A Thermodynamic Interpretation of History: Division Two
An Archaeology of the American Feminist Intraworldly Messianism

CHAPTER 11: A Genealogy of Feminism

11.2. The Origin of Feminism in the Differentiation of Subjectivity
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Copyright © 2004, 2005, 2006 by Lawrence C. Chin. All rights reserved.

As said, we want to know why feminism has, and probably can only have, emerged in the West and not in the East (such as in China). The first factor hit upon which has been discussed is the eschatological consciousness (usually referred to as "linear time") possessed only by the Europeans. Now we will learn of the second factor which is the differentiation of consciousness with respect to human subjectivity. This clearly had started with Descartes and reached such bloom during the Enlightenment as to produce feminism. Let's consider first of all the classic example of Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Women. The underlying motivating factor in her urgent entreat was the differentiation of the human interior from its sexual constitution. Wollstonecraft complained that men had not been seeing women in proper light, "men who, considering females rather as women than human creatures, have been more anxious to make them alluring mistresses than wives" (Introduction; emphasis added). When the interior of the human being was differentiated from her exterior (e.g. sexual) constitution, the genderless human subject proper was constituted, and Wollstonecraft was simply upset that men around had not been differentiated enough in their understanding of human beings as to see a human subject apart from its sexuality. The (pure) human subject (i.e. bodiless, genderless) was the legacy of Descartes' cogito, and Wollstonecraft was simply having a moment of enlightenment in the sphere of gender relations the same as Descartes' cogito ergo sum in the sphere of epistemology: the absolute independence of subjectivity from its corporeal embodiment: "it is a farce to call any being virtuous whose virtues do not result from the exercise of its own reason. This was Rousseau's opinion respecting men. I extend it to women" (Ch. 2). The implication of this differentiation of the subject from its bodily constitution was that the natural distinctions in bodies -- "In the government of the physical world it is observable that the female in point of strength is, in general, inferior to the male. This is the law of nature; and it does not appear to be suspended or abrogated in favour of woman. A degree of physical superiority cannot be denied -- and it is a noble prerogative" (Introduction)1 -- had no bearings on the universal sameness of the cogito inside irrespective of its external package -- "Let it not be concluded that I wish to invert the order of things; I have already granted, that, from the constitution of their bodies, men seem to be designed by Providence to attain a greater degree of virtue. I speak collectively of the whole sex; but I see not the shadow of a reason to conclude that their virtues should differ in respect to their nature. In fact, how can they, if virtue has only one eternal standard? I must therefore, if I reason consequentially, as strenuously maintain that they have the same simple direction, as that there is a God." (Ch. 2) -- and that, consequently, the cogito in the female body should attain its full capacity just as that in the male body should, if that in the male body should: "I am aware of an obvious inference: -- from every quarter have I heard exclamations against masculine women; but where are they to be found? If by this appellation men mean to inveigh against their ardour in hunting, shooting, and gaming, I shall most cordially join in the cry; but if it be against the imitation of manly virtues, or, more properly speaking, the attainment of those talents and virtues, the exercise of which ennobles the human character, and which raises females in the scale of animal being, when they are comprehensively termed mankind; -- all those who view them with a philosophical eye must, I should think, wish with me, that they may every day grow more and more masculine."

Much of Wollstonecraft's insights and complaints during the first wave are to be repeated in Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique during the second wave (such as that "Women are, in fact, so much degraded by mistaken notions of female excellence") and the historical function behind her entreat is the same as the latter's: to make women useful and more exploitable by society so as to increase the power of the state: women are "like the flowers which are planted in too rich a soil, strength and usefulness are sacrificed to beauty" (Introduction); they were "made ridiculous and useless when the short-lived bloom of beauty is over" (ibid.); and she deplored in a footnote: "A lively writer, I cannot recollect his name, asks what business women turned of forty have to do in the world?" (ibid.) But she was still much too conservative, advocating a usefulness cultivated by the development of the cogito that frequently did not go beyond better employment in the business of reproduction -- like Condorcet: being brought up to care only for beauty and not reason, "[c]an they govern a family, or take care of the poor babes whom they bring into the world?" (Ibid.)

The differentiation of subjectivity was what underlay the Enlightenment ideal of universal equality. If the interior, empty consciousness was differentiated out from persons as their essence, as the only thing that counts in the valuation of them – and the accordance of political rights was at this time the means for expressing this valuation – then why should the richer among them have more rights than the poorer? Any Enlightenment thinker, therefore, who carried the differentiation of subjectivity to its logical conclusion, would espouse the accordance of the same rights to women. Condorcet (Marie Jean Antoine Nicolas de Caritat, Marquis de Condorcet, 1743-1794) furnishes the simplest instance of this in his “Sur l’admission des femmes au droit de cité” in Journal de la société de 1789.

“Or, les droit des hommes résultent uniquement de ce qu’ils sont des êtres sensibles, susceptibles d’acquérir des idées morales, et de raisonner sur ces idées” (p. 2; “Now, the rights of men result solely from this that they are sentient beings, capable of acquiring moral ideas and of reasoning on these ideas”). This is how he first demonstrated the aforementioned foundation of universal rights in the differentiation of subjectivity, this cogito or tabula rasa which was the pure receptivity of sense-ideas and reasoning on them; “ainsi les femmes ayant cet même qualités, ont nécessairement des droits égaux” (ibid.; “thus women, having this same quality, have necessarily equal rights”). Subjectivity – on which only political rights depended – now differentiated from external factors, i.e. from sexual constitution as well as from economic class status: how then could women, insofar as they did have subjectivity inside, not have the same rights, no matter what they were outside? Even if they had never done anything remarkable: “On dit qu’aucune femme n’a fait de découverte importante dans les sciences, n’a donné de preuves de génie dans les arts, dans les lettres, etc.; mais, sans doute, on ne prétendra point n’accorder le droit de cité qu’aux seuls hommes de génie” (p. 3; “One says that not any woman has ever made important discoveries in the sciences, has ever provided proof of genius in the arts, in the letters, etc; but, without doubt, one does not claim to accord the right of city only to men of genius”). Or, even if one was right in claiming that women had less a sense of justice and obeyed more their emotion (p. 6): “Si on admettoit contre les femmes des raisons semblables, il faudroit aussi priver du droit de cité la partie du peuple qui, vouée à des travaux sans relâche, ne peut ni acquérir des lumières ni exercer sa raison” (p. 7; “If one admitted such reason against women, then he must deprive of the right of city that part of the people who, committed to work without rest, can neither acquire ‘enlightenment’ nor exercise his reason;” Condorcet was to attribute this nevertheless negative quality to women’s lack of education; below). In fact, the very idea of “rights,” insofar as it was founded on the idea of cogito, on Cartesian “enlightenment,” its external attachments (body or wealth) not figuring in at all, contained within itself its universal applicability without exception among all of human race. “Ou aucun individu de l’espèce humaine n’a de véritables droits, ou tous ont les mêmes; et celui qui vote contre le droit d’un autre, quelque soit sa religion, sa couleur ou son sexe, a dès-lors abjuré les siens” (p. 2; “either no one of the human species has any veritable rights, or all have the same; and he who votes against the right of another, whatever be his or her religion, color, or sex, has immediately renounced his own”). For this reason Condorcet saw no reason to exclude women from the “rights of city,” from “être chargé[e] des fonctions publiques” (p. 4), i.e. from participation in voting and in parliament.

To those that might object that women had qualities that would prevent them from the exercise and enjoyment of their rights – i.e. that women’s subjectivity was simply different from men’s – Condorcet offered the examples of able women for consideration, such as Elizabeth of England, Marie Thérèse, or the two Catherines of Russia (p. 4) – and reversely, the examples of foolish male rulers – in order to demonstrate the essential sameness in subjectivity between women and men. He did have to admit the modification of women’s subjectivity by either its different embodiment (in women’s body) – “les femmes sont supérieures aux hommes dans les virtus douces et domestiques” (p. 5; “women are superior to men in the soft and domestic virtues”) --, by the different environment in which it found itself due to societal division of labor and existing legal inequality – “elles ne sont pas conduites, il est vrai, par la raison des hommes, mais elles le sont par la leur. Leurs intérêts n’étant pas les mêmes par la faute des loix, les mêmes choses n’ayant point pour elles la même importance que pour nous, elles peuvent, sans manquer à la raison, se déterminer par d’autres principes et tendre à un but différent” (p. 6; “women are not led, it is true, by the reason of men, but they are by their own. Their interests being not the same by the fault of laws, the same things having not the same importance for them as for us, they can, without lacking in reason, be determined by other principles and tend toward different goals”) – or by the lack of education, such as in its aforementioned proneness toward emotionality (p. 7). But since these (or at least the last two) were themselves the results of legal inequality as regards the sexes, “Il est donc injuste d’alléguer, pour continuer de refuser aux femmes la jouissance de leurs droits naturels, des motifs qui n’ont une sorte de réalité que parce qu’elles ne jouissent pas de ces droits” (p. 7; “it is therefore unjust to put forward, in order to continue to refuse women the enjoyment of their natural rights, themes which have a sort of reality only because they do not enjoy these rights”). But what about the jobs that women performed at home? Weren’t they necessary? Here Condorcet pointed out that, just as even equality of rights among men meant still that only a minority of them would be devoted full-time to governance and that the rest performed their functions just as before, artisans manufacturing in their workshops, laborers laboring, so the equal rights of women would not take women away from child-rearing, housework, and the needle (p. 10 – 11). In other words, the societal division of labor – necessary – was to be maintained despite equal rights.

Note that the results of the environmental modification of women’s otherwise equivalent subjectivity – the content of the Victorian stereotype of womanhood: that they were “more soft, sensible, and less subject to the vices which accompany egoism and to the hardness of heart” (p. 6), in addition to the difference in concern named above – which Condorcet, in his liberal feminist spirit, tried to dismiss out of the evaluation of rights, the cultural feminists would eventually “absolutize” into qualities inherent in women’s subjectivity – completely reversing the work of liberal feminists – which would then constitute women’s in-born (predestined) superiority over men and their qualification for “saving the world.”

But it is precisely to dismantle these differences of women, to counter objection that women couldn’t properly exercise their natural rights, that Condorcet attempted to advocate, in his Ecrits sur l’instruction publique (Vol. 1; ed. Charles Contel and Catherine Kintzler; Premier mémoire), firstly, equal education for women and, secondly, non-segregation between the sexes in public education institutions. Underlying Condorcet’s thought on education though un-announced by him here is again the differentiation of subjectivity: “En effet, toute instruction se bornant à exposer des vérités, à en développer les preuves, on ne voit pas comment la différence des sexes en exigerait une dans la choix de ces vérités, ou dans la manière de les prouver” (p. 71; “In effect, all education aiming to expose truths, to develop the proofs thereof, one does not see how the difference of the sexes would require one of them in the choice of these truths, or in the manner of proving them”). He couldn’t see how because the inner subjectivity of women was obviously the same as men’s. It is the sameness in the interior between men and women which necessitated the same rights for them, as commented, and same rights meant equal education. “En fin, les femmes ont les mêmes droits que les hommes; elles ont donc celui d’obtenir les mêmes facilités pour acquérir les lumières qui seules peuvent leur donner les moyens d’exercer réellement ces droits avec une même indépendance et dans une égale étendue” (p. 75; “Finally, women have the same rights as men; they have therefore the right to obtain the same facilities for acquiring the ‘enlightenment’ which alone can give them the means for exercising in a real manner those rights with the same independence and to the same extent”). But his argument here went beyond the mere abstract, into general utility. Women’s education was important in the scheme of the division of labor in the nation-state (exploitation of citizens by the state for the sake of its power), as it would help women better perform their functions – this is where the modification of women’s otherwise genderless subjectivity by its entrapment in a weaker body suddenly acquired some positive relevance:

Condorcet then argued for the non-segregation between the sexes in public education to ensure equality in education. “Puisque l’instruction doit être généralement la même, l’enseignement doit être commun, et confié à un même maître qui puisse être choisi indifféremment dans l’un ou l’autre sexe” (p. 75). The utility of this he cited in support was that, contrary to the objection that such mixing of sexes would distract male students, the disadvantage of such distraction “will be more than compensated by the emulation which the desire inspires of deserving the esteem of the person loved, or of that of her family” (p. 78).

Finally, Condorcet said the ideal of equality demanded the education of women: “Il serait dangereux de conserver l’esprit d’inégalité dans les femmes, ce qui empêcherait de le détruire dans les hommes” (p. 77; “It would be dangerous to conserve the spirit of inequality in women, which would prevent its destruction in men”).

Condorcet here was concerned with the general problem of “making reason popular” (p. 79: Conclusion), i.e. universal education, which was necessary for the efficient functioning of the political rights of the masses – both men and women – as equality (or liberty) demanded virtue and reason (the two being more or less the same in the Enlightenment mind), without which equality could not come about; and lest the mass polity degenerate into tyranny. The maintenance of general equality was the absolute goal here in the consideration of women's education.

But, as we have so emphasized before, behind the superficial demand for equality (and its concomitant: liberty) was the necessity of the growth of the state, its need to establish direct control of its subjects: the Reason of the State. And so here, Condorcet was not in fact using the utility of women’s education to attract people to its abstract rightness, but this utility itself was the real aim; that is, make no mistake about it, the purpose of education was foremost not for the individual but for the state: “Si le système complet de l’instruction commune, de celle qui a pour but d’enseigner aux individus de l’espèce humaine ce qu’il leur est nécessaire de savoir pour jouir de leurs droits et pour remplir leur devoirs, paraît trop étendu pour les femmes, qui ne sont appelées à aucune fonction publique…” (p. 71). Presupposed in this thinking here was the principle that the enjoyment of rights was actually the flip side of the fulfillment of functions designated by the state to the individual, and assumed in the final question, the acknowledgment that the goal of education was to make the educated capable of fulfilling these functions.

Let's conclude. Feminism cannot have emerged in China before the coming of Western influences because the Chinese consciousness in general during the imperial time or the cosmological mode is compact and has not shown signs of further differentiation impending. People of traditional patriarchal culture will not accept women's equal role with men as long as they see human beings holistically, without distinguishing in women or men an interior universal subject apart from their bodily, sexual constitution. The Enlightenment progressivists and feminists have discovered (differentiated) a new truth about human beings, their having an interior (the empty tabula rasa or cogito) that is universally the same across men and women,2 and they are struggling to make their fellow men see and appreciate this new truth. This new truth implies a new social order wherein women shall have different roles. This Voegelinian manner of "order and history" allows us to discern the world-historical role of feminism:

The primary field of order is the single society of human beings, organized for action to maintain itself in existence. If, however, the human species were nothing but a manifold of such agglomerations, all of them displaying the same type of order under the compulsion of instinct as do insect societies, there would be no history. Human existence in society has history because it has a dimension of spirit and freedom beyond mere animal existence, because social order is an attunement of man with the order of being [which in the traditional cosmological mode, or even in the historical mode of Christianity, contains human beings as gendered, i.e. sharply assigned according to their sexual constitution to the roles of producer and reproducer within the human economic cosmos], and because this order can be understood by man and realized in society with increasing approximations to its truth [i.e. can evolve to a possible goal]. Every society is organized for survival in the world and, at the same time, for partnership in the order of being that has its origin in world-transcendent divine Being; it has to cope with the problems of its pragmatic existence and, at the same time, it is concerned with the truth of its order. This struggle for the truth of order is the very substance of history; and insofar as advances toward the truth are achieved by the societies indeed as they succeed one another in time, the single society transcends itself and becomes a partner in the common endeavor of mankind [this is the foundation for a “philosophy of history”, started since Hegel]... While the societies and their orders have generic qualities by which they are recognizable as such, these qualities are inextricably interwoven with the unique qualities which the societies have by virtue of their status in the process of history, by virtue of their participation in the unfolding of an order that reveals mankind as something more than a species. (The World of the Polis, p. 1 – 2)

The Enlightenment men had discovered a new truth of order of universal equality built up from a universal subject; the Enlightenment feminists further discovered that the logical consistency of this universal subject led to its genderlessness. The new order of being, or rather the human economic cosmos therein embedded, therefore should not have fixed roles assigned according to the exterior sexual wrapping of the subject but only fluid roles according to its interior, which is universal. The strict sexual division of labor therefore is wrong – untrue. This logical conclusion of the differentiation of subjectivity had not yet been attained by Wollstonecraft or Condorcet, who only started the process of differentiation; and the liberal feminists of the second wave (such as Betty Friedan) almost 200 years later are still going through the same experience and trying to complete this new order of being. (Liberal) feminism therefore represents a new stage in the struggle for the truth of order that constitutes history as such: feminism is the attempt to attune human existence with the latest approximation to the truth of order of being. This makes it sound like a very noble new stage in the spiritual meaning of history. Then what has gone wrong? Why is it criticized here as a nation-state ideology? In the slightly modified version of Voegelin’s original schema (Israel and Revelation, p. x) the succession of order and symbolic form becomes:

Prior to the nation-states, the symbolic form accompanying the social organization is “spiritual”, i.e. centered around the world-transcendent Being; but the Gnosis of nation-states is centered around human rationality. This degeneration, as seen, causes the pressure of supraorganismic formation (power) to convert the traditional pursuits of the spiritual meaning of life into those of the material meaning of life – now magnified as supraorganismic metabolism: secularization of religion. Feminism which could have been a noble movement consequently degenerates into a nation-state ideology.

Degeneration notwithstanding, this discovery of the Gnosis and the nation-state is the product of the differentiation of consciousness, whose stages produce the "history of order". Insofar as the differentiation of consciousness results from the growth of consciousness, the consciousness of pre-modern Chinese women (or men) can be said to be "backward" compared with that of the Enlightenment Euro-American feminists. But, as is clear, differentiation is not an unqualified good, and Enlightenment European consciousness pays the price of differentiation by being spiritually depraved.

In ontogeny the differentiation of subjectivity is the motivating factor when the person becomes celebratorily self-critical. When a person differentiates him- or herself from him- or herself -- an inner subject from the outer self, the inner subject becoming the true self that somehow objectively observes and judges the outer self (which is the acting self) as if from a third person standpoint -- s/he can criticize him- or herself objectively without "getting hurt": "At that time I joined in the group picking on that poor, weak geek because I was afraid to be picked on myself;" thus a mature person reflects on his past. Persons who have achieved such differentiation become critical of themselves, of their in-group, of their society, of their country -- that they, or their group, or their society, or their country, are not always right and good and the disagreeing others not always wrong and bad; the Self can do bad things too and the Other wants to be the good guy too. In Kohlberg's terms of moral development, such people have passed beyond the conventional level and reached the post-conventional level of universal fairness (without partiality), and the foundation of this moral growth is the differentiation of subjectivity, of the self from the self: it is not necessarily because such persons have learned to look from the Other's perspective as well as from their own. Look at it this way: such people tend to be intellectual, enjoy reading and learning, and cluster around universities in big cities. That is why in America those in the universities are the most "liberal", frequently criticizing their own nation and society, while the other side, the rurals, still of the conventional stage, think their own nation as never in the wrong and detest the former as the "enemies within". For them, these "liberals" seem to take so much enjoyment out of criticizing their own society and nation, almost as if the conventional mode were reversed, that one's own is always wrong. This is because in self-criticism the differentiation of the self from self is achieved and so the activity of self-criticism is in a sense a celebration of one's newly achieved intellectual growth or maturity. The "liberals" do seem to get a bit excessive at times in criticizing their own government, culture, and society, and appear at times ridiculous in their romanticization of foreign cultures and peoples that is in fact just fueled by inaccurate stereotypes -- which goes to show that the differentiation of subjectivity does not necessarily imply the ability to take on the Other's perspective, although the latter does imply the former. The general American toleration of the Other's culture or ethnicity, although so vulgarized and mindless as to merit the epithet "political correctness," thus also indicates a more advanced stage in the differentiation of consciousness at the collective level. It is because of their differentiation of subjectivity that the "liberals" tend to be pro-feminist (liberal or cultural).

Update (Sept. 2006). It is easily expected that the differentiation of subjectivity, of "the subject in the exterior" from its external bodily constitution, should in the end prepare some Western minds to not only accord equal treatment and equal participation to women and blacks and then other minorities, but also to refrain from excessive suffering-causing exploitation of animals simply for human convenience: the renunciation of not only sexism and racism but also "speciesism". For example, Peter Singer (in "Equality for Animals?" Practical Ethics, Cambridge, 1979, chap. 3):

The argument for extending the principle of equality beyond our own species is simple, so simple that it amounts to no more than a clear understanding of the nature of the principle of equal consideration of interests. We have seen that this principle implies that our concern for others ought not to depend on what they are like, or what abilities they possess... It is on this basis that we are able to say that the fact that some people are not members of our race does not entitle us to exploit them, and similarly the fact that some people are less intelligent than others does not mean that their interests may be disregarded. But the principle also implies that the fact that beings are not members of our species does not entitle us to exploit them, and similarly the fact that other animals are less intelligent than we are does not mean that their interests may be disregarded.

We saw in the previous chapter that many philosophers have advocated equal consideration of interests, in some form or other, as a basic moral principle. Few recognized that the principle has applications beyond our own species. One of the few who did was Jeremy Bentham, the founding father of modern utilitarianism. In a forward-looking passage, written at a time when black slaves in the British dominions were still being treated much as we now treat nonhuman animals, Bentham wrote:

The day may come when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those rights which never could have been withholden from them but by the hand of tyranny. The French have already discovered that the blackness of the skin is no reason why a human being should be abandoned without redress to the caprice of a tormentor. It may one day come to be recognised that the number of the legs, the villosity of the skin, or the termination of the os sacrum, are reasons equally insufficient for abandoning a sensitive being to the same fate. What else is it that should trace the insuperable line? Is it the faculty of reason, or perhaps the faculty of discourse? But a full-grown horse or dog is beyond comparison a more rational, as well as a more conversable animal, than an infant of a day, or a week, or even a month, old. But suppose they were otherwise, what would it avail? The question is not, Can they reason? nor Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?
In this passage Bentham points to the capacity for suffering as the vital characteristic that entitles a being to equal consideration. The capacity for suffering -- or more strictly, for suffering and/or enjoyment or happiness -- is not just another characteristic like the capacity for language, or for higher mathematics. Bentham is not saying that those who try to mark "the insuperable line" that determines whether the interests of a being should be considered happen to have selected the wrong characteristic. The capacity for suffering and enjoying things is a prerequisite for having interests at all, a condition that must be satisfied before we can speak of interests in any meaningful way. [Thus a "reasonable" computer still has no interests, or rights!] It would be nonsense to say that it was not in the interests of a stone to be kicked along the road by a schoolboy. A stone does not have interests because it cannot suffer. Nothing that we can do to it could possibly make any difference to its welfare. [The same with that "reasonable computer."] A mouse, on the other hand, does have an interest in not being tormented, because it will suffer if it is.

If a being suffers, there can be no moral justification for refusing to take that suffering into consideration. No matter what the nature of the being, the principle of equality requires that its suffering be counted equally with the like suffering -- in so far as rough comparisons can be made -- of any other being. If a being is not capable of suffering, or of experiencing enjoyment or happiness, there is nothing to be taken into account.

What underlies this beautiful argument is the final act of the differentiation of subjectivity: the contents of the subjectivity have been differentiated from this subjectivity itself: while earlier with Condorcet the bodily wrapping (sexual or racial) of the subject was disregarded (rightly, of course) as irrelevant to participation in society and enjoyment of rights, now with Bentham the subjectivity itself encasing its contents (of happiness and suffering: the maximization of the former and the minimization of the latter, the goal of all life, so to speak, were referred to by Singer as "interests") is disregarded (rightly) as irrelevant to ethical treatment. The pain produced by a "human subjectivity", once isolated, appears clearly no different than the pain produced by an "animal subjectivity":

Racists violate the principle of equality by giving greater weight to the interests of members of their own race when there is a clash between their interests and the interests of those of another race. White racists do not accept that pain is as bad when it is felt by blacks as when it is felt by whites. Similarly those I would call "speciesists" give greater weight to the interests of members of their own species when there is a clash between their interests and the interests of those of other species. Human speciesists do not accept that pain is as bad when it is felt by pigs or mice as when it is felt by humans.

In other words, the racists and the speciesists still see subjectivity "holistically", (what is regarded as) a superior "casing" of pain making the situation of "being pained" somehow more important or more terrible.

A new truth has been discovered. Now this makes sense because the meaning of morality has completed its change-over by Enlightenment: from a concern for the order of the self (or of the community) -- the meaning of morality in antiquity -- to a modern concern for the welfare -- joy, pain, suffering, happiness -- of others (other sentient beings). If the primary aim of our ethics or the primary ingredient of our ethical sentiment toward others were not about at least not causing excessive suffering for convenience, but about something else, the above argument would have no force. This change-over accompanies the differentiation of subjectivity. This is the larger context in which liberal feminism finds its seeds.

There are in fact three ways to attain the moral refrain from the needless causation of suffering to all sentient beings (those capable of suffering or being caused to suffer, including animals): (1) the differentiation of subjectivity: the modern way; (2) the care for the order of the self (whether for the sake of the salvation of the soul after life or for its happiness in this life): the way of classical antiquity; if Aristotle or Mencius ever condemned the torture of animals for entertainment, it would be because they regarded such "indulgence in wild (i.e. sadistic) bodily pleasures" as harmful to the order of the soul (self) of the doer; (3) the universal compassion of the mystic, who cares for all sentient beings outside him- or herself, including animals, because his or her self has already expanded to include the entire cosmos, and the hurting of any parts of it is just like the hurting of any parts of him- or herself. One might call this the "emotive" path toward discovering the "new truth." In the end, even an analytic philosopher such as Peter Singer himself, probably desires the liberation of animals not because he has been convinced by his reason to do so -- as we constantly do what our reason tells us is wrong simply out of laziness -- but because he has empathy, compassion, for them: he feels for them: roughly, the emotive path.


1. We follow here the second edition of 1792.

2. The Enlightenment project of the differentiation of subjectivity started with the cogito and the tabula rasa reaches its most extreme with Sartre's Being and Nothingness, where consciousness is posited as only possible as "nothingness." For a shorter summary, see Joseph S. Catalano's A Commentary on Jean-Paul Sartre's Being and Nothingness, University of Chicago Press, 1974. The subject as empty consciousness, as nothingess, is pour-soi, and only the non-conscious matter, the en-soi, is being. For a best analytical summary of Sartre's notion of consciousness, see David Detmer's Freedom as a value: A critique of the ethical theory of Jean-Paul Sartre. For Sartre, consciousness is nothing because of the "necessity for consciousness to exist as consciousness of something other than itself." ("Intentionality", cited in ibid., p. 7) In which case it is not what it is and is what it is not -- thereby "rejecting all contents from consciousness" (ibid.). Consciousness is not what it is because, if to know is to know something, rendering it not a thing that knows something but the act of knowing itself, it becomes "a movement of fleeing itself", "being beyond itself" in its "refusal to be substance" (cited, p. 9). "Consciousness is what it is not because consciousness is characterized by its negative activities": imagining, doubting, abstracting, questioning, denying, through which non-being emerges in the world (p. 25). Because of these two characteristics consciousness is absolutely free in the ontological sense (free to choose), though not necessarily in the practical sense (free to implement the choice). The subject is now differentiated into this consciousness as absolutely nothing at all, entirely free, and thus entirely genderless: although Sartre himself did not follow on the implication of his theory for gender studies.

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