Slave

“But among barbarians no distinction is made between women and slaves…”
Aristotle, Politics

Barbarians can be accused of a number of things, but presumably they cannot be accused of considering themselves civilized. Nor did they see themselves as a society in which the position of woman was improving.

In light of a movie opening this weekend we might make a self-examination through the lens of Aristotle.

The Greeks are not a good example of how to treat women, or of how to treat those they called slaves. But nonetheless, Aristotle could not be clearer on this fundamental point: women are free persons and should not be treated as existing for the sake of another. It is characteristic of slaves to be subject to the designs of another—the master. Not so with women.

For Aristotle a distinctive mark of barbarians is that they do not see this truth about women. They do not distinguish between women and slaves. Much to the detriment of all.

This week many people have been baffled by the warm reception, even hearty defense, of a movie glorifying the sexual subjection of women. Aristotle can give us a helpful if grim angle of insight.

To treat another person fundamentally in terms of one’s own needs or wants, ignoring the person’s dignity, is to treat that person as a slave. Somehow—even in the face of much rhetoric about human rights, and the liberation of women—our society is living a contradiction. In various ways we condone, either explicitly or implicitly, the treatment of women as slaves. An honest assessment of the pervasive presence of pornography, for instance, verifies this point.

The pornography industry itself exploits countless women–a devastating but practically ignored fact. But perhaps more to the point, the use of pornography builds an attitude that women should serve the selfish desires of men. Such an attitude precludes the possibility of a true relationship between man and woman.

Aristotle actually proceeds to make another assertion about barbarians: “They are a community of slaves, male and female.” Perhaps this is a cautionary tale for us: those who treat women as slaves, are actually slaves themselves, unable to distinguish slavery and freedom.

Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), student of Plato, tutor of Alexander the Great, has been considered by many to be the greatest ancient philosopher.

Originally posted at Bacon from Acorns

Previous articleNo, I’m Not Charlie Martel, Either
Next articleIf the U.S. Were a Christian Nation, Would that Make Christianity the Most Violent Religion in the World?
John A. Cuddeback is a professor and chairman of the Philosophy Department at Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia, where he has taught since 1995. He received a Ph.D. in Philosophy from The Catholic University of America under the direction of F. Russell Hittinger. He has lectured on various topics including virtue, culture, natural law, friendship, and household. His book Friendship: The Art of Happiness was republished in 2010 as True Friendship: Where Virtue Becomes Happiness. His writings have appeared in Nova et Vetera, The Thomist, and The Review of Metaphysics, as well as in several volumes published by the American Maritain Association. Though raised in what he calls an ‘archetypical suburb,’ Columbia, Maryland, he and his wife Sofia consider themselves blessed to be raising their six children in the shadow of the Blue Ridge on the banks of the Shenandoah. At the material center of their homesteading projects are heritage breed pigs, which like the pigs of Eumaeus are fattened on acorns, yielding a bacon that too few people ever enjoy. His website dedicated to the philosophy of family and household is baconfromacorns.com.

4 COMMENTS

  1. The movie has nothing to do with slavery. It is a cinematic version of a romance novel — it deals with a fantasy, a game. And based on the the most avid readers of the book, it is largely a female rather than a male fantasy.

  2. There are different kinds of slavery. To treat the realm of sexuality as a game is itself a kind of enslavement. There is ample evidence for this in, among other things, the unhappiness and depression usually connected with such activity. The glamorization by by books or movies notwithstanding.

Comments are closed.