Transforming the Political Animal: Rationality, Choice, and the Common Good 1250-1600 (TRAP)

Main funder

Funder's project number310490

Funds granted by main funder (€)

  • 391 036,00

Funding program

Project timetable

Project start date01/03/2018

Project end date31/08/2022


The research project Transforming the Political Animal (TRAP) focuses on the concept of the political animal and its use in medieval and Renaissance philosophy. This concept was an essential part of the intellectual framework that explains the origins of political community and human sociability, but currently we do not have a clear understanding of its meaning in pre-modern philosophy. In order to fill this gap, TRAP aims to (a) explain what medieval philosophers meant when they argued that human beings are political animals by nature; (b) chart the various changes that took place in Renaissance commentaries on the political nature of human beings; and (c) deepen current understanding of the transition from late medieval to early modern periods.

TRAP places a special emphasis on the psychological and ethical dimensions of the concept of political animal, and analyses it via three interconnected theoretical issues:

(a) Rationality and the ability to use language as necessary conditions for political life and as constituents of the difference between social and political spheres;

(b) The role of a voluntary choice as a partial explanation for political and social life;

(c) The role of the collaboration and common good in discussions concerning the political animal.

TRAP builds on a general hypothesis that significant changes took place in relation to these three topics between 1250 and 1600. These changes led to a gradual disintegration of the Aristotelian framework that saw common life as completely natural for humans: rationality and voluntary choice became more prominent, while collaboration for the sake of the common good lost its importance. TRAP’s major breakthrough in the fields of the history of philosophy, intellectual history, and history of political thought, will be to provide a detailed philosophical analysis of these changes. More generally, the project will create new horizons for further research, as its main sources are the hitherto neglected body of commentaries on Aristotle’s Politics.

The project is based on the assumption that a historical understanding of the processes that brought about modern ways of thinking will reveal unconscious presuppositions that guide our thought. This may change our perspective on the way we look at human social life and particular modern problems, which stem from the situations where communities are now global rather than local.

Principal Investigator

Primary responsible unit

Follow-up groups

Profiling areaSchool of Wellbeing (University of Jyväskylä JYU) JYU.Well

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Last updated on 2024-17-04 at 12:53