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Episteme

Abstract

Is Plato a feminist from the classical era? No, but he comes closer than any other man from that time. Although by no means reducible to modern feminist arguments about equality, Book V of the Republic espouses some important ideas about women, nature, and society. There is no doubt that Plato challenged the prevailing wisdom in Athens and sought a utopia that produced the best possible men and women—at least for the guardian class. We should understand that it is Plato’s elitism, not his misogyny, which influences his handling of the lower social strata. And furthermore, his sexist remarks are most likely directed at the women of his day in Athens—not his ideal of woman. In light of the various arguments made in secondary literature, the history of Athens in Plato’s day, and the absence of prejudice in Plato’s philosophy, we can find a lot to like in Plato’s proto-feminist political philosophy.

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