Aristotle on Business

Classical Quarterly 46 (1):138-151 (1996)
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Aristotle's treatment of trade in the Politics book one is usually regarded as especially hostile, and this is put down to snobbery and political prejudice on his part. The Greeks often regarded trade as a degrading thing for a free man to engage in, and it would be surprising if Aristotle's view of trade were entirely unconnected with this Greek sensibility. But there should be something more definite than a loose general affinity if a charge of prejudice is to be taken seriously. A balance of hostile judgements over argued cases to back them up would be some sort of evidence for prejudice, and prima facie evidence against would be anything like a theory from which the hostile judgements followed as conclusions. Theories can be concocted to give the required conclusions, of course, and then we must try to decide how serious the theory is. It comes to this: is there so little in the reasons Aristotle gives for his condemnation of trade that they may be convincingly explained away and belittled as no more than expressions of attitudes?



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