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The Political Animal

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 s 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 being. 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 ollection of partnerships. These associations are the 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 artnerships 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 appily”(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 f 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 is 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. The city is also natural because “nature does nothing in ain” (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 ase 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 man from animals and thereby confirming his rule over them, furnishes men with the capability to make prudent ecisions 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 ssistance 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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