Greece adopted the practice of slavery as a fundamental part of ancient civilization. As most of the nations of the world accepted the practice of slavery, no thinker dared to oppose this system. Aristotle accepted the slave system in his entire composition. Aristotle’s emotional support for slavery is indicative of his political conservatism. He thought that the economic condition of the country would be in danger if the slaves were freed. He felt that its impact would be felt in the social system as well. For this reason, Aristotle integrated the practice of slavery with the lifestyle of the Greeks.
Who is a slave:
Both human resources and material resources should be well invested to make the economic system of the nation successful and developed. Physical resource refers to the resources and natural resources of the country. The slaves served their masters while securing the wealth of the nation. He had no judgment and growth of his own because they were not enlightened. So they were considered as the essential property of the house.
Slavery is a Natural Process:
According to Aristotle, slavery is not man-made. Its rationale is consistent and acceptable. All mankind is unequal in various ways. Differences between rulers and ruled are defined as natural or hereditary. Aristotle has reviewed the difference between master and servant in that sense. In his view, conscience, wisdom, and intelligence make masters more intelligent and powerful than slaves. Therefore slavery is a natural process.
Types of Slavery
According to Aristotle Slavery is natural and useful. He justified Slavery, however, it was only applicable to natural slaves.According to him; there are two types of slaves.
1. Made slaves/Legal slaves
2. Natural Slaves
☐ MADE SLAVES:- They are non-taxpayers, foreigners indulged in illegal activities, and prisoners of war. He suggested that legal slaves be treated with coercion and should be sold as soon as possible because they can be dangerous and can cause harm.
□NATURAL SLAVES:- They are people who lack reason, Wisdom, or virtue. His justification of slavery is related to natural slaves.
Aristotle wants us to understand the “Message of Nature”: Nature has made some people physically strong so, they can perform physical work for a longer duration and some are mentally strong because nature wants them to be involved in mental work.
Aristotle’s Justification Of Slavery:-
Slavery is Natural: According to Aristotle nature has created two types of individuals:-
Mentally strong: Some people are mentally strong and possess reason as well as courage. They are reasonable enough to differentiate between good and bad and at the same time they dare to make decisions. These people are MASTERS.
Physically Strong: Some people are physically strong but lack reason and courage. Thus, they need a guide who can show them the path and make decisions on their behalf. These people are slaves and need the guidance of the Master. Thus, Slavery is Natural.
Necessary: Aristotle also argues that Slavery is necessary because slaves by serving the basic needs of the Master, provide them the leisure time to participate in state affairs. Thus BARKER rightly said, “Aristotle’s Conception of slavery is more a justification of a necessity than a deduction from disinterested observation of facts.”
Expediency: Slavery was the foundation of the Greek economic system. The abolition of Slavery in Greek Society at that time would have invited social disorder and chaos. Thus Aristotle justifies Slavery on the grounds of expediency. The same has been supported by a political thinker FOSTER; According to him “In fact Aristotle justifies Slavery on the ground of expediency.”
Utility of Slavery:-
1. Useful for the Economic system:- Those, physically strong can work for a longer duration.
2. Useful for State:- If Slaves worked for their masters then they could make qualitative participation in the state which led to the development of the state.
3. Useful for Masters:- It will allow mastering to enhance his Virtue.
4. Useful for Slaves:- 1) Slaves by nature can’t live on their own, they need a master.
2) In a master’s company, Slaves will have the opportunity to develop virtue. The reason why slaves are natural is because slavery is also perceived as a desirable/useful institution by society.
Reforms suggested by Aristotle
Despite Aristotle has support for Slavery because it was the need of the time, he set the ground for their betterment and freedom by putting some restrictions on the institution of Slavery:-
●There is a possibility of a slave’s freedom if he develops the Virtue of reason and courage.
● Masters should take care of Slaves and treat them properly.
A person who lacks virtue is only made a slave. He is not in favor of prisoners of war being enslaved because according to him defeat of an opponent doesn’t mean that they lack virtue. He argued that slaves and masters are complementary to each other, where the master is like the head and the slave is like the body. They share a symbiotic relationship, thus slaves should be treated properly. He advocated that it is the responsibility of the master to free the slaves whose conduct will be good and who have developed reasoning and virtue.
Criticism of Aristotle view on slavery
Slavery may be natural but we don’t live in nature; survival of the Fittest may be a principle in nature, not in society.
In the words of Socrates, “what is shouldn’t determine what should be, rather vice versa should be the case.
In contemporary times, every person ought to be treated with respect, Human dignity can’t be compromised.
The principles of human dignity were given by Immanuel Kant. “Each man is an end in itself, and no one should treat another person as a means to an end,” which means that every individual is a valuable individual and should not be treated like a means of utility for others.
According to Aristotle’s theory of slavery, which was part of a broader political philosophy, he reflected the social ideals and beliefs of his time with his theories on slavery. While some aspects of his theory have been sharply criticized, the ideas presented in “Politics” continue to be studied and debated in the context of a historical perspective on governance and human relations.