Please note! This essay has been submitted by a student.
Aristotle is a famous philosopher, whose students’ lecture notes were made into a book called “Politics”. In the first chapter (Book I), he argues that man is a political animal. What he means by this is that men are sociable beings that need community to become a self-sufficient and structured state through which they achieve their telos of virtuous reasoning by exercising collective high moral standards through their communal laws and beliefs of justice. I believe he’s right in the sense that men do need each other to be self-sufficient as a whole, and create socially accepted rules of right and wrong, which they must use virtuous reasoning to create just laws.
I also agree that men need to reason virtuously as a means to keep the community’s laws just and lawful. However, I do not believe that it is their life purpose or telos to do so, but that their purpose is more of a subjective meaning of life that varies between individuals based on experience, personal insights and socially constructed ideas.
Firstly, humans are sociable animals because, in an evolutionary perspective, sexual urges lead men and women to mate and create life. This means they cannot live without one another because it would be the end of mankind. They have the natural impulse, like animals, to have children as a means of leaving a legacy of themselves behind. He goes on to explain that all men have social instincts that push them to want community with others because their nuclear family can’t meet all of their needs; only their basic daily needs. Community is created by the assembly of families, which creates villages, which then re-assemble again and create a community of villages together large enough to become a State. He argues that men create States so they can meet their community’s needs for life and be self-sufficient as a whole. They do so to maintain a good life with virtuous reasoning with each other, which is man’s purpose (telos). Furthermore, speech is what fundamentally differentiates humans from animals and gives way for communication, which is the main tool to create community. It lets us discuss and reason between ourselves about beliefs as a community and decide what is right or wrong, just or unjust. In turn, theses collective beliefs and human associations is what creates families and a state. Communities create a sense of what’s good or bad because man will always try and do or achieve what they believe is good. Therefore, we need community to be self-sufficient because alone we cannot be, without being part of a whole.
Otherwise, if you are self-sufficient Aristotle says “must be either beast or a god” because man has a social instinct that pushes him to want community and be self-sufficient as a whole with others, which is why man is a political animal. Moreover, Aristotle believes man is born with the intelligence and moral qualities that can be used for good or bad. It’s why he argues that man should strive to be virtuous, meaning having high moral standards, because he’s gifted with intelligence and moral qualities that can be used to be justice or injustice. This is why being virtuous is important to Aristotle because with high morality man can make betters laws, which lead to a better living and if separate from virtue can lead to disaster. Additionally, justice is what connects man with state and in turn it tells them what is just, which is the meaning of political order.
A system of beliefs that determines justice is how political societies organize themselves. This is why Aristotle believes man is a political animal because they need a community with shared virtuous beliefs about what’s good and bad to make a state that’s self-sufficient. It promotes virtuous thinking through beliefs that advocate justice as a means to live a life with a deeper sense of happiness and virtue.
Secondly, I do believe in the first arguments he makes where man is a social beings through evolutionary reasons and natural impulse because they are animals at the basis of their being who need each other to survive and reproduce. Moreover, he is justified to believe that man needs community and not just their family to fulfill all their needs because the community allows them to meet all their community needs collectively like need for life and become self-sufficient as a whole because they can’t be on their own.
I agree that speech is the main tool that made man connect with other, which led to community by speaking to each other and establishing a sense of right and wrong as a whole. Furthermore, I acknowledge that man is innately born with a certain intelligence and moral qualities, which they can choose to be used for better or for worst.
Also, I do agree that they should strive to have higher moral standards because thinking virtuously leads to people and a system that promotes justice and lawfulness. In turn, it creates a stable society because without virtue man would lead us into injustice and disaster.
On the other hand, when it comes to virtuous thinking as their whole purpose of being on earth. I do not think this is the species life purpose as a whole at all, but I do believe it’s very important for their society’s well-being and structure to think virtuously because it leads to virtuous laws and a better societal structure. I think their life purpose or telos, is a subjective one that only the individual knows or decides what it is, through life experiences, personal insights and socially constructed ideas he has been taught through family and society. Furthermore, throughout the text Aristotle is applying all these concepts and ideas, especially virtuous thinking, to man alone; except the general evolutionary perspective. Therefore, I absolutely do not agree that only men can reason properly and virtuously because contrary to his beliefs. Women can be logical and not let their emotions over ride their whole reasoning, as he believes it does.
All in all, I agree with Aristotle’s statements in general, but I specifically do not agree with his idea that our life purpose is reasoning virtuously because in my opinion it’s too general to be someone’s life purpose, but it should be an important part of their moral fiber. As well as, I definitely do not agree on the fact that women cannot reason as properly as men.
In conclusion, Aristotle’s statement that man is a political animal is well justified throughout his book. He argues that they are social animal that need community to meet each other’s communal needs like the need for life and self-sufficiency as a whole and establish a meaning of right and wrong that ties them together as a community and a state. Moreover, Aristotle says man is born with a sociable instinct that makes him yearn for community and intelligence with moral qualities, which he can use to be just or unjust in the world. Therefore, he believes virtuous thinking is our purpose in life as a species and necessary to create just laws, in turn creates a better societal structure. A system of beliefs that determines justice is how political societies organize themselves, which is why man is a political animal.