Sleep & Commodities

Aristotle, On Divination in Sleep, Chapter 2

What follows from the inequality of people:

“In brief, since some other creatures also dream, things seen in sleep might not come from god . . . Dreams, to be sure, have a divine element, but that is because nature has a divine element without being divine itself. 

The evidence [that prophetic dreams do not come from god]: since people of little worth foresee things [in sleep] and dream vividly, things seen in sleep cannot come from god.” 

Ὅλως δ’ ἐπεὶ καὶ τῶν ἄλλων ζῴων ὀνειρώττει τινά, θεόπεμπτα μὲν οὐκ ἂν εἴη τὰ ἐνύπνια . . .; δαιμόνια μέντοι· ἡ γὰρ φύσις δαιμονία, ἀλλ’ οὐ Θεία. Σημεῖον δέ· πάνυ γὰρ εὐτελεῖς ἄνθρωποι προορατικοί εἰσι καὶ εὐθυόνειροι, ὡς οὐ θεοῦ πέμποντος . . . 

Karl Marx. Capital. I. Part I. Chapter 1. Section 3.3.

What Aristotle could not see because of his belief in inequality: 

“When expressed in commodity form, all labor is equal human labor and therefore of equal quality. 

Aristotle could not discern this in the value form because Greek society rested on slave labor, and therefore the inequality of persons and their labor power formed its natural foundation. 

The secret of this way of expressing value–i.e., equality and the equal validity of all labor, simply because it is human labor–can only be deciphered when the concept of human equality already has the strength of a popular prejudice.”   

 Daß aber in der Form der Warenwerte Alle Arbeiten als gleiche menschliche Arbeit und daher als gleich ausgedrückt sind geltend konnte Aristoteles nicht aus der Wertform selbst herauslesen, weil die griechische Gesellschaft auf der Sklavenarbeit beruhte, daher die Ungleichheit der Menschen und ihrer Arbeitskräfte zur Naturbasis hatte. Das Geheimnis des Wertausdrucks, die Gleichheit und gleiche Gültigkeit aller Arbeiten, weil und insofern sie menschliche Arbeit überhaupt sind, kann nur entziffert werden, sobald der Begriff der menschlichen Gleichheit bereits die Festigkeit eines Volksvorurteils besitzt.

Larry Benn has a B.A. in English Literature from Harvard College, an M.Phil in English Literature from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Making amends for a working life misspent in finance, he’s now a hobbyist in ancient languages and blogs at

Leave a Reply