Aristotle’s Views on Property, Family and Slavery – Essay

The instinct to do so is as natural and proper as the provision nature makes in supplying wild animals and the means of satisfying the needs of sustenance and production”. Property is necessary, Aristotle says himself: “Wealth (property) is a store of things, which are necessary or useful for life in the association of city as household.”

According to Aristotle: “Property is a part of the household and the art of acquiring property is a part of managing the household; for no man lives well, or indeed live at all unless he is provided with necessaries.”

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With regard to the ownership of property, Aristotle referred to: (i) individual ownership, and individual use, which is, for Aristotle, the most dangerous situation; (ii) common ownership, and individual use, a situation which can begin with socialism, but would end up in capitalism; it is also not acceptable; (iii) common ownership and common use, a devise invariably impracticable; (iv) individual ownership and common use, a device generally possible and equally acceptable. Aristotle says: “property ought to be generally and in the main private, but common in use.”

Private property is essential and therefore, is justified, is what is Aristotle’s thesis, but it has to be acquired through honest means: “Of all the means of acquiring wealth, taking interest is the most unnatural method.” Aristotle was also against amassing property. So he said: “To acquire too much wealth (property) will be as gross an error as to make a hammer too heavy”.

Aristotle believed that family is one institution where an individual is born, is nurtured, gets his identity, his name and above all attains intellectual development. He asserts that family is the primary school of social virtue where a child gets lessons of quality such as cooperation, love, tolerance, and sacrifice.

It is not merely a primary association, but is a necessary action of society. If man is a social animal which Aristotle insists he is, family becomes the extension of man’s nature; the village, the extension of families; and the state, an extension, and union of families and villages.

A family, Aristotle says, consists of husband, wife, children, slaves and property. It involves three types of relationships that of the master and slave, marital (between the husband and wife) and parental (between the father and the child). The master, Aristotle held, rules the slave; he rules the wife (Aristotle regards women inferior to man, an incomplete male), and the father rules the son.

With his belief in patriarchy Aristotle wanted to keep women within the four-walls of the house, good only for household work and reproduction and nurture of the species. For him, man is the head of the family. Likewise, Aristotle affirmed that man is superior to woman, wiser than the slave and more experienced than the children.

Aristotle was convinced that family is the very unit, which makes LIP, ultimately, the state; from man to family, families to village, from villages to the state— that is how the natural growth of the state takes place:

Aristotle’s views on family are quite different from Plato’s. And yet, Aristotle is, philosophically, no better than Plato. Plato regards final affection contrary to the interests of the ideal state; Aristotle makes families the very basis of the state for the upheld the divide between the public and private sphere. This view was later incorporated and elaborated by the liberal feminists like Mary Wollstonecraft and J.S. Mill.

Aristotle justifies slavery, which in fact, was the order of the day. He writes: “For that some should rule and others be ruled is a thing not only necessary, but expedient; from the hour of their birth, same are marked out for subjection, others for rule.” So foster rightly says: “In fact, Aristotle justifies slavery on grounds of expediency”.

According to Barker: “Aristotle’s conception of slavery is more a justification of a necessity than a deduction from disinterested observation of facts.” Maxey is more clear than numerous others in expressing Aristotle’s justification of slavery: “Some persons, remarks Aristotle, think slavery is unjust and contrary to nature, but he is of the opinion that it is quite in accord with the laws of nature and the principles of justice.

Many persons, he asserts, are intended by nature to be slaves; from the hours of their birth they are marked for subjection. Not that they are necessarily inferior in strength of body or mind, but they are of a servile nature, and so are better off when they are ruled by other man.

They lack somehow the quality of soul that distinguishes the freeman and master. Consequently it is just that they should be held as property and used as other property is used, as a means of maintaining life.”

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