The Department of Government
The Department of Government

Aristotle and the Pedagogical Tool of a Master Teacher


Less than a decade after being recruited to The University of Texas at Austin, Thomas Pangle’s reputation, scholarship, and continuing contributions to the department, discipline, and field helped make the department one of the top in the world to study political theory. Individually, Pangle has been recognized by the American Political Science Association as one of the world’s most influential political theorists. His most recent book is Aristotle’s Teaching in the “Politics.”

With Aristotle’s Teaching in the “Politics,” Thomas L. Pangle offers a masterly new interpretation of this classic philosophical work. It is widely believed that the Politics originated as the written record of a series of lectures given by Aristotle at the Lyceum, but scholars have long debated what this means for our understanding of the work. Much recent scholarship has relied on its origin as an oral text to explain seeming inconsistencies and instances of discontinuity throughout. Breaking from this tradition, Pangle takes the work’s origin as his starting point, reconceiving the Politics as the pedagogical tool of a master teacher.

Pangle argues that, with the Politics, Aristotle seeks to lead his students down a highly demanding and deliberately perplexing path of critical thinking about civic republican life. He adopts a Socratic approach, encouraging his students — and readers — to become active participants in a dialogue. Seen from this perspective, features of the work that have perplexed previous commentators become perfectly comprehensible as artful devices of a didactic approach designed to speak to students of unequal capacities.

Through close analysis and careful interpretation of the text, Pangle ultimately furthers the argument set forth by Leo Strauss and others that to understand the Politics, one must first appreciate how Aristotle’s rhetorical strategy is inextricably entwined with the subject of his work.

“Thomas L. Pangle is an eminent political theorist whose interpretation of one of the fundamental books of the tradition will be widely welcomed. He employs, as always, an impressive range of scholarship, including not only the classical literature and most of the relevant contemporary scholarship, but an array of nineteenth-century scholars not often referenced or read. Aristotle’s Teaching in the ‘Politics’ is fresh and full of insight.” – Carnes Lord, US Naval War College, co-translator Aristotle’s Politics.

“A tour de force of textual exegesis and scholarly-philosophic engagement. This is the best book-length commentary on the Politics and among the best studies of Aristotle’s moral and political thought in general.” – Robert C. Bartlett, Boston College, co-translator of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics

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