The Man of Reason

The Artemision Bronze, sculptor unknown, c. 460 BCE, National Archaeological Museum of Athens

The Artemision Bronze, sculptor unknown, c. 460 BCE, National Archaeological Museum of Athens

‘Everything which sets men in motion must go through their minds; but what form it will take in the mind will depend very much upon the circumstances.’1

The ‘Man of Reason’ Lloyd analyses is a man of ideals and control. His other – the female – exists both in and (as Charlotte de Brachart wrote) as his shadow. ‘Reason’, its shadow, and the results of its domination pulse regularly through the essay – ‘ideals of manhood’, ‘ideals of our culture’, ‘the perfection of man’, ‘woman… “as it were an impotent male”’, “woman is subject to man”, ‘the Man of Reason as a character ideal’, ‘a veracious God’, ‘the divine spark in man’, ‘the duties of woman for all time’, ‘the ideals of reason’, ‘to make a god of man’, ‘the pedestalising of women’, ‘the impoverishment of women’. Beneath this dichotomy and tension – that between reason (assigned to male) and the emotions (assigned to female) runs another – that between philosophical idealism and idealism, between consciousness and matter.

The subject Lloyd has chosen is of the utmost importance to philosophy. She critiques the second element we use to arrive at our determinations in the triad of sensory input, brain processing and engagement in the practice, and does so by dealing with it not in the abstract, as does the Man of Reason, but as a cultural construct of domination. In arguing the one-sidedness of the Man of Reason, she works towards the perspective of the human – distinct, as Plumwood wrote, from that of the master.2

The ideal of the Man of Reason has had immeasurable impact on western culture since the Greeks, and Lloyd’s pointing to what has been separated off and denied in the name of that construct, to the way in which it has been done and by implication, her suggesting a reintegration of these elements and a broadening in some way of the notion of reason, is liberating and offers great potential for empowerment of rather than power over.

Lloyd defined the Man of Reason as ‘the ideal of rationality associated with the rationalist philosophies of the seventeenth century. And, secondly, something more nebulous – the residue of that ideal in our contemporary consciousness, our inheritance from seventeenth century rationalism.’3 She wrote that this is a substantial component in what reason has come to be. She is most concerned ‘to bring into focus…his maleness’4 since the Man of Reason is an idealisation of the male, not of the human being – yet he still embodies fundamental ideals of our culture.

Part one of nine/to be continued…


1. F. Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy, 1888; with appendix, K. Marx, ‘Theses on Feuerbach’, Moscow: Progress, 1975, 50, 51

2. V. Plumwood, Feminism and the Mastery of Nature, London: Routledge, 1993

3. G. Lloyd, ‘The Man of Reason’, in Women, Knowledge, and Reality: Explorations in Feminist Philosophy. Eds. A. Garry and M. Pearsall. Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1989, 111

4. Ibid.


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