The Political Animal Essay Research Paper Much

The Political Animal Essay, Research Paper

Much time has been devoted to the study of how and why

governments exist. This effort is required to understand

America’s political and philosophical roots. The ancient

Greek philosopher Aristotle pursued and ultimately

answered this question in his work, The Politics. Though

written thousands of years ago, the lessons taught about the

natural state of politics reveal the immensely complex

system of an organized civil government in modern United

States. Perhaps one of the most profound thoughts

revealed in The Politics concerns the origin and nature of

basic government, the cities. "Hence it is evident that a city

is a natural production, and that man is naturally a political

animal" (Aristotle 1253a). Aristotle’s line from The Politics

exemplifies two distinct but related points. The first part

states that the formation of cities is natural and the second

deals with the idea that man is by his own nature, a political


At the beginning of The Politics, Aristotle says, "every city

must be allowed to be the work of nature, if we admit that

the original society between male and female is; for to this

as their end all subordinate societies tend, and the end of

everything is the nature of it"(1253b). Each city begins as a

collection of partnerships. These associations are the

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bonds that men create between each other as a result of

their natural tendency to be social and interact, "there is

then in all persons a natural impetus to associate with each

other" (1253a). Partnerships are natural because man is not

inclined to be self-sufficient on his own merits. A man

cannot exist merely for his own sake and expect to be a

functioning member of the city but must be supplemented

through the thoughts and ideas of other men. A man must

experience interaction with others to more fully complete

his existence. This supplementation is the essence of

partnerships because dealing with other men increases each

man’s own wholeness. Furthermore, by listening to the

thoughts and ideas of other men, he is furthering his own

proclivity, enabling him to be active in the city and

therefore, becoming a human being. It is only through the

city, however, that man can truly be complete because it

reaches a level of full self-sufficiency. The collection of

partnerships that comprise the city makes men into

complete human beings and assists them on their way to

happiness, "the end and perfection of government: first

founded that we might live, but continued that we may live

happily"(1252b). This is a level of excellence for man

because it means that he will not only survive but will thrive

after becoming fully human and therefore happy. Aristotle

asserts that the city, because it is made up of different

partnerships which are natural, becomes self-sustaining

without outside help. In Aristotle’s opinion, cities are not

created, they already exist; it is just a matter of forming the

partnerships to find it and its rewards.

Since the natural purpose of man is to be as

comprehensively human as possible, and the natural

purpose of the city is to make men human, Aristotle says

that this process

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of making the city is natural. The difficulty of this process is

the nature in which the city goes about developing the

human. It is difficult because it relies on the relationships

men have with each other. They must come together and

complete each other to fulfill their purpose just as individual

pieces join together to complete a puzzle. In Aristotle’s

world, the importance of the individuality of men is not

initially significant because everyone lives to be part of the

city. In other words, because the city makes human beings,

man must exert all of his efforts to participate and interact in

the city. It is only after being part of the city that man,

becoming a complete human, will be able to reap the

rewards of total excellence in life and happiness. Another

reason that the city is natural is that "the notion of a city

naturally precedes that of family or an individual" (1253a).

The city is above the individual or family in importance

because only the city can make men into complete human

beings. The individual and the family do not provide man

with the wide range of experience that he can acquire

through being part of the city. This is because reason and

thought are exercised more often in the city. Man must use

his reason more frequently in the city to be able to contend

with the other men so as to fully participate. Reason cannot

develop and flourish in the family because man is the

master. Contrarily, in the city, man rules and is ruled in turn.

Aristotle says that man is ruled and ruler alternately

because in the city, unlike the household, every man is

usually equally capable of taking a leadership position. In

the household, the man alone rules, thus he has no

competition or adversary to contend with and does not

need to exercise his reasoning as readily as in the city.

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The city is also natural because "nature does nothing in

vain" (1253a), everything created naturally serves a specific

purpose. In this sense, the United States is a natural

production. Even if the individuals, the men, seem to live

simply to complete their lives and achieve happiness, they

can only do so by contributing to the city’s perpetuation,

which will develop their humanity. Thus, since the city exists

for men to become human, that is its specific purpose. It is

considered natural.

Man is said to be a "political animal" naturally because of

his innate inclination to take part in the affairs of the city and

become a human being. Because the word political in this

case refers to all things public, being a political animal

means that man is innately drawn to dealing with other men

when it comes to the city and what should be done within

it. Nature, because it does nothing in vain, naturally equips

man with a distinct quality that animals lack, the ability to

speak, "The gift of speech also evidently proves that man is

a more social animal than the bees, or any of the herding

cattle: for nature, as we say, does nothing in vain, and man

is the only animal who enjoys it"(1253a). That is to say, the

ability to speak serves to enhance the process of becoming

human. Man can share ideas, thoughts, and feelings in

reference to what is good or bad, right or wrong. By

talking about what is held to be just or unjust, man defines

the limits and tolerances of the city and establishes rule.

This discussion enables men to reach consensus on these

issues "and it is a participation of these common sentiments

which forms a family and a city"(1253a). By listening to and

discussing the thoughts of others, and coming to agreement,

men form the essence of the city, partnerships. Speech,

while distinguishing

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man from animals and thereby confirming his rule over

them, furnishes men with the capability to make prudent

decisions for themselves and those they rule. Without

communication, the city would not function, resulting in

chaos. "So without law and justice he would be the worst

of all"(1253a). Aristotle is maintaining that nature’s gift of

speech to men prevents them from wreaking disaster upon

themselves and the natural world.

Despite its age, the insight The Politics commands

regarding the logic of the formation of cities is certainly

relevant in today’s complicated political world. I, myself is a

political animal seeking happiness, by interacting with other

people day to day living in the United States hoping to find

assistance in achieving the completeness of me as an

individual. Aristotle assessed what he deemed to be the

true purpose of human beings, achieving a level of utter

happiness. Although seemingly contradictory to the modern

perception of politics, Aristotle looks upon the nature of the

affairs of the public as a means to an end. This end

concentrates on the outcome of each man as opposed to

the recent viewpoint that politics is a struggle for the benefit

of institutions, ideas, and organizations. Perhaps if modern

governments adopted Aristotle’s school of thought, the

world would be a more serene place to live.


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