Ephemeris, the Undergraduate Journal of Philosophy


In a recent debate between Karen Nielsen and Devin Henry, we find opposing views about whether Aristotle's biological explanations and reproductive framework in the Generation of Animals point to sexism. The Standard View holds that Aristotle’s explanation of reproduction points to gender bias or sexism in that “Aristotle construes the female as deficient relative to the male.” This idea ignores other relevant factors that provide an explanation of Aristotle's claims. Instead of focusing on social attitudes I examine the three passages from the Generation of Animals that the Standard View claims contain gender bias. By drawing from Aristotle’s hylomorphic theory that it is better to have a combination of two things, a male and a female as well as form and matter, we may be able to rule out the implication of gender bias and uncover Aristotle’s true intent in making these claims. I conclude Aristotle's explanatory model does not point to gender bias but rather simply to a causal framework with unfortunate titles; then I’ll examine what the model would need to look like to truly be sexist. I conclude that Aristotle's model of reproduction on its own is not evidence of sexism.

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