Aristotle (384-322 BC) is considered to be one of the best thinkers of all time, and his political and ethical theory has a remarkable lasting impact. His views on slavery were indeed argumentative. He felt that it was reasonable and even good for certain individuals to be slaves. Due to the fact that he considered slavery as an innate natural course of events and assumed that some people are just born to be slaves given the fact that their souls completely lack the logical brain which should rule in a sentient being. Aristotle was considered traditional for his time; nevertheless, it is clear that Aristotle simply didn't believe that all men who were slaves were intended to be slaves under certain situations. When Aristotle pens his book Politics, he starts with the Idea of the Household, but it is in this section where the bulk of his opinions on slavery may be seen. Aristotle thought that the number of people might be imprisoned without causing injustice since they are slaves by nature and that this belief was supported by historical evidence. Many other eminent thinkers of his time did not like his views. For instance, John McDowell considered it to be very 'humiliating.’ (Angier).
As a philosopher, how could Aristotle justify such a terrible and repugnant institution as slavery? Just how can someone with such intellectual clarity be so profoundly incorrect on the most fundamental moral issues? The justification of slavery by Aristotle demonstrates how even the most educated individuals may fail to critically analyze their own views as well as the conventions of their community. Slaves were not considered citizens in ancient Athens, yet they exceeded male citizens by a wide margin. Greeks exploited other Greeks sometimes during wartime, but the majority of slaves in Athens were immigrants. Slavery was passed down through families, and releasing one's slaves was an uncommon occurrence. In addition to providing the citizen elite with time for relaxation and reflection, this huge slave underclass was critical for political involvement in the Ancient Athens (Cartledge). To understand Aristotle's support of slavery, it is necessary to understand that social standards must represent what is natural in order for them to be reasonable. Therefore, a society may keep slaves maybe there are some individuals who are ideally predisposed to serve as slaves, as long as those people exist. According to Aristotle, such individuals would be able to comprehend the reasoning of others, but they would be completely unable to engage in logical reasoning on their own. The natural slave, according to Aristotle, is a human who is born without the ability to rationally govern their own life, which means that they are born without the ability to do so. Such individuals would need the guidance of those who are capable of reasonable deliberation. Due to the fact that this power should be dispersed to those who are best capable of using it appropriately, Aristotle argues that possessing such individuals would be reasonable. According to Aristotle, slavery is even good for those who lack the ability for logical deliberation since they would make poor decisions if left with their own ways (Connell).
Questioning Aristotle's Views on Slavery
It was Aristotle's theories on the human spirit that served as the foundation for his arguments in support of slavery in the first place. It was his conviction that the soul was split into two halves, the intellectual faculty and the ability for obedience, which he believed to be the case. Aristotle believed that a freeman was born with the ability to reason, but a slave was born "completely devoid of the power of reasoning." (Staves pg 45)And he believed that it was essential for there to be a natural governing order since the body was controlled by the spirit. He believed that those who had the inherent reasoning capacity inside their souls should dominate those who did not. In Aristotle's view, the connection between master and slave was a crucial aspect in his concept of monarch and slave as two halves of a single unifying organism. In his opinion, the body of a man represented his true feelings, and that nature intended to differentiate among those who were born to be former slaves but those who were meant to be slaves by creating a physical distinction between the two groups. We can see, nevertheless, that Aristotle has some doubts about his assumption that all slaves were created in his image and fit his pattern ( Nabolsy).
Questioning why Aristotle supported slavery, to do with whether or not there is a weakness in Aristotle's reasoning in his justification of enslavement, or whether or not it is in fact logically consistent with the existence of his works on equity and virtue, is a source of fascinating dispute. The justification of slavery put forward by the Greek philosopher Aristotle has been described as a "battered shipwreck" of reasoning by some researchers. While some people believe that the argument is internally coherent, others disagree. Any argument in favor of Aristotle's defense of slavery is not intended to endorse the practice of slavery on a moral level; rather, it is intended to demonstrate that Aristotle utilized valid or imperfect logic in making that argument. Similarly, any reasoning against Aristotle's defense does not imply a moral judgment on slavery on the part of this author (Swanson).
Slavery, in Aristotle's perspective, is an inherently reprehensible practice. In many cases, they're argued incorrectly or don't fit into his system's more basic principles. Slavery is debated by Aristotle about whether it is ethical or not. He argues for the second in his writings. The theory holds that some individuals are born to be slaves while others are born to be masters, therefore he asks, "But is there anyone so designed by nature to be a slave, for whom such a position is convenient and proper, or maybe is not all slavery a breach of nature?" (Swanson pg121). On the foundation of logic and facts, this issue may easily be answered. For it is obvious that some are destined to govern and others to be dominated from the moment they are born; some are destined to rule and others to be ruled. The idea that individuals who are dominated must be subservient is false. Because nobody would voluntarily submit to slavery, it seems that the owner does not treat his slaves as equals or according to his own wants. This implies that the master-slave connection is unfair, in violation of Aristotle's basic principle of fairness. But Aristotle says that only if the ruler and the slave are genuinely equal can this be true. However, this is not the case. Slavery was illegal in Athens since the master was more intelligent, wise, and capable of acting on his own accord than the slave could ever hope to be. Humanity is defined by Aristotle as possessing certain attributes, which he sees as missing in natural slaves(Riesbeck).
The Debate on Slavery in Aristotle's Philosophy
As a result, human slaves ought to have strong bodies but should be unable to reign over their own affairs. Although, as Aristotle explicitly notes, the difficulty with this idea is that the correct kinds of minds and souls might not go together! As a result, it is possible to have the spirit of a slave but the physique of a freeman, or vice versa. However this option exists, Aristotle maintains that there are individuals who are suited to inherent slavery, that is, those who have a good physique and weak spirit, and hence Aristotle believes that there are individuals who should have been slaves by their inherent state of being (Leunissen).
Enslavement or slave may be used in two different ways, according to Aristotle, who discusses this in his book Politics. As he explains, "Those who adopt the contrary perspective [that is, those who believe that enslavement is not natural possess in a certain manner justice on their side may readily be shown to have something right on our side." (Leunissen- pg 32). Enslavement and slave are terms which are used in two different contexts (Johnson). Both by law and by nature, there is indeed a slave or a state of slavery. The legislation of which I speak is a type of conference rule according to which everything is captured during a conflict is presumed to be the property of the victorious party. However, many lawyers and judges despise this privilege, as they would despise a raconteur who proposed an unlawful measure: "They despise the concept that, since one man has the capacity to commit harm and is greater in sheer strength, another must be his slave and servant." In order to be consistent, those who think that traditional slavery is legal also think that all captured soldiers may be properly enslaved. If you lose the war and are caught, it is sufficient proof of your defeat. Aristotle acknowledges that some of the individuals who are slaves are not naturally slaves, and are becoming slaves as a result of a voluntary 'agreement' as they've been conquered by battle in a position when the option would have been dead, and hence have been slaves. He has reservations about the validity of this kind of captivity, but he could scarcely be described as an outspoken opponent of it (GERALD).
Therefore it can be concluded that whenever it comes to human thinking, Aristotle says that natural slaves are only capable of using it in a limited capacity. Innate slaves, on the other hand, do not make decisions for themselves because instead obey the decisions of others. Similarly, a happy lifestyle for a genuine slave is one where it is able to pay attention to the thoughts and feelings of others around it. If there are no natural slaves, then this reasoning is of no use. Certain medieval Athens abolitionists who considered slavery was unfair are mentioned in the Book of Aristotle's Politics. Although he doesn't reveal their identities, he reveals that apart from him, they held the belief that all men were created equal.
Angier, Tom. "From Natural Character to Moral Virtue in Aristotle." (2020): 201-204.
Cartledge, Paul. "slavery, Greek." Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Classics. 2016.
Connell, Sophia M. Aristotle on Female Animals. Cambridge University Press, 2016.
Curran, Angela. Aristotle and the Poetics. Routledge, 2015.
El Nabolsy, Zeyad. "Aristotle on natural slavery: An analysis using the Marxist concept of ideology." Science & Society 83.2 (2019): 244-267.
GERALD, MARA. "A COMPANION TO ARISTOTLE," POLITICS"." (2015): 61-63.
Johnson, Monte Ransome. Aristotle’s architectonic sciences. 2015.
Leunissen, Mariska. From natural character to moral virtue in Aristotle. Oxford University Press, 2017.
Riesbeck, David J. Aristotle on political community. Cambridge University Press, 2016.
Staves, Christopher. "Is Aristotle a Misogynist?." Athene Noctua: Undergraduate (2015).
Swanson, Judith A. The public and the private in Aristotle's political philosophy. Cornell University Press, 2019.
To export a reference to this article please select a referencing stye below:
My Assignment Help. (2022). Aristotle. Retrieved from https://myassignmenthelp.com/free-samples/poli2201-introduction-to-political-theory/argument-on-natural-slavery-file-A1DBEBE.html.
"Aristotle." My Assignment Help, 2022, https://myassignmenthelp.com/free-samples/poli2201-introduction-to-political-theory/argument-on-natural-slavery-file-A1DBEBE.html.
My Assignment Help (2022) Aristotle [Online]. Available from: https://myassignmenthelp.com/free-samples/poli2201-introduction-to-political-theory/argument-on-natural-slavery-file-A1DBEBE.html
[Accessed 23 February 2024].
My Assignment Help. 'Aristotle' (My Assignment Help, 2022) <https://myassignmenthelp.com/free-samples/poli2201-introduction-to-political-theory/argument-on-natural-slavery-file-A1DBEBE.html> accessed 23 February 2024.
My Assignment Help. Aristotle [Internet]. My Assignment Help. 2022 [cited 23 February 2024]. Available from: https://myassignmenthelp.com/free-samples/poli2201-introduction-to-political-theory/argument-on-natural-slavery-file-A1DBEBE.html.