Aristotle and Women


Aristotle accepted the doctrine that a difference in role or pursuit be tied to a relevant difference in nature and at the same time to reassert the claim of Gorgias that the virtues of women are different from those of free men because their activities are different. (Barnes, p. 135) Thus Aristotle creates a political and psychological reason for explaining the differences between men and women. “In comparison with man’s bodily condition the bodily condition of women is one of weakness, and his comparative weakness points toward a retiring domestic role within the home.” (Barnes, p.139) Furthermore, Aristotle argues that women’s deliberative capacity is akuron, that is that it lacks authority and is overruled easily. The woman’s “decisions and actions are too often guided by pleasures and pains, so that she is unfitted for leadership and very much in need of temperance.” (Barnes, p.139)

Having established this we see that Aristotle holds women to a much different standard that he does men. Just as he holds women to be different from men in their nature, so he holds women to be different in their virtues. Aristotle demands of women a virtue that reflects their domestic role. (Barnes, p.137) Aristotle describes women’s virtues as being two-fold: “in body, beauty and stature; in soul, self-command and an industry that is not sordid.” A virtuous female must do the utmost to present a presentable physical figure; she must also delight in hard work and work hard.

We know that Aristotle is one of the most influential thinkers of our modern though. We can see this reflected on the fact that what he holds the virtues of women to be are what the normative status quo of women is seen. Thus we need to see that after 2,500 years many of the perspectives remain the same. Thus it makes me question how much progress has really been done.

Works Cited

Barnes, Johnathan. Articles on Aristotle: Ethics and Politics. Duckworth, 1977.