Monday, February 26, 2007

Aristotle, the pro-slavery misogynist

As of around February 26, 2007, our histories of Aristotle show that he was a misogynist who also favored slavery. His various treatises confirm his bigotry. Why? Why did Aristotle hold the notions that men are naturally superior to women, and that slaves are a class below other human beings? Was he just a product of his culture? Or did Aristotle produce something cultural himself? As a matter of historical fact, Aristotle did create a system of knowledge and of knowing, an epistemology. Thus, we Westerners today regard Aristotle as the father of this logic we call Aristotelian logic. In addition, by such an Aristotelian method of defining and classifying his subjects, Aristotle presumably establishes biology, botany, chemistry, ethics, history, literary theory, metaphysics, physics, political theory, psychology, rhetoric, and zoology. Furthermore, Aristotle's method of defining and classifying his subjects inscribes and enacts a masculinist project. Hence Aristotle, the man, is able to define and classify human subjects and their ostensible nature; women and slaves, in nature, according to Aristotle, are lesser than educated Greek men.

And yet I suspect Aristotle owes much to women, several of whom can be identified as his influences. In addition, there is one subject that seems to have threatened to undo his masculinist project. He called it, Peri Rhetorike. Handed to us today by his (male only) students as Aristotle's pedagogical notes on the subject, the treatise attempts to account for the social interactions of speakers (sometimes women) and their audiences.

Unfortunately, we feminists have neglected the womanly influences on Aristotle and have rejected his (feminist) treatise as just another (phallologocentric) text. Likewise, we academicians have merely translated that Greek text in masculinist ways. (Hence, I'm working--collaboratively, feministically--on an-Other translation of the treatise. Stay tuned).