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Philosophy Meeting Summary:

Are There Feminine and Masculine Natures?

I estimated that the women to men ratio, in our very well attended gathering,  was 60-40 in favor of men.  I opened by pointing out that much of the work done by contemporary feminist philosophers consisted in debunking the 3-millenia or so old view that women were less "rational" than men (Aristotle, Aquinas); that women were commonly associated with the earth (Dionysian), the body, the negative, the passive (yin), while men represented the heavenly (Appolonian), the mental, the positive, the active (yang). I also suggested that the discussion may remain focused, if we could agree to a distinction between sex and gender. Where the former refers to biology, and the latter to socio-cultural forces.  But most of you demurred at the suggestion. Since Frank had proposed the question two weeks before, and he was present that night, I asked him to explain to us what the question meant to him. He said that it had to do with our previous discussion on the nature of "pure romantic love." He recalled that at one point we raised the issue whether that kind of love may be different for women and for men, and if so, how it would differ. In other words, assuming that there is such a thing as "pure romantic love," would it be the same for a woman and for a man? If not then there is a difference between the two. The issue underlining our discussion rapidly became clear: "If there is a difference, is this difference "natural" or "cultural?" Although the room had a few essentialists, it appeared to me that the majority was either undecided or non-essentialist (they came to be called "constructivists). But an essentialist insisted on a making a point precise: "What is nature?"; "Is it substance or essence?" Some of you brought up the examples of animals, suggesting that animals act "naturally," i.e. free from social or cultural obligations. If some generalizations could be made from our observation of the behavior of  animals, we may conclude from this that we humans, qua animals would act "naturally," if we acted the same way. However, the comparison was not well received. Someone pointed out that not all animals behave the same way (in some species, males are aggressive, in others, female are), and I pointed out that our observations are somewhat tainted by our gender assumptions. Sharon, very insightfully, questioned the unchangeable character of nature. We kind of went along with an unargued soft essentialist view of "nature." Are there traits exclusive to men and to women? The constructivists and the undecided proposed a few suggestions as to what may count as a trait for women and men: (1) women are better friends to each other than men are; (2) even in homosexual relationship, one partner assumes the "feminine," the other the "masculine" role. The masculine is associated with power and aggressiveness. Power has to do with having money, and with being the leader in sexual exchange; (3) women are taught to be attractive, and men are reminded of the ugliness of their body; (4) women and men have different level of hormones, and they have a different immune system than men; (5) women must feel different because their activities are often interrupted.

What are we obligated to do?

We had a very impressive crowd. I counted over 30 participants. We met in the back, as is the custom this summer. Most of us were seated; on chairs, sofas, or stools, but a number of you was standing, leaning against columns or walls, having incessantly to move so that the waitresses could get in the kitchen and the café patrons could make their way to the bath rooms.  The main dining room had been plundered of its small tables, which had to be abutted to our rectangular table. And it was very hot. What a display of dedication on your part, I thought to myself. There we were, a two-deep huddled crowd of perspiring intellectuals, pitting our voice decibels against those of the convection oven and of the juice maker, uninterruptedly spilling our noetic guts between mouthfuls of crêpes and gulps of whatever each was drinking. We are making a little history.

By: Dr. Bernard Roy - Department of Philosophy

My opening remarks aimed at establishing distinguishable levels of obligation. All of us have legal obligations; for example, that of paying taxes. Most of us have social obligations; for example, that of returning phone calls. Most of us also have moral obligations: for example, that of keeping promises. Some have religious obligations; for example, that of praying, or, in some cases, that of loving our neighbor. Finally, most of us have rational obligations; for example, that of accepting the conclusion of a valid argument. I pointed out that in the case of legal, social and moral obligations, there was a sort of hypothetical imperative. If you don't do X, you'll somehow be punished. On the other hand, I expressed my puzzlement at our rational obligation, and at the Christian obligation to love. People constantly deny conclusions of valid arguments, and nothing happens. And, how can love truly obtain when it's done out of obligation?

Baruch College of the City University of New York

The first respondent denied that we had any obligations. Then, someone thought that we had to distinguish between "being forced to do X," and "being obligated to do X." Obligation implies an element of choice, whereas force does not. I do not have a choice of paying or not paying taxes; but I do have a choice whether or not I return certain phone calls. This suggests that the consequences of not meeting one's obligations are not always bad or opprobrious. Someone then suggested a hierarchy of obligations, whereby some are more difficult to break than others. No one, however, was willing to come up with an example. Emmanuel or Jean-Luc thought that in countries where there were laws requiring its citizens to assist persons in danger, there was a greater sense of obligation. The comment brought about the thought experiment of the baby innocently playing on a railroad track unaware of the danger caused by the oncoming train. Who would not feel that one has an obligation to save the baby? "Were there risks involved in saving the baby?" someone asked. "No!" was the response. Most thought that it was an instinctual response; among those, some thought that it was a species reaction. We have in us the desire to immortalize our species. Event Date: June 10, 1999 Next Article  
MissBitchy Created by the SnS Team
Copyright 2017 Hi-Tech Development Co., Ltd. All rights reserved  

Blog

Philosophy Meeting Summary:

Are There Feminine and Masculine Natures?

I estimated that the women to men ratio, in our very well attended gathering,  was 60-40 in favor of men.  I opened by pointing out that much of the work done by contemporary feminist philosophers consisted in debunking the 3-millenia or so old view that women were less "rational" than men (Aristotle, Aquinas); that women were commonly associated with the earth (Dionysian), the body, the negative, the passive (yin), while men represented the heavenly (Appolonian), the mental, the positive, the active (yang). I also suggested that the discussion may remain focused, if we could agree to a distinction between sex and gender. Where the former refers to biology, and the latter to socio- cultural forces.  But most of you demurred at the suggestion. Since Frank had proposed the question two weeks before, and he was present that night, I asked him to explain to us what the question meant to him. He said that it had to do with our previous discussion on the nature of "pure romantic love." He recalled that at one point we raised the issue whether that kind of love may be different for women and for men, and if so, how it would differ. In other words, assuming that there is such a thing as "pure romantic love," would it be the same for a woman and for a man? If not then there is a difference between the two. The issue underlining our discussion rapidly became clear: "If there is a difference, is this difference "natural" or "cultural?" Although the room had a few essentialists, it appeared to me that the majority was either undecided or non-essentialist (they came to be called "constructivists). But an essentialist insisted on a making a point precise: "What is nature?"; "Is it substance or essence?" Some of you brought up the examples of animals, suggesting that animals act "naturally," i.e. free from social or cultural obligations. If some generalizations could be made from our observation of the behavior of  animals, we may conclude from this that we humans, qua animals would act "naturally," if we acted the same way. However, the comparison was not well received. Someone pointed out that not all animals behave the same way (in some species, males are aggressive, in others, female are), and I pointed out that our observations are somewhat tainted by our gender assumptions. Sharon, very insightfully, questioned the unchangeable character of nature. We kind of went along with an unargued soft essentialist view of "nature." Are there traits exclusive to men and to women? The constructivists and the undecided proposed a few suggestions as to what may count as a trait for women and men: (1) women are better friends to each other than men are; (2) even in homosexual relationship, one partner assumes the "feminine," the other the "masculine" role. The masculine is associated with power and aggressiveness. Power has to do with having money, and with being the leader in sexual exchange; (3) women are taught to be attractive, and men are reminded of the ugliness of their body; (4) women and men have different level of hormones, and they have a different immune system than men; (5) women must feel different because their activities are often interrupted.

What are we obligated to do?

We had a very impressive crowd. I counted over 30 participants. We met in the back, as is the custom this summer. Most of us were seated; on chairs, sofas, or stools, but a number of you was standing, leaning against columns or walls, having incessantly to move so that the waitresses could get in the kitchen and the café patrons could make their way to the bath rooms.  The main dining room had been plundered of its small tables, which had to be abutted to our rectangular table. And it was very hot. What a display of dedication on your part, I thought to myself. There we were, a two-deep huddled crowd of perspiring intellectuals, pitting our voice decibels against those of the convection oven and of the juice maker, uninterruptedly spilling our noetic guts between mouthfuls of crêpes and gulps of whatever each was drinking. We are making a little history.

By: Dr. Bernard Roy - Department of Philosophy

My opening remarks aimed at establishing distinguishable levels of obligation. All of us have legal obligations; for example, that of paying taxes. Most of us have social obligations; for example, that of returning phone calls. Most of us also have moral obligations: for example, that of keeping promises. Some have religious obligations; for example, that of praying, or, in some cases, that of loving our neighbor. Finally, most of us have rational obligations; for example, that of accepting the conclusion of a valid argument. I pointed out that in the case of legal, social and moral obligations, there was a sort of hypothetical imperative. If you don't do X, you'll somehow be punished. On the other hand, I expressed my puzzlement at our rational obligation, and at the Christian obligation to love. People constantly deny conclusions of valid arguments, and nothing happens. And, how can love truly obtain when it's done out of obligation?

Baruch College of the City University of New York

The first respondent denied that we had any obligations. Then, someone thought that we had to distinguish between "being forced to do X," and "being obligated to do X." Obligation implies an element of choice, whereas force does not. I do not have a choice of paying or not paying taxes; but I do have a choice whether or not I return certain phone calls. This suggests that the consequences of not meeting one's obligations are not always bad or opprobrious. Someone then suggested a hierarchy of obligations, whereby some are more difficult to break than others. No one, however, was willing to come up with an example. Emmanuel or Jean-Luc thought that in countries where there were laws requiring its citizens to assist persons in danger, there was a greater sense of obligation. The comment brought about the thought experiment of the baby innocently playing on a railroad track unaware of the danger caused by the oncoming train. Who would not feel that one has an obligation to save the baby? "Were there risks involved in saving the baby?" someone asked. "No!" was the response. Most thought that it was an instinctual response; among those, some thought that it was a species reaction. We have in us the desire to immortalize our species. Event Date: June 10, 1999 Next Article