“a human being is by nature a political animal”
The following statement, “a human being is by nature a political animal” has two key components. One is “by nature” and the other one is “political animal”. “By nature” means something that is innate, and “political animal” means the animals that live in a Polis or in a City State. The entire statement thereby implies that the inherent nature of human beings is to live in a Polis or in a City State (p: x1viii; Aristotle). Aristotle gives three main supporting arguments for his claim which are explained below.
From the very beginning of mankind, men and women live together to reproduce. It is the innate feeling of human beings that they have to give birth to population which is the same as them. It is not that men and women deliberately agree for living together, but it is more like they cannot live alone, and in order to reproduce, they definitely have to cohabit. It is not only the men and women who are living together for fulfilling the needs of each other, but also the slaves and the masters require each other for living in a household. In other words, a slave is the person who is naturally weaker. Therefore, a slave needs a master to rule over him. Similarly, a master is naturally unable to do those works that require physical labor, and that is why he needs a slave who can take care of him by doing the works for him. Finally, we can conclude that the natural master uses his rational ability to rule over his slave, and as the natural slave lack rational ability, and it uses its bodily labor to serve the master (p2; Aristotle).
As men and women, masters and slaves innately feel the importance of each other, they require living in a household for fulfilling their everyday needs. According to Aristotle, a household includes its members, the man and the wife, children and the slaves (p2; Aristotle).
Similarly, when several household decides to live in a certain place for fulfilling the more complex needs, we can then call it a village. Aristotle thinks that a forming a village is supposed to be going beyond the idea of only meeting the daily needs (p2; Aristotle). Suppose, one person is good at growing crops and the other one is good at making shoes. When the situation is like that, the shoe maker can lead a good life by letting the other person growing crops, and the shoemaker can have a share of the crops that the other person grows. It can be vice versa as well. According to Aristotle, through this sharing, people living in villages can make their lives better (p3; Aristotle).
And finally, when a village attains self sufficiency in every aspect, it becomes a city state. According to Aristotle, sufficiency means lacking of no necessary things which is vital for leading a good life. He thinks that the city state is the end where all the happiness lies on. Human beings cannot live without a Polis or a city state, but whoever does live without a city state is actually a superhuman, God or a beast. It implies that no human being can actually live without a city state. It will be just like a fish out of water, which definitely has to die (p4; Aristotle).
Aristotle draws on features, which make a human being distinct from a Bee. Human beings can speak and thereby can express their feelings about what is just, and what is not, but Bees can’t (p4; Aristotle).
According to Aristotle, the whole process from man and woman living together to the creation of a City Sate or a Polis is natural. And therefore, a human being who lives in a Polis or a City State is inherently a political animal too (p4; Aristotle).
I do not think human beings are by nature political animals. Rather, I think that human beings are rational animals, and they create a city state because they think about their comparative advantages.
I strongly agree with this objection because when people create a household, they perhaps think about the comparative advantages, which they can get from the household. For example, according to Aristotle, a household can be the partnership between a master and a slave. Here, I think that both the master and the slave are rational human being and a master needs a slave because a slave can make him tea and meals when the master can spend his time on inventing a new kind of Antibiotic for example. Here we see that the master needs a slave so that he can spend time for the greater good of mankind. Here, the master is being rational, and actually thinking about the comparative advantages so that he can invent the new Antibiotic and become admired. On the other hand, as the slave is good at making tea and meal and the master has money as he is a scientist and popular, the slave wants to make a deal with the master so that he can get food from the master. One important thing, here, is that both the master and the slave actually thinking about their comparative advantages because both of them are rational. Similarly, when people create a city state, they think about the comparative advantages too. For example, someone in the city state is good at growing crops and someone is good at fishing. They might want to create some kind of deal so that the person who is good at fishing can have some crops from the person who grows crops. Similarly the person who is good at growing crops can have some fish for his meal. This is the rational thinking, which influences human beings to create a City State or a Polis. According to Hobbes a city state is man-made and people use their rational ability to create a City State because they are concerned about their “self-preservation”, which means they want to protect themselves from getting into an unstable or a worse position (Leviathan; Hobbes). The abovementioned statement underlies that people are not well off without the help of the other human beings. Therefore, the idea of creating a city state begins from the rational feeling that people can get comparative advantages, and be better off.
Aristotle perhaps would not agree with my objection. He would say that being rational is the nature of human beings. In other words, rationality is one of the characteristics of a human being which is natural. Therefore, even though my objection says human beings are creating a city state is rather a rational act than a natural act, Aristotle would refute by saying that acting rational is one of the features of human beings. Therefore, rationally creating the city sate is equivalent to naturally creating the city sate. In addition, he would say that thinking about the comparative advantages or being a rational human being is merely natural for human beings. Therefore, it does not matter whether human beings rationally create a household, and in the course of time, they perhaps create a village or a city state. The important thing is that the whole process of creating a city state is thereby natural and as human beings naturally create a city state and live in there, they are indeed political animals. Therefore, the objection I made is not a successful criticism of Aristotle’s view.