Sunday, May 10, 2009

4c Anna Maria van Verschuur,

Dissertatio, de Ingenii Mulieribus ad Doctrinam et meliores Litteras aptitudine was the original title of the work of Anna Maria van Verschuur : Dissertation about the aptitude of women for science.

It was published in 1641and was widely known among her audience of people who had mastered Latin, the academics. It was reprinted in an edition of a compilation of several of her works in 1648 under the title Opuscula. This edition had seven reprints.

Besides that it was translated in French in 1646 and in English in 1659. For that period a respectable achievement. Her work must have had a considerable influence. However, as we shall see, only for a limited period.

Verschuur was probably the first woman in Europe who got access to the university. She was allowed to attend the lectures of the theologian Voetius, but there was a restriction. She had to sit behind a screen out of sight of the male students.

She was an exception, but did not want to be an exception. Rivet, a Dutch theologian, with whom she had a vivid correspondence recognizes this desire in one of her letters. Brace yourselves.......

He finds it a good thing that there are only a few educated women (to quote from a letter of March 18,1638) "perhaps not because it wouldnt be impossible that they could be in greater number, but because one, it serves no purpose, and two, it is not in the interest of the state;

and because what is a common good among men, with women, when we look at the interest of the state and church, it does not occur that often and if it does is a miracle acually."

It is in the interest of state and church that women stay uneducated and that Verschuur should regard herself as a miracle. It is against this discrimination that Anna Maria went to battle in a modest and not aggressive way. But she and her siters in arms were already defeated before the battle began.

She not only had to face 2000 years of Aristotelian dominance, but also the great Spinoza himself, who published his Tractatus Theologico-politicus in 1670. He did Aristolte all over again, when he explained why women shouldnt be allowed to vote, active nor passive.

First, to women applies the same as to servants and children: they all are dependent of masters, men or parents and thence are unable to give an independent opinion.

Second, women are weaker than men by nature, because if they were not, then they certainly would have developed states where women ruled and men were limited in their possibilities.

The way Anna Maria van Verschuur formulated the defense of her point of view was according the tradional academic ways of her time. She used the aristotelian syllogisms: two premisses and then a conclusion, in which the premisses can be supported by their own syllogistic reasonings.

In fact she was not a real feminist. She didnt plead for the liberation of women. She just pleaded for the right to study just like men did. So, her starting point was not an ontological one to give a philosophical interpretation of the being 'woman', but a practical one: the right of access to education.

With her Dissertatio she stays within the traditional bounderies of the virtue ethics of her time, which I explained in the former lecture. This leads to a remarkable result:

on the on hand she conforms herself completely to the traditional theory of virtues, and on the other hand she specifically uses these virtues as arguments for a right to have access to education as a woman.

This leads to reasonings like the: Devotion and praise of God is the highest virtue of the human being. Increased insight in the Holy Scripture leads to deeper devotion. Increase of insight is achieved by study and education.

All human beings strive to increase there devotion and closeness to God. Women are human beings. So women strive to increase their devotion.

Since the increase of devotion is related to the increase of insight, which is achieved by study and education, women should be allowed to participate in science and education.

She never went against the aristotelian prejudices, which were the dominating frame of men's mind in those days. She stays within the bouderies of the female virtues and tries to show that even within these limits it is logical that a woman gets an education.

At the end she was not a revolutionary who went on the barricades to fight for women's rights, but just a modest lady pleading for access to science, directing her plead at the Latin speaking, academic community.

In 1670 Spinoza slamed the door in her face and Europe got too busy with the newly discovered scientific method: Francis Bacon, Leibniz, Galilei, Newton. Too busy to pay attention to the position of women in society.

The moment that the position of women in society not only was a social issue but also became a political issue there was room for a fight for real liberation of women.

Anna Maria van Verschuur and a number of her contemporaries disappeared in oblivion and we have to wait two centuries to see the rise of liberating women philosophy.

But we must not forget, that since 1400 there constantly have been women and men, who raised their voice against the injustice of the position of women in society.

She was one of these voices and as we discuss her here, even still heard. If it only were to show us, what we can learn from our history.

The Discussion

[13:22] herman Bergson: So much on Anna Maria van Verschuur
[13:22] herman Bergson: And indeed Anne, acces to education if you could afford it in time and money as a woman
[13:23] Alarice Beaumont: oh sorry.. have to leave for a sec... urgent call from a bride ;-)
[13:23] linn Sorbet: awww:)
[13:23] herman Bergson smiles
[13:23] hope63 Shepherd: strange that the women of those days never thought of themselves as beeing part of all women.. and use their influence outside of their own for eduducated women of those days.. lets think of christina of sweden-- with descartes ,, and later kathereina of russia..
[13:23] Corona Anatine: we can send the chat text
[13:24] Daruma Boa: in that days there was no global thinking, i guess;-)
[13:24] herman Bergson: In those days this was still an upper class discussion
[13:24] Daruma Boa: si. thats what i mean
[13:25] Corona Anatine: there has alwsy been global thinking on the part of the higer levels of society
[13:25] hope63 Shepherd: and as she lived in a tome when thousands of woman were killed abused raped during the 30 year war.. no compassion whatsoever from this lady..
[13:25] herman Bergson: and a discussion of a minoryty too
[13:25] Daruma Boa: i dont know. the world was smaller.
[13:25] Daruma Boa: and so the thinking.
[13:25] Corona Anatine: not in 1670
[13:25] Daruma Boa: why not?
[13:26] hope63 Shepherd: not that small daru.. she corresponded even with the bishop of rthodes..
[13:26] Samuel Okelly: i think emancipation of all kinds has only ever been achieved when it has arrived from the lowest levels (and not just an elite)
[13:26] Corona Anatine: cos only australia was missing from westreern maps
[13:26] Laila Schuman: the rennaisance had come to it's climax by then
[13:26] herman Bergson: I think that here dissertatio to plead for access to education was exactly meant as a social movement with political teeth
[13:26] Daruma Boa: ah i see
[13:26] herman Bergson: Yes Samuel...
[13:27] herman Bergson: that is why it worked in theearly 20th century
[13:27] linn Sorbet: nothing to do with the first world war?
[13:27] Corona Anatine: it was prior to ww1
[13:27] herman Bergson: it was already alive before the first WW
[13:28] linn Sorbet: ah..
[13:28] herman Bergson: say...1870 or so
[13:28] Alexandra77 Navarathna: the women going to the factories building arms and stuff was already a result of emancipation, I tink ...
[13:28] Corona Anatine: tho its was after the us civil war which was fought over slavery - which might have signifcance
[13:28] Je4ss Voom: Even if Ana Maria's methods were within the current paradigm, does that mean she didn't care for the plight of all women? She too was bound by her societies' views that she had been brought up with - and one can only step out of them to a certain point - never completely. Perhaps she used methods of reason she thought others would be more likely to take seriously, and she saw the possibility for women as far she she could see it - given, as I said, he time and upbringing. But that doesn't mean she was motivated only by two premises and a conclusion - they were just the tools she used :)
[13:28] linn Sorbet: no...
[13:28] herman Bergson: when women became participants in the industrial production processes
[13:28] Daruma Boa: oh no.
[13:29] Daruma Boa: necessary to build;-(
[13:29] linn Sorbet: it's because they were needed
[13:29] linn Sorbet: they werent welcome when the war ended
[13:29] herman Bergson: No Je4ss...I think her motivation was her upbrinning
[13:30] herman Bergson: indeed
[13:30] Corona Anatine: but surely women were alwsy part of the industrail producation
[13:30] herman Bergson: the use of syllogistic logic was meant to be heard by the academics of her time
[13:30] Corona Anatine: just not visibly
[13:30] Daruma Boa: but useful.
[13:30] Daruma Boa: they work hard
[13:30] Daruma Boa: without a word;-(
[13:30] linn Sorbet: true
[13:30] Corona Anatine: that makes sense herman
[13:31] herman Bergson: I think the development of mass production plays a part in the process too
[13:31] Je4ss Voom: herman: if she was only motivated by her upbrining, then there would have had to have already been something there that told her 'women should be allowed access to education' I right?
[13:31] linn Sorbet: but with the men away during the war
[13:31] linn Sorbet: they had more control
[13:31] Corona Anatine: because she had t conform to the vetting standrads of the time - as with modern academics
[13:31] Je4ss Voom: actually, let's not say "upbringing", but rather the society and time of which she was part - which of course included her upbringing
[13:31] herman Bergson: Just hold on...
[13:31] herman Bergson: @ Je4ss...
[13:31] hope63 Shepherd: discussion ovderlapping..
[13:32] herman Bergson: The point is that her access to education didnt involve an ambition to obtain a position as professor or so
[13:32] Je4ss Voom: I am happy to join back in with the other thread of discussion, if it makes it easier
[13:32] herman Bergson: It was in fact still to say it somewhat blunt 'housewife amateurism'
[13:33] Samuel Okelly: signs of female emancipation could be seen through out the 19 century , (for example a growth in popular female writers in literary circles), however this was not ubiquitous and only represented a small part of society
[13:33] herman Bergson: As Rivet said....she had to be seen as an exception
[13:33] Alexandra77 Navarathna: as a wonder :)
[13:34] hope63 Shepherd: seems like she saw herself as an exeption..
[13:34] herman Bergson: Yes I said we had to wait at least two centuries before it really could get started
[13:34] Laila Schuman: they became pawns/grist for the industrial revolution... as cheap labor in factories... even children were put to work
[13:34] Corona Anatine: what caused the change -
[13:34] hope63 Shepherd: economy corona..
[13:35] herman Bergson: money of course...
[13:35] Corona Anatine: was that a producat of the increasing reaction to the major split in xian church
[13:35] Corona Anatine: cos about 1607 we see the witch prosecutions
[13:35] Laila Schuman: but many of these "mill girls" went on to make MAJOR contributions in society... creating names for themselves that can even be remembered today
[13:35] Corona Anatine: 1670
[13:36] herman Bergson: 1670 was probably the last witch process
[13:36] Laila Schuman: 19th centruy
[13:36] hope63 Shepherd: protestant movement dxid helpwomen though to speak up..
[13:36] Corona Anatine: the last main one
[13:36] Samuel Okelly: i think it is may be more accurate to say the change came about because of an increased “access to wealth creation” as opposed to simply "money" alone?
[13:36] linn Sorbet: the last witch trial in GB was in the nineteen fourties
[13:37] Corona Anatine: 1943 i think
[13:37] Alexandra77 Navarathna: !!
[13:37] herman Bergson: Yes...that might be the process Samuel....
[13:37] linn Sorbet: yeah that would be right
[13:37] Corona Anatine: her predictions were being too accurate
[13:37] herman Bergson: when the kids dont need to work for the money anymore there is room for education
[13:37] hope63 Shepherd: not all currents. puritans were AGAINST WOMEN
[13:37] Corona Anatine: but that is off the main point
[13:38] Corona Anatine: were they anti m women ?
[13:38] linn Sorbet: :)
[13:38] Corona Anatine: a lot of the prachers of the puritans allowed women to study
[13:38] Corona Anatine: as long as it conformed
[13:38] herman Bergson: Maybe it is the beginning iof general education for children that created the base for the developments around 1900
[13:38] hope63 Shepherd: arthur millar's witchhunt gives you an idea..
[13:38] Corona Anatine: and was of bible
[13:39] herman Bergson: when more youngsters of 20 or about could read and write
[13:39] Corona Anatine: all of these things followed a very key thing
[13:39] Corona Anatine: the printing press
[13:39] hope63 Shepherd: true.. access to knowledge is the base ..
[13:39] Corona Anatine: whcih allowed the education to become more universal
[13:39] Daruma Boa: yeah
[13:39] Corona Anatine: in all society
[13:40] herman Bergson: Even now you see that emancipation begins with education
[13:40] Laila Schuman: good point Corona
[13:40] Daruma Boa: + motivation
[13:40] Daruma Boa: it is important, that there a people how support you
[13:40] Daruma Boa: who
[13:40] Daruma Boa: ;-)
[13:40] herman Bergson: Through history you see that the motivation to do justice to women in society has been there all the time
[13:41] Rodney Handrick: to women or for women?
[13:41] AristotleVon Doobie: one must also be aware the with the expanison of educational opportunities came the ability for the governments and politics to control waht is taught
[13:41] Alexandra77 Navarathna: yes ... just to include them in that process is a rather recent development ^^
[13:41] herman Bergson: bot Rodney, I would say :-)
[13:42] herman Bergson: both
[13:42] Rodney Handrick: thanks for the clarification
[13:43] herman Bergson: I guess this concludes our first contact with emanciparory voices in history
[13:43] herman Bergson: They were not yet that successfull for many reasons..but the word was out, I would say
[13:44] AristotleVon Doobie: and a very good one, if only the candle had not been pushed under the table for so long
[13:44] hope63 Shepherd: at least one can say thyat some women were respected in those days..
[13:44] herman Bergson: amazing turn of history
[13:44] Corona Anatine: this is true - but alwasy has been
[13:44] Corona Anatine: it has bene shown that aLL stable societes
[13:44] herman Bergson: May I, then, thank you for this discussion and your participation ^_^
[13:45] Corona Anatine: share power between women a nd men eqaully
[13:45] Corona Anatine: what is unequal
[13:45] Corona Anatine: is the area of influence
[13:45] Corona Anatine: within a sociaty
[13:45] AristotleVon Doobie: I suspect that women have bee respected in private, just never shown it when it was due
[13:45] hope63 Shepherd: hatchepsut?
[13:46] Alexandra77 Navarathna: yes ... women have always been much stronger than they were credited officially ^^
[13:46] Samuel Okelly: i would just like to add that im not relly convinced that we can say "the motivation to do justice to women in society has been there all the time" (- if it has it was kept well hidden for a long time by great many men surely? ;-)
[13:46] Corona Anatine: even in 'modern' islam women have power - but only within the household
[13:46] herman Bergson: Wasnt that what the old philosophers said...keep her reputation and the woman in the house?
[13:47] Corona Anatine: hatchsephut is not really that applicaple to modern western social history
[13:47] linn Sorbet shrugs... i always felt that we dont want that kind of power... not to be in control of everything and everyone else... or is that just me?
[13:47] hope63 Shepherd: judeo-christian-islamic thinking.. based on the old greeks.. was the main reason for this development..
[13:47] herman Bergson: There were numerous publications since 1400 with pleads for equality for women Samuel, but I guess they were considered as just social dissonants
[13:48] Corona Anatine: there had to be a need for change top arise before it could
[13:48] Samuel Okelly: i agree herman but i think history sadly testifies to the fact that the social and political will was not truly there
[13:49] Corona Anatine: societies do tend to be slow to move unless there is upheaval
[13:49] herman Bergson: No....and it may have something to do with the increase of wealth....
[13:49] Corona Anatine: 1670's had many of those
[13:49] herman Bergson: too many layers in society were to focued on getting simply food on the table first
[13:49] Corona Anatine: oh yes
[13:49] Daruma Boa: well that is important.
[13:50] herman Bergson: only the upperclass supported this women's debate
[13:50] Corona Anatine: and the old order was severly strained in 1430
[13:50] herman Bergson: in Decartes days it even was trendy to participat ein it
[13:50] Corona Anatine: and then only for upper class wome
[13:50] hope63 Shepherd: well.. lets not forget that in the days of the 30 year war and anna maria shah japur build the taj mahal for his deceased wife..:)
[13:50] Corona Anatine: if you look at the early 1900's
[13:51] Corona Anatine: the pankhursts only wanted votes for female landownerws - not women in general
[13:51] Corona Anatine: cos before 1918 men did not have it either
[13:51] linn Sorbet: awww that went for men too!
[13:51] linn Sorbet: yes
[13:51] herman Bergson: So...our next woman philosopher, and she was a real one was again an upperclass lady, anne Conway
[13:52] Corona Anatine: at that time the upper classes were prob the only ones to be heard
[13:52] Corona Anatine: who also
[13:52] Corona Anatine: had a reasonble edcuation
[13:52] herman Bergson: May I see you on Tuesday again to hear what she contributed to the debate...^_^
[13:52] Corona Anatine: becaus there were several women who were heard
[13:52] Daruma Boa: yes.
[13:52] herman Bergson: Class dismissed :-)
[13:53] linn Sorbet: :))
[13:53] linn Sorbet: ty herman
[13:53] AristotleVon Doobie: Thank you , Professor
[13:53] Alexandra77 Navarathna: :)

Posted by herman_bergson on 2008-11-23 09:39:54

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