Friday, March 23, 2018

That evil Bible, again.

Neither do car repair manuals usually mention the
Makah Indians or totem poles.  What could they  
possibly be for?   
Image may contain: text

As in most memes, inanity and error battle for supremacy here.

Regions mentioned in the Bible -- North Africa, the broad designation "Ethiopia" (which seemed to mean "Africa, south of the deserts" to Greek historians), Southern Europe, Arabia, Asia Minor, perhaps tribes beyond - certainly constitute more than 1% of the world's land area.  And unlike, say, the Alexandrian Romance, or probably China's Classic of Mountains and Rivers, you can actually match up most biblical name-places to something in the real world. You can learn some geography from the Bible: not that that is what the book is for.

Of course the Bible doesn't cover World History or American History.  Who ever said it did?  Take Stephen Hawking's Brief History of Time as a text for your Civil War class (it at least has the word "history" in its title), and see how you do.  A meaningless point.  Especially since, again, you can learn things about history from the Bible which you can't learn anywhere else, in such detail.  (Hundreds of facts recorded in Acts have been verified in other sources, for instance.

When it comes to biology, the Bible pre-empts modern racists (some very Darwinian) by pointing out that all races are human.  And it pre-empts silly modern radicals by saying God only created two sexes.

Biblical cosmology involves a beginning, and the universe out of nothing.  That's something, or two things, physicists have recently learned, and Christians knew all along.

But King David said, "When I consider the heavens, the work of Thy fingers . . . "  As if it were a good thing to look at Nature and ponder its character and meaning. And Solomon said: "It is the glory of God to hide a matter, and of the king to find it out."  In his influential arguments for reviving or creating empirical science, Francis Bacon quoted Solomon's words at least twice. So the Bible intends not to teach cosmology, but to inspire the study of the stars, as indeed it helped to do.  (As scholars who have studied the history -- Chapman, Landes, Hannam, Stark, etc -- have often pointed out.)

But the parade of inanities proceeds.  The Bible isn't a medical book! Of course not. But it has inspired thousands of hospitals and probably billions of cures (I have met some of the doctors, like Dr. Paul Brand, who with his wife and colleagues helped millions of the disabled, and who wrote books with titles from Psalm 139.).

What about ameliorating the effects of war? Henry Dunant, winner of the first Nobel Peace Prize, whose work led to the Geneva ("Calvin was here!") Conventions, is described on Wikipedia in part as follows:

"Dunant was born in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1828 as the first son of businessman Jean-Jacques Dunant and Antoinette Dunant-Colladon. His family was devoutly Calvinist and had significant influence in Geneva society. His parents stressed the value of social work, and his father was active helping orphans and parolees, while his mother worked with the sick and poor. His father worked in a prison and an orphanage.

"Dunant grew up during the period of religious awakening known as the Réveil, and at age 18 he joined the Geneva Society for Alms giving. In the following year, together with friends, he founded the so-called "Thursday Association", a loose band of young men that met to study the Bible and help the poor, and he spent much of his free time engaged in prison visits and social work."

Well isn't that weird. They studied the Bible, and then went out and helped the poor and imprisoned, just like Jesus said. And then Henry went and tried to save the victims of warfare from dying.

The Bible does once say, "Spare the rod, and spoil the child," true.  Anyone who takes this as a license for child abuse is a fool and it ignoring the tenor of the NT in general.  Anyone who thinks a parent who spanks a miscreant mildly when needed, should be put in prison, is a tyrant and also a threat to society.

The modern conception of Human Rights grew out of a Christianized culture, and the example of Jesus.  In this forum, I have traced the lines of influence from Jesus to some of the world's greatest reforms.  Time prevents me from doing the same with others, but such reforms are going on around us today.

The author of this meme (as of most memes) appears to know little of history or theology, and is intellectually unjust, besides.  He or she is part of that vast modern ignorance, of skeptics flailing against the ground on which they stand, cursing the tree from whose remoter branches they swing.
Could someone cut down this tree, please?  I can't see those cherry blossoms over there. 

Saturday, March 03, 2018

"Great Philosophers" on Sex: A Parade of Lunatics

I often tell students to read original sources.  Hear for yourself from people of a different time and way of thinking.  Every historian is not just a bridge from the past to the present, she is also a pair of gates on either end of that bridge, filtering traffic across it: limiting that traffic first by what the historian has noticed, and second by what she wishes you to notice. 
An anthology broadens those gates, but does not knock them down.  Works are selected for a reason, but they let you meet the original writers more directly than a few quotes in a history book.  Still, the value of an anthology depends in part on whether you can trust the anthologist to select representatively and fairly.  
In History of Ideas on Women: A Source Book, Dr. Rosemary Agonito helpfully offers us the very words many "great thinkers" in the western tradition have written on women.  She seems to think she traces a forward trajectory of history, from the "bad old days" when Christian theology trapped women in misogyny and contempt, fitfully towards a more enlightened state, ending with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Women.  (However badly that document may be ignored.)
But the story Agonito thinks she shows is not what the selections she offers actually give.  A sounder conclusion is that the Christian tradition provides the only basis for sane reform and liberation for both sexes.  Because this is an anthology, Agonito cannot lie about the Christian tradition (as some of those she anthologizes do), she can only selectively misrepresent.  But even so, the Christian thinkers here come off as far more reasonable than the lunatics we have been taught to call "great thinkers," whom I will mainly quote and analyze below: Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Bacon, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Hume, Kant, Wollstonecraft, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer (whose insanity we have already chronicled), Emerson, Mill (ditto), Darwin, Nietzsche, Engels, Russell, Freud, De Beauvoir, Friedan, Marcuse. 
What is startling is just how childish the "big thinkers" often seem to become, after they have rejected Christian orthodoxy." 

Image result for moses cartoon
"Whoops!  Did I miss a piece?"
Agonito relentlessly attacks the Christian tradition, directly and through proxies.  The opening three-page excerpt is the story of Adam and Eve from Genesis, which she prefaces by saying, “In the male-oriented religion of the Jews and later of the Christians, these concepts of woman’s inferiority and troublesomeness became entrenched in Western tradition, remaining virtually impregnable into the 20th Century.”
In a sense, the story of Adam and Eve is a great place to start, because the game of "pass the buck" it records -- “Blame the woman!” “Blame the snake!” is very like the game the “great philosophers” play down through the centuries.  I expected to respect even some skeptics here!  But aside from those who have imbibed more deeply from the Christian tradition, like Aquinas and Locke (Kiekegaard's piece is inscrutable), I found almost every one of them devoid of careful, systematic, and balanced reasoning.  Those who blame men and those who blame women and those who blame the capitalist system all seem a bit unhinged.  (Nobody pokes at Marxism in this text, even as Stalin’s little archipelago of labor camps is systematically butchering men and women alike.) 
But while Adam, Eve and the snake are a good place to start this story, Agonito misrepresents the Old Testament pretty badly by focusing on that tale.   
Eve does play the role of a villainess within it.  But in the Old Testament as a whole, some 37 women play heroic roles: saving families, taking the initiative in divinely-appointed love, befriending lonely widows, making adroit real estate investments, leading armies, even (in Esther's case) saving the people of Israel from genocide.  The percentage of male villains is surely much higher than of female villains (I only found 22 of the later, and some were ambivalent).  By contrast, is hard to find any heroines in Egyptian literature, still less three dozen!  
So Agonito's claim that the "inferiority and troubleness" of women was type-set by the single figure of Eve, "entrenched and impregnable" in Western literature, is promptly refuted by the whole rest of the Old Testament, including two entire books dedicated to heroines (Ruth and Esther).  In fact, the Old Testament represents a radical break from Egyptian literature, and allows mortal women a role that seldom appears in ancient Greek literature, either.  

St Paul the Misogynist 
Turning to the New Testament, Agonito cites Paul on how women should stay silent in church and cover their heads when praying, among other teachings from I Corinthians.  She fails to quote or even mention any of the many passages in which Paul writes in a friendly and respectful tone to female co-workers whom he seemed to accept as legitimate leaders of the Church.  She does mention that Jesus was friendly to women, but fails to include any of those passages in her anthology.Image result for apostle paul
We have already gone over both the gospels and the letters of Paul thoroughly in this series.  Agonito abuse of the biblical texts is disappointing, and raises the question of how much anything in this anthology can be trusted.  However, since most other thinkers are given enough space to develop their thoughts about women systematically, and Agonito doesn't exactly misquote, I think we can trust most of it.   

Plato & Aristotle

Image result for plato aristotle Agonito recognizes what all historians know, that women were placed in a very inferior position in the mainstream Greek culture represented by Athens.  (Though they enjoyed a higher position in Sparta.)  In general, women were supposed to stay in their quarters: Agonito cites the telling passage in The Odyssey in which Telemachus tells his mother Penelope to go back inside and leave public matters to himself as the man in the family now.  (Penelope seems quite pleased to see her son take this responsibility!)  
Plato represents, Agonito supposes, progress.  Men and women should share responsibilities because they share talents: 
"The gifts of nature are alike diffused in both."  
This is, no doubt, enlightened.  But the context, for Plato, is a commune in which public interest overrides the individual and ordinary human relations are destroyed:  
"The principle has already been laid down that the best of either sex should be united with the best as often, and the inferior with the inferior, as seldom as possible . . . if the flock is to be maintained in first-rate condition." 
"The wives of our guardians are to be common . . . and no parent is to know his own child, nor any child his parent."
Can any society in which children are taken away from their mothers be described as "friendly to women" (or rationality)?  Ask most normal women whether they would prefer to live in Plato's commune, or the more sexist but family-friendly societies Aristotle seems to prefer.  
Two of our later "great thinkers," one who seemed to despise women (Rousseau), another who is cited as a feminist (Russell), will offer similar daft proposals, demanding permission to dump the fruits of their "free love" on the State or on charities.  (Because of course the State is so much better at raising children than parents are -- look at Soviet orphanages for example!) 
But Plato also says marriage should be important and licentiousness discouraged, so his position is a little hard to follow.  
Aristotle responds to Plato's optimism about female nature by arguing that women and slaves are naturally inferior to Greek males.  Women, after all, are "mutilated males."
"The male is by nature superior, the female inferior . . . The male is by nature fitter for command than females."
To be fair, Aristotle recognizes that the lordship of a man over a woman is different in kind than that over a slave.  (While pointing out that "among barbarians no distinction is made between the female and the slave.")
Aristotle's premise that woman is a "mutilated man" is, of course, both rather crazed, and at odds with all sound biology, even in his day.  Interesting, today the idea has arisen than one can in fact create a woman by mutilating a man, or vice-versa.  So perhaps Aristotle would feel vindicated by the modern transsexual movement, though I doubt many modern women (or biologists) would give Aristotle credit for the insight.     

Plutarch: Know Thy Place, Woman!
Representing a growing consensus within Greco-Roman culture, the late 1st Century historian Plutarch tells us that the duties of a virtuous women are “to keep at home and be silent,” also that the man should control their joint stock, however much the woman brings to her marriage:  
"It behooves a husband to control his wife, not as a master does his vessel, but as the soul governs the body, with the gentle hand of mutual friendship and reciprocal affection." 
Plutarch is not nasty or particularly crazy - and indeed, Agonito seems to regard his attitude as an improvement.  Plutarch represents the gentler and more reasonable side of the ancient consensus -- not a consensus that the modern world can accept, however. 
At this point Christianity comes in, as represented not only by Paul, but also (in this anthology), Augustine, Aquinas, and John Locke.   Augustine is a little too Roman and Manichean to be entirely sane (and was terribly unfair to his mistress), though with a strong-willed Christian mother for whom he held great respect, he could hardly veer too strongly into outright misogyny.  But we shall skip him, along with the eminently sane Aquinas, Locke, and Bacon since our story is of secular insanity.  (Also because Bacon doesn't really say much, besides that ambitious men may find family inconvenient, but that wife and children make a man more human.)  We also skip Hobbes, who merely notes that women have power over their children (in case any of his readers had never had a mother, presumably.)  And so we come to several figures who belongs to different branches of what is called the Enlightenment. 

Jean Rousseau and David Hume
Rousseau's words show what he thought of women:
“The principal object of the work of the whole house is to preserve and increase the patrimony of the father . . . “ 
“The father ought to command . . . “
“The husband ought to be able to superintend his wife’s conduct”
That's so his wife won’t sleep with some other fellow and he’ll be stuck raising the bastard.
See the source image
Made to command -- his 
kids to an orphanage.  Sorry,
This argument is common here.  From a strict biological sense (the sense so keenly apparent in the Law of Manu), far from being any kind of insane, locking up women to keep them pure seems to make a kind of sense.  This is the logic behind veils and why Mohammed and the Hindus shut women up or burned them on their husband’s funeral pyre, and why Chinese hobbled women by breaking their bones as young girls.  It is also the logic behind castrating men to act as your servants if you're the king.  If "your woman" is stuck between guarded walls, crippled, or dead, you don't have to worry about her running off and making babies with another man.  And if the man guarding her lacks the balls (literally) to make love to her, your DNA will be privileged in the competition for breeding.  
One need hardly call this "mad:" it is calculating and cold.  What is crazy, as well as cruel (and Agonito is too kind to mention), is how Rousseau sent the fruit of his own affair off to be raised (or more likely die) in orphanages.  Yes, the dirty SOB carted off five children to never trip his feet up again, so he could be free to write in peace.    
Mind you, this follows the spirit of Plato's communism.  But Burke, within the Christian tradition, recognized Rousseau for what he was: "(He) entertained no principle... but vanity. With this vice he was possessed to a degree little short of madness."
Indeed, here even cruel lust is divorced from the natural fruits which it seeks: you get the pleasure of copulation, but without the deeper satisfaction of loving your own children, never mind your wife.  
This is a form of insanity that has blossomed and grown in our era, with the pill and abortion and wonder drugs making it possible to divorce crude pleasure from the goal for which Nature or God gives us those pleasures.   
David Hume echoes the point that men feel a need to be sure the children they are raising are their own.
"There must be a union of male and female for the education of the young, and that this union must be of considerable duration.  But in order to induce the men to impose on themselves this restraint, and undergo cheerfully all the fatigues and expenses, to which it subjects them, they must believe that the children are their own . . . "
Therefore modesty in women, which encourages this trust, is a healthy thing.  

Kant Get No Satisfaction
Agonito introduces Immanuel Kant by claiming the concept of a “lady” in the Medieval world “marked a significant break with the Christian tradition and its literature, in which neither women nor passionate love had any significant place.”  The place Judeo-Christian literature makes for women and love actually begins with three Old Testament books titled for women (Esther and Ruth), or which are precisely about passionate romantic love (Song of Solomon), so Agonito is talking clap-trap, again.  (Let me also refer her to The Canterbury Tales, if she has not read them yet.) 
Kant believes men and women differ emotionally, a notion that will draw much fire later in the anthology. 
“Women have a strong inborn feeling for all that is beautiful, elegant, and decorated.”  
Kant’s “appreciation” of women is more than a little paternalistic (“Deep meditation and a long-sustained reflection are noble but difficult, and do not well befit a person in whom unconstrained charms should show nothing else than a beautiful nature.” ) A woman should not learn geometry, for instance. 
Still, Kant and Hume, while hardly feminists by modern standards, are relatively sensible, compared not only to Rousseau, but to some of the thinkers soon to appear.  (Not that the mother of Frankenstein is too bad.)  

Mary Wollstonecraft
Mary Wollstonecraft is perhaps most famous today as the mother of Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein and lover, then wife, of Percy Shelley, the great poet.  (His original wife committed suicide.)  Both Wollstonecraft and her husband (and Mary Shelley's father) William Godwin were radicals who didn't believe in traditional marriage.  And in the larger family circle, everyone committed adultery with everyone else and was shocked when everyone else turned out to be emotionally crushed at being betrayed.  The many broken lives and hearts within this circle of radicals betrays the frivolity of their thinking.   
But Wollstonecraft is not totally bereft of sense: 
"Man is so constituted that he can only attain a proper use of his faculties by exercising them, and will not exercise them unless necessity, of some kind, first sets the wheels in motion. 
See the source image"Morality will never gain ground . . . if one half of mankind be chained to its bottom by fate, for they will be continually undermining it through ignorance or pride.  It is vain to expect virtue from women until they are, in some degree, independent of men . . . 
"Our British heroes are oftener sent from the gaming table than from the plow . . . "
Wollstonecraft seemed especially alive to the hardships of her own upper class sisterhood: 
"Though I consider that women in the common walks of life are called to fulfill the duties of wives and mothers, by religion and reason, I cannot help lamenting that women of a superior cast have not a road open to them by which they can pursue more extensive plans of usefulness and independence . . . (but women are) arbitrarily governed without having any direct share allowed them in the deliberations of government." 
Which echoes the American Revolution, Wollstonecraft being an admirer of George Washington (who went from the plow to the field of battle).  
Wollstonecraft considers what is to be done with alienated, frivolous society women -- a question that will come up later as well: 
"I have often wished, with Dr. Johnson, to place some . . . pale-faced creatures who are flying from themselves . . . in a little shop with a half dozen children looking up to their languid countenances for support."
Betty Friedan, by contrast, thinks having to watch kids and home is precisely what alienates women to begin with.  Both women seem to agree that there are a lot of neurotic women tooling around western cities, though they ascribe the problem to precisely opposite causes.  Looking at the lives of some of the feminist women anthologized in this work, it is hard to disagree with the premise to which they both give ascent.  

Georg Hegel
Hegel is in love with abstractions, but is not utterly devoid of sense.  “They represent that abandonment to the sensual is necessary as proof of the freedom and inner reality of love.  This style of argument is usual with seducers.”   Hegel is like Kant in affirming an only mildly contemptuous patriarchy (“women can, of course, be educated, but their minds are not adapted to the higher science, philosophy, or certain of the arts.”)  Their inability to attend to the universal (which was Hegel’s own mistress, or one of them) would make women dangerous heads of state.  But society depends on monogamous marriage. 

Soren Kierkegaard
It's hard to know what Soren Kierkegaard is getting at in the scattered piece included in this work, in which he puts various thoughts into the mouths of four eccentric figures at a banquet.  Agonito ascribes the confusion to his status as an existentialist, but he was also a sincere Christian thinker, which is not reflected in this piece.
See the source image
Thus spake Zarathustra,
either before or after
he lost his mind.
Schopenhauer & Nietzsche 
Arthur Schopenhauer and Friedrich Nietzsche then make a case against women, with a bit of off-hand support from Charles Darwin (see next group).  As described in my previous post, Schopenhauer is clearly unhinged: women are not just weak, but vile, have “never created anything really great, creative, and original,” they are sneaking, under-handed, inferior, and – yet he did chase 16 year olds at forty – ugly!  (Look at a painting of Schopenhauer himself, linked to above, and tell me that’s not a projection.)  He seems to be rationalizing his own hostility to his mother, a successful novelist, wishing women to be shut inside and even cites the Law of Manu, one of the most oppressive woman-hating texts in world literature, with a kind of passive-aggressive affirmation. 
Zarathustra adds, “Do you go to women?  Do not forget the whip!” 

Emerson, Mill, Engels, Russell & Darwin
The response to such hatred of women is given first by several men: Ralph Waldon Emerson, John Stuart Mill, Friedrich Engels and Bertrand Russell.
See the source image
How could a pipe-smoker
with such far-seeing eyes
who writes Nobel-Prize
winning books and the
history of western philosophy
be so thick? 
Having read Marx and Engels in college, I had few hopes for Engels' contribution.  And indeed, he offers a highly simplistic picture of world history that satisfies communist cartooning, but bears little relationship to reality. 
“Almost all savages and barbarians of the lower and middle stages . . . women not only have freedom, but are held in high esteem.” 
Tell that story to the Yamonamo Indians, or the Yali in Papua New Guinea.  Engels also doesn’t seem to know that slavery was practiced among Native American tribes. 
I always thought of Mill as being a reasonable man, but his essay in this anthology proved me wrong.  He offers the most sweeping and wild claims – such as that all women are slaves, that other systems have never even been tried – without even the ghost of an empirical argument.    While less shrill in tone than Schopenhauer, and less pernicious in his demands – he wishes for “equality,” whatever that means – as an argument his argument is simply a disgrace, confirming the worst fears people have of philosophy as a field where people build intellectual castles in the clouds.  (In these castles, the men are all ogres, as in Schopenhauer’s castles, they are all knights in shining armor, while the maidens are in the dungeons where they belong.) 
Darwin tries to bring the conversation back to the empirical realities of lived experience in the natural world:
“With savages, for instance the Australians, the women are the constant cause of war both between members of the same tribe and between distinct tribes.”
So much for Engel's theory of peaceful primitive communism! 
Darwin also supposes that Nature forms the minds of men and women differently, as if forms their bodies.  He puts this in terms that are going to lose him many friends in today’s world:
“Man is more courageous, pugnacious, and energetic than woman, and has more inventive genius.”
Darwin notes that greater boldness and fierceness is already characteristic of male monkeys, who “come to the front” when the tribe is confronted by danger.  
“No one disputes that the bull differs in disposition from the cow, the wild-boar from the sow, the stallion from the mare . . . Woman seem to differ from man in mental disposition, chiefly in her greater tenderness and less selfishness.”
We already get observations of this sort in Aristotle.  What is curious how many "great thinkers" on women simply ignore millions of years of natural history.  
Bertrand Russell then appears to blame Christianity for the subservience of women.  Russell also reintroduces Plato and Rousseau's solution to everyone’s sexual frustrations: dump the kids!  Let Dad and Mom have fun without the diapers, because strangers will of course be kinder than one's own flesh and blood.  Make the state raise our children for us! 
“Christian ethics inevitably, through the emphasis laid on sexual virtue, did a great deal to degrade the position of women . . . It is only in quite modern times that women have regained the degree of freedom which they enjoyed in the Roman Empire . . . It is only with the decay of the notion of sin in modern times that women have begun to regain their freedom.” (293)
Schopenhauer blamed Christianity for elevating women too much.  Russell blames it for setting her back.  Either way, Christianity must be to blame.  
The family is protection for women.  A woman can say, “No, thanks, I’m already married,” and society will back her up, even if any given man (say, Russell) doesn’t accept that answer.  Darwin was right: primitive men may not have always dragged their women around by the hair, but some tribes came pretty close. 
Like Schopenhauer, Russell thinks prostitution is an “inevitable” outcome of the Christian family. 
What does Lord Russell propose?  Either men should put up with their wives having affairs (say, with Russell himself), and the wives should find better pills so the men won’t have to raise their lovers’ brats.  (Not realistic, Russell admits.)  Or else:
“The other alternative compatible with the new morality is the decay of fatherhood as an important social institution, and of the taking over of the duties of the father by the State . . . All children would be in the position in which illegitimate children of unknown paternity are now, except the State, regarding this as the normal case, would take more trouble with their nurture than it does at present.”
Bertrand Russell does not disguise his sense of superiority in his own intellect (see his nose sticking up in the air?), but obviously he was a damn fool in some ways.    
Schopenhauer hated women because he couldn’t get along with his mother.  Russell wants to abolish fatherhood.  
For those of us who had good fathers, or who love our children, those are fighting words.  

Sigmund Freud Shrinks Women  
See the source image
Maybe its what they put IN those
pipes and cigars?  Sometimes a cigar
is not just a cigar. 
The famous Viennese poseur and pervert, Sigmund Freud, then makes his case that what little boys and girls really want is to hump or be humped by their parents, and that infant sexual frustration determines most their subsequent subconscious woes.  Women, in particular, are traumatized for life by their lack of  a certain piece of male anatomy. 
This bat-crazy theory is too much even for Agonito, who breaks up the Walk of Fame (or infame) by following Freud with a relatively unknown female shrink,  Karen Horney, who says in studiedly polite academic jargon, in effect, “Get your mind out of the gutter, Dr. Freud.  People do have other things to think about.”   Some women buy Freud’s schtick because:

“It is much easier for a patient to think that nature has given her an unfair deal than to realize that she actually makes excessive demands on the environment and is furious whenever they are not complied with.” (330)
In the midst of talking such sense, unfortunately Horney also has to pig-pile on the Christian tradition as well.  “Puritanical influences . . . have contributed toward the debasement of women by giving sexuality the connotation of something sinful and low.”  Christian literature thus “debases” and “soils” women and lowers her in her own self-esteem. 
Yeah, right.  It wouldn’t be Hugh Heffner or Harvey Weinstein or Bill Clinton or J. F. Kennedy who debase women by using them as cheap tricks, then tossing them aside.  It’s the Christians who think men and women should love for a lifetime in the connotation of a faithful mutual relationship who lower women.
And speaking of treating lovers as cheap tricks and tossing them aside, next we come to: 

Simone De Beauvoir  
Simone de Beauvoir, Jean Paul-Sartre’s love interest (or one of them), is up next, and what an act she turns out to be. 
See the source image
Well she looks sweet!
The general force of Beauvoir’s argument is that women are the very font of vices (“she is contrary, she is prudent and petty, she has no sense of fact or accuracy, she lacks morality . . . false, theatrical, self-seeking . . . “), and their wretched moral character is the fault of men. 
Some of her indictment of women, I mean of men by means of women, shows De Beauvoir’s literary talent to good effect, no doubt:

“She feels that she is surrounded by waves, radiations, mystic fluids; she believes in telepathy, astrology, radiotherapy, mesmerism, theosophy, table-tipping, clairvoyants, faith-healers; her religion is full of primitive superstition; wax candles, answered prayers . . . “ 
“The lot of women is a respectful obedience.  She has no grasp, even in thought, on the reality around her.”
But one gets the feeling that De Beauvoir, like Schopenhauer, was cursing her mother, rather than offering a coherent philosophical analysis of anything in human society.  As a serial manipulator who destroyed the lives of her young students with ruthlessness, as did her "lover" Sartre, De Beauvoir cannot be accused "respectful obedience," nor of being more admirable than the bourgeois women she seemed to despise.  I certainly would never say anything remotely as nasty about women in general as this “feminist philosopher” does, because the image she is painting of women simply does not correspond to my experience as a whole – thank God.
The cause of the horror that is woman is man, or rather, the need to act as a wife and mother in a family:
“A syllogism is of no help in making a successful mayonnaise, nor in quieting a child in tears.”
In an interview late in life, De Beauvoir goes so far as to say women should not be allowed to be housewives, even if they wish: too many would choose that lifestyle if given a choice. 
“Woman has been assigned the role of parasite, and every parasite is an exploiter.”
True enough, De Beauvoir herself was both an exploiter and a parasite: she was fired from teaching for seducing her female students, for instance.  But the women I grew up among, my mother and her friends, were honest, hard-working, kind, full of humor and good fun, in short match De Beauvoir’s self-indictment not a whit. 
Three more lunatics to go, and we are done with the tribe, and can retreat to sanity. 

Ashley Montagu
Montagu then contributes a piece in which he points out, I am not lying, that it is women who are superior to men, not the other way around, because they live longer and are better at Language Arts!
Yes, that is the conversation we find our intellectual superiors engaging in at this point:
“Boyz are better cause we got bigger muscles and can do math good!”
“No, gurlz are better cause we live long and learn languages better!”
“But look at this!  I bet you wish you had one of these!”
“Huh!  Snort!”   
The great conversation seems to really have become that asinine by the late 20th Century – thanks I think to what has been excluded in ignorance and bigotry, the Center which has been marginalized in favor of pre-adolescent extremes, the "Light of Dawn" as Clement of Alexandria (a very sane thinker) put it.  
Even here, Montagu might get stoned today for, like Darwin, basing his silly ideas on actual observations:
“Boys do better in those subjects that depend on numerical reasoning and spatial aptitudes, as well as in certain ‘information’ subjects such as history, geography, and general science.”
None of which prevent girls from being better overall, though.  So there!  

Betty Friedan
See the source image
Not just a second-class housewife. 
Betty Friedan is essentially a reprise of De Beauvoir and all the lunatics who think getting rid of children and the home is the best way to make women happier.  
“For women of ability, in America today, I am convinced there is something about the housewife state itself that is dangerous.”
Indeed, becoming a housewife is like “walking to their own deaths in the concentration camp” of Nazi Germany. 
Just what we needed – an Argument ad Hitlerum to close.

Herbert Marcuse
But the very last individual piece (before the United Nations closes the work) is by an unapologetic Marxist, Herbert Marcuse, who finds fresh forms of delusion to inflict on his readers.  He actually supposes (in 1972, after one hundred million innocent people have been mowed down on five continents) that communist revolution would not only liberate the proletarians, but that model of the proletarians, the lowly housewife.  Being isolated from the brutalizing world of capitalism actually makes women “more human than men,” which will shock De Beauvoir and Friedan and numerous contributors to this anthology who think housewifery makes woman an empty-headed, conniving, immoral nitwit.  (So feminism has to do a double back-flip at this point.)

Here are your “brights,” lucky world.  Here are your leading male and female philosophers, having cast off the crippling constraints of Christian orthodoxy, thinking hard to explain what is wrong between the sexes, and how to fix it.
And they are experimental pioneers!  They make love to their wives' best friends and expect their wives to feel happy about it!  They betray lovers and dump their own flesh-and-blood kids off into institutions where most children die quick and die young!  And then write books telling the world how to raise children!  
We saw that the great religious texts that formed the basis of ancient civilizations, not counting the Bible, were often cruel and oppressive towards women, or at best, neglected them to pursue other interests.  
We see now that having thrown off Christ, western thought did little better.  Some "great thinkers," often those most far from the Gospel, show an exaggerated and disturbed hatred of women.  Others patronize, perhaps for reasons we have come to recognize among so many liberal politicians ("the better to bed you with, my dear!")  Some blame men or marriage or family or Christianity for the low status of women, though in fact it is higher in Christian countries than almost anywhere else.  Others create mad visions of violent revolution that will change everything, or perverted sexual fantasies or morbid nightmares from which they claim they can rescue men and women alike by some psychoanalytical incantation, at a not-so-modest fee, pay the secretary on your way out, please.  
"Where else shall we go?  You have the words of life!"  We return then to Christ, who is the heart of sanity, of kindness and yet also the respect of demanding much, standing up for women, but asking women to stand up for themselves and those they should love.  

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Schopenhauer and Mill fight over women. Everyone loses. Again.

Image result for adam eve blame
C. S. Lewis famously pointed out that the devil sends errors into the world in pairs.  That way, those who embrace one error can feed off the anger of its opposite, rushing to ever-greater depths of senselessness to avoid the opposing mistake.  Lewis drew this insight from G. K. Chesterton, who in The Everlasting Man wrote brilliantly about the paradox of Christian faith, which does not merely find balance between opposing errors, but positive truth which expands upon, "extreme truth" on both sides.

The history of silly things men say about women (and women say in response) is a wonderful example of errors coming into the world in opposing pairs, and the Gospel threading the needle between them. 

Reading Rosemary Agonito’s History of Ideas on Woman, one can trace the seesaw of opposing stupidities.   (Though Agonito herself never recognizes the point of balance and social health which Jesus represented, around which these maelstroms of heresy have swirled ever since.) 

The whole book demonstrates, in a back-handed way, the sexual sanity of the Christian tradition, and how the West (and the world) has lost that sanity when it has forsaken Christ.  One gets a taste of that sanity when sensible Christian thinkers like Aquinas and Locke are anthologized.  (Agonisto never notices that sanity, often repeating her assumption that Christian tradition has it in for women, without noticing how her own texts contradict her.)  But here I will concentrate on two opposing philosophers: the misogynist, Arthur Schopenhauer, and the Enlightenment feminist, John Stuart Mill. 

I am shocked, frankly, as the sheer stupidity of many of the "geniuses" in this book, and the opposite stupidity of Schopenhauer and Mill in particular.  (Despite stiff competition from the likes of Engels and Freud.)

Schopenhauer on the Frailty, Frivolity, and Ugliness of Women

I did not expect to like Schopenhauer’s attack on women or find it intellectually persuasive.  It may be unfair to blame a man for the tyrants who later cherry-pick your work, but “Hitler’s favorite philosopher” cannot be an easy distinction for Schopenhauer to live down. 

But frankly, Schopenhauer  lives down to it in this piece. 

Let’s give a first run of six paragraphs to get a feel for the philosopher’s approach to the other sex, and to his style of reasoning in general:

“One need only look at a woman’s shape to discover that she is not intended for either too much mental or too much physical work.  She pays the debt of life not by what she does but by what she suffers—by the pains of child-bearing, care for the child, and by subjection to man, to whom she should be a patient and cheerful companion. The greatest sorrows and joys or great exhibition of strength are not assigned to her; her life should flow more quietly, more gently, and less obtrusively than man’s, without her being essentially happier or unhappier.

“Women are directly adapted to act as the nurses and educators of our early childhood, for the simple reason that they themselves are childish, foolish, and short-sighted—in a word, are big children all their lives, something intermediate between the child and the man, who is a man in the strict sense of the word . . .

“With girls, Nature has had in view what is called in a dramatic sense a “striking effect,” for she endows them for a few years with a richness of beauty and a, fullness of charm at the expense of the rest of their lives; so that they may during these years ensnare the fantasy of a man to such a degree as to make him rush into taking the honorable care of them, in some kind of form, for a lifetime—a step which would not seem sufficiently justified if he only considered the matter. Accordingly, Nature has furnished woman, as she has the rest of her creatures, with the weapons and implements necessary for the protection of her existence and for just the length of time that they will be of service to her; so that Nature has proceeded here with her usual economy. Just as the female ant after coition loses her wings, which then become superfluous, nay, dangerous for breeding purposes, so for the most part does a woman lose her beauty after giving birth to one or two children; and probably for the same reasons.”

“. . . Love, conquests, and all that these include, such as dressing, dancing, and so on, they give their serious attention.”

“This is why women remain children all their lives, for they always see only what is near at hand, cling to the present, take the appearance of a thing for reality, and prefer trifling matters to the most important . . .

“It is because women’s reasoning powers are weaker that they show more sympathy for the unfortunate than men, and consequently take a kindlier interest in them . . . 

If you’re keeping score, we have now learned that women are (1) not built to work or (2) think hard; (3) or achieve much but have babies; (4) whom they can raise, being like babies themselves “all their lives,” not mature human beings.   Also (5) after a few charming years (Schopenhauer preferred girls of about 16 when he was 40, though the feeling was not always mutual), (6) their looks go quickly south, (7) so Nature has equipped women to catch an honorable fool of a man quickly, then make him support these (increasingly ugly) human leaches for the rest of their lives.

My own love life has not been a complete success.  But the faces of women I have known, as friends and friends of family, come to mind – women full of grace, kindness, generosity, in many cases wit and accomplishment.  I am glad Arthur Schopenhauer’s kind no longer has the power to beat women down – and suppression would not end with women (did not, with Hitler), you know the type. 

As you may guess, Schopenhauer had a poor relationship with his mother (a novelist).  After his father died, like Hamlet’s mother, she seemed to recover her spirits and a lively social life too quickly for her son’s tastes.  (“Frailty, thy name is woman!”) 

Schopenhauer could, however, write, a talent he no doubt inherited from his mother (though they disparaged one another’s work).  So we soon learn what Nature has furnished women in the form of weapons:  

“So that it will be found that the fundamental fault in the character of women is that they have no “sense of justice” . . . Nature has not destined them, as the weaker sex, to be dependent on strength but on cunning; this is why they are instinctively crafty, and have an ineradicable tendency to lie. For as lions are furnished with claws and teeth, elephants with tusks, boars with fangs, bulls with horns, and the cuttlefish with its dark, inky fluid, so Nature has provided woman for her protection and defense with the faculty of dissimulation, and all the power which Nature has given to man in the form of bodily strength and reason has been conferred on woman in this form . . . falseness, faithlessness, treachery, ungratefulness, and so on. In a court of justice women are more often found guilty of perjury than men.  It is indeed to be generally questioned whether they should be allowed to take an oath at all.  From time to time there are repeated cases everywhere of ladies, who want for nothing, secretly pocketing and taking away things from shop counters.”

I have to admit I rather admire this sentence: 

“For as lions are furnished with claws and teeth, elephants with tusks, boars with fangs, bulls with horns, and the cuttlefish with its dark, inky fluid, so Nature has provided woman for her protection and defense with the faculty of dissimulation, and all the power which Nature has given to man in the form of bodily strength and reason has been conferred on woman in this form.”

And it seems to be true that women shop-lift more often than men.  It is also true that men shoot up schools more often.  

“Because women in truth exist entirely for the propagation of the race, and their destiny ends here, they live more for the species than for the individual, and in their hearts take the affairs of the species more seriously than those of the individual . . . “

What women is this man talking about?  Nature may use our urges to preserve the species, male and female.  But while I’ve met lots of women who doted upon their grandchildren (like me, thankfully), their children, or even their dogs or cats, I’ve never met one who doted on “the species.”  (“Although we adore men individually, we agree that as a group they’re rather stupid.”)  Here Schopenhauer is writing, as Chesterton put it, like a dreary second-rate poet, not like an open-eyed observer of men and women.  

“It is unbearable to see how proudly and disdainfully a lady of rank will, for the most part, behave towards one who is in a lower rank (not employed in her service) when she speaks to her.”

Hillary Clinton’s secret service detail has reportedly made such observations.  Philosophy should be based on something more than anecdotal observations, though.    

“It is only the man whose intellect is clouded by his sexual instinct that could give that stunted, narrow-shouldered, broad-hipped, and short-legged race the name of the fair sex; for the entire beauty of the sex is based on this instinct.”
Romeo here is dissing how other 
people look? 

How morosely Schopenhauer echoes what Zhuang Zi said thousands of years before him with so much more style and humor, about how the fish swam away when the famous beauty approached, and the birds took flight.  Of course our experience of beauty is tied to the sexual instinct.  Of course sex makes us aware of beauty – indeed, as Nick Lane argues, sex fills the world with beauty and wonder – which would mean much less to us were we to lack a sexual appetite.  (As our hunger for food no doubt awakens us to the beauty of a tomato or a trout breaking the water.) 

I suppose beauty itself may be a delusion cooked up by our appetites.  But I would rather think it is God sharing a secret with us, the “It is Good!” of the original creation.  In that case, “There she was just a-walking down the street singing do-wa-diddy-dum-diddy-do” echoes God’s signature on creation.  Schopenhauer’s morbid reductionism is nihilistic in a more sentimental and less rational way than any of the songs on the Pop 40 charts.    

Image result for marilyn monroe
What gives us the idea that these creatures are 
attractive?  Gee, I can't figure it out.
“One would be more justified in calling them the unaesthetic sex than the beautiful. Neither for music, nor for poetry, nor for fine art have they any real or true sense and susceptibility, and it is mere mockery on their part, in their desire to please, if they affect any such thing.”

“Nothing different can be expected of women if it is borne in mind that the most eminent of the whole sex have never accomplished anything in the fine arts that is really great, genuine, and original, or given to the world any kind of work of permanent value. This is most striking in regard to painting, the technique of which is as much within their reach as within ours; this is why they pursue it so industriously. Still, they have not a single great painting to show, for the simple reason that they lack that objectivity of mind which is precisely what is so directly necessary in painting . . . And Huarte, in his book which has been famous for three hundred years, Examen de ingenios para las scienzias, contends that women do not possess the higher capacities. Individual and partial exceptions do not alter the matter; women are and remain, taken altogether, the most thorough and incurable philistines . . . “

The weird thing is, men, who are the artists, persist in thinking women beautiful.  Since men unlike women are capable of being objective, maybe that means our objective conclusions are correct? 

I’m not sure if an angel can detect the beauty in a woman’s form, but I’m pretty sure there’s something wrong with Schopenhauer’s argument (and his soul, that the angel surely could detect a light year away).

But Schopenhauer does observe something accurately, even if from the wrong side around:   

“The difference between the positive and negative poles, according to polarity, is not merely qualitative but also quantitative. And it was in this light that the ancients and people of the East regarded woman; they recognized her true position better than we, with our old French ideas of gallantry and absurd veneration, that highest product of Christian–Teutonic stupidity. These ideas have only served to make them arrogant and imperious, to such an extent as to remind one at times of the holy apes in Benares . . . “

In his crude way, Schopenhauer gets his hand upon a truth here (which continues to elude the editor of this book): that it was the Gospel which raised women.  And it is the death of the Gospel that lowers us all.   

“Accordingly, it would be a very desirable thing if this Number Two of the human race in Europe were assigned her natural position, and the lady-grievance got rid of, which is not only ridiculed by the whole of Asia, but would have been equally ridiculed by Greece and Rome. The result of this would be that the condition of our social, civil, and political affairs would be incalculably improved. The Salic law would be unnecessary; it would be a superfluous truism. The European lady, strictly speaking, is a creature who should not exist at all; but there ought to be housekeepers, and young girls who hope to become such; and they should be brought up not to be arrogant, but to be domesticated and submissive. It is exactly because there are ladies in Europe that women of a lower standing, that is to say, the greater majority of the sex, are much more unhappy than they are in the East.”

Were “eastern” women in the 19th Century far happier than European women?

We are given so statistics or even anecdotes by which to learn how happy “women of the East” were.  Schopenhauer has clearly heard reports, and has even read a book or two (see below).  He no doubt knows that in China, the feet of young girls were then broken at about the age of six so they would stay home and waddle in a sexually attractive manner, and not too far.  He probably knows that in Japan, girls were given no education, though apparently he does not know that there is a massive sex trade (however monks seemed to prefer boys at times), and women were returned to brothels by the police should they escape.  (Until the evil Salvation Army broke things up.)  Schopenhauer himself shortly touches on evils done to women in India, though with a bear pretense of sympathy, as we shall see. 

“The laws of marriage prevailing in Europe consider the woman as the equivalent of the man . . . “

Schopenhauer sees and decries what feminists, including as we shall read Mill, refuse to see: the positive impact of the Gospel on women. 

“In London alone there are 80,000 prostitutes. Then what are these women who have come too quickly to this most terrible end but human sacrifices on the altar of monogamy? The women here referred to and who are placed in this wretched position are the inevitable counterbalance to the European lady, with her pretensions and arrogance. Hence polygamy is a real benefit to the female sex, taking it as a whole.”
Schopenhauer’s reasoning here is odd as it is tendentious.  He seems to assume that prostitution was absent from polygamous societies, though the Bible mentions numerous prostitutes in polygamous ancient Israel, and it was also common in India and China.  

Why should polygamy help women?  True, the need for extra wives might absorb the surplus population of women (if too many men were fighting and dying in wars, or being made captive.)  But what if the king marries 1000 women, or rich businessmen marry three or four each?  What polygamy does is create a market for the sorts of places I saw in Taiwan like Snake Alley, where lower-class men went for quick sexual outlets.  Young women were ground up like hamburger in those "assembly line" brothels. 

Schopenhauer seems to have forgotten that boys and girls come into the world in equal numbers.  If one man takes two brides, all else being equal, that will leave another with none.  And given wealth disparities, polygamy inevitably means poor men will go without brides, and will remain a seething militant mass on the boundaries of society.  

Schopenhauer should read Wild Swans, which tells what being a concubine even to a general was like, for Chinese women.    

“And, on the other hand, there is no reason why a man whose wife suffers from chronic illness, or remains barren, or has gradually become too old for him, should not take a second. Many people become converts to Mormonism for the precise reasons that they condemn the unnatural institution of monogamy.”

He’s probably right about why some men convert to polygamous sects like Mormonism, or, say, Charles Manson’s merry commune, or that of Jim Jones.  (Or go to work as Congressmen.) 

“ . . . Among all nations, and in all ages, down to the Lutheran Reformation, concubinage was allowed, nay, that it was an institution, in a certain measure even recognised by law and associated with no dishonor.  And it held this position until the Lutheran Reformation . . . “

Again Schopenhauer puts his grubby finger on a historical truth.  A famous philosopher can only give Christianity credit when he thinks he's giving it blame.  

“As each man needs many women, nothing is more just than to let him, nay, make it incumbent upon him to provide for many women.  By this means woman will be brought back to her proper and natural place as a subordinate being, and the lady, that monster of European civilization and Christian–Teutonic stupidity, with her ridiculous claim to respect and veneration, will no longer exist; there will still be women, but no unhappy women, of whom Europe is at present full. The Mormons’ standpoint is right.”

This paragraph, while reflective of a truly ugly soul, is almost beautiful in its back-handed compliment to the truth.  

Now Schopenhauer  changes his mind and admits that the goal and effect of polygamy is not to make women happy, but to make them subordinate.  He’s right about that.  

But if each man “needs many women” (as lovers), what does one do with the fact that sexes come into this world in even quantities?  The solution which Mohammed hit upon was perpetual warfare promising the cannon-fodder sex orgies in heaven, leaving the flesh-and-blood women for himself and his fellow leaders.  So it makes a certain kind of twisted sense that one of Schopenhauer’s disciples started a war that left so many widows.  

That Christianity changed things for women, is an historical fact.  That it made them unhappy – well again, what is shocking in this piece of “philosophy” is how scanty the facts on which it relies are.  Are Christian women happy?  Are girls married off at 9 who stay in the house or put veils on their faces happy?  Why don’t we talk to the women and find out! 

Schopenhauer never bothers to ask them.

Mind you, I can well believe that some European women were indeed unhappy, like Schopenhauer’s mother.  Just as, in quantum physics, it seems the observer can influence that which is observed, so the presence of Arthur Schopenhauer no doubt made the faces of at least some European women fall.  I mean, look at that face!    

In India no woman is ever independent, but each one stands under the control of her father or her husband, or brother or son, in accordance with the law of Manu.  It is certainly a revolting idea that widows should sacrifice themselves on their husband’s dead body; but it is also revolting that the money which the husband has earned by working diligently for all his life, in the hope that he was working for his children, should be wasted on her paramours.”

 In almost every nation, both of the new and old world, and even among the Hottentots, property is inherited by the male descendants alone; it is only in Europe that one has departed from this. That the property which men have with difficulty acquired by long-continued struggling and hard work should afterwards come into the hands of women, who, in their want of reason, either squander it within a short time or otherwise waste it, is an injustice as great as it is common, and it should be prevented by limiting the right of women to inherit.”

“Take that, Mom!”

So much for objective philosophy.  Schopenhauer here is clearly consumed with rage at his own mother.  

We have seen what the Law of Manu says about women.   Notice the cultural relativism Schopenhauer engages in here: in India, girls may be married at 12 to men many times as old, stay at home, never be educated, then be burnt on his funeral pyre at his death so they can serve their masters and gods in another life.   But Europe is just as bad, or worse, because look at my Mom, whom I hate.

Odd, given Mrs. Schopenhauer’s experience, that Mill assumes in his later essay just the opposite – that European women had no right to inheritance.   It appears that Schopenhauer was right about the fact (at least sometimes), Mill about the right.  

Women need a guardian always; therefore they should not have the guardianship of their children under any circumstances whatever . . . “

“Aristotle explains in the Politics the great disadvantages which the Spartans brought upon themselves by granting too much to their women, by allowing them the right of inheritance and dowry, and a great amount of freedom; and how this contributed greatly to the fall of Sparta . . . That woman is by nature intended to obey is shown by the fact that every woman who is placed in the unnatural position of absolute independence at once attaches herself to some kind of man, by whom she is controlled and governed; this is because she requires a master. If she, is young, the man is a lover; if she is old, a priest.”

In the end, while he masks his thoughts in culture and references to human history, Arthur is little more than a hurt boy lashing out, and trying to justify his rage at his own mother, but doing little to disguise it.  (No wonder Adolf liked him!)

And contradicting himself.  If women are equal in marriage, as he claims, how is it that to obtain a husband is to obtain a master? 

And if there is something inherently vile about seeking a mate, why does Schopenhauer insist that men should seek several? 

So Arthur Schopenhauer blames Christianity for giving women far too much freedom. 

Turn the next page in your skeptical manual (as Chesterton put it), and John Stuart Mill blames the same faith for taking it all away.   (And our editor seems to agree with every word.  Without ever asking for any evidence.) 

John Stuart Mill on the Slavery of Women

I didn’t expect much from Schopenhauer, but I did from Mill.  People I respect praised him.  I thought of him as an honest and no doubt formidable skeptic in the Enlightenment tradition, a man who had done much to increase the sum of liberty in the world.

Image result for john stuart millAnd maybe he did.  But this article makes it impossible for me to think of him anymore as a well-informed historical thinker or balanced social observer.

The existing social relations between the two sexes – the legal subordination of one sex to the other – is wrong in itself . . . it ought to be replaced by a principal of perfect equality, admitting no power or privilege on the one side, nor disability on the other.”

We begin with Mill’s premise that the “existing relations” between men and women was simply “subordination” of one to the other.  The odd thing is, Mill never places the slightest boundary around this claim anywhere in the 23 pages which Agonisto reproduces.  Which women are subordinated to which men, in what ways, and where?  Mill never the cat out of the bag. 

Mill spends much time in this essay explaining his assumptions about liberty, arguing that if anyone desires to take liberty away from some other class of people, they should be given the burden of proving that there is some good reason for taking that liberty.  What Mill never does in this essay is defend or even explain his casual assumption that women are wholly and have always been subordinated to men.  (Though later authors like Darwin and Engels cite facts which seem to call that assumption into question.)  So however brilliant his argument may be, given that it is based on such unclear and undefended premises, it must remain of little value in the eyes of readers who wish to know the facts before deciding what to do about them.   

Schopenhauer was driven to distraction by the extravagance with which he perceived his mother and sister acting after his father’s death.  Hamlet made the same complaint about his mother 250 years earlier, not to mention the Wife of Bath in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.    Think how that latter lady would have laughed at the delusions (from her perspective) Mill engages in:  

“Women are wholly under the rule of men, having no share at all in public concerns . . . ” (229)

Never mind the Wife of Bath, who ruled herself.  This was an even odder thing to write thirty years into the 63-year reign of Queen Victoria, who ruled the entire empire.    

 “From the very earliest twilight of human society, every woman (owing to the value attached to her by men, combined with her inferiority in muscular strength), was found in a state of bondage to some man.  Laws and systems of polity always begin by recognizing the relations they find already existing between individuals.” (230)

While most legislators build on previous bodies of law or the existing condition, as Mill says, many rulers are also creative, and some deliberately set out to transform the prior state of society by means of new laws.  That is certainly the case following great religious reforms, in Geneva, and political revolutions in Philadelphia, Paris, or Moscow. 

Is it really true that every woman is always found in a state of “bondage” to men?  Mill engages in broad historical generalizations, and most readers probably simply nod their heads and say, “Yes, I suppose that is true.”  Bucan he have never heard of matriarchal societies?  Herodotus already described both the legendary Amazons and tribes in which relations were more-or-less equal, in the 5th Century BC.  (Engels will talk of them a few chapters later, in the simplistic style which he and Marx favored.)  Archeologists find graves among little family hunting bands in North America where men and women were buried with, apparently, roughly equal honors.  In other tribes women are treated like slaves and proper objects of forcible sexual exploitation.  (Falsifying one of Engels' too-broad generalizations.)     

“In early times, the great majority of the male sex were slaves, as well as the whole of the female.”

Mill never tries to support such sweeping claims in what Agonito calls a “penetrating analysis of the historical subjugation of women.”  I assume this means Agonito doesn’t know much about history, either. 

Even in ancient Athens, which had won great victories over its enemies, high estimates put the number of slaves at up to half the population – not “the great majority.”  Most of the ancient world still consisted of hunters and gatherers, among whom slavery was far less economic – you can set a hundred slaves to till your soil, but if you give a slave a horse to join you on a buffalo hunt, that may be the last you see of slave or horse.   (Indeed, Engels makes this very point a few essays along, in different terms.)  It is patently untrue that the majority of men in the ancient world were slaves, still less the “great majority.”

Aside from failing to offer evidence for his contentions, Mill has also failed to define “slave.”      

Since he hasn’t defined “slave,” and since he hasn’t offered a word of support for his contention that “the whole” of the female gender belonged to that category – even Eskimo women waiting for their husbands to return from the ice with a seal, even Queens Cleopatra, Elizabeth, Victoria, Catherine, Jezebaal and Wu Zetian – one is astonished that such a flood of unsupported hyperbole has been taken seriously by so many feminists. 

“By degrees such thinkers did arise, and (the general progress of society assisting) the slavery of the male sex has, in all the countries of Christian Europe at least (though in one of them, only within the last few years) been at length abolished, and that of the female sex has been gradually changed into a milder form of dependence . . . it is the primitive state of slavery lasting on, through successive mitigations and modifications occasioned by the same causes which have softened the general manners, and brought all human relations more under the control of justice and the influence of humanity.”

What force is mitigating and modifying human mores, bending the arc of history towards justice?  Mill does not properly name that influence in respect, as Schopenhauer does in hatred. 

The impulse that reformed the West is revealed by what happened when the Nazis and the Marxists wholly cast it off a century later.  It can also be seen by the liberation that springs both from the hands of Jesus himself in the gospels, and from the work of missionaries throughout the 19th Century on every inhabited continent – but Mill seems to know little of that or any history. 

Mill and Schopenhauer do agree at least on this much: that the plight of women has improved in Europe, and that it is worse in other civilizations (though Schopenhauer defines “worse” as “better.”)

Mill’s description of the relationship between husbands and wives is disturbing in an equal and opposite way to that of Schopenhauer:

Every one of the subjects lives under the very eye, and almost, it may be said, in the hands, of one of the masters, in closer intimacy with him than with any of her fellow subjects, with no means of combining against him, no power of even locally over-mastering him, and, on the other hand, with the strongest motives for seeking his favor and avoiding to give him offense.  In struggles for political emancipation, everybody knows how often its champions are bought off with bribes, or daunted by terrors.  In the case of women, each individual of the subject-class is in a chronic state of bribery and intimidation combined.” (233)

What grotesque experience of family life had these two equal and opposite nincompoops suffered?  

Mill himself is married by this time.  Does he use bribery and intimidation to get his way with his wife?  Is he a tyrant?  If so, maybe he should reform himself, instead of telling the world it should reform.  If not, by what right does he casually assume that he alone is righteous, and all other men are such utter louts? 

And when were women in the Christian West so utterly under the control of men?  At the very least, since the “subject” woman is cooking his meals, she can poison her husband, or cut his throat as the genuinely oppressed black woman in Color Purple considered doing.  Or she can try to stab him to death in the night.  She doesn’t need to “combine” with anyone in a plot to do in someone that intimate: and come to think of it, women usually outlive their husbands anyways.

And often they seem to mourn, for some reason.  

But rational domestic considerations do not impede Mill in is rush towards unsupported, sweeping generalizations:  

All the moralities tell them that it is the duty of the women, and all the current sentimentalists that it is their nature, to live for others; to make complete abnegation of themselves, and to have no life but in their affections.  And by their affections are meant the only ones they are allowed to have – those to the men to whom they are connected, or to the children who constitute an additional and indefeasible tie between them and a man.  When we put together three things – first, the natural attraction between opposite sexes, second, the wife’s entire dependence on the husband, every privilege or pleasure he has being his gift or depending entirely on his will . . . “

Aside from the fact that Mill never supports his sweeping generalizations with evidence, this is such manifest nonsense (if you read carefully and take what he is actually say seriously) that one has to ask what the feminist movement smokes to abide it.   

Women never have female friends?  That is what he is actually saying.  In what world is that?  Did he never so much as read the novels of Jane Austen?  

All moralities teach women that they must “have no life” except in affection to their husbands and children?

Is that what Jesus taught Martha when he told her not to worry about dinner and let Mary join his theological discussion group?  Where were her husband and children in that story?  When Jesus commissioned a Samaritan woman as evangelist to her village, gently creating an identity for her independent of the series of men in her life?  Or when he responded to a woman who praised the breasts of the woman who raised him by saying, “No, there are greater issues for women to think about that mere reproduction and support of children?“

Mill does make a few good points about society in general, admittedly.  People are no longer simply born into their station in society, he says, but can now choose their paths in life.  Don’t try to force women into matrimony: offer a good deal as a suitor, respect and freedom and equality for your wife.   But whenever he delves into the realm of history (on which his shallow Enlightenment view of social reform depends), he seems to prefer cant over truth:

“Historians and philosophers have been led to adopt (women's) elevation or debasement as on the whole the surest test and most correct measure of the civilization of a people or an age.”

This is what is called a "deepism:" a saying that sounds profound, but proves empty if you look closely. 

All agree that women were severely restricted in ancient Athens, far more than in Sparta, her competitor and sometime ally.  Yet Athens remains a byword for civilization, the chief source of the Hellenic World.  (Hellen herself was hardly a free agent.)  

Women could occasionally lead armies in Shang China, a savage civilization in which dogs, horses, camels and people could be buried alive in the tomb of a high-status woman like Fu Hao.   Confucius heightened and humanized Chinese civilization, yet under Confucianism, women returned indoors.  During one of China’s greatest empires, the Song, with its gorgeous paintings, poetry and artistic lifestyle, the practice of binding the feet of young women began to take hold.

So civilization can thrive and even reach new heights alongside the extreme and renewed oppression of women.  That fact may be unfortunate, but it is clearly a fact. 

Mill needs, however, such vacuous and poorly-evidenced historical premises to support arguments like the following, which haunt us to this day:

I deny that anyone knows, or can know, the nature of the two sexes, as long as they have only been seen in their present relation to one another .  . . What is now called the nature of women is an eminently artificial thing – the result of forced repression in some directions, unnatural stimulation in others.”

Here we witness the seed of the modern conceit that gender is infinitely fluid and only defined by the individual.  

True, every culture does both suppress and stimulate certain human traits, and every actual state of relations between the sexes is to some extent artificial.  But is it really likely that among the tens of thousands of societies that have existed in history, all these sometimes interrelating and often independent people groups express exactly nothing of what human beings are by nature?  This seems a far-fetched conclusion.  And again, notice that it is reached without offering any anthropological evidence at all. 

Mill does get in a good line on this point:

“Men, with that inability to recognize their own work which distinguishes the unanalytic mind, indolently believe that the tree grows of itself in the way they have made it grow, and it would die if one half of it were not kept in a vapor bath and the other half in the snow.”

But this is Nation of Islam-style social reasoning.   So the nature of women is so suppressed by the powerful males that we don’t even know what it might be?   Living with women all our lives, as mothers, sisters, aunts, wives, daughters, gives us no clue whatsoever what these creatures are like – unlike our dogs, presumably, who cannot disguise their true nature – because we are unconsciously or consciously suppressing true femininity, whatever that may be?

Since we can have no clue what women are really like, we can’t make good generalizations about them, any more than bad ones:

 “Women, it is said, seldomer fall under the penal law – contribute a much smaller number of offenders to the criminal calendar, than men.  I doubt not that the same thing could be said, with the same truth, of Negro slaves.  Those who are under the control of others cannot often commit crimes, unless at the commands and for the purposes of their masters.  I do not know of a more singular instance of the blindness with which the world, including the herd of studious men, ignore and pass over all the influence of social circumstances, than their silly depreciation of the intellectual, and silly panegyrics on the moral nature of women.” (243)

Get the idea?  Women don’t mug people in the streets so often, because they are enslaved to men, and the men won’t let them! 

Odd that (per Schopenhauer) men do allow women to shop-lift. 

In a later chapter of the same volume, Charles Darwin points out that among ape species, it is normal for males to do the fighting, and to stand between the tribe and any dangers that appear.  Such observations about animals begin, just in this volume, with Aristotle.  But no doubt the apes are sexist, too, and so too the work habits of monkeys, bees and ants tell us absolutely nothing about the biological nature of those species, either. 

Notice that Mill again doesn’t offer any actual evidence about the alleged failure of black slaves to commit crimes, just “I would suppose.”  His failure to offer evidence on that point is of a piece with the whole article.  Centuries after Francis Bacon offered his arguments for empirical reasoning, couldn’t we do better than throwing out all these naked assertions, like hayseed onto fallow ground, and call it philosophy?

Are American women still slaves, in 2018, now that most college students are female?  Presumably not.  So why is it that now, 80% of violent crimes are committed by men, and 90% of murders?  Does the fact that men earn slightly more than women, the most common complaint, somehow keep women under wraps and even now prevent them from demonstrating their true violent nature? 

Of course this observation is also dangerous to modern feminism.  Because the other horn of the dilemma is the gender differences Schopenhauer appealed to: men may commit more violent crime, but they also invent more, create more masterpieces, put their lives on the line to protect their mates and children, take entrepreneurial risks, and so on.  So we are required to keep two thoughts in our minds, but keep them separate, somehow: (1) That men are evil tyrants who enslave women always and everywhere; (2) that women, poor darlings, may actually be just as violent as men, but we can’t know that because they’ve been suppressed! 

Mill casually assumes that the evidential force of thousands of years of human history in thousands of societies is exactly nill.  We don’t have any idea how men and women differ, never mind biology, never mind experience, because women are so totally dominated that human nature is crushed into dust. 

Darwin was hardly the first person to notice that males and females differ in nature.   Indeed Aristotle is quoted on this subject in this collection alone.  Nor does it seem implausible that Nature, having formed one half of humanity to care for little ones, would also infuse nurturing sentiments into that half, while putting a more aggressive spirit into those whose role would be to catch meat and defend the tribe.  

Modern feminists of course do not welcome such thoughts, but I am surprised to find these sediments mixed into this stream of thought from its very source, 150 years upstream. 

All the selfish propensities, the self-worship, the unjust self-preference, which exist among mankind, have their source and root in, and derive their principal nourishment from, the present condition of the relationship between men and women.  Think what it is to be a boy, to grow up to manhood in the belief that without any merit or any exertion of his own, though he may be the most frivolous and empty or the most ignorant and stolid of mankind, by the mere fact of being born a male he is by right the superior of all and every one of an entire half of the human race . . . “ (245)

Here we have a creation myth and myth of a Fall written to explain evil in society.  I find it less credible than the story of Adam and Eve.  

Many years ago, in Jesus and the Religions of Man (2000), I identified radical feminism as a form of what I called “social dualism,” along with Marxism, Racism, and the Tai Ping Rebellion.  All such stories invent their own creation myths and tales of a Fall.  The claim that some entity in society -- White Man, Capitalists, the Manchus -- is causing all our troubles, and if we can only put an end to that entity, paradise will dawn and everyone will live happily ever after. 

I am shocked to find so eminent and reportedly cool-minded a thinker as John Stuart Mill infested with a feminist form of social dualism to such an extreme degree. 

All selfish propensities and self-worship among mankind derives from the fact that boys are brought up to think they are superior to all women?  Mill offers this sweeping claim, proposing to explain almost all that troubles every society on earth, blaming the man as the Bible is said to blame the woman for all our problems.  Yet again, he offers exactly no evidence to support the claim upon which everything else is based. 

The Genesis account is actually far more nuanced than this.  The serpent tempts the woman to “be as gods, knowing good and evil,” but then the woman tempts her husband, and both willingly fall.  And then the rest of the Old Testament, let me repeat this because Agonito tells only that one story, is chock full of heroic women who do hear from God, and speak to him, and lead armies and nations and save families.  (Thirty-seven heroines by my count.)  But maybe God is being patronizing by showing women in such a generous light? 

Men, at least, are tricksy, precious, as if to deceive even the elect:

“As much obedience is required from boys to their mother as to their father: they are not permitted to dominate over their sisters . . . “

But don’t let such surface appearances disguise what’s really going on deep down!

“How early the youth thinks himself superior to this mother, owing her perhaps forbearance, but no real respect; and how sublime and sultan-like a sense of superiority he feels, above all, over the woman whom he honors by permitting to a partnership of his life.  Is it imagined that all this does not pervert the whole manner of existence of man, both as an individual and as a social being? . . . The relation between husband and wife is very like that between a lord and vassal, except that the wife is held to more unlimited obedience than the vassal was.”  (246)

It has been said, “What is asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.”  And the wonder of Mill’s demagogic simplifications, even more than those of Schopenhauer, which rest on an already threadbare empirical basis, is that in all this long piece, he never offers the faintest hint of evidence – still less the kind of systematic social evidence that alone could provide sufficient support for such sweeping claims. 

Yet like that of Schopenhauer, such demagoguery, called “philosophy,” swept millions of willing believers before it.  Rosemary Agonito praises this essay without caution or restraint. 

Did Mill act like a sultan towards his own wife?  Does Dr. Agonito’s husband, whom she thanks in the acknowledgements to this book, act like a self-worshipping potentate when they sit down to eat?

If so, why don’t these thinkers first take the log out of their own eyes, before offering to remove slivers from the eyes of their readers?

If not, why do they insist, like a female cultist I met in Taipei, that their own home is the New Jerusalem, while every other family, every other man at least, is corrupt and alone responsible for social corruption?   As children of their own societies, how did they manage to avoid the universal corrosion? 

And so the devil sent errors into the world in opposing pairs, so that fools would believe the lie of their choosing, growing in self-righteousness and fury as they contemplated the evil of their opposite numbers.  So that men would blame women, and men blame women, and society as a whole would grow more foolish as the years passed.  

You’d think after all these years that the devil would come up with a new line, though.   

"Don't look at me!  Look at the woman!  She gave me the apple!” 

“Look at the man!” 

“Look at the snake!” 
Even while our most brilliant thinkers recapitulate the errors which the biblical "myth" of Adam and Eve ascribes to our ancient ancestors, the Gospel of Jesus remains the heart of true sanity, about sex as about so much else.