The Entanglement of Aristotle's Ethics and Politics as the Metaphysics of Human Affairs

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law & Political Science, University of Tehran, Iran.

2 A PhD Candidate, Faculty of Law & Political Science, University of Tehran, Iran.



There is a tradition within Islamic philosophy which distinguishes theoretical philosophy from practical philosophy based on the core of Aristotle’s writings. This tradition thus far has had a pivotal role in the Islamic political philosophy. A succinct and simplified description is that philosophers such as Abu Nasr al-Farabi followed Aristotle, and divided philosophy into two aforementioned subdivisions. However, they needed a theoretical framework for their practical philosophy, and built a cosmological and metaphysical system based on the emanationist theory of Plotinus. Nevertheless, they followed closely behind Aristotle in theoretical philosophy. To elucidate more clearly, the purpose of using neo-platonic ideas in political philosophy was to conceal Aristotelian teachings. In political philosophy, the main objective is not essentially to understand “human affairs”, but rather to establish a rational hierarchical society. In spite of this traditional interpretation, strictly speaking Aristotle’s philosophy forms a coherent whole. To recognize this coherence, one should speak about the theoretical foundations of Aristotle’s philosophy concerning human affairs. The philosophy of human affairs refers to all philosophical writings on ethics, law-making (νομοθεσία), and political regimes.
The primary research question is whether it is possible to establish a connection between ethics and politics based on a metaphysical foundation. The authors use the method of qualitative text analysis to examine important works of Aristotle and his critics to answer this question. In the research hypothesis, it is suggested that there is a significant relationship between. ethics and politics based on metaphysical foundation. With the goal of exploring Aristotle's philosophical insights, the authors examine his most significant work which include Nicomachean Ethics, Metaphysics, On the Soul (De Anima), the Poetics, and the Politics. By demonstrating the ‘coherence of Aristotle’s philosophy’, the researchers attempt to raise awareness about the possibility of a connection between theoretical philosophy and practical philosophy. When, for instance, Aristotle speaks about soul in “Ethics”, we can illuminate it with his claims in “On the Soul”. When he discusses ‘the good’, we can seek it in the ninth book of “Metaphysics”. We can shed light on what is not exact in Politics and Ethics. In other words, his political and ethical claims can be read in terms of the metaphysical, psychological and physical principles of his philosophy of human affairs. Aristotle’s theory of rational thought is concerned with practical matters, and the role of rationality in leading humans to good and bad forms of reasoning. In Aristotle’s view, God is perfect and immortal.  Life of God is indeed the happiest, and humans could be happy by becoming more God-like. For Islamic thinkers and philosophers, Aristotle’s theory of rational thought, and more specifically Aristotle’s theory of God was the greatest obstacle to understanding his philosophy.
In this paper, one of the objectives of the authors is to examine the very foundation of ethics and politics. According to Aristotle, a person is independent if he or she exists for himself or herself and not for another. Being God-like means becoming independent and free in life. What is important in this process is the form of thinking which is based on Aristotle’s analysis of reality and must be taken to the zone of episteme or theological thinking. Some scholars have claimed that there is no connection between theoretical philosophy and practical philosophy. According to Abenque, ‘the true Aristotle’ must be pursuit by keeping away from Islamic and Christian interpretation of Aristotle. Nonetheless, Moslem philosophers have come to the conclusion that in practical philosophy we seek ‘analogies of truth’— this kind of truth is explained not by the philosophers whose knowledge originate in logos, but by the jurists whose knowledge originate in revelation. This explains partly the eventual collapse of political philosophy and philosophic inquiry in the Islamic world.


Main Subjects

  1. الف) فارسی

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    2. ارسطو. (1398) خطابه، ترجمه اسماعیل سعادت. تهران: هرمس.
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    ب) انگلیسی

    1. Aristotle. (1995) Aristotle, The Poetics; Longinus: On the Sublime; Demetrius: On Style, trans. Stephen Halliwell, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, Loeb Classical Library 199, Vol. XXIII.
    2. Aristotle. (1968) Nicomachean Ethics, trans. Harris Rackham. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
    3. Aristotle. (1935) Athenian Constitution. Eudemian Ethics. Virtues and Vices, trans. Harris Rackham. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, Loeb Classical Library 285.
    4. Aristotle. (1935) Metaphysics, Oeconomica. Magna Moralia, trans. Hugh Tredennick, G. Cyril Armstrong. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, Loeb Classical Library 287, Vol. II: Books 10-14.
    5. Aristotle. (1932) Politics, trans. H. Rackham. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
    6. Cornford, Francis MacDonald. (1950) Plato and Parmenides. London: Routledge.
    7. Fidora, Alexander; and Anna Akasoy. (2005) The Arabic Version of the 'Nicomachean Ethics', Aristoteles Semitico-Latinus 17. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 1st ed.
    8. Liddell, Henry George; and Robert Scott. (1996) A Greek–English Lexicon. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press.

    ج) آلمانی

    1. Heidegger, Martin. (2002) Grundbegriffe der Aristotelischen Philosophie. Frankfurt am mein: Vittorio Klostermann.
    2. Kamp, Andreas. (1985) Die Politische Philosophie des Aristoteles und ihre Metaphysischen Grundlagen: Wesenstheorie und Polisordnung. Freiburgim Breisgau, Baden-Baden: Karl Alber Publisher.