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Sandford, Stella (2005)
Languages: English
Types: Article
This is in a special issue of the journal entitled 'Thinking Politically'. The material derives from Sandford's ongoing book project, contracted to Polity Press, Plato and 'Sex'.
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    • 1 This essay is a shortened version of the first chapter of my forthcoming Plato and Sex (Polity Press, 2006).
    • 2 Perhaps the best-known philosophical critique of assumptions concerning the category of sex is Judith Butler's Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (New York: Routledge, 1990). Almost all of the philosophical work in this field, however, is indebted to Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality: An Introduction, trans. Robert Hurley (New York: Pantheon, 1978).
    • 3 See, for example, Anne Fausto-Sterling, Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality (New York: Basic Books, 2000).
    • 4 See, for example, Suzanne J. Kessler, Lessons from the Intersexed (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1998).
    • 5 These are the definitions given in the Collins English Dictionary.
    • 6 I use the term ''modern'' in a broad sense here in distinction from the ''ancient.'' I leave open the question as to when, exactly, ''sex'' came to have the meaning that we tend to ascribe to it today. Thomas Laqueur suggests that ''sex'' began to take on this meaning in the seventeenth century. See Laqueur, Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992), 8.
    • 7 For the purposes of this essay, ''Plato'' refers to the author of the Republic and other dialogues, ''Socrates'' to a character in these dialogues.
    • 8 See, for example, Susan Moller Okin, Women in Western Political Thought (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992).
    • 9 Unless otherwise stated, quotations are from Desmond Lee's translation of Plato's Republic (Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1987). References in the text cite the Stephanus numbers of Plato's dialogues.
    • 10 Aristotle, The Politics and The Constitution of Athens, trans. Jonathan Barnes (revising Benjamin Jowett) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 39 (1264b, 4-7).
    • 11 So, Waterfield's translation ( Republic, trans. Robin Waterfield [New York: Oxford University Press, 1993]): ''Shouldn't we allow that there is room for doubting . . . whether women do have the natural ability to cooperate with men.''
    • 12 The English phrase ''a man and a woman with medical ability'' translates the two Greek words iatrikon and iatrikēn, which are masculine and feminine forms, respectively, of the same adjective, here meaning ''skilled in the medical art.'' The words ''doctor'' and ''carpenter'' translate iatrikon and tektonikon, both masculine forms of different adjectives. Thus the Greek emphasizes, more than the English translation can, the sameness of the man and woman with medical ability and the difference between the man who is a carpenter and the man who is a doctor.
    • 13 Julia Annas, ''Plato's Republic and Feminism,'' in Feminism and Ancient Philosophy, ed. Julie K.Ward (New York: Routledge, 1996), 4, 3. See also Janet Farrell Smith, ''Plato, Irony, and Equality,'' in Feminist Interpretations of Plato, ed. Nancy Tuana (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994). Farrell Smith's argument draws on that of Gregory Vlastos, ''Was Plato a Feminist?'' also in Tuana, Feminist Interpretations of Plato.
    • 14 See, for example, Susan B. Levin, ''Women's Nature and Role in the Ideal Polis: Republic V Revisited,'' in Ward, Feminism and Ancient Philosophy.
    • 15 See, for example, Elizabeth V. Spelman, ''Hairy Cobblers and Philosopher-Queens,'' in Tuana, Feminist Interpretations of Plato, esp. 89, 94.
    • 16 For example, in book 5 of the Republic: 453a, tou arrenos genous, ''of the male race''; 454d, to tōn andrōn kai to tōn gunaikōn genos, ''the race of men and the race of women''; 455c, to tōn andrōn genos . . . to tōn gunaikōn, ''the race of men . . . the [race] of women''; 455d, to gunaikeion genos, ''the race of women,'' ''the womanish race''; 455d, to genos tou genous (genitive of comparison), ''the race of [men] [in comparison with] the race [of women]''; 457b dia tēn tou genous astheneian, ''because of the weakness of the race [of women].''
    • 17 In a recent article, Chloë Taylor Merleau has argued something very similar to this in relation to Aristotle. See Chloë Taylor Merleau, ''Bodies, Genders and Causation in Aristotle's Biological and Political Theory,'' Ancient Philosophy 23.1 (2003): 135-51.
    • 18 Plato, Laws, trans. Trevor J. Saunders (Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1975), 944c. All quotations from the Laws use this translation by Saunders.
    • 19 The passage reads: ''ho de ophlōn tēn dikēn pros tō apheisthai tōn andreiōn kindunōn kata phusin tēn hautou prosapotisatō misthon . . .'' Saunders translates: ''and in addition to being thus permitted, like the woman he is by nature, to avoid the risks that only men can run, the guilty man must also pay a sum of money . . .''
    • 20 Indeed, despite the function of the modern concept of sex, the contemporary anxiety that females might, to all intents and purposes, become men is regularly revealed in the antifeminist discourses that still warn of the ''de-sexing'' of modern women and the feminist ''perversion'' of their natural roles. In a recent (July 2004) statement of doctrine on gender issues, Pope John Paul II's chief theological spokesperson, cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now himself Pope Benedict XVI), accused feminists of ''blurring the biological difference between man and woman'' with dangerous claims about the constructed nature of gender roles-claims that cause women to ''neglect their family duties.'' See John Hooper and Tania Branigan, ''Pope Warns Feminists,'' The Guardian, July 31, 2004, available at www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,1273102,00.html (accessed March 26, 2004).
    • 21 Arlene W. Saxonhouse, ''The Philosopher and the Female in the Political Thought of Plato,'' in Tuana, Feminist Interpretations of Plato, 68, 70. See also Saxonhouse, Fear of Diversity: The Birth of Political Science in Ancient Greek Thought (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), especially 147-57.
    • 22 Ibid., 72, 71.
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