Are men better at math than women? Will the social sciences ever be able answer such a question? A few fireworks at the link:
‘Still, even a broken or crooked clock is right twice each day, and Larry Summers is not the only person in the world who suspects that men might be a bit better at math than women.’
I see merit in putting parts of modern feminism to the test, re-examining the motives, tactics and reasoning of the gender-equity feminists, the personal-is-political radicals, and the gender-is-a social-construct folks.
-Why should we aim for a gender-neutral society with equality of opportunity?
-How do we know when we’ve arrived there, and at what cost?
-Who will gain, and who will lose?
Below is Straussian Harvey Mansfield discussing feminism during his long tenure at Harvard. He threw his book ‘On Manliness’ into the prevailing winds.
Martha Nussbaum reviewed the book unfavorably here.
Addition: Cathy Young at Reason has a piece on The Feminine Mystique.
***Straussians see America as sliding inexorably into hedonism, backing our way into radical individualism and excessive freedom, drifting towards European nihilism, or the belief in nothing. Atop this process will pile up the products of reason, or fields of knowledge which claim reason can do much more than it may be able to do. He includes many of the social sciences, and much of ‘modern’ philosophy. Here’s the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s Entry:
‘Strauss especially worried about the modern philosophical grounds for political and moral normativity as well as about the philosophical, theological, and political consequences of what he took to be modern philosophy’s overinflated claims for the self-sufficiency of reason.’
According to Strauss, this same process led Europe into fascism (he was a German Jew who emigrated during the rise of the Nazi party). This can perhaps be highlighted in the difference between political science, and political philosophy, as he saw them.
Political science assumes that the study of politics can be like a science, or a least quantified like one: Statistics, modeling and analysis, polling data, voting habits and voting records, historical trends and party affiliation; All of these can be guided by political theory and experience and synthesized to help us understand what politics is.
Perhaps, as we have seen recently, we can even use statistical modeling to predict elections. Politicians, wonks, pundits, and aspirants to power all see use in more data and greater predictibility, and many naturally see clear political advantage in such thinking.
Strauss’ critique of this approach suggests that it also shapes to some extent who we think we are, and who we ought to be. It is reductionist, and ultimately pits political groups and parties against one another, as though itself and everyone in its care were a neutral observer.
For Strauss, this approach ought to be countered by asking questions in a deeper tradition of political philosophy, his own neo-classicism:
“What is the good society?”
“What is the common good?”
On his thinking, modern political philosophers have also acted as revolutionaries, from Machiavelli onwards. They’ve fallen from the grace in a way, or at least from his reason/revelation distinction. We moderns are lurching forwards, stumbling forwards through the dark corridors of the modern age. We need return to classical philosophy, back to Plato and Aristotle:
‘Strauss employs the term “theological-political predicament,” to diagnose what he contends are the devastating philosophical, theological, and political consequences of the early modern attempt to separate theology from politics. However, Strauss in no way favors a return to theocracy or, like his contemporary Carl Schmitt, a turn toward political theology. Instead, Strauss attempts to recover classical political philosophy not to return to the political structures of the past but to reconsider ways in which pre-modern thinkers thought it necessary to grapple and live with the tensions, if not contradictions that, by definition, arise from human society. For Strauss, a recognition, and not a resolution, of the tensions and contradictions that define human society is the necessary starting point for philosophically reconstructing a philosophy, theology, and politics of moderation, all of which, he claims, the twentieth-century desperately needs.
Perhaps non-Straussians can begin to ask such questions of feminism, too.
Addition: Do the moral laws make the people, or do the people make the moral laws?
Related On This Site: Christina Hoff Sommers (wikipedia) is trying to replacing gender feminism with equity feminism. She also wrote The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men.
A very Harvard affair: The Spelke/Pinker debate-The Science Of Gender And Science