In the wake of the most surprising election results of the last fifty years, it is a particularly appropriate time to apply a philosophical perspective to this most momentous event in British political history. Philosophy students, by now familiar with Aristotle’s thought, will know that the author of Politics considers young people as unfit to study political science, let alone take a direct part in the affairs of the polis. A class debate could lead to a most stimulating discussion about the pros and cons of granting sixteen-year olds the right to vote as well as the implications of such a decision on political life in general.
Considering that ‘passions’ are inherent to all human beings, irrespective of their age, to what extent can prejudices and biases be judged as potentially more ‘dangerous’ in a young person than in a middle-aged one? What of Alexander who turned out to be an outstanding statesman and general in his twenties? Didn’t he show an extraordinary mastery of political astuteness and military prowess, controlling and directing his ‘passions’ to his best possible advantage? Aristotle argues that wisdom cannot be acquired without the experience of a lifetime but, after all, his young Athenian contemporaries were eligible to the Assembly (Ekklesia) from the age of twenty while access to the Council (Boule) was open to candidates aged at least thirty. Given the relatively short life expectancy of the Greek population at that time, Aristotle would have ended up with a polis ruled by very wise but very elderly representatives of the people.