In Aristotle’s Politics, he successfully argues out that political rule is an alternation between any ruling institution and free persons. It is in this context that he describes the relationship between master and slave, under which he clearly articulates between a natural slave and one bound by law. It is crucial for the reader to rise above those Nicomachean times and view it in the setting that politics strives towards the highest attainable good at the crest of which authority rests which is illustrated by “Clearly, then, while every community aims at some good, the community that has the most authority of all and encompasses all the others aims highest, that is to say, at the good that has the most authority of all. This community is the one called a city-state, the community that is political.” (1252a1-5). Therefore, in analyzing Aristotle’s polis, the chief aim of politics and its strong relation to authority cannot be ignored.
In the first chapter, a complete analysis of polis has been taken into account. It is viewed as a form of partnership such that “every partnership is constituted for the sake of some good for everyone does everything for the sake of what is held to be good”(1252, a1). The polis, as illustrated by Aristotle, can only be understood by breaking it into its individual components. However, as indicated in chapter two, a mere analysis is not sufficient without a comprehensive analysis of this since “it is by looking at how things develop naturally from the beginning that one may best (nobly) study them” (1252a25).
Although polis can be viewed as an association in itself, it can further be expanded to include a number of smaller units or associations which aim at the maximum authoritative good exemplified by happiness. To attain happiness, a need to evaluate human relationships and their nature comes up which Aristotle addresses aptly. This is depicted in the family which contains the male-female association and “the naturally ruling-naturally mastered relation” (1252a27-34). However, what is good for smaller associations is said to be good for the polis which might not always be the case.
Associations not only aim at the overall good but also exhibit the ruler and the subject relationship. Aristotle is viewed as answering the question on who ought to rule. This is reflected in his discussion of the male-slave relationship. He asserts that the principle of natural rule under which a character based relation between master and slave is explicit. This vice leads to a lot of controversy especially in today’s context where his views are considered locked in time. However, there are particular lessons that we can learn from his view on politics that a different political system can be established under which the natural slave works without slave institutions. This is highly controversial and leads philosophers in the quest to confront the legality or its lack thereof of slavery.
Aristotle circumvents the master-slave relationship by approaching it on a basis of a rule of nature. In Politics, a slave is depicted as a well-ordered being. Just as the soul naturally and despotically rules the body, so does the master rule the slave. Aristotle illustrates this in “that which can foresee with the mind is the naturally ruling element, while that which performs work with the body is naturally ruled”(1252a31). Hence, Aristotle views the relationship of two people who are completely different from each other and fit the body and soul analogy, then, the superior oversight, the master, ought to rule. Slaves are seen as having a poor ability to reason and as such not fit to rule. They are naturally designed to obey and serve a master. As Aristotle puts it: “It is clear from these considerations what the nature and capacity of a slave are….. And he is someone else’s when, despite being human, he is a piece of property; and a piece of property is a tool for action that is separate from its owner… For ruling and being ruled are not only necessary, they are also beneficial, and some things are distinguished right from birth, some suited to rule and other to being ruled (1254a15-25)
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