Aristotle Understanding Of Man Philosophy Essay

Student : Francis Fernandes

Class : 1st year Philosophy

Professor : Fr.Dolreich Pereira

Introduction :

The poet Alexander Pope said, "the proper study of mankind is man" indicating that it is most natural, and indeed necessary, for us to know as much as possible about ourselves. [1] This is so very true that who else other than man can study about oneself since human beings live according to their understanding of themselves. According to Aristotle, a human like every other living thing, is an individual substance, composed of the body and the soul. Here for him, the body is matter and soul is form. Unlike Plato, the body and soul is in unity of the human person according to Aristotle. Has anyone ever understood man completely? In this paper, I have very brief discussed on two qualities of man i.e. man as a thinking animal and the good desired for man.



Man fits into the scheme of nature as a "thinking animal". Unlike any other species of living being, man can think for self. By his own rational power, man can decide what is good for him. Human beings are considered to have highest degree of thinking. The mind, that which distinguished man as a rational being, is "incapable of being of being destroyed." It is a special part of the psyche or soul which in turn is the animating force of the body. The soul is the body's "form", and unlike Plato’s soul, does not have an existence separate from the body. Thus it does not survive the death of the body. Yet it possesses both actuality and potentiality, and is the efficient, formal and final cause of the body. That is, it has a goal or end, and carries within it the means to that end. [2] 

All animals have desires, sensations and can reproduce. In addition, man has the quality to think. Aristotle held a view that man is a being who can think, reason out and since it has a soul in the form of a body, man cannot be destroyed. I agree to a certain extend when Aristotle believed that all knowledge was accumulated memories, collected through a long series of observations and connected by the mind into a single experience, like many pictures forming a single movie. Each picture leads into the next; following a progression we make a sense of in our minds, until we reach a logical conclusion. A man who can explain why one thing precedes the next thing and can invent an appropriate conclusion, on the other hand, is wise according to Aristotle. [3] It is true that all knowledge does not come to someone together. It is through study that we get knowledge of something and by one desire to know more of or about something, that one develops its knowledge gradually.


Man is also a "political animal". By this, Aristotle means Man lives best in a "polis", the city-state form of the Greek state. That is, he is characterized by living within a society with laws and customs. Man best fulfills his potential and natural end within a social context. This is the "good life". This is not a life of ease, but a life of virtue which results in the highest good, eudaimonia, or having a good spirit, often translated as happiness. [4] Aristotle's "Ethics" is a study of choice in action; how should man best live? For Aristotle, this has a social as well as individual aspect. Some virtues, like courage and generosity, he describes as "practical" virtues, because they relate to man's social nature. The truly balanced individual also pursues the "theoretical" virtues which are related to man as a rational being. Ultimate happiness lies in pursuit of wisdom for its own sake. [5] 

I liked this concept of Aristotle wherein he says to be courageous and generous is man’s social nature. Man has to be courageous to stand up for righteousness and take up a stand for what is good for the society. Also man needs to be generous more with the natural or personal gifted resources such as time and talents in making the society a better place to live. Due to the thinking power of man, he can know what is good and bad. Doing what is required of man using reason is good for humans, and if it is for human being’s good, then it contributes to happiness. [6] For Aristotle perfect man, does not deny his humanity, the way Plato recommended, he perfects it. In order for a man to perfect his humanity, he must be the best man he can be. To be so, a man not only needed to develop proper goal and right character but also put these intentions into real virtuous action which Aristotle called "eudaimonia", which comes from the Greek words "eu" meaning good or well and "daimon" meaning spirit or soul. [7] Aristotle’s eudaimonia is concerned most of all with the exercise of good actions.


Considering only just the above mentioned qualities of man and using the same to the best of our ability, this world would be such a better place to live in peace and perfect harmony and love with each other. The fact that every man has ability to think should think of something good for oneself and everyone in a "polis" the city-state (the place where we live). And still better to live a good life with the gifted virtues of being courageous and generous for the betterment of the society, to have a good intentions leading to a good character and be perfect. With this is mind, the words from the Gospel according to Matthew (chapter 5 verse 48) "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly father is perfect." gets echoed. As rightly pointed out by the editors of the book "Images of the Human", a study of the philosophy of human nature can be an excellent introduction to philosophy in general because in studying the human, it is necessary to bring everything else into consideration. We are, as Alexander Pope indicates, the focus of all our study. In dealing with the human person we must deal with knowledge, the soul, the will, freedom, immortality, God, the purpose of life, and gender and sexuality. [8]