Socrates Plato Thomas Aquinas and Descartes Term Paper

Pages: 4 (1383 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 0  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Black Studies - Philosophy

¶ … Philosophical Canon and Feminism

The traditional canon of philosophy as advocated by Socrates, Plato, Thomas Aquinas and Descartes tends to focus on the superiority of the male side of the human population. This is to a large extent due to the culture and the general view of the role of women in culture during the time in which these philosophers were alive. It is thus not surprising that current feminists have begun to object and to even rewrite the ideals advocated by the canon. The premise behind this is that human culture has evolved to recognize men and women as different, but equal in terms of ability and value. It is however interesting to note that the basic philosophies within the works of the above-mentioned authors are still used as a basis for the feminist philosophy. Indeed, some feminists have begun to recognize that many of the basic philosophies in the canon are not male biased, but can be applied to humanity in general. It is thus possible that canon as it is does have significant value for the female college student of the 21st century. For the purpose of brevity and thoroughness, the discussion will focus on Plato's Symposium and the Summa by Thomas Aquinas.

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Plato's Symposium is significant with regard to feminism. Not only does he use a wise woman for the focus and climax of the work; he also addresses love in terms of the nature of the emotion itself rather than in terms of men as superior, virtuous beings as opposed to women. The work includes a number of philosophers gathering to discuss the issue of love. Each argument builds upon the previous one, until Socrates quotes Diotima and her philosophies on love.

TOPIC: Term Paper on Socrates Plato Thomas Aquinas and Descartes Assignment

Diotima integrates all the foregoing theories of love to expound the emotion in its many manifestations. She for example touches upon love as divine, physical, homosexual, heterosexual, and finally as the pursuit of beauty. This final explanation is then the one that Diotima focuses upon as the true purpose of love: to perceive beauty in its true and pure form. This is the one paradigm by which all love can be understood.

Diotima's presence in Plato's work is interesting for a number of reasons. The most important, as mentioned above, is that she is a woman and a philosopher. In many of his works, for example Republic, Plato views women as inferior to men in terms of both intelligence and virtue. This view is related to the perceived function of women in society. Women were child rearers and keepers of the household. Thus they were mostly concerned with the physical functions of life. Furthermore Plato criticizes the tendency of women to be more emotional than men, who are supposed to be more rational. The rational and the spiritual were seen as superior in philosophy. Because rationality and spirituality were therefore seen as qualities primarily found in males, men were viewed as superior to women, who were concerned with the physical and emotional. It is therefore particularly interesting that Plato recognized the possibility that a woman, Diotima, could be spiritual and rational enough to provide the philosophical climax for the Symposium.

Furthermore the philosophy of love as expounded in Plato's work by means of Socrates and Diotima appears to transcend the boundaries imposed by gender differences. Love is explained in its various forms first, and then finally the ultimate goal of the emotion in all its forms is identified. The purpose of love, according to Plato in the person of Diotima is the pursuit of pure beauty. This is of interest to both men and women today, because the pursuit of love is a common human paradigm. As shown by Plato, love as a concept can include many different ideals and goals, and should not be limited only to love for another person. Any goal with the aim of finding beauty in its pure form can be connected with love. In terms of the 21st century then, love can be applied to a career, social change, the acquisition of goods, or indeed the heart of another person. For the 21st century female student… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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