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Las Casas

Four kinds of barbarians

Las Casas distinguishes a number of different kinds of barbarians, so as to make it clear all the various senses in which someone can be called a barbarian, and to isolate that one sense of the word which Aristotle thinks justifies us in saying that someone is a natural slave. To do this he uses not only Aristotle, but a variety of sources beyond Aristotle. In the remainder of Chapter 1 you get the description of the first kind of barbarian.

Your first task is to read through Las Casas defense (all four chapters) and to list the kinds of barbarians which he distinguishes, and pick out the one kind which is supposed to be a legitimate candidate for natural slavery. List the properties which distinguish these kinds from one another. You should also list the examples which Las Casas gives of each type or kind, as there are some amusing ironies and pointed implications in the examples.

Make a table like the following one:

Table of Barbarians

Once you have completed the table you should be able to answer questions about it. Here is a quick quiz. Once you know the answers to these questions, go take the quiz by clicking on the link following the questions. This quiz will be graded, and you will get a feedback page telling you what your score on the quiz is, which answers were correct and which not, and a brief explanation of the answers. Since this quiz is simply intended to help you think through the implications of the different kinds of barbarians, the grade on this quiz will not be recorded. The quiz (when you take it) will open in a separate window, so (once you get the feedback page) you will need to close that window by clicking in the box in the upper left corner of that window.


Quiz: Kinds of Barbarians
  1. The ancient people of Spain were barbarians in the strict and proper sense. (true/false)
  2. According to Las Casas, the activities of the Spaniards in the Americas showed that they and not the Indians were barbarians in the strict and proper sense. (true/false)
  3. According to Las Casas, the Indians were not barbarians in the strict and proper sense because: (multiple choice)

       a. they had a written language.
       b. they possessed, government, the arts, commerce, and thus failed to match the description for being a barbarian in the strict and proper sense.
       c. they did not use cannon and horses in warefare like the Spaniards.
       d. None of the above.

Answers to the Quiz

1. False 2. False. It is important to distinguish the first and third kinds of barbarians. 3. b
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