Aristotle Politics Article

Excerpt from Article :

slavery and citizenship in Aristotle's Politic:

Aristotle believes that most people in the world can be enslaved devoid of injustice as they are born to be slaves. At the same time some are born to be free and dominate as masters. Most modern critics have smeared these concepts of Aristotle. In this paper the writer evaluates the concepts of citizenship and slavery in light of Aristotle's politic to reveal not only Aristotle's thinking but also how his views are inferred by contemporary philosophers.

One is forced to do the disagreeable task of reading Aristotle's account of slavery because of such divergence in the opinions of the expert scholars. If one takes a look onat Aristotle's account of slavery, he/she will notice that on one hand; his opinion about slavery is that the enslavement of someone can't be proved as acceptable merely based on weak arguments and on the other hand; he is known as a very cunning observer of realities based on politics and would indirectly endorse the enslavement of even those people who weren't actually by nature slaves. Although there is a lot of divergence in the opinions of the scholars regarding Aristotle's account of slavery but there is one thing on which everyone agrees that; his account is filled with incoherency and inconsistency (Arnhart, 1998; Fortenbaugh, 1977)[footnoteRef:2]. Comment by patrick: at Comment by patrick: one Comment by patrick:, on one hand, --no semicolon Comment by patrick:, on the one hand, Aristotle believes that slavery cannot be demonstrated acceptable on the basis of weak arguments but, on the other hand, he would indirectly advocate the enslavement of those not slaves by nature. Comment by patrick: Although scholars disgree about A's account of slavery, there is a point of consensus: the account is incoherent. [2: Arnhart, Larry. 1998. Darwinian Natural Right: The Biological Ethics of Human Nature Albany: SUNY Press.Fortenbaugh, W.W. 1977. "Aristotle on Slaves and Women." In Articles on Aristotle vol. 2: Ethics and Politics, ed.]

The supposed inconsistencies and incoherency found in Aristotle's account of slavery are either thought of as some mysterious symbols or very powerful force of cultural prejudice while, the presence of such critical stuff should actually be read and researched further by the reader. Schlaifer (1936)[footnoteRef:3] thinks about Aristotle as "an incoherent person [even] in the confines of a single sentence," he also says that the presence of such blemishes in the presentation of a philosopher only shows the extent of his illogicality regarding ethnocentrism; he further believes that Aristotle's "only has argument claiming that all barbarians are slaves by nature." These same sort of problems regarding the interpretation of Aristotle are found in Wood (1978, 209-57)[footnoteRef:4], Mulgan (1977, 43-44)[footnoteRef:5] and Lloyd (1968, 251)[footnoteRef:6]. The presence of incoherency is accepted by Barker (1959, 259-373)[footnoteRef:7] and Smith (1983, 119)[footnoteRef:8] but they refused to accept the statement about ethnocentrism that is found in this same interpretation, in fact they have admirably fought to refuse this charge. In their opinion Aristotle has used natural slave statement in order to state that this kind of creature doesn't exist. The most explanatory analysis has been provided by Bluhm (1980), according to whom what Aristotle wanted to do was secretly point out the unfairness of all kinds of slavery by hinting on the fact that the term natural slaves is in fact a negation (Nichols, 1992)[footnoteRef:9]. Comment by patrick: This incoherence is often attributed to cultural prejudice or interpreted too liberally, whereas what is required is more careful reading and research. Comment by patrick: Period here. He Comment by patrick: Power of ethnocentrism in inducing irrationality Comment by patrick: Period rather tan semicolon Comment by patrick: Without knowing the quote, I can't fix this. Perhaps: that A "only has argument[s] claiming…." Comment by patrick: Wood identifies these same interpretive problems Comment by patrick: Don't accept Comment by patrick: The argument concerning ethnocentric irrationality -- delete the rest Comment by patrick: Period goes here. In fact… Comment by patrick: Redundant Comment by patrick: In their view, A's account of the natural slave is his attempt to demonstrate that no such creature exists. Comment by patrick: The most powerful analysis Comment by patrick: At Comment by patrick: Self-negating? [3: Schlaifer, Robert. 1936. "Greek Theories of Slavery from Homer to Aristotle." Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 47:136-204.] [4: Wood, Ellen M., and Wood, Neal. 1978. Class Ideology and Ancient Political Theory. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.] [5: Mulgan, R.G. 1977. Aristotle's Political Theory. Oxford: Clarendon Press.] [6: Lloyd, G.E.R. 1968. Aristotle: The Growth and Structure of His Thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.] [7: Barker, Ernest. 1959. The Political Thought of Plato and Aristotle. New York: Dover.] [8: Smith, Nicholas D. 1983. "Aristotle's Theory of Natural Slavery." Phoenix 37:109-122.] [9: Nichols, Mary. 1992. Citizens and Statesmen: A Study of Aristotle's Politics. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.]

It is disturbing to see how Bluhm has concluded this but it is more surprising that a lot of other people think as well that Aristotle would support and agree with the enslavement of the people who are not in fact slaves by nature (see Strauss 1953, 158-60; Strauss 1964, 22-23; Arendt 1958, 84; Nichols 1983, 171, 176, 182; and Ambler 1987, 405)[footnoteRef:10]. Comment by patrick: My guess: It is disturbing to see Bluhm ultimately take up the thesis endorsed by so many others, that A advocates the enslavement of those who are not slaves by nature. [10: Strauss, Leo. 1953. Natural Right and History. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Strauss, Leo. 1964. City and Man. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Arendt, Hannah. 1958. The Human Condition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Nichols, Mary P. 1983. "The Good Life, Slavery, and Acquisition: Aristotle's Introduction to Politics." Interpretation 11: 171-83. Ambler, Wayne. 1987. "Aristotle on Nature and Politics: The Case of Slavery." Political Theory 15:390-410.]

As the slaves are thought to be a form of luxury and they can provide leisure for their master, the scholars believe that Aristotle thinks of the slaves as defensible as they can provide leisure whenever they are alone. However, this point-of-view is found problematic as well. Although the intense kind of leisure is one of the most important and attractive features that is provided by a slave to his master, Aristotle has very strongly condemned the people who believe in unjust domination or enslavement of the people who don't deserve it, he said that "a person who commits this crime can never justify or make up for this sin even by the positive results that he might get from committing this kind of sin" (Politics 1325b5-7; see also Nicomachean Ethics 1142b24-26)[footnoteRef:11]. In Aristotle's view the actual and true destination of the human race is simply impossible to achieve through this easier way of the enslavement enslaving the undeserving of people (Nussbaum, 1988)[footnoteRef:12]. Comment by patrick: It is hard to know what this sentence means. Guess: A slave is a luxury item that provides the master leisure, and scholars believe it is the provision of leisure that is decisive for A. Comment by patrick: However, this view is problematic. Comment by patrick: I see this as apples and oranges. But, to stay with editing for a moment, my guess: Although A finds leisure extremely valuable, he strongly condemned unjust enslavement. He says that "a person…." Comment by patrick: This is not explicit enough for the reader. Easier than what exactly? What is deserving vs. undeserving? [11: Aristotle. 1998. Aristotle: Politics. Translated by C.D.C. Reeve. Indianapolis: Hackett.] [12: Nussbaum, Martha. 1988. "Nature, Function, and Capability: Aristotle on Political Distribution." In Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy, Supp, Vol. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Pp. 144-84.]

The different speculation that have been just mentioned regarding Aristotle's hidden intention such as; the ethnocentrism or the imputation of racism, think that the troubles that had been posed by Aristotle's account of natural slavery have actually been due to the inconsistencies in his presentation (Dobbs, 1994)[footnoteRef:13]. However, this paper argues that all these supposed inconsistencies will vanish once one recalls the content of Aristotle's natural teleology. Almost all the commentators have read the term "natural" used by Aristotle in a very primitive fashion under which it meant "native" and for this reason they think that the term natural slave (physei doulos) points to a congenital or genetic condition but, I will make it evident to you that how this assumption fails to actually get the teleological importance of the term physei used by Aristotle which means "by nature." All these misunderstandings are the reasons why people think that Aristotle's text is full of inconsistencies, whereas, it is not his material that has inconsistencies in it rather the misunderstandings of the people who think that way. Also, how people mostly fail to understand that Aristotle's teleology is in accordance with his text creates more misunderstandings and lead the readers to believe that there are inconsistencies while, it is the fault of the readers which leads them to believe that there are inconsistencies (Maritain, 1943)[footnoteRef:14]. Comment by patrick: Guess: Despite all of the speculation…

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