Valerie Wijeweera -Period 6- Honorbound
Aristotle talks about man being “a political animal”, but what really separates man from animal?[i] There are many interpretations of this particular description, ranging from man being “naturally drawn to various political associations” to man being totally animalistic as “those who turn their back on the violence in politics turn their back on society…and declare themselves [outlaws]”.[ii] What Aristotle describes with this title is that man is a “political animal” because “he is a social creature with the power of speech and moral reasoning”.[iii] The power of speech is multifaceted & transformative in humans in comparison to the “voice” used by animals. This is what gives us the leg up on our animal counterparts.
Animals have their own way of communicating through using their “voice”. They use their voices as a method of survival, while human communication is constantly developing to portray past, present, and future situations and endeavors. The primary difference is the “duality of pattering” by which human speech contains sound units called “phonemes” which combine to make “morphemes”, thus creating the smallest unit of sound that contains meaning. Animals on the other hand don’t have these levels of pattering present in human speech.[iv] Other differences between human speech and animal voice is that human linguistics are able to create new expressions in an open-ended language while animals communicate on a closed system. Also, animals communicate in reaction to stimulus and their immediate environment, such as food or danger, while humans can discuss imaginary situations removed from the present.[v]
Human communication can be transformative, either good or bad in manner, which further exemplifies Aristotle’s purpose for speech as a moral indicator and social tool. “Additionally, by words we have the power to edify (build up), to exhort, and to console our brothers…”.[vi] Moreover, speech allows us to build individuals with praise and encouragement, in a life giving and life affirming manner.[vii] However, the exact opposite can be true for human speech and social interaction with others. Certain words can wipe out a person’s self-esteem, and gossip can tear apart relationships and even entire communities.[viii] By continually taking part in and being surrounded by destructive speech, one might become desensitized to its effects on others.[ix]
However, “Nature…makes nothing in vain, and man is the only animal whom she has endowed with the gift of speech”.[x] Consequently, “A tremendous creative effort was involved in this process, which must have extended over a vast period of time; and it is due to this effort that man was able to rise above the animal”.[xi] Aristotle states that human speech’s purpose allows for recognition of just and unjust matters and association with living beings in the creation of a family and state.[xii] He also considers the wholeness of the state “clearly prior to the family and to the individual” because if destroyed then all its inhabitants lose meaning and purpose.[xiii] This further emphasizes the importance of speech as a wholesome moral and social tool to foster relationships within the family and further build the state as a whole. Man holds speech over animal, but it needs to be used for the good of the people, for this gift wasn’t given in vain but rather a gift given of nature.
OstrichSmile. DigitalImage. 9GAG.TV.com. Accessed April 30, 2017. http://9gag.com/tv/p/aLPkl3/dogs-with-human-mouths-markiplier
[i] Aristotle, The Politics (Edited by Bernardo Aparicio, Dallas, TX: Ursuline Academy of Dallas, 2016), 2.
[iv] Johnson, M. Jose, “The Difference Between Animal and Human Communication,” Owlcation.com, published on December 7, 2015, Accessed April 30, 2017. https://owlcation.com/stem/The-difference-between-animal-and-human-communication.
[x] Aristotle, The Politics (Edited by Bernardo Aparicio, Dallas, TX: Ursuline Academy of Dallas, 2016), 2.
[xi] Govinda, Lama, “The Magic of Words and the Power of Speech,” TheUnboundedSpirit.com, Accessed April 30, 2017. http://theunboundedspirit.com/the-magic-of-words-and-the-power-of-speech/.
[xiii] Aristotle, The Politics (Edited by Bernardo Aparicio, Dallas, TX: Ursuline Academy of Dallas, 2016), 2.