The Appropriation of Aristotle in the Liberal-Communitarian Debate

Leontsini, Eleni (2002) The Appropriation of Aristotle in the Liberal-Communitarian Debate. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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In the last twenty years or so a key issue in political philosophy has been the debate between so-called communitarian philosophers such as MacIntyre, Sandel, Walzer and Taylor, and those who support forms of liberal individualism such as that found in Rawls's Theory of Justice. In this debate reference has quite often been made to Aristotle. This is particularly so in the case of MacIntyre who is frequently seen as presenting a neo-Aristotelian view. But writers from the liberal-individualist camp, such as Miller, have also invoked Aristotle's authority. The purpose of this thesis is to examine the appropriation of Aristotle in this debate. I analyse six key concepts: community, teleology, happiness, justice, friendship and liberty. These concepts play a leading role in both communitarian and liberal political philosophy but they are of course also central to Aristotle's account. In choosing these concepts I do not mean to suggest that there are not other issues which are also important, but these are both characteristic of Aristotle's thought and of obvious relevance to the liberal-communitarian debate. I argue that neither the communitarian nor the liberal appropriations do justice to Aristotle's political theory. Both seem to attribute their own aspirations to the Aristotelian text and to rely on Aristotle's authority in order to substantiate their arguments. I conclude that Aristotle's political theory, when carefully examined within the debate, comes out as neither liberal nor communitarian. Aristotelian political philosophy is consistent neither with a liberal-individualist nor with a communitarian view that gives such a prominent role to the concept of community. Neither of the two parties to the debate therefore seems entitled to cite Aristotle in support of their position.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Adviser: Richard Stalley
Keywords: Political science, Philosophy
Date of Award: 2002
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2002-76033
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 19 Nov 2019 17:06
Last Modified: 19 Nov 2019 17:06

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