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October 16, 2005



Even if we stick with Spinoza's (apparent) belief that human rights derive from power, we can still propose that the ability to exert power changes as society changes.

In primitive societies, men had a physical advantage in strength and mobility (no menstrual cycle, no pregnancy). As society settled down, those became less important, and as society industrialized, they became even less important. So my hypothesis is that economic/technological progress made female "weaknesses" irrelevent.


Is your argument consistent with an older generation's belief that American men were terribly "hen-pecked"? Do you know, I think it might be.

Robert Schwartz

"Now, because there was almost no economic growth up to Spinoza’s time"

I doubt this very sincerely. Locke was Spinoza's contemporary and in his 2nd Treatise, he said:

"I have here rated the improved land very low, in making its product but as ten to one, when it is much nearer an hundred to one: for I ask, whether in the wild woods and uncultivated waste of America, left to nature, without any improvement, tillage or husbandry, a thousand acres yield the needy and wretched inhabitants as many conveniencies of life, as ten acres of equally fertile land do in Devonshire, where they are well cultivated?" Sect. 37

and "There cannot be a clearer demonstration of any thing, than several nations of the Americans are of this, who are rich in land, and poor in all the comforts of life; whom nature having furnished as liberally as any other people, with the materials of plenty, i.e. a fruitful soil, apt to produce in abundance, what might serve for food, raiment, and delight; yet for want of improving it by labour, have not one hundredth part of the conveniencies we enjoy: and a king of a large and fruitful territory there, feeds, lodges, and is clad worse than a day-labourer in England." Sect. 41.

Economic growth may have been slower before the industrial revolution than it has been after, but it occurred and it compounded.

I am not a fan of economic, or any other form of, determinism.

Robert Schwartz

I should also note that Spinoza was a bachelor, as I understand, you are. This gave him a very poor estimation of the way the world really is.


Rob: Determinism is a fact, not a choice. And how does being a bachelor (single) matter?

Personally, it is all a myth. Men and women have always been roughly equal. Sure the small ruling elite may have (and continues) to be male-bias; which has the negative effect on skewing belief for feminists that "men" have subjugated women or are better paid etc. The fact is men and women both used to work the land, men and women both worked crappy jobs in factories, and today both men and women do monotonous desk-jobs.

The only jobs women have ever really been excluded from are:
doctors, laywers, politics - plus the opportunity to go to University

Robert Schwartz

"Determinism is a fact, not a choice."

That there are determinists, I will admit, that they are correct in their understanding of the world, I deny.

"And how does being a bachelor (single) matter?"

Bachelors' have no real conception of how women really are. Neither do women. Only men who have been married for a long time have any clear notion.


Fatal blow to Spinoza's argument? The is/ought distinction. If we discovered, for example, that there was a species of hitherto invisble but otherwise very similar beings also inhabiting our earth, who we'd been illtreating entirely by accident since the beginning of time - not likely I'll grant, but still... - we'd make nice to them, even though we don't now.


For a feminist response, go to www.gendergeek.org


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