Ancient History & Civilisation



(Nicomachean Ethics 11811b12–23)*


Since, then, the question of legislation has been left unexamined by previous thinkers,1 presumably we had better investigate it more closely for ourselves, together with the question of constitutions generally, so that our philosophy of human conduct may be as complete as possible. So let us first try to review any valid statements (about particular points) that have been made by our predecessors; and then to consider, in the light of our collected examples of constitutions,2 what influences are conservative and what are destructive of a state; and which have these effects upon each different kind of constitution; and for what reasons some states are well governed, while in others the contrary is the case. For after examining these questions we shall perhaps see more comprehensivelywhat kind of constitution is the best, and what is the best organization for each kind, and the best system of laws and customs for it to use. Let us, then, begin our account.

I i

Aristotle’s purposes in this chapter are (a) to assert that the ‘state’, by which he means specifically the Greek polis or ‘city-state’, is an association distinct in kind from other associations, and (b) to discourage facile parallels between a ‘statesman’ (politikos, i.e. a citizen, politēs, of a polis in his capacity as ruler or office-bearer) and the ‘rulers’ of, for example, a household or a monarchy. His reasons for combating such parallels are not stated here, but emerge subsequently (e.g. in I vii); the crucial point is that the statesman rules over ‘equals’, i.e. persons of the same status as himself. Aristotle is quite uninformative – curt, indeed – in his dismissal of his unnamed targets. If he is thinking of anyone in particular, it is probably Plato and perhaps Socrates too (see e.g. Plato, Politicus 258e ff. and Xenophon, Memoirs of Socrates III, iv 12); but obviously the views he attacks could be held by any unreflective or non-philosophic person who had not carried out the necessary analysis of the polis and its parts. For Aristotle’s method, as he himself states and as becomes clear in later chapters, is essentially analytical: he believes that the peculiar character and purpose of the state as an association can be discovered only by examining the character and purpose of its ‘parts’ (households, social classes, etc.). The inspiration of this method is twofold: (a) the fundamental teleological assumption, revealed in his first sentence, that the state does have a particular function or aim; (b) the methodological assumption that the mode of analysis he employs in several other works – conspicuously in his biological writings, in which he examines the functions of an animal’s parts as contributing to the functions of the animal as a whole – is a guide,when applied analogously, to discovering the function and aim of the state; in short, he sees some sort of functional parallel between a living thing and a polis (see I ii and IV iv, second section). Both assumptions are large and disputable; but to Aristotle’s synoptic mind they are irresistibly attractive.

1252a1 Observation tells us that every state is an association, and that every association is formed with a view to some good purpose. I say ‘good’, because in all their actions all men do in fact aim at what they think good. Clearly then, as all associations aim at some good, that association which is the most sovereign among them all and embraces all others will aim highest, i.e. at the most sovereign of all goods. This is the association which we call the state, the association which is ‘political’.1

1252a7 It is an error to suppose, as some do, that the roles of a statesman,2 of a king, of a household-manager and of a master of slaves are the same, on the ground that they differ not in kind but only in point of numbers of persons – that a master of slaves, for example, has to do with a few people, a household-manager with more, and a statesman or king with more still, as if there were no differences between a large household and a small state. They also reckon that when one person is in personal control over the rest he has the role of a king, whereas when he takes his turn at ruling and at being ruled according to the principles of the science concerned, he is a statesman.3 But these assertions are false.

1252a17 This will be quite evident if we examine the matter according to our established method.4 We have to analyse other composite things till they can be subdivided no further, because we have reached the smallest parts of the wholes; so let us in the same way examine the component parts of the state and we shall see better how these too differ from each other, and whether we can acquire any systematic5 knowledge about the several roles mentioned.6

I ii

This long chapter is an admirable illustration of Aristotle’s analytical and genetic method, and contains many rich and suggestive ideas. By imaginative reconstruction rather than by factual history (cf. Plato, Laws III) he traces the formation (a) of the ‘pairs’ of husband/wife and master/slave, (b) of the household from the ‘pairs’, (c) of the village from a coalescence of households, and (d) of the state from a coalescence of villages. The ‘nature’ of a thing, he claims, is not its first but its final condition; just as an individual man is the natural end of the process of human coming-to-be, so too the state is the natural end and culmination of the other and earlier associations, which were themselves natural; the state therefore exists by nature. It provides all men’s needs (material, social, religious, etc.), and offers them the fulfilment not only of living but of living ‘well’, in accordance with those virtues that are peculiarly human. The state is thus ‘all-providing’, which is ‘best’, which is characteristic of natural ends. (Aristotle’s discussion anddefinition of ‘nature’ in Physics II i would be useful background reading.)

The repeated emphasis Aristotle places on the state’s being ‘natural’ suggests that the chapter has also the polemical purpose of refuting those who believed that the state was an ‘artificial’ or a ‘conventional’ creation. Such argument was a special form of the general controversy of the fifth and fourth centuries about the relative status and merits of nomos, law, and phusis, nature (see Newman’s discussion, I 24 ff.). Aristotle does not name his opponents, and it is doubtful whether he has any particular persons in mind.

Two further points are worth noting: (a) Aristotle regards human society as inevitably and naturally hierarchical; he assumes as self-evident that the male’s abilities are superior to the female’s, and the master’s to the slave’s (not that slave and female are on that account to be treated alike: see n. 4), and that Greeks are superior to non-Greeks. ‘Who rules whom?’ and ‘With what justification?’ are questions at the centre of his political theory, and his defence of slavery in subsequent chapters is all of a piece with this general approach, (b) Like most Greek writers, he delights in appealing to the poets, and to the popular ideas they express, in order to justify his position. He believes that in subjects such as political and ethical theory, in which precise demonstration is impossible, one should welcome support from the experience of mankind.

The Two ‘Pairs

1252a24 We shall, I think, in this as in other subjects, get the best view of the matter if we look at the natural growth of things from the beginning. The first point is that those which are incapable of existing without each other must be united as a pair. For example, (a) the union of male and female is essential for reproduction; and this is not a matter of choice, but is due to the natural urge, which exists in the other animals too and in plants, to propagate one’s kind.1 Equally essential is (b) the combination of the natural ruler and ruled, for the purpose of preservation. For the element that can use its intelligence to look ahead is by nature ruler and by nature master, while that which has the bodily strength to do the actual work is by nature a slave, one of those who are ruled. Thus there is a common interest uniting master and slave.

Formation of the Household

1252a34 Nature, then, has distinguished between female and slave: she recognizes different functions and lavishly provides different tools, not an all-purpose tool like the Delphic knife;2 for every instrument will be made best if it serves not many purposes but one. But non-Greeks assign to female and slave exactly the same status. This is because they have nothing which is by nature fitted to rule; their association3 consists of a male slave and a female slave.4 So, as the poets say, ‘It is proper that Greeks should rule non-Greeks’,5 the implication being that non-Greek and slave are by nature identical. 1252b9 Thus it was out of the association formed by

men with these two, women and slaves, that a household was first formed; and the poet Hesiod was right when he wrote, ‘Get first a house and a wife and an ox to draw the plough.’6 (The ox is the poor man’s slave.) This association of persons, established according to nature for the satisfaction of daily needs, is the household, the members of which Charondas calls ‘bread-fellows’, and Epimenides the Cretan ‘stable-companions’.7

Formation of the Village

1252b15 The next stage is the village, the first association of a number of houses for the satisfaction of something more than daily needs. It comes into being through the processes of nature in the fullest sense, as offshoots8 of a household are set up by sons and grandsons. The members of such a village are therefore called by some ‘homogalactic’.9 This is why states were at first ruled by kings, as are foreign nations to this day: they were formed from constituents which were themselves under kingly rule. For every household is ruled by its senior member, as by a king, and the offshoots too, because of their blood relationship, are ruled in the same way. This kind of rule is mentioned in Homer:10 ‘Each man has power of law11 over children and wives.’ He is referring to scattered settlements, which were common in primitive times. For this reason the gods too are said to be governed by a king – namely because men themselves were originally ruled by kings and some are so still. Just as men imagine gods in human shape, so they imagine their way of life to be like that of men.

Formation of the State

1252b27 The final association, formed of several villages, is the state. For all practical purposes the process is now complete; self-sufficiency12 has been reached, and while the state came about as a means of securing life itself, it continues in being to secure thegood life. Therefore every state exists by nature, as the earlier associations too were natural. This association is the end of those others, and nature is itself an end; for whatever is the end-product of the coming into existence of any object, that is what we call its nature – of a man, for instance, or a horse or a household. Moreover the aim and the end is perfection; and self-sufficiency is both end and perfection.13

The State and the Individual

1253a1 It follows that the state belongs to the class of objects which exist by nature, and that man is by nature a political animal.14 Any one who by his nature and not simply by ill-luck has no state is either too bad or too good, either subhuman or superhuman – he is like the war-mad man condemned in Homer’s words15 as ‘having

no family, no law,16 no home’; for he who is such17 by nature is mad on war: he is a non-cooperator like an isolated piece in a game of draughts.

1253a7 But obviously man is a political animal14 in a sense in which a bee is not, or any other gregarious animal.18 Nature, as we say, does nothing without some purpose; and she has endowed man alone among the animals with the power of speech. Speech is something different from voice, which is possessed by other animals also and used by them to express pain or pleasure; for their nature does indeed enable them not only to feel19 pleasure and pain but to communicate these feelings to each other. Speech, on the other hand serves to indicate what is useful and what is harmful, and so also what is just and what is unjust. For the real difference between man and other animals is that humans alone have perception19 of good and evil, just and unjust, etc. It is the sharing of a common view in these matters that makes a household and a state.

1253a18 Furthermore, the state has a natural priority over the household and over any individual among us. For the whole must be prior to the part. Separate hand or foot from the whole body, and they will no longer be hand or foot except in name, as one might speak of a ‘hand’ or ‘foot’ sculptured in stone. That will be the condition of the spoilt20 hand, which no longer has the capacity and the function which define it. So, though we may say they have the same names, we cannot say that they are, in

that condition,21 the same things. It is clear then that the state is both natural and prior to the individual. For if an individual is not fully self-sufficient after separation, he will stand in the same relationship to the whole as the parts in the other case do.22 Whatever is incapable of participating in the association which we call the state, a dumb animal for example, and equally whatever is perfectly self-sufficient and has no need to (e.g. a god), is not a part of the state at all.

1253a29 Among all men, then, there is a natural impulse towards this kind of association; and the first man to construct a state deserves credit for conferring very great benefits. For as man is the best of all animals when he has reached his full development, so he is worst of all when divorced from law and justice. Injustice armed is hardest to deal with; and though man is born with weapons which he can use in the service of practical wisdom and virtue, it is all too easy for him to use them for the opposite purposes. Hence man without virtue is the most savage, the most unrighteous, and the worst in regard to sexual licence and gluttony. The virtue of justice is a feature of a state; for justice is the arrangement of the political association,23 and a sense of justice decides what is just.24

I iii

Aristotle now focuses attention on the household and its economic arrangements, and turns first to consider slaves. Slavery was an integral part of the economy of ancient Greece; and since Aristotle thinks of life in the Greek state as being the ‘natural’ and ‘best’ life for man, he is immediately faced with the crucial task of showing that at least some slavery is ‘natural’. Although for the most part slavery was simply taken for granted, there was, as he candidly admits, some opposition from those who held it to be against nature, because based on force (cf. I vi). Again, it is not clear that Aristotle has identifiable opponents in mind. Certainly there seems to have been some controversy about slavery, of which echoes may be found also in Plato, Laws 776 ff.; Newman I 139 ff. discusses the evidence. In this short chapter, then, Aristotle girds his loins for a defence of slavery as a ‘natural’ institution.

1253b1 Now that I have explained what the component parts of a state are, and since every state consists of households, it is essential to begin with household-management. This topic can be subdivided so as to correspond to the parts of which a complete household is made up, namely, the free and the slaves; but our method1 requires us to examine everything when it has been reduced to its smallest parts, and the first and smallest division of a household into parts gives three pairs – master and slave, husband and wife, father and children. And so we must ask ourselves what each one of these three relationships is, and what sort of thing it ought to be. The word ‘mastership’ is used to describe the first, and we may use ‘matrimonial’ (in the case of the union of man and woman) and ‘paternal’ to describe the other two, as there is no more specific term for either.2 We may accept these three; but we find that there is a fourth element, which some people regard as covering the whole of household-management, others as its most important part; and our task is to consider its position. I refer to what is called ‘the acquisition of wealth’.

1253b14 First let us discuss master and slave, in order to see (a) how they bear on the provision of essential services, (b) whether we can find a better way towards understanding this topic than if we started from the suppositions usually made. For example, some people suppose that being a master requires a certain kind of knowledge, and that this is the same knowledge as is required to manage a household or to be a statesman or a king – an error which we discussed at the beginning.1 Others say that it is contrary to nature to rule as master over slave, because the distinction between slave and free is one of convention only, and in nature there is no difference, so that this form of rule is based on force and is therefore not just.

I iv

In this notorious chapter Aristotle describes, from his own teleological standpoint, the position of the slave in his day. According to him, the slave is a ‘live tool’ used by the master for purposes of ‘life’ and ‘action’, not of production. He is of course thinking of the household, which is not primarily productive; but even so it looks as if his bias in favour of a ‘gentlemanly’ life has tempted him into thinking of a slave as invariably in personal attendance on his master. In fact, many slaves were used in productive labour in factories and mines and on farms.

In the third paragraph of the chapter, the argument seems to be: (a) a piece of property is described in the same terms as a part; (b) a part ‘belongs to another tout court’ (i.e. to the whole); (c) slaves are pieces of property; so (d) slaves ‘belong to others tout court’ (i.e. to their masters)whereas masters, not being pieces of property, are master ‘of’ their slaves but do not ‘belong to them tout court’.

Is Aristotle suggesting that the slave ‘belongs tout court’ to his master in the sense of being dependent on him as a member of a ‘pair’, or perhaps in the way an individual is ‘part’ of the state (I ii)? If so, the naturalness of the ‘belonging’ is in a sense established. But the implications of the argument are none too lucid, and evidently it is in Chapters v–vii that the main arguments for the naturalness of slavery are presented.

1253b23 Now property is part of a household, and the acquisition of property part of household-management; for neither life itself nor the good life is possible without a certain minimum supply of the necessities. Again, in any special skill the availability of the proper tools will be essential for the performance of the task; and the household-manager must have his likewise. Tools may be animate as well as inanimate; for instance, a ship’s captain uses a lifeless rudder, but a living man for watch; for a servant is, from the point of view of his craft, categorized as one of its tools. So any piece of property can be regarded as a tool enabling a man to live, and his property is an assemblage of such tools; a slave is a sort of living piece of property; and like any other servant is a tool in charge of other tools. For suppose that every tool we had could perform its task, either at our bidding or itself perceiving the need, and if – like the statues made by Daedalus or the tripods of Hephaestus, of which the poet says that ‘self-moved they enter the assembly of the gods’1 – shuttles in a loom could fly to and fro and a plucker2 play a lyre of their own accord, then master-craftsmen would have no need of servants nor masters of slaves.

1254a1 Tools in the ordinary sense are productive tools, whereas a piece of property is meant for action.3 I mean, for example, a shuttle produces something other than its own use, a bed or a garment does not. Moreover, since production and action differ in kind and both require tools, the difference between their tools too must be of the same kind. Now life is action and not production; therefore the slave, a servant, is one of the tools that minister to action.

1254a9 A piece of property is spoken of in the same way as a part is; for a part is not only part of something but belongs to it tout court; and so too does a piece of property. So a slave is not only his master’s slave but belongs to him tout court, while the master is his slave’s master but does not belong to him. These considerations will have shown what the nature and functions of the slave are: any human being that by nature belongs not to himself but to another is by nature a slave; and a human being belongs to another whenever, in spite of being a man, he is a piece of property, i.e. a tool having a separate existence4 and meant for action.3

I v

The purpose of this chapter is to argue that at least some slavery must be natural, because the relationship of master and slave conforms to a broad pattern found universally in nature in the widest sense: better/worse, male/female, man/beast, mind/body, rational/irrational, ruler/ruled. Such a pattern makes obvious sense to Aristotle, who justifies it teleologically by its beneficial results: to be ruled is to the slave’s advantage, and is to that extent just. In the final paragraph some admitted exceptions to the pattern do not make him doubt its essential validity: presumably he finds it sufficient for the purposes of his argument that nature achieves her ends only ‘for the most part’ (as he often concedes in other contexts).

Aristotle’s view that slavery is expedient both for master and for slave has attracted a great deal of criticism, much of it obvious and justified. Is there anything to be said in its favour? It clearly relies on the assumption that most masters are rational and most slaves are not; or rather, that men fall readily into two classes, rational and irrational, and that the former should rule the latter. With large qualifications, it is at least arguable that such rule ought to be enforced, and is in fact enforced, in society at large. One does not have to defend the particular institutional form of such rule that Aristotle seeks to justify (ancient slavery). If (and it is a big if) we grant his asumptions, the master/slave relationship does indeed seem analogous in some respects to certain other relationships which are presumably desirable (e.g. mind over body, man over beast). But this is of course to defend not slavery as such, but only in so far as it embodies the rule of rational over irrational. In so far as it does not, even Aristotle would hesitate to defend it, as his next chapter makes clear.

I conclude with two points that are forgotten easily and often: (a) The fact that slavery is a dirty word nowadays should not trick us into believing that ancient Greek slavery was invariably harsh and therefore not ‘expedient’ for slaves: much depended on the masters’ attitudes, which in the nature of the case varied widely. (b) The distinction between slave and free was much sharper in point of legal and political status than in social life and economics, where there was some overlap between the poorer free men and the better-off slaves.

1254a17 But whether anyone does in fact by nature answer to this description, and whether or not it is a just and a better thing for one man to be a slave to another, or whether all slavery is contrary to nature – these are the questions which must be considered next. Neither theoretical discussion nor empirical observation presents any difficulty. That one should command and another obey is both necessary and expedient. Indeed some things are so divided right from birth, some to rule, some to be ruled. There are many different forms of this ruler-ruled relationship, and the quality of the rule depends primarily on the quality of the subjects, rule over man being better than rule over animals; for that which is produced by better men is a better piece of work; and the ruler-ruled relationship is itself a product created by the men involved in it.

1254a28 For wherever there is a combination of elements, continuous or discontinuous,1 and a common unity is the result, in all such cases the ruler-ruled relationship appears. It appears notably in living creatures as a consequence of their whole nature (and it can exist also where there is no life, as dominance in a musical scale,2 but that is hardly relevant here). The living creature consists in the first place of mind and body, and of these the former is ruler by nature, the latter ruled. Now we must always look for nature’s own norm in things whose condition is according to nature, and not base our observations on degenerate forms. We must therefore in this connexion consider the man who is in good condition mentally and physically, one in whom the rule of mind over body is conspicuous – because the bad and unnatural condition of a permanently or temporarily depraved person will often give the impression that his body is ruling over his soul.

1254b2 However that may be, it is, as I say, within living creatures that we first find it possible to see both the rule of a master and that of a statesman.3 The rule of soul over body is like a master’s rule, while the rule of intelligence over desire is like a statesman’s or a king’s.4 In these relationships it is clear that it is both natural and expedient for the body to be ruled by the soul, and for the emotional part of our natures to be ruled by the mind, the part which possesses reason. The reverse, or even parity, would be fatal all round. This is also true as between man and the other animals; for tame animals are by nature better than wild, and it is better for them all to be ruled by men, because it secures their safety. Again, as between male and female the former is by nature superior and ruler, the latter inferior and subject. And this must hold good of mankind in general.

1254b16 Therefore whenever there is the same wide discrepancy between human beings as there is between soul and body or between man and beast, then those whose condition is such that their function is the use of their bodies and nothing better can be expected of them, those, I say, are slaves by nature. It is better for them, just as in the cases mentioned, to be ruled thus.5 For the ‘slave by nature’ is he that can and therefore does belong to another, and he that participates in reason so far as to recognize6 it but not so as to possess it (whereas the other7 animals obey not reason but emotions). The use made of slaves hardly differs at all from that of tame animals: they both help with their bodies to supply our essential needs. It is, then, nature’s purpose to make the bodies of free men to differ from those of slaves, the latter strong enough to be used for necessary tasks, the former erect and useless for that kind of work, but well suited for the life of a citizen of a state8, a life which is in turn divided between the requirements of war and peace.

1254b32 But the opposite often occurs: people who have the right kind of bodily physique for free men, but not the soul, others who have the right soul but not the body. This much is clear: suppose that there were men whose mere bodily physique showed the same superiority as is shown by the statues of gods, then all would agree that the rest of mankind would deserve to be their slaves. And if this is true in relation to physical superiority, the distinction would be even more justly made in respect of superiority of soul; but it is much more difficult to see beauty of soul than it is to see beauty of body. It is clear then that by nature some are free, others slaves, and that for these it is both just and expedient that they should serve as slaves.

I vi

Aristotle has to face the fact that the generalizations of the last chapter do not hold good universally: some slavery comes about not by nature but by human force, as when men perfectly fitted for mastership become slaves through capture in war. He reports that this ‘legal’ slavery had both defenders and attackers, and in the second paragraph briefly explores some confused reasoning which he suggests led to the difference of opinion. In the remainder of the chapter he argues that the defenders, in not making the right to enslave in war absolute and justified in all circumstances, in effect presuppose that some men are ‘natural’ masters and some ‘natural’ slaves – which is precisely his own position. At the end of the chapter it becomes clear that his sympathies are not with the defenders of the doctrine that ‘might is right’.

The argument of the opaque second paragraph is in my view as follows. Aristotle suggests that the reason for the difference of opinion about the justice of forcible enslavement of captives in war arises from false conclusions from the following propositions: (a) that virtue (moral ‘superiority’) with resources is well equipped to use force; (b) that a victor in war uses force and conquers because of some ‘superiority’ or goodness’ (in something); (c) [the ‘overlap’] that the ‘superiority’ in (b) is that in (a).

One side, noting (rightly) that moral superiority and superiority of force are different, so that forcible enslavement in war is not always just, concludes (wrongly) that it is always unjust, and that to talk of justice in such connections is a nonsense (cf. I iii, end). The other side, wrongly accepting the identification, or invariable linking, of the two ‘superiorities’, argues that forcible enslavement in war is always just, i.e. that justice is the ‘rule of the stronger’. Since the ‘overlap’ does not invariably exist (superiority of force may or may not go with moral superiority, according to circumstances), neither the arguments that assume their invariable identity nor those assuming their invariable lack of identity can be cogent against Aristotle’s own view that the justification of slavery lies in the moral superiority of the master (i.e. that forcible enslavement is just, presumably, if and only if imposed by the morally superior). The Greek, however, is teasingly vague, and admits various interpretations; and Ross’s text alone has ανοια (‘nonsense’) in 1255a17 (the MSS have κῆρος, ‘good will’). For a full discussion, see my article in A. Moffatt (ed.), Maistor: Classical, Byzantine and Renaissance Studies for Robert Browning (Canberra, 1984), pp. 25–36.

1255a3 On the other hand it is not hard to see that those who take opposing views are also right up to a point. The expressions ‘state of slavery’ and ‘slave’ have a double connotation: there exists also a legal slave and state of slavery.1 The law in question is a kind of agreement, which provides that all that is conquered in war is termed the property of the conquerors. Against this right2 many of those versed in law bring a charge analogous to that of ‘illegality’ brought against an orator:3 they hold it to be indefensible that a man who has been overpowered by the violence and superior might of another should become his property. Others see no harm in this; and both views are held by experts.

1255a12 The reason for this difference of opinion, and for the overlap in the arguments used, lies in the fact that in a way it is virtue, when it acquires resources, that is best able actually to use force; and in the fact that anything which conquers does so because it excels in some good. It seems therefore that force is not without virtue, and that the only dispute is about what is just. Consequently some think that ‘just’ in this connection is a nonsense, others that it means precisely this, that ‘the stronger shall rule’.4 But when these propositions5 are disentangled, the other arguments6 have no validity or power to show that the superior in virtue ought not to rule and be master.

1255a21 Some take a firm stand (as they conceive it) on ‘justice’ in the sense of ‘law’, and claim that enslavement in war is just, simply as being legal; but they simultaneously deny it, since it is quite possible that undertaking the war may have been unjust in the first place. Also one cannot use the term ‘slave’ properly of one who is undeserving of being a slave; otherwise we should find among slaves and descendants of slaves even men who seem to be of the noblest birth, should any of them be captured and sold. For this reason they will not apply the term slave to such people but use it only for non-Greeks.7 But in so doing they are really seeking to define the slave by nature, which was our starting point; for one has to admit that there are some who are slaves everywhere, others who are slaves nowhere. And the same is true of noble birth: nobles regard themselves as of noble birth not only among their own people but everywhere, and they allow nobility of birth of non-Greeks to be valid only in non-Greek lands. This involves making two grades of free status and noble birth, one absolute, the other conditional. (In a play by Theodectes,8 Helen is made to say, ‘Who would think it proper to call me a slave, who am sprung of divine lineage on both sides?’) But in introducing this point they are really basing the distinction between slave and free, noble-born and base-born, upon virtue and vice. For they maintain that as man is born of man, and beast of beast, so good is born of good. But frequently, though this may be nature’s intention, she is unable to realize it.

1255b4 It is clear then that there is justification for the difference of opinion: while it is not invariably true that slaves are slaves by nature and others free, yet this distinction does in some cases actually prevail – cases where it is expedient for the one to be master, the other to be the slave. Whereas the one must be ruled, the other should exercise the rule for which he is fitted by nature, thus being the master. For, if the work of being a master is badly done, that is contrary to the interest of both parties; for the part and the whole, the soul and the body, have identical interests; and the slave is in a sense a part of his master, a living but separate part of his body.9 For this reason there is an interest in common and a feeling of friendship between master and slave, wherever they are by nature fitted for this relationship; but not when the relationship arises out of the use of force and by the law which we have been discussing.

I vii

This chapter is a good example of the fluidity of Aristotle’s thought, and of some difficulties in his view of slavery. First he again distinguishes mastership from other forms of rule, and then suggests that the essence of being a master lies in being a certain sort of person (i.e. rational, wise, etc.), not in having knowledge of how to use slaves. This curious point seems to be made because, as he notices, some fairly humble knowledge, which we are tempted to call a ‘master’s’ knowledge, may be possessed and exercised by those who are not masters, e.g. overseers (who might be slaves themselves): how then can it be the essence of mastership? On the other hand it is difficult to see how one can be a master simply by being of a certain character, without having an active relationship, presumably of command, with one’s slaves. Aristotle could perhaps have distinguished between (a) the knowledge, characteristic of and peculiar to a master, of the ‘ends’ of a slave’s work, in some wide context, and (b) the technical knowledge, possessed by overseers also, of the work itself. But he does not do this, and seems to feel in something of a dilemma. In this chapter we hear him ‘thinking off the top of his head ’.

1255b16 From all this it is clear that there is a difference between the rule of master over slave and the rule of a statesman.1 All forms of rule are not the same though some say that they are.1 Rule over naturally free men is different from rule over natural slaves; rule in a household is monarchical, since every house has one ruler; the rule of a statesman is rule over free and equal persons.

1255b20 A man is not called master in virtue of what he knows but simply in virtue of the kind of person he is; similarly with slave and free. Still, there could be such a thing as a master’s knowledge or a slave’s knowledge. The latter kind may be illustrated by the lessons given by a certain man in Syracuse who, for a fee, trained house-boys in their ordinary duties; and this kind of instruction might well be extended to include cookery and other forms of domestic service. For the tasks of the various slaves differ, some being more essential, some more highly valued (as the proverb has it ‘slave before slave, master before master’).2

1255b30 All such fields of knowledge are the business of slaves, whereas a master’s knowledge consists in knowing how to put his slaves to use; for it is not in his acquiring of slaves but in his use of them that he is master. But the use of slaves is not a form of knowledge that has any great importance or dignity, since it consists in knowing how to direct slaves to do the tasks which they ought to know how to do. Hence those masters whose means are sufficient to exempt them from the bother employ an overseer to take on this duty,3 while they devote themselves to statecraft or philosophy. The knowledge of how to acquire slaves is different from both these,4 the just method of acquisition, for instance, being a kind of military or hunting skill.5

So much may suffice to define master and slave.

I viii

The main point of this chapter is simple enough: that the acquisition of goods/wealth (chrēmatistikē) is ‘part’ of household management in that the manager must have available a supply of certain necessary articles (food, money, etc.) which have to be acquired from somewhere by some means. True to his principles of natural teleology, Aristotle attempts to delimit a ‘natural’ mode of goods-acquisition (in the widest sense of ‘goods’), by arguing from a comparison between (a) the way animals gain the ‘goods’ (food) provided by nature, by taking it directly and by natural instinct from the environment, and (b) certain modes of acquisition open to men (hunting, fishing, farming, etc.), by which they too take what nature ‘gives’. The methods of (b) he suggests, being similar to those of (a), are natural.

The argument is suggestive, and has the merit of pointing up a certain parallelism of behaviour as between human and other animal life. Aristotle believes that each species is eternal; inevitably and naturally, then, the members of each must and do have some inner cause or drive which ensures they get enough to live on, or the species would not survive; and each animal species seems to live off some other animal and/or vegetable species. On the other hand, an opponent could make various objections. They will centre on: (1) Have men and animals the same nature? If not, is it legitimate to infer anything at all from (a) and (b), however formally similar they may be as patterns of behaviour? (2) The difficulty of deciding what behaviour is ‘natural’. For example, animals sometimes kill and eat their young. Is this practice ‘natural’, or a perversion of nature? If natural, should human beings also kill and eat each other? (3) Even if one could decide what human behaviour is ‘natural’, ought this necessarily to be adopted as an ethical or social norm? The chapter is in fact full of large assumptions and inferences both expressed and unexpressed; and again, as in I ii, his own account of the criteria for what is natural (Physics, II i) would be informative background reading.

One may note also: (a) Aristotle’s inclusion of piracy among the ‘direct’ modes of acquisitionin this he simply reflects the fact that the ancient world took it more or less for granted; (b) the near-equation of men ‘fitted to be ruled’ with animals: both are ‘for’ use by men fit to rule, and slave-raiding against such inferior people is evidently therefore ‘natural’; (c) his disapproval of the pursuit of unlimited wealth, on the grounds that only a limited amount is necessary for the ‘good’ life.

In this set of four chapters on economics (viii–xi), and the related discussion of Nicomachean Ethics V v, Karl Marx found important anticipations of his own ideas; for references, see Select Bibliographies.

1256a1 Let us then, since the slave has proved to be part of property, go on to consider property and the acquisition of goods in general, still following our usual method.1 The first question to be asked might be this: Is the acquisition of goods the same as household-management, or a part of it, or subsidiary to it? And if it is subsidiary, is it so in the same way as shuttle-making is subsidiary to weaving, or as bronze-founding is to the making of statues? For these two are not subsidiary in the same way: the one provides instruments, the other the material, that is, the substance out of which a product is made, as wool for the weaver, bronze for the sculptor. Now it is obvious that household-management is not the same as the acquisition of goods, because it is the task of the one to provide, the other to use; for what other activity than managing the house is going to make use of what is in the house? But whether acquisition of wealth is part of household-management or a different kind of activity altogether – that is a debatable question, if, that is to say, it is the acquirer’s task to see from what sources goods and property may be derived. For there are many varieties of property and riches, so that a first question might be whether farming, and in general the provision and superintendence of the food supply, are parts of the acquisition of goods, or whether they are a different kind of thing.

1256a19 But again, there are many different kinds of food, and that means many different ways of life, both of animals and humans; for as there is no life without food, differences of food produce among animals different kinds of life. Some animals live in herds and others scattered about, whichever helps them to find food, some of them being carnivorous, some frugivorous, others eating anything. So, in order to make it easier for them to get these nutriments, nature has given them different ways of life. Again, since animals do not all like the same food but have different tastes according to their nature, so the ways of living of carnivorous and frugivorous animals themselves differ according to their different kinds. Similarly among human beings there are many varieties of life: first there are the nomads, who do least work, for nutriment from domestic animals is obtained with a minimum of toil and a maximum of ease; but when the animals have to move to fresh pastures, the human beings have to go with them, tilling as it were a living soil. Others live from hunting in all its variety, some being simply raiders, others fishermen who live near a lake, a marsh, a river, or a fish-bearing area of the sea; others live off birds and wild animals. The third and largest class lives off the earth and its cultivated crops.

1256a40 These then are the main ways of living by natural productive labour – ways which do not depend for a food-supply on exchange or trade. They are the nomadic, the agricultural, the piratical, fishing, and hunting. Some men live happily enough by combining them, making up for the deficiencies of one by adding a second at the point where the other fails to be self-sufficient; such combinations are nomadism with piracy, agriculture with hunting, and so on. They simply live the life that their needs compel them to.

1256b7 Such a mode of acquisition is clearly given by nature herself to all her creatures, both at the time of their birth and when they are fully grown. For some animals produce at the very beginning of procreation sufficient food to last their offspring until such time as these are able to get it for themselves; for example those which produce their young as grubs or eggs. Those which produce live offspring carry in themselves sufficient food for some time – the natural substance which we call milk. So obviously, by parity of reasoning, we must believe that animals are provided for at a later stage too – that plants exist for their sake, and that the other animals exist for the sake of man, tame ones for the use he can make of them as well as for the food they provide; and as for wild animals, most though not all can be used for food or are useful in other ways: clothing and instruments can be made out of them.

1256b20 If then nature makes nothing without some end in view, nothing to no purpose, it must be that nature has made all of them for the sake of man. This means that it is according to nature that even the art of war, since hunting is a part of it, should in a sense be a way of acquiring property; and that it must be used both against wild beasts and against such men as are by nature intended to be ruled over but refuse; for that is the kind of warfare which is by nature just.

1256b26 One form then of property-getting is, in accordance with nature, a part of household-management, in that either the goods must be there to start with, or this technique of property-getting must see that they are provided; goods, that is, which may be stored up, as being necessary for providing a livelihood, or useful to household or state as associations. And it looks as if wealth in the true sense consists of property such as this. For the amount of property of this kind which would give self-sufficiency for a good life is not limitless, although Solon in one of his poems said, ‘No bound is set on riches for men.’2 But there is a limit, as in the other skills; for none of them have any tools which are unlimited in size or number, and wealth is a collection of tools for use in the administration of a household or a state. It is clear therefore that there is a certain natural kind of property-getting practised by those in charge of a household or a state; and why this is so is also clear.

I ix

Aristotle now proceeds to develop the distinction he has already mentioned briefly in I viii, between natural and unnatural methods of acquiring goods, chrēmatistikē. In these two chapters he distinguishes:

(1) The acquisition of goods (food, etc.) directly from the environment, by hunting, etc. Mutatis mutandis, this method is common to animals and men, and is ‘natural’ chrēmatistikē.

(2) Exchange, of goods for goods or for money. This too is natural: it adjusts inequalities due to nature in the distribution of goods, and is not pursued beyond the satisfaction of needs.

(3) Trade, strongly characterized by the use of money and a desire to pursue monetary gain beyond the satisfaction of needs. This is unnatural.

Of these, (2) and (3) are both chrēmatistikē, ‘the acquisition of goods’, in a general sense; but the word is also in this chapter used several times of (3) in a stronger and unfavourable sense: ‘money-making’. Only (2), exchange (metablētikē or allagē), is naturally part of household-management, for (3), trade (kapēlikē), goes beyond what is necessary for the maintenance and self-sufficiency of a community, and is thus not natural.

Aristotle’s imaginative and plausible historical explanations of barter and of the invention of money, and his psychological speculations about the desire for unlimited acquisition, have impressive range and subtlety. Perhaps the sharpest reasoning of this chapter occurs in his comparison between money-making and other skills. A doctor recognizes no limit to the ‘end’ (health) of his craft: he would hardly wish to restrict the ‘amount’ of health he produces by his ‘tools’ (drugs, instruments, etc.). But ‘money-making’ too is a skill, with an unlimited end, money, and money is also its ‘tool’ or means. Ends and means are therefore formally identical, and (unlike in other skills) the ends do not tend to limit the means; so means too, as a result of the skill of ‘money-making’, chrēmatistikē,become unlimited. The unfortunate result is that household-managers, who have the same means, goods and money, as traders (‘money-makers’), with which to achieve their ends, i.e. of the household, suppose that their means too, i.e. as well as those of traders, ought to be unlimited. This, Aristotle claims, is a mistake, for the manager’s ‘means’ are for ‘living’, for which limited and modest means (in the other sense of this word) suffice. All this is nicely observed and cleverly argued in the terminology of Aristotle’s teleology, and his exposition is an intricate combination of logic, imagination, psychology and common sense.

1256b40 But there is another kind of property-getting to which the term ‘acquisition of goods’1 is generally and justly applied; and it is due to this that there is thought to be no limit to wealth or property. Because it closely resembles that form of acquisition of goods which we have just been discussing,2 many suppose that the two are one and the same. But they are not the same, though admittedly they are not very different; one is natural, the other is not. This second kind develops from the exercise of a certain kind of skill won by some experience. 1257a5 Let us begin our discussion thus: Every piece of property has a double use; both uses are uses of the thing itself, but they are not similar uses; for one is the proper use of the article in question, the other is not. For example a shoe may be used either to put on your foot or to offer in exchange. Both are uses of the shoe; for even he that gives a shoe to someone who requires a shoe, and receives in exchange coins or food, is making use of the shoe as a shoe, but not the use proper to it, for a shoe is not expressly made for purposes of exchange. The same is the case with other pieces of property: the technique of exchange can be applied to all of them, and has its origin in a state of affairs often to be found in nature, namely, men having too much of this and not enough of that. (It was essential that the exchange should be carried on far enough to satisfy the needs of the parties. So clearly trade is not a natural way of getting goods.)3 The technique of exchange was obviously not a practice of the earliest form of association, the household; it only came in with the large forms. Members of a single household shared all the belongings of that house, but members of different households shared many of the belongings of other houses also. Mutual need of the different goods made it essential to contribute one’s share, and it is on this basis that many of the non-Greek peoples still proceed, i.e. by exchange: they exchange one class of useful goods for another – for example they take and give wine for corn and so on. But they do not carry the process any farther than this.

1257a28 Such a technique of exchange is not contrary to nature and is not a form of money-making;1 for it keeps to its original purpose: to re-establish nature’s own equilibrium of self-sufficiency. All the same it was out of it that money-making1 arose, predictably enough – for as soon as the import of necessities and the export of surplus goods began to facilitate the satisfaction of needs beyond national frontiers, men inevitably resorted to the used of coined money. Not all the things that we naturally need are easily carried; and so for purposes of exchange men entered into an agreement to give to each other and accept from each other some commodity, itself useful for the business of living and also easily handled, such as iron, silver, and the like. The amounts were at first determined by size and weight, but eventually the pieces of metal were stamped. This did away with the necessity of measuring, since the stamp was put on as an indication of the amount.

1257a41 Once a currency was provided, development was rapid and what started as a necessary exchange became trade, the other mode of acquiring goods. At first it was probably quite a simple affair, but then it became more systematic4 as men become more experienced at discovering where and how the greatest profits might be made out of the exchanges. That is why the technique of acquiring goods is held to be concerned primarily with coin, and to have the function of enabling one to see where a great deal of money may be procured (the technique does after all produce wealthin the form of money); and wealth is often regarded as being a large quantity of coin because coin is what the techniques of acquiring goods and of trading are concerned with.5

1257b10 Sometimes on the other hand coinage is regarded as so much convention6 and artificial trumpery having no root in nature, since, if those who employ a currency system choose to alter it, the coins cease to have their value and can no longer be used to procure the necessities of life. And it will often happen that a man with wealth in the form of coined money will not have enough to eat; and what a ridiculous kind of wealth is that which even in abundance will not save you from dying with hunger! It is like the story told of Midas:7 because of the inordinate greed of his praver everything that was set before him was turned to gold. Hence men seek to define a different sense of wealth and of the acquisition of goods, and are right to do so, for there is a difference: on the one hand wealth and the acquisition o goods in accordance with nature, and belonging to household-management; on the other hand the kind that is associated with trade, which is not productive of goods in the full sense but only through their exchange. And it is thought to be concerned with coinage, because coinage both limits the exchange and is the unit of measurement by which it is performed; and there is indeed8 no limit to the amount of riches to be got from this mode of acquiring goods.1

1257b25  The art of healing aims at producing unlimited health, and every other skill aims at its own end without limit, wishing to secure that to the highest possible degree; on the other hand the means towards the end are not unlimited, the end itself setting the limit in each case. Similarly, there is no limit to the end which this kind1 of acquisition has in view, because the end is wealth in that form, i.e. the possession of goods. The kind which is household-management, on the other hand, does have a limit, since it is not the function of household-management to acquire goods.9 So, while it seems that there must be a limit to every form of wealth, in practice we find that the opposite occurs: all those engaged in acquiring goods go on increasing their coin without limit, because the two modes of acquisition o goods are so similar. For they overlap in that both are concerned with the same thing, property; but in their use of it they are dissimilar: in one case the end is sheer increase, in the other something different. Some people therefore imagine that increase is the function of household-management, and never cease to believe that their store of coined money ought to be either hoarded, or increased without limit.

1257b40  The reason why some people get this notion into their heads may be that they are eager for life but not for the good life; so, desire for life being unlimited, they desire also an unlimited amount of what enables it to go on. Others again, while aiming at the good life, seek what is conducive to the pleasure of the body. So, as this too appears to depend on the possession of property, their whole activity centres on business, and the second mode of acquiring goods1 owes its existence to this. For where enjoyment consists in excess, men look for that skill which produces the excess that is enjoyed. And if they cannot procure it through money-making,1 they try to get it by some other means, using all their faculties for this purpose, which is contrary to nature: courage, for example, is to produce confidence, not goods; nor yet is it the job of military leadership and medicine to produce goods, but victory and health. But these people turn all skills into skills of acquiring goods, as though that were the end and everything had to serve that end. 1258a14We have now discussed the acquisition of goods, both the unnecessary kind of acquisition,1 what it is and why we do in fact make use of it, and the necessary, which differs from the other in being concerned with household-management and food in a way that accords with nature, and also in being limited as opposed to unlimited.

I x

In recapitulating the last two chapters, Aristotle first argues, more explicitly than hitherto, that the duty of the household-manager is to use and distribute goods, not to acquire them. He then adds a point of major importance: that the acquisition of goods(chrēmatistikē) from the charging of interest (tokos) is the most ‘unnatural’ of all modes of business. In effect, he now subdivides the third method of acquiring goods (see introduction to I ix) into: (a) trade, the exchange of goods for money and money for goods, with a desire to make a profit; (b) making a profit from dealing in money alone, i.e. by charging interest. Both methods are ‘unnatural’, but (a) retains some features of genuine exchange since actual commodities do enter into the transactions, and at least the money is used for its proper purpose, exchange, even if there is a desire for profit. Method (a) is therefore less contrary to nature than (b).

No doubt money-lending was, as Aristotle says, disliked; but it is noticeable that his own objections to it here are not directly social and humanitarian or even economic: rather, they are ideological and metaphysical. However, if the state is (as he believes) natural, and money-lending unnatural, then the latter will presumably hinder the well-being of the former. To this extent, his objections to money-lending do indeed rest on social grounds.

1258a19 The answer also is clear to the question raised at the beginning,1 namely whether or not acquiring goods is the business of the household-manager and statesman.2 The answer is perhaps that wealth should be at hand for his use from the start. Just as statesmanship has no need to make men, who are the material which nature provides and which statesmanship takes and uses, so nature can be expected to provide food, whether from land or sea or from some other source, and it is on this basis that the manager can perform his duty of distributing these supplies. So weaving is not the art of producing wool but of using it, though it is also the art of knowing good yarns from bad and the suitable from the unsuitable.

1258a27 If, on the other hand, we do allow that acquiring goods is a part of management, why, it may well be asked, is not the art of medicine also a part? After all, the members of a household need to be healthy quite as much as to keep alive or meet their daily needs. The answer is that up to a point it is the business of manager or ruler to see to health, but only up to a point; beyond that it is the doctor’s business. So in the matter of goods: to some extent these are the concern of the manager, but beyond that they belong to the subsidiary skill. But best it is, as has been just said, that goods should be provided at the outset by nature. For it is a function of nature to provide food for whatever is brought to birth, since that from which it is born has a surplus which provides food in every case. We conclude therefore that the form of acquisition of goods that depends on crop and animal husbandry is for all men in accordance with nature.

1258a38 The acquisition of goods is then, as we have said, of two kinds; one, which is necessary and approved of, is to do with household-management; the other, which is to do with trade and depends on exchange, is justly regarded with disapproval, since it arises not from nature but from men’s gaining from each other. Very much disliked also is the practice of charging interest; and the dislike is fully justified, for the gain arises out of currency itself, not as a product of that for which currency was provided. Currency was intended to be a means of exchange, whereas interest represents an increase in the currency itself. Hence its name,3 for each animal produces its like, and interest is currency born of currency. And so of all types of business this is the most contrary to nature

I xi

This somewhat miscellaneous chapter starts promisingly by stressing practice as opposed to theory; but the first three paragraphs give us only a résumé of the useful and profitable ways of acquiring goods (chrēmatistikē), classified in a manner broadly similar to that adopted in the preceding three chapters, but differing in certain respects. Aristotle rightly stresses the usefulness of describing practical details, but clearly his heart is not in them, and he soon announces, after some swift generalizations in the third paragraph, that other writers may be consulted. He then draws attention to scattered reports of successful methods of acquiring goods, and with the instinct of an encyclopedist suggests they should be collected. He gives us two entertaining examples of the creation of monopolies, and no doubt feels a certain satisfaction at Thales’ triumphant demonstration that philosophers are far from the financial idiots they are often taken to be. He concludes with the claim that such information about methods is useful to statesmen.

1258b9  Now that we have discussed adequately the theory,1 we ought to speak also about practice. In matters like this, theoretical speculation is free, but practical experience is tied fast to circumstances and needs. Some useful branches of the technique of acquiring wealth will now be mentioned. One may have experience in: (1) Stock-rearing, in which one needs to know what kinds are most profitable and where and how, e.g. how to acquire horses, cattle, sheep and other animals similarly; and further one must know by experience which of these are most profitable as compared with the rest, and which kinds in which areas, since some do better here, others there. (2) Tillage, of fields sown with crops and fields planted for fruit. (3) Bee-keeping, and rearing such birds and fishes as can contribute to supplies. Those are the three main branches of the first and most appropriate way of acquiring wealth.

1258b21 Of the other method, that of exchange, the main branch is (1) commerce, subdivided into (a) shipping, (b) carrying goods, (c) offering them for sale. In all these there are wide differences according to whether one looks for a high return or for security. Then (2) money-lending, and (3)working for pay, whether (a) as a skilled mechanic, or (b) as an unskilled worker useful only in manual labour. Somewhere between these two main categories of acquisition of goods we might put a third, since it has elements in it both of nature and of exchange: I refer to what is got out of the earth itself or from uncultivated but useful things growing out of the earth – such occupations as timber-working, and mining of every description. This latter can be extensively subdivided, for the substances mined from the earth are of many types.

1258b33  About each of these methods I have still2 spoken only in a general way; and however useful a detailed account might be for those likely to be engaged in such occupations, it would be irksome to spend much time on them. Those occupations which require most skill are those in which there is the smallest element of chance, the most mechanical are those which cause most deterioration to the bodies of the workers, the most slavish those in which most use is made of the body, and the most ignoble those in which there is least need to exercise virtue too. Moreover, people have written books on these topics. Charetides of Paros and Apollodorus of Lemnos have manuals on agriculture, both crops and fruits, and others on other subjects, so that anyone who is interested may study them in those writers’ works.

1259a3 It would be advisable to make a collection of all those scattered reports of methods by which men have succeeded in making money. It would certainly be very useful for those who think money-making3 important. For instance, Thales of Miletus used a money-spinning device which, though it was ascribed to his prowess as a philosopher, is in principle open to anybody. The story is as follows: people had been saying reproachfully to him that philosophy was useless, as it had left him a poor man. But he, deducing from his knowledge of the stars that there would be a good crop of olives, while it was still winter and he had a little money to spare, used it to pay deposits on all the oil-presses in Miletus and Chios, thus securing their hire. This cost him only a small sum, as there were no other bidders. Then the time of the olive-harvest came, and as there was a sudden and simultaneous demand for oil-presses he hired them out at any price he liked to ask. He made a lot of money, and so demonstrated that it is easy for philosophers to become rich, if they want to; but that is not their object in life. Such is the story of how Thales gave proof of his cleverness; but, as we have said, the principle can be applied generally: the way to make money is to get, if you can, a monopoly for yourself. Hence we find states also employing this method when they are short of money: they secure themselves a monopoly.

1259a23  There was a man in Sicily, too, who used a sum of money that had been deposited with him to buy up all the iron from the foundries; then, when the merchants arrived from their shops, he used to be the only seller; and without raising the price unduly he turned his fifty talents into a hundred and fifty. When the ruler Dionysius heard of this he told the man that he regarded such ways of raising money as detrimental to his own interests and that he must therefore depart from Syracuse at once, though he might take his money with him. Thales’ notion and this man’s are the same: both managed to create a monopoly for themselves. All this knowledge is useful for statesmen too; for many states are in greater need of business and the income it brings than a household is. Hence we find that some of those who direct the affairs of a state actually make this their sole concern.

I xii

Aristotle now reverts to the three relationships he had enumerated at the beginning of I iii: master/slave, husband/wife, parent/child. (I iii–vii had discussed the first; viii–xi was devoted to chrēmatistikē in its various senses.) The burden of this chapter is to suggest that a husband is to his wife as a statesman-ruler is to his fellow-citizens, and that a father is to his child as a king to his subjects. It is, as he uneasily recognizes, a point against the first parallel that citizens usually rule turn and turn about (cf. III vi). The chapter is rather sketchy and contains a number of unargued assumptions (e.g. that the male is by nature more fitted to rule than the female); it is perhaps best taken rapidly as an introduction to the next, which is the last in Book I.

1259a37 There are, as we saw,1 three parts of household-management, one being the rule of a master, which has already been dealt with, next the rule of a father, and a third which arises out of the marriage relationship. This is included because rule is exercised over wife and children – over both of them as free persons, but in other respects differently: over a wife, rule is as by a statesman; over children, as by a king. For the male is more fitted to rule than the female, unless conditions are quite contrary to nature; and the elder and fully grown is more fitted than the younger and undeveloped. It is true that in most cases of rule by statesmen2 there is an interchange of the role of ruler and ruled, which aims to preserve natural equality and non-differentiation; nevertheless, so long as one is ruling and the other is being ruled, the ruler seeks to mark distinctions in outward dignity, in style of address, and in honours paid. (Witness what Amasis said about his foot-basin.)3 As between male and female this kind of relationship is permanent. Rule over children is royal, for the begetter is ruler by virtue both of affection and of age, and this type of rule is royal. Homer therefore was right in calling Zeus ‘father of gods and men’,4 as he was king over them all. For a king ought to have a natural superiority, but to be no different in birth; and this is just the condition of elder in relation to younger and of father to son.

I xiii

The three relationships internal to the household (master/slave, husband/wife, parent/child) are for

Aristotle, as a moralist, of greater importance than economics. It is clearly essential that all members of the household should possess fitness for the performance of their various functions; and this fitness is described by the very general term aretē, ‘virtue’. This can include physical strength or technical skill; but the burden of this chapter is to distinguish between these qualities and moral virtue, which Aristotle regards as equally part of fitness for a task. Moral virtue is in fact not merely a spiritual or mental state: it is related to activity and function. And since a slave has no function but to serve his master, the virtue of a slave need reach no more than a minimal level required to enable him to perform his tasks. Moral virtue also requires the faculty of reasoning, which is possessed by the master rather than the slave; the master must therefore impart to his slaves, by instruction and habituation, such moral virtue as he judges necessary. Free craftsmen, by the nature of their occupation, approximate to slaves. Much modern sentiment would of course distinguish between technical efficiency and moral virtue in a quite different spirit, and wish to say that a man of humble occupation may nevertheless be very ‘virtuous’ indeed. Aristotle would find this difficult, since his notion of moral virtue is conditioned by his assumption that it is for particular purposes – which in the case of slaves are lowly and limited.

The chapter is particularly rich in suggestion, and in his comparative treatment of the moral virtues and capacities of men, women, children and slaves Aristotle diverges from Plato in several interesting and thoughtful ways, which have been discussed by Fortenbaugh (in the third collection of essays in the Select Bibliographies).

The discussion of households in Book I has been largely concerned with property and its acquisition, and with slaves. Personal family relationships are analysed in this chapter to the extent that Aristotle treats the male head of household as the source of virtue in his wife and children (and slaves), but he does not go into practical detail, and in the last two paragraphs he postpones further discussion until later (though something is said of marriage relationships in VII xvi). The final sentence announces a transition to the topic of Book II, ideal states.

1259b18 It is clear then that in household-management the people are of greater importance than the inanimate property, and their virtue1 of more account than that of the property which we call their wealth; and also that the free men are of more account than slaves. About slaves the first question to be asked is whether in addition to their virtue as tools and servants they have another and more valuable one. Can they possess restraint, courage, justice, and every other condition of that kind, or have they in fact nothing but the serviceable quality of their persons?

1259b26 The question may be answered in either of two ways, but both present a difficulty. If we say that slaves have these virtues, how then will they differ from free men? If we say that they have not, the position is anomalous, since they are human beings and share in reason. Roughly the same question can be put in relation to wife and child. Have not these also virtues? Ought a woman to be ‘restrained’, ‘brave’, and ‘just’, and is a child sometimes ‘intemperate’, sometimes ‘restrained’, or not?

1259b32 All these questions might be regarded as parts of our wider inquiry into the natural ruler and ruled, and in particular whether or not the virtue of the one is the same as the virtue of the other. For if the highest excellence is required of both, why should one rule unqualifiedly, and the other unqualifiedly obey? (A distinction of more or less will not do here; the difference between ruling and obeying is one of kind, and quantitative difference is simply not that at all.) If on the other hand the one is to have virtues, and the other not, we have a surprising state of affairs. For if he that rules is not to be restrained and just, how shall he rule well? And if the ruled lacks these virtues, how shall he be ruled well? For if he is intemperate and feckless, he will perform none of his duties. Thus it becomes clear that both ruler and ruled must have a share in virtue, but that there are differences in virtue in each case, as there are also among those who by nature rule. An immediate indication of this is afforded by the soul, where we find natural ruler and natural subject, whose virtues we regard as different – one being that of the rational element, the other of the non-rational. It is therefore clear that the same feature will be found in the other cases too, so that most instances of ruling and being ruled are natural. For rule of free over slave, male over female, man over boy, are all different, because, while parts of the soul are present in each case, the distribution is different. Thus the deliberative faculty in the soul is not present at all in a slave; in a female it is present but ineffective, in a child present but undeveloped.

1260a14 We should therefore take it that the same conditions inevitably prevail in regard to the moral virtues also, namely that all must participate in them but not all in the same way, but only as may be required by each for his proper function. The ruler then must have moral virtue in its entirety; for his function is in its fullest sense that of a master-craftsman, and reason is a master-craftsman.2 And the other members must have such amount as is appropriate to each. So it is evident that each of the classes spoken of must have moral virtue, and that restraint is not the same in a man as in a woman, nor justice or courage either, as Socrates thought;3 the one is the courage of a ruler, the other the courage of a servant, and likewise with the other virtues.

1260a24 If we look at the matter case by case it will become clearer. For those who talk in generalities and say that virtue is ‘a good condition of the soul’, or that it is ‘right conduct’ or the like, delude themselves. Better than those who look for definitions in that manner are those who, like Gorgias,4 enumerale the different virtues. For instance, the poet5 singles out ‘silence’ as ‘bringing credit to a woman’; but that is not so for a man. This is the method of assessment that we should always follow. Take the child: he is not yet fully developed, so we cannot speak of his virtue as belonging to him in relation to himself; it exists only in relation to the progress of his development towards adulthood, and to whoever is his guide. So too with slave and master: we laid it down that a slave is useful for necessary tasks, so the amount of virtue required will not be very great, but only enough to ensure that he does not neglect his work through intemperance or fecklessness.

1260a36 If this is true, one will naturally ask whether skilled workers too will not need virtue to keep them from the intemperance which often interferes with their work. But the parallel is far from exact, because the slave shares his master’s life, whereas the craftsman lives away from his employer and participates in virtue in the same measure as he participates in slavery;6 for the skilled mechanic is in a restricted sense in a condition of slavery. There is also this difference, that the slave is one of a group that are slaves by nature, which cannot be said of a shoemaker or other skilled worker. It is clear therefore that it is the master who ought to be the cause of such virtue in his slave, not the man who instructs the slave in his tasks. Hence they are wrong who would deny all reason to slaves and say that a master has nothing to do but issue orders;7 suggestion and advice are even more appropriately given to slaves than to children.

1260b8 So much then for our discussion of these matters. As for man and wife, children and father, and the virtue that appertains to each and their intercourse one with another, what is right in that connection and what is not, and the proper pursuit of the good therein and the avoidance of the bad – all such matters it will be necessary to discuss in connection with the constitutions. For these relationships are part of the household, and every household is part of a state; and the virtue of the part ought to be examined in relation to the virtue of the whole. This means that both children and women must be educated with an eye to the constitution – at least if it is true that it makes a difference to the soundness of a state that its children should be sound, and its women too. And it must make a difference; for women make up half the adult free population, and from children come those who will participate in the constitution.

1260b20 So now that we have finished with these matters, and decided to discuss the rest in another place, we will regard the present topic as concluded, and make a fresh beginning. And let our first topic be those who have pronounced an opinion on the best constitution.

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