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Natural Hierarchies In Society

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Social Issues

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Aristotle, the Greek philosopher believed in natural hierarchies, which are outlined in the article Politica - Book 1. Basically, Aristotle's concept was that the freeman, the man who was not a slave, was the top person in the hierarchy, as constituted by nature and the universe (Aristotle, 560). I agree to some extent to these theories, as I don't believe that equality can exist in this world. Also, my background causes me to acknowledge and agree to these theories, as they are quite similar to the culture I was brought up in. However, despite agreeing to the theories in Politica, I have found some flaws in them, which cause them to contradict each other.
Politica - Book 1, covers many topics, with hierarchies being the protagonist part of Aristotle's explanations. He mentioned hierarchies between the family and state; body and soul; man and woman; and freeman and slave. Aristotle explained that the state was prior to the family. After all, Aristotle stated that "man is by nature a political animal." (Aristotle, 556). The state is established for the good of everyone as whatever man produced was for a benefit. The state also brought the good out of man. Without the state, man would be "either a beast or a god." (Aristotle, 557).
The soul was naturally higher than the body as it naturally governed the actions of the body. People whose bodies were in control could be hurtful.
"' Although in bad or corrupted natures the body will often appear to rule over the soul, because they are in an evil and unnatural condition." (Aristotle, 560).

Aristotle wanted to show that when the soul was not in control, the person would be in an unnatural state.

Men should control woman according to Aristotle, as it was natural for them to be in control. "The male is fitter by nature for command than the female'" (Aristotle, 574). It was also thought to be morally virtuous and courageous for a man to command, and for a woman to obey (Aristotle, 576). However, the inequality here was not as severe as with the slaves as the rule by men on women was 'constitutional.' (Aristotle 574).

Aristotle defined slaves as subjects, people who use their body as a tool for the freeman's 'foresight' through mind. (Aristotle, 554). "The servant is a kind of instrument." (Aristotle, 558). Aristotle believed that Nature gave a purpose to everything she made; the slave's to be an instrument in a freeman's household. Within the household instrument hierarchy though, the slave was the highest. The slave, a freeman's possession, was regarded as "an instrument of action." (Aristotle, 559). Aristotle also believed that slaves were marked for subjection from birth, while leaders for rule. At birth, the child who showed signs of disorientation and indiscipline and who needed direction was a slave, while one who portrayed strength and leadership qualities went on to be the master. Aristotle also believed that some slaves needed to be ruled, as they were almost the same as animals, with only their instincts to rely on. The slave was also regarded as part of the master, as when the two combined together, work was done allowing for something 'good' to be accomplished. The duality of this existence is in many things, which could be why Aristotle only had hierarchies between two paradigms as shown above. Slaves who understood and accepted this fact of life would have a better life, with even friendship between the slave and master. This would have to work both ways though, with the freeman understanding his priorities too. A freeman was expected to instill excellence into the slave and not merely control him:

"It is manifest, then, that the master ought to be the source of such excellence in the slave, and not mere a possessor of the art of mastership which trains the slave in his duties." (Aristotle, 577).

By training the slave correctly, the freeman was ensuring that the job done by the slave was to an excellent standard, resulting in the most good being done.

Aristotle also discussed the evolution of money and the evil of it. He believed that usury: money lending, was a hated sort of obtaining money, as it was not natural.

"Usury which makes a gain out of money itself, and not from the natural object of it. For money was intended to be used in exchange, but not to increase at interest." (Aristotle, 572)

The evolution of money came through Aristotle's explanation of the art of obtaining money. He believed that acquiring money was part of managing a household, another topic Aristotle commented on. Aristotle preferred the art of acquiring money through household management rather than retail as mentioned before:

"There are two sorts of wealth getting, as I have said; one is a part of household management, the other is retail trade: the former necessary and honorable, while that which consists in exchange is justly censured; for it is unnatural and a mode by which men gain from one another." (Aristotle, 571).

Aristotle also explained that once one became self sufficient, they had reached the peak of their life and full potentiality.

My own background and practices does not cause me to be mortified by what Aristotle has stated about hierarchies. Being Indian, I have and will be subjected to constant hierarchy. Firstly, there is the Caste System in India, where different people are born into specific castes. They will remain in their caste forever. Their wealth, holding of power or social standing will not alter or evolve their caste. Although it has been banished from practice by the government, I know I still adhere to it. For instance, I have segregated myself from other castes, by ensuring that when I marry, it will be to someone from the same caste as mine (Brahmin). Also, women were thought to be traditionally inferior to men. When a young woman reached the age of 19 or 20, she were to marry a man chosen for her by her parents. Where after, the women would stay at home and look after her husband and children. This occurred in my home too, with my own mother marrying a man chosen by her parents. She then came to an unknown land, ...

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Keywords: natural hierarchies, natural social hierarchy, examples of hierarchy in nature

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