Pour la journée des femmes

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Premier chapitre disponible ici en version pdf

1
SABINA LOVIBOND
Feminism in ancient philosophy
The feminist stake in Greek rationalism
Introduction
Despite the internal diversity of extant `ancient philosophy’, it has generally
been agreed that the main intellectual legacy of classical Greece and Rome
to the modern world is the idea of the value of truth and the capacity of
human reason to discover it. This idea, powerfully expressed in the
dialogues of Plato and in the more systematic teaching of Aristotle, has
provided an implicit point of reference ± usually, though not invariably,
positive ± for all subsequent `philosophy’ in the western world, and feminist
thought has been no exception to the rule. What remains unresolved,
however, is the proper ratio of positive to negative in the attitude of
feminism to `reason’. Since the eighteenth century at least, there has been
an effort to rethink the rationalist ethical and political tradition for the
beneÆt of women, and to detach its characteristic themes (legitimate social
order; mutual recognition among citizens; co-operative pursuit of a
common good) from the ideology of male supremacy. But the sexual
egalitarianism which we inherit from the age of Enlightenment is compli-
cated, today, by a rival impulse of solidarity with what the rationalist
tradition symbolically excludes ± that is, with reason’s supposedly feminine
`other’ or complement. It is this tension that sets the scene for our
discussion.

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