Heroes and Demigods: Aristotle's Hypothetical "Defense" of True Nobles

Eirene 59 (I-II):67-98 (2023)
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Although the commentary on Aristotle’s problematic discussion of slavery is vast, his discussion of nobility receives little attention. The fragments of his dialogue On Noble Birth constitute his most extensive examination of nobility, and while their similarity to the παμβασιλεύς of the Politics has recently been recognized, their relevance to natural slavery has hitherto gone unnoticed. Yet by declaring that true nobles – particularly the god-like ἀρχηγός – preternaturally possess superhuman characteristics, Aristotle precludes their easy inclusion in the kind “human” in a manner inversely mirroring the preternatural subhumanity of natural slaves. Building on recent scholarship which argues that Aristotle’s “defense” of natural slaves is better understood as an indictment, On Noble Birth becomes most coherent if read as a hypothetical investigation into what would be required for “nobility” to name something true rather than equivocal, with the conclusion that “true nobility” is an empty set.



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Author Profiles

William H. Harwood
Missouri State University
Paria Gashtili
Missouri State University

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References found in this work

Aristotle: The Desire to Understand.Jonathan Lear - 1988 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
Shame and Necessity.Bernard Williams - 1993 - Apeiron 27 (1):45-76.
The Greek Particles.W. F. J. Knight & J. D. Denniston - 1938 - American Journal of Philology 59 (4):490.

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