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Woman's essential "nature" : a classical, communitarian gender mythology

By Susan Rae Regan


This thesis argues that women do not share an essential 'nature'. Further, if it could be shown that women do share an essential 'nature', the consequences would be undesirable. Although mainstream philosophy has largely abandoned nature theories, I will show that certain branches of feminist theory retain the notion of an essential 'woman's nature' that cannot be ignored, transcended, or eliminated without destroying the distinctive character of women. To claim that women share a different 'nature' than that shared by men is to invoke a particular chain of reasoning derived not from science (for judgements of significance and ontological sameness are not amenable to scientific investigation) but from the heuristic classical, communitarian world view. Whether the notion of a distinct 'woman's nature' is accepted or rejected, this decision results in a pragmatic orientation toward women, their roles, and their potential that has a direct effect on the educational methodologies, curricula, and environment seen as appropriate to them. The thesis serves as a counterpoise to the prevailing communitarian thread in cultural feminist theory that rejects the liberal individualist premises of liberal feminism

Year: 1997
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