Which of Aristotle's works is this quote from?
September 24, 2004 11:20 AM   Subscribe

Context, please. This quote resurfaces from time to time, often as a back-handed commentary toward the left, but never with a source or any surrounding text: "Republics decline into democracies and democracies degenerate into despotisms." It is attributed to Aristotle, but which work (if any)?
posted by grabbingsand to Religion & Philosophy (6 answers total)
attribution to aristotle is apocryphal. it's not part of the politics

this quote:
Other authors, wiser according to the opinion of many, count six kinds of governments, three of which are very bad, and three good in themselves, but so liable to be corrupted that they become absolutely bad. The three good ones are those which we have just named; the three bad ones result from the degradation of the other three, and each of them resembles its corresponding original, so that the transition from the one to the other is very easy. Thus monarchy becomes tyranny; aristocracy degenerates into oligarchy; and the popular government lapses readily into licentiousness.
appears in this online text of machiavelli [DISCOURSES on the FIRST TEN BOOKS OF TITUS LIVIUS.
Niccolo Machiavelli to Zanobi Buondelmonte AND Cosimo Rucellai. FIRST BOOK. CHAPTER II. of the different kinds of republics, and of what kind the roman republic was.]

will durant summarizes cicero by saying: "without checks and balances, monarchy becomes despotism (tyranny), aristocracy becomes oligarchy, democracy becomes mob rule, chaos, and dictatorship."
posted by crush-onastick at 12:15 PM on September 24, 2004

not meaning that because it's not part of the politics it can't be attributable to aristolte, just meaning that the attribution is apocryphal (as far as i know) and also, it's not part of the politics
posted by crush-onastick at 12:16 PM on September 24, 2004

The fact that this page says "attributed to Aristotle" (as opposed to other quotes cited as "Aristotle, Politics) is not a good sign. I'm guessing it's one of those quotes created by some unknown and attracted to a famous name to whom it clings forever after. (This is very common with Mark Twain, for example.)

On preview: crush-onastick wins.
posted by languagehat at 12:19 PM on September 24, 2004


what do i win?
posted by crush-onastick at 12:25 PM on September 24, 2004

Hard to say, when things get mangled through the translation filter, you can come up with amazing array of diverse readings.

I'm pretty confident crush-onastick nailed it, though I will note that it actually sounds more like Plato's sentiment than Aristotle's.
posted by RavinDave at 3:25 PM on September 24, 2004

In fact, it's attributed to Plato at least once on the web.
posted by kenko at 8:08 PM on September 24, 2004

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