Aristotle - internationalpoliticaltheory

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Transcript Aristotle - internationalpoliticaltheory

(and some Thucydides)
16 July 2008
The Melian Debate
• We both alike know that into the
discussion of human affairs the question of
justice only enters where there is equal
power to enforce it, and that the powerful
exact what they can, and the weak grant
what they must. (5.89)
The Melian Debate
• Athens: Justice is only possible among
equals (5.89)
• Melos: justice is the “common protection”
of all (5.90)
• Athens: we are content to take the risk
The Melian debate
• Athens: It’s in the interest of the weak to
yield to the strong (5.91)
• Melos: it’s not in our interest to be slaves –
we could remain neutral (5.92)
• Athens: the other option is death; anyway,
neutrality won’t serve our interests (5.93,
The Melian Debate
• Melos: Athenian policy will create more
enemies among neutrals (5.98)
• Athens: our cost-benefit calculations
suggest that is the less important risk
The Melian Debate
• Melos: it would be dishonorable of us not to try
to resist, especially since your empire seems so
risky, and since our allies or the gods may find it
in the interest to help us (5.100, 5.102, 5.104,
5.106, 5.108, 5.110)
• Athens: hope is not a plan, and the almost
certain outcome of resistance is death; anyway,
everyone else (including the gods) would do as
we do (5.101, 5.103, 5.105, 5.107, 5.109, 5.111)
The Outcome
• In the end, the Melians prefer to defend
themselves and attempt to preserve their
liberty, and after some initially successful
resistance, are ultimately crushed.
• Did the Melians do the right thing?
The Melian Debate
• What does the Melian debate show?
– The corruption of the Athenians by war
– The truth of the Athenian thesis
– The untenability of the Athenian thesis
The Sicilian Disaster
Is “realism” realistic?
• Does justice matter in international
– Crude realist (the Athenian envoys at Melos):
no, it doesn’t matter
– Enlightened realist (Diodotus): the pursuit of
interest depends on not alienating allies and
not making enemies needlessly
– Non- “realist”: there are limits to the pursuit of
mere interest
• Can we say anything about Thucydides’
own position?
– There are limits to justice in war: interest
takes priority
– There are also limits to the pursuit of power
dissociated from justice
– Justice is fragile: war corrupts peoples and
individuals, and war is inevitable
Thucydides as Tragedy
Thucydides as Tragedy
• The world is not arranged in a way that
would allow justice to triumph, but neither
is it arranged in a way that would allow the
complete pursuit of interest
Nature: what is the “natural” in
• The natural is…
– What is not made by
human beings
– What happens
normally or for the
most part
– What is complete
• The not-natural is…
– What is made by
human beings
– What happens only
occasionally or by
accident; what is
– What is incomplete or
overgrown, due to
some failure of