4 Main Characteristic Features of Aristotle’s Methodology

He did not accept anything except which he found was proven empirically and scientifically. Unlike his teacher Plato who proceeded from the general to the particular, he followed the path from the particular to the general. Plato argued with conclusions that were pre-conceived while Aristotle, in a scientific way arrived at his conclusions by the force of his logic and analysis. Empiricism was Aristotle’s merit.

Aristotle’s chief contribution to political science is to bring the subject matter of politics within the scope of the methods, which he was already using to investigate other aspects of nature. Aristotle the biologist looks at the developments in political life in much the same way that he looks at the developing life of other natural phenomena.” Abraham Edel identifies features of scientific in Aristotle.

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Some such features are: “His (Aristotle’s) conception of systematic knowledge is rationalistic”; according to him: “Basic concepts and relations in each field are grasped directly on outcomes – of an inductive process”; “Data are furnished by accumulated observation, common opinion and traditional generalisation”; “Theoretical principles emerge from analytic sifting of alternative explanation”; “The world is a plurality of what we would today call homeostatic systems, whose ground plan may be discovered and rationally formulated”; “Matter and form are relative analytic concepts. Dynamically, matter is centred as potentiality and form as culminating actuality”; “Man is distinctively rational”.

Major characteristic features of Aristotle’s methodology can be briefly explained as under:

i. Inductive and Deductive:

Plato’s method of investigation is more deductive than inductive where Aristotle’s methodology is inductive than deductive. The deductive features of Aristotle’s methodology are quite visible; though shades of Plato are reasoning remain in the margins. Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics does contain ideals of normative thinking and ethical life.

Same is true about his Politics as well. Like Plato, Aristotle does conceive ‘a good life’ (his deductive thinking) but he builds, ‘good’ and ‘honourable life’ on the inductive approach about the state as a union of families and villages which came into existence for satisfying the material needs of man. His inductive style compels him to classify states as he observes them but he never loses sight of the best state that he imagines.

ii. Historical and Comparative:

Aristotle can claim to be the father of historical and comparative methods of studying political phenomena. Considering history as a key to all the secrets, Aristotle takes recourse in the past to understand the present. The fact is that all his studies are based on his historical analysis: the nature of the causes and description of revolution, which Aristotle takes up in the Politics, have been dealt with historically.

Aristotle also follows the comparative method of study both intensively and extensively. His classification of states together with the consequent cycle of change is based on his intensive study of 158 constitutions of his times. Through comparative analysis he speaks about the ‘pure’ and ‘perverted’ forms of states.

iii. Teleological and Analogical:

Aristotle pursued teleological and analogical methods of analysing and investigating political phenomena. His approach was teleological using the model of craftsmanship. Aristotle insisted that nature Works, like an artist and in the process it seeks to attain the object for which, it exists.

Nature, Aristotle used to say, did nothing without a purpose man lives in society to attain his development; state helps man to achieve his end. Following his teacher Plato, Aristotle found much in common between a ruler and an artist, between a statesman and a physician.

iv. Analytical and Observational:

Aristotle’s methodology was both analytical as well as observational. In his whole thought-process, he observed more than he thought; all his studies were based on data and facts, which came under his keen observation. Through study, experiments and observation, Aristotle analysed things and, therefore, reached conclusions.

Regarding state as something of a whole, for example, Aristotle went on to explain its constituents – families, and villages. He declares man, a social animal by nature, considers family as the extension of man’s nature, village as the extension of family’s nature, and state as the extension of village’s nature.

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