Strength And Superiority: The Theme Of Strength In The Querelle Des Femmes

de Philosophia 1 (1):1-10 (2021)
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The querelle des femmes was an intellectual debate over the status of women that occurred in the early modern period, between the 1400s and 1700s. A common argument for the superiority of men and inferiority of women that appeared during the debate is that women are less physically strong than men, and are therefore inferior. In response, two distinct argumentative strategies were developed by defenders of women. First, some argued that men and women did not in fact differ in physical strength. A second strategy was to deny that physical strength is relevant to the question of superiority. In this case, one would argue that a difference in strength is not normatively relevant to evaluations of worth. I argue that this second strategy was the more effective response to the argument that women were inferior because of their alleged physical weakness compared to men.

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Eric Wilkinson
McGill University


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