Compare Aristotle’s Claim That Man Is a ‘Political Animal’ with Hobbe’s Claim That the State of Nature Is a State of War Essay

Ever since the existence of a civilization, the fundamental question of how and why; to identify and explain the human’s nature and how man is ought to live, has been the key element in philosophical world. Many philosophers provided and made public of how they viewed this world as, and the human in it, and experimented themselves with their approaches, however, no philosophers could possibly bring forth the same views as other philosophers nor yield an answer which do not leave a sense of doubt in our mind.

None of the theories were incorrect, but none of them were right in the sense that even two theories which seem contrary, had relevant point to prove. Aristotle and Thomas Hobbes’ also had two contrasting views towards this world. Aristotle and Hobbes both had the same uncertainty to deal with, ‘What is in humans’ nature and what is political? ’ although they have managed to reach to the answer entirely in different manners. Aristotle (322-384), considered one of the greatest intellectual figures of Western history was born in Macedonia (Biography, 2010).

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In 367, Aristotle moves to Athens and joined the Academy of Plato (428-348) and became a pupil of Plato (ibid. ). Aristotle’s view on politics tended to focus on the relationship between the ‘polis’ and the happiness which he refers as ‘Eudemonia’ of individuals. To achieve ‘eudemonia,’ the good life, it takes more than simply attaining your desire but involvement of reason and rationality (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP), 2010).

He claims in addition that no other thing than eudemonia can be the ultimate goal of human and to achieve it, man needs to engage in activities of rational part of its soul. Then how does this concept of eudemonia relate to Aristotle’s view of politics? The modern word we use as ‘political’ originates from Ancient Greek-same period when Aristotle was alive, ‘politikos-of, or belonging to, the polis. ’ The word polis refers to as ‘city-state. ’ (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP), 2002).

Aristotle defines politics as; the well being of all of the members of the community. (Biography, 2010). In his book ‘The Politics,’ he states “Since we see that every city-state is a sort of community and that every community is established for the sake of some good (for everyone does everything for the sake of what they believe to be good), it is clear that every community aims at some good, and the community which has the most authority of all and includes all the others aims highest, that is, at the good with the most authority.

This is what is called the city-state or political community. ” (Politics, I. 1. 1252a1-7). This leads to Aristotle’s answer for human nature; the polis (community) is natural to man by nature, therefore human is political animal and eudemonia (the highest goal) is achieved only by ‘polis,’ which is naturally superior to individuals, because individuals are not able to function apart from the city-state, since they are not self-sufficient (SEP, 2002). Aristotle also claims that the political life which leads to eudemonia is an active life. Others say that the statesman’s life is best, on the grounds that a man who does nothing cannot be doing well, and happiness and doing well is the same thing. ” (Politics, 1325al6). According Aristotle, there is either active or passive life and the political life belongs to the active life.

Since all active life leads to happiness, “…then the active life will be the best both for any state as a whole community and for the individual. ” (Politics, 1325b14). However Aristotle also claims that the contemplative life is also a happy, good life but at the same time a passive life. Biography, 2010). What is a contemplative life: to observe and search for the highest causes of the cosmos (ibid. ). Thomas Hobbes is an English Philosopher from 17th Century, whose theory is known for its rivalry against Aristotle (SEP, 2008). Hobbes’ major achievement to political philosophy is called the ‘social contract theory. ’ First of all, Hobbes had a different view of human’s nature as Aristotle to start from. He saw human nature was to be tamed by politics, not exercised.

According to Aristotle, The nature of human was to be completed and flourished through community and politics (SEP, 2002). In contrast, Hobbes claims that the state of human nature was war. In his book of Leviathan, he states, “…there is no way for any man to secure himselfe, so reason-able, as Anticipation; that is, by force…till he see no other power great enough to endanger him…” (Leviathan, XIII). Since we cannot reach agreement over what is right and wrong, it is rational to think that we have no choice but to attack other people and that is the state of nature.

Hobbes suggests three causes of the nature of man. First, competition; Second, Diffidence; third, glory. Human exercise violence first to gain their desire, and secondly to defend their gains, and lastly for one’s own reputation. On the ground that we are all in a state of war, Hobbes states, “In such conditions, there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain…no knowledge of the face of the earth, no account of time, no arts, no letters, NO SOCIETY, and which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death…” (Leviathan, XIII).

Therefore, the idea of justice or injustice cannot have a place in our society where there is no power. Establishing the nature of human as war; “…during the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe…” (Leviathan, XIII), Hobbes now turns his eyes on politics as a tool to avoid ourselves from the devastating results of humans’ nature. Hobbes argues that as a rational creature, we can all agree to lay down our rights and desire on the condition that others too will lay down their rights.

Hobbes refers this as a ‘law of nature’ (SEP, 2008). He states, “A percept of a general rule, found out by reason, by which a man is forbidden to do that which is destructive of his life or takes away the means of preserving the same, and to omit that by which he thinks it may be best preserved…” (Leviathan, XIV). So, human will now develop the concept of justice and injustice which is whether or not to keep the sets of rules made within a community or not.

However Hobbes claims this is not enough to maintain a civil society (SEP, 2008). “Bonds, by which men are bound and obliged: Bonds, that have their strength not from their own nature, (for nothing is more easily broken than a mans word,) but from feare of some evil consequence…” (Leviathan, XIV), therefore a need to establish an authority that can enforce the agreements becomes the main discussion of Hobbes’ theory which he calls to ‘contract out’.

He calls this the ‘the very essence of the government’; for the purpose of people’s safety, we lay down our rights and obey to the authority in order for protection, thus we form a common-power which can bind ourselves rationally, to guarantee the sets of rules made to protect ourselves. (SEP, 2008). Aristotle’s perspective that man is political by nature, seems to make more considerable sense because, human cannot maintain their lives without any other interaction with other people.

Aristotle proves his point by mentioning the basic needs of human and by the analogy of craftsmen. It is true, that fundamentally, humans need others for their desires to be accomplished. Humans are only capable of doing one thing (SEP, 2002). For example, humans need male and female to reproduce, and even in other aspects of lives, human cannot accomplish everything by itself. Therefore, being political must be part of nature since we cannot satisfy ourselves alone.

On the contrary it seems incoherent for Hobbes to claim that humans’ state of nature is war; because our desire is achieved not only by conquering others or exercising force but also through collaboration. It is not our nature to be in the state of war but to be in the state of war is the failure to achieve and use well of our nature. Aristotle states that ‘A natural being becomes and reveals its nature as it grows, changes and by moving through times’ (SEP, 2010).

When observing two children over a toy, first they will start fighting over it but as they grow older and mature, they will choose no to fight over it (war), but to negotiate (politics); however this is not because of our nature, but the lack of deliberate capacity and authority (Politics, 1260a13 and 1254b15), which Aristotle referred as women and slaves in his books. Then why are women and slave naturally unfit for politics? This is likely due to the era he lived in, when Aristotle was alive, slaves existed and women were not part of the political world and that was the norm of the time.

It would have been difficult for Aristotle to get over the system imagine beyond of to describe their status. However, Aristotle still manages proves his point by claiming that a natural being becomes and reveals itself as it grows, changes and moving through time because if we look at the world we live in today, there are no slaves, and women have gained their right to participate in the political world. As mentioned, it is incoherent for Hobbes to claim that humans’ nature is the state of war; however his theory of how a justice and sets of rules (law) in a society are created proves a better point than to Aristotle’s.

Aristotle had a narrow point of view in the perspective by claiming that politics is the purpose in our lives to achieve happiness and to be part of the polis being the essence. According to this-politics and the polis being the purpose of our lives, they must have existed and had been created before the existence of human which seems to be on the ground suggesting the existence of a supernatural beings such as gods, but there is no way for Aristotle to prove this and which he does not attempt to. On the other hand Hobbes explains the procedures that the ommunity (the polis) and law (the concept of justice and injustice) are created by man and not being the purpose of our lives but the tool to achieve other joy in life which he calls the right of nature-A freedom of liberty. It is certainly true that no one individual can agree upon all the aspects in political philosophy, although it is possible to attain pieces of theories made and apply them in real-life circumstances. Aristotle and Hobbes had two complete different views however they are both regarded relevant even today and will be.

Reference

Aristotle’s Biography. (2010). Bio. True Story. [On-line]. Available: http://www.biography.com/articles/Aristotle-9188415?part=19

Macpherson, C. B. (Ed.). Leviathan: Penguin Books.

Sinclair, T. A. (1995). Aristotle the Politics. Canberra: Claredon Press.

Smith, J. A. The Ethics of Aristotle. [On-line]. Available: http://www2.hn.psu.edu/faculty/jmanis/aristotl/Ethics-Aristotle.pdf

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. (2008). Hobbes’s Moral, and Political Philosophy. [On-line]. Available: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/hobbes-moral/#StaNat

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. (2002). Aristotle’s Political Theory [On-line]. Available: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aristotle-politics/index.html#PolSci

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. (2010). Aristotle’s Ethics. [On-line]. Available: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aristotle-ethics/#HumGooFunArg

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