Aristotle on the Nature of Slavery

CW: Slavery, Nonsense

Aristole, Politics 1254a

“What is the nature and the ability of the slave becomes clear from these things. For a person who by nature is not his own but another’s is naturally a slave. A person is another’s if he is a possession even though a person. A possession is a tool which has a use and can be traded.

Whether anyone is this kind of person by nature or not and whether it is better and just for anyone to be a slave or not or whether instead all slavery is contrary to nature are questions which should be investigated second. It is not difficult to figure this out by theorizing logically or from empirical evidence. For ruling or submitting to rule are not only necessary realities but they are also advantageous.

Some things are well-suited straight from birth to be ruled and others are suited to ruling. There are also many types of rulers and subordinates. The rule of better subjects is always better, for example being master of a person is better being master of a beast since the work which is expected from higher order creatures is greater. So, when one rules and the other is ruled, there is some labor from them together.

However so many things are put together from multiple parts and are united in one common whole, whether from continuous or separate pieces, the ruling and the ruled are clear in all. And this trait is present in living things as a result of nature…”

Τίς μὲν οὖν ἡ φύσις τοῦ δούλου καὶ τίς ἡ δύναμις, ἐκ τούτων δῆλον· ὁ γὰρ μὴ αὑτοῦ φύσει ἀλλ᾿ ἄλλου ἄνθρωπος ὤν, οὗτος φύσει δοῦλός ἐστιν, ἄλλου δ᾿ ἐστὶν ἄνθρωπος ὃς ἂν κτῆμα ᾖ ἄνθρωπος ὤν, κτῆμα δὲ ὄργανον πρακτικὸν καὶ χωριστόν. πότερον δ᾿ ἐστί τις φύσει τοιοῦτος ἢ οὔ, καὶ πότερον βέλτιον καὶ δίκαιόν τινι δουλεύειν ἢ οὔ, ἀλλὰ πᾶσα δουλεία παρὰ φύσιν ἐστί, μετὰ ταῦτα σκεπτέον. οὐ χαλεπὸν δὲ καὶ τῷ λόγῳ θεωρῆσαι καὶ ἐκ τῶν γινομένων καταμαθεῖν. τὸ γὰρ ἄρχειν καὶ ἄρχεσθαι οὐ μόνον τῶν ἀναγκαίων ἀλλὰ καὶ τῶν συμφερόντων ἐστί, καὶ εὐθὺς ἐκ γενετῆς ἔνια διέστηκε τὰ μὲν ἐπὶ τὸ ἄρχεσθαι τὰ δ᾿ ἐπὶ τὸ ἄρχειν. καὶ εἴδη πολλὰ καὶ ἀρχόντων καὶ ἀρχομένων ἐστίν (καὶ ἀεὶ βελτίων ἡ ἀρχὴ ἡ τῶν βελτιόνων ἀρχομένων, οἷον ἀνθρώπου ἢ θηρίου, τὸ γὰρ ἀποτελούμενον ἀπὸ τῶν βελτιόνων βέλτιον ἔργον, ὅπου δὲ τὸ μὲν ἄρχει τὸ δ᾿ ἄρχεται, ἐστί τι τούτων ἔργον)· ὅσα γὰρ ἐκ πλειόνων συνέστηκε καὶ γίνεται ἕν τι κοινόν, εἴτε ἐκ συνεχῶν εἴτ᾿ ἐκ διῃρημένων, ἐν ἅπασιν ἐμφαίνεται τὸ ἄρχον καὶ τὸ ἀρχόμενον, καὶ τοῦτο ἐκ τῆς ἁπάσης φύσεως ἐνυπάρχει τοῖς ἐμψύχοις· καὶ γὰρ ἐν τοῖς μὴ μετέχουσι ζωῆς ἐστί

Antikensammlung F 871, Potters Extracting clay. H/T to @CM_Whiting for correcting errors

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