Tatiana Weiser. From the phenomenology of slavery to the criticism of totalitarian monotheism in the European intellectual tradition: Étienne de La Boétie, Simone Weil and Hanna Arendt

Étienne de La Boétie (1530–1563), a French philosopher and friend of Montaigne's, was the first one to propose the "internalistic" or phenomenological interpretation of slavery: in his famous work "The Discourse on Voluntary Servitude" was represented not as an empirical fact, a system of social relations embedded in and defined by cultural and historical context, but rather as an epistemological precondition or phenomenological part of the human mind: a slave is a person who makes no efforts with their mind and lacks the courage to differ themselves from a tyrant. A person becomes a slave when they begin to serve to this non-difference voluntarily, thus supporting the absolute will of another person. 

Several centuries later, the French religious philosopher Simone Weil (1909–1943) proposed her view of the slavery phenomenon as the logical and optical effect of totalizing mind. A person becomes a slave when he becomes an object of the egocentric vision of the master, who fails to see the border between "me" and "the other", transforming another person into a "thing". Any person can make slaves those who are close to him, whenever they refuse to see the limits of their blind and absolute will.

Both concepts share the opinion that the slavery is the consequence of experience of making no difference between oneself and the other person (both by the slave/employee and the slave-owner/boss). Slavery is not limited by its cultural and historical context, not by social institutions, it is possible until now, always and with anyone. And in this sense, it still exists in the modern era in different barely recognizable forms and in latent epistemological prerequisites. One of such forms is the political monotheism of the totalitarianism described by Hannah Arendt. The report will show that her totalitarianism model is based on the United concept that erases the borders between "me" and "the other". So, from the point of view of phenomenology of non-differentiation, the non-traditional views on slavery in French philosophy of modern history can be considered ancestors of this model.