The Paradox of Women
There is an underlying paradox that exists between Plato's and Aristotle's writings pertaining to women. This contradiction between the writings asks the question of why was it acceptable for Plato to take the approach of making women and men equal and why Aristotle saw women as being inferior to men. This paper hopes to examine this inconsistency by not only examining each of Aristotle and Plato's respective views but also through interpretation of the Greek society that they both lived in. Through this paper I do not presume that if Aristotle and Plato's philosophies had been the same then they would have political views that are not as radically different then they currently are. However, if Plato's city did not make men and women equal then Plato's argument would be slightly discredited. The root of this paradox that exists between Plato and Aristotle concerning women is entrenched in their different theories of truth.
Plato tells his idea of truth by using the Allegory of the Cave. The ultimate goal of the allegory is to achieve this truth. The cave is described as being a dark place underground. At the top of the cave there is an entrance in which there is light. Behind the people there is a fire which makes shadows on the wall that they are facing. These human beings have been chained; they have not been able to see anything else except the shadows on the wall. The people in the cave believe what the shadows show them as truth because they do not know anything else to be truth. In the cave the shadows represent the world around them and what they hold as truths. The chains symbolize the current customs and traditions. Those who are bound in the cave become unbound and they exit the cave then Plato believes that they will have seen the form and therefore know the truth. Plato would consider the current society of Greece to be in the cave. He would say that since they hold on to traditions that they have not seen the form and therefore cannot know truth. If Plato was asked he would most likely consider Aristotle to still be in the cave. Aristotle holds his views on women to be the same or similar to the current Greek standards.
In Ancient Greece women were controlled my men throughout their lives. According to Greek culture, the most important duties for a woman was to have children and to run the household. Women were seen as being completely inferior to men. Women had no political authority or power in Ancient Greece. They were also seen as being physically weaker than men. Because they are seen as being smaller and weaker, Aristotle says they are a less developed humans. Women were expected to merely take care of the household and raise the children. Ancient Greece was a slave ridden society in which most homes had slaves that did the housework. This shaped Aristotle's view of women.
Aristotle has a very interesting organization of the household. According to Aristotle, men have three different parts in the household. First is mastership in which the man is the master of the slaves. The next is his role as a husband. Men, according to Aristotle are naturally more fitted to lead than a female; just like someone who is older and wiser is appropriate to lead than an adolescent. Both men and women have free nature which is what separates women from slaves. Women can, like men, be deliberative; however, according to Aristotle they lack authority. He quotes a poet saying that "to a women silence is a crowning glory." Lastly is his relationship as a father which he compares to that of a king. Aristotle prefers a monarchy as a form of government and he perceives a king as being devoted, affectionate, and compassionate and this is why he distinguishes the relationship of a father to a child the same as a king to his people. It being that a father is loving and compassionate toward his offspring. The relationship to a mother and to a child is different...
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