Philosophy / Plato Vs Aristotle'S View Of Women
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Autor: anton 06 October 2010
Words: 1370 | Pages: 6
Women: Counterparts or Subordinates
Women are often overlooked in how they add to society. However, they are a crucial part in defining relationships, roles, and families, all which contribute their share to forming a society. In order to understand what distinct part they play, let us first look at Plato's views of women, in which equal chance between the sexes give women the potential to achieve, similar to men. Aristotle, whom we will next look at, believes the contrary, that women are subsidiary to men due to natural characteristics. Let us then look into how both Plato's and Aristotle's views of society are constructed by their apparent beliefs of women.
For Plato, gender is such a minute detail that for the most part it can be neglected when compared to the goal of the society. In the just society, women are equal in ability because they have the same opportunity as men. They are given the same upbringing and education (music, poetry, and physical activity). It is unreasonable to think that women's natural abilities should be limited by something arbitrary, like their sex. Women are comprised of the same three desires as men, the appetitive, spirited, and rational, so they are equal in all abilities except physical strength, Plato claims. Thus, it would be likely to have female coworkers. "Various natures are distributed in the same way in both creatures. Women share in every way of life just as men do (Bk V, 455 d-e)." Hence women will have the rightful opportunity to share in every task, including producers, rulers, and guardians, the breakdown of Plato's society.
On the contrary, Aristotle firmly believes that women are inferior to men. It is a sociable recognition of a natural fact that men run the households. Women lack the spirited part of the soul, the part that allows them the execution to follow through with their beliefs. And furthermore, women are ruled by emotion rather than reason. Men let the reasonable solution win and act accordingly. It is for this reason that women need to be protected by the males, who keep them in the households to work there. Women aren't completely neglected; "he (men) rules his wife the way a statesmen does (Bk I Ch 12, 40)." Women are to be consulted on certain matters, but it is the man who makes the final judgment.
When we look at their respective views of society, Plato's ideal city develops its peoples' natural abilities, gives the people as much exposure to opportunity as possible, and gives everyone a fair chance of satisfying the desire, suited accordingly to each job. The community is divided into three main categories, producers, soldiers, and rulers. Everyone, both male and female, is assigned a job according to the best of their abilities, and they desire only the goal that their job achieves. Again, women ,therefore, are peers to men in every job.
Plato feels that everyone plays a pivotal role in the society and when everyone does their part, the society will function to its fullest potential. Values, also, need to be in order for success of the whole community. If every person's goal is to be rational then a reasonable society is needed. Reason does limit freedom, but in a good way. Total freedom would be unreasonable because there would be internal conflict with dreams and desires, more specifically which of them to pursue. Plato believes that by limiting some choices and unequal circumstances, the community as a whole will be better. For instance, children aren't raised in family environments. Parents and family environments are seen as the most underlying advantage or disadvantage, so Plato does away with these constructs. Everyone must have equal opportunity, so Plato designs the society accordingly. In addition, Plato wants to have only the best procreate, and so "there'll have to be some sophisticated lotteries introduced, so that at each marriage the inferior people we mentioned will blame luck rather than the rulers when they aren't chosen (Bk V 460a)."
When we look at Aristotle's construct of society, we see Aristotle having faith that nature will naturally partition itself into what is best. Humans, therefore, naturally couple into heterosexual reproducing pairs. As a result, households are formed. The household is ruled by the male, who is justly the dominant member of the family because "women Ð’â€¦ lack authority (Bk I Ch 13, 12)." The household is comprised of the male head, female counterpart, children, as well as slaves. Slaves are considered part of the household because, "he is someone else's when despite being human, he is a piece of property; and a piece of property is a tool for action that is separate from its owner (1254a, 13)." So in Aristotle's city, it is close to impossible for a woman to make any kind of upward mobility or progress, due to an inborn flaw which lacks the spirited part of the soul. Men therefore dominate not only the family, or household, but also the society. Aristotle's city reflects the facts according to nature, that males are dominant.
I believe that Plato tries to dismantle society by taking a step back and looking at it, as a whole, so he doesn't miss any part or place too much emphasis on a particular part. Plato sees women oppressed by their gender as a social construct, a product of society. For this reason, in Plato's ideal city, women are given their fair chance. Plato's question, concerning into which society one would want to be raised, and similarly John Rowles' "original position" ask what basic truths one would want in his/her society. These questions expect an idealistic answer, much like Plato's city is, in so many ways idealistic. On the contrary, Aristotle is the realist; he doesn't see a purpose in having a goal which we can't achieve. For this reason, Aristotle designs his city with teleological beliefs. However, I feel that Aristotle looks too concisely at nature for all of the answers and builds his beliefs on restricted data. This viewpoint seems too limited, on which to found a community. There needs to be a balance between Plato, the ideal, and Aristotle, the real. There must be something that we can strive towards by taking all matters into account, which is where Aristotle falls short.
Plato's view of women is extremely progressive at the time, whereas Aristotle's is the norm for society. Plato has a rational point that woman and men are extremely similar, in their thought processes, capabilities, and desires. There are woman who are qualified for jobs that are typically male oriented. Plato feels that equal chance and opportunity need to be clearly defined so that the society doesn't just recognize women's capabilities, but actually acts accordingly and has women in the workforce. But even today, there are still some premonitions that Aristotle's view still lives, that women are inferior. But as we discussed in class, our inbred beliefs are according to the culture in which we are brought up, which by nature is a social construct.
A problem which I have with Plato's argument is the lack of a family unit. Everything is for the good of the society, but I feel it is almost too much this way. When the society is compared to the soul, clearly the overall good is improved, but the individual entities are the ones at cost. With no family, how will people be able to really feel love for one another, especially if wives are communal? And this brings about the question, is that really a wife or just a partner for a specific time, until another partner enters the picture? Without family, the bonds formed aren't compassionate towards each other, as much as they are for the good of the community.
In conclusion, the communities created, are done so by rationalizing either the equality of men and women, according to Plato, or the division of power, as Aristotle would claim. The interactions of the citizens, on a smaller scale, lead to the broader view of the society as a whole. Consequently, Plato creates a society which emphasizes equality for the good of the community. On the other hand, Aristotle's division of power leaves women secondary to the rule of men.
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