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Which philospher once said that man is a social animal?

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2010-07-27 01:41:37

Citing the following passage, Bartlett's Familiar

Quotations attributes the phrase, "Man is a social animal," to

Baruch Spinoza:

"Yet it rarely happens that men live in obedience to reason, for

things are so ordered among them, that they are generally envious

and troublesome one to another. Nevertheless they are scarcely able

to lead a solitary life, so that the definition of man as a social

animal has met with general assent ; in fact, men do derive from

social life much more convenience than injury."

-Ethics, IV, proposition 35:note

The notion of man as a social animal may have originated with

Aristotle:

"Hence it is evident that the state is a creation of nature and

that man by nature is a political animal."

-Politics, I

The adjective that Aristotle used to describe man in Greek is

'politikos' which is where we get the English word political. For

this reason, 'politikos' is often translated as political, however

the actual Greek meaning was a little deeper. 'Politikos' came from

the Greek word 'polis' meaning city-state. To be 'politikos' was to

be a member of the 'polis' or a citizen. Being a citizen, while

certainly implying participation in various political

responsibilities, was more about being a part of society;

contributing to the good of the whole. In this way, the meaning of

'politikos' more resembles the English word social than

political.


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