Many of the most famous figures of Western philosophy have held views about women that are disparaging or worse. Aristotle, for example, held women to be less rational than men and wives to be inferior to their husbands; Locke thought that men, as "the abler and the stronger" of the sexes, should have the last word in disagreements between husbands and wives. Kant felt that women cannot be citizens and Hegel believed that they should not be involved in political affairs. Schopenhauer and Nietzsche were notorious for their misogynistic rantings. Besides these explicit statements about women's secondary status and shortcomings, philosophical texts make use of various dualisms (reason/emotion, mind/body, public/private, objective/subjective, and so on) that have been claimed to categorize women in disadvantageous ways. These are among many features of Western mainstream philosophy that feminist critics (some dubbing it "malestream") have emphasized as evidence of its thoroughgoing androcentricity. How much truth is there to this claim? And is philosophy so completely infected by androcentricity that it needs to be rejected altogether or radically reformed?
These are the challenges that Iddo Landau confronts in this book. His is the most comprehensive analysis of these accusations. By separating out different types of the argument charging philosophy with androcentricity, he seeks to determine what validity they have and whether they justify seeing philosophy as either pervasively or nonpervasively androcentric. He concludes that none of the arguments for viewing philosophy as pervasively androcentric ultimately stand up to rational scrutiny, while the ones that show it to be nonpervasively androcentric do not undermine it in the way that many critics have supposed: "philosophy emerges, in almost all of its parts, as human rather than male, and most parts and aspects of it need not be rejected or rewritten."
Iddo Landau is Senior Lecturer of Philosophy at the University of Haifa.