Presentation on theme: "Feminism: Pro and Con I. Evolution of Feminism: Wollstonecraft, Woolf, de Beauvoir II. Fleming’s Biological Analysis of Sex III. de Beauvoir’s version."— Presentation transcript:
Feminism: Pro and Con I. Evolution of Feminism: Wollstonecraft, Woolf, de Beauvoir II. Fleming’s Biological Analysis of Sex III. de Beauvoir’s version of Ethical Creativity IV. Problem for de Beauvoir: Location of Justice
I. Evolution of Feminism Mary Wollstonecraft: a semi-classical feminist (1759-1797). She agreed with Plato that virtue, not pleasure, was the supreme goal of life. She saw women held back from developing virtue by perverse incentives: that rewarded charm & beauty over inner strength and virtue.
Wollstonecraft vs. Aristotle Wollstonecraft identified virtue with the reign of reason over sensuality, and left no room for right sentiments (Lewis’s “chest”). Although she admitted that men & women played different roles, she insisted that the standard of virtue is the same, grounded in a supernatural, eternal goal. For Aristotle, different roles necessitated diffferent forms of virtue.
Virginia Woolf’s Feminism Unlike Wollstonecraft, Woolf did not limit the sex differences to the body: she argued that, since the mind is rooted in the body, women and men differ mentally. Woolf rejects the classical ideal that limits the sphere of women to the “private house”. Woolf is deeply disaffected by society as it actually exists: she sees it as consistently oppressive, hypocritical and warlike.
The Three Guineas _ First Letter: from a Women’s College _ Second Letter: from a Society to Aid Professional Women _ Third Letter: from an appeal to join a Manifesto on behalf of Culture and Intellectual Freedom. _ Overarching Letter: how to prevent war?
Woolf’s Two Targets _ Confinement to the “private house”: cruelty, poverty, servility, immorality. _ Assimilation into the masculine professions: possessive, jealous, greedy, combative. _ Both extreme poverty and extreme wealth are undesirable.
The Four Teachers _ Poverty: earn just enough to live on. _ Chastity: refuse to sell your brain. _ Derision: reject fame and honor. _ Freedom from unreal loyalties: to nation, religion, school, family, sex.
Woolf’s View of Value There are “unwritten laws”, but these are not laid down by God (a patriarchal myth) or by nature (which varies and is under human control). These laws are “private” and must be discovered “afresh” by each generation. Relativism? Historicism? Two sources for the laws: – Private psychometer: moral intuition. – Public psychometer: art
Woolf’s Dualism Woolf was part of the “Bloomsbury circle”, that included philosopher G. E. Moore. Moore believed that there were objective moral facts, but that these were totally separate from “nature” (including God). We have access to these facts by a mysterious faculty of “moral intuition”. Moore opposed traditional values; he held that only friendship & beauty matter.
Differences between Woolf and Moore _ Woolf addresses the question Moore evades: how do we, as natural beings, gain access to the world of value? _ She seems to embrace a kind of reductive materialism: that our minds are products of the brain. _ Given biological differences between the sexes, she embraces a kind of sexual relativism: each sex has its own set of “private” or unwritten laws.
II. Fleming: Men Men can have many children, and the minimum investment in each child can be extremely low (one sperm, a few minutes). 2 models of biological equilibria: – Monogamy – “Free agency”
Monogamy as an Equilibrium Each man is limited to one marriage throughout his lifetime. Men's reproductive possibilities become similar to women's, and to each other's. Equalization of opportunities for reproduction. Consequently, each household has two parents, who are equally committed to the household's children.
Males as “free agents” Each man seeks to have sex with as many fertile women as possible. Households consist of mother and children.Minimal involvement of father(s). Reproductive inequality: some men have many children, many have few or none.
Paradox Monogamy feminizes men -- makes the father/mother roles similar -- and equalizes the sexes. Yet, monogamy and patriarchy are connected: – Patriarchal privilege is one of the glues used to bind men to marriage as an institution. – If men are absent from the home, they lose the opportunity of being dominant there.
Questions Is monogamy natural? Is patriarchy natural (adaptive)? What does it matter if they are?
Classical vs. Modern According to the classical tradition, objective value is rooted in human nature, prior to our choices and actions. We exist within a framework of values and norms that are prior to and independent of our wills.
The Modern View According to the modern tradition: we enjoy the power or freedom of ethical creativity. There are no objective norms or values to constrain us, with authority over us. Case in point: consider Wilson's discussion of sex roles. pp. 132-133. Wilson admits that the differentiation of humans into distinct male and female roles is adaptive (product of natural selection).
However, he gives this fact no normative weight -- no authority over our choices. We are still free as a society to decide whether to alter, exaggerate or eliminate these differences.
III. Simone de Beauvoir and Ethical Creativity Is more consistent than Wilson, Pinker, et al. She clearly affirms the freedom of ethical creativity, but she does so by embracing a radical sort of nature/culture dualism. Ethical choice transcends the biological and the physical.
Metaphysical Discontinuity Based on a metaphysical theory, in which human consciousness represents something radically new, a complete discontinuity. Jean-Paul Sartre: dualism of physicality and consciousness, Being and Nothingness.
Consequences We can divide the world into two domains: that of immanence (nature), and that of transcendence (freedom). For example: feminity and masculinity in human life are a social construction (transcendent), having only a contingent relationship to biological categories of sex (immanent).
Transcendence of Nature de Beauvoir's goal: an androgynous society. She freely admits that this has no basis in biology.
Is the freedom of ethical creativity a coherent idea? In classical tradition, not even God has this freedom. 14th. C. philosopher Duns Scotus is first to attribute it to God. Followed by William Occam. Rousseau -- transfers it to human beings.
An Aristotelian objection: 1. All decisions depend on a pre-existing scale of values. We always decide for the better. 2. FEC means that all values are created by a prior human decision. This leads to an infinite regress.
Criterionless Choice Defender of FEC must believe in the possibility of an absolute, criterionless choice. A choice of what I shall be, what I shall seek, that depends on no prior conception of value. (e.g., "I choose androgyny, not because it is good, but as a fundamental, ungrounded value")
Aristotelian Response Aristotle: this is impossible. The human will is not built this way. Some kind of self-deception must be involved in any attempt to do so.
IV. de Beauvoir and the Problem of Justice de Beauvoir clearly affirms that sexual inequality is unjust. Where do we locate justice: in the realm of the immanent or the transcendent? de Beauvoir seems to face an insoluble dilemma.
The Dilemma of Justice If de B. locates justice in the realm of the immanent, then it is something which we humans can freely transcend -- if we do not do so, we are guilty of bad faith. If de B. locates justice in the realm of the transcendent, then it must be the product of an individual, criterionless choice. No room for universal judgments.
If justice is transcendent, then de B. cannot consistently condemn the standards of patriarchal society as inherently unjust. At most, she can claim that she chooses (without reason) to regard it as unjust. If others choose to regard patriarchy as just, then for them, it is just.