Journal of Scottish Philosophy 7 (2):163-175 (2009)
John Millar's The Origin of the Distinction of Ranks is best known for its first chapter in which Adam Smith's favorite student traces the social status of women as it changed at various historical stages. Millar's concern is strictly with description and explanation. In the less discussed final chapter he examines the authority of a master over his servants. His treatment of slavery differs from the account of the rank of women in several notable ways, most significantly, perhaps, by including normative judgments on the immorality of slavery. This article begins with Millar's examination of the master-servant/slave relation, and then turns to his arguments against slavery. These arguments go substantially beyond those of his mentor Smith, and there are several particular points regarding slavery on which they disagreed. The paper concludes with a discussion of these contrasts
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