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Social Justice and the Legitimacy of SlaveryThe Role of Philosophical Asceticism from Ancient Judaism to Late Antiquity$
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Ilaria L.E. Ramelli

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198777274

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198777274.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use.date: 25 January 2022

The Background of Greek Philosophy and Ancient Judaism

The Background of Greek Philosophy and Ancient Judaism

Asceticism, Slavery, and Socio-economic Injustice

(p.26) 1 The Background of Greek Philosophy and Ancient Judaism
Social Justice and the Legitimacy of Slavery

Ilaria L. E. Ramelli

Oxford University Press

This chapter’s investigation into philosophy begins with the sophists and Socrates. Against unnamed sophists Aristotle theorized natural slavery, here critically analysed. Slaves, women, and barbarians were for him defective humans. Plato and Socrates problematized slavery; Socrates’ notion of moral slavery influenced Stoicism. The Stoics are shown to be uninterested in the legitimacy of juridical slavery, but critical of Aristotle’s notion of natural slavery. The Stoic-Cynic ideal of self-sufficiency logically implied the rejection of slave ownership and wealth. Dio Chrysostom criticized slavery and poverty as unjust; Chaeremon chose voluntary poverty and owned no slaves; Epictetus was a slave. Stoics and Epicureans admitted slaves and women at school, rejecting Aristotle’s tenet of their inferiority. Sceptics were uninterested in asceticism and slavery. In Platonism, the decreasing influence of Aristotle’s views concerning slavery is detected in favour of the Stoic position, and a special interest in moral/spiritual slavery. The increasing role of asceticism in the Platonic tradition is sometimes connected with a renunciation of possessions and slave ownership. Plotinus’ behaviour was likely dictated by a concern for fellow humans. In ancient and rabbinic Judaism slavery was accepted, but the ascetic Essenes and Therapeutae denounced it as unjust and renounced owning slaves and wealth. Philo’s philosophizing description of the Therapeutae-inspired Christian philosophical asceticism.

Keywords:   sophists, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Stoic-Cynic, Epicureans and Sceptics, Platonism, ancient and rabbinic Judaism, Essenes and Therapeutae, Philo

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