Whether some animals should live in a social group.

Further one asks whether some animals should live in a social group.

1. It seems not. For "man is a city-dwelling [ civile] animal" and a social one according to the Philosopher in book one of his Politics,[1] and this is why human life is governed by politics and economics. If, then, all animals were sociable, they would have to be governed by politics and economics, which is not true because politics is a human virtue.

2. Again, if some affect [passio] befits one on account of some medium, then once the medium is posited, the affect is also posited. Now, however, animals would only live in a social group if they did so to work better on things suitable to them and flee harmful ones. But this is useful for every animal. Therefore, every animal will be sociable.

The Philosopher says the opposite.

One must reply that some animals are gregarious or sociable and some are solitary and some conform to both modes. In order to understand the evidence for this, one must know that although there are four interior sensitive powersnamely, the common sense, the imaginative, the estimative, and the recollective [ memorativa]the estimative power is capable of receiving intentions which sense does not receive, so that those animals that have a better estimative power can better guard themselves and care for themselves. Thus there are some flying animals that, owing to the dryness of their brainin which the estimative power flourishesare always in social groups, like the crane and the bee. For cranes travel from one region to another, and for this reason, for the sake of avoiding dangers on the way, they gather themselves into a single group. And bees act in a similar fashion in order to make honey better, and ants to gather seeds, and to resist those that would take their honey or seeds. For sweet and fat foods have a large number of predators. And it is the same for terrestrial and aquatic animals.

But some are solitary animals, like birds of prey. These choose to exist alone, lest a gathering of others cause them to fall short in their prey. But the human conforms to each mode. For he lives with others when he has in mind politics, which is concerned with the governance of cities, or economics, which is concerned with the disposition of the household. When, however, he is intent on the ethical or monastic life, which consists principally in the contemplation of truth, he lives or chooses to exist in a solitary fashion.

One must understand that some gregarious animals establish for themselves a leader or king, by whom they are ruled. For example, the bees establish a certain bee as leader or prince because of the size of his body. This one always lives in the hive to guard the honey and to repel bees from another swarm, and the other bees serve him, and when he goes out all the others follow him just as faithful soldiers follow the prince, as is evident in the summer when they flee from the hive. But the cranes likewise raise up a prince over themselves, not because of his size or power. Rather, when they fly by day they have one who leads the others in a procession, and this one, just like a prince, goes ahead of the others to spy out singular dangers. At night they elect another one to guard them from dangers and keep track of the night watches. Thus it is said that a crane holds one stone in his [raised] foot so that he will not fall asleep, since if he falls asleep it falls out, waking him up, and he does this instinctively [ habet a natura].

But many gregarious animals do not have a prince, like ants and doves, who seek food while gathered into a group as they fly. Thus they do this by means of their own estimative power.

1. On to the arguments. To the first, one must say that a human is a social animal by nature, but his socializing is the result of discretion's mediation. But for the other animals it is the result of a natural instinct. And this is why other animals, properly speaking, do not have politics or economics.

2. To the second argument one must reply that although it may be useful for every animal to live in a social group, in order better to pursue things that are suited to it and to flee from things harmful, nevertheless different animals move differently by means of different estimative powers. Now when doves seek nourishment, it seems better for them to be in a social group, and the same is so for ducks and geese [auca].[2] So, when they see a hawk or falcon, they gather into one group on account of their fear of birds of prey and of enemies. But among birds of prey it seems better to exist in solitude, because they only fear birds of their own kind, by whom they are prevented from seizing their prey.

  • [1] Ar., Politica 1.2 (1253a7-9); see Eth. Nic. 1.7 (1097bn). A.'s civilis with its root in civis, citizen, faithfully reproduces Ar.'s politikos with its root in polis or "city."
  • [2] The editor provides a corrected reading of aucis for ancis (see Corrigenda, p. 360). For the auca, see A., DA 23.1.22(6) (SZ 2: 1556). On the social character of ducks, for purposes of self-defense, see also DA (SZ 1: 66).
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