PLATO AND FEMINISM IN THE REPUBLIC

Document Type:Thesis

Subject Area:Philosophy

Document 1

However, in modern days, the rights of women have been taken seriously. A lot has been done to equate the rights of women to those of men. The government has made a lot of efforts such as enhancement of law by international human rights to eliminate all sorts of discrimination against women in a United Nations General Assembly of 1979. As the law fought to ensure a just society regarding equality for both genders, a few ancient Greek thinkers also played an important role1. These Greek thinkers became so supportive of women than men. Their argument was for the rights of women to be equal to those of men an issue that made them termed as feminists. Among these thinkers was Plato. Researches from various scholars vary. Some scholars argue that Plato was a feminist while others argue that he was no feminist. In Plato’s Republic V book, his arguments show that he was fighting for women liberation. However, in his arguments, some contradicted others an issue that made it difficult to determine his conclusion. Whether to consider Plato a ‘Proto-feminist’ or not is a debatable topic. In 1973, Lucas wrote a philosophy book stating that it was very usual in republic V to find that Plato was called a feminist and the same case in recent topics concerning feminism2. It shows that Lucas agrees that Plato was a feminist. However, in the same year, Rosenthal wrote a book known as Monist and rejected Plato as a feminist by stating that Plato was not acceptable as a feminist in philosophy because of his contradictory proposals.

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In this essay, I will analyse Plato’s republic V book and other few materials by several scholars. In republic V book, I will outline various statement that shows Plato supported women and also stated that he contradicts himself. In other materials by scholars, I will outline the reason that makes the scholar conclude his or her final take. I will then conclude that Plato was a ‘Proto-feminist’ because only a few of his argument contradicted his proposal and majority of his arguments were straight forward that he wanted women to be granted equal rights with men. It appears that Plato was a ‘Proto-feminist’ due to the majority of his arguments suggesting that the rights of women and men should be equal. ” In republic V, the society does not think that a woman is a guardian a point that Plato disagrees (page 453b-c).

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He was then challenged by an opponent arguing that each person should work according to his or her nature and since nature varies between the two genders, therefore male and female should play different activities in the city (page 453b10-11). Plato dismisses the opponent argument by suggesting that although the nature of men and women differs, there is no evidence that nature will affect the work. Plato compares the situation as letting only hairy men be cobblers excluding the bald men. He points out that its only sexual role that makes a difference between men and women where women give birth while men impregnate them. Plato agrees with the society that mentally and physically, men were better equipped than women and that men could do better than women though he denies the statement which argued that every man could do better than every woman5.

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Whether Plato was a feminist or not became an argument when he argued that if men were to pay attention to every activity, they could outdo women. He outlines this by giving an example of how women got surprised when men involved themselves in activities assigned to women such as cooking and weaving and outdo them6. The argument was contradicting because it meant that women had no special abilities because men could outdo them in every way. If that was the case, what was the role of a woman? To justify his take on women, Plato later clearly outline that no civic competence belonged to a man or woman as such (page 455d6-eI). Although the text is not clear, Plato gives evidence of female doctors during that time (454d1-3).

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He also gives evidence of female serving in the military, some working in a job that required intelligence and others involved in activities such as gymnastics. All the evidence made people look at his argument at a positive angle. However, his earlier view of women intelligence capacity got him in troubled as people believed that his argument was not useful to any feminist. Gregory Vlastos feels that Plato argument about women intelligence being small is a stupid belief8. There was nowhere identified Plato stating the rights of men. The only thing he talked concerning men was duties a thing that portrayed the characteristics of a feminist. According to Plato, the Republic state had much to address about justice if the inequality of gender was not injustice. Even though justice had nothing to do with the role of women, he felt that the state was supposed to consider women important in the development.

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He talked of just soul and refers to guardian women to have just souls11. This was also a contradictory happening as he had previously proposed that women could handle tasks just like men. Plato contradicted himself when he said that a woman could choose her husband only in an unlikely situation such as having no suitable relative male available and also even in such a scenario, the guardian’s opinion was recommendable13. The statement made Plato seems confused about his views on women because if women could not freely choose their husbands, then how were the rights of women just? To achieve the ideal state, Plato suggests that women and men should have equal rights which includes both men and women being raised together and sharing roles of guardians, equal education, not to discriminate women in certain activities such as gymnastic as a physical education and no restriction of women in the army14.

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Conclusion In present days, there are a lot of materials that criticise Plato as a feminist. Some say that Plato cannot be considered a feminist because he viewed women in lower regards than men, while others argue that he made no sense contradicting his proposal. Susan Moller Okin, ‘Philosopher Queens and Private Wives: Plato on Women and the Family,’ Philosophy & Public Affairs, 6 (1977): 345–369.

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