Aristotle Beyond the Academy

Centrist Aristotle

Rory Stewart might be the definition of centrist politician.

He was a Conservative MP (2010-2019) before briefly becoming an independent and then stepping down at the last election. Now, he is best known for his highly successful podcast with the former Labour spin doctor Alistair Campbell, The Rest is Politics, where they discuss the issues of the day from the centre ground.

Aristotle, too, was a centrist -- though of a very different sort. He argued that virtue lies at the midpoint of two extremes. Courage lies between fear and rashness, for example.

No wonder, then, that the Stagirite appeals to Stewart, who gave the Annual Sir Thomas Gresham Lecture this year on 'Populism, Aristotle and Hope'.

Stewart's argument was that Aristotle's famous rhetorical triangle of logos, ethos and pathos can give centrists tools to combat popularism. He couples this with Aristotelian virtue, highlighting the importance of 'good hope' (euelpis).

'I want to return to the idea of eudaimonia,' said Stewart, 'the Aristotelian idea of happiness. Because the Aristotelian idea of happiness... is not simply vested in a means-end calculation. Its response to social movements is to say that happiness is not an end, it's an activity, and in particular, politics is a joint activity. It's a communal activity. It's an activity where ethical considerations combine with the practical considerations in the definition together of the good life.'

Our thanks to Prof Richard Toye for bringing this Encounter to our notice.


Durham UniversityDurham University Centre for Classical ReceptionLeverhulme Trust