An Analogy: Society and the Rational Animal

An analogy that has become of interesting interest and utility to me is that between society and human life, particularly in the area of government and economics. I recall vaguely Aristotle using the analogy with respect to endorsing monarchy for as the body is to be lead by a single superior power so too the society, or something along that lines. The analogy seems at least reasonable on the face of it, though it will probably have significant failures. With caution, let us apply this idea and see where it takes us.

The government is analogous to the will and intellect of the rational animal. Its concern is with deliberating over the means of achieving the common good. The common good is known and provides the foundation for discourse. This is part of the problem that we face today wherein we do no even know what the common good is or rather there is no common foundation for politic discourse. Politics is then reduced to a mere act of will.

The economy may be related to the passions or emotions. The main concern of the market is satisfaction. In a free market, the market is amoral in certain respects, for it is not concerned with certain matters. For example, that market has no concern about whether or not a particular loan is usurious or not. This is obvious seen in the present state of the market. Even though usurious loans are essentially unjust and not only harm people but are destructive of the market (as some have suggested of the 2008 financial crisis), the market has no concern. The moral justification of the market cannot therefore rest solely upon voluntary transaction as the moral justification of particular passions cannot rest solely that they are not violent or unnatural.

As reason must bring the passions into order with the human good, so too the state needs to bring about a moral and political circumscription of the market. Now the relation between the state and the market can be seen as analogous to the relation between the reason and the passions. We can perhaps draw out other analogies with respect to different relations that have been thought such as Stoicism, Gnosticism or some other system, but this is perhaps a way of thinking about the relation.

Let us begin by looking at some of the extremes. Socialism in its complete ownership of the means of production may be something like a Gnostic view of the body. The market is evil and something to be wholly overcome or discarded. The other side may be something like laissez faire capitalism, where government intervention is seen as wholly corrupt. This would correspond perhaps to the grossest forms of hedonism. A middle ground between the extremes is whee we are likely to find the reasonable arrangement.

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