political animal

Aristotle 101: The Zoon Politikon

In the first book of the Politics, Aristotle argues for the view that man is a ‘political animal’. To assess the claim properly, we must first understand what he means by the term, and we should understand the reasoning he uses to defend it. Thus examined, we will find his position interesting, but ultimately unsatisfactory. However, it may be possible to shore up his case. Aristotle’s ‘political animal’ (zoon politikon) is not the creature we might expect today – a conventional construct enfranchised by legal edict and duty-bound only to his own individual happiness as a free agent in a democratic nation-state.