chapter  12
24 Pages

History and human nature

The seventeenth century framed an agenda for philosophy on the basis of an inverted picture of humanity, seeing each human not as a social animal (Aristotle’s zoon politikon) but rather as by nature atomized and separated, an individual first and only later, and as it were accidentally, a social being. That social being of humans was presented as the result of an act of combination of initially, and essentially, isolated individuals, an agreement among those separated individuals that bound them together in a common subservience to a set of laws and rules or to a sovereign body or individual. Anyone who sets out to take that picture seriously will find contradictions and impossibilities leaping out to prevent it. At the merest touch of realism the picture falls apart.