The Concept of Woman - Vol. 3

The Concept of Woman - Vol. 3

The Concept of Woman - Vol. 3

The Concept of Woman - Vol. 3

Synopsis

This pioneering study by Sister Prudence Allen traces the concept of woman in relation to man in Western thought from ancient times to the present. In her third and final volume Allen covers the years 1500-2015, continuing her chronological approach to individual authors from the first two volumes and also offering systematic arguments to defend some philosophical positions over against others.
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Building on her work from Volumes I and II, Allen draws on four "communities of discourse" -- Academic, Humanist, Religious, and Satirical -- and she traces several recurring strands of sex and gender identity from the Renaissance to the present. Now complete, Allen's magisterial study will be a valuable resource for scholars and students in the fields of women's studies, philosophy, history, theology, literary studies, and political science.

Excerpt

This final volume on the concept of woman in relation to man in the history of Western philosophy will analyze women’s reflections on their own identity and men’s reflections about woman’s identity from 1500 to the present. in addition to continuing a chronological approach to individual authors from the first two volumes, I will also offer systematic arguments to defend some philosophical positions over others. Philosophical arguments are those that, generally speaking, appeal to the evidence of the senses and reason.

Four communities of discourse occurring between 1250 and 1500 were identified in volume 2 as academic, humanist, religious, and satirical. in the present volume I continue to draw upon these four communities and compare them, contrast them, and extract from within them various philosophical arguments about the concept of woman. Academic positions tend to be technically philosophical, drawing upon ancient and medieval sources springing from philosophical schools and the newer academic disciplines. in the previous volume, these sources were nearly all written by men because women were typically excluded from universities. Some women, like Christine de Pizan, had access to academic libraries, and so their texts began to include technical philosophical arguments. Humanist positions tended to be expressed in dialogues, letters, and public orations. They included women as imaginary and eventually as real participants. Religious texts often had female authors, and they provided a rich source of reflections by women on their own identities. Finally, satirical texts provided interesting reflections on the concept of woman in popular culture. They often exaggerated characteristics associated with woman’s identity, or they inverted characteristics popularly ascribed to females and gave them to males, or vice versa.

In this present volume, I begin to delineate which characteristics are essential and which are accidental to the concept of woman. Advances in new academic fields, such as physics, biology, genetics, psychology, anthropology, sociology, and cognate disciplines, provide relevant texts for this philosophical inquiry. References to faith and its relation to reason, when directly related to a philosophical argument about the concept of woman, are also important.

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