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Expound and assess Aristotle's doctrine of natural slavery

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Introduction

Expound and assess Aristotle's doctrine of natural slavery In book 1 of the Politics Aristotle introduces a discussion of the household, which he views as consisting of three essential relationships: master and slave, husband and wife and parent and child. His consideration of slavery is based not merely on its utility but also in terms of its justification. For Aristotle, the instruments of the household form its stock of property. These instruments can be either animate or inanimate but are intended for action rather than production. The slave is therefore classed as an animate instrument and thus is classified as the property of his master. As Aristotle puts it, "Anybody who by his nature is not his own man, but another's, is by his nature a slave." Aristotle then expands on this definition by offering an analogy for the relationship of master and slave. For Aristotle believes that there is a principal of rule and subordination in nature as a whole, especially in the realm of animate creation. This helps him to counteract suggestions that slavery is unjust, since "the relation of ruler and ruled is one of those things which are not only necessary but also beneficial." ...read more.

Middle

however this contradicts the idea that the slave is by nature a slave and thus to free them from the state to which nature has placed them would be wrong. However Aristotle can defend himself here, since the master is not required to feel any moral responsibility to the slave. Since the nature of the despotic rule of master to slave is characterised as being solely in the interests of the master, with any benefit that the slave receives being accidental (1278b32-7). Indeed presumably any friendship that might exist between master and slave could be characterised as one of utility, with the master benefiting from the slave's service in exchange for the slave gaining from having a master. However the suggestion that a master might utilise a steward to employ the slaves (1255b35) is more troubling, since the steward would himself be a slave. How therefore would he be a fit master, since presumably he would not have the capacity of reason that allows a master to know how to use slaves. While it might be argued that the steward could first take his orders from the master and thus not be exercising reason but merely recognising it, his position does still seem troubling. ...read more.

Conclusion

For indeed his character is not like that of Aristotle's natural slave who is incapable of reason, but like the child who has yet to develop it. As Schofield informs us, "the crucial difference, he might say, between a child and a natural slave is that the child can and normally will acquire strategic purposes of his own (even if his present capacity for deliberation is very underdeveloped), but the natural slave never can."7 1 This latter capacity allowing the humanity of the slave through separation of the slave from animal. 2 It does seem equally possible to accuse those who find Aristotle's slavery morally reprehensible are equally being affected by the custom of their times. 3 N. Smith in D. Keyt and F. Miller edd. A Companion to Aristotle's Politics p.154 4 W. Fortenbaugh in Barnes, Schofield, Sorabji edd. Articles on Aristotle 2 p.137 5 N. Smith in D. Keyt and F. Miller edd. A Companion to Aristotle's Politics p.148 6 Ibid 7 M. Schofield in G. Patzig ed. Aristoteles' Politik p.15 ?? ?? ?? ?? Christopher Bell For Harry Platanakis Wednesday 8th March 3pm ...read more.

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