« On Feminist Credentials | Main | Second Thoughts About Ladyman's Claims on Inaccessibility of Philosophy »



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Plato doesn't develop a sustained critique of slavery because he is not opposed to slavery. Plato (and Aristotle) think freedom is valuable only insofar as one is wise enough to use it well; see Vlastos's brilliant early paper "Slavery in Plato's Thought," http://www.jstor.org/stable/2180538?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

I have touched on the devaluing of freedom in Plato, Aristotle, and their heirs in "Education after Freedom" (early version http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2420318 ; published version in http://www.amazon.com/In-Search-Humanity-Essays-Clifford-ebook/dp/B00V2ZSIBA ); and in "Time and Judgment in Demosthenes' De Corona" ( https://muse.jhu.edu/login?auth=0&type=summary&url=/journals/philosophy_and_rhetoric/v035/35.1kochin.html )

Mary-Hannah Jones

Eric, I’ve really enjoyed this discussion, but appendicitis and surgery left me unable to respond. Concerning your points in On Slavery in the Republic (http://t.co/jeVVAQi76N )
1) “As Brian Calvert emphasizes in his (1987) paper, in that city there would be nothing to do for slaves because wage laborers “complete” the city.”
There were both citizen laborers in Athens, and slaves. That there are citizen laborers in the pig city does not imply that there were no slaves.

2) “For the true city is pacific and designed to avoid wars of conquest and to be a prey of conquerors because of the lack of luxury (372b-c). So, it follows that in addition there being no reason to have slaves there, there will also be no supply of new slaves”
You are certainly right about their being no wars of conquest.
But does that mean that the pig city never is in a war? Well, I think that 372c settles this question (“not begetting offspring beyond their means, taking precaution against poverty or war”). So, since there may be wars of defense, slaves can be taken, and the children of slaves continue to be slave: a continuing source of slaves.
3) “I agree with Calvert that they are a discordant note in this city, but that's further evidence that in this city immoderate desires are not fully checked.”
By 399e the luxurious city has been purged, and its desires must be moderate, because moderation is defined in Book 4 as a virtue of the purged and just city.

If there are slaves in the pig city, why aren’t they mentioned? Well, there are women in the pig city, but they are not mentioned either. Some things are just assumed in every culture. To use a comparison, in Jane Austen’s Sense & Sensibility, “Amongst the objects in the scene, they soon discovered an animated one; it was a man on horseback riding towards them…He dismounted, and giving his horse to his servant, walked back with them to Barton.” Austen says they see a man, but in fact they see two men, but the servant doesn’t count. We modern people would not know there was a servant there if Edward had not been said to give his horse to his servant. It does not occur to Austen to tell us that there was a servant present; it is assumed.

Schliesser, Eric

Thank you for critical feedback, Mary-Hannah.
I am a bit puzzled that you ignore the ways in which slavery is an expression of a tyrannical soul as well as something that is inherently dangerous unless there are other citizens around defending the institution (both discussed in book ix). So, while undoubtedly slavery is a fact of Athenian live, it's not as if it is treated without reflection (in addition to the points I make in original post). [That is to say, historical context matters a lot, but we also need to see in which that context is challenged.] My argument does not rest, exclusively, on lack of mention of slaves in true city--the point is, rather, that slavery is not proper to that city.
1. True. But the burden is here shifted on folk who claim there would be; why would slaves exist and what would they do in the city of pigs?
2. Yes, that's an important point and partially shifts possible burdens back. The city of pigs could acquire slaves some day if it were lured into a war. But the city is explicitly not warlike and the passage you quote does not claim there will be wars! Moreover, having slaves is not a proper part of its telos/aim.
3. I think the nature of moderation in the luxurious city is very different in character than it is in the city of pigs. But here we disagree about a deeper issue; I think the city of pigs is in some sense the normative baseline for the luxurious city.

Joseph Gonda

Dear Eric, Allow me to update this subject. Your latest entry appeared in 2015. In 2016 an article of mine entitled "An Argument Against Slavery in the Republic" appeared in Dialogue, Vol. 55 No2, 219-244. At this time if you google 'plato slavery republic,' this article is not prominently displayed. However, if the argument of this article is found compelling, then it should me more widely known. First, in our day slavery is intertwined with racism. The latter still plays a prominent role in the politics of many countries. All, racists included, need to know that Plato's authority can no longer be used to support racism. Second, if Plato has been unfairly, albeit unwittingly, maligned on this issue, justice requires that this impression should be corrected. If you google 'jgonda slavery,' you will find the article prefaced by a summary. Each click on it is a gentle, minor blow against racism and for justice. Incidentally, the article's appendix contains a formal, valid proof of the Republic's argument against slavery.

Eric Schliesser

It sounds like you agree with me, Dr. Gonda!

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

Here's a link to my past blogging (and discussions involving me) at: New APPS.


Blog powered by Typepad