Thursday, June 23, 2011

Aristotle's statement that "Man is a political animal"

Here's one for the search engines and for people trying to cheat on their papers. Aristotle's statement that "Man is a political animal" is more obscure than is sometimes thought. According to his "Politics", and to the Nichomachean Ethics, man, or humans, are by nature disposed to live in a Polis, that is in towns and cities. Towns and cities are formed through the union of families and villages with each other, done for mutual gain. The Polis is a town that is self sufficient in the sense that within it it has all of the economic features necessary for life, such as agriculture outside of the city itself and production of goods within the city. Humans, as political animals, then, are by nature suited to engage in the issues that come up that disrupt the smooth functioning of life in the Polis. The examination and resolution of these issues leads to the foundation of government as an agent to carry out collective decision making, to try to solve the social problems, conflicts between people, problems of economic activity and prosperity, and relations with other Polis' that emerge in the course of life. This definition of government is a conventional one and not a radical one. People are by nature prepared to engage in collective argument, decision making, and action in ways that are similar to those of family life or the life of small villages because of the complexity of life in the Polis the resolution of issues transcends the immediate and goes to a level where people face society more as a subject views an object. Yet, though the new bonds are not as solid, they still are present through the complementary activity that joins the different groups of people who make up the Polis together.

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