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Philosophical Review Slavery in Plato's Thought Author(s): Gregory Vlastos Source: The Philosophical Review, Vol.

Philosophical Review

Slavery in Plato's Thought Author(s): Gregory Vlastos Source: The Philosophical Review, Vol. 50, No. 3 (May, 1941), pp. 289-304 Published by: Duke University Press on behalf of Philosophical Review Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2180538

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SLAVERY IN PLATO'S THOUGHT'

A FORMAL discussionofslaveryisnowhereto be foundin

I. SLAVERY IN PLATO S POLITICAL

THEORY

Plato. We mustreconstructhis viewsfroma fewcasual statements.The mostimportantoftheseis a similein theLaws (720), wherePlato contraststhe freephysicianin attendance uponfreemenwiththeslavehealerofslaves.The freemedical man "investigatestheoriginand thenatureofthedisease;2he entersintocommunitywiththepatientand withhis friends." He is essentiallya teacher,but a teacherwhoalso learnsfrom the sick. He givesno autocraticorders,but educatesthe pa- tientintohealth.Slaves,,onthe otherhand,are incapableof suchreasonableintercourse.The slavedoctor'svisitis hurried. He "neithergivesa servantany rationalaccount(logos)ofhis complaint,norasks himforany; he givesan orderbased on empiricalbelief(doxa) withtheair ofexactknowledge,in the insolentmannerofa tyrant,thenjumpsoffto thenextailing servant."3Elsewhere(Laws 773e),discussingthepropertreat- mentofslaves,Plato sumsup thematterin thesewords:"One mustpunishslavesjustly,notspoilingthemby admonitionas thoughtheywerefreemen."4And in anothercontext:"Well then,shouldtheydiscernthis,but be unableto give any ra- tional demonstrationof it?-Impossible. The state of mind youdescribeis thatofa slave" (Laws 966b). It is clearfromsuchpassagesthatPlato thinksoftheslave's conditionas a deficiencyofreason.He has doxa,but no logos. He can have truebelief,but cannotknowthetruthofhisbe- lief.'He can learnby experience(empeiria)and externalpre- scription(epitaxes).Buthecanneithergivenorfollowa rational account.He is thereforesusceptibleto persuasion."This is not

I Read insubstanceat a meetingoftheAmericanPhilosophicalAssociation, DecemberI 939

2 7!2d:

Car'Apx7'jsc iCaT& 4ibatv.

3 Cf.also Gorg.SoIa, wherescientificmedicineis definedin similarterms,

contrastingthe knowledgeof the natural cause (ri)v4botv, rip atrcad) and the

ability to give a rational account (logos) with

rptqj ical iyretpla.

4

6 See Tm 5ie 3 and 4.

Even Aristotlethinksthatthisis goingtoofar:Pot. i260b 6-8.

Atbaxi vs. reLo,Tm s5e 2. Peithois usuallytranslated"persuasion", and

6

I shallfollowthisusagehere.But "influence"or"suggestion"wouldbe a bet- terrendering.Peithomeanssimplychanginganother'smind.It putsnostrings

289

290 THE PHILOSOPHICAL

REVIEW

[VOL. L.

evidence of reason, but the reverse. Nous is "unmoved by persuasion" (Tm 5ie 4). The weakness of doxa, even of true doxa, is that it can be changed.7 Only knowledge is stable (monimos),forhe who knows has direct contact with the im- mutable Forms.8This is what the slave lacks. His experience cannot yield true knowledge.9In all matters of truth he is, therefore,unconditionallysubject to his intellectual superiors. Now it is an axiom of Plato's political theorythat the only one fitto rule is he who possesses logos.'0The good ruler must rule forthe good of the state. He can only do this ifhe knows the formof the Good, and then uses the necessary "persuasion and coercion" to order the state accordingly." Thus govern- mentis good forthe governed,'2but does not requiretheircon-

on the way this is done. "Persuasion", as ordinarilyused in English, ties one down to some kind of intellectual,or, at least, rhetorical,process. You cannot persuade without some kind of argument,though it may be fallacious argu-

ment. But Plato can

strainingthe word. Cf. &3paOwbsbretOlE(quoted in Rep. 39oe). In Greek usage peithooftenstands for"bribe". 7 Meno 98a. Plato's educational systemaspires to dye the rightbeliefsinto the soul like fastcolors into wool. But even fastcolors fade. The ultimateguar-

antee of the stabilityof the state is not in the early precautions to make the guardians' good convictionsproofagainst persuasion,oblivion,beguilementof

pleasure and pressure of fear (Rep. 413bc);

quaintance with the unalterable Good. 8 E.g., Rep. 532a. "Direct" means here "throughreason withoutthe media-

write3tcaoKXXovs 1rE7reretowevovsjoto-0os(Laws 804d) without

it is the guardians' eventual ac-

tionofthesenses". 9 It maybe asked:Whatoftheslave-boyintheMeno?Socratesconfidently asserts (85e) thatwhattheboyhas donein thisinstancehe coulddo "in the wholeofgeometryand in all otherlessons".But whathas he donein thisin- stance?Socratesmakeseachsuccessivepointso plainthatonlya half-witcould missit. Plato neversuggestedthatslavesare stupid.He onlysaysthatthey lacklogosornousand cannotapprehendtheForms.Onemaylacklogosyetbe

a paragon of empiric acuteness

pbv, oo/xwv6e, 's AptgbRAvf3XkMretX

(e.g.,Rep. 5i 6c; and 5iga Trv X eyogJ cvwv Vroz'qpLWv

qvxAptov.

.

.).

At the end of the encoun-

ter the slave-boy has not discovered the Form "square", "diameter", etc.

Socratesgivesthepiecesofthepuzzleand keepsproddingand correctinguntil the boy has fittedthemproperlytogether.The boy thenhas theanswerto thisparticularproblem,butnograspoftheunderlyinggeneraltruth.He knows thetruesolution,butnotwhyit is true. NeverthelessI shouldnot concludethat Plato thinksthatthisslave-boy could not discoverthe Forms.This pointis leftundetermined.But, if the

slave-boycouldmastertheForms,thenheoughtnottobe a slave.In a "true" (i.e., Platonic)statehewouldbe a philosopher,andthereforeat thetop,notthe bottom,ofthesocialpyramid.

g68a:The highestmagistrate"mustbeable togivea rational

account(logos)ofall thatadmitsofa rationalaccount".Otherwisehe cannot be a "fitrulerofthewholestate,butonlya servantto otherrulers".

11 Rep.si 8b-e.The phraseiretOoKacd1a

12 E.g., Socrates'argumentagainstThrasymachusin theRepublic,I, main-

tainingthatgovernmentis forthebenefitofthegoverned.

10E.g.,Laws

occursoftenintheLaws.

No. 3.]

SLAVERY IN PLATO'S THOUGHT

29I

sent.'3A democraticallyminded theoristlike Protagoras'4holds that all men have a sense of "reverenceand justice"; that they all share in the "political art"."15Plato denies this flatly:"Does it seem at all possible that a multitudein a state could ever acquire this [sc. political] science?-By no means" (Polit. 292e, Fowler's tr.). Hence anythinglike a contracttheoryof the state strikesPlato as a perniciouserror.'6How can men who do not know the nature of justice establish a just state by common agreement?The only way to get justice is to recognizethe fact that "some men are by naturefittedto embracephilosophyand lead in the state, while othersare unfitto embrace it and must followthe leader" (Rep. 474c; cf.Laws 69ob). It followsthat the absence of self-determination,so striking in the case of the slave, is normalin Platonic society.The fully enlightenedaristocratsare a small minorityofthewholepopula- tion (e.g., Pouit. 292e). All the restare in some degreedouloi in Plato's sense ofthe word: theylack logos; theydo not know the Good, and cannotknowtheirown good or the good ofthe state:

13 Potit.293a, 2962-297b. This

lrapcp TaS twaVOKcas Te Kal opuoXowylas

pointis all themoreremarkablebecauseit

(52d);

VOt*Kas nds irpbs Jpas

irapacla3s (54c).

contrastssharplywiththeconceptionofgovernmentwhichunderliestheCrito. ThereSocratesthinksandactsas a responsiblememberofa freerepublic.It is

becausehe has himselfconsentedto thelawsthattheyare bindinguponhim:

However,itwouldnotbeimpossibletofinda casuisticreconciliationofpolitical obligationthatrestsuponconsentwithpoliticalauthoritythatis above con- sent.Plato'spoint,I suppose,wouldbe thatthegoodruler'scommandsmust be obeyed,consentorno consent;thoughifhissubjectsknewtheGoodas he knowsit (a hypothesiswhichwouldabolishthedistinctionbetweensubject and rulerintheRepublicand thePoliticus),theywouldgladlygivetheircon- sent.

14 It is significantthatPericlesentrustedhimwiththeframingoftheconsti- tutionofThourioi.

Prot.322c, d. It issuggestivetocompareProtagoras'mythwiththemythof thePoliticusandthecomparablepassageinLaws73bIff.Intheformerthe setting isman'sstruggleforself-preservation:Prometheus'giftoffireandHermes'giftof "reverenceandjustice"putintoman'shandsthetwoweaponsthatenablehim

to succeed.Plato's aristocraticcounterblastchangesthesettingso as to ab- stractentirelyfromtheprincipleofhumanself-relianceand self-help.It harks backto theage ofCronoswherethereis no strugglewithnature(Iravra ah6-

15

aTra

ytyyeoOca& ToSs &vapcOProos, PoWt. 27id;

7I3e)

&,s4b-0ov& TE Kac abr6/.aTa

Prava

Laws,7I3c),andwhereman'ssociallifeis directlyunderthecareofdivinebe- ings(the"divineshepherd"ofthePoliticus,the"daemons"oftheLaws). Here

reverenceand justice(Laws,

goodgovernment;and goodgovernmentmeansnotself-governmentbutgov- ernmentoftheinferiorbythesuperior,ofthemortalbythedivine.

are notthecondition,buttheproduct,of

JFe,

16 Rep.359a,Laws8894:thatjusticerestsonagreementis mentionedas part

ofa dangerousview,destructiveofmoralityand religion.Yet theidea oflaw

as aVVOJKo wasso

e.g.,Platohimself(Crito52d,

widespreadthatitinvadedeventhethoughtofitsopponents:

54c,

citedabove)andAristotle(see Bonitz,Index,

729b 53).

292 THE PHILQSOPHICAL

REVIEW

[VOL. L.

their only chance of doing the good is to obey implicitlythe commands of their superiors.Thus Plato speaks currentlyof subjection to the reasonable discipline of rulers,human and divine, laws, parents, and elders as servitude (douleuein,dou- leia).17 This usage is not without precedent. But Plato goes furtherin thisdirectionthan any earlierwriter.It had been the proudboast ofAeschylusforhis fellow-countrymen:"They can- not be called the slaves of any man" (Pers. 242). It is hard to find an instance in fifth-centuryliterature where douleia is used, as Plato uses it, in the sense of virtuous,amicable, and cheerfulsubmissionto constitutedauthority,withoutany of the grim associations of duresse and dishonor. Yet Plato's genial extensionofthe word to cover an honorableand even fortunate estate is amply justifiedby the premisesof his own thought:

The manual laborer, for example, is "weak by nature in the principleofthe best". Leftto himself,he could not rule himself, but wouldbe ruledby his appetites.What happiersolutioncould therebe than servitudeto one who is strongin the principleof the best, "so that we may all be equals and friendsso far as possible,all governedby the same principle"?" When Plato speaks so innocentlyof the artisans of the Re-

publicas

mean to be taken literally.19He neithermeans to degrade all artisansto thelevel ofbondmen, norto raise thesocial status of

17 Laws 698bc,700a, 7oIb, 7I5d, 762e,839c,89oa. For someoftheserefer- ences,andformuchelseinthispaper,I amindebtedtoG. R. Morrow's"Plato and GreekSlavery",Mind,April,I939.

the "slaves" of the philosophers,he certainlydoes not

Rep. 59ocd.(Jowettblursthepointby translating"servant"fordoulos, muchas King James'translatorsoftenrender"servant"fordoulos:e.g.,

Matthew2o: 27,MarkIO: 44,Gal. 4:

Eph. 6: 5.Lindsay'stranslationismore

exact.)Thispassagehasneverreceivedtheattentionitdeserves.Bosanquetis

theonlyexceptionI know.He seesthat"thisistheessentialbasisofAristotle's

explanation

countofthespiritualrelationofsocietyto inferiororimmatureminds,and in somedegreetoall minds,is unimpeachable"(CompaniontoPlato'sRepublic,ad

18

I,

ofslavery",and acceptsit in principle:"Plato's generalac-

loc.). I

supposethatin termsofBosanquet'spoliticaltheorythe philosopher

i85

wouldexpressthe"realwill"ofthedoulos.Hegelis moresophisticatedon this

point.See his strictureon Platonicphilosophy:"the principleofsubjective

freedomdoesnotreceiveitsdue" (PhilosophyofRight,tr.by Dyde,par.

note.Cf.M. B. Foster,ThePoliticalPhilosophiesofPlato andHegel,Ch. iii).

But itis significantthatHegeldoesnotcriticizePlato forhisdenialoftheob- jectivefreedomof the workingclasses. Hegel's own politicaltheorywould hardlyentitlehimto makethiscriticism.

19 As mistaken,forexample,by W. L. Newman,ThePoliticsofAristotle,I,

I09-

ina valuablereferenceto thispassage,suggestingthatthiswas "per-

hapsthesourcefromwhichAristotlederivedhistheoryofnaturalslavery".

I0,

No. 3.]

SLAVERY IN PLATO'S THOUGHT

293

the slave to that of the freelaborer. There is not the slightest indication,eitherin theRepublic,20or anywhereelse, that Plato means to obliterateor relax in any way that distinction.The very opposite is the case. ProfessorMorrow's admirable recent study has shownthat Plato's law ofslaveryis not morebut less liberalthan currentAtticlaw; and in one importantrespectless liberal than any knownslave legislationof classical antiquity.2' Then what is thepointofspeakingso freelyofall sortsand con- ditions of political subordinates as douloi? The point is not practical, but theoretical.It underlinesthe fact that, in prin- ciple, thereis no differencein Plato's political theorybetween the relationof a master to his slave and of a sovereignto his subjects; or, as Aristotle put this Platonic doctrine: that "mastership (despoteia),statesmanship (politike) and kingship (basilike) are the same thing".22 In otherwords,Plato uses one and thesame principleto inter- pret (and justify) political authorityand the master's rightto

govern the slave, political obligation and

obey his master. His conception of all governmentarcher, archein) is of a piece with his conceptionof the governmentof slaves. Is this saying too much? One thinksof any numberof importantqualifications.23Yet substantially the statement is true. One need only referto the Politicus forthe explicitstate- ment that there is no other differencebetween the art of

slaveowner despots&,259b 7) and king (basilikos, 259C 2) than the size of theirrespectiveestablishments. Whatever be the refinementsof such a theory,it appears at once as a radical denial of democracy.It could no moreaccount for the facts of democratic governmentin Athens, than the contract theoristscould account for the fact of slavery. The

20 See Rep.469bc.(ForbarbarianslavesintheRepublicsee 47ib and cf.with 469b.)It is whenaristocracydeterioratesthatthefreeproducersareenslaved

the slave's duty to

intheliteralsense(547c).

21 "Plato and Greek Slavery", Mind, April, I939. See pp. i94-198,

and es-

peciallyp. i96. For a moredetaileddiscussionsee thesameauthor'sPlato's

ofSlavery(UniversityofIllinoisPress,I939).

Law

22 Pol. I 253b i8; I252a,

8.Thatthisis Plato'sviewisclearfromPolit.2sgbc.

23 It wouldbe superfluousto detailthesehere.They are obviousto any readeroftheRepublicandtheLaws,and I shouldnotwishtobelittlethem.See especiallyRep. 547c.All I am suggestinghereis thatPlato usesoneand the sameprincipleto interpret(and justify)authorityin thecase ofbothmaster

and statesmanand obediencein thecase ofbothslaveand subject.

294 THE PHILOSOPHICAL

REVIEW

[VOL. L.

contract theoristsgeneralized the governmentof the state by

the demosforthe demos.They

where they would substitute "man" for "citizen of Athens"; at that point theydid not know what to do with slavery,and played with the subversiveview that slavery was unnatural.24 Plato, generalizingthe governmentof slave by master, was forced into the opposite conclusion that democracy was un- natural. Plato idealized the institutionof slavery; the contract

theoriststhe institutionof democracy. Their conflictingideal- ism mirroredthe real contradictionin Athenian society:a free political communitythat restedon a slave economy.

vergedinto idealism at

the point

II. SLAVERY IN PLATO S COSMOLOGY

Can we detect any higherovertonesof the master-slaverela- tion?Can we traceit in wholesofa differentorderthan political society: in the human microcosmand the physical macrocosm? One's attentionis drawn in this directionby Plato's frequent referencesto the body as the "slave" of the soul. That this is no mere figureof speech, but is meant to convey a serious philosophical truth,is clear from three considerations. (i) It stands as a formalpremisein a metaphysicalargumentforthe immortalityof the soul in the Phaedo.25(ii) It is writteninto the physiologyofthe Timaeus.26(iii) It determinesleading ideas

24 Contractcouldonlybe thethinnestofdisguisesforforce,onwhichslavery

so obviouslyrested(seePoi.

suggesttheviewthatthisagreementwas unnaturaland slaveryinvalid.How manyof the contracttheoristssharedthisview?We do not know.In the Politics(I 253b 2i) Aristotledoesnotnamehisopponentswhoflatlymaintained

thatslaveryis conventionaland contraryto nature.See Gorg.484abforCal- licles'viewthat"naturaljustice"maybe violatedby slavery.Antiphon,the sophist,undercutsthedistinctionbetweennobleand lowbirth,betweenGreek

i255a

5 ff.).To baseslaveryonagreementwasto

and barbarian ~red4bace rairra'racrres'V1oicos

ire kace'

(Diels, B, 44, Fr. B,

col. 2). The sameprinciplewouldundercutslavery.Alcidamas,thepupiland successorofGorgias,is said to have declared:"God leftall menfree;nature madenoonea slave" (Schol.onRhet.I373b,i8). Anda fragmentofPhilemon,

thecomicpoet(ed. Meineke,Fr. 39),runs:"Thoughonebe a slave,hehasthe sameflesh;/ By natureno onewas everborna slave." 7ge-8oa.It is thenecessarylinkintheanalogyofthesoulto the"divine"

and ofthebodyto the "mortal":"in theorderofnature"thebodyand the mortalare boththeslavesoftheirrespectivemasters,thesouland thedivine.

2'

26 In the head,whosesphericalformcopiesthe shape of the universe,is

placed"thedivinestand holiestpart"(452a),whichis thatis in us" (44d). The restofthebodyis madeto

"lord(eo-Iroro0v) ofall

serve(4 Kac rirv rToacta

rap~3ooav

beriopeocav

acdr4): it is a vehicle (6xrnlka) forthe head, supplementing

thesoul's two "divinerevolutions"(44d) withthe "six wanderingmotions" (44d8; cf.43b). The "mortal"partof the soul is housedapart "forfearof pollutingthedivinepart"(69d); theneckwasbuiltas "an isthmusand boun- daryto keepthetwoapart" (69e).

No. 3.]

SLAVERY IN PLATO'S THOUGHT

295

in Plato's ethics.27Each of these mattersdeserves detailed dis- cussion. But to keep this paper withinreasonable limits,I pro- ceed at once to Plato's applicationoftheslave-metaphorbeyond anthropologyto cosmologyitself. Let us beginwith the scene in the Phaedo wherethe Platonic Socrates explains that he turned away from Ionian physics, because it did not use the right method. The right method, suggestedby Anaxagoras' nous, but, alas, not followedby this

unregenerateIonian, is definedin the followingterms: "If

,you must findout this

wish to findthe cause of

about it: How it is best forit to exist or be acted upon or act in any otherway" (97cd). Thus a scientificexplanation of the shape and position of the earth must prove that it has that particular shape and position because these are "best" for it

(97e).

you

To back this unusual view of scientificmethod the Platonic Socrates resortsto an analogy: What is the cause ofmypresence in thisprison?It is not bones and sinews thatkeep me here,but my decisionthat thisis forthe best (99b). Physiologyis not the "real" cause (Iroartoz'vr435Vlrt),but onlyan indispensablecondi-

tion (E'KElhOhivevoB r6oa'lruwvOK hipwor' d'lt a'ltov, 99c). Without

apology this argumentis transferredfromthe human organism to the universeat large. The reasoningtakes it forgrantedthat teleologyand mechanismare relatedin the world-orderas mind to body in man himself.But since the relationof mind to body has already been conceived as analogous to that of master to slave, it would followthat the relationof teleologyto mechan- ism can also be so conceived: that the mechanical cause, mis- takenly accepted by the Ionians as the "ruling" cause, is actually only a "slave" cause. This, of course,is so faronly an inference.But if we followthe developmentof Plato's thought

27 In thebeginningofLaws v, thewholerationaleofvirtueis reducedto theseterms:"A man'sownnatureconsistsinvariablyoftwokindsofelements:

thestrongerand betterarelordly(3eair6oovra) theweakerand worseareslaves (6oiXa); whereforeonemusteverhonourthelordlyabovetheslavishelements

inone'snature"(726).Thatis,honorthesoulabovethebodyanditspleasures

and passions.In theRepublicintemperanceis describedas insubordinationof theappetitesagainsttheorderofreason.It is "a meddlesomenessand inter- ferenceand rebellionofonepartofthesoulagainstthewholetogaina ruleto whichithasnoright;thatpartindeedwhosenatureis suchthatitoughtto be slave,whiletheothershouldneverbe slave,but ruler"(followingLindsay's

translationof444b,exceptafterthe semicolon,wherehe

takes rotobrovo'ros

4baet to referto T4> Myip instead of pukpovsrtL6s). Similar expressionin 442ab.

296 THE PHILOSOPHICAL

REVIEW

[VOL.L.

in the later dialogues we shall findthat thisis exactlythe direc- tion in whichit moves. Physical variables, like hot and cold, dry and moist, which play such an importantrole in early Ionian thought,appear in the Philebus under the categoryof the measureless.28Lacking in order,this realm of being would be full of hybrisand evil (26b), were measure not imposedupon it29 by a creativeagent.30 This is thecause (ro a'lrtfv,26e): theverycategorythatSocrates missed in the Jonians. It is the orderingnous of Anaxagoras now taken in good earnest and assigned to its properplace as "king of heaven and earth" (28c). The other principleis its slave: "slave to the cause (boLoueioV a1tlr) for the purpose of

generation" (27a).

In the Timaeus the whole account of man and the world

turnson a clear-cutdistinctionbetween two kinds of causes:

(i) the "primary"cause, whichis "intelligent","divine", and

productiveofall thatis "fairand good" ;31 (2) The "secondary" cause, whichis "necessary", irrational, fortuitousand disorderly.32 The modern reader must find somethingbafflingabout this blend of necessitywith chance in the secondary cause. For us the very idea of necessityimplies necessaryorder.33How con- ceive of necessarydisorderwithoutself-contradiction?34

28 25d:

(26a 6, 7).

To A&retpovopposite of rT 7reparoet6ksand of rT 9,ggerpoV Kcal o1bgerpov

(30c 5).

rp&Tas

Obaos (26e).

(46d), 6oTaL yerT& VOV KaXWV

Kal

&ya&ov

Notetheforceof hir' rtoots

3ras

rTls gpopovos

511MOVpTOL

32 aV&'yKfl (48a),

Obaews

alTLlas

29

30 rT 3,gtovpyo'VV (27b), ra rotoVV (27a), e rol) rOtOVVTOs

(46e), Td Sta vov (47e), TO'GtoV (68e).

e

&

r'fs 6,V&PKfS

0K-t&S

(56c), Td AvayKcalov(68e), Ta S AVAPKfWS

(47e);

last Phil. 28d 6, 7.

Toat /LovwdoE~atc 4povh-ews

TO TvXcv ATraKTov

ktepya&tovaTc

(46e). Cf.withthis

B3In theensuingdiscussionI amnotspeakingofPlato'sconceptofnecessity as a whole.I am excludingfromthediscussionlogicalnecessity.Likeeveryone else, Plato identifiesthiswith rational order.He uses constantly&V&ycn, &va'yKaTov,etc.tomarkthecogencyandevidenceofa deductiveconclusion(e.g., Gorg.475a-c; Phaedogie; Phil. 40c; Tm 53c). This kindofanankeis at the otherextremefromthe anankeof the secondarycause. Logical necessityis

explicitlyopposedto verisimilitude(Theait.062e),

characteristicmoodofall discourseabout the materialworld(Tm 29c; and

This bifurcationofananke intoformal

orderandmaterialdisorderis conservedbyAristotle.His viewis terselystated and acutelydiscussedby D. M. Balme in the Class. Quarterly,Oct., I939:

"Anankedoes notgovernsequences:thereis no transeuntcausalityinherent

in thematerial",p. I30.

whileverisimilitudeis the

53d KalT TrPIver' AV&YKfS

eLK6TracX6yov).

ff.)F. M. Cornfordthrowssomelighton this

problem.He pointsoutthatto Plato,as toAristotle,chancedoesnotmeanthe

34 In Plato's Cosmology(i62

No. 3.]

SLAVERY IN PLATO'S THOUGHT

297

I can thinkof one clue: "The ideas of douleia and ananke", writes George Thomson, "are almost inseparable in Greek, the wordananke beingconstantlyused to denote both the state

ofslaveryas such,and also the tortureto whichthe slaves were

subjected."3" No one,

interpretingthe ananke of the Timaeus on the pattern of slavery. Yet Plato speaks of material necessityas a "servant" (v7r-iperoiv'W,46c 7; v'rqpeTovoaas, 68e 4) who, he also tells us, is "incapable of any logosor nous about anything" (46d 4). But this, as we have seen, is the definingconcept of the slave: a servant destituteof logos. Here, I think,is the explanation we need. The idea of "disorderlynecessity"strikesus as a flat self- contradictionbecause we think of necessity in terms of a mechanical instrument,whose motionsfollowa strictmechan- ical order;that orderis inherentin the instrument,and we can only use the instrumentin so faras we respectits order. Plato thinksofnecessityin termsof a "livinginstrument",whose use does not seem to depend on our understandingof its own in- trinsicorder,but ratheron our abilityto "persuade" it to follow our own purpose. In this case the orderdoes not seem to be in the instrumentbut in us. This is the veryimage that occurs to Aristotlewhenhe picturesthe teleologicalorderofthe universe:

"But it is as in a house,wherethefreemenare least at libertyto act at random,but all thingsor mostthingsare already ordered forthem,while the slaves and the beasts do littleforthe com- mon good, forthe most part live at random".36The slave does not share of his own accord the orderof the commonlife.Left to himselfhe would "wander" offinto disorder.37Order,which

oppositeofnecessity,buttheoppositeofpurpose.Thusa "necessaryaccident" meansto bothanyunintended,butunavoidable,circumstanceinvolvedinthe executionofa plan.This does explaintheelementofcompulsionin ananke. But it doesnotexplaintheelementofdisorder.

so

far as I know, has ever thought of

36TheORESTEIA

j

krodlov6oavO

ofAeschylus,II, 345,(Cambridge,I938). The association

I irapa

riv 6pguiv

I) ; whilethe

ofthetwowordsfollowsnaturallyfromtheirobviousmeaning.Aristotledefines

ananke(in thesenseofcompulsion:riv yap9wAevApX2iv,riv

KLWOVoavc,6V&?yKfV XkYO0teV(Nic. Eth. I224b

common view of douleia, as Aristotlereports it, is rTc r'vj (bs flobXErat (Pol.

I3P7b

3).

36 Met. IO75a

i9.

Cf. 6Tt 9TvXevand TrTrKTat ofthispassagewithrT TvXcv

aTcaKTOV ofTm46e 5.

37 Buttheslave'sbehaviorisnotutterdisorder.It isonlydisorderlyfromthe

standpointofthesuperiororderintendedby themaster.At thepriceofin-

298 THE PHILOSOPHICAL

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he could not originatehimself,must be

ferablyby persuasionor,failingthis,by coercion.The Demiurge, being the wisest of masters,need not resortto coercion at all:

he "persuades necessity" (48a 2) and makes it his "willing" slave (56c, 5). The notion of "persuading necessity" and the implied idea of "compelling necessity" make sense only if one keeps steadily in mind the slave metaphor. Persuading the law of gravitationdoes not make sense. Persuadinga slave does. To appreciate the importanceof this development one must see it in historicperspective.The slave metaphoroccurs at the verypointwherePlato turnsconsciouslyaway fromthe cosmo- logy of his predecessors.38From the very beginningsof Ionian thoughtrationaland immanentnecessityhad been an integral featureof the conceptof nature. Recall, forexample,the saying of Anaximanderthat thingscome into existenceand perish"as it is ordained; fortheymake satisfactionand reparationto one anotherfortheirinjusticeaccordingto the orderof time."39To express natural necessity this early Milesian borrows words fromthe governmentof man. But that is, of course, no more than what we muststilldo to-daywhen we speak of the "laws" of nature. What is importantis ratherthe absence of any sug- gestion of a superior agency to issue ordinances and enforce reparations.On the contrary,Anaximanderexcludes the inter- ventionofa superiororderupon the course of natureby endow- ing nature itselfwith the attributesof divinity: it is infinite, immortal,indestructible.40Thinkersas opposed to one another

imposed upon him,pre-

consistencyPlato is trueto thisfeatureof the slave-metaphor,maintaining thatthe primordialchaos had crude"traces"of theelegantorderthatthe

Demiurge was to impressupon it at creation: riv zyevkcews

Kal

7rvpov/kuJVf

7r&1

Ka

Tra's y's

TE Kal

rTO2vqfviypatvogkuwv

6ppos Iuopas 86exoi,.kVV, Kal 6Ta &XXa TOrTOts

owvbareratmr&caxovo-av(Tm 52de). The last clause is particularlyimportant,

forit recognizesan orderofcausal implicationbeforethechaoshad been"in- formedwithshapesand numbers" (53b). Yet Plato can onlyexplaincausal implicationthroughtheForms:e.g.,thenecessaryconnectionbetweenfireand heat,snowand cold (PhaedoIo3C ff.).As P. H. DeLacy has recentlyput it:

"Plato findsnocausalrelationon thepurelyphysicallevel.The Ideas are the causesofthequalitiesofphysicalobjects,forthequalitiesofparticularsexist onlyin so faras particularsparticipatein Ideas" (Class. Phil.,April,I939). Thisis partofa largercontradictionin Plato'sthoughtwhichI havenotedin "The DisorderlyMotionin the Timaios",p. 76-7, Class. Quarterly,April,

I939.

38 See W. H. Heidel, 2rept ObTews, Proc.Am.Acad.ofArtsandSciences,Jan.

No. 3.]

SLAVERY IN PLATO'S THOUGHT

299

as the Ionian Heraclitus and the Italian Parmenides4'preserve thisfeatureof Anaximander'sthought.Some verbalexpressions may suggestthe opposite. But a closer examinationshows how firmlythey adhere to the notion of autonomous nature. When Heraclitus says, for example, "The sun will not overstep his measures (metra)else the Erinyes,the assistants of Justice,will findhimout" Justiceand the Erinyesstand forno independent

entity;theysimplyexpressthe inevitabilityof the patternthat firefollowsin itsunceasingtransformations,"kindledin measure (metra), and extinguishedin measure".42Likewise when Par- menides writes, "strong ananke keeps it in the bonds of the limit",43ananke is neithersuperiornor inferiorto the inflexible rationalityofexistence,but simplyidenticalwithit. In the atomism of Leucippus and Democritus this trend of thoughtcomes to full maturity: "Nothing occurs at random, but everythingfora reason (ek logou) and by necessity."44Here is the exact opposite of Plato's doctrine: logos and ananke are coupled together;material necessityis rational and it excludes chance.45The inherentmotion of matterwhich seems to Plato

the

the very meaningof necessaryorder.46And because it is neces- sary,motionis coeval with matteritself.There is no need fora "firstcause" to set matterin motion.47This was the finalblow

at the anthropomorphictheoryof creation. Its consequences, writesCyrilBailey, "were momentous.In the sphereofphysical

41 ThisconnectionofParmenideswithAnaximanderwassuggestedto meby WernerJaeger'sremark:"he also callsit [sc.ananke]dikeorMoira,obviously underAnaximander'sinfluence",Paideia,Eng. tr.,p. I74.

source of necessary disorderis in the eyes of Democritus

Diels, B, 94 and 30. Cf.also B, 8o: "strifeis justice".The conflictofthe

42

elements("war") itselfproducesits ownorder.So again in B, 53: "War is fatherofall and kingofall; somehehasmadegodsandsomemen,someslaves andsomefree."A questionmightariseoverB, 4I: "thethought(gnome)which steers(&KVJ3pvlo-e)all thingsthroughall things."Is thisgoverningthoughtan

extraneoussuperiorfactor?Clearlynot,ifonecomparesB, 64,"thethunder-

boltthatsteers (olaKirt)

vance willjudge and convictall things"(Burnet'str. followingDiels): the "thought"is inherentinthefire;like"justice"above,simplyanotherexpres- sionfortherelentlessorderlinessoffire.

thecourseofall things"withB, 66: "Firein itsad-

43 Diels,B, 30 Li;1.

cf. 11.I4 and 37.

44Ibid., 67 B, 2 (Bailey's tr.).

45 Simpl. 330.I4

i96a, I4) 7rpbsA.

OLKE elpSo6at

dela Pensge

T6 U Kat&&repo iraXatu X6,yoso Avatpw'vriv rbXflv (Physics,

Dante'sreproach,"Democritochei1mondo

a casopone"restsona misconception.See Enriquesandde Santillana,Histoire

Scientifique,iII, 40, and CyrilBailey'selegantargumentin Greek

AtomistsandEpicurus,I4I-3.

47 D. L., IX,

45:

ris alrias out~2s Ts

47 Plutarch,Strom.,7 (D. 58I).

'yeveo-ews

7r,&vrwv,IV & KV&YKJV XyeL.

300 THE PHILOSOPHICAL

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[VOL. L.

speculation it introducedforthe firsttime the possibilityof a strictlyscientificconceptionof the world."48 Why was it that Plato chose to frustratethis possibilityin his cosmology?49It wouldbe presumptuousto attemptto answer this question withinthe limits of this paper. But the answer, whateverit be, mustreckonwiththisfact: Plato attacks Ionian physicsnot onlyon philosophical,but also on politicalgrounds; so that both the political and the cosmologicalassociations of slavery came into play in his polemic. The issue is the very existenceofa philosophywhichconceivesof the governmentof the state and the governmentof the world as analogous to the governmentoftheslave. The locusclassicusforthisattack is the tenthbook of the Laws. His opponents are the "modern scientists" (886d; also 888e ff.).He imputes to them not only mechanisticcosmology,but also the contracttheoryofthe state.50The firstgives rise to the second, and each to atheism. The basic erroris the idea that physicalbodies "are moved by the interplayof theirrespective forces,accordingas they meet togetherand combine fittingly" (889b, Bury's tr.); in otherwords,thatnatureis a self-regulating system,and is not governedby the art of a divine mind. This implies that the stars are products of a natural process, not gods, but inanimate material bodies (886de; 889b). It implies furtherthat legislation(like everyotherart) is a late productof the same process,so that laws are not absolute commands,but man-madeagreements(889c-8goe). Instead ofderivingthelaws

48 Op. cit., I22.

49 Aristotleis oftenblamedforimportingteleologyintophysics.The real culprit,ofcourse,is Plato.Aristotlethinksas a Platonistwhenhe repudiates

theall-but-universalbeliefofhispredecessorsinnaturalnecessity(Phys.i98b

depart.Anim.639b2i). It was PlatowhohadledtheattackontheIonian

2;

mechanists,foistingon themhis ownassumptionthatmaterialnecessityis equivalenttochance,andthusforcingthemintotheabsurdpositionofdenying thedefactoorderoftheuniversebecausetheywillnotgranttheexistenceof telelogicalorder.This misconceptionwhichvitiatesthe argumentforfinal

causes in Phys.ii. viii had been anticipatedin the Philebus(28d-29e) and Laws X.

50 How easilythispointmaybe missedis clearfromA. E. Taylor'spara-

phraseofthispassage(intheIntroductionto histranslationoftheLaws,lii):

"Plato's viewis thatatheismis theproductoftwohistoricalfactors,,thecor-

porealismoftheearlyIonianmenofscience

ofthepurelyconventionaland relativecharacterofmoraldistinctions."But

thetextsaysnothingabout"twohistoricalfactors".It is thesamepeople(the

&dvpesof888e)whosecosmologyis expoundedin 889b-dand whosepoli-

ticsis givenin 889d-8goa.

(ooot

., and the 'sophistic'theory

No. 3.]

SLAVERY IN PLATO'S THOUGHT

301

fromthegods, thisimpiousview derivesthegods fromthe laws, and variable laws at that. To refuteall this Plato maintains that the soul is the first cause of all physical motions.His elaborate argumentneed not be examinedhere.We need onlynote that the pointofhis thesis is to prove that the soul, being "older" than the body, has the rightto "rule" the body." And what he means by the soul's "rule" is clearfroma parallel passage in the Timaeus (34c): soul is despotis; it rules the body as master rules slave. If he can prove this,Plato feelshe has destroyedIonian materialism.He can thenhave everythinghis own way: that soul or souls direct everybodily motion (896de); that the stars have soul or souls and are divine (898d-899b); and that, in short,"all thingsare fullofgods" (899b). Thus cosmologysupportsreligionby estab- lishingthe existenceofits gods.52And the linkbetweenreligious cosmologyand political religionis the slave-metaphor.

III. PLATO AND ARISTOTLE

Any discussionof Plato's views on slaveryinvitescomparison

with the most famous text of antiquity on this topic: the first book of the Politics. Aristotle's polemic is mainly directed against thosewho hold that slaveryis contraryto nature." The word "nature" is used here in at least threesenses: a moral, a

firststates the demon- latter two decide the

biological, and a cosmological one. The strandumof Aristotle's argument; the

demonstration.To prove:that slaveryis natural,in the sense of being good and just:54good forthe master,to whom it provides

a necessaryinstrument(I253b 23 ff.);good also forthe slave,55 whose intellectualdeficiencyis supplementedby the master's superiorreason.6 This is provedfirstby the contentionthat the

51 E.g., 892a: [tpvxh]

(bs

v rp&rotpOLS EaTn Ut&TCoJV, 9inipo-Oezv w&J'Twv 'yevolue'vnv,

whenceit is assumedbya simpleconjunction(xat) thatit ruleseverybodily change.The inferencefromsuperiorage to therightto ruleis madeexplicitin

Tm34c.

52The "godsaccordingto thelaws": 885b,89oab,904a. Seriousconfusion resultswhenthislimitationisnotrecognized.Laws x doesnotevenattemptto provetheexistenceoftheDemiurge,whoisnevermentionedamongtheofficial

divinities.

53 7rapad4sov

rcdbeo-r66etv,I253b 20.

54 #rXtOVJKitX8icaLOv,

I254a

i8.

56

4soVLbaiXOL

I252a

ots

PAVrL6

(TTLV ApXEGOaL TanjJv

35-b i.

3V; cf. Nic. Eth. ii6ia

rt1v aipxhv, I 245b i 9.

302 THE PHILOSOPHICAL

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[VOL. L.

differenceof masterand slave, commensuratewith that of soul and body or of man and beast (I254b I7), is a congenitalone:

"some thingsare markedout fromthe momentofbirthto rule or to be ruled" (I254a 23). This is the part of Aristotle'sargu- ment that has given greatest offenceto posterityand thus attractedwidestattention.Yet no less importantin Aristotle's eyes is the metaphysicalsanction of slavery.The differencebe- tween masterand slave, he holds, is natural because it follows

a patternthat pervades all nature: "because in everycomposite thing,where a pluralityof parts, whethercontinuous or dis- crete, is combined to make a single common whole, there is

always founda rulingand a subject factor,and this character- istic of living thingsis present in them as an outcome of the

whole of nature (4K r Sa air~oS

4vTEWS)."57

Now let us ask: What is therein thisargumentthat Plato

too

could not have said in fullconsistencywithhis own ideas about slavery? It is, of course, the A B C of exegesis to distinguish between what a writerhas actually said and what he could have said or ought to have said. That the Platonic dialogues give us no equivalent to the firstbook of the Politics pointsto a differenceoftemperbetweenPlato's and Aristotle'sviews which must not be minimized.Neverthelesswhen we have made full allowance forthis difference,we must still observe a fact which has escaped the notice of many moderninterpretersand might modifytheir conclusions about Plato's moral and social phi- losophy: that in every one of these three points Plato would

have to agree with his pupil's argumentin defenceof slavery:

(i) that slavery is good for the slave (as well as for the

master): better to ruled by reason at

(2) that this differencein intellectualand social status rests

on a diversityofnative endowment:natureis the originalfactor

be ruled by an alien reason, than not to be

all

(Section I of this paper);

29-32,Rackham'str.OtherpassagestooshowthatAristotlethinks

ofslaverynotas an isolatedfactbutas a specialinstanceofa generalrelation whichconnectsslaverywithhis wholephilosophicsystem:e.g.,Eud. Eth.

I24gb 6 ff.,Nic. Eth. ii6ia 32 ff.

57 I254a

The analogyofthemaster-slaveto thesoul-bodyrelationenablesus to con-

nectitwiththemostgeneralpatternofAristotelianmetaphysics,therelation offormtomatter.Soulistheformofthebody,andbodythematterofthesoul (de

An. 4I!2a i 6). And since (v Ai nv r aiVa-yKaLOV, r6 8' o0 9VEKa & ,r4X&yo?(Phys.

2ooa 14), theAristoteliancontrastofmechanismto teleologyis, as in Plato,

analogous to the contrastof slave to master.

No. 3.]

SLAVERY IN PLATO'S THOUGHT

303

in differentiatingthe philosopher from the producer and a fortiori fromthe slave ;58 (3) that this differenceonly repeats on the human plane a pattern writ large over the cosmos: the master's benevolent reason persuadingthe slave's irrationalforcefulfilsa function analogous to that of the Demiurge, persuading towards the Good the irrationalaacnke of the materialuniverse(Section II of this paper).

IV. CONCLUSION

This study does not suggestthat Plato deduced his political

theory,his psychology,or his cosmology,fromhis concept of slavery. No such deduction is to be found in his writings,and it is profitlessto speculate about the unpublishedadventuresof his mind. What it does suggestis that his views about slavery, state, man, and the world, all illustrate a single hierarchic pattern; and that the key to the patternis in his idea of logos

with all the implicationsof a

lacks logos; so does the multitude in the state, the body in man, and materialnecessityin the universe.Left to itselfeach of these would be disorderlyand vicious in the sense of that untranslatablyGreekword,hubris.Orderis imposedupon them, by a benevolent superior: master, guardian, mind, demiurge. Each of these rules (archein)in his own domain. The common title to authorityis the possession of logos. In such an intel- lectual scheme slavery is "natural": in perfectharmonywith one's notionsabout the nature of the worldand of man. There is anotherworld-viewthat is the antithesisof Platonic idealism, and would be persecuted in the Platonic utopia as false,wicked,impious,subversive.8 It is associated with Ionian physics61and the contracttheoryof the state. It is scientificin

dualist epistemology.59The slave

58 Seetheuseof4dfoLS, ifco, etc.inRep. 370ab,374e-376c,428e9,43IC 7,590C 3;

PoWt.30Ie, 3o9ab, 3ioa;

59 I

Laws 875c.

referto theseparation (XCpLOtp6s) oftheFormsfromtheparticulars.At-

temptsto explainthisawayhavebeenmadeby Natorp,C. Ritter,and many others.Theyarenotconvincing.See F. M. Cornford,Plato'sTheoryofKnow- ledge2 ff.,and PlatoandParmenides74ff.

60 Laws 8gib; 907dff.Cf.Grote'sPlato

owemuchto thisstimulatingessay.

61

III,

406 ff.in the i865 edition.See

also B. Farringdon'sScienceandPoliticsin theAncientWorld,London,1939.

I

Is "Ionian" unnecessarilyrestrictive?"All the menwho have everyet handledphysicalinvestigation"constitutethefountain-headof impiousun- reason(Laws 89ic) denouncedbytheAthenianstranger.

304 THE PHILOSOPHICAL

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temper,empiricalin its theoryof knowledge,democraticin its political sympathies. Plato and othersof his class complained that democracywas much too lenientwithslaves.82They never

wentso faras to chargewhat seems so evidentto us to-day: that

a consistent democratic philosophy would repudiate slavery altogether.

QUEEN'S UNIVERSITY

GREGORY VLASTOS

KINGSTON, CANADA

62 Rep. 536b; "The OldOligarch",Ath.Pol. 1. io ff.;Aristotle,Pol. I3I3b 35,

I3igb 28.