chapter  2
10 Pages


The passage that follows appears not long after Aristotle’s notorious and lamentably influential assertions in the Politics that human slaves are living pieces of property and that slavery is a natural phenomenon since one group must necessarily rule over another. Just as it is natural for one man to rule over another, so it is natural for humans to rule over animals, for they are intended for man’s use in the same way that some humans are intended for the use of other humans. In this starkly anthropocentric passage, we glimpse, at least by implication, both Aristotle’s concept of teleology, whereby all things are designed toward some end, and his doctrine of sunecheia, or biological gradualism, according to which nature moves gradually from lower beings to higher beings, although the subtlety with which Aristotle understands that doctrine is absent from our passage. Our excerpt appears immediately before another famous and influential Aristotelian assertion in the Politics, namely that when unruly groups of human beings or animals that are naturally meant to be ruled by others refuse to submit to control, their superiors may conduct a “just war” against them. The concept of “just war” has been used throughout history to justify actions ranging from the hunting of animals to the subjugation and colonization of entire societies.