A3 Book section, Chapters in research books
“Like Ants in a Colony We Do Our Share” : Political Animals in Medieval Philosophy (2021)

Toivanen, J. (2021). “Like Ants in a Colony We Do Our Share” : Political Animals in Medieval Philosophy. In P. Adamson, & C. Rapp (Eds.), State and Nature : Studies in Ancient and Medieval Philosophy (pp. 365-392). De Gruyter. https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110730944-017

JYU authors or editors

Publication details

All authors or editors: Toivanen, Juhana

Parent publication: State and Nature : Studies in Ancient and Medieval Philosophy

Parent publication editors: Adamson, Peter; Rapp, Christof

ISBN: 978-3-11-073543-7

eISBN: 978-3-11-073094-4

Publication year: 2021

Publication date: 19/04/2021

Pages range: 365-392

Publisher: De Gruyter

Publication country: Germany

Publication language: English

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110730944-017

Publication open access: Not open

Publication channel open access:

Publication is parallel published (JYX): https://jyx.jyu.fi/handle/123456789/81092


This chapter discusses the reception of the Aristotelian concept of ‘political animal’ in thirteenth and fourteenth century Latin philosophy. Aristotle thought that there are other political animals besides human beings, and his idea of what it means to be a political animal was partially based on biological needs and desires that lead animals to live together. By analysing what medieval philosophers thought of other political animals - such as ants, bees, and cranes - and of the biological basis of the political nature of humans, the chapter elaborates on the precise meaning of the concept of political animal. It is argued that biological aspects play a significant role in medieval views, but at the same time medieval authors tend to distance human beings from other political animals by emphasising rationality, choice, and language as central factors for the social and political life.

Keywords: Medieval philosophy; political philosophy; political activity; Middle Ages; human being; animals; Aristotelianism; biology; needs; desire; rationality; societal systems

Contributing organizations

Related projects

Ministry reporting: Yes

Reporting Year: 2022

Preliminary JUFO rating: 3

Last updated on 2022-20-09 at 14:22