Disharmony in the Constitution
Disharmony in the Constitution: Aristotle and Plato on the Education of Women and the Spartan Regime by Brenna R. Strauss Dissertation Advisor: Robert C. Bartlett ABSTRACT In their critiques of Sparta in the Politics and the Laws, Aristotle and Plato write that, where women are poorly regulated, the city cannot be happy. Using Sparta as a case study, I argue that Aristotle and Plato agree on crucial points regarding the education and regulation of women in a well-ordered regime. Such a regime recognizes the importance of the expression of love of one's own through stable, private families as well as the erotic character of human nature. Stable families require that men be assured of their paternity and therefore that women not mix freely in public. Because women will therefore have different roles than men, women and girls will not receive an education equal to that of men or boys, or one as consistent with the aim of the regime. As a result, most regimes will be characterized by tension between the public and private spheres, as was the case in Sparta. The erotic character of human beings exacerbates this tension. Men's immoderate desire generally gives women authority over men, undermining the legislator's attempts to educate and regulate women and men alike. Even in the well-ordered regime, most human beings will not be able to attain a moderate disposition, but will merely achieve self-restraint supported by law and custom. Although there is no indication that women are incapable of human excellence, their inferior education will make them less capable of prudence or philosophy. The domestic role and inferior character of women in the well-ordered regime are due, I conclude, to an attempt to reconcile our individual, mortal natures and our need to live together in political community. The consequent disharmony in the constitution reflects the inherent tension between these two aspects of human nature.