Dominance and submission are two key features of a strongly asymmetrical power relationship which has fuelled the history of humanity and experienced numerous transformations throughout the development of Western civilization. Offering a masterly reconstruction of this millennia-old story, this book focuses on a collection of enlightening examples, highlighting philosophical theories that have shaped our ways of thinking, feeling, and acting, and the anthropological, political, and cultural underpinnings of change. Starting from the ancient tradition of slavery, which finds its most powerful validation in Aristotle, the narrative winds through the centuries and then addresses the evolution of machines called upon to emancipate human labour – initially from demanding physical efforts, subsequently from challenging mental endeavours. This process continues even now with remarkable advances involving robots and devices equipped with artificial intelligence – or, in other words, with the extracorporeal transfer of human abilities (such as intelligence and will) and their incorporation into self-governing apparatus.
Remo Bodei is professor emeritus at the University of Pisa and taught regularly at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).