American Political Science Review

Research Article

Deliberation, Democracy, and the Rule of Reason in Aristotle's Politics


a1 Princeton University


Deliberative democratic theorists argue that important moral questions turn on whether regimes are sufficiently deliberative. To attribute “deliberativeness” to a regime, we need an account of “deliberative integration” that connects such a holistic assessment to the acts or qualities of individuals and smaller groups. I turn to Aristotle's Politics for instruction in developing such accounts, arguing that he judges regimes according to how reliably they act pursuant to excellent common deliberation—a manner of excellent rule that I call the “rule of reason.” I then interpret Aristotle's metaphorical argument for the “wisdom of the multitude” to establish the claim that democracies may best integrate citizens’ deliberations. This interpretation illuminates Aristotle's complex evaluation of regimes, including his ambivalent views on the rule of the many. It also suggests a structure for contemporary accounts of deliberative integration helpful even for those who differ from Aristotle in their basic moral concerns.


c1 James Lindley Wilson is a Ph.D. candidate, Department of Politics, Princeton University, 130 Corwin Hall, Princeton, NJ 08544-1012 (


I thank Patrick Deneen for encouraging me to pursue the ideas expressed in an early draft of this article; Charles Beitz, Melissa Lane, Philip Pettit, and Michael Lamb for each reading a full draft and providing extensive comments; Kellam Conover for generous help with Greek language and history; and Jessica Flanigan, Katie Gallagher, and John Lombardini for valuable discussions. I also thank the coeditors of the APSR and three anonymous reviewers for extremely helpful comments and suggestions. I presented an earlier draft of this article at the Princeton University Center for Human Values Graduate Prize Fellows Seminar, and I benefited substantially from the participants' comments.