Friday, October 14, 2005

Could Socrates be a feminist?

The discussion of the female sex occurs frequently in Book V of The Republic of Plato. This discussion leads the reader to a decision which is if Socrates would be considered a feminist or not. Many of his ideas may seem to be driven by a feminist perspective, but in the end he only truly believes in similar abilities of men and women if they are educated in the right fashion.
Socrates initiates these discussions of women in the city on this note. “ For human beings being born and educated as we described, there is, in my opinion, no right acquisition and use of children and women other than in their following path that along which we first directed them“. Glaucon agrees with this idea. But then, Socrates reveals another idea that could alter the situation they have just agreed upon. He asks, “Do we believe the females of the guardian dogs must guard the things males guard along with them and hunt with them, and do the rest in common; or must they stay indoors as though they were incapacitated as a result of bearing and rearing the puppies, while the males work and have all care of the flock? Everything in common, he said. Except that we use the females as weaker and the males as stronger.” So at that point in the discussion, it is revealed that females could potentially become equal to the males abilities according to Socrates and Glaucon. This passage shows the idea of semi equality of women and men in the city excluding the idea of physical strength.
Socrates and Glaucon have arisen the philosophy that women are capable of having everything in common, as well as work, and guardianship. But the one idea that they make clear during this dialogue is that the males are stronger and the females are weaker. Socrates clearly doesn’t say this to present the idea that women are inferior to men in this perfect city, but that inevitably they are weaker but still may do these same tasks. It is also later addressed on page 130 that women must be taught the same things as men, which they say are gymnastic and music, and must be taught so that those skills could be used in the same manner as men.
Socrates and Glaucon have then found that the female class can share the same natures as the male class. They later on begin to discuss that idea, but in relation to war. This phrase expresses the two men’s respects for women even on the battlefield, as they say , “women who thus made the finest beginning also be likely to make the finest ending.” This phrase shows the consideration and respect for the female class even on a war level. Socrates’ respect for the women’s capabilities continues to grow throughout Book V.
The idea of two different natures which are the men and women, arise and are addressed of how they are able to do the same things, even though they are so different. “Now, we agree that one nature must practice one thing and a different nature must practice a different thing, and that women and men are different. But are asserting that different natures must practice the same things.“ Socrates has stuck at present we with the philosophy that different natures are more or less equipped to do different things in the city. But, In this case, Socrates shows his respect and faith in all females to execute the same tasks as men of the city, when women have different natures. Even though the two are contradicting themselves that different natures must do similar tasks, they both agrred on it. “ Oh, Glaucon, the power of contradicting art is grand”. He even considers them to be the same in respects to war, if they are educated in the same fashion.
I would not consider Socrates to be a feminist. He just merely believes in similar equality of the two sexes. He depicts the obvious differences of nature such as strength in Book V. The idea that men are stronger than women has been cemented in conversation. Both men believe this. So then in theory, said by Gluacon, all the men should take all of the duties because they are better. Socrates disagrees with this notion, not proving that he is a feminist, but by showing the women’s importance in the city and how some women are apt at medicine and some not, and those who are should practice what they’re best at. It is also agreed that women and men have very different natures but women should be able to guard the city. It seems that Socrates agrees with the fact that men are stronger than women physically, but still believes in them having the same capabilities.


At 10:18 AM, Blogger Raymond said...

I have read it all now!
Ray at marriott timeshares


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