Aristotle on the causes of civil strife: Subjective dispositions, proportional justice and the ‘occasions’ of stasis

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Abstract

Much of the scholarly debate on Aristotle’s analysis of stasis in Politics V 1-3 revolves around two interrelated questions: first, the relationship between the three general causes mentioned by Aristotle, especially their logical and temporal connection; second, the question of whether, and if so how, Aristotle’s doctrine of the four causes should be applied to the analysis of stasis in the Politics. This article addresses address both questions. First, it argues that in Pol. V 1-3 Aristotle sees the different conceptions of proportional equality and justice (‘in accordance with worth’) as the fundamental cause of stasis and metabole. Stasis is represented by Aristotle as directed towards honour and profit, and finds its origins (archai) in particular occurrences and forms of behaviour, yet all of these are filtered by notions of proportional equality and its basis in worth (axia). Notions of ‘particular’ justice as discussed in Pol. V 1-3, however, are no longer standalone concepts (as in Eth. Nic. V 3), nor simple final (and formal) causes of particular constitutions (as in Pol. III 9), but have become causes of individual and collective action in pursuit of moral and political revolution. The discourse of causation, that is, moves to a psychological level, so that the whole discussion of the causes of stasis is better read through the filter of individual motivation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)551-570
Number of pages20
JournalMAIA: Rivista di Letterature Classiche
VolumeLXXII
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 13 Mar 2021

Keywords

  • stasis
  • four causes
  • axia
  • justice
  • civil strife

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