Feminists Critique On Aristotle Gender Perspective

Project and Seminar Material for Philosophy

Feminists Critique On Aristotle Gender Perspective

Table of Content

Chapter One

1.0 General Introduction

  • 1.1 A biographical sketch of Aristotle
  • 1.2 The statement of the problem
  • 1.3 Purpose of the study
  • 1.4 Scope of the study
  • 1.5 Methodology of study

Chapter Two

2.0 Literature Review

  • 2.1 Treatment of feminine in Kantian ethical theory
  • 2.2 John Locke’s position of women in his political theory
  • 2.3 Hegel treatment on women and family
  • 2.4. General view on feminism

Chapter Three

3.0 Aristotle on Gender Perspective

  • 3.1 Aristotle on body and soul
  • 3.2 Aristotle on women and slaves
  • 3.3 Injustice and violence against women
  • 3.3.1 Economic injustice
  • 3.3.2 Cultural injustice
  • 3.3.3 Types of violence

Chapter Four

4.0 The Ideology and Philosophy of Feminism

  • 4.1 Different types of feminism
  • 4.1.1 Liberal feminism and individual Autonomy of women
  • 4.1.2 Marxist feminism and socio-Economic Equality
  • 4.1.3 Radical feminism and separatist ideology
  • 4.2 The strategies of justice on women
  • 4.2.1 The empowerment of women
  • 4.2.2 Women and leadership
  • 4.2.3 Advocacy for women right

Chapter Five

5.0 Evaluation and Conclusion

  • 5.1 Critical Evaluation
  • 5.2 Conclusion
  • Bibliography

Chapter One

1.0 General Introduction

Since time immemorial, people have held the view that men are superior to women. This vision of male supremacy is clearly reflected in all traditional families and societies to an extent that even women were made to accept that they are inferior nature.

Over centuries, men and women have so internalized this culture of male supremacy, that even when a woman is known to be in possession of the actual power, especially in a family where the woman has the economic power the man would still be expected to assert his authority proudly as the captain of the family ship and the Lord of the society. From the above background men by nature cling to authority and learn to lord it over women.

Meanwhile, the awareness of certain biological advantages like physical force convinces men that they are endowed with supremacy nature and the right to control women to their own advantage.

In early time, men used because of their intellectual capabilities to justify their supremacy. One of the most influential defence of men is to be found in Aristotle’s writings, where he argues for the justifiability of slavery and the domination of women. Using the analogy of the soul and body, Aristotle argued that men are born to rule women, just as the soul which is superior rules the body and reason rules passion, men should rule woman. For Aristotle, “the male is by nature superior; and the female inferior ; and the one rules and the other is ruled”

Aristotle was making his argument from the point of ancient biology, he felt free to universalize the inferiority of women. In another instance he went further saying that women represent a defaced human nature. The female he argued is “a mutilated male”

The topic “feminists critique on Aristotle’s gender perspective” is really apt within the global crusade for women liberation and empowerment. This crusade can be seen both in the civil societies and among individuals. The core question is should women be treated as persons with right, dignity and voice within the community? They should be acknowledged as citizens members of the civil society. In recent times, there has been an incessant cry on the plight of women in the society, due to this cry that some feminists took as a duty to fight for the unhealthy treatment of women which was traced right from Aristotle’s writings.

1.1 A Biographical Sketch of Aristotle

Aristotle was born in Staigeira in 384 B.C His father was a physician and it was no doubt from interest in biology. At the age of seventeen, Aristotle went to Athens to study and there he joined Plato’s academy and remained for over twenty years a pupil of Plato, studying under him in the academy. After Plato’s death, Aristotle left the academy and began to develop his own philosophy. He eventually founded his own institution, the lyceum, where he lectured and carried out a lot of scientific research. The members of this school frequently help academic discussions while walking up and down on ambulatory, and this earned them his name peripatetic, and the school became known as the peripatetic school. Aristotle’s main interest beside philosophy was in the empirical sciences, especially biology. Aristotle was invited to Macedon in 343 B.C by Philip, King of Macedon to educate his son Alexander who was then about thirteen years old. Aristotle thus became the tutor of the Alexander the Great.

Aristotle wrote books on a variety of subjects, logic, physics, metaphysics, ethics, politics, psychology, biology, Aesthetics and Rhetoric. His works on logic are collectively known as Organon, those on physics include De Caelo and De Generatione et corruptione. His works on psychology include the De Anima and biological works include his History of Animals his famous work metaphysics is a collection 0f lectures that were considered difficult to understand. His works on Ethics include the famous Nichomachean Ethics and Magna Moralia. His politics was based on a study of 158 different constitutions including the constitution of Athens.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Some men up till recent times have not found the situation of women’s predicament as a problem. They are in most cases not concerned with the plight of women. Even in learning about women, men are not interested, they have accepted this situation as normal and any contrary situation is considered as abnormal. Women are valued in most cases only for their outward appearances and services they render to men’s passions. It is worthy noting that the women who suffer this unhealthy treatment are our mothers, sisters, in-laws, wives and daughters.

1.3 Purpose of the Study

The courage for this topic came from two sources, the first is the personal experience of how people ignore women and regard them as inferior to men and a belief that it is important to seriously what people have said about women. Women are still in many places treated as non persons, inferior, second class citizens and weak gender. The second source was an increasing awareness of and interest in what seemed to be some central tensions in feminist thinking and in the relationship between these tension and philosophical theories.

I am to explore some of these tensions and in particular to look at these which centre on the idea of a specifically female philosophical perspective. Women have wanted autonomy and have appealed to philosophical theories to express this, but some women have also argued that many conceptions of autonomy are male defined. They have wanted equality with men and have fought against their exclusion from theories put forward by men and my journey in this topic is to make necessary effort to identify and discuss what seem to me to be central tension in feminist thinking and the way in which these have involved both a use and a critique of philosophical theories against gender equality.

1.4 Scope of Study

In this work emphasis will be based mainly on certain violent practices committed against women especially African women. Some of the various ways in which women have suffered violence will be explored both from the societal circle and that of the individual.

1.5 Methodology

The method to be employed in this research work be expository, evaluative and practical. On expository part, I shall expose some of men’s actions that affect women physically and psychological. It will be evaluative, since I am going to evaluate certain tensions in the feminists thinking and the relationship between these tensions and philosophical theories. Finally, it will be practical since some research work is experimental and deals with the observable facts of our daily life as Africans.

Meanwhile, this work is divided into five chapters; in chapter one, general introduction on the nature of the work. In chapter two, literature review on the topic from different philosophical theories. In chapter three, Aristotle’s theories on soul and body as an analogy used in as position of women and men also in his theory of women and slavery, in the subsection of the chapter, the effect of the above theories on women. In the fourth chapter is the ideology of feminism and types of feminism, also in the subsection of the chapter, is strategies for justice on women. Lastly, in the fifth chapter is the evaluation of the whole work and conclusion of the whole work.

Chapter Five

5.0 Evaluation and Conclusion

5.1 Critical Evaluation

Philosophers are generally known as great thinkers and wise persons, intellectuals who are highly perceptive of subtle matters. One, therefore, wonders why a good number of them are prejudiced, illogical in matters concerning women. In the words of the English critic and essayist, William Hazlitt, “prejudice is the child of ignorance” and for Voltaire “prejudice is the reason of fools”. Fallacies regarding the true nature of women are nothing short of the abuse of reason.

Meanwhile, there is a difference between the two sexes. This does not entail equality, to be equal does not signify identity, it is an ethical notion, it is a moral demand which is borne of the fact of the existence of difference. It is on this fact of differences that the notion of equality is found. Ben Jaloum says thus; “God created difference, man makes equality out of it”. Besides, equality cannot be any means by the basis of the global superiority and inferiority of one sex. Human gender does not exist outside the double form of masculine and feminine.

In this issue of supremacy of men over women cannot be taking as an authentic notion, because, if I may ask, what is the universally accepted parameter for measuring the superiority and inferiority of gender? Throughout my research and investigations, I could not find any. Some claim in line with Emmanuel Kant that women are irrational and emotional, while men are rational. But how can a male child nurtured by a woman be rational and the woman herself irrational, this is quite illogical, because no one gives what he does not have, therefore women are rational. Following this assertion, grading women to irrational is quite enough to degrade human dignity to the level of lower animals. Again, that all women are emotional is committing fallacy of overgeneralization because, looking at some men critically, you can find out that some men are by nature emotional more than women. Then, can those men be called women? Therefore, you cannot use emotional feelings to argue the superiority and inferiority of gender because they are emotionally equal.

Furthermore, from the earliest time, men have used intellectual justification to perpetuate the male supremacy over women. But presently, a lot of women have attained to that level of intellectual pursuit like men, working as lecturers, Vice-Chancellors, Medical Doctors, Lawyers, Philosophers and other professions. Therefore, men cannot claim superiority by intellectual capacity because the extent a man reaches in education, women can reach there equally.

Nevertheless, men constitute themselves into the centre and measure of all things, by this executive ‘fiat’; he becomes self imposed superiority over every being including women. But women are not good enough when they are not intellectually and physically tough-like man, but on the other hand, men are not considered inferior when he lacks the potentiality to get pregnant or even when they are not patient, caring and compassionate enough like women, what an inconsistency. Also, looking this gender supremacy from the point of view of procreation, you can observe that women take upperhand in procreation because, she is the one that carry the pregnancy and bear the child even take upperhand in child rearing, one can conclude that women are superior to men, but the main point here is that both gender are complementary because “men exhibits semen to fertilize the egg released by a women. Therefore, no gender should claim to the other superior.

Meanwhile, the central problem in feminist thinking to fight for inclusion of women in the affairs of men or equality with men is the contradictions and different historical forms those have taken, these is due to the background of differences in female experience. Because, the western feminists cannot have the same theory with the African feminist because, women in Africa participate freely in the public spheres of life than western women. That not withstanding the main aim of this work is to destroy the universal notion that men are superior and women are inferior.

5.2 Conclusion

The central task of philosophers is to conscientize layman, supplant prejudice and coercion, replacing them with genuine knowledge and logical arguments. From evaluation, women are equal with biological difference, and it is this biological differences that philosophers like Aristotle and prejudiced men misinterpreted as inequality. In actual sense, both gender are dependent of each other. Men are completion of women and women are completion of men. Also if their different qualities are combined there will be peaceful co-existence in the society, as they are dependent of each other, so also their respective qualities are also dependent on one another.

Finally, equality of genders entails each performing their duties at the same levels be it in public spheres like in politics or state, economy and in place like family without prejudiced minds or marginalization.

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