chapter  7
23 Pages

Ideology and philosophy in Aristotle’s theory of slavery

Aristotle’s views on slavery are an embarrassment to those who otherwise hold his philosophy in high regard. To the modern mind they are morally repugnant. Many find them poorly argued and incompatible with more fundamental tenets of his system, and they certainly contain at least apparent inconsistencies. Worst of all, perhaps, is the suspicion that his theory of slavery is not really philosophy: ‘II ne fait de doute pour personne que l’analyse aristotelicienne de l’esclavage-et surtoux les chapitres qu’y consacre le livre I de la Politique-a une fonction idéologique au sens marxiste de mot.’1 This chapter aims to examine this last claim, and in particular to get clearer about the kinds of evidence which might be offered for or against it, and indeed about what the evidence is evidence of. To my own surprise I conclude that Aristotle’s theory is not to any interesting extent ideological.