What Did Aristotle Believe About Human Nature?

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In Aristotle’s ethical work, “Nicomachean Ethics,” he describes human nature as having rational and irrational psyches as well as a natural drive for creating society, gaining knowledge, finding happiness and feeling connected with God. More broadly, Aristotle believed that every species, including humans, had their own nature, and it was their natural aim to fulfill that nature.

Aristotle believed that humans should pursue the fulfillment of their true natures, directing their efforts to the most beneficial end. Aristotle asserted that philosophy serves this purpose by allowing the rational mind to guide the desires of the irrational psyche towards fulfillment. Aristotle referred to this achievement as eudaimonia, or flourishing. In this way, Aristotle saw philosophy as a kind of bridge between the rational mind and the irrational mind, two psyches that humans dually possess. According to Aristotle, the practice of the virtues was integral to humans fulfilling their true nature.

Aristotle firmly believed that humans were social animals by their nature, writing, “Man is a political animal.” Because of this, Aristotle said that society was integral to humans, not only in their true nature, but in how humans came to perceive themselves. So, while perception of self was connected to the role of the society, Aristotle also asserted that humans constructed their view of themselves by realizing their potentialities through practice of virtue, which is why virtue was a very integral aspect to a human’s development, according to Aristotle.