Human nature or discrimination?
According to Aristotle, humans are political creatures who form social relations with certain hierarchies. The first social relation people make is that of a family, the second of a village and the last of a state. When we look at the first social relation Aristotle already describes three hierarchies; the husband who rules over his wife, the father who rules over his child and the master who rules over his slaves. These hierarchies would be according to the natural place of people, so writes Aristotle the following about slaves: “But is there any one thus intended by nature to be a slave, and for whom such a condition is expedient and right (…)? There is no difficulty in answering this question, on grounds of both reason and of fact. For that some should rule and others be ruled is a thing not only necessary, but expedient (Aristotle, polotics, §5)”. Here Aristotle says that it is necessary and desirable for some people to rule over other people, whether it is in a family, village or state. The place people get would be their natural place in the social hierarchy and should not be changed, for it would be better for everyone to carry out the tasks he is best suited for. Here we find a similarity with Plato’s idea of the ideal state where everybody is given the same educational chances and test to see which job he is best fit for. Aristotle however does not write about similar process and seems to assume that we will automatically know where one belongs. When we look at the master-slave relationship he ascribes rationality to the master and lack of rationality to the slave. Because of his rationality the master is justified to rule over the slave, however, here we see two problems arising. First of all, Aristotle seems to assume the salve has no rationality and this is why another should decide over his life, but the slave is able to follow instructions given to him. The capability to follow orders however, does imply a certain amount of rationality, and if the slave posses this rationality he cannot be a natural slave. The second problem is the lack of fair changes to develop certain skills and knowledge. When we don’t have the same opportunities as others, we might be pushed in a place we don’t “naturally” belong, but just end up because we could not develop certain skills. To me Aristotle’s view on the human nature therefore seems an easy way to discriminate people, since it seems impossible to determine someone’s natural place if there is even such a thing.
Aristotle, Politics book I