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Isn't it pretty?

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Define Better

I have a bit of a dilemma at the moment. I have been reading Aristotle's Politics. In the Politics, Aristotle discusses natural slaves and natural masters. He discusses, dissects and disapproves of different models and suggestions for an ideal government. One thing common to the suggested governments, and one of the few things that Aristotle does not make objection to, is of there being several classes of people that function within the government. I am not necessarily talking about financial classes here, it is more a matter of a level of natural status - some people are meant for the upper crust and some are meant to be slaves. Some are meant to rule and some (in many of the governments, the women) are meant to serve. I have a problem with the concept that some people are born better than others. How do you determine what is better and worse? Where do you draw the line between one class and the next? Does the concept of what is better and worse change throughout the years with our changing values or does it always stay the same? The dilemma I am having is, I don't think everyone is the same, and I don't think everyone is equally good in all areas. I think that people are born with unique talents. I think people are naturally gifted in different areas. Some people have an incredible ability to write, others have natural physical prowess and still others "get" math. I don't think everyone is equally capable of everything, and I believe that this is something born in humans, not something that is a product of society. (Just a slight aside - I am not discounting the role of society in forming a person's world, but I do believe some talents to be innate.) So, if people are better or worse in specific areas of life, and this is a natural thing, then is it completely audacious of me to have problems with Aristotle's views? If I believe that men and women relate to the world and each other in very different ways, is there a mutual exclusivity for me to also have a problem with the idea of women being subordinate to men? I am really struggling with this. I guess my feeling is that until we can define what exact attributes dictate what level a person "should" be on, and this is something that I don't think we will ever be able to do with any kind of satisfaction, then we can say that people are different and not necessarily better, just better in certain areas. I think that the fact that people are better in certain areas than others contributes so much to the richness of the world, and to say that one talent is more important than the next would mean the loss of so many important contributions. I think people would get so focused on what society feels is most important that they would subsequently give up on developing those unique talents that makes each one of us who we are.

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