Dissertation, Boston University (2004)

Thornton Lockwood
Quinnipiac University
In the center of the fifth book of the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle elliptically characterizes political justice as a form of reciprocal rule that exists between free and equal persons pursuing a common life directed toward self-sufficiency under the rule of law. My dissertation analyzes Aristotle's thematic treatments of political justice in the Nicomachean Ethics and Politics in order to elucidate its meaning, clarify its relationship to the other forms of justice that he also discusses, and compare it to contemporary neo-Aristotelian accounts of justice. ;The first chapter examines the unclear and disputed passages of Ethics V.6--7 and explains why Aristotle discusses political justice in his ethical treatise. The second chapter makes use of Aristotle's juxtaposition of political justice to household justice on the one hand and despotic justice on the other hand in order to explicate the necessary conditions of political justice, namely, freedom, equality, commonality, self-sufficiency, and the rule of law. To make sense of these concepts, the chapter explores such topics as Aristotle's understanding of the household, his notion of the self and his political criticisms of Socrates. The third chapter examines political justice or reciprocal rule in the Politics in order to understand how political justice can be both a human virtue and an institutional arrangement of offices. The fourth chapter offers a critique of Fred Miller's reconstruction of Aristotelian natural rights. Although Miller is correct to say that Aristotle recognized and understood "rights claims," he is mistaken in claiming that they are an integral part of Aristotle's practical philosophy. Aristotle understood the problems for political compromise posed by rights conceived as "trumps," and he rejects rights as philosophically fundamental on the grounds that they are an inadequate solution to both the political problem of justice and the stability of flourishing political institutions
Keywords Aristotle  Politics  Ethics  Rights
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