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Saturday, March 03, 2018

"Great Philosophers" on Sex: A Parade of Lunatics

I often tell students to read original sources.  Hear for yourself from people of a different time and way of thinking.  Every historian is not just a bridge from the past to the present, she is also a pair of gates on either end of that bridge, filtering traffic across it: limiting that traffic first by what the historian has noticed, and second by what she wishes you to notice. 
An anthology broadens those gates, but does not knock them down.  Works are selected for a reason, but they let you meet the original writers more directly than a few quotes in a history book.  Still, the value of an anthology depends in part on whether you can trust the anthologist to select representatively and fairly.  
In History of Ideas on Women: A Source Book, Dr. Rosemary Agonito helpfully offers us the very words many "great thinkers" in the western tradition have written on women.  She seems to think she traces a forward trajectory of history, from the "bad old days" when Christian theology trapped women in misogyny and contempt, fitfully towards a more enlightened state, ending with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Women.  (However badly that document may be ignored.)
But the story Agonito thinks she shows is not what the selections she offers actually give.  A sounder conclusion is that the Christian tradition provides the only basis for sane reform and liberation for both sexes.  Because this is an anthology, Agonito cannot lie about the Christian tradition (as some of those she anthologizes do), she can only selectively misrepresent.  But even so, the Christian thinkers here come off as far more reasonable than the lunatics we have been taught to call "great thinkers," whom I will mainly quote and analyze below: Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Bacon, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Hume, Kant, Wollstonecraft, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer (whose insanity we have already chronicled), Emerson, Mill (ditto), Darwin, Nietzsche, Engels, Russell, Freud, De Beauvoir, Friedan, Marcuse. 
What is startling is just how childish the "big thinkers" often seem to become, after they have rejected Christian orthodoxy." 

Image result for moses cartoon
"Whoops!  Did I miss a piece?"
Moses
Agonito relentlessly attacks the Christian tradition, directly and through proxies.  The opening three-page excerpt is the story of Adam and Eve from Genesis, which she prefaces by saying, “In the male-oriented religion of the Jews and later of the Christians, these concepts of woman’s inferiority and troublesomeness became entrenched in Western tradition, remaining virtually impregnable into the 20th Century.”
In a sense, the story of Adam and Eve is a great place to start, because the game of "pass the buck" it records -- “Blame the woman!” “Blame the snake!” is very like the game the “great philosophers” play down through the centuries.  I expected to respect even some skeptics here!  But aside from those who have imbibed more deeply from the Christian tradition, like Aquinas and Locke (Kiekegaard's piece is inscrutable), I found almost every one of them devoid of careful, systematic, and balanced reasoning.  Those who blame men and those who blame women and those who blame the capitalist system all seem a bit unhinged.  (Nobody pokes at Marxism in this text, even as Stalin’s little archipelago of labor camps is systematically butchering men and women alike.) 
But while Adam, Eve and the snake are a good place to start this story, Agonito misrepresents the Old Testament pretty badly by focusing on that tale.   
Eve does play the role of a villainess within it.  But in the Old Testament as a whole, some 37 women play heroic roles: saving families, taking the initiative in divinely-appointed love, befriending lonely widows, making adroit real estate investments, leading armies, even (in Esther's case) saving the people of Israel from genocide.  The percentage of male villains is surely much higher than of female villains (I only found 22 of the later, and some were ambivalent).  By contrast, is hard to find any heroines in Egyptian literature, still less three dozen!  
So Agonito's claim that the "inferiority and troubleness" of women was type-set by the single figure of Eve, "entrenched and impregnable" in Western literature, is promptly refuted by the whole rest of the Old Testament, including two entire books dedicated to heroines (Ruth and Esther).  In fact, the Old Testament represents a radical break from Egyptian literature, and allows mortal women a role that seldom appears in ancient Greek literature, either.  

St Paul the Misogynist 
Turning to the New Testament, Agonito cites Paul on how women should stay silent in church and cover their heads when praying, among other teachings from I Corinthians.  She fails to quote or even mention any of the many passages in which Paul writes in a friendly and respectful tone to female co-workers whom he seemed to accept as legitimate leaders of the Church.  She does mention that Jesus was friendly to women, but fails to include any of those passages in her anthology.Image result for apostle paul
We have already gone over both the gospels and the letters of Paul thoroughly in this series.  Agonito abuse of the biblical texts is disappointing, and raises the question of how much anything in this anthology can be trusted.  However, since most other thinkers are given enough space to develop their thoughts about women systematically, and Agonito doesn't exactly misquote, I think we can trust most of it.   

Plato & Aristotle

Image result for plato aristotle Agonito recognizes what all historians know, that women were placed in a very inferior position in the mainstream Greek culture represented by Athens.  (Though they enjoyed a higher position in Sparta.)  In general, women were supposed to stay in their quarters: Agonito cites the telling passage in The Odyssey in which Telemachus tells his mother Penelope to go back inside and leave public matters to himself as the man in the family now.  (Penelope seems quite pleased to see her son take this responsibility!)  
Plato represents, Agonito supposes, progress.  Men and women should share responsibilities because they share talents: 
"The gifts of nature are alike diffused in both."  
This is, no doubt, enlightened.  But the context, for Plato, is a commune in which public interest overrides the individual and ordinary human relations are destroyed:  
"The principle has already been laid down that the best of either sex should be united with the best as often, and the inferior with the inferior, as seldom as possible . . . if the flock is to be maintained in first-rate condition." 
"The wives of our guardians are to be common . . . and no parent is to know his own child, nor any child his parent."
Can any society in which children are taken away from their mothers be described as "friendly to women" (or rationality)?  Ask most normal women whether they would prefer to live in Plato's commune, or the more sexist but family-friendly societies Aristotle seems to prefer.  
Two of our later "great thinkers," one who seemed to despise women (Rousseau), another who is cited as a feminist (Russell), will offer similar daft proposals, demanding permission to dump the fruits of their "free love" on the State or on charities.  (Because of course the State is so much better at raising children than parents are -- look at Soviet orphanages for example!) 
But Plato also says marriage should be important and licentiousness discouraged, so his position is a little hard to follow.  
Aristotle responds to Plato's optimism about female nature by arguing that women and slaves are naturally inferior to Greek males.  Women, after all, are "mutilated males."
"The male is by nature superior, the female inferior . . . The male is by nature fitter for command than females."
To be fair, Aristotle recognizes that the lordship of a man over a woman is different in kind than that over a slave.  (While pointing out that "among barbarians no distinction is made between the female and the slave.")
Aristotle's premise that woman is a "mutilated man" is, of course, both rather crazed, and at odds with all sound biology, even in his day.  Interesting, today the idea has arisen than one can in fact create a woman by mutilating a man, or vice-versa.  So perhaps Aristotle would feel vindicated by the modern transsexual movement, though I doubt many modern women (or biologists) would give Aristotle credit for the insight.     

Plutarch: Know Thy Place, Woman!
Representing a growing consensus within Greco-Roman culture, the late 1st Century historian Plutarch tells us that the duties of a virtuous women are “to keep at home and be silent,” also that the man should control their joint stock, however much the woman brings to her marriage:  
"It behooves a husband to control his wife, not as a master does his vessel, but as the soul governs the body, with the gentle hand of mutual friendship and reciprocal affection." 
Plutarch is not nasty or particularly crazy - and indeed, Agonito seems to regard his attitude as an improvement.  Plutarch represents the gentler and more reasonable side of the ancient consensus -- not a consensus that the modern world can accept, however. 
At this point Christianity comes in, as represented not only by Paul, but also (in this anthology), Augustine, Aquinas, and John Locke.   Augustine is a little too Roman and Manichean to be entirely sane (and was terribly unfair to his mistress), though with a strong-willed Christian mother for whom he held great respect, he could hardly veer too strongly into outright misogyny.  But we shall skip him, along with the eminently sane Aquinas, Locke, and Bacon since our story is of secular insanity.  (Also because Bacon doesn't really say much, besides that ambitious men may find family inconvenient, but that wife and children make a man more human.)  We also skip Hobbes, who merely notes that women have power over their children (in case any of his readers had never had a mother, presumably.)  And so we come to several figures who belongs to different branches of what is called the Enlightenment. 

Jean Rousseau and David Hume
Rousseau's words show what he thought of women:
“The principal object of the work of the whole house is to preserve and increase the patrimony of the father . . . “ 
“The father ought to command . . . “
“The husband ought to be able to superintend his wife’s conduct”
That's so his wife won’t sleep with some other fellow and he’ll be stuck raising the bastard.
See the source image
Made to command -- his 
kids to an orphanage.  Sorry,
girlfriend.
This argument is common here.  From a strict biological sense (the sense so keenly apparent in the Law of Manu), far from being any kind of insane, locking up women to keep them pure seems to make a kind of sense.  This is the logic behind veils and why Mohammed and the Hindus shut women up or burned them on their husband’s funeral pyre, and why Chinese hobbled women by breaking their bones as young girls.  It is also the logic behind castrating men to act as your servants if you're the king.  If "your woman" is stuck between guarded walls, crippled, or dead, you don't have to worry about her running off and making babies with another man.  And if the man guarding her lacks the balls (literally) to make love to her, your DNA will be privileged in the competition for breeding.  
One need hardly call this "mad:" it is calculating and cold.  What is crazy, as well as cruel (and Agonito is too kind to mention), is how Rousseau sent the fruit of his own affair off to be raised (or more likely die) in orphanages.  Yes, the dirty SOB carted off five children to never trip his feet up again, so he could be free to write in peace.    
Mind you, this follows the spirit of Plato's communism.  But Burke, within the Christian tradition, recognized Rousseau for what he was: "(He) entertained no principle... but vanity. With this vice he was possessed to a degree little short of madness."
Indeed, here even cruel lust is divorced from the natural fruits which it seeks: you get the pleasure of copulation, but without the deeper satisfaction of loving your own children, never mind your wife.  
This is a form of insanity that has blossomed and grown in our era, with the pill and abortion and wonder drugs making it possible to divorce crude pleasure from the goal for which Nature or God gives us those pleasures.   
David Hume echoes the point that men feel a need to be sure the children they are raising are their own.
"There must be a union of male and female for the education of the young, and that this union must be of considerable duration.  But in order to induce the men to impose on themselves this restraint, and undergo cheerfully all the fatigues and expenses, to which it subjects them, they must believe that the children are their own . . . "
Therefore modesty in women, which encourages this trust, is a healthy thing.  

Kant Get No Satisfaction
Agonito introduces Immanuel Kant by claiming the concept of a “lady” in the Medieval world “marked a significant break with the Christian tradition and its literature, in which neither women nor passionate love had any significant place.”  The place Judeo-Christian literature makes for women and love actually begins with three Old Testament books titled for women (Esther and Ruth), or which are precisely about passionate romantic love (Song of Solomon), so Agonito is talking clap-trap, again.  (Let me also refer her to The Canterbury Tales, if she has not read them yet.) 
Kant believes men and women differ emotionally, a notion that will draw much fire later in the anthology. 
“Women have a strong inborn feeling for all that is beautiful, elegant, and decorated.”  
Kant’s “appreciation” of women is more than a little paternalistic (“Deep meditation and a long-sustained reflection are noble but difficult, and do not well befit a person in whom unconstrained charms should show nothing else than a beautiful nature.” ) A woman should not learn geometry, for instance. 
Still, Kant and Hume, while hardly feminists by modern standards, are relatively sensible, compared not only to Rousseau, but to some of the thinkers soon to appear.  (Not that the mother of Frankenstein is too bad.)  

Mary Wollstonecraft
Mary Wollstonecraft is perhaps most famous today as the mother of Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein and lover, then wife, of Percy Shelley, the great poet.  (His original wife committed suicide.)  Both Wollstonecraft and her husband (and Mary Shelley's father) William Godwin were radicals who didn't believe in traditional marriage.  And in the larger family circle, everyone committed adultery with everyone else and was shocked when everyone else turned out to be emotionally crushed at being betrayed.  The many broken lives and hearts within this circle of radicals betrays the frivolity of their thinking.   
But Wollstonecraft is not totally bereft of sense: 
"Man is so constituted that he can only attain a proper use of his faculties by exercising them, and will not exercise them unless necessity, of some kind, first sets the wheels in motion. 
See the source image"Morality will never gain ground . . . if one half of mankind be chained to its bottom by fate, for they will be continually undermining it through ignorance or pride.  It is vain to expect virtue from women until they are, in some degree, independent of men . . . 
"Our British heroes are oftener sent from the gaming table than from the plow . . . "
Wollstonecraft seemed especially alive to the hardships of her own upper class sisterhood: 
"Though I consider that women in the common walks of life are called to fulfill the duties of wives and mothers, by religion and reason, I cannot help lamenting that women of a superior cast have not a road open to them by which they can pursue more extensive plans of usefulness and independence . . . (but women are) arbitrarily governed without having any direct share allowed them in the deliberations of government." 
Which echoes the American Revolution, Wollstonecraft being an admirer of George Washington (who went from the plow to the field of battle).  
Wollstonecraft considers what is to be done with alienated, frivolous society women -- a question that will come up later as well: 
"I have often wished, with Dr. Johnson, to place some . . . pale-faced creatures who are flying from themselves . . . in a little shop with a half dozen children looking up to their languid countenances for support."
Betty Friedan, by contrast, thinks having to watch kids and home is precisely what alienates women to begin with.  Both women seem to agree that there are a lot of neurotic women tooling around western cities, though they ascribe the problem to precisely opposite causes.  Looking at the lives of some of the feminist women anthologized in this work, it is hard to disagree with the premise to which they both give ascent.  

Georg Hegel
Hegel is in love with abstractions, but is not utterly devoid of sense.  “They represent that abandonment to the sensual is necessary as proof of the freedom and inner reality of love.  This style of argument is usual with seducers.”   Hegel is like Kant in affirming an only mildly contemptuous patriarchy (“women can, of course, be educated, but their minds are not adapted to the higher science, philosophy, or certain of the arts.”)  Their inability to attend to the universal (which was Hegel’s own mistress, or one of them) would make women dangerous heads of state.  But society depends on monogamous marriage. 

Soren Kierkegaard
It's hard to know what Soren Kierkegaard is getting at in the scattered piece included in this work, in which he puts various thoughts into the mouths of four eccentric figures at a banquet.  Agonito ascribes the confusion to his status as an existentialist, but he was also a sincere Christian thinker, which is not reflected in this piece.
 
See the source image
Thus spake Zarathustra,
either before or after
he lost his mind.
Schopenhauer & Nietzsche 
Arthur Schopenhauer and Friedrich Nietzsche then make a case against women, with a bit of off-hand support from Charles Darwin (see next group).  As described in my previous post, Schopenhauer is clearly unhinged: women are not just weak, but vile, have “never created anything really great, creative, and original,” they are sneaking, under-handed, inferior, and – yet he did chase 16 year olds at forty – ugly!  (Look at a painting of Schopenhauer himself, linked to above, and tell me that’s not a projection.)  He seems to be rationalizing his own hostility to his mother, a successful novelist, wishing women to be shut inside and even cites the Law of Manu, one of the most oppressive woman-hating texts in world literature, with a kind of passive-aggressive affirmation. 
Zarathustra adds, “Do you go to women?  Do not forget the whip!” 

Emerson, Mill, Engels, Russell & Darwin
The response to such hatred of women is given first by several men: Ralph Waldon Emerson, John Stuart Mill, Friedrich Engels and Bertrand Russell.
See the source image
How could a pipe-smoker
with such far-seeing eyes
who writes Nobel-Prize
winning books and the
history of western philosophy
be so thick? 
Having read Marx and Engels in college, I had few hopes for Engels' contribution.  And indeed, he offers a highly simplistic picture of world history that satisfies communist cartooning, but bears little relationship to reality. 
“Almost all savages and barbarians of the lower and middle stages . . . women not only have freedom, but are held in high esteem.” 
Tell that story to the Yamonamo Indians, or the Yali in Papua New Guinea.  Engels also doesn’t seem to know that slavery was practiced among Native American tribes. 
I always thought of Mill as being a reasonable man, but his essay in this anthology proved me wrong.  He offers the most sweeping and wild claims – such as that all women are slaves, that other systems have never even been tried – without even the ghost of an empirical argument.    While less shrill in tone than Schopenhauer, and less pernicious in his demands – he wishes for “equality,” whatever that means – as an argument his argument is simply a disgrace, confirming the worst fears people have of philosophy as a field where people build intellectual castles in the clouds.  (In these castles, the men are all ogres, as in Schopenhauer’s castles, they are all knights in shining armor, while the maidens are in the dungeons where they belong.) 
Darwin tries to bring the conversation back to the empirical realities of lived experience in the natural world:
“With savages, for instance the Australians, the women are the constant cause of war both between members of the same tribe and between distinct tribes.”
So much for Engel's theory of peaceful primitive communism! 
Darwin also supposes that Nature forms the minds of men and women differently, as if forms their bodies.  He puts this in terms that are going to lose him many friends in today’s world:
“Man is more courageous, pugnacious, and energetic than woman, and has more inventive genius.”
Darwin notes that greater boldness and fierceness is already characteristic of male monkeys, who “come to the front” when the tribe is confronted by danger.  
“No one disputes that the bull differs in disposition from the cow, the wild-boar from the sow, the stallion from the mare . . . Woman seem to differ from man in mental disposition, chiefly in her greater tenderness and less selfishness.”
We already get observations of this sort in Aristotle.  What is curious how many "great thinkers" on women simply ignore millions of years of natural history.  
Bertrand Russell then appears to blame Christianity for the subservience of women.  Russell also reintroduces Plato and Rousseau's solution to everyone’s sexual frustrations: dump the kids!  Let Dad and Mom have fun without the diapers, because strangers will of course be kinder than one's own flesh and blood.  Make the state raise our children for us! 
“Christian ethics inevitably, through the emphasis laid on sexual virtue, did a great deal to degrade the position of women . . . It is only in quite modern times that women have regained the degree of freedom which they enjoyed in the Roman Empire . . . It is only with the decay of the notion of sin in modern times that women have begun to regain their freedom.” (293)
Schopenhauer blamed Christianity for elevating women too much.  Russell blames it for setting her back.  Either way, Christianity must be to blame.  
The family is protection for women.  A woman can say, “No, thanks, I’m already married,” and society will back her up, even if any given man (say, Russell) doesn’t accept that answer.  Darwin was right: primitive men may not have always dragged their women around by the hair, but some tribes came pretty close. 
Like Schopenhauer, Russell thinks prostitution is an “inevitable” outcome of the Christian family. 
What does Lord Russell propose?  Either men should put up with their wives having affairs (say, with Russell himself), and the wives should find better pills so the men won’t have to raise their lovers’ brats.  (Not realistic, Russell admits.)  Or else:
“The other alternative compatible with the new morality is the decay of fatherhood as an important social institution, and of the taking over of the duties of the father by the State . . . All children would be in the position in which illegitimate children of unknown paternity are now, except the State, regarding this as the normal case, would take more trouble with their nurture than it does at present.”
Bertrand Russell does not disguise his sense of superiority in his own intellect (see his nose sticking up in the air?), but obviously he was a damn fool in some ways.    
Schopenhauer hated women because he couldn’t get along with his mother.  Russell wants to abolish fatherhood.  
For those of us who had good fathers, or who love our children, those are fighting words.  

Sigmund Freud Shrinks Women  
See the source image
Maybe its what they put IN those
pipes and cigars?  Sometimes a cigar
is not just a cigar. 
The famous Viennese poseur and pervert, Sigmund Freud, then makes his case that what little boys and girls really want is to hump or be humped by their parents, and that infant sexual frustration determines most their subsequent subconscious woes.  Women, in particular, are traumatized for life by their lack of  a certain piece of male anatomy. 
This bat-crazy theory is too much even for Agonito, who breaks up the Walk of Fame (or infame) by following Freud with a relatively unknown female shrink,  Karen Horney, who says in studiedly polite academic jargon, in effect, “Get your mind out of the gutter, Dr. Freud.  People do have other things to think about.”   Some women buy Freud’s schtick because:

“It is much easier for a patient to think that nature has given her an unfair deal than to realize that she actually makes excessive demands on the environment and is furious whenever they are not complied with.” (330)
In the midst of talking such sense, unfortunately Horney also has to pig-pile on the Christian tradition as well.  “Puritanical influences . . . have contributed toward the debasement of women by giving sexuality the connotation of something sinful and low.”  Christian literature thus “debases” and “soils” women and lowers her in her own self-esteem. 
Yeah, right.  It wouldn’t be Hugh Heffner or Harvey Weinstein or Bill Clinton or J. F. Kennedy who debase women by using them as cheap tricks, then tossing them aside.  It’s the Christians who think men and women should love for a lifetime in the connotation of a faithful mutual relationship who lower women.
And speaking of treating lovers as cheap tricks and tossing them aside, next we come to: 

Simone De Beauvoir  
Simone de Beauvoir, Jean Paul-Sartre’s love interest (or one of them), is up next, and what an act she turns out to be. 
See the source image
Well she looks sweet!
The general force of Beauvoir’s argument is that women are the very font of vices (“she is contrary, she is prudent and petty, she has no sense of fact or accuracy, she lacks morality . . . false, theatrical, self-seeking . . . “), and their wretched moral character is the fault of men. 
Some of her indictment of women, I mean of men by means of women, shows De Beauvoir’s literary talent to good effect, no doubt:

“She feels that she is surrounded by waves, radiations, mystic fluids; she believes in telepathy, astrology, radiotherapy, mesmerism, theosophy, table-tipping, clairvoyants, faith-healers; her religion is full of primitive superstition; wax candles, answered prayers . . . “ 
“The lot of women is a respectful obedience.  She has no grasp, even in thought, on the reality around her.”
But one gets the feeling that De Beauvoir, like Schopenhauer, was cursing her mother, rather than offering a coherent philosophical analysis of anything in human society.  As a serial manipulator who destroyed the lives of her young students with ruthlessness, as did her "lover" Sartre, De Beauvoir cannot be accused "respectful obedience," nor of being more admirable than the bourgeois women she seemed to despise.  I certainly would never say anything remotely as nasty about women in general as this “feminist philosopher” does, because the image she is painting of women simply does not correspond to my experience as a whole – thank God.
The cause of the horror that is woman is man, or rather, the need to act as a wife and mother in a family:
“A syllogism is of no help in making a successful mayonnaise, nor in quieting a child in tears.”
In an interview late in life, De Beauvoir goes so far as to say women should not be allowed to be housewives, even if they wish: too many would choose that lifestyle if given a choice. 
“Woman has been assigned the role of parasite, and every parasite is an exploiter.”
True enough, De Beauvoir herself was both an exploiter and a parasite: she was fired from teaching for seducing her female students, for instance.  But the women I grew up among, my mother and her friends, were honest, hard-working, kind, full of humor and good fun, in short match De Beauvoir’s self-indictment not a whit. 
Three more lunatics to go, and we are done with the tribe, and can retreat to sanity. 

Ashley Montagu
Montagu then contributes a piece in which he points out, I am not lying, that it is women who are superior to men, not the other way around, because they live longer and are better at Language Arts!
Yes, that is the conversation we find our intellectual superiors engaging in at this point:
“Boyz are better cause we got bigger muscles and can do math good!”
“No, gurlz are better cause we live long and learn languages better!”
“But look at this!  I bet you wish you had one of these!”
“Huh!  Snort!”   
The great conversation seems to really have become that asinine by the late 20th Century – thanks I think to what has been excluded in ignorance and bigotry, the Center which has been marginalized in favor of pre-adolescent extremes, the "Light of Dawn" as Clement of Alexandria (a very sane thinker) put it.  
Even here, Montagu might get stoned today for, like Darwin, basing his silly ideas on actual observations:
“Boys do better in those subjects that depend on numerical reasoning and spatial aptitudes, as well as in certain ‘information’ subjects such as history, geography, and general science.”
None of which prevent girls from being better overall, though.  So there!  

Betty Friedan
See the source image
Not just a second-class housewife. 
Betty Friedan is essentially a reprise of De Beauvoir and all the lunatics who think getting rid of children and the home is the best way to make women happier.  
“For women of ability, in America today, I am convinced there is something about the housewife state itself that is dangerous.”
Indeed, becoming a housewife is like “walking to their own deaths in the concentration camp” of Nazi Germany. 
Just what we needed – an Argument ad Hitlerum to close.

Herbert Marcuse
But the very last individual piece (before the United Nations closes the work) is by an unapologetic Marxist, Herbert Marcuse, who finds fresh forms of delusion to inflict on his readers.  He actually supposes (in 1972, after one hundred million innocent people have been mowed down on five continents) that communist revolution would not only liberate the proletarians, but that model of the proletarians, the lowly housewife.  Being isolated from the brutalizing world of capitalism actually makes women “more human than men,” which will shock De Beauvoir and Friedan and numerous contributors to this anthology who think housewifery makes woman an empty-headed, conniving, immoral nitwit.  (So feminism has to do a double back-flip at this point.)

Here are your “brights,” lucky world.  Here are your leading male and female philosophers, having cast off the crippling constraints of Christian orthodoxy, thinking hard to explain what is wrong between the sexes, and how to fix it.
And they are experimental pioneers!  They make love to their wives' best friends and expect their wives to feel happy about it!  They betray lovers and dump their own flesh-and-blood kids off into institutions where most children die quick and die young!  And then write books telling the world how to raise children!  
We saw that the great religious texts that formed the basis of ancient civilizations, not counting the Bible, were often cruel and oppressive towards women, or at best, neglected them to pursue other interests.  
We see now that having thrown off Christ, western thought did little better.  Some "great thinkers," often those most far from the Gospel, show an exaggerated and disturbed hatred of women.  Others patronize, perhaps for reasons we have come to recognize among so many liberal politicians ("the better to bed you with, my dear!")  Some blame men or marriage or family or Christianity for the low status of women, though in fact it is higher in Christian countries than almost anywhere else.  Others create mad visions of violent revolution that will change everything, or perverted sexual fantasies or morbid nightmares from which they claim they can rescue men and women alike by some psychoanalytical incantation, at a not-so-modest fee, pay the secretary on your way out, please.  
"Where else shall we go?  You have the words of life!"  We return then to Christ, who is the heart of sanity, of kindness and yet also the respect of demanding much, standing up for women, but asking women to stand up for themselves and those they should love.  

4 comments:

N.W. Flitcraft said...

Just f.y.i., The recent deluge of opinions on the Feser blog prompted Prof. Wolfgang Smith to jot down a few reflections on the fundament question of "proof" vis-à-vis the existence of God. Modern evaluations of whether there are authentically rational arguments for the existence of God tend to fall short for the simple reason that we fail to maintain the classical distinction between 'reason' and 'intellect'. See http://philos-sophia.org/what-are-proofs-of-god. If you were to divert discussion on this particular post to the Philos-Sophia Initiative facebook page I'm sure they'd be much obliged; I know they're trying to get traffic.

David B Marshall said...

I kind of think I'm talking about important issues myself.

Loren said...

There are some places in the Bible where women come off well. Also others where women come off very badly.

Like the Adam-and-Eve story. God has created the first womam for the first man, and using the first man's flesh. Was that story written by an incel?

The Ten Commandments casually lump wives together with other sorts of property.

Plutarch seems much like Ephesians 5, which tells us that women must submit to their husbands while men must care for their wives. Plutarch's book "On Isis and Osiris" is addressed to a woman, apparently some priestess. He also described allegorical interpretation with commendable clarity, something completely lacking from the Bible.

In 1 Corinthians 11, we have the hierarchy God > Christ > man > woman, which each one being the "head" of the next one down. It also states that woman comes from man, not man from woman, and that women were created for men, not men for women.

1 Corinthians 14 states that women should be silent in churches, and 1 Timothy 2 that women are not allowed to teach men or have authority over men.

David B Marshall said...

I don't find the Adam and Eve story especially misogynistic -- both Adam and Eve sin, and so does the snake. Anyway, my solution to complexity has been to systematically study ALL stories about women in the OT. I find that the heroines outnumber the villainesses by about 50%, as I recall -- the analysis can be found on this site.

"Don't screw other men's wives" isn't problematic, IMO. Women DO belong to men -- and men to women. We all knew that before the modern revolution turned us nuts.

Again, I deal with ALL of Paul's teachings, explicit and implicit, in my article on this site. And I cite the usual "bad" verses before doing that analysis.

Thanks for the book reference. I'll have to read that -- I've read some Plutarch, but not that particular volume.