Egalitarian Sexism: A Framework for Assessing Kant’s Evolutionary Theory of Marriage I

Ethics and Bioethics (in Central Europe) 1 (7):35–55 (2017)
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Abstract

This first part of a two-part series exploring implications of the natural differences between the sexes for the cultural evolution of marriage assesses whether Kant should be condemned as a sexist due to his various offensive claims about women. Being antithetical to modern-day assumptions regarding the equality of the sexes, Kant’s views seem to contradict his own egalitarian ethics. A philosophical framework for making cross-cultural ethical assessments requires one to assess those in other cultures by their own ethical standards. Sexism is inappropriate if it exhibits or reinforces a tendency to dominate the opposite sex. Kant’s theory of marriage, by contrast, illustrates how sexism can be egalitarian: given the natural differences between the sexes, different roles and cultural norms help to ensure that females and males are equal. Judged by the standards of his own day and in the context of his philosophical system, Kant’s sexism is not ethically inappropriate.

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Stephen R. Palmquist
Hong Kong Baptist University

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