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  1. Simon Roberts-Thomson

Published Online: 1 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781444367072.wbiee759

The International Encyclopedia of Ethics

How to Cite

Roberts-Thomson, S. 2013. Slavery. The International Encyclopedia of Ethics. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 1 FEB 2013


Slavery is an institution that has been present within nearly every human society (Patterson 1982: vii). Although it is now widely seen as a paradigmatic case of injustice (see Justice), slavery and related practices are still common. A recent report estimates that there are more than 12.3 million people in forced labor, bonded labor or sexual slavery, and 2.45 million of these people were the victims of human trafficking (International Labour Organization 2005: 12, 14). In philosophy, discussions of slavery usually focus on questions concerning the nature of slavery and the permissibility of slavery. Those concerned with the former topic seek to understand slavery and to distinguish it from other forms of status. The latter topic divides into three main areas: justifications of slavery, explanations of the injustice of slavery, and voluntary slavery.


  • ethnicity and culture;
  • justice;
  • legal and political;
  • practical (applied) ethics;
  • psychology;
  • slavery