sarthak sehgal sarthak sehgal

The most famous of all notions about man describes him as a social animal. That is to say, it is a part of his nature to form groups and communities wherever he lives, and that man cannot live without society.

No one has indeed heard of any place where individuals live on their own. Only Homer in Odyssey presents us with a case where one-eyed giants lived in caves, and even they were said to have a family. 

Anyone who has observed animal life would know that they too live in groups, communicate with each other, and form herds and other such groupings. This seems like a typical social trait. What makes human groups unique is their advanced and descriptive vocal communication. We tend to form groups and a social life emerges sui generis - a self generating order. This spontaneous nature of social life is well understood by the social sciences. If this is what is meant by describing man as a social animal, then he is indeed so.

A contention however may arise when the individual is described solely in social terms. Does this notion of man really describe an 'individual' in his or her totality? Is it a true reflection of his or her real nature? There are times when an individual wishes to interact with others, and there are times when he or she wishes to be left alone. An individual seems to have a 'dual nature' - he/she lives both at a personal as well as social level.

Frank H. Knight, an American economist, has written on this issue, and has said that it is not 'as an animal' that man is social. I am trying to add to this. A more adequate description of man is to call him 'a thinking animal'. It is as a thinking animal that he is social. Indeed, our own personal growth in families never gives us an inkling of this issue - we are hardly even aware of it. 

A Prime Minister is said to have said, or perhaps she approved of the statement, that there is no such thing as society. There are norms however, for one thing. Customs and traditions to contend with. Guides to our life! If you can live without them, good luck. Or else, try and escape if you can!

sarthak sehgal

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