published on August 3, 2018
Aristotle’s Anthropological Machine and Slavery
An Agambenian Interpretation
Among the most controversial aspects of Aristotle’s philosophy is his endorsement of slavery. Natural slaves are excluded from political citizenship on ontological grounds and are thus constitutively unable to achieve the good life, identified with the collective cultivation of logos in the polis. Aristotle explicitly acknowledges their humanity, yet frequently emphasizes their proximity to animals. It is the latter that makes them purportedly unfit for the polis. I propose to use Agamben’s theory of the anthropological machine to make sense of this enigmatic exclusion and suggest a new conception of the good life and community detached from political rule. Aristotle’s distinction between humans and animals condemns slaves to bare life, but also reveals an opportunity for an inoperative form-of-life.