[Humanist] 23.41 servants as automata

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Mon May 25 08:04:24 CEST 2009

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 23, No. 41.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

Date: Sun, 24 May 2009 20:47:06 -0700
From: Ayhan Aytes <ayhana at gmail.com>
Subject: Re: [Humanist] 23.35 servants as automata

Dear Willard,
Aristotle in Politics (1253b) defines servants as animate household

"Property is a part of the household, and the art of acquiring property is a
part of the art of managing the household; for no man can live well, or
indeed live at all, unless he be provided with necessaries. And as in the
arts which have a definite sphere the workers must have their own proper
instruments for the accomplishment of their work, so it is in the management
of a household. Now instruments are of various sorts; some are living,
others lifeless; in the rudder, the pilot of a ship has a lifeless, in the
look-out man, a living instrument; for in the arts the servant is a kind of
instrument. Thus, too, a possession is an instrument for maintaining life.
And so, in the arrangement of the family, a slave is a living possession,
and property a number of such instruments; and the servant is himself an
instrument which takes precedence of all other instruments. For if every
instrument could accomplish its own work, obeying or anticipating the will
of others, like the statues of Daedalus, or the tripods of Hephaestus,
which, says the poet,

"of their own accord entered the assembly of the Gods; "

if, in like manner, the shuttle would weave and the plectrum touch the lyre
without a hand to guide them, chief workmen would not want servants, nor
masters slaves." (tr. Benjamin Jowett 

It is necessary to note that both examples from the myths of Daedalus andHephaestus refer to automata-like beings.

Ayhan Aytes

Ph.D. Candidate
University of California San Diego
Department of Communication

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