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Eris in the Guise of Stasis in Aristotle’s Politics

John Mulhern

University of Pennsylvania

In this paper I establish the influence of Hesiod on Aristotle’s advice in the middle books of the Politics for resolving the continuing internal conflict in the Greek cities. One might expect Aristotle to address eris in the Politics, since the Greek cities suffered from almost continuous internal conflict and were signally unsuccessful in ameliorating it. But Aristotle does not use the word eris in the Politics. In fact, it occurs only five times in the entire corpus, including twice in fragments, and always in an archaic context, usually poetic. One of these occurrences, the one in the Rhetoric, is an allusion to the poet Hesiod. In this allusion to Works and Days, the emotions phthonos (envy) and zēlos (emulation) are associated with eris. After Hesiod, one of these emotions, phthonos, came to be associated instead mainly with stasis, and Aristotle apparently followed this linguistic development in the Politics, where stasis has assumed the role of the archaic eris. I shall begin with a short treatment of eris in Works and Days. I shall argue that, in Hesiod, the emotions associated with eris—phthonos and zēlos—are cognitive; they are not merely irrational but involve judgement, which can be affected by reasoned argument. In the Rhetoric, Aristotle treats phthonos and zēlos in his systematic discussion in Book II; only in Book III does he connect eris with them. Once this connection is recognized, the place of phthonos in the discussion of stasis in the Politics becomes apparent along with Hesiod’s influence, and dealing with stasis by reasoned argument comes into focus as a possibility for the first time in classical Greek thought. This possibility was not lost with Aristotle, since his understanding of the political importance of allaying phthonos can be seen in Greek literature as late, for example, as chapters 10, 11, 14, and 21 of Plutarch’s Publicola. This line of development and Hesiod’s place in it have received little attention in recent scholarship despite the revival of interest in Aristotle’s pertinent works. Fortenbaugh’s often cited Aristotle on Emotion, first published in 1975 as a contribution to understanding the Rhetoric, Politics, and other works, is silent with respect to Hesiod. The proceedings of the 1987 Symposium Aristotelicum on the Politics and the 1990 Symposium Aristotelicum on the Rhetoric likewise include no reference to Hesiod. Schütrumpf’s extensive Anmerkungen identify Aristotle’s citations of Works and Days while leaving Hesiod’s anticipation of Aristotle’s treatment of emotion untouched.

Session/Panel Title

Meeting of the Society for Ancient Greek Philosophy

Session/Paper Number

10.1

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