|Ilse Paakkinen, Post-doctoral researcher
Philosophical and Theological Arguments in Defence of Women in Early Feminist Thought (1400–1600)
The relationship between the sexes and the status of women in relation to men has stirred debate throughout western history. Questions related to gender, agency, power and status are of present interest, but they were current also in late medieval and early modern discussions concerning the nature and worth of women. In my post-doctoral research, I will explore philosophical arguments stated in defence of women in the so-called querelle des femmes debate which concerned the nature and worth of women. I will focus on the argumentation of three authors: Christine de Pizan (1365–ca. 1420) in her Le livre de la cité des dames (1405), Henricus Cornelius Agrippa von Nettensheim (1486–1535) in his De nobilitate et praecellentia foeminei sexus declamatio (1529) and Lucretia Marinella (1571–1653) in her La nobiltà et l’eccellenza delle donne, co’ difetti et mancamenti de gli uomini (1600). At the heart of the arguments of these authors is that women, as the image of God, as rational and capable human beings and companions to men, have not been given the recognition they deserve. Women’s worth, contributions, historical feats and status has been undermined and disregarded by men.
All these authors claim implicitly that it is important to make hate speech visible and to publicly fight it. Especially those, who are the targets of hate speech have to be given a voice. From theological point of view, these authors maintain the reinterpretation of the Bible, and especially exegesis on Genesis by analyzing the creation of women: on the one hand, establishing women’s status as the equals (Christine) or on the other hand, superiors (Agrippa and Marinella) to men. Other important themes in this context were women’s role as prophets (Christine) and as the faithful followers of Christ (Agrippa). From philosophical point of view, these authors point out the critical reinterpretation of Scholastic Aristotelianism, especially in respect to natural philosophy and reproductive theories. Whereas Aristotelian authors claim that women are defected men, Christine, Agrippa and Marinella take the frame of the Aristotelian theory (theory of four elements and four causes) and interpret it in the favor of women. Also, both Christine and Marinella use Platonic philosophy as the basis of their reinterpretation of Aristotelian arguments.