Dialogue and Universalism

Volume 32, Issue 2, 2022

Two Problems of Digitilization—Virtual Negotiations and 4th Space

William Harwood
Pages 103-125

Aliens and Monsters: Aristotle’s Hypothetical “Defense” of Natural Slavery

This paper examines Aristotle’s discussion of slavery, showing his description of actual slavery to be an indictment and those regarding natural slavery to be a hypothetical investigation of a separate kind. Aristotle not only precludes the inclusion of natural slaves and freepersons in a single natural kind, but also articulates such bizarre requirements for natural slaves that they ultimately cannot exist. While this reading avoids notorious difficulties associated with Aristotle’s discussion of slaves, it replaces them with impossible preconditions for just slavery—so much that one must consider the possibility that Aristotle did not believe there was such a thing as “just” slavery. Was Aristotle’s otherwise acute mind blinded by the prejudices of his time? Or is this the inevitable result of “defending” the indefensible: an ad absurdum that has been ironically misunderstood and anachronistically misapplied to modern race and racism?