Aristotle’s Political Science and Thomas’s Commentary

Paul Bullen

The first part of Aristotle’s political science, his writings on ‘ethics’, will be compared with the extensive commentary by Thomas Aquinas. We will be interested in understanding Aristotle, using Aquinas’s work as our ‘secondary literature’. We will also be interested in seeing the extent to which Thomas develops his own views by supplementing, altering, or taking issue with Aristotle. We will be on the look-out for places where Thomas’s interpretation is affected by the peculiarities in the Latin translation he was using.

The course will be one half lecture and one half discussion. Grades will be based on class participation and a paper. No knowledge of foreign languages is assumed.


  • Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics
  • Loeb Classical Library edition
  • Terence Irwin translation (Hackett)
  • Moerbeke Latin edition in English translation
  • Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Nicomachean Ethics; C.I. Litzinger translation (Dumb Ox, 1993 reprint)

Outline of the Course

Week 1: Introduction to Aristotle and Aquinas

Week 2: Political Science and Human Flourishing

Week 3: Elements of Ethical Behavior

Week 4: Good Person vs. Good Citizen

Week 5: Social Justice and the Law

Week 6: Prudence and Legislative Science

Week 7: Weakness of Will

Week 8: Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft

Week 9: Theology and Politics

Week 10: Conclusion

 home page