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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Women's role and desire

In a paper of mine ("Desidero Ergo Sum", RSO 2009), I argued that Mīmāṃsakas fall close from admitting women's and men's equality since they grant to women the eligibility (adhikāra) to perform rituals. The chief argument in favour of women is that they can become ritual agents because they long for the ritual's result, just like men. Hence, equality is based on the commonnes of desire. Now, Shaji George Kochuthara sent me an article of him ("Kāma without Dharma? Understanding the Ethics of pleasure in Kāmasūtra", Journal of Dharma, 34.1 (2009), 69-95) where more or less the same point is made. Women have an active role in kāma-related activities (which are not limited, explains Kochuthara, to sexual intercourses, but rather include all sort of sensual pleasures), because they are independent subject of desire. If I am not wrong, this may be the same kind of reasoning outlined in the case of the Mīmāṃsāsūtra: women are seen as independent subjects (unlike animals, for instance, or idiots) because they have desire. It is their very desire which allows them to emerge in the field of the plausible agents.

4 comments:

VS said...

Pardon me for my ignorance, but what I gather from your post is that there are two separate issues. These are: 1. Are women independent subjects? and 2. Are they equal to men (as far as certain activities are concerned).

If the argument for and independent subject is an independent desire, then arent idiots and animals independent subjects too, because even with desires which we may not agree to, they do have them independently. In some cases they might be clear about the outcome too.

Isnt it possible that when arguing for equality in certain tasks, the authors might the nobility of intention towards that task in mind?

VS said...

-the authors might *have the nobility of intention towards that task in mind?

elisa freschi said...

VS, you are right, the two points are not the same although I somehow assumed that, if one is an independent subject, she cannot see her rights denied. On top of that, I have to admit that my post only aimed at the theoretical side of the question (not at the actual practice).
As for the consequence you propose, you will probably know that (in classical as well as in contemporary philosophy) there are many essays to understand what a "subject" is. Some contemporary ethicists, for instance, claim that it is the capacity to feel the main point and, hence, admit animals (and obviously idiots) among legitimate (that is: bearer of rights) subjects. Your suggestion seems to go in the same direction (although the capacity to independently desire is difficult to ascertain in simpler animals).
As for your last remark: do you mean to say that authors argued in favour of women's equality just in order not to implement it? Well, I do not even think they had this problem (it was well established that women did not share the same rights).

VS said...

I meant that the nobility (emphasis) of intention could be the basis of equality.

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