A Civilized Society Is Natural: The Polis and Human Nature in Aristotle's Politics

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  5
Wordcount:  1182 Words
Date:  2022-03-02

In Aristotle's first book of the Politics, he argues in the second chapter that the polis is natural (1235). The notion of the natural polis or the thesis of a civilized state is crucial in Aristotle's political philosophy. It is discussed in one place alongside another argument that humans are political animals. Combined, the two ideologies constitute Aristotle's political naturalism, leading readers into questioning what aspects make humans need politics and how does polis satisfy this need. Just as nature produces and sustains life, so does it provide humans with the polis to preserve their lives. Though survival traditionally involves satisfaction of food, drink, and sex desires, it goes beyond the immediate biological needs. As human's physiology demands biological needs, also natural is the demands for a meaningful and purposeful life.

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Nature created human beings, but it never made them self-sufficient. Consequently, it the responsibility of nature to provide the support system that enables their survival. Aristotle argues that the city is among the supplies of nature to sustain human lives (1253). Nature produces humankind in multitude, and the political organization of this significant number is that though insufficient to subsist they can survive. Here, Aristotle flouts the idea that human association is naturally inevitable. In necessity, there must be a concurrence of individuals who cannot live without one another - for instance, man and woman or the rulers and their subject. For Aristotle, the relationship between a ruler and the subject is essential for life sustenance as the sexual bond between man and woman. By bringing together a mass of agreeing humans, the polis itself becomes self-sufficient (1252). In this way, nature, in its role of preservations of life, provides polis, that is fundamental for the survival of humankind.

However, the purpose of the natural polis goes beyond the provision of necessary biological needs for human survival. In fact, Aristotle's theory offers a small unit to the biological and reproductive necessities of life. For Aristotle, the household is the partnership that nature has constituted to provide for the daily needs of life (1252). As the family assures that the biological needs of procreation and preservation are met, as well as basic life requirements, the polis satisfies higher needs. Nature offers the polis, not for simple life requirements but good life. When the city becomes self-sufficient, it exists for the sake of living well. Aristotle argues that the polis not only promises preservation but a good survival (1252). The city evolves from human association to satisfy wants that are beyond the biological needs. Aristotle arguments here does not imply that the needs provide by polis are less natural as those offered by the household. The fundamental needs of humanity are far complex than the biological ones accounted for within the household. Aristotle states that the complex sustenance needs dictate human lifestyle and hence the disparity in animals' lives (1256). Consequently, human needs are not only those that satisfy biological wants but also those for a good life as provided by the polis.

Aristotle concept of living well is unclear. Does he refer to a comfortable and happy life, or is it meant to refer to the life of virtuous productivity and right actions? To Aristotle, acting well and happiness are the same, and he believes one leads to the other (1353). Subsequently, as a fundamental need, performing right actions ensures a life lived well. The good life is only actualized in the polis, as it is only here humans can live and act well. Aristotle argues clearly that nature does not provide something without a drive; hence, it is natural for man to fulfill the purpose of acting well (1256). The polis offers the platform where the potential for right actions can be fulfilled. The political association is, therefore, for the sake of noble action and not organization. As a result, humankind achieves the purposefulness of living well in the polis through actions to society. Politics receives human beings from nature and makes use of them. Humans are useless without the polis, and when separated from its purpose or use, something becomes meaningless.

Humans do not exist because of their nature and purpose but also the characteristics of the polis that allows them to act well. A crucial element of the city is its adjudication system. This refers to the judgment offered by legislation and also fellow humans within the polis. Aristotle writes that the political system develops decree, and it what determines what is just (1253). In this way, Aristotle shows that justice is an element that exists in the city. In his argument on the relationship between the ruled and the rulers, Aristotle asserts that adjudications in the polis and the social order it offers places humans into a meaningful context (1253). The nature of humanity in neutral, neither wrong nor right, and not directed towards a purpose. It is until the presence of another man when the meaning and context of life is offered. In other words, human actions are neither bad nor good until they can be judged by adjudication within the polis. The purpose of human life is a relative element only achievable in the presence of polis. As the polis serves to judge humans' aptitude, so is their ability to form meaningful judgment dependent on the city. For Aristotle, speech serves to reveal the just and unjust (1253). In this way, it acts as an instrument for making decision and property that defines humanity.

Aristotle analysis of humans in the city indirectly makes them appear "apolis-ized." Humans are political animals whom without the polis are less sufficient and cannot fulfill their purpose. The natural insufficiency of humans is best illustrated when an individual is separated from others. Aristotle presents a cynical view of humanity where without adjudication as a guide, humans will not lead happy or virtuously productive lives. Outside the polis, humans are useless, and their actions cannot be judged as good. Nonetheless, rather than making assumptions on their behavior outside the city, Aristotle enunciates the potential of humans to be wrong. The judgment within the polis inspires humans to be productive. Aristotle asserts that humans are the best creatures when complete, but when separated from law becomes worse. This indicates the human potential for bad since Aristotle believes that humans are born naturally with arms for forethought and virtue, which can be disposed of for their opposites (1253). When separated from the polis, the purposeful action and speech, humans are not in their natural state and not themselves at all.


In conclusion, with his argument of the polis, Aristotle shows that without political association, humans are nominal beings who cannot realize their nature. Human understanding unalterably depends on the polis, and this is an indication of being political animals and the natural predisposition towards polis. The demonstration of this claim is supported in the thesis of the natural existence of the polis. Aristotle arguments on the polis unite with previous claims giving political anthropology theoretical coherence. Though the two claims identified in this paper are distinguishable, they are linked, and their arguments substantiate each other.

Works Cited

Aristotle. The Politics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984.

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A Civilized Society Is Natural: The Polis and Human Nature in Aristotle's Politics. (2022, Mar 02). Retrieved from https://proessays.net/essays/a-civilized-society-is-natural-the-polis-and-human-nature-in-aristotles-politics

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