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Aristotle On Slavery Essay

523 words - 3 pages

When trying to figure out the function of a human being, Aristotle says, "the remaining possibility, then, is some sort of life of action of the [part of the soul] that has reason. One [part] of it has reason as obeying reason; the other has it as itself having reason and thinking" (118). This quotation explains that there are two kinds of people: the people who can reason for themselves, and people who can only be habituated in obedience of reason. These citizens cannot reason for themselves, they can only obey reason. Since they obey, they are best suited to be slaves because obeying is what they do best. To Aristotle, this is called natural slavery: "if something is ...view middle of the document...

This system makes the polis self-sufficient in that everyone has a job.But Aristotle states, "Anyone who cannot form a community with others...is no part of a city-state - he is ...a beast" (179-180). In other words, Aristotle means that any person that does not have the mental capacity either reason or obey reason cannot be part of a city-state and therefore is not a human being. This cannot be true because there are people in the world known as idiot savants who are mentally deficient but are extraordinarily great in one highly specialized field, such as mathematics or music. A person who is extremely gifted in math would not benefit society by doing slave-work, especially in Aristotle's time when the great accomplishments in math had not been discovered yet. Therefore, Aristotle's system is faulted in that it is hard to identify the "natural slave." Another error with Aristotle's opinion is that it is possible that the people he believes should be slaves might discover on their own that they are meant to do menial work. For example, today we do not have slavery but we do have people that work as janitors or construction workers. Although the reason we have people to do these jobs is because they are incapable of doing jobs that require reason, and they can naturally realize their place in the workforce. Therefore, they are not enslaved while still fulfilling the beneficial relationship that Aristotle describes. The fact that they do these jobs out their own free will is what separates it from Aristotle's perception of slavery.

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