Feminizing the City: Plato on Women, Masculinity, and Thumos

Hypatia:1-24 (2024)
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Abstract

This paper responds to two trends in debates about Plato's view of women in the Republic. First, many scholars argue or assume that Plato seeks to minimize the influence of femininity in the ideal city, and to make guardian women themselves as “masculine” as possible. Second, scholars who address the relationship between Plato's views of women and his psychological theory tend to focus on the reasoning and appetitive parts of the tripartite soul. In response to the first point, we argue that the idea that Plato seeks to masculinize/de-feminize the city oversimplifies his treatment of Greek gender norms. Although he does want to eliminate some traditionally feminine qualities from the city, he also seeks to eliminate many masculine qualities as well. Moreover, while he tries to make guardian women more like men in some respects, he simultaneously aims to make guardian men more like Greek women in important ways. Regarding the second point, we argue that this project of reimagining gender norms is illuminated by Plato's psychology, but instead of emphasizing reason and appetite, we show how his views are connected to his account of the third, “spirited” part of the soul, thumos, and its dual hard/soft or aggressive/gentle nature.

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Kirstin Ironside
Wayne State University
Joshua Wilburn
Wayne State University

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