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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-S055-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved April 12, 2024, from

Article Summary

The moral, economic and political value of slavery has been hotly disputed by philosophers from ancient times. It was defended as an institution by Plato and Aristotle, but became increasingly subject to attack in the modern period, until its general abolition in the Western world in the nineteenth century.

In the twentieth century our belief that slavery is fundamentally unjust has become a benchmark against which moral and political philosophies may be tested. Both utilitarians and contractarian philosophers have argued against slavery in general and the enforceability of slavery contracts more specifically, although for very different moral reasons. Others have argued that only by viewing slavery from the standpoint of the slave can its moral significance be understood.

Citing this article:
Esquith, Stephen L. and Nicholas D. Smith. Slavery, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-S055-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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