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Is There Such a Thing as the Female Conscience?

posted on December 12, 2012

At The Virginia Quarterly Review, Jean Bethke Elshtain, professor of ethics at the University of Chicago, explores the evolution of the understanding of female conscience throughout history. Speaking of Plato, Aristotle, and ancient philosophy, Elshtain writes, “Every subsequent dispute or dialogue about gender and virtue and conscience owes something to these early formulations.” She continues, “This dispute about female conscience was repeated again and again in Western philosophy over the centuries, even as Christianity triumphed and Scripture declared that men and women were moral equals … But that did not mean women were deemed capable of serving universal truths in the way of men. The spirit of the age was too firmly oriented otherwise. Feminism itself fell victim to gendered categories laid down many centuries before. Indeed, when it came to virtue, even thinkers whose overriding concerns differed dramatically from the Greeks’ were unable to shake the stranglehold of their forefathers’ assumptions about gender.”

Read at The Virginia Quarterly Review