Sunday, May 10, 2009

4b Anna Maria van Verschuur, a second lecture

This morning I read in my newpaper that our government is working on a catalog of civil and social values. The argumantation was, that citizens know their rights very well, but seem to overlook and forget what their duties are.

It may surprise you, but about 357 BC (!) Aristotle wrote his Ehtica Nicomachea and in that work he did exactly the same thing as my (Dutch) government proposes to do: describe the virtues of the good citizen.

So, what's new here? This is what nowadays is knows as virtue ethics. This in contrast to the approach which emphasizes duties or rules (deontology) or that which emphasizes the consequences of actions (consequentialism).

Virtue ethics' founding fathers are Plato and, more particularly Aristotle and it persisted as the dominant approach in Western moral philosophy until at least the Enlightenment. Almost 2000 year!

It is characterized by three concepts: these are arête (excellence or virtue) phronesis (practical or moral wisdom) and eudaimonia (usually translated as happiness or flourishing.)

A quote from Aristotle to clarify the concept of virtue: "Virtue, then, is a state of character concerned with choice, lying in a mean, i.e. the mean relative to us, this being determined by a rational principle, and by that principle by which the man of practical wisdom would determine it." (Ethica Nicomachea, II,6).

To complete the picture another quote from Aristotle, which makes me glow with pride, but the other half of my audience furious, I am afraid.
"Again, one quality or action is nobler than another if it is that of a naturally finer being: thus a man's will be nobler than a woman's." (Rhetorica, 1)

Do I need to say more? This was the world of Anna Maria Van Verschuur. For two thousand years women were literaly regarded as inferior human beings. The whole social system of Europe was based on that idea and it was an export product to other parts of this earth as well.

Anna Maria Van Verschuur, thence, had to behave like a virtuous woman, which is synonym with devout christian woman. Of course were the male virtues different from the female virtues.

At the top of the male list of virtues you find the virtue of being educated to be able to perform public duties, for instance in the government or educational institutes. This virtue wasn't even at the bottom of the female list.

For her we have a lot of other virtues: Forgiveness, Understanding, Loyalty, Humility, Compassion, Admiration, Moderation, Respect, but they dont need virtues like Courage, Wisdom, Sense of Accomplishment, Personal pride, Being educated.

How did Anna Maria Van Verschuur get around this huge mountain of prejudices. Let's listen to Johan van Beverwijck, a Dutch physician, who wrote the preface to Anna's Disertatio.

"Of old the scholars have a difference of opinion about what characterizes a virtuous woman. The authoritative historian Thucydides had the greatest appreciation for the woman, who isn't subject of debat in the streets, whether it is to her advantage or disadvantage.

He probably holds the opinion that also the reputation of a good women, just like she herself, should stay in the house and should not become known in public - as if like Tacitus says, there is equal danger in a good and in a bad reputation.

But according to the sharp-witted philosopher Plutarchus the opinion of Gorgias deserves our preference, who holds the opinion that not the looks, but the reputation of a woman should be known to many."

Thucydides, Tacitus, Plutarchus, Gorgias (and implicitely Plato and Socrates): in only a few lines so many names are dropped. And that was charactristic for that period in history and the development of knowledge, that was why the ideas of Aristotle could have enjoyed such a long life.

The development of philosophy had been mainly based on exegesis of the old philosophers, churchfathers and the bible. That is why so many even brilliant scholars of those days are completely forgotten and a man as Descartes is not.

His approach gave rise to a whole new way of philosophizing, offered innovative ideas. He also was one of the few men who treated women as intellectually equal partners in philosophical discourse, Elisabeth of Palts, Constance Huygens, Chritina of Sweden and also Anna Maria Van Verschuur.

The exchange of scientific letters was a common practice in those days and so Descartes corresponded with Anne Maria untill he noticed that theology was for her the highest form of science. There he lost his interest.

In the next lecture we'll discuss in detail how Verschuur formulated her feminist position and succeeded in getting het Distertatio widely known in Europe. And we'll pay attention to the peculiar fact that this feminism didnt succeed, even was forgotten completely and why the feminist movement in the 19th century not even refers to the brilliant women of the 17th century.

The Discussion

[13:20] herman Bergson: Tuesday the final lecture on Anna MAria Van Verschuur
[13:20] hope63 Shepherd: thursdsay..
[13:20] herman Bergson: And Hope, your thought crossed my mind too...but I know it wasnt our Aristotle :-)
[13:20] Cailleach Shan: Tuesday?
[13:21] herman Bergson: sorry Thursday indeed
[13:21] hope63 Shepherd: sure ari couldn't have said that herman?
[13:21] AristotleVon Doobie: indeed, I hold a different view
[13:21] herman Bergson smiles
[13:21] hope63 Shepherd: let's hear it..
[13:22] herman Bergson: What amazed me most is the long and profound influence of Aristotles ideas
[13:22] herman Bergson: In fact he played a very negative role regarding human equality
[13:22] hope63 Shepherd: didn't augustinus have something to do with that as far as she was concerned?
[13:22] AristotleVon Doobie: in so many ways women are superior to men
[13:22] Paula Dix: can this be related to Alexander?
[13:22] herman Bergson: Augustine prefered the unmarreid woman indeed
[13:23] herman Bergson: being more virtuous than the married one
[13:23] Alarice Beaumont: he did?
[13:23] Alarice Beaumont: ah
[13:23] hope63 Shepherd: and aristoteles i think to remeber..
[13:23] Cailleach Shan: mmm.... he was a Mummy's boy though
[13:23] Paula Dix: unmarried and not sexual active, i guess
[13:24] herman Bergson: that is what I picked up from some literature, yes
[13:24] herman Bergson: it is one of the reasons Anna Maria could believe in her mission too
[13:24] hope63 Shepherd: paula.. he lived in north africa.. not in brazil..:)
[13:24] Paula Dix: lol, same weather :)
[13:24] herman Bergson: Regarding being unmarried as virtuous for a woman
[13:25] herman Bergson: stick to the topic plz
[13:25] hope63 Shepherd: but female convents are very old..
[13:25] hope63 Shepherd: the idea..
[13:25] Cailleach Shan: Even Aristotle chose to get married though.
[13:26] herman Bergson: Her father even had asked her NOT to marry
[13:26] hope63 Shepherd: and means married to christ.. which is like monks just fefusing sex..
[13:26] herman Bergson: For Aristotle being unmarried wasnt a virtue
[13:27] herman Bergson: But on the other hand..a woman had little meaning in Aristotle's ideas
[13:27] hope63 Shepherd: all greek gods were married.. or had at least an affair:)
[13:28] herman Bergson: When you read the Ethica and search for remarks about is really is a handbook for boyscouts, not for girls
[13:28] herman Bergson: There is one paragraph...I think I read it in the Rhetoric, where Aristotle tells us that women better understand their children than fathers
[13:29] herman Bergson: So leave the kids with mummy...
[13:29] Alarice Beaumont: well.... lol women spend more time with the children
[13:29] herman Bergson: I guess he overlooked that detail, Alarice
[13:29] Alarice Beaumont: because men work or talk philosophie ,-)
[13:29] Paula Dix: lol
[13:29] hope63 Shepherd: german men spent more time on their cars in germany,alaricxe?
[13:29] herman Bergson: His statistics were not that good
[13:29] Cailleach Shan: Doesn't that go right back to cave dwelling days when the 'strong' men had to go hunting.
[13:30] Alarice Beaumont: lol no hope.. that changes
[13:30] Alarice Beaumont: some men start spending more time with their kids
[13:30] AristotleVon Doobie: sure Cailleach, I think so....stereotypyes
[13:30] herman Bergson: Well Cailleach...the ideas of Aristotle and the position of the women in our society ...they were pretty revealing to me
[13:30] Alarice Beaumont: yes.. Cail.. think that is so
[13:31] hope63 Shepherd: cave dwelling society can't be called a stereoptype..
[13:31] herman Bergson: You have to fight 2000+ years of misconceptions
[13:31] Alarice Beaumont: that's that "hunter - collector" talking if you know the play "caveman"
[13:31] AristotleVon Doobie: the continuance of that typycasting can
[13:31] herman Bergson: And Anna Maria did it in a most elegant way...:-)
[13:31] hope63 Shepherd: but why this misconception.. in egypt woman had the same rights as men..
[13:31] herman Bergson: I dont know Hope
[13:32] Cailleach Shan: I also think that much of the attitudes were there to protect the 'male' lineage. If your woman is locked away then you 'know' your son is really yours.
[13:32] oola Neruda: dominance of the chistian-judeo point of view in western civ?
[13:32] herman Bergson: Could be a point Cailleach
[13:32] AristotleVon Doobie: LOL, Cail, you are so in tune
[13:32] hope63 Shepherd: based on greek philosophers..
[13:33] Cailleach Shan: :)
[13:33] herman Bergson: and yes oola...Aristotle's ideas fit in very nicely with those of the catholic church
[13:33] oola Neruda: but actually, those values are seen in oriental and arab countries too... hmmmm
[13:33] Manfred Pessoa: thats the other way round Herman
[13:34] Manfred Pessoa: well works both ways
[13:34] herman Bergson: It is inevitable to discuss feminist development through history
[13:34] Cailleach Shan: Sorry folks.... have to go... I am taking my husband out to his birthday lunch.
[13:34] AristotleVon Doobie: a happy birthday to him
[13:34] Ze Novikov: smiles
[13:34] hope63 Shepherd: give him my regards cal..
[13:34] herman Bergson: ok Cailleach..bye
[13:34] Paula Dix: good lunch to you both :)
[13:34] Ze Novikov: bb
[13:34] AristotleVon Doobie: bye cail
[13:35] herman Bergson: My observation is that before women can really participat ein the philosophical discourse they first have to get rid of the Aristotelian influences...
[13:36] herman Bergson: so in fact a double up and then participating
[13:36] hope63 Shepherd: but if i got it right Anna used aristoteles rhetoric to prove her point..
[13:37] herman Bergson: no..she used the aristotelian syllogistic logic..a common practice in those days
[13:37] herman Bergson: the forms of resoning not the aristotelian content of his reasonings
[13:38] hope63 Shepherd: right..
[13:38] hope63 Shepherd: wanted to say logic when i said rhetoric..
[13:38] AristotleVon Doobie: the direct wound caused by these early attitudes about women is the diminishing of women's self esteem
[13:38] AristotleVon Doobie: it was intentionally
[13:38] herman Bergson: I wonder what the ladies here in the group think about this history?
[13:39] Paula Dix: i lost the start, its hard to take any conclusion
[13:39] Alarice Beaumont: I'm glad that there were women who changed it
[13:40] herman Bergson: yes..but for those you have to wait till the 19th century
[13:40] herman Bergson: All efforts of Anna Maria and her contemporaries got lost in history
[13:40] Alarice Beaumont: no responisibilties
[13:40] Alarice Beaumont: and to be honest.. i 'm not quite sure if not a lot of women like it that way
[13:40] AristotleVon Doobie: I think that it is and will take the enlightment of men and their sons to make it right
[13:40] oola Neruda: there are places in the world where it is still like that... in africa i watched women kneeling before men... and that is only a start...
[13:40] Paula Dix: maybe related: ive read somewhere that women only got away with feminism in 20 century because they were need on economy... can that be related to previous feminism movements being forgotten and not succeded?
[13:40] oola Neruda: the funny thing is that the men have meetings...
[13:41] oola Neruda: put off decisions until they talk to the women...then go back and give the woman's opinion as their own
[13:41] herman Bergson: Yes Paula..I think you hits the mark....
[13:41] AristotleVon Doobie: :) yes oola
[13:41] oola Neruda: it seems to be some kind of "public" appearnace thing
[13:41] oola Neruda: ego?
[13:41] AristotleVon Doobie: peer pressure?
[13:41] Rhea Thor: the first women revolt is the one of Lysistrata
[13:41] AristotleVon Doobie: got to be manly
[13:42] herman Bergson: Feminism became a fist when they became workers in factories and during the industrial revolution
[13:42] Rhea Thor: but it's only a piece of theater :)
[13:42] AristotleVon Doobie: WWII played a significant role in negating some of the typecasting
[13:42] Anne Charles: I blame religion for a lot of it -- the concept of women as an "imperfect vessle"
[13:43] herman Bergson: the idea of the imperfect vessel is from Aristotle himself...
[13:43] Paula Dix: its funny to notice how religions started putting men and women as equals
[13:43] Alarice Beaumont: yes.. religion played it's role.. there even is supposed to be a women pope... Johanna
[13:43] Anne Charles: and promoted by the Catholic church
[13:43] herman Bergson: the religion absorbed it for its own purposes
[13:43] AristotleVon Doobie: yes
[13:44] Marya Blaisdale: Pardon me (visitors arrived) will have to go over the transcript later :)
[13:44] oola Neruda: i don't see religion as making them equal
[13:44] oola Neruda: so many places men and women have to sit separately...even in church
[13:44] herman Bergson: Ok Marya..:-)
[13:44] Samuel Okelly: were women treated in presocratic greece ?
[13:44] AristotleVon Doobie: religion is anther 'good ole boy, ' network
[13:44] Samuel Okelly: treated "better"?
[13:44] herman Bergson: yes and what is the rationale of it???
[13:44] Paula Dix: surely not, oola, but at start, yes. like christ and mary, and mohhammed and his prefered wife he wanted to be the leader after him
[13:45] Paula Dix: even jews had a goddess as powerful as jeova at first, if discovery is right :)
[13:45] oola Neruda: i could not even enter some of the mosques in the middle east ... because i was a woman... modestly dressed as i was... still no
[13:45] Paula Dix: yes, its totally crazy what religions turned into
[13:46] Paula Dix: like catholic church having opinion about abortion... what that bunch of men know about it?
[13:46] herman Bergson: Ok...
[13:46] oola Neruda: amen
[13:46] Samuel Okelly: *sighs*
[13:47] Samuel Okelly: ad hominem anybody?
[13:47] herman Bergson: I think teh postion of Anna Maria van Verschuur in history gives us a good insight in the position of women and its historical causes.
[13:47] Ze Novikov: lol
[13:47] herman Bergson: Next class we'll see how she managed to get know anyway...and forgotten as well
[13:48] hope63 Shepherd: which ended in avery "selfish" individual chioce.. in a way she talked about women.. and thought of herself ..
[13:48] Samuel Okelly: @paula - please address me only in public chat tx
[13:49] herman Bergson: Then I thank you for your participatin and see you on Thursday...^_^
[13:49] Paula Dix: not sure its related to topic samuel, but sorry, wont happen again
[13:49] Paula Dix: (i asked him what ad hominem means)
[13:49] AristotleVon Doobie: it is good to recognize the droplets of water through history that contributed to the eriding of the rock of predjudice
[13:49] AristotleVon Doobie: eroding
[13:49] Ze Novikov: bb everyone
[13:49] herman Bergson: yes...
[13:49] AristotleVon Doobie: bye Ze
[13:49] Alarice Beaumont: ah still there Ari
[13:49] Paula Dix: bye
[13:50] Samuel Okelly: tc ze
[13:50] Alarice Beaumont: only in western civilisation it has become better!
[13:50] Rhea Thor: bye everyone
[13:50] herman Bergson: Well Alarice....a little I would say
[13:50] Paula Dix: bye
Posted by herman_bergson on 2008-11-19 11:48:01

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