By Sandrine Berges (auth.)
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Extra info for A Feminist Perspective on Virtue Ethics
Of course, cheating is a sign of a vicious character anyway. A woman who lies with other men is a woman who has not mastered her appetites: she lacks sophrosune. But that is also the case for men. So the difference she draws our attention to is not one of character difference between men and women but a circumstantial one. A woman was more severely punished in ancient Greece for cheating on her husband than a man was for cheating on his wife. 41 The gender-specific aspects of Perictione’s text seem to be imposed by circumstances rather than essential to her thought.
Certainly, this picture of ancient virtue ethics does not in any case exclude women’s experience, and Aristotle – who does think it should be excluded – appears to be in the minority. We come back to the problematic nature of Aristotle’s ethics from the point of view of feminist ethics in the second part of the book. In the chapters that follow, we continue to develop this richer and more inclusive picture of virtue ethics, starting with the works of Heloise in the twelfth century. 1 The (very) few women who participated in the ethical debates of the time found that certain aspects of the philosophical views inherited from antiquity fitted their needs better.
For instance, Musonius Rufus, although clearly arguing that as women have the same capacity and the same interest in virtue as men, for these reasons 26 A Feminist Perspective on Virtue Ethics alone they too should be taught philosophy, also claims that philosophy should assist them in ruling the household: “A woman must, in the first place be a household manager and shrewd about what is beneficial for the household and in command of the slaves. 27 It is conceivable that the later Stoics were playing up to the audience’s prejudices, a possibility I raised with Plato’s condescension towards women’s intellectual capacities.
Categories: Social Philosophy