Aristotle's views on women is an important topic in women's history, largely because of the Greek philosopher's influence on later Western thinkers, who quoted him as an authority until the end of the Middle Ages. He has accordingly been criticised by feminists as a significant historical ideologue of patriarchy, sexism and inequality.
Women held to be colder than menEdit
Women are like infertile menEdit
A woman's inability to produce semen is her deficiency. A woman, Aristotle declares, is as it were an infertile male. A male is male in virtue of a particular ability, and a female in virtue of a particular inability.
Women more emotional than menEdit
According to Aristotle, woman is more compassionate than man, more easily moved to tears, while at the same time being more jealous, more querulous, more apt to scold and to strike. She is more prone to despondency and less hopeful than the man, more void of shame or self-respect, more false of speech, more deceptive, and of more retentive memory.
Female role in societyEdit
Women belong in the homeEdit
After having demonstrated that women are physically inferior to men, he goes on to claim that their proper place is in the home, controlled by their husbands, because this corresponds to Greek constitutional law.
Ruling relation of male and female, of husband and wifeEdit
According to Aristotle's own statements, the female is by nature distinct from the slave, and the treatment of women as slaves is characteristic of barbarians. Yet the relation of the male to the female is by nature one of superior to inferior, and of ruler to ruled. But according to Aristotle, there are different "ways" or modes (tropoi) of rule, including despotic, royal, and political rule. "Political rule" is of those who are free and equal, who tend in their nature to be on equal terms and to differ in nothing. And Aristotle asserts that the mode of rule that belongs to a husband in relation to his wife is political rule, the rule suitable to those who are free and equal.
As for the differences between husband and wife, Aristotle says that these "always" consist in external appearances, in speeches, and in honors. By nature, but not always, the male is "more apt at leading" than the female; or, both the male and the female have the deliberative capacity of the soul, but in the female it lacks authority. Aristotle rounds this ambiguous view off by quoting a poetic verse wherein a wife's sensible questions were (tragically) dismissed by her husband with the frequented phrase, "to a woman silence brings ornament".
Support for monogamyEdit
Aristotle wrote that a virtuous wife is best honored when she sees that her husband is faithful to her, and has no preference for another woman; but before all others loves and trusts her and holds her as his own. And so much the more will the woman seek to be what he accounts her.
Status of Spartan womenEdit
Aristotle wrote that in Sparta, the legislator wanted to make the whole city (or country) hardy and temperate, and he has carried out his intention in the case of the men, but he has neglected the women, who live in every sort of intemperance and luxury. He adds that in those regimes in which the condition of the women is bad, half the city may be regarded as having no laws.
Equal weight to female and male happinessEdit
On the other hand, Aristotle gave equal weight to women's happiness as he did to men's, and commented in his Rhetoric that a society cannot be happy unless women are happy too. In places such as Sparta, where the lot of women is unhappy, there can only be half-happiness in society.
In the classical age, which shaped patristic views, male sexuality and power were closely associated, and female sexuality was associated with passivity. Joyce E. Salisbury argues that the Church Fathers, influenced by Aristotle's opinions, opposed the practice of independent female ascetism because it threatened to emancipate women from men. To take one's pleasure was to be virile, to accept it, servile.
- ↑ Generation of Animals, I, 728a
- ↑ Generation of Animals, I, 82f
- ↑ Caroline Whitbeck, ‘Theories of Sex Difference’, in Gould and Wartofsky (eds.), Women and Philosophy , New York 1976, pp. 54-80; M.Maloney, ‘The Arguments for Women's Difference in Classical Philosophy and Early Christianity’, pp. 41-49.
- ↑ History of Animals, book IX, part 1
- ↑ Women and Gender in Medieval Europe: an Encyclopedia, Margaret Schaus, 2006
- ↑ Politics, Book I, 1252a34-b6
- ↑ Politics, 1254b13-14
- ↑ Politics, 1252a7f., 1254b2-6, 1255b16-20
- ↑ Politics, 1255b20, 1259b4-6; see also Book III, 1277b7-9
- ↑ Politics, I, 1259a39-b1
- ↑ Politics, 1259b6-10
- ↑ Politics, 1259b1-3; 1260a13, a28-31, quoting Sophocles, Ajax, line 293 and context. For the text, one may consult Aristotelis, "Politica", ed. W. D. Ross. Oxford: 1957 (O.C.T.). ISBN 0198145152. Or in translation: Aristotle, "The Politics", trans. Carnes Lord. Chicago: 1984 (1985). ISBN 0226026698.
- ↑ The Politics and Economics of Aristotle, Edward English Walford and John Gillies, trans., (London: G. Bell & Sons, 1908)
- ↑ The Politics of Aristotle, Book 2 Ch. 9, trans. Benjamin Jowett, London: Colonial Press, 1900
- ↑ see Rhetoric, 1.5.6
- ↑ Tuana, Nancy (1993). The Less Noble Sex: Scientific, Religious and Philosophical Conceptions of Women's Nature. Indiana University Press. pp. 21, 169. ISBN 0-253-36098-6.
- ↑ Church Fathers, Independent Virgins, Joyce E. Salisbury, 1992
- ↑ Harding, Sandra; Merrill B. Hintikka (31 December 1999). Discovering Reality: Feminist Perspectives on Epistemology, Metaphysics, Methodology, and Philosophy of Science. Springer. p. 372. http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/9027714967/.
- ↑ Feminist interpretations of Aristotle, Cynthia A. Freeland, 1998