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August 20, 2007




you might have included a link to Mill's magnificent reply : http://cepa.newschool.edu/het/texts/carlyle/millnegro.htm

tom s.

Of course he wasn't alone among philosophers defending slavery: some guy named Aristotle did so as well.


So if you agree that Carlyle was a repellent old bastard, why won't you join the campaign for asylum for our Iraqi employees?

We can't turn them away.


Yes, I should join it. I've not posted on it, simply because I believe in free migration for everyone so my support should be taken for granted.


The old curmudgeon is quite interesting on Heroes and Heroism and unreadable in Sartor Resartus. Given Marx's racist sentiments, I don't really see how our Marx-loving young(ish) curmudgeon can reject Carlyle on the grounds he's cited here.

Stephen Gordon

Some background on why Carlyle called it the 'dismal science':



That's a bit selective, Chris.


[Of course he wasn't alone among philosophers defending slavery: some guy named Aristotle did so as well.]

Not only does Aristotle *not* defend perpetual race-based slavery, he actually argues that hereditary slavery is evil (Politics 1255b); he also freed his slaves in his will. Carlyle is arguing for the enslavement of free men on the grounds that black people are designed by God for the use of whites.


To be fair to Carlyle, he had the same opinion of ALL men, white or black. E.g. Past and Present, Chapter XIII:

"Thou poor black Noble One... did not a God make thee too ; was there not in thee too something of a God!"

Followed a paragraph later by:

"The true liberty of a man, you would say, consited in his finding out, or being forced to find out the right path, and to walk thereon. To learn, or to be taught, what work he actually was able for ; and then by permission, persuasion, and even compulsion, so set about doing of the same... If thou do know better than I what is good and right, I conjure thee in the name of God, force me to do it ; were it by never such brass collars, whips and hadcuffs, leave me not to walk over precipices! That I have been called, by all the Newspapers, a 'free man' will avail me little, if my pilgrimage ended in death and wreck."

It's all part of his rather outdated and bizarre belief (reflected in his dislike of democracy, love of Cromwell, and preference for classical-style aristocracy or, of choice, dictatorship) that people were born to particular roles, and that it is actually infringing on their liberty to allow them not to fulfil that role. You do them a favour by forcing them to work, because only in doing what we are designated to do by God are we truly free... (I would quote more to underline the point, but it'd get insanely lengthy...)

Conveniently, of course, Carlyle's designated, God-ordained role was to sit in a nice house in Chelsea, drinking port, smoking cigars, and writing books. But that was hardly his fault - it was divine providence, and it would have been an insult to God for him to have done anything else.

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