, like: natural resources, buildings, roads etc.component of CityState; is the MaterialCause
ResidentPersonA resident person is a human who is resident of the City-State, living under the rule of the Constitution.
“human beings are by nature political animals, who naturally want to live together”
member of Resident Population and Community
Citizen“… the citizens (politês) are that minority of the resident population who possess full political rights,”role of ResidentPerson; has Right to holdPoliticalOffice; is the MaterialCause
Politician“Political science studies the tasks of the politician or statesman (politikos), in much the way that medical science concerns the work of the physician. It is, in fact, the body of knowledge that such practitioners, if truly expert, will also wield in pursuing their tasks.”is role of the Citizen; helds PoliticalOffice
Lawgiver“The most important task for the politician is, in the role of lawgiver (nomothetês), to frame the appropriate constitution for the city-state.” role of Politician; creates Constitution
Ruler“The existence of the city-state also requires an efficient cause, namely, its ruler (archôn). On Aristotle’s view, a community of any sort can possess order only if it has a ruling element or authority.”role of Politician; rules City-State; is the EfficientCause
Non-CitizenNon-citizens are all the resident persons in the resident population, who are not citizens (e.g., women, slaves, foreigners, children, old people, and some others).role of ResidentPerson
Resident population is a collective of resident persons.
CommunityDifferent communities (koinônia) are formed based on common functions and interests, as “households, or economic classes (e.g., the rich and the poor), or demes (i.e., local political units).”
PoliticalOfficePolitical offices were different bodies. “In Athens, for example, citizens had the right to attend the assembly, the council, and other bodies, or to sit on juries. The Athenian system differed from a modern representative democracy in that the citizens were more directly involved in governing.”
RightRight (exousia) in this context relates Citizen with PoliticalOffice. relates to Citizen; PoliticalOffice
Constitution“Aristotle defines the constitution (politeia) as a way of organizing the offices of the city-state, particularly the sovereign office . The constitution thus defines the governing body, which takes different forms: for example, in a democracy it is the people, and in an oligarchy it is a select few (the wealthy or well born)…
The formal cause of the city-state is its constitution. Aristotle defines the constitution as ‘a certain ordering of the inhabitants of the city-state’… He also speaks of the constitution of a community as ‘the form of the compound’ and argues that whether the community is the same over time depends on whether it has the same constitution. The constitution is not a written document, but an immanent organizing principle, analogous to the soul of an organism. Hence, the constitution is also ‘the way of life’ of the citizens.”
is component of the CityState; is the FormalCause
GoodLifeAristotle posits, that: “the city-state comes into being for the sake of life but exists for the sake of the good life … The theme that the good life or happiness is the proper end of the city-state recurs throughout the Politics”is the FinalCause
FormalCauseFormal cause is the expression of what it is the object.subkind of Cause
MaterialCauseMaterial causes are the elements out of which an object is created.subkind of Cause
FinalCauseFinal cause is the end for which it is the object. subkind of Cause
EfficientCauseEfficient cause, or the means by which it is the object created.subkind of Cause
CauseAristotle thinks that we have knowledge of a thing when we grasped its cause.


First published: 10/10/2019
Updated: 8/12/2021

4 thoughts on “[1.3.15] Aristotle on the Political Structure of the City-State

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