Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Political Animals--Rediscovering Aristotle's Political Biology

The New York Times has published an article by Natalie Angier entitled "Political Animals (Yes, Animals)." She surveys some of the latest research on the remarkable similarities between human politics and the political behavior of other mammals.

As the title of the article indicates, this is presented as a surprising new discovery of science. But as any reader of this blog would know, the comparative study of political animals began with Aristotle. From his observations of animal behavior, Aristotle concluded that some animals are solitary and others are gregarious. Of the gregarious animals, some are political. Some of the political animals have leaders, but others do not. The distinguishing characteristic of the political animals is that they cooperate for collective action.

Following in the tradition of Aristotle, I would argue that a true science of politics would have to be a biological science of political animals. For a few samples of my posts on this, go here, here, and here.


Kent Guida said...

A useful article, and we're grateful for the pointer.
Here's something else to comment on -- a book review by Tyler Cowen, and the book behind the review, Michael Shermer's Compassionate Apes, Competitive Humans, and Other Tales from Evolutionary Economics.
The review is here:
I haven't read the book myself.
Best regards,
Kent Guida

The Gay Species said...

Are you familiar with Hume's is/ought distinction? G. E. Moore's "naturalistic" fallacy?

Facts do not make values, and values do not make facts. I may value facts, but not valuation makes the fact true or false.

Facts (epistemology) are True/False Decisions. Values (axiology) are Good/Bad Decisions. Actions (praxeology) are Right/Wrong decisions.

Each of your posts apply the inappropriate decision-making to the particular judgments humans make. Crimes is a fact, but not a fact we value. Hurricanes are a fact, but not a fact we generally value.

Justice is a value we regard as good. When fairness is the measure, we consider the act just. But justice is Good/Bad, not True/False.

Larry Arnhart said...

Gay Species,

Are you familiar with my account of Hume and the is/ought dichotomy in DARWINIAN NATURAL RIGHT?