WPES: Eric Brown, Philosophy

“Stoic Anti-Slavery”

Discussant: Luis Salas, Classics

 

Abstract: The conventional wisdom is that only a couple of obscure Greek philosophers opposed slavery, but this ignores excellent evidence (Diogenes Laërtius VII 121-122) that prominent Greek Stoics did. Why has this evidence been widely overlooked? This essay considers three reasons. One is primarily historical, turning on some possible counter-evidence. But two are surprisingly relevant. They rest on assumptions about what a person has to believe and do in order to be opposed to be slavery, and similar assumptions are in play in current debates about what a person has to believe and do in order to be opposed to white supremacy or patriarchal injustice.