What Is the Non-Christian Argument Against Slavery?
Absolutely everyone thinks slavery is wrong now, but why?
Slavery. It’s extremely wrong. Everyone thinks so. It feels almost silly to have to explain why it’s wrong, like being asked to explain why randomly murdering people is wrong.
But, while randomly murdering people (at least people in your own community) has been frowned upon by humanity as far back as recorded history, slavery had been considered okay until the last couple hundred years. That would suggest the arguments against slavery are somewhat recent and novel — at least compared to how people treated each other in the distant past.
So, what are the arguments against slavery? I mean, it’s pretty easy to argue against slavery if you believe in human rights, but then we’re back to a concept that everyone thinks is true even though the concept is fairly recent in human history.
And human rights (and thus the arguments against slavery) usually rest on a special belief in human dignity — that all people are special and thus you can’t just push them around the same you would a goat or a cow. This is a religious belief, though, as you don’t get that humans are special from science or evolution. From a pure science perspective, humans are only some indefinable degrees separated from chimps or even fungi. We may have some jingoistic belief humans are special because we are one, but what is a human? That’s actually a much more complex question than “What is a woman?” as a cold scientific approach says we’re only separated from any other species by a certain number of generations.
You can make a pragmatic argument against slavery for reasons of economic efficiency or worry that if you treat people poorly it could turn back on you, but I find pragmatic reasoning weak because anyone can come up with a pragmatic argument for anything and it’s hard to know for certain. And people react to slavery with moral horror; if the arguments against slavery were pragmatic, the reaction would be more like, “I think you’re misguided capturing and whipping people to do your bidding; other ways would be more efficient.”