AUTONOMY OR ANATOMY: WOMEN AND RIGHTS IN TWO TRADITIONS OF AMERICAN POLITICAL THOUGHT.
KeywordsWomen's rights -- United States.
Feminism -- United States.
Women -- United States -- Social conditions.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThe premise of this dissertation is that the political literature and rhetoric of the two opposing sides (femininism and anti-femininism) in the struggle over the recognition and advancement of the rights of women in America illuminate the existence of at least two traditions of American political thought and practice. These two traditions are based on distinct epistemological premises about how an object or person is considered to be known. The epistemological categories explicated by F. S. C. Northrop ("concepts by postulation" and "concepts by intuition") and two of the categories of legal and ethical views developed by Northrop ("abstract contractual" and "natural history") provide the framework within which feminist and antifeminist political literature and rhetoric are examined. It is argued that feminism is informed by an abstract contractual legal and ethical view based on a postulational epistemology which considers the truly known individual to be an instance of deductively postulated universal laws. Anti-feminism is argued to be informed by a natural history legal and ethical view based on an intuitional epistemology which considers the truly known individual to be as given by the senses (which are informed in what is directly observed by customs and tradition). The distinct epistemological premises of feminists and anti-feminists and their divergent legal and ethical views are shown to inform and structure their positions on the issues of political authority and political membership, equality of rights before the law, and of the status of woman as a distinct and individual person. It is demonstrated that feminists define women as autonomous individual persons who are, for political and legal purposes, essentially similar to men. Thus, political authority relations, political membership, and rights before the law must recognize the equality, individuality, and autonomy of each person. Anti-feminists are shown to define women by their reproductive difference from men and to argue that men and women are, thus, essentially dissimilar. Woman, by nature, belongs in a family headed by man, which family is the unit of society and polity. Woman's rights and her relation to the polity are directly linked to her nature as mother-wife.
Degree ProgramPolitical Science