Plato and Equality for Women across Social Class
Keywords:Plato, Equality, Women
This essay will marshal evidence for Plato’s extension of equal education and professional opportunity to all women, including artisan women who are not his ideal city’s philosopher-queens. I examine the explicit commentary in the Republic, Timaeus, and Laws about women in artisan professions, and I link it together with the three of the core principles advanced in the Republic, particularly (1) the principle of specialization (R. 369b-370c), (2) the principle of irrelevant reproductive differences (R. 454b-e, 456b), and (3) the principle of children’s potential (R. 415a-c, 423c-d) that arises from the myth of metals. Plato uses his Socrates and the Athenian to argue against gender discrimination because it violates these principles. Plato offering a theory of equal opportunity for women across all classes ought to be highlighted as one of the central achievements of the Republic.
Allen, Christine Garside. ‘Plato on Women.’ Feminist Studies 2 (1975): 131-8.
Annas, Julia. ‘Plato’s Republic and Feminism.’ Philosophy 51 (1976): 307-21.
Bloom, Allan, trans. The Republic of Plato, with Notes and Interpretive Essay. New York: Basic Books, 1968.
Bluestone, Natalie Harris. ‘Why Women Cannot Rule: Sexism in Plato Scholarship.’ In Feminist Interpretations of Plato, edited by Nancy Tuana, 109-30. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994.
Bluestone, Natalie Harris. Women and the Ideal Society: Plato’s Republic and Modern Myths of Gender. Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1987.
Brock, Roger. ‘The Labour of Women in Classical Athens.’ Classical Quarterly 44 (1994): 336-46.
Calvert, Brian. ‘Plato and the Equality of Women.’ Phoenix 29 (1975): 231-43.
Chadwick, Ruth. ‘Feminism and Eugenics: The Politics of Reproduction in Plato’s Republic.’ In Polis and Politics: Essays in Greek Moral and Political Philosophy, edited by Andros Loizou and Harry Lesser, 101-10. Aldershot: Avebury, 1990.
Coby, Patrick. ‘Minding Your Own Business: The Trouble with Justice in Plato’s Republic.’ Interpretation 31 (2003): 37-58.
Cohen, David. ‘The Social Context of Adultery at Athens.’ In Nomos: Essays in Athenian Law, edited by Paul Cartledge, Paul Millett, and Stephen Todd, 147-65. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.
Cohen, David. ‘Seclusion, Separation, and the Status of Women in Classical Athens.’ Greece & Rome 36 (1989): 3-15.
Cohen, David. ‘The Legal Status and Political Role of Women in Plato's Laws.’ Revue Internationale des Droits de l'Antiquité 34 (1987): 27-40.
Cohen, Edward E. ‘An Unprofitable Masculinity.’ In Money, Labour, and Land: Approaches to the Economies of Ancient Greece, edited by Paul Cartledge, Edward E. Cohen, and Lin Foxhall, 100-12. New York: Routledge, 2001.
Cooper, John M., ed. Plato Complete Works. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 1997.
Crombie, I.M. An Examination of Plato’s Doctrines. New York: Humanities Press, 1962.
Crossman, R.H. Plato Today. New York: Oxford University Press, 1939.
Darling, John. ‘Are Women Good Enough? Plato’s Feminism Re-Examined.’ Journal of Philosophy of Education 20 (1986): 123-8.
de Ste. Croix, G.E.M. The Class Struggle in the Ancient Greek World from the Archaic Age to the Arab Conquests. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1981.
Dickason, Anne. ‘Anatomy and Destiny: The Role of Biology in Plato’s Views of Women.’ The Philosophical Forum 5 (1973): 45-53.
Elshtain, Jean Bethke. Public Man, Private Woman: Women in Social and Political Thought. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981.
Fortenbaugh, W.W. ‘On Plato’s Feminism in Republic V.’ Apeiron 9 (1975): 1-4.
Gardner, Catherine. ‘The Remnants of the Family: The Role of Women and Eugenics in Republic V.’ History of Philosophy Quarterly 17 (2000): 217-35.
Gomme, A.W. ‘The Position of Women in Athens in the Fifth and Fourth Centuries B.C.’ Classical Philology 20 (1925): 1-25.
Grube, G.M.A., trans. Republic, revised by C.D.C. Reeve. In Plato Complete Works, edited by John M. Cooper, 971-1223. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 1997.
Guthrie, W.K.C. A History of Greek Philosophy. Vol. 4. Plato: The Man and His Dialogues: Earlier Period. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975.
Hadas, Moses. ‘Observations on Athenian Women.’ Classical Weekly 39 (1936): 97-100.
Harry, Chelsea, and Ron Polansky. ‘Plato on Women’s Natural Ability: Revisiting Republic V and Timaeus 41e3-44d2 and 86b1-92c3.’ Apeiron 49 (2016): 261-80.
Herfst, Pieter. Le Travail de la Femme dans la Grèce Ancienne. Utrecht: A. Oosthoek, 1922.
Kaltsas, Nikolaos, and Alan Shapiro, ed. Worshipping Women: Ritual and Reality in Classical Athens. New York: Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation, 2008.
Kitto, H.D.F. The Greeks. New York: Penguin Books, 1951.
Lange, Lynda. ‘The Function of Equal Education in Plato’s Republic and Laws.’ In The Sexism of Social and Political Theory from Plato to Nietzsche, edited by Lorenne Clark and
Lynda Lange, 3-15. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1979.
Lesser, Harry. ‘Plato’s Feminism.’ Philosophy 54 (1979): 113-17.
Levin, Susan B. ‘Women’s Nature and Role in the Ideal Polis: Republic V Revisited.’ In Feminism and Ancient Philosophy, edited by Julie K. Ward, 13-30. New York: Routledge, 1996.
Lucas, J.R. ‘Because You Are a Woman.’ Philosophy 48 (1973): 161-171.
Martin, Jane Roland. ‘Sex Equality and Education: A Case Study.’ In Femininity, Masculinity, and Androgyny: A Modern Philosophical Discussion, edited by Mary Vetterling-
Braggin, 279-300. Totowa, NJ: Littlefield, 1982.
McKeen, Catherine. ‘Why Women Must Guard and Rule in Plato’s Kallipolis.’ Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 87 (2006): 527-48.
Meyer, Susan Suavé. ‘Class Assignment and the Principle of Specialization in Plato’s Republic.’ Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy 20 (2005): 229-43.
Mikalson, Jon D. Athenian Popular Religion. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1983.
Morrow, Glenn R. Plato’s Cretan City: A Historical Interpretation of the Laws. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1960.
O’Brien, Mary. The Politics of Reproduction. New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1981.
Okin, Susan Moller. Women in Western Political Thought. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979.
Okin, Susan Moller. ‘Philosopher Queens and Private Wives: Plato on Women and the Family.’ Philosophy and Public Affairs 6 (1977): 345-69.
Osborne, Martha Lee. ‘Plato’s Unchanging View of Women: A Denial That Anatomy Spells Destiny.’ The Philosophical Forum 6 (1975): 447-52.
Patterson, Cynthia. ‘Other Sorts: Slaves, Foreigners, and Women in Periclean Athens.’ In The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Pericles, edited by Loren J. Samons, 153-78. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
Patterson, Cynthia B. The Family in Greek History. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998.
Patterson, Cynthia. ‘Hai Attikai: The Other Athenians.’ Helios 13 (1986): 49-67.
Pierce, Christine. ‘Equality: Republic V.’ The Monist 57 (1973): 1-11.
Pomeroy, Sarah B. Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves: Women in Classical Antiquity. New York: Schocken Books, 1975.
Pomeroy, Sarah B. ‘Feminism in Book V of Plato’s Republic.’ Apeiron 8 (1974): 33-5.
Rankin, H. D. Plato and the Individual. London: Methuen, 1964.
Reeve, C.D.C. ‘The Naked Old Women in the Palaestra.’ In Plato’s Republic: Critical Essays, edited by Richard Kraut, 129-41. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 1997.
Reeve, C.D.C. Philosopher-Kings: The Argument of Plato’s Republic. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1988.
Rosenthal, Abigail L. ‘Feminism Without Contradictions.’ The Monist 57 (1973): 28-42
Rosenthal, E.I.J., ed. Averroës Commentary on Plato’s Republic. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1966.
Rowett, Catherine. ‘Why the Philosopher Kings Will Believe the Noble Lie.’ Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 50 (2016): 67-100.
Samaras, Thanassis. ‘Family and the Question of Women in the Laws.’ In Plato’s Laws: A Critical Guide, edited by Christopher Bobonich, 172-196. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.
Sandford, Stella. “Thinking Sex Politically: Rethinking “Sex” in Plato’s Republic.’ South Atlantic Quarterly 104 (2005): 613-30.
Santas, Gerasimos. Understanding Plato’s Republic. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.
Santas, Gerasimos. ‘Justice, Law, and Women in Plato’s Republic.’ Philosophical Inquiry 27 (2005): 25-37.
Saunders, Trevor J., trans. Laws. In Plato Complete Works, edited by John M. Cooper, 1318-1616. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing, 1997.
Saunders, Trevor J. ‘Plato on Women in the Laws.’ In The Greek World, edited by Anton Powell, 591-609. London: Routledge, 1995.
Saxonhouse, Arlene. ‘The Philosopher and the Female in the Political Thought of Plato.’ In Feminist Interpretations of Plato, edited by Tuana, 67-85. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994.
Scaltsas, Patricia Ward. ‘Virtue without Gender in Socrates.’ Hypatia 7 (1992): 126-37.
Senter, Nell W. ‘Plato on Women.’ Southwest Philosophical Studies 2 (1977): 4-11.
Smith, Janet Farrell. ‘Plato, Irony, and Equality.’ In Feminist Interpretations of Plato, edited by Tuana, 25-48. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994.
Smith, Nicholas D. ‘Plato and Aristotle on the Nature of Women.’ Journal of the History of Philosophy 21 (1983): 467-78.
Smith, Nicholas. ‘The Logic of Plato’s Feminism.’ Journal of Social Philosophy 11 (1980): 5-11.
Spelman, Elizabeth V. ‘Hairy Cobblers and Philosopher-Queens.’ In Feminist Interpretations of Plato, edited by Tuana, 87-107. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994.
Strauss, Leo. The City and Man. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964.
Taylor, C.C.W. ‘The Role of Women in Plato’s Republic.’ In Virtue and Happiness: Essays in Honour of Julia Annas (Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy suppl. vol.), edited by Rachana Kamtekar, 75-87. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.
Tuana, Nancy, ed. Feminist Interpretations of Plato. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994.
Vlastos, Gregory. ‘Was Plato a Feminist?’ In Feminist Interpretations of Plato, edited by Nancy Tuana, 11-23. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994.
Wender, Dorothea. ‘Plato: Misogynist, Paedophile, and Feminist.’ Arethusa 6 (1973): 75-90.
Zeyl, Donald J., trans. Timaeus. In Plato Complete Works, edited by John M. Cooper, 1224-91.
Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 1997.
How to Cite
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License (CC By 4.0) that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).