The man is a political animal is a phrase often heard in public debates, without quoting the source of this fundamental position of political philosophy. It was Aristotle who, in Politics, the first called the man “Zoon politikon.” Find below an explanation of this quote.
Man is a thinking animal
The man is in the scheme of nature as “thinking animal.” The spirit which distinguishes man as a rational being is “incapable of being destroyed” It is a special part of the psyche (soul), which in turn is the force that animates the body. The soul is the body “trained”, and contrary to the spirit of Plato, does not have a separate existence from the body. Thus, it does not survive the death of the body. However, the soul has both currency and potential. The soul is also effective, that is to say, the formal cause and final body. In other words, the soul has a purpose, and carries with it the means to achieve this end.
Man is a political animal: Explanation
Man is a “political animal.” In this Aristotle means that man lives in a more “polis”. Man becomes man among others, living in a society governed by laws and customs. The man develops his potential and realize its natural end in a social context. This is the “good life.” This is not an easy life, but a life of virtue is reflected in the highest good (eudaimonia), often translated as happiness.
The good life
Aristotle’s ethics is a study of choice in action: how man should live to live better? For Aristotle, everything is social individual. Certain virtues such as courage and generosity, which he describes as “practical” virtues, because they relate to the social nature of man. The truly balanced individual also continues the “theory” of qualities that are related to man as a rational being. For Aristotle, the ultimate happiness lies in the pursuit of wisdom for his own good, as asserted in the Nicomachean Ethics.