Aristotle on  Slavery, Women and Usury

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Some issues to think about:. Do you think the polis can aim at ?the highest good' if women, slaves, and foreigners are excluded from participation (i.e. 80-90% of total population)? What are the dangers of placing the good of the community before that of the individual, and vice versa?. And from t

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Aristotle on Slavery, Women and Usury

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1. Aristotle on Slavery, Women and Usury PHIL 2011 2006-07

2. Some issues to think about: Do you think the polis can aim at ‘the highest good’ if women, slaves, and foreigners are excluded from participation (i.e. 80-90% of total population)? What are the dangers of placing the good of the community before that of the individual, and vice versa?

3. And from the discussion board: I feel a bit troubled about why we, people of year 2006, should criticise Aristotelian views on CONCRETE social settings of his time. I think that we won't get much from discussions such as Feminism, Slavery and Property 'rights'.

4. Other views of slavery Sophists: teachers of rhetoric to lawyers They taught that slavery is a convention; Not a natural institution; People become slaves through capture in war (or birth), but there is no slave by nature; It is therefore incorrect to assume that Aristotle’s review simply reflects the view of his peers! This would be Historicism: reduction of a view or idea to being simply a product of its era.

5. Aristotle’s view of conventional slavery (Pol. 1.6) Convention is not necessarily right, it’s just customary (although ‘a sort of justice’); E.g. convention that people captured in war may be made slaves; Why? Because the cause of a war may not be just; Aristotle could have added: war itself may be unjust (he later criticizes Sparta for making war its goal); Idea of kings (presumably more excellent than ordinary men) being slaves seems absurd.

6. Aristotle on Women Husband’s “rule over his wife is like that of a statesman over fellow citizens” (Pol. 1.12). Women have a degree of governing capacity, i.e. for child care, but ‘without authority’ (Pol. 1.13); ‘Silence is a woman’s glory’ (Sophocles, quoted in Pol. 1.13); Aristotle favors moderate exercise for women; Women should be much younger than their husbands (18 for wife, mid-30’s for husband) (Pol. 7.16).

7. Actual Status of Women Athens: Confined to home: weaving and child care; Allowed outside for important religious festivals; No sports! Forbidden to marry or have relations with metics (foreign males); Metic women had greater freedom. Sparta: Young women exercised in public; Participated in sports; Did not perform household labor; Responsible for childcare; Old husbands introduced young men to their wives for procreation.

8. Two good books on reserve: James Davidson, Courtesans and Fishcakes: The Consuming Passions of Classical Athens (London: HarperCollins, 1997) Women, boys and food Challenges idea of ‘Wives and the Rest [prostitutes]’ Page Du Bois, Torture and Truth (New York: Routledge, 1991) Torture of slaves See also Wiedemann, Greek and Roman Slavery (reading list)

9. Household Management Two views: 1) Art of acquiring wealth (a lesser goal); wealth only a means to an end, not an end in itself (Pol. 1.8-9); -critique of retail trade (Pol. 1.9); -critique of usury (Pol. 1.10); 2) Art of managing people (‘human resource management’) (Pol. 1.11-13).

10. Household Management Monarchical rule (one head, members of household not equal); Vs Constitutional rule (equals rule each other in turns—the polis); Science of slave—what slave must know how to do; Science of master—knowing how to order what slave must know how to do.

11. Wealth Acquisition (1.7) Part of HM? To a degree, because both use the same materials, e.g. plants and animals; Hierarchy of nature: plants exist for animals, animals for man, to be hunted or farmed; “…in both, the instrument is the same, although the use is different” (1.9); Or instrumental? As wool is to cloth or the shuttle to weaving? Does the household need wealth? To an extent, yes: as much wealth as the household needs; people need “external goods” to be happy (NE, 1099b). To acquire more wealth than is needed is unnatural.

12. Limit to Wealth (1.7) “Of the art of acquisition then there is one kind which by nature is a part of the management of a household, in so far as the art of household management must either find ready to hand, or itself provide, such things necessary to life, and useful for the community of the family or state, as can be stored. They are the elements of true riches; for the amount of property which is needed for a good life is not unlimited….But there is a boundary fixed; just as there is in other arts…”

13. Unnatural Acquisition: usury Barter between persons (natural); Coinage enabled retail and international trade (starting to be unnatural); Banking/usury (lending money at interest): “the most hated sort [of wealth-getting]..which makes gain out of money itself, and not from the natural object of it.” Forbidden by the medieval Church; Usury today means to exceed a certain rate of interest and is still a crime; What is the usury rate in HK?

14. Unnatural Trade 1.9 Example of unnatural use of an object: A shoe is made for wear, but not for exchange; “Hence, we may infer that retail trade is not a natural part of the art of getting wealth; had it been so, men would have ceased to exchange when they had enough”; How would Aristotle define ‘enough’? How would we? Do we accept this notion? Cf. idea of ‘limits to growth’ put forward by environmentalists.

15. Why not stockpile money (1.9)? Some assume riches = large quantity of coin; Others say coin = convention (recall slavery argument), and hence nothing; Example of Midas: “how can that be wealth of which a man may have a great abundance and yet perish with hunger…?” These are “riches of the spurious [false] kind.”

16. Other objections to wealth-getting (1.9) Object of life: To lead a good life (not just ANY life); This is also the purpose of the household; “…some persons are led to believe [by confusion over means] that getting wealth is the object of household management, and the whole idea of their lives is that they ought either to increase their money without limit, or at any rate not to lose it. The origin of this disposition in men is that they are intent upon living only, and not upon living well….”

17. Legitimate wealth-getting (1.11) Tillage of soil; Animal Husbandry; which animals yield best, and in which environments; Refs. Treatises of Chares, Apollodorus; Natural resources: timber, mining Thales of Miletus, whose knowledge of meteorology enabled him to predict the olive harvest, hire presses and create a monopoly; Thales “showed the world that philosophers can easily be rich if they like, but that their ambition is of another sort”!

18. Question 1. "We can never know what nature means since we won't be able to know 'the end.'" Do you agree or disagree, and why?

19. Question 2. If Aristotle is right about women’s role, do we consider the movement of emancipation that started in the second half of the nineteenth century only as an error of society?

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