On Hegel, Women, and the Foundation of Ethical Life: Why Gender Doesn’t Belong in the Family.

Clio: A Journal of Literature, History, and the Philosophy of History 44 (1):1-17 (2015)
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Feminist philosophers are right to criticize Hegel’s prejudices against women. In many of his works, Hegel reduces women to their physiology as means of explaining why they occupy a subordinate role in nature and in society. Such treatment seems arbitrary at best, for the gendering of roles disrupts Hegel’s dialectical approach to spirit without any meaningful gain. Despite this defect in Hegel’s work, what is positive in Hegelian social and political philosophy remains intact. In this paper I argue that the sexist claims that Hegel makes about women are irrelevant to his theory of the family in the Philosophy of Right. Therein, Hegel outlines three components that are necessary for the completion of the family: marriage, property and assets, and the raising of children. Hegel also includes a description of the different roles occupied by family members and divides these roles along gender lines. Given the three components that are essential to the family, I argue that there is no necessary basis for familial roles to be divided by gender.

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Laura W. Kane
Worcester State University


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