October 11: John Proios

Come join us Monday, October 11, to discuss John Proios’s Paper “Plato’s Scientific Feminism”.

 Where: Haskell 315

When: 10:30-12:20 am

Paper is available under ‘download’. Please email pbourbon@uchicago.edu if you require the password.


In Plato’s Republic, Socrates argues that in the ideal city women and men in the guardian class should receive the same education (451e–52a, 456d–57a), and do the same work (453b–56b). Indeed, Socrates emphasizes that the highest office in the ideal city, of philosopher-rulers, will include philosopher-queens and not just philosopher-kings (540c). Socrates’ conclusions have been approved by other philosophers who believe in equality as a value—they value equal opportunity, irrespective of sex, or equal consideration, irrespective of sex, either as treatment owed to both sexes in recognition of some valuable feature shared by both, or as necessary for the realization of some other fundamental value, such as freedom or the development and exercise of core human capacities, to which both sexes are equally entitled.  In this paper we argue that unlike those philosophers, the Socrates of Plato’s Republic does not assign the same jobs to women and men on the basis of valuing equality at all. Rather, his basis for assigning men and women the same work is scientific:  with respect to civic contribution, women’s nature is the same as men’s, although on the whole inferior.   Our central claim is that, at core, the judgment that women and men ought to do the same work irrespective of sex is a method of collecting and dividing kinds according to nature, so that the ‘ought’ is scientific rather than moral. Insofar as feminism is concerned with equality as a value, Plato’s argument for sex equality in the division of labour falls far short of a feminist position. Thus, our paper answers several key questions about Socrates’ argument, such as the backdrop of class inequality in the city, Socrates’ appeal to an alleged observation about women’s inferiority, and his use of ‘womanly’ as a term of derogation elsewhere.

We look forward to the discussion!

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