“A more political animal than bees”

Studia Neoaristotelica 6 (1):3-14 (2009)
Abstract
The example of the bees, as they appear in Plato’s Phaedo, taken up again in Aristotle’s Politics and in Hobbes’ commentary contained in Leviathan, shows the potential of the phenomenological reading of examples as a method of understanding the basis on which philosophical thought is determined. Sign and communication are peculiar to gregarious and political animal life. In seeking to embody the Aristotelian concept of lógos in the context of a living community, as the basis for interaction and co-existence, we must be sure that our interpretation does not reduce it to what, according to Aristotle, is simply animal behaviour. The Platonic sequence “ass, wolf, bee, god” situates the model of political life between a life in injustice and a life in wisdom. The Aristotelian variationdetermines the lógos on what is just and what is unjust as a natural increment in lucidity, compared with the mere exercising of gregariousness and sociability. Hobbes’ inversion of the Aristotelian example considers a natural reality in the light of the distortions that complicate and make it impossible. Hobbes thus shifts human politics towards artificiality that renders it viable. In each case, the example holds up a different mirror to the same reality
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