Who decided man was a social animal?

Well? Everytime I refuse to do anything social (which in Wisconsin seems to be limited to going to the bars), people feel the need to remind me that “man is a social animal”.

That’s weird because I sure as hell don’t want to do most “social” things. It may sound arrogant but I don’t really think that society has a lot to offer me (hmm… it does sound arrogant!).

I guess I’d just like a definition of social.

I would say it means that early man lived in tribes and larger groups.

As opposed to, say, tigers, who don’t roam in packs.

Some animals are more social than others. For example, ants or bees are much more social than early humans.

J’ai assez vécu pour voir que différence engendre haine.

Animals that aren’t social tend to treat each other with total hostility. Some species need elaborate courtship rituals to overcome their natural hostility to each other. For most of the year, these critters will fight or run from pretty much anything they run into, only the need to procreate short-circuits their defensiveness.

So, unless you immediately think “kill or be killed” whenever you seen another human without being in heat, you fit the biologist’s definition of social.

Being bored at parties is a different matter … many biologically social species don’t associate in large groups. Lions are social and the largest pride is probably a lot smaller than a decent gathering at a suburban barbecue. Bear families also tend to be pretty small.

Few mammals are entirely comfortable around individuals they’ve never met. Wolves travel in packs, and regard strangers with suspicion. Male gorillas get really upset at interloping bipeds, and chase them away, or take a long time to meet new ones. Gorillas would not be happy in a Wisconsin bar. Large human cities are a very unnatural environment, with little opportunity to build trust in the vast majority of the people we meet. So, human societies force us to be much more social than our biologies are prepared for.

Nothing I write about any person or group should be applied to a larger group.

  • Boris Badenov

You’re talking to a bunch of other humans. That’s social behavior, no?

We’re typing on a keyboard. Sometimes, our computer gives us back information that is more or less related to what we typed. The evidence that the rest of you even exist is only circumstantial. If you call this being social, then you’re even more maladjusted than Mr. Sheepshead and myself.

Modest? You bet I’m modest! I am the queen of modesty!

Oh, wait. Before my extremely lame joke causes anyone to hijack this thread, let me just say that I thought that andros was referring to the act of posting to the message board, when upon repeated reading, it becomes apparent that he was reffering to talking to the people in bars.

Sorry, folks, didn’t get enough sleep last night.

Modest? You bet I’m modest! I am the queen of modesty!

From Merriam Webster:

Main Entry: 1so·cial
Pronunciation: 'sO-sh&l
Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle English, from Latin socialis, from socius companion, ally, associate; akin to Old English secg man, companion, Latin sequi to follow – more at SUE
Date: 14th century
1 : involving allies or confederates <the Social War between the Athenians and their allies>
2 a : marked by or passed in pleasant companionship with one’s friends or associates <leads a very full social life> b : SOCIABLE c : of, relating to, or designed for sociability <a social club>
3 : of or relating to human society, the interaction of the individual and the group, or the welfare of human beings as members of society <social institutions>
4 a : tending to form cooperative and interdependent relationships with others of one’s kind : GREGARIOUS b : living and breeding in more or less organized communities <social insects> c of a plant : tending to grow in groups or masses so as to form a pure stand
5 a : of, relating to, or based on rank or status in a particular society <a member of our social set> b : of, relating to, or characteristic of the upper classes c : FORMAL

Take a close look at definition 3. The behavior of mankind apparently defines the word, so it cannot be otherwise. A dictionary can work wonders.

[Note: This message has been edited by Nickrz]

If I get a parking ticket, will it handle define?


The phrase Man is a social animal' is a bad translation from Aristotle, who actually used the word politicos’ – better translated as `political.’

In antiquity, our modern notion of individuality – of there being such a thing as a person person independent of a society – would have seemed very bizarre.

Actually if you think about it, cities in a sense make people less social. Think about it:
Since time immemorial people had lived in small villages in which the norm was, in the words from the song in Fiddler On the Roof “Where I know everyone I meet”. But in even a modest city of ancient Mesopotamia, you can’t know everyone. You have to accept that you will be surrounded by strangers.
That innovation, a cultural and social one rather than technological, was probably the greatest revolution the human race had seen since the perfection of language. Just think about what social structure comes to mind when you think “small town” vs. “big city”.

No, NTG, you were right the first time. I was referring to his posting here. But I was being faceitous and didn’t communicate it well.

To rephrase: Whaddaya mean you don’t do social things? If interacting with a bunch of electrons that could very well be figments of your imagination isn’t social I don’t know what is. :wink:


Well, Lumpy, I think we agree on the facts but disagree on the terminology. I think you were using “social” to mean “interacting meaningfully with other people”, while I was using it to mean, “brushing past / buying fast food from / getting into minor car accidents with other people”.

I agree that small towns sometimes provide a more vibrant social environment than big cities, and that there is a form of social isolation unique to the big city.

Nothing I write about any person or group should be applied to a larger group.

  • Boris Badenov