The Man of Reason: Part Two

Lloyd noted that the distinction between male/rational and female/non-rational dates to the development of ‘rationality’ in Greek philosophy, and towards this she cites Aristotle. She then cites Augustine who also denied to females the degree of rationality both Aristotle and he accorded to males. Touching briefly on the Renaissance, Lloyd arrives at her point of focus, the treatment of reason in the seventeenth century – essentially by Descartes and Spinoza.

A major point for Lloyd is Descartes’ attempt to contain reason in a method depending on deduction and intuition for attaining certainty. His equation between reason and reality, on the basis of a veracious God, gave reason a divine aspect. Lloyd noted that crucial to Descartes’ treatment of reason is its connection with his antithesis between ‘mind’ and matter. What existed previously as contrasts – intellect versus the emotions, reason versus imagination and ‘mind’ versus matter, now became polarisations of male (as transcendent) and female (to sustain him). ‘The stage is now set for the emergence of the Man of Reason as a male character ideal.’5

Lloyd argues that the ‘benefits’ of gaining control of one’s thoughts was fully set out in the Ethics of Spinoza who aspired to ‘nothing less than the attaining of eternity of the mind’.6 Spinoza believed ‘the passions’ should not be ignored but transformed from confused modes of perception into active ‘rational emotions’. ‘The ultimate horror for Spinoza’s Man of Reason is to be “womanish”…under the sway of passions, untransformed by reason.’7 He sought ‘detachment from the transient and…attachment to the unchanging’.8 Death has no sting for him. Lloyd regards this as ‘the ultimate glorification of reason in its ethical dimension.’9

She wrote that Spinoza’s emphasis on self-interest (through the aspiration to eternity of ‘mind’ which rises above unconnected, fragmentary ideas and a limited standpoint) anticipates the attitude in the eighteenth century towards ‘the passions’. This eternity of ‘mind’ is to be attained by “Scientia Intuitiva’ – a knowledge superior to reason. It ‘proceeds from an…idea of the absolute essence of the attributes of God.’10

Lloyd distinguished Spinoza’s form of thought from those of both Descartes, and that of the later nineteenth century ‘which saw reason as limited in contrast to the access to reality provided by the will or the imagination’,11 even though she notes that Descartes also had some awareness of ‘the limitations of reason’ with regard to his intuitions, which he intended to be ‘the fresh, spontaneous, unclouded apprehensions of a “mind” operating in accordance with its understanding of its own nature.’12 Lloyd writes that Descartes’ intuitions were bound by method and she uses that method to exemplify the Man of Reason’s conception of reason as the encapsulation of thought into artificial and discrete mental states, subject to a rigorous discipline – ‘it then becomes easy to mistake this artificial creation for the real nature of consciousness’13 which, quoting Leibniz, ‘comes from the continual beatings of innumerable waves’.14

So the Man of Reason stands as an ‘ideal of method, construed as expressing the true nature of the “mind”…this rationalist model still underlies our “rational” thought styles.’15 Intuition is currently considered to both stand in opposition to this and to be associated with specifically female thought processes. In excluding from reason that which is attributed to and thereby encouraged in the female, the female is excluded from power. Lloyd urges that ‘an awareness of the claims of “intuition” can, nonetheless, be part of a constructive assessment of the claims and the ideals of reason.’16

Part two of nine/to be continued…


5 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, 117

6 Ibid. 118

7 Ibid. 120

8 Ibid. 119

9 Ibid.120

10 Ibid. 122

11 Ibid.

12 Ibid.123

13 Ibid.

14 Ibid.124

15 Ibid.

16 Ibid.

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