Living a dual life

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Editorial and Opinion  |  House: Booksie Classic
The term ‘man' in the sentence ‘Man is a social animal' refers to mankind as a whole, and not individual human beings. It is the nature of an individual that needs introspection.

Submitted: January 02, 2007

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Submitted: January 02, 2007

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The most famous of all notions about man describes him as a social animal. That is to say, it is a part of his nature, an instinct, to form groups and communities wherever he lives, and that man cannot live without society, and ought to do so.

However, the term ‘man' in the sentence ‘Man is a social animal' refers to mankind as a whole, and not individual human beings. It is the nature of an individual that needs introspection.

The contention arises when the individual is described solely in social terms. Does this notion of man really describe an ‘individual' in his or her totality? Is it a true reflection of his or her real nature? There are times when an individual wishes to interact with others, and there are times when he or she wishes to be left alone. All of us live a dual existence, as individuals and as members of groups and communities. Individuals in human society seem to have a dual nature.

Frank H. Knight, an American economist, has written on this issue, and has said that it is not as an animal that man is social. Not by instinct, that is to say. A more adequate description of man would be to call him a thinking animal. It is perhaps as a thinking animal that he is social. Economics of course would describe the whole of society as knit together by the enlightened and personal self-interests of individuals, and how an individual, pursuing his own well being and interests, furthers the interests of others around him as well. No doubts here at all. It is indeed so.

A prime minister has been reported to have once said or quoted (Oscar Wilde?) that there is no such thing as society. There are norms however, and customs and traditions to contend with. Guides to our life! If you can live without them, good luck.


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