Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Of brains and poop

There is little doubt that Aristotle, born in 384 B.C.E., is one of the most influential philosophers in Western written history. He certainly was one of the greatest minds on record. An empiricist, he set the stage for all later scientific thought. Hell, of his time, he was the top biologist, ethicist and political theorist around. His startlingly new contributions to the deepest of thoughts are without parallel. He also, I find, could be full of poop.

I refer to his writings on slavery.

Aristotle suggested that there are two standards that have to be met to justify slavery. One is that the institution of slavery has to be needed (to free citizens of Athens to participate in politics), and the other is that the slaves must be well fitted to their station. (Too dense of mind, in other words, to handle any other station.)

Aristotle figured that in Greece, both conditions were met. Sheesh. Most slaves in his country were enslaved because they were captured in war. Sorry, but prisoners of war were not beasts of labor.

I guess it would be difficult to blame the guy for living in his own time. It took rather many years (especially in the U.S.) to wise up. But the question remains ... what does this mean for a philosopher's musing on ethics?

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