Thoughts on Slashing, From Aristotle

There is nothing new about having multiple vocations. Ben Franklin – entrepreneur, author, publisher, inventor, politician, civic activist, founder of a university (mine!) – was the consummate slash, as was Leonardo da Vinci.

Thanks to an email from Tristan Hummel, whom I interviewed for a recent NYT article on artist/entrepreneurs, I now know that Aristotle was an advocate of the slash life as well. And now I give you Aristotle:

 Again, there are many sorts of food, and therefore there are many kinds of lives both of animals and men; they must all have food, and the differences in their food have made differences in their ways of life. For of beasts, some are gregarious, others are solitary; they live in the way which is best adapted to sustain them, accordingly as they are carnivorous or herbivorous or omnivorous: and their habits are determined for them by nature in such a manner thatthey may obtain with greater facility the food of their choice. But, as different species have different tastes, the same things are not naturally pleasant to all of them; and therefore the lives of carnivorous or herbivorous animals further differ among themselves. In the lives of men too there is a great difference. The laziest are shepherds, who lead an idle life,and get their subsistence without trouble from tame animals; their flocks having to wander from place to place in search of pasture, they are compelled to follow them, cultivating a sort of living farm. Others support themselves by hunting, which is of different kinds. Some, for example, are brigands,others, who dwell near lakes or marshes or rivers or a sea in which there are fish, are fishermen, and others live by the pursuit of birds or wild beasts. The greater number obtain a living from the cultivated fruits of the soil. Such are the modes of subsistence which prevail among those whoseindustry springs up of itself, and whose food is not acquired by exchange and retail trade- there is the shepherd, the husbandman, the brigand, the fisherman, the hunter. Some gain a comfortable maintenance out of two employments,eking out the deficiencies of one of them by another: thus the life of a shepherd may be combined with that of a brigand, the life of a farmer with that of a hunter. Other modes of life are similarly combined in any way which the needs of men may require.

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3 Responses to “Thoughts on Slashing, From Aristotle”

  1. queenie Says:

    What’s the citation on that Aristotle quote, please? I’d like to be able to look at it in context. Interesting!


    Hi Queenie,
    Courtesy of Tristan, here’s the citation. It’s from Politics, translated by Benjamin Jowett, book one, section VIII, about halfway down. Here is a link to the complete text: http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/politics.1.one.html — Marci

  2. Alexia Vernon Says:

    Thank you Marci and Tristan for an interesting discussion. I’ve been a “slash” woman since elementary school, coming to school most career days announcing I was going to be an astronaut and a ballet dancer or U.S. President and an architect. Successful leaders across fields rarely wear one hat or excel at one particular type of task. So while not everyone will have reason to identify his/her professional identity with a “slash,” thank you for underscoring that choosing to brand one’s self in such a way not only should be deemed acceptable; it might also signify a flexible, innovative, and enduring professional career.

  3. Dana Says:

    Hey Marci,

    Here’s a piece from the Daily Beast talking about exactly what you have been talking about for years. Instead of using slash, they use “gig” to define the new work economy.

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2009-01-12/the-gig-economy/full/

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