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Slavery in Aristotle's Works Essay example

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Before a serious investigation of any aspect of Aristotle’s political theories is undertaken, we must take a moment to acknowledge that many of the institutions and doctrines he defends have been repudiated in modern political thought. In fact many such institutions are appalling and simply morally wrong. One such institution is slavery. Aristotle argues in the Politics that slavery is just. No argument is needed to conclude that Aristotle made a terrible ethical and moral error in defending slavery. Further we must accept that the argument of the abolition of slavery was available to him as his defense of slavery is in response to critics who claim slavery is unjust. What sparks intriguing debate is questioning why Aristotle defended slavery, and whether there is a flaw in Aristotle’s logic in his defense of slavery, or if it is in fact internally consistent with the rest of his writings on justice and virtue. Some scholars have claimed that Aristotle’s defense of slavery is a “battered shipwreck” of an argument. Yet, others maintain that the argument is in fact internally consistent. Any argument in favor of Aristotle’s defense of slavery is not in any way meant to morally support the institution of slavery; only that Aristotle used proper or unflawed logic in that argument. Likewise any argument against Aristotle’s defense is not a moral judgment toward slavery by this author. I am only concerned in how Aristotle builds his argument, and where flaws or contradictions may be located. Consideration of the context of slavery within Greek life of Aristotle’s time is also of importance.

Any investigation or commentary on Aristotle’s slavery argument must first begin with the context of slave...


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...s two separate, distinct entities. As intimated above, he more likely viewed them as a duality, that is, that they are part of one another. They were also, in the larger sense, part of the life of the household, as the household was part of the polis. However, this duality was strictly one way. It seems clear that he perceived the slave to be part of the master, not the other way around. But again, this was justified by Aristotle’s ultimate virtue, reason. To the extent that the master is seen as imbued with superior intelligence and understanding, it was his duty if not right to provide guidance to those less fortunate by birth. It is perhaps ironic that the justification of the benevolent dictatorship, so prevalent during imperialistic adventures by colonial countries, perhaps found its philosophical roots in the so-called democratic city-states of ancient Greece.


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