The Psychology behind Political Animals

Christina C- Period 1

How would you define a man? Would it be as simple as a “featherless biped” or an intellectual being that has extensive cognitive ability and uses that skill to improve him or herself? A biologist would argue the former and a psychologist the latter, and in the Politics, the philosopher Aristotle describes a man as “by nature a political animal,” meaning that we are meant to be a part of an organized group of people[1]. As demonstrated by history, and even learned in the Bible, man is made to be communal, biologically, psychologically, and politically. Biologically, the very phenomenon of a man and a woman shows how two counterparts are supposed to build up a society. In psychology, there have been extensive studies on how human contact is essential to survival. Finally, with regard to politics, man is not made to control other men, but to govern them for the benefit of the group as a whole. Whichever definition with which you might agree, then as a whole, humans are meant to have the same end goal, not in a sense that everyone has to be a lawyer, doctor, or politician by the end of his or her life, but that we should strive to achieve happiness. Somewhat self-contradictory, Aristotle states that a man, by nature, “without a state, is either a bad man or a above humanity; he is like the ‘tribeless, lawless, hearthelss one [2].’” On the other hand, he explains that “the final cause and end of a thing is the best, and to be self-sufficing is the end and the best [3].” Man should be apart of a state because in this way, he would be able to achieve happiness and the ultimate goal of living a life of reason, according to Aristotle.

Historically, in the earliest civilizations, such as Mesopotamia and Egypt, men recognized the importance of society and how living communally would be more sufficient than living alone. From what every first-grader has learned, there were designated roles: hunters and gatherers. From that, the structure evolved into tribal leaders, warriors, farmers, and homemakers. Since then, men have been constantly searching for a way to properly structure a society in systems such as democracy, communism, socialism, monarchy, and so many more [4]. Because of these varying views, leaders should set an appropriate example of the way they want to be portrayed to the world in order to gain the proper respect they seek. Because of the constant attempts to improve the structure of society, the goal remains the same: to create a solid foundation on which society can flourish. What makes this process difficult, and why Aristotle debates “politics” in the first place, is that everyone has different viewpoints on the world and how they should live their lives, so it is essential that man is given the opportunity to operate in a society that allows him to thrive and to live this life of reason. It is imperative that the every society is compared with knowledge that they emerge for the same purpose because many of the beliefs, such rights to equality, property, and a vote, intertwine with each other to constitute each society’s moral code and ethical foundation.

Man is meant to live communally psychologically because of the innate drive to be in contact with another human, starting at birth. On the familial side, in 1930, Dr. Harry Harlow, a psychologist professor at the University of Wisconsin- Madison, conducted an experiment called “monkey love” which validated the assumption that the mother has a huge role in the development of a child [5]. Harlow bred monkeys without a mother for six months, and then he presented the baby monkeys with either a surrogate mother that was made of wire or a surrogate mother made of cloth similar to the fur of the a monkey. One group of monkeys would live with the wire mother and the other would live with the cloth mother. Harlow observed that the monkeys with the cloth thrived more than those with the wire. Other than monkeys, a human application of these findings were compared to a case in Dallas, Texas where an eight-year-old girl spend five years in a closet with no food or human contact. The girl weighed twenty-five pounds, or the weight of a two-year-old and extremely malnourished, and had not grown since the time she was put in the closet. When she was finally rescued and placed in a loving and caring home, she began to grow at a normal pace again [6]. In addition to the need for physical contact, social psychologists have also noticed the phenomenon of “social facilitation [7].” Social facilitation is an increase in an individual’s performance because of being in a group. It explains that people who work in small groups in class learn more and are more productive than people who work alone because individuals can compare their ideas and thoughts with others in a group to compare to make improvements [8]. These studies and phenomena both portray that psychologically, even in the most rudimentary parts of our nature, man should be with others and to enhance society.

Finally, with the backing of the biological, historical, and psychological evidence, politically, man should be communal because of the desire to have power and to better oneself. Rev. J.A. Dewe states in the Psychology of Politics and History that “there are certain dominant… desires… that shape human conduct on certain definite lines… and must form the study of any statesman who wishes to be guided by what is relevant and fundamental. [9].” Dewe’s statement agrees with that of Aristotle’s about man being unable to be “above humanity” and without structure [10].  Society and social structure is built on traditional values so it will support a community of people and protect the life as opposed to destroy it. People’s moral visions are different across the board, and because of the differences, finding the “right” way to govern a society is difficult, hence the varying governments. However, the unwavering argument remains that man cannot function without a support system. The continuous modernization of society will change and mold people’s opinions on the best way to rule a group of people because of ever-shifting culture, traditions, and morals.

As a result of man’s need to govern and to have power over others, Aristotle argues that we, by nature, are made to be political and to have a society that supports us. Therefore, we create the opportunity for ourselves to thrive by surrounding ourselves with communities that empower us that can lead to Aristotle’s understand of the final goal or the function of man: the “exercise of his vital faculties [or soul] on one side in obedience to reason [11].” Even since the beginning of time, man has survived off of following virtues and creating the best possible situation for himself. All the time, man uses reason and logic to delegate his thoughts in order to benefit himself. With a community of multiple thoughts and logics, it only makes sense to use that ability to improve society as a whole. We are given the skills of the power of speech, will and justice to fully develop ourselves to fulfill our purpose which is the life of happiness and life of reason.

Endnotes

[1]. Aristotle, “Book I: Chapter 2.” In the Politics.  Bernardo Aparicio, 2015.

[2]. Ibid.

[3]. Ibid.

[4]. Schwartz, Richard D., and James C. Miller. “Legal Evolution and Societal Complexity.” American Journal of Sociology, September 1, 1964, 159-69.

[5]. “Harry Harlow.” PBS: People and Discoveries. January 1, 1998. Accessed April 29, 2015. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aso/databank/entries/bhharl.html.

[6]. “Lauren Kavanaugh: Texas Woman Raped, Tortured, Starved, And Held Captive Inside Closet For Five Years.” The Inquisitr News. January 5, 2015. Accessed May 1, 2015. http://www.inquisitr.com/1738254/lauren-kavanaugh-texas-woman-raped-tortured-starved-and-held-captive-inside-closet-for-five-years/.

[7]. Zimbardo, Philip G. “Social Psychology.” In Psychology: AP* Edition with Discovery Psychology. Boston, Mass.: Allyn & Bacon, 2010.

[8]. Ibid.

[9]. Dewe, M.A., Rev. J.A. “Fundemental Causes of the Progress and Fall of Nations.” In Psychology of Politics and History. New York: Longmans Green and, 1910.

[10]. Aristotle, “Book I: Chapter 2.” In the Politics.  Bernardo Aparicio, 2015.

[11]. Aristotle, “Book I: Chapter 7.” In the Nicomachean Ethics. Bernardo Aparicio, 2015.

Works Cited

Aristotle, “Book I: Chapter 2.” In the Politics.  Bernardo Aparicio, 2015.

Aristotle, “Book I: Chapter 7.” In the Nicomachean Ethics. Bernardo Aparicio, 2015.

Dewe, M.A., Rev. J.A. “Fundemental Causes of the Progress and Fall of Nations.” In Psychology of Politics and

History. New York: Longmans Green and, 1910.

“Harry Harlow.” PBS: People and Discoveries. January 1, 1998. Accessed April 29, 2015. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aso/databank/entries/bhharl.html.

Hathaway, Bill. “Basic Recipe for Human Groups Does Not Require Race, Politics or Religion.” Yale News. Accessed

May 1, 2015. http://news.yale.edu/2014/01/28/basic-recipe-human-groups-does-not-require-race-politics-or-religion.

“Lauren Kavanaugh: Texas Woman Raped, Tortured, Starved, and Held Captive Inside Closet For Five Years.” The

Inquisitr News. January 5, 2015. Accessed May 1, 2015. http://www.inquisitr.com/1738254/lauren-kavanaugh-texas-

woman-raped-tortured-starved-and-held-captive-inside-closet-for-five-years/.

Schwartz, Richard D., and James C. Miller. “Legal Evolution and Societal Complexity.” American Journal of

Sociology, September 1, 1964, 159-69.

Zimbardo, Philip G. “Social Psychology.” In Psychology: AP* Edition with Discovery Psychology. Boston, Mass.: Allyn & Bacon, 2010.

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