Ellis Washington
On Aristotle and the nature of animals and slaves
By Ellis Washington
May 17, 2014

*N.B.: This essay is based in part on ideas from Great Books of the Western World, Robert Maynard Hutchins, Editor-in-Chief (1952), Vol. 1, chap. 2 – Animals and Vol. 9 – Aristotle (theoretical works)

"Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise."

~ Proverbs 6:6

"And indeed the use made of slaves and of tame animals is not very different; for both with their bodies minister to the needs of life."

~ Aristotle, Politics (384-322 B.C.)

Prologue to Aristotle's ideas about animals

Most people are aware that Aristotle is part of the legendary pantheon of the greatest thinkers in human history. The philosophical genealogy if you will is as follows: Socrates taught Plato; Plato taught Aristotle; Aristotle taught Alexander the Great; Alexander the Great was perhaps the greatest military genius and world conquer ever who used world conquest to singularly spread Western civilization to the four corners of the earth. Philosophers like Aristotle, Aquinas, and Kant, separated science and philosophy into the theoretical disciplines (e.g., physics, mathematics, metaphysics, biology, zoology) and the practical or moral disciplines (e.g., ethics, economics, politics, law), including the dialogue of the distinctions between theoretical and practical judgments in the context of other changes. Last week's essay addressed the practical and moral disciplines. Here, I will address Aristotle's theoretical works, particularly his voluminous scientific study titled, History of Animals. This work was perhaps written during the 4-5 year period after his 20+ years as a student at Plato's Academy in Athens (366-347/48) and before the time when Aristotle was invited by Philip II of Macedon to become the tutor to his son Alexander in 343 BC. It was approximately the time 348-344 B.C. when Aristotle accompanied Xenocrates to the court of his friend Hermias of Atarneus in Asia Minor. There, he traveled with Theophrastus to the island of Lesbos, where together they researched the botany and zoology of the island.

In this fascinating ancient work on theoretical philosophy, History of Animals, at the end of Book I, Chap. 1 Aristotle writes this rather provocative passage on the nature of certain animals and implies that these zoological observations have connections to certain aspects of human nature:
    Some [creatures], again, are peculiarly salacious, as the partridge, the barn-door cock and their congeners; others are inclined to chastity, as the whole tribe of crows, for birds of this kind indulge but rarely in sexual intercourse....

    Animals also differ from one another in regard to character in the following respects. Some are good-tempered, sluggish, and little prone to ferocity, as the ox; others are quick-tempered, ferocious and unteachable, as the wild boar; some are intelligent and timid, as the stag and the hare; others are mean and treacherous, as the snake; others are noble and courageous and high-bred, as the lion; others are thorough-bred and wild and treacherous, as the wolf: for, by the way, an animal is high bred if it come from a noble stock, and an animal is thorough-bred if it does not deflect from its racial characteristics.

    Further, some are crafty and mischievous, as the fox; some are spirited and affectionate and fawning, as the dog; others are easy-tempered and easily domesticated, as the elephant; others are cautious and watchful, as the goose; others are jealous and self-conceited, as the peacock. But of all animals man alone is capable of deliberation.
Regarding Aristotle's astute and prescient observations of animals above the crow stands out for there has been new scientific evidence brought forth demonstrating that crows are one of the smartest birds in the animal kingdom, even above chimps (sorry Darwin).

Aristotle: animals and man as servants (slaves)

Sociability in animals and the nature of animal kingdom are considered by Aristotle in his writings on Politics and the State, in relation with the development of human civilization. However, in his writings on human society Aristotle is essentially concerned with the civilizational leaps made throughout history – from the domestication of animals demonstrating an advance from primitive to civilized life, to the growth and development in the wealth and power of the tribe through the rise of the Greek city-states. As a measure of wealth and power, Aristotle denotes that wealthy men can be ascertained by "the number of horses which they keep, for they cannot afford to keep them unless they are rich." For the same reason, he explains, "in old times the cities whose strength lay in their cavalry were oligarchies."

Legend and history are replete with narratives of the faithfulness and allegiance of animals regarding their human masters, and of the mutual attention and affection which men bestow upon them. However, driven as it is by their purposes for economic or war making functions, the taming of animals to adopt to human use will often include violent or cruel abuse. The utility, or even the mistreatment, of animals by man appear to be justified by the servile estate of the savage beast compared to the rational nature. As plants exist for the sake of animals, so animals, according to Aristotle, "exist for the sake of man, the tame for use and food, the wild, if not all, at least the greater part of them, for food, and for the provision of clothing and various instruments." Similarly, Aristotle's notion of the natural slave, discussed at length in his opus, Politics, but alluded to in his History of Animals, uses the actual domesticated animals (as well as numerous animal metaphors) as a kind of paradigm for the management of human beings as chattel, tools or implements.

Bible lesson on animals (legal and political projections)

There are literally hundreds of scriptures in the Bible where the writer uses an animal metaphor to teach spiritual, practical, even economic lessons. For example, King Solomon, whose writings on nature included extended treatises on marine life, plants, insects and animals (all of which are lost to us now) shows a profound level of understanding of the animal world when writing in Proverbs 6:6-8, "Go to the ant, you sluggard (lazy); consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest." If all of humanity had but those three verses of the Bible and were collectively compelled to follow this aphorism as a universal rule of law it would be impossible to have judicial, political or economic policies based on FDR's welfare state he called the "New Deal" (1933-45) or LBJ's "Great Society" (c. 1960s) or George H. Bush's education welfare failure "No Child Left Behind," nor his $1-trillion Prescription Drug Act (Medicare Part-D), nor Barack Obama's application of Karl Marx economic atheism and Saul Alinsky Chicagoland activism healthcare system called "Obamacare."

If only America and the world followed Solomon's Ant paradigm, there would be no homelessness nor hunger because people would act in accord with their nature so that they would work hard for their daily bread for starvation and homelessness are very cruel and pitiable teachers indeed. Yet today's socialist and progressive society encourages people to be lazy bums, generation after generation, to wait on government welfare to provide food, phones, clothing, homes and under President Obama, "free" healthcare. This isn't free stuff, it's free slave chains! This is why JFK declared in his Inauguration Address of Jan. 21, 1961, that "History is the final judge of our deeds." True, for history has repeatedly recorded that every time man acts outside of his nature, he becomes a slave, whether it is to a slavemaster, a slave to his own pride, lusts, culture or cowardice ... a slave to the Leviathan State.

Aristotle and 'natural slavery'

Aristotle in his opus, Politics, wrote about the nature and rule of the State including two kinds types of slavery:
    (i) Slaves by law – Anyone captured by war even if they had the capability to govern themselves could become a slave by law.

    (ii) Slaves by nature – A person lacking the capability of self-governance and requiring rule by others would be a slave by nature.
Arguing in defense of slavery from a pragmatic rather than a natural law perspective, Aristotle speculated that the institution of slavery could be abolished if machines could be developed to do the work slaves normally do. This idea reminds me of Judge Posner's pragmatism and his economic efficiency analysis as an indicator of whether 'Policy A' or 'Law B' is "good" for society (more on Posner's writings later).

Writer Lewis Hanke in his 1970 book, Aristotle and the Indians: A Study in Race Prejudice in the Modern World, made this assertion about Aristotle's ideas on slavery: "Of all the ideas churned up during the early tumultuous years of American history, none had a more dramatic application than the attempts made to apply to the natives there the Aristotelian doctrine of natural slavery: that one part of mankind is set aside by nature to be slaves in the service of masters born for a life of virtue free of manual labour." "For that some should rule and others be ruled is a thing not only necessary," Aristotle wrote, "but expedient; from the hour of their birth, some are marked out for subjection, others for rule."

Contrary to liberal and progressive historical revisionism of today, slavery (like polygamy) was frowned upon by God in the Bible (and in 1856 were the major planks that founded the Republican Party). Remember God delivered the Israelites out of slavery (Deut. 15:15) which was repeatedly viewed as an unjust, oppressive institution of the Pharaohs and the Egyptians. The Bible called for the death penalty for the crime of "man stealing": "He who kidnaps a man, whether he sells him or he is found in his possession, shall surely be put to death" (Ex. 21:16; Deut. 24:7; 1 Tim. 1:9-11).

Can you imagine how different, how infinitely more interesting, righteous and just society would have been if this one biblical mandate were followed by the nations of the world? The history of the world would have indeed been exceedingly more remarkable. The slave trade would have been designated a criminal act. Instead, Aristotle replaced the Bible with his own elitist, pagan ideas (rooted in existing Greek culture for thousands of years before Aristotle) to give economic, legal, philosophical and moral sanction to this evil institution which is still legal in many countries around the world numbering over 30 million slave worldwide including America (over 60,000 slaves) and exists in modified form as the "Sex Slavery" and "Child Slavery" industry. For example, the 300 or so Nigerian girls kidnapped by the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram were threatened to be sold into slavery as "brides." I pray that those poor Nigerian girls (mostly Christians) are soon released back to their families.

Judge Richard Posner on Animal Rights

In history it appears that the more society became obsessed about animals and their alleged "rights" (*N.B. Americans spent an all-time high of $55.7 billion on their pets in last year and spending is trending over $60 billion this year) the worse they treat human beings (e.g. 70-80 million babies murdered over the past 41 years since Roe v. Wade [1973]). The number of innocent pre-born babies "eliminated" has more than quadrupled Hitler and the Nazi's body count for all of World War II and the Holocaust.

In 2001, Appellate Judge Richard A. Posner a University of Chicago Law lecturer engaged in a legendary debate at Slate magazine on the ethics of using animals in medical designed to help humanity. His opponent was the controversial Australian philosopher and Princeton professor Peter Singer. Posner's primary contention was that animal rights conflict with the moral relevance of humanity and that empathy for pain and employing a cost/benefit analysis (used in many of his pioneering intellectual works which literally created the new field called "Law and Economics") Posner argued that the suffering of animals should not replace the progress of society. He further argues that he trusts his moral intuition (conscience) until it is shown to be wrong and that his moral intuition says that "it is wrong to give as much weight to a dog's pain as to an infant's pain."

However, Posner leaves open the possibility that as scientific studies advance our present understanding regarding animal and human cognition that in the future he may be persuaded to side more on the side of animals over humans. Lastly, Posner further states that academics, animal rights activists and the general public whose attitudes were changed by consideration of the ethics presented in Singer's book Animal Liberation (1975), the book that first provided the intellectual foundation of what would become the "Animal Rights" movement, yet failed to see the "radicalism of the ethical vision that powers [their] view on animals, an ethical vision that finds greater value in a healthy pig than in a profoundly retarded child, that commands inflicting a lesser pain on a human being to avert a greater pain to a dog, and that, provided only that a chimpanzee has 1 percent of the mental ability of a normal human being, would require the sacrifice of the human being to save 101 chimpanzees."

Epilogue: What kind of animal is Man?

The Bible in Hebrews 2:7 reads: Thou madest him [mankind, humanity] a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands. This theistic idea is in direct conflict with the atheistic worldview that dominates modern-day politics, economic policy, science, aesthetics, education and history at least since advent of the anti-Christian Holocaust called the French Revolution (1789-99) – a leftist revolution that gave birth to modern liberalism, socialism and progressivism. If the French Revolution brought an end to the Age of Enlightenment, then surely Charles Darwin's 1859 text, On the Origin of Species was a cosmic shift in global intellectual thought which replaced the Judeo-Christian worldview with a worldview based on evolution atheism, the triumph of the "secular" State and democide (state sanctioned genocide, i.e., "survival of the fittest").

In conclusion, whether we talk of the legendary Aristotle, one of the truly great thinkers of human history, or his intellectual descendants in the areas of animal classification – Linnaeus and Darwin, or whether we talk of popular professors of our own time like Peter Singer and Richard Posner who wrote about the nature and "rights" of animals, I have observed in studying the history of civilizations that the further these people and other thinkers, intellectuals, presidents, lawmakers, judges, or even society at large depart from God and away from the blackletter text of the Bible, the more entrenched those perverse ideas are integrated into law and policy, the more likely society, the courts, congress and public policy is likewise to be corrupted and the morals of the people and their human nature is changed from mankind that is "a little lower than the angels" to an irrational, bestial, grotesque human nature whereby mankind becomes a whole lot lower than Mediterranean fruit flies, spotted owls, desert turtles, kangaroo rats, designer dogs and perfumed pigs.

Book Notice

Please purchase my latest opus dedicated to that Conservative Colossus, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Here are the latest two new volumes from my ongoing historical series – THE PROGRESSIVE REVOLUTION: History of Liberal Fascism through the Ages (University Press of America, 2015):
However, before the book is officially released to the public, I have to place 100 pre-publication orders (50 orders per each volume). I need your help to make this happen ASAP. Please place your order today for Volume 3 & Volume 4. Of course, if you can order all 100 copies today, the book will become official tomorrow.

Please circulate this flyer to all your email contacts & Facebook/Twitter followers who may be interested in purchasing this opus which will serve as a ready apologetic against the rampant Marxist-Progressive propaganda taught in America's public schools, colleges, universities, graduate schools, and law schools. Thanks in advance to all my friends, associates and colleagues for your invaluable support! Law and History Blog: www.EllisWashingtonReport.com

Invitation for manuscripts

I am starting a new a program on my blog dedicated to giving young conservatives (ages 14-35) a regular place to display and publish their ideas called Socrates Corner. If you know of any young person who wants to publish their ideas on any subject, have them send their essay manuscripts to my email at ewashington@wnd.com.

© Ellis Washington


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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Ellis Washington

Ellis Washington is a former staff editor of the Michigan Law Review (1989) and law clerk at the Rutherford Institute (1992). Currently he is an adjunct professor of law at the National Paralegal College and the graduate school, National Jurisprudence University, where he teaches Constitutional Law, Legal Ethics, American History, Administrative Law, Criminal Procedure, Contracts, Real Property, and Advanced Legal Writing, among many other subjects... (more)


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