Sunday, May 10, 2009

01 Hipparchia

Our contemporary age tends to consider classical Athens as the epitome of sociopolitical progress: birthplace of democracy; enlightened realm of free speech, tolerance, philosophical debate...

Yet harsh historical reality presents another, highly different picture. "Equality" in modern terms did not exist at all: civil rights were in fact limited to a quite narrow circle of Athenian citizens.

Females... even of the noblest Athenian families... were juridically classified as little better than chattels, and could perform practically no legal transaction in their own right.

Largely confined to the GYNAIKION... the women's quarters... from birth until marriage or death, these hapless daughters of Athens hardly ever left the monotony of their homes except when, heavily veiled and escorted, they went out to attend the festivals of their patronesses, Athena and Demeter.

This was the world of Hipparchia. And now, more than 2000 years later, we still mention her name. She made history. Yet, to be honest, I wonder if it is correct to qualify her as a philosopher in the common meaning of the term.

She survived history because her 'world' was speechless because of her independent behavior. Fortunately not everyone was speechless. Diogenes Laertius mentions her in his "Lives of Eminent Philosophers". Let me quote a few lines.

"Once she had gone to Lysimachus' house for a symposium, and while there she confounded Theodorus, nicknamed the Atheist, by positing the following argument:

If it is not wrong for Theodorus to do a particular act, then it is not wrong for Hipparchia to do it. If Theodorus slaps himself he does nothing wrong, therefore if Hipparchia slaps Theodorus she does nothing wrong either.

He had no answer to this, and he tried to pull up her cloak. But Hipparchia refused to be bullied and did not panic like a woman. And when he said to her: "Is this the woman 'who left her carding combs beside her loom'?"

"Yes, Theodorus," she replied, "it is I. But do you think I have made a bad decision if instead of wasting my time at the loom I have used it for my education?" These are among the numerous sayings of the woman philosopher."

Just imagine that Diogenes Laertius lived around 200 AD. That is 500 years later and still this story about the syllogism of Hipparchia had survived. It was a common method to formulate a funny syllogism, but with a serious catch in it.

The first premise is already the big blow: If it is not wrong for Theodorus to do a particular act, then it is not wrong for Hipparchia to do it.

This states literally the equality between man and woman, while at the end she even puts more oil on the fire by stating that education is also for women a good thing.

What is so striking is the fact that these words haven't lost their meaning at all in 2008. We can observe that the situation has changed, but is it now so different from Hipparchia's situation?

We have all kinds of philosophical theories in the highest abstracions. They developed through the ages, but you may wonder what it is worth in respect of a philosophy of man, a philosophy of being.

Isn't it peculiar and an interesting observation that we have all kinds of theories on ethics and virtue, but as we see here in the world of Hipparchia as we see in our own world, are not able to apply a concept of equality to our own life?

Can we say that we made some progress in this, or do I have to remind you of the words of Sally Haslanger, who I quoted in my introductory lecture?

The philosophical choice and love of Hipparchia were in line with her basic attitude. She fell in love with Crates, one of the well known Cynics.

The Cynics were an influential group of philosophers from the ancient school of Cynicism. Their philosophy was that the purpose of life was to live a life of Virtue in agreement with Nature.

This meant rejecting all conventional desires for wealth, power, health, and fame, and by living a life free from all possessions.

As reasoning creatures, people could gain happiness by rigorous training and by living in a way which was natural for humans.

They believed that the world belonged equally to everyone, and that suffering was caused by false judgments of what was valuable and by the worthless customs and conventions which surrounded society. Many of these thoughts were later absorbed into Stoicism.

A philosophy as a life-style and it is interesting to observe, that this ascetic life-style emerges time and again in history and in various cultures. What is it about man, that he has the drive to abolish all materialism and wants to live a 'natural' life again?

By the way, Hipparchia wasnt the only Greek woman philosopher. There are other names: Arete of Cyrene(fl. 4th cent. BC), Aspasia (c. 469 BC- c. 406 BC), Theano(fl. 6th cent. BC), Themistoclea of Delphi (6th century BC) to mention a few others . Do some research on them, if you like.

The Discussion

[13:19] herman Bergson: So far on Hipparchia...
[13:20] herman Bergson smiles
[13:20] herman Bergson: speechless?
[13:20] Apmel Ibbetson: for the first time
[13:21] hope63 Shepherd: would the men here let the women speak first. i'm curious what they have to say
[13:21] Cailleach Shan: Interesting Herman. I am trying to think of a parallel woman today.... no one comes to mind at all. She was radical in the extreme.
[13:21] Gemma Cleanslate: k i think it was her skirt not her cloak he tried to raise to humiliate her
[13:21] Apmel Ibbetson: that´s the wau got it
[13:21] Ze Novikov: yes
[13:21] herman Bergson: I think the translator was a puritain
[13:22] Gemma Cleanslate: being in a men's place with words to say
[13:22] Apmel Ibbetson: haha.herman
[13:22] Gemma Cleanslate: how dare she be out on the street living with a cynic husband which was also uncommon
[13:22] AristotleVon Doobie: either way it did not embarrass her, she was used to having sex in public
[13:23] herman Bergson: What came to my mind was the concept of equality....the facts that we have all kinds of theories....
[13:23] Gemma Cleanslate: you think ari???
[13:23] Ze Novikov: she moved from an object to a being
[13:23] herman Bergson: but equality still is just a concept
[13:23] herman Bergson: yes Ze
[13:23] Gemma Cleanslate: it is too bad she was only quoted and there are no writings to see or judge
[13:23] Cailleach Shan: If Hipparchia was able to choose her 'lifestyle' then other women of the time could also have exercised 'free will'.
[13:23] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:24] herman Bergson: I think she wasnt the only one, but yet a minority
[13:24] Ze Novikov: very dangerous for the women Gemma
[13:24] Gemma Cleanslate: yes i know
[13:24] Cailleach Shan: So she was breaking convention... not law.
[13:24] Ze Novikov: ahh not so sure
[13:24] Gemma Cleanslate: but she was well known and quoted
[13:24] herman Bergson: I htink so, yes
[13:25] AristotleVon Doobie: it took courage then and even today for women to challenge male dominance
[13:25] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:25] herman Bergson: yes..and that is what I am wondering about...what progress did we made in our philosophy of life?
[13:25] Nana Zabelin: She wrote a lovely sentiment - "I am much stronger than Atalanta from Maenalus because my wisdom is better than racing over the mountain ", an early example of the epigram 'the pen is mightier than the sword'.
[13:26] Jesper Prinz: true nana
[13:26] Gemma Cleanslate: nice nana
[13:26] herman Bergson: Yes...for it is the pen that reminds us of something that happened more than 2000 years ago
[13:26] herman Bergson: and still hasnt changed
[13:26] Cailleach Shan: @ Herman. Doesn't that depend a great deal on which country you happen to be born into.
[13:27] Vladimir Apparatchik: Herman - you keep hinting we haven't made progress - but we have
[13:27] Ewa Aska: Yes thats right
[13:27] herman Bergson: At this moment in time, yes, Caileach
[13:27] Ze Novikov: yes
[13:27] arabella Ella: depends on where you are in the world tho ... whether there has been progress or not
[13:27] AristotleVon Doobie: behind every pen must be a sword
[13:27] herman Bergson: I agree Vladimir, but only to some extend
[13:28] Cailleach Shan: At present... in my country all the top political positions are held by women..:)
[13:28] arabella Ella: no Ari ... not everyone wants or needs a sword
[13:28] Gemma Cleanslate: :-)
[13:28] AristotleVon Doobie: you can not exercise the liberty of penmanship without protection
[13:28] herman Bergson: Reamrkable..Cailleach
[13:28] Paula Dix: wheres that Caill? I want to move there :))
[13:28] arabella Ella: but then ... not all can use the pen either even in west
[13:28] Cailleach Shan: New Zealand.
[13:28] Vladimir Apparatchik: but significant progress nonetheless - I have two daughters in college , it would never have happened for my grandmothers
[13:28] Gemma Cleanslate: OZ
[13:28] Paula Dix: :)
[13:29] Cailleach Shan: lol.... get real Gem.
[13:29] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[13:29] herman Bergson: True Vladimir
[13:29] Gemma Cleanslate: that is what my aussie friends call it
[13:29] arabella Ella: only in the so called West Vlad ... and not for all either
[13:29] Gemma Cleanslate: :-)
[13:30] Paula Dix: ive read somewhere that only now in western countries women are arriving to the same freedom old egypt ones had
[13:30] Ze Novikov: the convention of thinking of women a chattel still exists even in the west
[13:30] arabella Ella: exactly Ze
[13:30] hope63 Shepherd: right paula..
[13:30] Paula Dix: so we´re not evolving, just recovering
[13:31] arabella Ella: very very slowly
[13:31] hope63 Shepherd: ups and downs for women.,.:)
[13:31] Vladimir Apparatchik: Agreed - so let's build on it - and campaign for womens rights throughout the world - but don't knock the progress we've made in a few decades (but maybe this is a man talking :))
[13:31] Nana Zabelin: well perhaps we can learn something from Hipparchia
[13:31] hope63 Shepherd: lets face it.. over 6o% of women on this planet are still on the down side..
[13:31] Gemma Cleanslate: i see that crates allowed his daughter to live for a month with potential husbands i wonder how hipparchia felt about that
[13:32] Nana Zabelin: her direct, Cynic rhetoric and her nonconformity to traditional gendered roles.
[13:32] Cailleach Shan: I'm not sure it's about 'rights' ... for me it's about being fully human.
[13:32] Paula Dix: Vlad thats right i guess, the point is to end battle, not turn it upside down
[13:32] arabella Ella: it's also about having decent representation in politics and in organisations
[13:32] hope63 Shepherd: palin..:)
[13:33] herman Bergson: What I am thinking of is our mental level of cognition on the one hand and our biological substratum on the other side
[13:33] Vladimir Apparatchik: Norway is the leading example
[13:33] Apmel Ibbetson: no swearing in this room
[13:33] Cailleach Shan: Can you elaborate on that Herman?
[13:33] Ze Novikov: it is about training young women to believe in themselves...
[13:33] Ewa Aska: hehe Apmel
[13:33] Jesper Prinz: hehe
[13:33] herman Bergson: I mean that dichotomy : our mental properties and our biological properties
[13:34] herman Bergson: Like we are the naked ape
[13:34] arabella Ella: its also about educating males to accept and embrace female biology
[13:34] AristotleVon Doobie: subjugation of women is a hereditary disease, stop passing it down to our children and you will create more courageous women
[13:34] arabella Ella: and it is females who educate males before they go for formal education
[13:34] Paula Dix: herman, ive been reading a little, that means in epistemology there are two Knowledges, or two spheres of it, one of total knowledge, the other what human brain can get?
[13:34] hope63 Shepherd: cognition- biological.. allend up in development of society.... and that's where cognition comes in
[13:34] Apmel Ibbetson: I thought females educated men tjeir whole lifes
[13:34] Cailleach Shan: Do you mean calling women 'girls' Ari.
[13:35] arabella Ella: you really think so Apmel?
[13:35] Apmel Ibbetson: yes arabella I never seem to be fully learned
[13:35] arabella Ella smiles
[13:36] hope63 Shepherd: it is a point to ber discussed ap
[13:36] Ze Novikov: lol
[13:36] Ewa Aska: so right right
[13:36] Apmel Ibbetson: thx Ewa :.-)
[13:36] hope63 Shepherd: the interaction between men and women identifieing their own roles in society..
[13:36] herman Bergson: Ok....can someone take over from me (^_^)
[13:36] Ewa Aska: We do ..look back at the wiking femal
[13:37] Ewa Aska: next lesson Herman Wiking women lol
[13:37] Vladimir Apparatchik: an interesting thing to think about though is that emancipation without ideology can lead to female laddism and "Sex in the City" emptiness
[13:37] herman Bergson smiles
[13:37] hope63 Shepherd: you mean the men did the looting and the women the thinking ewa?
[13:37] herman Bergson: ok Ewa
[13:37] Ewa Aska: Yes???
[13:37] Apmel Ibbetson: watch it Vladimir
[13:37] Ewa Aska: lol
[13:38] Apmel Ibbetson: dangerous territory
[13:38] Ewa Aska: hehe
[13:38] Gemma Cleanslate: do you mean the viking female??
[13:38] herman Bergson: It is an interesting point that you need an ideology here, Vladimir
[13:38] Gemma Cleanslate: ewa?
[13:39] herman Bergson: On to overcome our biology, maybe
[13:39] Ewa Aska: look back in history
[13:39] Ewa Aska: about the wiking femal
[13:39] Ewa Aska: they talk
[13:39] Gemma Cleanslate: wiking????????????
[13:39] Ewa Aska: with the man
[13:40] hope63 Shepherd: all women do ewa lol
[13:40] Samuel Okelly: can we ever conceive a point where we would be able to evade what we are herman?
[13:40] Ewa Aska: noo they dont
[13:40] Apmel Ibbetson: no nana is asleep
[13:40] Gemma Cleanslate: i think not samuel abut we will understand it more
[13:40] Gemma Cleanslate: mick
[13:40] herman Bergson: True samuel....I think we have to know our limitations
[13:40] Cailleach Shan: Herman do you know how Hipparchia was able to get an education. Her access to those avenues must have been severely limited.
[13:41] Gemma Cleanslate: she did
[13:41] herman Bergson: Mickorod???
[13:41] Nana Zabelin: she was from a wealthy family Cailleach
[13:41] Nana Zabelin: educated in music and reading
[13:41] Gemma Cleanslate: yes and left it with her husband
[13:41] herman Bergson: yes she was an upperclass girl and Athenian
[13:41] Ewa Aska: she was?
[13:41] arabella Ella: hiya Mick
[13:41] AristotleVon Doobie: who wants to evade our bilology, we should work on our intergender ethics
[13:41] Mickorod Renard: hiya..sorry I am late
[13:42] arabella Ella: on complementarity Ari ... of the genders
[13:42] Paula Dix: maybe computers can one day do that?
[13:42] herman Bergson: Yes Arisotle....that is the real issue to me too
[13:42] Jesper Prinz: ofcourse she was upperclass, wouldnt happend if not
[13:43] Ze Novikov: but that it did is remarkable
[13:43] Jesper Prinz: sure
[13:43] Nana Zabelin: found something relevant that Crates supposedly wrote to Hipparchia
[13:43] hope63 Shepherd: there were matriarch societies.. and still exist..
[13:43] herman Bergson: We have Human Rights, but the women don't seem to take part in that everywhere
[13:43] Nana Zabelin: for you are not by nature worse than we [men] are, for neither are female dogs worse than male - in order that you might be freed from Nature,[13] as all [people] either because of law or due to vices, live as slaves.[14]
[13:43] itsme Frederix:
[13:43] Cailleach Shan: Certainly not in Somalia today.
[13:44] Gemma Cleanslate: oh and congo
[13:44] Gemma Cleanslate: terrible
[13:44] itsme Frederix: Cal did you read that awfull
[13:44] Cailleach Shan: @ Itsme ??? rephrase please.
[13:44] Ze Novikov: or parts of the US and Europe
[13:45] Qwark Allen: afeganistan
[13:45] itsme Frederix: I read about a girl(13) and a truck with stones and reburry the not totally dead, and throw stones
[13:45] herman Bergson: Name it, plenty of examples..
[13:45] herman Bergson: Ah that story...yes ..horrible
[13:45] Cailleach Shan: Yes.... that was it. She was raped.
[13:46] itsme Frederix: 1 woman is no witness , seems you need 2
[13:46] Ze Novikov: she was chattel tied to a man's honor
[13:46] herman Bergson: I think that we have a clear insight in the overall situation
[13:46] Mickorod Renard: phew,,,all too much for me
[13:47] herman Bergson: what was an issue 2000 years ago is still an issue now
[13:47] Cailleach Shan: Herman.. when you referred to 'The Naked Ape' did you mean that brawn will always win over brain?
[13:47] herman Bergson: no Cailleach.....
[13:47] Apmel Ibbetson: brain allways wins
[13:47] AristotleVon Doobie: Fear is the tool used to subjugate, when upper body strengh is not longer relevant, things will change quickly
[13:47] hope63 Shepherd: no
[13:47] herman Bergson: I meant to point at that peculiar imbalance between the physical and the mental
[13:48] Cailleach Shan: kk
[13:48] herman Bergson: I mean..we still havent mastered the consequences of our biological nature by our mind
[13:48] arabella Ella: does brain always win? what about bullies in schools or in gangs?
[13:48] Apmel Ibbetson: well brain is the sexiest organ among humans right?..that´s a start
[13:48] hope63 Shepherd: humanity haw notbeen here long enought o prove anything about the superiority of the brain...
[13:49] AristotleVon Doobie: yes, herman, the cerbral mastery of the primopridal brain is mandatory for equality
[13:49] Paula Dix: herman, can we do that? wont we always think with our brains?
[13:49] Apmel Ibbetson: evolution will take care of the rest
[13:49] hope63 Shepherd: if we live long enough:)
[13:50] Apmel Ibbetson: it´s a long time project
[13:50] herman Bergson: Yes we think, but that doesnt mean we control our biological origins
[13:50] Vladimir Apparatchik: The way forward is to continue to push for Universal Human Rights. it's things like what happened to that poor girl in Somalia that to my mind discredit cultural relativism.
[13:50] hope63 Shepherd: but this would mean evolution leads to progress...
[13:50] Mickorod Renard: I cant control my biological organs
[13:50] Ze Novikov: may i suggest we reread Antigone by Sophocles...
[13:50] arabella Ella: and ... wherever you are in the world ... you still get employers who prefer males over equal females just vos the females are at child bearing age
[13:50] Paula Dix: oh, ok, its the same i said about computer helping us to think better
[13:51] Apmel Ibbetson: no..not overall..but among humans I think brain is the factor that is runaway evolution
[13:51] AristotleVon Doobie: evolutionary, biological refinement of the ancient brain is done, the ethical evolution necessay is up to us
[13:51] Apmel Ibbetson: our brain is our peacock
[13:51] hope63 Shepherd: may be we nbeed a genetic change to change our brain..
[13:51] Apmel Ibbetson: tail
[13:52] Apmel Ibbetson: or whatever :-)
[13:52] Samuel Okelly: the ugly fact stands that support moral relativism means the what the only person to judge whether or not the rape of a 13yo girl is wrong is the person who commited the act
[13:52] Apmel Ibbetson: of course it is wrong!!!
[13:52] AristotleVon Doobie: we we a rational, reasoned change to our thinking
[13:52] Cailleach Shan: I think it's time to do away with arguments over gender differences and focus on benefits for humanity
[13:52] Jesper Prinz: Maybe this is off topic but, I read a study recently about office job related injuries which are far more common among women than men; the review pointed out especially keyboards(designed and tested by men with wider shoulders) but the majority of the keyboard users around the world is women(narrow shoulders)injuries and big losses in the total econony
[13:53] Paula Dix: yes Caill!
[13:53] Jesper Prinz: *arr
[13:53] Apmel Ibbetson: one can judge how far a culture has come by how far it has come with the women
[13:53] Samuel Okelly: whether "human rights" show equality of gender or even more general we need to be clear where we find the justification for our ethics
[13:54] herman Bergson: Yes Samuel....that is what I mean with the biological, that we still are, despite all philosophy
[13:54] Mickorod Renard: I only felt I was sexist when I realised it was an issue
[13:55] Cailleach Shan: lol good expansion of awareness Mick.
[13:55] Mickorod Renard: ty
[13:55] Ze Novikov: :))
[13:55] arabella Ella: Mick??!!**??
[13:55] herman Bergson: Well....I think that this first female philosopher gave rise to quite another discussion than when we were deling with Diogenes for instance
[13:55] Gemma Cleanslate: lol it is true
[[13:55] Ewa Aska: its good
[13:56] herman Bergson: May I thank you for your participation...:-)
[13:56] herman Bergson: 7
[13:56] herman Bergson: 7
[13:56] Ze Novikov: lol
[13:56] Cailleach Shan: Hahahahaha,.. love the sunnies
[13:56] Mickorod Renard: sorry I was too late to lend my learned opinion
[13:56] herman Bergson: thank you ^_^
[13:56] Gemma Cleanslate: rigth mick too bad
[13:56] arabella Ella: thanks Herman
[13:57] Mickorod Renard: thankyou Herman
[13:57] herman Bergson: You are excused Mickorod :-)
[13:57] Samuel Okelly: thank you for another great lecture herman & thanks to every1 for the discussion :) tc every1 :)
[13:57] AristotleVon Doobie: bye Sam
[13:57] Ewa Aska: Thanks Herman nice be back
[13:57] Vladimir Apparatchik: thanks Herman
[13:57] herman Bergson: you're welcome Samuel :-)
[13:57] Cailleach Shan: Bye everyone... Thanks Herman.
[13:57] Apmel Ibbetson: thx Herman
[13:57] Jesper Prinz: Thank you:)
[13:57] Mickorod Renard: bye sam
[13:57] hope63 Shepherd: looks like we will need an hour and a half for discussions on fwemale philosophers:)
[13:57] Ze Novikov: off to RL bb everyone
[13:57] Mickorod Renard: bye cail
[13:57] AristotleVon Doobie: bye Cailleach
[13:57] Mickorod Renard: bye ze
[13:57] Apmel Ibbetson: gnite all!
[13:57] herman Bergson: Hopeless....:-)

Posted by herman_bergson on 2008-11-04 19:19:01

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