Two Views of Slave Labor

Men of historical renown, writers and great thinkers alike, Aristotle (384 – 322 BC) would have liked the Dominican friar Bartolomé de las Casas (1484 – 1586 AD). They both believed in teleology, or goal directed activity. Here is an example of a teleological argument: if you wanted to make a case for creation science, you could say there is evidence of deliberate design (activity) in the making of a viable and life-sustaining planet (goal).

Using this argument, Aristotle would say the creator was supreme over the creation, and likely Bartolomé de las Casas would agree. These men might then have enjoyed an extension of the conversation.

Aristotle: Do you see that squirrel chewing through the acorn (activity) to get to the nut (goal)?

Bartolomé de las Casas: Yes. It is a perfect example of the squirrel’s superiority over the nut.

Aristotle: Quite so. And a natural order, like humankind over animals, men over women, masters over slave. After all, not everyone is capable of leadership and some are better off ruled by others.

Bartolomé de las Casas: Come again?

Aristotle wrote positively about slaves as “a sort of living piece of property; and like any other servant is a tool in charge of other tools” (The Politics, Book 1, Chapter IV).

Bartolomé de las Casas had another idea. Yet he did not come to his enlightened way of thinking until after he had the advantage of utilizing one hundred native laborers on the Caribbean. Afterwards, he returned to Italy and was ordained. As the priest of a Spanish expedition to Cuba, he witnessed the brutal massacre of indigenous Americans. Thereafter, he preached against slavery and devoted his life to the protection, freedom, and property rights of the natives.

His campaign helped create the New Laws of 1542, which outlawed slavery of indigenous Americans and established mechanisms to protect them (in reality, the rules were difficult to enforce).

A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies, written by las Casas, remains available on virtual sites or for purchase.

A final word on Aristotle: This Greek philosopher and scientist continues to inspire intellectual discourse, contemplation, and creative pursuits. My admonition is to take snippets of information you find on my blog and others and test them. Research. Learn.

That’s how I got started in writing historical fiction. It’s an interesting world I want to experience and share. And, in words of Aristotle,

“The energy of the mind is the essence of life.”

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