Article ID: CBB702200777

Plato on Women’s Natural Ability: Revisiting Republic V and Timaeus 41e3–44d2 and 86b1–92c3 (2016)


Despite the prominent argument for equal educational opportunity for women in Republic V, commentators frequently question Plato’s sincerity, the quality of the case made, or its significance. Undermining confidence in Plato’s advocacy of female equality are derogatory remarks about women in this and other dialogues. Since we take Plato to be sincere in the argument in Republic V, we reconcile his conclusions there about the equal educational opportunity for women with these seemingly problematic remarks by suggesting that the remarks reflect the interlocutors involved in the dialogue and conventional Athenian prejudices of that time rather than ideas that Plato held to be true. We take seriously the observation of Levin 1996, 14, “in none of those passages in which Plato makes derogatory remarks about women does he use phusis to explain why they behave in the ways of which he is critical.” Hence Plato never suggested that women were by nature limited to the position they occupied socially and politically in 5th or 4th century Athens; he understood the difference between the way they were by convention and the way that they could be, in accordance with their nature, were they to develop their natural capacities through education.

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Authors & Contributors
Tait, W. W.
Lloyd, D. Robert
Kennedy, J. B.
Fleming, Robin S.
Carelli, Paul
Di, Lu
Apeiron: Journal for Ancient Philosophy and Science
Ancient Philosophy
Past and Present
East Asian Science, Technology, and Medicine
Journal of the History of Philosophy
Johns Hopkins University Press
Fabrizio Serra Editore
Theory of the elements
Science and literature
5th century
4th century
6th century
3rd century
20th century, late

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