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Given that the Objectivist ethics/politics is opposed to slavery, what basis is there for characterizing Objectivism as an Aristotelian or Aristotle-influenced philosophy, if Aristotle advocated slavery?

One might say that slavery was just a part of Aristotle's philosophy, not the whole. But if you go by parts, then parts of many philosophies have influenced Objectivism, so there's nothing particularly Aristotelian about Objectivism.

If you say that slavery is non-essential to Aristotle's philosophy, and Objectivism only advocates the essential premises of Aristote, how do you distinguish what's essential in a philosophy from what's non-essential?

asked Nov 19 '13 at 20:53

Jonathan%20Conway's gravatar image

Jonathan Conway
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edited Nov 19 '13 at 23:05


Objectivism's appraisal of Aristotle's philosophy is made very clear in The Ayn Rand Lexicon in the topic of "Aristotle." That topic is one of the longer topics in the Lexicon, spanning nearly three full pages. One of my own all-time favorite passages is included:

If we consider the fact that to this day everything that makes us civilized beings, every rational value that we possess—including the birth of science, the industrial revolution, the creation of the United States, even the structure of our language—is the result of Aristotle’s influence, of the degree to which, explicitly or implicitly, men accepted his epistemological principles, we would have to say: never have so many owed so much to one man.

We also owe the abolition of slavery, in very large part, to Aristotle's philosophy.

As the above excerpt suggests, and other excerpts state explicitly, it is specifically Aristotle's metaphysics and epistemology that represent his astounding achievement in the history of philosophy.

In ethics, an excerpt by Leonard Peikoff explains:

For Aristotle, the good life is one of personal self-fulfillment. Man should enjoy the values of this world. Using his mind to the fullest, each man should work to achieve his own happiness here on earth. And in the process he should be conscious of his own value.

Slavery could not long endure a philosophy such as that, once the philosophy had the opportunity to blossom fully in the Renaissance and Enlightenment. It simply become too concretely real that slaves are human, too.

The Lexicon excerpts also point out certain areas where Objectivism disagrees with Aristotle's philosophy, such as the Platonic remnants, his view of "essence" as metaphysical, some inconsistencies in his advocacy of political individualism, and so on. But these areas pale in comparison to the core of his basic philosophy, as the Lexicon excerpts explain. Aristotle was not Ayn Rand, nor could Ayn Rand have originated Objectivism without Aristotle's fundamental philosophical foundation.

answered Nov 20 '13 at 00:27

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦
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Asked: Nov 19 '13 at 20:53

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Last updated: Nov 20 '13 at 00:27