Philosophy Compass 12 (1):e12393 (2017)

Margaret Watkins
Saint Vincent College
This article introduces several aspects of eighteenth-century discussions of slavery that may be unfamiliar or surprising to present-day readers. First, even eighteenth-century philosophers who were opponents of slavery often exhibited marked racism and helped develop racial concepts that would later serve pro-slavery theorists. Such thinkers include Hume, Voltaire, and Kant. Second, we must see slavery debates in the context of larger scientific and political debates, including those about climate and character, just political systems, the superiority or inferiority of the moderns to the ancients, and the status of women. This section of the paper discusses the views of Montesquieu, Edmund Burke, Adam Smith, Sarah Chapone, and Mary Astell. Finally, many anti-slavery arguments of the time may seem too ‘soft’ to contemporary readers, as they appeal to negative effects or aspects of slavery rather than arguing for its absolute injustice. The last section of the paper compares Rousseau's arguments against slavery in The Social Contract with such arguments and concludes with a discussion of how Hume's understanding of humanity as a virtue may serve as a bridge between the two.
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DOI 10.1111/phc3.12393
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References found in this work BETA

Kant's Second Thoughts on Race.Pauline Kleingeld - 2007 - Philosophical Quarterly 57 (229):573–592.
Locke, Natural Law, and New World Slavery.James Farr - 2008 - Political Theory 36 (4):495-522.
Mary Astell on Marriage and Lockean Slavery.Jacqueline Broad - 2014 - History of Political Thought 35 (4):717–38.

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