Aristotle Political Views


Aristotle: Political Views Essay, Research Paper


Born in the year of 384 B.C. Aristotle was seen as conventional for his

time, for he regarded slavery as a natural course of nature and believed that

certain people were born to be slaves due to the fact that their soul lacked the

rational part that should rule in a human being; However in certain

circumstances it is evident that Aristotle did not believe that all men who were

slaves were meant to be slaves.

In his book Politics, Aristotle begins with the Theory of The Household,

and it is here that the majority of his views upon slavery are found. With the

beginning of Chapter IV, Aristotle’s idea of slavery is clearly defined. “The

instruments of the household form its stock of property : they are animate and

inanimate : the slave is an animate instrument, intended (like all the

instruments of the household) for action, and not for productions.” This

distinction between action and production, is based upon the understanding that

‘production’ is a course in which a result is desired beyond the immediate act

of doing. Where as, the simple act of completing a task is identified as

‘action’. Aristotle, who believed that life was action and not production

theorized that slaves were instruments of life and were therefore needed to form

a complete household. In fact Aristotle went as far as to say that a slave was

comparable to a tame animal, with their only divergence in the fact that a slave

could apprehend reason. For he concluded that a slave and animals only use was

to supply their owners with bodily help.

At the end of the Theories of the Household, Aristotle explains how

slaves are different from andy other types of people, in the sence that they are

the only class who are born into their occupation and become property of their

masters. In examining this relationship we find that he thought that while

masters were the masters of the slaves, they still held a life other than that

of being master; However, Aristotle believed that not only was the slave a

slave to his master, but the slave had no other life or purpose than belonging.

From this consideration we begin to understand Aristotle’s views on the

relationship between Master and Slave.

At the beginning of Chapter V of the Theory of the Household, the

distinct role of master and slave is defined.

There is a principle of rule and subordin-

action in nature at large : it appears

especially in the realm of animate creation.

By virtue of that principle, the soul rules

the body; and by virtue of it the master, who

possesses the rational faculty of the soul,

rules the slave, who possesses only bodily

powers and the faculty of understanding the

directions given by another’s reason.

It was Aristotle’s views on the human soul that gave grounds to his

arguments for slavery. It was his beliefs that the soul was divided into two

parts, being the rational faculty and the capacity for obeying. Aristotle

postulated that a freeman was innately born with the rational faculty while “A

slave is entirely without the faculty of deliberation.” And with his views he

felt as though it was necessary for there to be a natural ruling order, whereas,

the body was ruled by the soul, and those with the natural rational faculty

within their soul should rule others without. This relationship, Aristotle

found to be an essential element in his idea of master and slave being two parts

forming one common entity.

It was his belief that a man’s body was the representation of his inner

self and that it was nature’s intentions to distinguish between those who were

born to be freemen and those born to be slaves. However, we see that Aristotle

have somewhat reservations upon his beliefs that all slaves corresponded to his

mold. With such quotes as “But with nature , though she intends, does not

always succeed in achieving a clear distinction between men born to be masters

and men born to be slaves.” we begin to see that Aristotle was not as

conservative as believed. In fact, we start to understand the left-wing

attitudes that Aristotle held. At the end of Chapter V of the Theories of the

Household, Aristotle concludes “The contrary of nature’s intentions, however,

often happens: there are some slaves who have the bodies of freemen-as there

are others who have a freeman’s soul.”

Aristotle in his Theories of the Household, allocates a full section

(section 9 chapter VI), to the explanation of the relationship between a slave

and a freeman who are not naturally meant to be as such. It was Aristotle’s

view that although there are slaves who were born to be freemen and freemen who

were born to be slaves, there could be a relationship in such cases where the

two discerning parties would work in a community of interest and in a

relationship of friendship. “The part and the whole, like the body and the soul,

have an identical interest; and the slave is a part of the master, in the sence

if being a living but separate part.”

Aristotle had many slaves himself within his household, and during the

course of his death and through the executing of his will we find insight into

the character of Aristotle. He died in the year of 322 B.C. and with his death

he requested that four of his slaves be emancipated. Also he asked that none of

his house slaves be sold and that they all be given the opportunity of being set

free at a due age if they so deserved. This act of generosity and goodwill

gives light to the attitudes that Aristotle held. It is evident that he

believed that these slaves had the capacity to be freemen with the rational

faculty within themselves to make conscious, and reasonable decisions. Many

scholars such as Professor Jaeger, author of Aristotleles, theorized that many

of the views that Aristotle held upon the subject of slavery were developed

through the close relationship that Aristotle had formed with an ex-slave. This

man was Hermias. A man who had risen from the ranks of slave to a prince of

considerable wealth, as well as father in law to Aristotle.

On the general analysis of Aristotle we find that he was a man of great

curiosity, wisdom and ideas. Although his views on slavery seemed to hold true

to the times, he had many variations on the conservative norms and beliefs. He

had believed that slavery was a just system where both master and slave were

beneficial from this relationship. And with this he thought that by nature,

certain people were born to be slaves, yet with these beliefs we find many

exceptions, where Aristotle allocates areas to describe those who by chance

became slaves but in his opinion were born to be free. And in such incidence

where men born free were not fit to be masters Aristotle explained how it would

be easier for the master to obtain a steward who was more adept at giving

instructions to run the household and leave the master of the house to more

prudent issues.

We can only guess as to what made Aristotle believe that by the human

soul one could delineate whether or not a man was meant to be a slave or a

freeman. And with his arguments we find that it was just as difficult for him

to make that distinction as well. “Though it is not as easy to see the beauty

of the soul as it is to see that of the body.”

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