Sunday, May 11, 2014
Aristotle’s View of Women
Much of what's wrong today, between the genders, is because of his theories, still revered in our schools.
The Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-324 B.C.) was Plato’s most brilliant student. His biological theories have influenced the course of Western scientific inquiry up to modern times. For example, his ideas about conception and embryology endured until the invention of the microscope in 1665 enabled scientists to observe the stages of the embryo’s development, His description of women as defective or incomplete men, as quasi monsters, in fact, is still reflected in Freud’s late-19th-century psychoanalytical theories about female sexuality.
Consistent with his theory that women were physically and psychologically incomplete, Aristotle maintained that men’s superiority lay in their greater size, strength, agility, and power of intellect. Females, he believed, were mere matter, males were spirit and mind. Pregnant women were merely vessels, or passive incubators, for the embryo, formed from the male seed alone.
Aristotle regarded women as unfit for freedom or political action, passive by nature, and subject to the rule of their husbands. He took for granted that women’s proper sphere was the household; that they might assume political leadership was out of the question. Pointing to the fall of Sparta as proof of women’s baneful influence on public affairs, he attributed the city’s demise to the excessive freedom – in education, physical training, and civic responsibilities shared with men – enjoyed by Spartan women. The public/private polarization by which he justified withholding citizenship from Athenian women provided a rationale for maintaining women’s second class status in the West for many scholars.