Portrayal of Women in Plato's the Republic

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In “The Philosopher and the Female in the Political Thought of Plato,” Saxonhouse explores the way Socrates equalizes opposites, saying that this destroys phusis—what a person does better than anyone else. In equalizing opposites—male and female, philosophy and politics—Socrates destroys the nature of both women and the philosopher, causing severe effects in the polis.

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In looking at the female, Saxonhouse focuses on the inconsistencies in the Republic, pointing out that prior to Book V, women are presented as the provokers of sexual eros, something that must be restrained in the guardians of the city (Saxonhouse 97). In Book V, Socrates suddenly introduces women as equals to men, making them able to join the rank of guardian. However, to do this, Socrates must amend his earlier portrayal of women as being erotic, essentially “de-sexing” women when entering the rank of the guardians—they are neither the desired nor the one desiring (96). When doing this, Socrates explains that men and women only differ superficially, taking away the “qualities that women, and women alone, have” (99). If Socrates’ polis is based off people performing the task they are most suited for, then making women partake in activities of men because they are “equal” completely ignores the individual phusis of the female. This parallels the relationship between philosophers and the political world: “the philosopher does not by nature move to the world of politics. The philosopher hates the lie” (103). Similarly to how a women’s phusis is disregarded when making her equal to men, the philosopher's phusis is disregarded when making one a politician.

Saxonhouse somewhat relies on the ambiguities and inconsistencies in the portrayal of women in the Republic to argue her point of attempting to equalize opposites—male and female, politics and philosophy—will “destroy all” (Saxonhouse 96). However, I think it’s important to recognize the time period when Plato wrote the Republic—it was a day and age where women were not given any recognition in society, so Plato giving women at least some recognition was revolutionary for the time. Secondly, Saxonhouse makes it seem like Socrates views women negatively throughout the entirety of the Republic: “no area except such ridiculous ones as weaving or cooking in which the male is not superior to the female” (99). Nonetheless, I feel like there were some positive comments made about women in the Republic, but that’s not to say Socrates is consistently pro-female.

With Saxonhouse’s portrayal of how Socrates views women in the Republic being somewhat skewed, she still convinces me of her argument of the serious effects in equalizing opposites. “The female and the philosopher live apart from the political world. They both satisfy their erotic desires independently of the city” (Saxonhouse 107). When equalizing males, females, philosophers, and politicians, females and philosophers are removed from their natural environments, showing an attempt to destroy the phusis of both categories. When women enter politics, she must be reoriented towards death, rather than life. Philosophers need to be able to ask questions without worrying about political consequences: “To be a member of the city, one must sacrifice one’s private knowledge and accept the views demanded by the city,” which is something a philosopher can’t do (106). Philosopher and women phusis are opposed to the political world, making them have a delicate and shaky relationship to the polis.

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Portrayal of Women in Plato’s the Republic. (2020, November 26). WritingBros. Retrieved July 14, 2024, from https://writingbros.com/essay-examples/portrayal-of-women-in-platos-the-republic/
“Portrayal of Women in Plato’s the Republic.” WritingBros, 26 Nov. 2020, writingbros.com/essay-examples/portrayal-of-women-in-platos-the-republic/
Portrayal of Women in Plato’s the Republic. [online]. Available at: <https://writingbros.com/essay-examples/portrayal-of-women-in-platos-the-republic/> [Accessed 14 Jul. 2024].
Portrayal of Women in Plato’s the Republic [Internet]. WritingBros. 2020 Nov 26 [cited 2024 Jul 14]. Available from: https://writingbros.com/essay-examples/portrayal-of-women-in-platos-the-republic/
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