editor’s introduction
carl schmitt:
an improper name
Adam Sitze
The proper name, it must be said, has a curious place and function in
the discourse of the history of political thought. On the terms of this
discourse, a name like “Aristotle” does not designate a specific mortal
being who lived and died in a particular place and at a particular time.
Quite the opposite: it designates something in this mortal being—his
thought—that exceeds his mortal being, and thus too his particular
place and time. Even so, “Aristotle” doesn’t refer equally to all of Aris-
totle’s thought: political theorists typically use this name to designate
the positions in The Politics and Nicomachean Ethics, not those in Quaestiones
Mechanicae or The Souls of Animals. The name also can be used to refer to
works not written by Aristotle at all. Converted into an adjective, “Aristo-
telian” refers to transmissible attributes that have come to be associated
with Aristotle’s thought—idiosyncratic conceptual habits or techniques
that are common enough to be found reiterated in the works of others,
and that with su cient iteration can come to constitute a school (the
“Lyceum”) or tradition (“Aristotelianism”). This adjectivalization can
go to such an extreme that some thinkers can come to be categorized
more with reference to Aristotle’s name than by their own (Aquinas, for
some, always will be first and foremost a particular sort of “Aristote-
lian”). These descriptions, paradoxically, can even come to displace the
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