“Aristotle and Aztec Human Sacrifice” by Dr. Noell Birondo (University of Texas at El Paso)
This paper discusses the defense of Aztec human sacrifice delivered by the Spanish friar Bartolomé de Las Casas in front of the Spanish tribunal convened in 1550 to consider the nature of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. In his defense of the Aztec way of life, Las Casas makes repeated and helpful appeals to Aristotle, for instance to the Topics, Rhetoric, and Nicomachean Ethics. I argue that a detailed examination of the actual historical collision of these two radically distinct belief systems, Christian and Aztec, reveals the possibility—even in the early modern period—of a helpfully “dialogical” Aristotelianism, one that strains to understand, from within, the perspective of alien others. This dialogical approach promises to enrich the best philosophical accounts of the virtues we have, both now and in future research on moral character.