Recollecting Aristotle

S. Sara Monoson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Southern academics, politicians, and polemicists claimed Aristotle as a notable progenitor of the proslavery cause. This chapter argues that this use of Aristotle was more than 'learned embroidery' but a significant consideration of his political philosophy. It details three contexts within which these propagandists turned to Aristotle: they relied upon Aristotle to anchor their proslavery activism in a sophisticated philosophical objection to natural rights theory; they appealled to Aristotle to shore up their view that the North practiced wage slavery; they exploited Aristotle's theory of natural slavery to identify black Africans as slaves. The widespread practice among Southern intellectuals of citing of Aristotle is not ornamental but evidence of a dynamic engagement. The Aristotle they prize may be nearly unrecognizable to today's moral philosophers and political scientists but this episode in the reception history of Politics Book I shows that Aristotle could provide an intellectual framework for a toxic way of thinking about human differences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAncient Slavery and Abolition
Subtitle of host publicationFrom Hobbes to Hollywood
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780191728723
ISBN (Print)9780199574674
StatePublished - Sep 22 2011


  • Aristotle
  • Calhoun
  • Fitzhugh
  • Natural slavery
  • Proslavery
  • Race
  • Religion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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