Home > Vol 3, No 4 (2014): 115-137 > Frederick

Voluntary Slavery

Danny Frederick


The permissibility of actions depends upon facts about the flourishing and separateness of persons. Persons differ from other creatures in having the task of discovering for themselves, by conjecture and refutation, what sort of life will fulfil them. Compulsory slavery impermissibly prevents some persons from pursuing this task. However, many people may conjecture that they are natural slaves. Some of these conjectures may turn out to be correct. In consequence, voluntary slavery, in which one person welcomes the duty to fulfil all the commands of another, is permissible. Life-long voluntary slavery contracts are impermissible because of human fallibility; but fixed-term slavery contracts should be legally enforceable. Each person has the temporarily alienable moral right to direct her own life.


slavery, Aristotle, voluntary slave, critical rationality, enforceable slave contracts, essential personal task, natural slave

Full Text:



Archard, David (1990), “Freedom not to be Free: the Case of the Slavery Contract in J. S. Mill's On Liberty,” Philosophical Quarterly, 40 (161): 453-65.

Aristotle (2006), Nicomachean Ethics, translated by W. D. Ross, Adelaide, eBooks@Adelaide. Downloaded on 30 September 2011 from: http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/a/aristotle/nicomachean/

Aristotle (2007), Politics, translated by Benjamin Jowett, Adelaide, eBooks@Adelaide. Downloaded on 30 September 2011 from: http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/a/aristotle/a8po/

Block, Walter (2003), “Toward a Libertarian Theory of Inalienability,” Journal of Libertarian Studies, 17 (2): 39-85.

Boehm, Christopher (1999), Hierarchy in the Forest, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press.

Ellerman, David (2010), “Inalienable Rights: a Litmus Test for Liberal Theories of Justice,” Law and Philosophy, 29 (5): 571–99.

Feinberg, Joel (1986), Harm to Self, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Frederick, Danny (forthcoming), “Pro-tanto Obligations and Ceteris-paribus Rules,” Journal of Moral Philosophy, http://booksandjournals.brillonline.com/content/10.1163/17455243-4681036;jsessionid=9gsnrqr3a20a.x-brill-live-01.

Gabriel, Jazmine (2012) “Forced to be Free, Not Free to be Slaves,” Journal of Value Inquiry, 46 (1): 39-50.

Heath, Malcolm (2008), “Aristotle on Natural Slavery,” Phronesis, 53 (3): 243-70.

Henrich, Joseph and Gil-White, Francisco (2001), “The Evolution of Prestige: Freely Conferred Deference as a Mechanism for Enhancing the Benefits of Cultural Transmission,” Evolution and Human Behaviour, 22 (3): 165-96.

Ishiguro, Kazuo (1989), The Remains of the Day, London, Faber & Faber.

Kant, Immanuel (1785), Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals, tr. H. J. Paton in his The Moral Law (53-123), London, Hutchinson (1948).

Kershnar, Stephen (2003), “A Liberal Argument for Slavery,” Journal of Social Philosophy, 34 (4): 510-36.

Mill, John Stuart (1859), On Liberty, Harmondsworth, Penguin (1983).

Nozick, Robert (1974), Anarchy State and Utopia, Oxford, Blackwell (1980).

Patterson, Orlando (1982), Slavery and Social Death, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press.

Popper, Karl (1945), The Open Society and its Enemies, fifth edition, London, Routledge and Kegan Paul (1966).

Popper, Karl and Eccles, John (1977), The Self and its Brain, London, Routledge and Kegan Paul (1983).

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques (1762), The Social Contract, in The Social Contract and Discourses, trans. G. D. H. Cole, London, Dent & Sons (1913).

Steiner, Hillel (1994), An Essay on Rights, Oxford, Blackwell.

Thomson, Judith Jarvis (1990), The Realm of Rights, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press.

Turgenev, Ivan (1859), On the Eve. Harmondsworth, Penguin (1950).

Vallentyne, Peter (2000), “Left Libertarianism: A Primer,” in Left Libertarianism and its Critics, ed. Peter Vallentyne and Hillel Steiner (1-20), Basingstoke, Palgrave.

Zwolinski, Matt (2008), “The Separateness of Persons and Liberal Theory,” Journal of Value Inquiry, 42 (2): 147-65.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Bookmark and Share

Copyright (c) 2014 Danny Frederick

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Las Torres de Lucca. Revista Internacional de Filosofía Política

© 2016. Universidad Complutense de Madrid
Biblioteca Complutense | Ediciones Complutense