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
is 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

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
collection of partnerships. These associations are the

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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
partnerships 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
happily"(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

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of 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
his 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