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Publikacja nr
8914
rok szkolny
2010/2011

 
Archiwum publikacji
w serwisie Publikacje edukacyjne

Man - the social animal ?

Publikacja stanowi próbę określenia charakteru natury ludzkiej. Autor poszukuje odpowiedzi na pytanie czy człowiek jest "zwierzęciem społecznym" oraz analizuje w jaki sposób jednostka współżyje z innymi ludźmi w obrębie jednej społeczności. Publikacja bazuje na dziełach angielskich pisarzy, filozofów XVII i XVIII wieku.

Publikacja w języku angielskim.


REKLAMA

Is man a social animal? Is man able to coexist with other individuals within one community, within one society? The answer to these questions and similar ones, we can find in the works of poets, of writers from the 17th and 18th century.

Man is part of the universe; he/she has coexisted with other creatures since his/her creation. They must be then as predictable in their actions as any other part of the universe. Thomas Hobbes in "Leviathan" claims that men's action is determined by their primitive instincts - fear, vanity and the instinct of self-preservation. Men want freedom, reputation, safety, and to gain this they fight with one another. During these 'arguments', they perceive one another as foes, so eventually they must clash. Life is then dominated by the fear of death. This fear makes men seek a sort of concord, because the state of war is the sickness that brings death to society. This agreement means a lesser evil that is the surrender of man's freedom to a sovereign "[t]he only way to erect such a common power... to defend them from... the injuries of one another... is to confer all their power and strength upon one man... "(Hobbes, Part II); the plurality of voices is then reduced to one voice - the voice of a sovereign. Men could then gain peace and protection that are given to them by the absolute power. As the result, men got rid of fear of war, but new fear appears - the fear of a sovereign, that keeps them in awe. Man, then, is able to coexist with other people in a more or less successful way; moreover he/she is even able to achieve a consensus, but only in the name of a common enemy that is death that can come from their neighbour.

John Locke in his "Second Treatise of Government" gives another picture of man. Here men also act driven by the instinct of self-preservation, which means that their actions are again based on the laws of nature. Locke starts with the assumption that man is good, whereas Hobbes starts with the concept of man as a beast, and here, in the very beginning these two views of man differ. Locke does not speak about an individual sovereign, but about a democratic assembly of men "with a power to act as one body, which is only by the will... of the majority" (Locke, Sec.96). Men, then, do not lose their freedom, but transfer some aspect of it to this assembly of men. This picture of man suggests that men are not only able to coexist, but also to cooperate to enable themselves to live in peace, in the organized society and to enjoy their property through which they can also express their freedom.

The focus on man as a social creature occurs also in "An Essay on Man" written by Alexander Pope. The whole universe seems to be one system of society, a sort of union between man and the whole nature "[a]ll served, all serving! nothing stands alone"(Pope, Epistle III:25). In the beginning there was then a union between self-love, that is not egoism, and social love that can be charity. Man represents this union within himself/herself, that is the union between reason and instinct. Instinct is here the most divine faculty and when a man is driven by instinct, he/she is, as if directed by God Himself. Man spoilt this union, this harmony between nature and men. Their pride and vanity, when they were put on the social level, led to antagonism between men themselves "[a]nd turned on Man a fiercer savage, Man"(Pope, Epistle III:168). However, the authentic organization, that is also society, is based on love, and finally "bade self-love and social be the same"(Pope, Epistle III:318). Man appears then here as a social creature that, on the one hand, is able to sustain his/her position of one of components of nature as well as to give his/her social love to other men, but on the other hand, he/she is also able to be the source of disagreement and hostility.

Jonathan Swift, in his satire "The Lady's Dressing Room", provides us with a certain image of a woman. Although it focuses on a woman only, it could apply also to a human being in general. Everybody is aware of the fact that our image, our appearance must come up to certain standards. We look at our reflection in a mirror and we can see our public image and then we decide what else is to be improved. Does it not mean that we are social animals? A similar situation occurs in another Swift's work, entitled "Gulliver's Travels". Here, Yahoos that represent this "dark" side of human nature also try to come up to certain standards, to hide what is imperfect in their eyes "to cover... Bodies, and by that Invention, conceal... Deformities"(Swift: 264). We are aware of the fact that we are members of society and that we live among other people, and this awareness pushes us to do everything not to be excluded from this community of people.

Taking everything into consideration, man does seem to be a social animal. Even though he/she sometimes is not able to be in agreement with others, sooner or later he/she understands that to be a part of the universe means to be a friend, a "comrade" of other creatures that share their fate wit him or her.

Bibliography:

  • Hobbes, Thomas. 1982. Leviathan. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Locke, John. 1988. Second Treatise of Government. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Pope, Alexander. 2010. An Essay on Man, Epistle III. London: Gale ECCO, Print Editions.
  • Swift, Jonathan. 1989. Gulliver's Travels. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.

    Webgraphy:

  • Swift, Jonathan. The Lady's Dressing Room. Retrieved May 19, 2011, from: http://ethnicity.rutgers.edu/~jlynch/Texts/dressing.html

    Janusz Siwiorek


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