Natural Community and the Limits of Laws in Aristotle

Document Type : Original Article


Visiting Fellow at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University


In his interpretation of Aristotle, Heidegger points out that Aristotle's natural community is part and parcel of his more general attempt to account for the presencing (ousia) of things in nature (physis). That is, in order for things in nature to be they need to fulfill their definitions. Consequently, for humans, community is the place where humans as life-possessing-logos (zoōn logon ekhon) and at the same time life-in-the-polis (zoōn politikon) can reveal their genuine definition (horismos). This will render possible the first formulation of the community as a natural community. Yet, just like the status of abnormalities and accidents in nature, prioritizing the fulfillment of justice as laws of the society over the singular expression of individuals would eventually complicate the status of justice with regard to the abnormal and unprecedented cases. Derrida’s critique of the laws shed a good light on the limitation of all laws with a universal claim which will be applied here to the Aristotelian formulation of them. Finally, this essay highlights the moments that Aristotle’s admission of the impossibility of universal laws provides the possibility of alternative comportment towards otherness and alternative ethics. In effect, it is Aristotle's mistake or "missing the mark" (hamartia) that opens the door for a new mode of following the laws, I call nomadic following.


Main Subjects