August 25, 2006

Manliness, once again

I suppose perseverance in the face of richly justified mockery must be manly, because Harvey Mansfield must by now be a great practitioner of it.

I never get tired of reading reviews of Harvey Mansfield's book Manliness. It's just so much fun to see Mansfield being taken to the woodshed over and over again.

Here, once again, a reviewer (Martha Nussbaum, basically the best person alive to refute Mansfield completely) massacres Mansfield.

But more than just an excoriation of a very silly man and a very dumb book, the review says a lot about what feminism is, and isn't, and what scholarship is, and isn't, and ultimately, what courage is, and what it definitely is not. Unlike Mansfield's book, it is quite valuable.

More Mansfield on LGB:

1, 2, 3, 4


  1. Anonymous11:18 PM

    This review was published over two months ago.

    What a useless blog.

  2. It was just cited by Metafilter yesterday. And as I said, it has value independent of Mansfield and, I would now add, independent of its date of publication.




  4. Nussbaum has absolutely NO idea as to how a scholar-philosopher versed in Plato or Aristotle would approach the concept of manliness. Why wouldn't said "scholar" actually seek to learn if a philosopher like Plato had actually ever explored the concept of manliness? For if she did, she might learn the inconvenient truth that Plato had explored the subject of "Courage" (aka manliness) and found that said exploration completely supported Mansfield's argument...not Nussbaum's. One need only refer to Plato's dialogue "Laches" (aka "On Courage") to referee this argument. And while she was at it, it might behoove said scholar-philosopher to also research how Plato addressed manliness' "opposite" virtue, Temperance (aka Plato's "Charmides") and on the necessity of achieving a balanced harmony between the two ("Statesman").

    And if said scholar-philosopher disagreed with Plato's argument, she could turn to one of Plato's "antithesis", like Nietzsche, and see what HE thought on the subject. Unfortunately for Nussbaum, she would learn that even Nietzsche agreed with Plato... "Beyond Good & Evil"...(starting with 231 but concluding w/239)


    In no age has the weak sex been treated with such respect on the part of men as in our age—that's part of the tendency and basic taste of democracy, just like the disrespect for old age. Is it any wonder that right away this respect leads to abuse? People want more; people learn to make demands. They finally find this toll of respect almost sickening and would prefer a competition for rights, in fact, a genuine fight. It's enough that woman loses her shame. Let's add to that immediately that she also loses her taste. She forgets how to be afraid of man. But the woman who "forgets fear" abandons her most womanly instincts. The fact that woman dares to come out when that part of men which inspires fear—let's say it more clearly—when the man in men—is no longer wanted and widely cultivated is reasonable enough, even understandable enough.

    What's much more difficult to grasp is that in this very process woman degenerates. That's happening today—let's not deceive ourselves about it. Wherever the industrial spirit has triumphed over the military and aristocratic spirit, woman now strives for the economic and legal independence of a shop assistant: "woman as clerk" stands out on the door of the modern society which is now developing. As she thus empowers herself with new rights and strives to become "master" and writes the "progress" of woman on her banners and little flags, it becomes terribly clear that the opposite is taking place: woman is regressing.

    Since the French Revolution the influence of woman in Europe has grown smaller in proportion to the increase in her rights and demands, and the "Emancipation of Woman," to the extent that that is desired and demanded by women themselves (and not just by superficial men), has, as a result, produced a peculiar symptom of the growing weakening and deadening of the most feminine instincts. There is a stupidity in this development, an almost masculine stupidity, about which a successful woman—who is always an intelligent woman—would have to feel thoroughly ashamed.

    To lose the instinct for the ground on which one is surest to gain victory, to neglect to practice the art of one's own true weapons, to allow oneself to let go before men, perhaps even "to produce a book," where previously one used discipline and a refined, cunning humility to work with a virtuous audacity against man's faith in a fundamentally different ideal concealed in woman, an eternally and necessarily feminine, with constant chatter to talk men emphatically out of the idea that woman, like a delicate, strangely wild, and often pleasing domestic animal, must be maintained, cared for, protected, and looked after, the awkward and indignant gathering up of everything slavish and serf-like, which has inherently belonged to the position of women in the social order up to this point and which still does (as if slavery were a counter-argument and not rather a condition of every higher culture, every enhancement in culture)—what does all this mean, if not a crumbling away of feminine instinct, a loss of femininity?

    Of course, there are enough idiotic friends of women and corrupters of women among the scholarly asses of the male sex who counsel woman to de-feminize herself in this manner and to imitate all the foolish things which make "man" in Europe and European "manliness" sick, people who want to bring woman down to the level of a "common education," perhaps even to reading the newspapers and discussing politics. Here and there they want even to make women into free spirits and literati: as if a woman without piety were not something totally repulsive and ridiculous to a profound and godless man. Almost everywhere people ruin woman's nerves with the most sickly and dangerous of all forms of music (our most recent German music) and make her more hysterical every day and incapable of her first and last profession, giving birth to strong children. They want to make her in general even more "cultivated" and, as they say, make the "weak sex" strong through culture, as if history didn't teach us as emphatically as possible that "cultivating" human beings and making them weak (that is, enfeebling, fracturing, making the power of the will sick) always go hand in hand and that the most powerful and most influential women of the world (in most recent times even Napoleon's mother) can thank the power of their own wills—and not their school masters—for their power and superiority over men.

    The thing in woman that arouses respect and often enough fear is her nature, which is "more natural" than man's nature, her genuine predatory and cunning adaptability, the tiger's claws under the glove, the naiveté of her egotism, her uneducable nature, her inner wildness, the incomprehensibility, breadth, and roaming of her desires and virtues. . . . With all this fear, what creates sympathy for this dangerous and beautiful cat "woman" is that she appears to suffer more, to be more vulnerable and in need of love, and to be condemned to suffer disappointment more than any animal. Fear and compassion—with these feelings man has stood before woman up to this point, always with one foot in tragedy, which tears to pieces while it delights.

    How's that? And is this now coming to an end? Is the magic spell of woman now in the process of being broken? Is the process of making woman boring gradually coming about? Oh Europe! Europe! We know the horned animal which has always been most attractive to you. Its danger still constantly threatens you! Your old fable could still at some point become "history"—once again a monstrous stupidity could gain mastery of you and drag you away from it! And no god is hiding underneath it, no, only an "idea," a "modern idea"! . . .