Aristotle, Law and Justice: The Tragic Hero

164 Pages Posted: 30 Apr 2008 Last revised: 3 Sep 2021


Aristotle was the greatest scientist in western history. He established the scientific paradigm and the instruments thereof (materialism and logic). His work covered all basic sciences: Astronomy, Botany, Logic, Mathematics, Meteorology Philosophy, Psychology and Political Science. Aristotle's conception of justice pervades the law and heavily influenced the Anglo-Saxon court system to this day. Yet, the mark of a hero in Greek tragedy is his tragic flaw. Aristotle was not only a great scientist. He was also racist, sexist and homophobic - he thought slavery was natural and good. This tragic flaw in Aristotle's work has distorted all of western thought since. In order to cure the disease we must understand its origin. This essay describes Aristotle's theory of justice and law in order to explain just how pervasively his thought influenced the common law. We can and should reject the dark shadow of this great scientist whilst enjoying the greater and better part of his work.

Keywords: Aristotle, legal theory, philosophy of law, jurisprudence, justice, theory, theory of justice, distributive justice, geometric justice, arithmetic justice, transactional justice, social justice, ratio

JEL Classification: B3, B30, B31, D63

Suggested Citation

Engle, Eric, Aristotle, Law and Justice: The Tragic Hero. Northern Kentucky Law Review, Vol. 35, pp. 1-18, 2008, Available at SSRN:

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