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Aristotle’s Philosophy Essay


Introduction

Renford Bambrough seeks to express the importance of the discussions made by Aristotle with the aim of solving the problems that philosophers have struggled with throughout history. According to Bambrough, Aristotle made attempts to demystify the notion that philosophy is a continuing and a living activity which is separated from historical studies done.

Aristotle emphasized a need to incorporate classical works of ancient philosophers into the debates solving philosophical questions (Bambrough 378). This should be done with restraint and caution in order not to compromise the validity of modern studies and to avoid bias, as evident in the studies of some historical philosophers in their quoting of particular texts of Aristotle (Bambrough 381).

“There has also been hostilities extended towards the philosophers, not only those of the past, but also those of more recent times, in their exploration of the nature of the universe with specific dissatisfaction extended towards their theorizing instead of making empirical conclusions” (Bambrough 382).

This has encouraged some analytical philosophers to denounce the classical sources that their studies are based on, despite their dependence on the same, hence expressing bias in their deductions.

The author explains that though philosophy has enjoyed its fair share of interest over two thousand years, some philosophers argue that philosophy should now yield to science and religion. Aristotle’s work has served greatly to unite these fundamental specifications on the need to understand the universe as well as the need to understand the human being in a societal context” (Bambrough 382).

In this regard, philosophy should not be viewed as dominating the views of science and religion, but rather as their ‘hand maid’, as a reference point (Bambrough 382). This paper will discuss Aristotle’s views on human nature and , state in relation to and slavery. In addition, it will discuss the different partnerships mentioned in the books 1 and 2. Furthermore, the paper will discuss the concepts of citizenship outlined in the book 3 of Politics and compare the philosopher’s position regarding slavery outlined in his Politics and will.

A mutually beneficial association between masters and slaves

Politics

Aristotle, like most Greeks who lived in his time and before him, did not believe that human beings could ever live a good life without institutions and social relationships. Aristotle defined a man as a creature adapted for life in a city-state or polis. This is in relation to Aristotle’s famous saying that man is a political animal by nature.

Aristotle’s saying that ‘who is delighted by solitude is either a wild beast or a god’ has become a proverb (“Whosoever_is). Aristotle points out that to lead a happy life, a man has to live in a community where each person should strive for the development of the community in general and not his or her selfish goals. He claims that the state has to exist since individuals or even the family unit is too weak and too limited to support themselves.

While there may not be much interest in saving lives of certain individuals, it is important for all people to live in cities because they were designed for living in the state community and cannot exist separately. from community (Bambrough 384).

The environment provided by the city is also helpful for personal development where individuals can enjoy personal happiness as they exercise their intellectual and moral virtues. It is also imperative that the city or the state is self-sufficient and can sustain itself and it doesn’t need to be a part of a group or a larger community.

In his teachings, Aristotle reiterated what his predecessor Plato had said that as to the aspects of planning and governance, the Greek polis would make the most natural and ideal form of society where man can give his best. Aristotle, however, disagreed with Plato by indicating that moral and political virtues should be branches of knowledge just like navigation and medicine.

In addition, Aristotle also disagreed with Plato’s concept of creating a happy community by proposing that happiness is an individual activity that cannot be shared though it can be enjoyed concurrently with others. Aristotle also identified that, it is up to individuals to attain happiness from the state and not the state to attain happiness from individuals.

According to Aristotle, this is because the state exists for the benefit of individuals and not individuals exist for the sake of the state (Bambrough 392). He also rejected the offer of the communal ownership of property, wives and children that had been previously suggested by Plato.

Aristotle noted that if everything is made up of everybody’s business, then it will be nobody’s business. This is because individuals would have very little personal attachment to what is declared state property and as a result would not be interested in preserving and improving it.

Another important aspect of Aristotle’s philosophy indicated his acceptance of slavery as one of the most important characteristics of the community of his times. One of the most important arguments provided by Aristotle for justifying the institution of slavery in Politics was a mutually beneficial association between masters and slaves.

Aristotle stated that slavery can improve the humanity in general. He Aristotle noted that some men are made to be slaves and therefore achieve their purpose in life by performing servile duties to those who are higher than them. Though these views may be disputed in modern times, it is important to realize that Aristotle made his statements on principles and details that were related to the city-states of his own time.

In his exploration of property such as slaves, Aristotle justifies this phenomenon by pointing out at the existence of persons who are slaves by nature and consequent justification of slavery. According to Aristotle, some people need to provide services to others whom they consider as inferior to them to achieve their own telos (life purpose).

According to AristotleFurthermore,, Aristotle noted that every household should consist of slaves and free persons to be complete (Bambrough 385). A complete household requires effective association between men and women and between masters and slaves.

Though Aristotle’s views on slavery may be considered a prejudice, it should be noted that this period marked out the superiority of the Greeks over other nations who were considered inferior and called barbarians. For this reason, most of Aristotle’s work gives not only his views on how things should be, but also how things were at the time he lived.

Book 1

In Aristotle’s book 1, the author stated that states are based on certain partnership that is formed for the members to achieve certain desired good deeds. The author noted that, human beings are universally selfish and they always strive to achieve the goals which they perceive as advantageous for them (Bambrough 385).

Therefore, according to Aristotle, the state is a political partnership. Aristotle defined the state as a group of people who understand that they cannot live separately from this group and decided to create an association.

According to Aristotle, Tthe distinction between the a master, estate manager, statesman, and a slave is based on their nature and innate features. king has also been highlighted to be of contention, as some people base their definitions barely on the numbers that are ruled by people holding these titles.

Aristotle admitted that the process in which an individual comes to power is of great importance. Like a king holds power on his own, while a statesman is one who follows the principles dictated by the science of statesmanship and takes turns with others to rule and govern (Bambrough 386). Slaves obey their masters because they tend to be ruled since their birth.

Therefore, the agreement between those who govern and those who are being governed is one of important principles of the science of statesmanship. Though Aristotle’s views on slavery may be considered as a prejudice, it should be noted that this period marked out the superiority of the Greeks over other nations who were considered inferior and called barbarians.

Aristotle noted that some people tend to be ruled since their birth (Bambrough 377379). For this reason, Greeks suggested that all barbarians were inferior to them and all barbarians were equal to slaves. Under the influence of stereotypes which were dominant among the philosophers of his time, Aristotle considered males to be superior to females.

Moreover, according to Aristotle, women in the barbarian community are equal to slaves and occupy the same position in the society (Bambrough 383). Aristotle concludes that it is right for Greeks to rule over non-Greeks because the latter are inferior and tend to be ruled by their nature. Therefore, in his Politics Aristotle defines slaves as weak creatures who tend to be ruled and includes all non-Greeks into this category.

According to the assumptions Aristotle made in his Politics, slaves are nothing more than tools which are needed for satisfying daily needs in the household. Analyzing Hesiod’s saying concerning the house, a wife and an ox which are needed for every man to run a successful household, Aristotle associates an ox with a slave as a tool required for performing certain household operations (Bambrough 383).

Taking into account the slaves’ natural desire to be ruled, it can be stated that that masters abd slaves have common interests which result in their mutually beneficial association. However, regardless of the obvious benefits of this association, masters should acquire an art of being masters for improving the effectiveness of this partnership.

Analyzing the assumptions concerning the innate features as the primary cause of the institution of slavery made by Aristotle in his Politics, it can be stated that the ancient philosopher accepted the institution of slavery as something that is taken for granted and is not disputable.

Comparing these assumptions to the decisions outlined by Aristotle in his Will, it can be stated that the latter are compatible with the philosophical doctrine included into Politics.

In his will Aristotle noted: “When my daughter marries, she shall be given 500 drachmas and the female slave she has at present” (Diogenes 64). Therefore, Aristotle left by will his slaves which were part of his household to his children so that they could become parts of their household in the future and the mutually beneficial association could continue.

Enslavement by convention

As it can be seen from the book by Bambrough, Aristotle in his Politics justified the slavery by nature but questioned the justice of enslavement by convention. Aristotle admitted that his opponents claiming that slavery is unjust had certain right on their side.

In his Politics, Aristotle distinguishes between those who are slaves by nature and those who are slaves by convention or by law. Regarding the first category, Aristotle noted that they were designed to be ruled and even their physical characteristics are suitable for this task. In other words, slaves are physically stronger because they have to do the household tasks, whereas their masters are physically weaker because they were designed mainly for the art of being masters and political affairs.

However, the situation with those who were enslaved by convention is different. Aristotle discussed the counterargument to his theories, namely the position that the possibility to execute superior power cannot become a proper ground for justifying slavery. Discussing the enslavement as the product of war, Aristotle pointed out that it could be unjust if the beginning of war had been unjust.

Then, wellborn persons can be enslaved and their children would be slaves as well. However, Aristotle admitted that a person who did not really deserve to become a slave would never become a slave (Bambrough 389).

The ancient philosopher linked his assumptions concerning the injustice of enslavement by convention to the discussion of innate desire to be ruled as the main cause of enslavement. However, it should be noted that Aristotle’s assumption tat all barbarians are slaves is incompatible with his idea expressed later in Politics that there are people who never and nowhere can become slaves because of their innate virtues.

As an example, Aristotle discussed Helen’s words who admitted that nobody would dare to call her a servant because she had gods on both sides of her family tree (Bambrough 390). However, as it was further argued by Aristotle, the claims of those who are well-born or low-born cannot be used for answering the question whether they are or are not slaves. Aristotle admitted that not always good parents produce good children and even though it is frequently true, there are certain exceptions.

In his Politics, Aristotle noted that people who are slaves or masters by law not always are such by nature. Therefore, it can be concluded that nature and innate qualities should remain the main criteria to be used for distinguishing between slaves and masters, whereas people’s origin and the fact that they were well-born ot low-born cannot be used for answering the question whether a person can become a slave. Aristotle also pointed out at the negative consequences of ruling over those people who do not tend to be ruled.

Due to Aristotle’s assumption that a slave and a master in their mutually beneficial association are parts of a whole, the philosopher concluded that ruling over those who are not slaves by their nature can have a negative impact upon masters as well as their slaves (Bambrough 390).

According to Aristotle’s Politics, a slave can be defined as a separate animate part of his master’s body. A master and a slave have common interests if their relationship is natural and they have tended to be free or enslaved since their birth. However, if the association is based on force only, it is harmful for both of them.

Analyzing the assumptions made by Aristotle in his Politics and provisions for slaves the philosopher included into his will, it can be stated that the provision to liberate some of his slaves after his death is compatible with the arguments discussed in Politics. In his will Aristotle noted: “When my daughter is married, Tacho shall be freed, and also Philo, and Olympios, and his son. The executors are not to sell any of the slaves who looked after me, but to employ them.

When they reach the appropriate age, they should set them free as they deserve” (Diogenes 64 ). It is obvious that Aristotle asked to liberate the slaves, whom he considered to deserve freedom. Otherwise, the association between masters and slaves by convention but not by nature would have been unjust.

As it can be seen in the text by Bambrough, Aristotle stated that the principles of governing and being governed are significant for the science of statesmanship and existence of this association (382). There are several types of partnership ranging from the family unit to the village and in some cases a group of states where one state rules over others.

Aristotle went on to discuss the management of the state and then the property of the state, its nature and its administration. He concluded that the state occurs naturally and human beings are also naturally designed to live in the states. There are, however, individuals who by nature do not belong to any state and they therefore are either inferior beings or superior beings.

If a person is inferior, then the person is considered a slave, but if the person is superior he/she is obviously dangerous because all he seeks is war. Aristotle also stated that the state should be prior to families and particular individuals because the part cannot exist without the whole (Bambrough 385).

The relations between an individual and the state can be compared to those between a part and the whole. Aristotle uses an example of destroying a foot or a hand when the rest of the body can function. However, destroying the whole body would mean destroying a foot and a hand as well. Consequently, a part cannot exist without the whole, a hand or a foot cannot exist without the body, an individual or a particular household is not self-sufficient and cannot exist without the state.

Additionally, a part not only is included into a whole, but entirely belongs to it. The same goes for slaves who are considered as parts of certain households and entirely belong to their masters. In his will, Aristotle admitted that he would like to give liberty to some of his slaves after his death (Diogenes 64).

On the other hand, Aristotle would give liberty to those who according to his theories tended to be ruled. On the other hand, his decision to give liberty to some slaves clearly demonstrates Aristotle’s belief that his slaves were his property and he as a master could give liberty to them if he wanted to.

Book 2

In the book 2, Aristotle reviewed political partnerships in reference to good governance by identifying constitutions that are either theoretically beneficial or that are enjoyed by the states men. “In a good state, where there is a partnership, the people should commonly hold everything that belongs to the state that can be possibly held as so” (Bambrough 387).

In addition, as described in Bambrough’s text, Aristotle stated that, there is a single locality to the state and all citizens belong to it to show that state properties are commonly owned by its citizens as a partnership (Bambrough 394). The ancient philosopher suggested that a state ceases to be a state if it develops into unity.

This is because the state is naturally plural and if it grows in unity, the state becomes more of a household than a state. The state should also consist of individuals who are uniquely different. These people can come together because of their similar goals to form a state, but not due to their similar nature.

A group of states may come together to form an alliance of states. This is driven by the similarities in their goals. The most common goal in this case would be to avert aggression. This concept can be illustrated by an example of a difference between the state and the tribe.

Tribes may usually compete against one another, however in times of harsh and desperate times, they will unite together. The tribes are all strong when united together. As a result, the stronger they can combat and defeat a common enemy. This is related to States, which also form an alliance in a similar case and collaborate, due to their external needs.

As it can be seen from the book by Bambrough, Aristotle noted that if all individuals are equal, as suggested by Plato, where property, wives and children are owned communally, then the attention to things will be inversely proportional to the number of people who will take responsibility (386).

This is because people ignore the responsibility and assume that someone else will take it. Due to the selfish nature of a man, there might be a situation where nobody may come up to take the responsibility.

Aristotle also stated that “It is not easy for people living in this context to avoid troubles such as unintentional and intentional homicide, assault, insulting each other and fighting” (Bambrough 395). According to Aristotle, the main two rules which should be observed in a society include self-control in relation to women and generosity in relation to property.

Book 3

In book 3, the author explored the concept of citizenship by raising the question ‘what do we mean by the word citizen’ where he concluded that this term may be explained differently by different thinkers, as democracies and oligarchies define citizenship differently.

This question can only be answered through exploration of the process of becoming a citizen which leads to the consequent problem of whether these processes are just or unjust. Aristotle raised the question of defining a just citizen and wondered if a just citizen can be defined as a good person whereas the tenets characterizing just citizenship and goodness are different (Bambrough 398).

The conventional definition of a citizen is a child whose parents were both citizens. Aristotle stated that some people extend this requirement to two or three generations back (Bambrough 404) This raises the question of how the parents or these other prior generations became citizens in the first place, if they were also subjected to such a law. Will

Analyzing the provisions made by Aristotle in his will and comparing them to the assumptions made in his Politics, it can be stated that they are compatible because in both of them Aristotle distinguishes between slaves by nature and slaves by convention and recommends treating them differently.

The relations between an individual and the state similarly to those between a master and a slave can be compared to those between a part and the whole. Aristotle uses an example of destroying a foot or a hand when the rest of the body can function. However, destroying the whole body would mean destroying a foot and a hand as well.

Consequently, a part cannot exist without the whole, a hand or a foot cannot exist without the body, an individual or a particular household is not self-sufficient and cannot exist without the state. Additionally, a part not only is included into a whole, but entirely belongs to it. The same goes for slaves who are considered as parts of certain households and entirely belong to their masters.

Aristotle emphasized the link between slaves and their masters, admitting that association based on force can be harmful for both of them and a true art of being a master would exclude ruling over those who are free by their nature. In his will, Aristotle admitted that he would like to give liberty to some of his slaves after his death (Diogenes 64). On the one hand, Aristotle would give liberty to those who according to his theories did not tend to be ruled.

On the other hand, his decision to give liberty to some slaves clearly demonstrates Aristotle’s belief that some people would never become slaves regardless of place and situation. Therefore, it can be concluded that Aristotle implemented his theoretical principles regarding slavery, association between a master and a slave and different categories of slaves when he provided provisions to give some of his slaves to his children and liberate other slaves after his death.

Conclusion

Analyzing the philosophical assumptions concerning the human nature, the state and slavery made by Aristotle in his Politics and decisions he outlined in his will, it can be stated that the philosopher considered the state as an important condition for well-being of people who cannot exist separately from the stateslavery as a natural phenomenon of any community and an important element of any household.

According to Aristotle, people were designed for living in the states and can be regarded as parts of the state, while the state as a whole is prior to individuals and particular householdssome people were designed to be ruled whereas others were designed to rule over others.. Aristotle accepted slavery as a natural phenomenon because he hypothesized that some people tend to rule, and others tend to be ruled.

Additionally, as it can be seen from Aristotle’s will, the philosopher considered slaves as property of their masters who can give liberty to their slaves if they would like to.However, another important assumption made by Aristotle in his Politics is that slaves were designed to obey their masters and their purpose in life to provide services to masters who are regarded as superior to them.

The conclusion drawn by the ancient philosopher is that a master and a slave share common interests and the association between them is mutually beneficial. However, this association would be ruined if a master or a slave does not belong to their role because of their innate qualities.

Aristotle accepted the fact that in some situations slavery can be unjust and even harmful for the masters who rule over slaves who were born to be free. This assumption explains Aristotle’s provisions to liberate some of his slaves after his death. Therefore, looking at his slaves, Aristotle regarded some of them as slaves by nature and ordered to give them to his children, whereas others he saw as free people and ordered to liberate them. In general, the Assumptions made by Aristotle in Politics are compatible with provisions of his will.

Works Cited

Bambrough, Renford. The Philosophy of Aristotle. New York: New American Library, 1963. Print.

Diogenes, Laertius. “The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers. Trans. Charles Duke Yonge. Course Booklet. n.a. n.d. 64. Print.

“Whosoever_is_delighted_in_solitude_is_either_a.” Columbia World of Quotations. Columbia University Press, 1996. 17 Nov. 2011.

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