Aristotle, Hobbes and Chimpanzees



The article is an exercise in the philosophical anthropology of politics. According to Aristotle, man is a political animal but not uniquely so, whereas, according to Hobbes, politics is artificial and the preserve of humans alone. Both Aristotle and Hobbes draw upon contemporary science. The dominant relevant science today is neo-Darwinism – humans are products of evolution and genetically closely related to the other primates. The argument that chimpanzees are political, thus putatively endorsing an Aristotelian rather than a Hobbesian perspective, is scrutinised. However, at best, chimpanzees are only metaphorically political. While this conclusion may weaken the Aristotelian position, it cannot of itself vindicate the Hobbesian one. The philosophical anthropological endeavour to investigate the relation between politics and human nature still has work to do.