previous next

Aristotle on Slaves and Women

Aristotle was conventional for his times in regarding slavery1 as natural on the grounds that some people were by nature bound to be slaves because their souls lacked the rational part that should rule in a human being. Individuals propounding the contrary view were rare, although one fourth-century B.C. orator, Alcidamas, asserted that “God has set all men free; nature has made no one a slave.” Also in tune with his times was Aristotle's conclusion that women2 were by nature inferior to men. His view of the inferiority of women was based on faulty notions of biology. He wrongly believed, for example, that in procreation the male with his semen actively gave the fetus its form, while the female had only the passive role of providing its matter. His assertion that females were less courageous than males was justified by dubious evidence about animals, such as the report that a male squid would stand by as if to help when its mate was speared but that a female squid would swim away when the male was impaled. Although his erroneous biology led Aristotle to evaluate females as incomplete males, he believed that human communities could be successful and happy only if they included the contributions of both women and men. Aristotle argued that marriage was meant to provide mutual help and comfort but that the husband should rule.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: