Is slavery good?

Slavery of humans was practiced by a variety of civilizations and some people thought it was good even in 20th century. Nowadays, is slavery good?

Key distinctions and notions: slavery, serfdom, freedom, achievement, human rights, humaneness, viability, practicability, humans, human societies, animals, parasitism, food chain.

Limitations: the article does not yet cover all arguments found in Proslavery.

Slavery is goodEdit

Arguments forEdit

  •   Argument for Slavery was practiced by great civilizations such as Egyptians, Ancient Greeks, Ancient Rome, ancient China, ancient Korea and ancient India. It enabled their achievements.
    • Correction Slavery did not end in Antiquity, it only changed form and name. Slaves became workers. Slaves worked for roof, food, clothes and medical treatment; workers work for salary barely sufficient for roof, food, clothes and medical treatment. Slavery is bad but inevitable in any civilized society.
    •   Objection Slavery is unnecessary for the achievement of a modern nation. What constitutes an achievements, or at least a desired one, is subjective. For example, some argue high wealth is an achievement while others argue mere wealth accumulation is not an achievement or desired achievement for a nation. This also begs the question: are any of these nations truly great?
    •   Objection That seems to assume that achievement is a justification for violation of human rights. If we assume so, we may allow medical experiments on prisoners or on selected races to increase human achievement and possibilities. That does not seem morally acceptable.
    •   Objection It is not clear why similar feats could not be achieved by serfdom. At the very least, the master should not have the right to kill their slaves.
  •   Argument for Expanding on the above, slavery enabled Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. Without slavery, we would not have this great philosophy.
    •   Objection This is a typical fallacy Post hoc ergo propter hoc. There is no proven link between their having slaves and their being great philosophers. Many other great philosophers did not have slaves.
  •   Argument for Slavery was practiced by a wide range of societies, high-achieving and low-achieving. It is a near-universal human practice, and therefore it is unlikely to be bad.
    •   Objection The same is true of war, yet we hope to achieve a world free from war or at least one where there are much fewer wars. We hope to achieve moral progress, to move beyond morally and instrumentally bad past practices whether near-universal or not.
  •   Argument for Slavery is found not only in humans but also in slave-making ants. It is a natural phenomenon, a good move discovered by natural selection.
    •   Objection That assumes that features or relationships discovered by natural selection are good per se, and in particular morally good. It would follow that parasitism is good since it is a phenomenon widely found in biological nature. That does not seem acceptable.
      •   Objection Parasitism is not within a single species. When we analyze things between species, humans eat plants, one organism destroying another organism to take advantage of it. Such a relationship is unavoidable for humans.
      •   Objection An analog of parasitism in human world is hard to avoid. Thus, large employers take advantage of their workers by giving them lower wages than a true many-many labor market would produce. A society of genuine equals is impossible.
    •   Objection War was discovered by natural selection[citation needed], however we do not accept aggressive war as good.
    •   Objection The above ignores the is-ought problem. The fact that slavery was widely practiced, whether by humans or ants, does not automatically make it morally good, something that ought to be practiced.
  •   Argument for Black people have not genetically evolved in the conditions of civilization, unlike the white races or the Chinese[citation needed]. Black people will have greater tendency to violence[citation needed]. The greater performance of black people in sports is in line with that: sports have much more to do with the requirements of primitive life in Africa than in the civilized life in Europe[citation needed].
    •   Objection Everithing above is pure speculation and requires a solid proof, and none is available.
    •   Objection Nobody has talked about black slaves, but slaves in general. White or yellow people could be enslaved too, if slavery returns. Thus, this opinion is purely based on racist prejudice agains black people.
  •   Argument for Some people are slaves by nature, and their enslavement serves their best interests[citation needed]. In particular, some people are related to other people like body is to soul or like animals are to humans. Thus, in some people the principles of bodiness (muscularity as opposed to intellectuality) and animality dominate, and these are the kinds of people who are slaves by nature[citation needed].
    •   Objection That would assume that whole ethnics or nations are somehow more body-oriented or more like animals than humans. That is so since the actual practices of slavery were based on ethnicity, in part for ease of administration. That assumption seems implausible.
    •   Objection That would assume that it is in the best interest of a slave to be threatened with killing by their master. That seems implausible. At a minimum, serfdom would be more adequate.
    •   Objection Plato's learned slaves did not seem to be dominated by masculinity. Slaves could be used for purposes related to muscle as well as dexterity and the mind. Thus, the above is implausible.
    •   Objection Enslavement is a result of a combination of force with disregard for human rights, not a result of proper application of the mind. The principles of animality and muscularity are found in the enslavers, and are found in their act of enslaving someone else. It does not take a genius to be an enslaver.
      •   Objection Perhaps it takes a military genius.
        •   Objection It might. But many of the enslavers are not military leaders but soldiers. A group of people dominated by the concerns of the mind such as learning and acquisition of knowledge cannot on their own enslave another nation.
  •   Argument for Since the Old Testament condones slavery, slavery cannot be bad.
    •   Objection Since morality is entirely subjective, the concept of slavery can be neither good nor bad, objectively.
    •   Objection That assumes the Old Testament is good.
    •   Objection That assumes the Old Testament is a word of God rather than fiction created by a fairly backwards culture.
    •   Objection Old Testament was amended by New Testament. The amendment is clear in Jesus doctrine of forgiveness, in contrast to the old eye for eye. Thus, Old Testament should not be taken to be the final word by God but rather a first draft.
      •   Objection If we are Jews, Old Testament is the final word.
        •   Objection Old Testament is an incoherent jumble of contradictions anyway, so anything can be derived from it, whether support for slavery or opposition to slavery. It has no force, and no place in an honest philosophical examination of merits and demerits of slavery.

Arguments againstEdit

  •   Argument against All people were made by God to be equal[citation needed], and slavery violates this principle because it creates a fictitious distinction based on race or ethnicity.
    •   Objection Probably not by the Christian God since otherwise the Christian holy texts would not tolerate slavery[citation needed].
  •   Argument against Slavery violates basic human rights.
  •   Argument against Slavery goes beyond the social institute of people dependent on work for livelihood, whether peasants, industrial workers or working intelligence. All that slavery promises to do can be achieved by freedom.
    •   Objection That seems improbable given that so many great civilizations depended on slavery.
    •   Objection That may be true in the technological conditions of enlightenment Europe, but it is not clear it was true in the technological conditions of ancient civilizations.

Not all kinds of slavery are the sameEdit

Arguments forEdit

  Argument for While not all slavery is good, voluntary slavery is: people should be able to sell themselves as slaves. Prohibiting them from doing so is a violation of Mill's harm principle.

  •   Objection That may be an argument for accepting Mill's principle only in a limited form. There is a paradox: by taking some freedoms of people away, we greatly increase their effective freedom, or in any case their negotiating power. Negotiation power can be greatly increased by losing options, a classic example being two drivers playing a game of driving against each other and the one who turns away loses. In that game, the driver who throws away the steering wheel first wins, by forcing themselves to not turn away and the other party turns away to avoid death. If we accept that people should be free to give up their fundamental rights in exchange for money, we will accept development of a wide range of undesirable social phenomena with people undergoing dangerous medical experiments for money (they only harm themselves), people should be able to sell their arm as a spare part for the rich (they only harm themselves), etc. It follows we need a restricted form of Mill's principle, and one of the restrictions is that fundamental human rights are not for sale.
    •   Objection Good point. However, in a non-disclosure agreement, the fundamental human right of free speech is sold.
      •   Objection That may be an indictment of non-disclosure agreements: perhaps they should be banned. That would not only increase human rights but also prevent a range of undesirable business practices. But that would be for a separate discussion.
      •   Objection However, what it means is that we may need a more differentiated approach; the general principle stands. The right not to be a slave is probably much deeper human right than the right of free speech, especially since free speech is in fact limited to some extent, e.g. as for libel.
        •   Objection One could argue that all libel laws should be abolished as doing more harm than good, but that would be for a separate discussion.

  Argument for Slavery goes beyond serfdom in unreasonable and inhumane ways, e.g. by allowing the master to kill the slave. All that slavery promises to do can be achieved with serfdom, which is much more humane.

See alsoEdit

Should Mill's harm principle be accepted?

Further readingEdit