The Morality of Slavery

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I didn't expect my posts on slavery to turn into a real series, but it's turning out to be one, so I figured I'd put together a post collecting the links to all of them in one spot. This post simply summarizes the posts I've written in this series, and I'll be adding to it with each new post.

Slavery Isn't Wrong provocatively argues that slavery isn't intrinsically wrong, but the thesis isn't as radical as it sounds. Most of the paradigm cases of slavery are as wrong as most people think they are. What I argue is that whether something is slavery depends on factors that admit of degrees. If something has those features to a lesser degree, then it's not as strongly slavery as the paradigm cases. It's a weaker sort of slavery. Since different institutions of slavery over the course of history have more or less of these features, it turns out that some of these are a weaker slavery than others. Furthermore, some things have very small degrees of these features and are thus only a slavery to a very little degree. Whether slavery is immoral might depend on how strong a degree of these elements it contains, and it might also depend on factors independent of the intrinsic features of slavery.

Slavery and Christianity looks at two items. One is the Christian view that Christians are slaves of Christ and that everyone else is a slave to sin, considering its relevance to the central question of whether slavery is wrong. My first point is that the biblical teaching is that slavery is in principle not just not bad but even a great thing when the master is the perfect master. It's actually freeing to be a slave. My second point is that ancient Israel's slavery seems to me to be morally ok. It's almost always been referred to as slavery, but it doesn't seem to me to have the kinds of moral features that make slavery wrong.

Moral Absolutism and Murder, Rape, and Genocide begins my response to the objection that if slavery is as I describe it then so will these moral categories. My point here is that it's not completely uncontroversial to say that even these extreme actions are always morally wrong.

My second part of the response focuses on whether murder, rape, and genocide admit of the degrees I've said slavery does, whether that has the same kind of moral results, and whether that's ok or ridiculous. It comes in three parts. Degrees of Slavery and Degrees of Murder deals with murder. Degrees of Slavery and Degrees of Rape deals with rape. Then, predictably, Degrees of Slavery and Degrees of Genocide deals with genocide. I went back to the post on murder to clarify and rework my argument there after completing the genocide post, so if you read that as the series progressed it might be worth going back and reading it again with the updates. I made my argument clearer with regard to why I think what I say about murder gets out of the argument that slavery's degrees make murder admit of implausible degrees.

2 Comments

A better quote to sum it up would be: "I can not be free UNLESS I enslave someone else". From before birth to the grave, each of us is, in a way FORCING someone else to work for them. For example, mothers in pre-natal care, changing diapers, etc. are SLAVES to their children. Children begin to figure this out by an early age, and are correctly perplexed when they are told in school that 'slavery is wrong'. Their entire childhood has been based on their 'enslavement' of their mother, and now their life experience has been denied. How would you feel?

It is about time we admitted that slavery of a sort is EVERYWHERE (at work, at home, etc.), recognized its validity, and went from there!

it is bad why can't we just get along it's it's stupid...

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