For most of its history, western philosophy has regarded woman as an imperfect version of man. Like so many aspects of European culture, this tradition builds on foundations laid in ancient Greece. Yet the first philosophers of antiquity were hardly agreed on first principles. Vigdis Songe-Muller examines the differences between Presocratic monists like Parmenides, and implicit pluralists such as Anaximander, and shows how the Greeks made intellectual choices that would prove fateful for half of humankind. The text re-evaluates Greek mythology, throws a harsh new light on the invention of democracy, and exposes Platonic harmony to be an ideal driven by a peculiarly masculine fear of death. It was a fear that could only be overcome by denying the significance of difference, and at times even the rightful existence of that which embodied difference. For the Greek man, the difference that mattered was nowhere more frighteningly apparent than in woman.
Vigdis Songe-Moller is senior lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Bergen, Norway.