Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Plato's Republic V: The problem of women and philosophy
by Townsend, Mary Morrison, Ph.D., Tulane University, 2015, 332; 3723022
Abstract (Summary)

If we take the hermeneutic challenge of Socratic irony seriously, what are we to make of Socrates’ proposal in the Republic that the women of the guardian class are to be educated and rule alongside the men (451c-457c)? Historically, the proposal has inspired controversy, whether as too great a departure from the customary, or as insufficiently just to woman-kind. But Socrates’ proposal is only the first of a trio of plans, known as the Three Waves, an image for the waves of laughter Socrates fears will greet them. His second proposal recommends that the guardians be bred together, with children raised by all in ignorance of their parents; the third proclaims the rule of philosophers as kings. Readers usually link the first two, insofar as both involve plans for women. But while the discussion of the Second Wave is spurred by Socrates’ interlocutors, Socrates introduces the First and Third Waves on his own initiative. The aim of this study is to argue that the First and Third Waves have the deeper connection: the political problems of women and of the philosopher share a pattern in common, as Socrates’ image of philosophy as a maiden in distress illustrates (495c). Both women and philosophy exist in tension with the city under its customary laws, and Socrates’ solution for both, namely rule of the city and education at its hands, is likewise the same. My interpretation of the First Wave seeks to take seriously its seriously funny aspects, such as naked exercise for both sexes, together (452a), and Glaucon’s attachment to the principle that women be taken as weaker and men as stronger (452c); but these must be taken alongside the appeal of Socrates’ corresponding recommendation that women be clothed in “robes of virtue” (457a). By examining such aspects of the women’s law, and suggesting how they shed light on the philosopher-king, this study aims to do justice to the irony of Socrates’ “best city in speech,” recognizing both the appeal of his proposals and the political problems they make manifest.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Burger, Ronna
Commitee: Sensen, Oliver, Velkley, Richard
School: Tulane University
Department: Philosophy
School Location: United States -- Louisiana
Source: DAI-A 77/02(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Philosophy
Keywords: Plato, Republic, Strauss, Women
Publication Number: 3723022
ISBN: 978-1-339-05516-9
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