It’s no secret that I’m far from a fan of Plato. He’s egoentric, angry, and elitist. He’s anti-rhetorical and anti-Christian. No student leaves my class without knowing that despite those who have wed Chrisianity to this pagan for millenia (thanks, Augustine!), he is not our ally.

But even Plato foregrounds an education for women, and that was a radical idea in ancient Greece. Plato agreed with common Greek thought at the time that women were mere breeders (they bore children but did not beget them) and were really no better than other children or slaves. They are a necessary evil, to be specific, to further the human race and have a nice meal in the meantime. Friendships with men were superior to relationships with women because women were of such a lower caliber. That “platonic love” we’ve heard so much about was Plato’s description of male fellowship or eros.

But even still — Plato commands via Socrates in his Republic that women be educated similarly to men:

“But if it appears that they differ only in just this respect that the female bears and the male begets, we shall say that no proof has yet been produced that the woman differs from the man for our purposes, but we shall continue to think that our guardians and their wives ought to follow the same pursuits.”

 
His point is that when it comes to the good of the Republic, the essential differences between men and women are irrelevant and both should be thoroughly educated.
 
We’re not so persuaded to further the good of the “state” as an Ancient Greek. But the Church is more our focus. Can we pirate Plato’s argument for our own Christian pursuits and say that any difference between a man and a woman is irrelevant when it comes to the larger good that can come from an educated Christian (male or female)?

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