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Aristotle on Slavery - Dictionary of Arguments

Höffe I 70
Slavery/Aristotle/Höffe: Slaves working in mines and handicraft enterprises, in private households and on agricultural goods are legally even worse off than the Helots ("serfs") who are important for the economy of Sparta.
Helots: Although they are excluded from land and political rights and are obliged to pay tribute to their masters, they live in a fixed place. Slaves, however, bought or captured in war, can be resold. In addition to their even lower legal status, they are not settled, i.e. they are homeless.
AristotleVsAlkidamas: Aristotle [claims] that there are people who deserve the slave status(1).
Master/Slave/Dominion/Slavery: For the relationship between master and slave is to be based on mutual advantage, that is, on justice: by nature (physei), that is, with good reason, master is he who is capable of foresighted thinking, by nature slave is he who lacks this ability, which is why he needs someone who thinks for him and, in return, has a body that is suitable for the "procurement of the necessary.(2)
Höffe I 71
Character weakness as an argument for slavery: lack of courage.(3)
Höfe: [This] reminds me of a famous thought by Hegel:
Master/Slave/Hegel: According to the chapter "Master and Slave" from the Phenomenology of the Spirit, the question of whether one becomes a master or a servant is not decided by the ability to think ahead, but by the willingness to fight to the death.


1. Politika I 4–7
2. I 5, 1254b22 ff
3. VII 7, 1327b27 f.

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Gaus I 314
Slavery/Aristotle/Keyt/Miller: Aristotle's treatment of slavery and its antithesis is also rooted in his naturalism. Aristotle's defence of natural slavery in Politics I.3-7 is the most notorious passage in ancient philosophy. Aristotle argues that any person whose deliberative capacity is too enfeebled to provide for his own preservation is by nature a slave and, hence, can be justly enslaved. But who are these people? Are any of them Greeks? How strong is Aristotle's argument and are its premises consistent with Aristotle's own principles (see Newman, 1887-1902(1): vol. Il, 146)?
Polis/Aristotle: In Aristotle's ideal polis the farmers are slaves (Pol. VII.9.1329a26, 10.1330a25-8). Are they slaves by nature or slaves by law only? Aristotle's idea that freedom should be held out to them as a reward (Pol. VII.lO.1330a32-3) seems inconsistent with their being natural slaves (and hence in need of a master); but if they are slaves by law only, his ideal polis, supposedly a paradigm of justice, rests on a grave injustice. (For discussion of some of these issues see Charles, 1990(2) 191, 196; Smith, 1991(3).)
The idea of slavery is not exhausted by Aristotle' s much pilloried defence of natural slavery; it enters his analysis of constitutions, and runs as an undercurrent through the entire Politics. >Tyranny/Aristotle.

Pol: Aristotle Politics


1. Newman, W. L. (1887-1902) The Politics of Aristotle, 4 vols. Oxford: Clarendon.
2. Charles, David (1990) 'Comments on M. Nussbaum'. In Günther Patzig, ed., Aristoteles ' 'Politik': Akten des XI Symposium Aristotelicum. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht.
3. Smith, Nicholas D. (1991) 'Aristotle's theory of natural slavery'. In David Keyt and Fred D. Miller, eds, A Companion to Aristotle 's Politics. Oxford: Blackwell.

Keyt, David and Miller, Fred D. jr. 2004. „Ancient Greek Political Thought“. In: Gaus, Gerald F. & Kukathas, Chandran 2004. Handbook of Political Theory. SAGE Publications


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.

Höffe I
Otfried Höffe
Geschichte des politischen Denkens München 2016

Gaus I
Gerald F. Gaus
Chandran Kukathas
Handbook of Political Theory London 2004


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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2021-06-13
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