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Aristotle and Women

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Tara Wood

on 21 April 2010

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Transcript of Aristotle and Women

Aristotle and Women Introduction Parallel Fates: Tracing the Rhetorical Constructions of Both the Body of Woman and the Category of Sophist in the Works of Aristotle Claim: This paper will argue that the rhetorical construction of women’s bodies served to further reinforce the power structure of logocentric discourse over sophistic discourse and that the parallels mapped between the two are no coincidence, but rather reveal a deeply embedded denigration of and resistance to Otherness, femaleness, and multiplicity. ESSAY MAP: First, I will perform a rhetorical analysis of the construction of the female sex in both the Generation of Animals and the History of Animals, followed by an analysis of the similar rhetorical metaphors in Aristotle’s conceptions of rhetoric (sophistic and as counter-part to dialectic).
After mapping these two constellations on top of one another, I will explore the nuance of deviance and trickery as it applies to both categories.
Finally, I will delineate the responsive reconstructions and redefinitions of both the discursive construct “woman” and of sophists and sophistic rhetoric.
PREZI MAP: Only focus on Aristotle’s representation of women (so basically the first step of my essay only) In Generation of Animals Aristotle provides his differentiation between male and female:
Now male and female differ in respect of their logos, in that the power or faculty possessed by the one differs from that possessed by the other; but they differ also to bodily sense, in respect of certain physical parts. They differ in their logos, because the male is that which has the power to generate in another (as we stated above), while the female is that which can generate in itself, i.e. it is that out of which the generated offspring, which is present in the generator, comes into being.” (Generation of Animals 716a19)
If we agree that everything which Nature does is done either because it is necessary or else because it is better, we should expect to find that this part, like the rest, exists for one or the other of these two reasons. Now it is evident that it is not necessary for generation, otherwise all animals that generate would have it…the other reason then remains: testes exist for some purpose—because it is better that they should exist. (Generation of Animals 717a15-25) “…as for those which have no testes, they lack this part, as we have said, because such absence is not good, but necessary merely” (Generation of Animals 717b34-35) A woman is, as it were, an infertile male. She is female in fact on account of a kind of inadequacy” (Generation of Animals 728a) Both semen and menses, he asserts, are secretions of the blood, but the latter is less thoroughly ‘concocted’ on account of the coldness of the female constitution. Hence menstrual blood is more plentiful than semen, but it is also less pure and concentrated, and is incapable in itself of activating generation. Elsewhere, Aristotle informs us that women have the nature of children; they are, as it were, constitutionally retarded, and for this reason they cannot produce semen. (107) For man’s nature is the most complete , so that these dispositions too are more evident in humans. Hence a wife is more compassionate than a husband and more given to tears, but also more jealous and complaining and more apt to scold and fight. The female is also more dispirited and despondent than the male, more shameless and lying, is readier to deceive and has a longer memory; furthermore she is more wakeful, more afraid of action, and in general is less inclined to move than the male, and takes less nourishment. The male on the other hand, as we have said, is a readier ally and is braver than the female…(History of Animals IX. 5-15) "For the character of the females is softer, and quicker to be tamed, and more receptive of handling, and readier to learn...All females are less spirited than the males...females are softer, more vicious, less simple, more impetuous..." (History of Animals IX.5)
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