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Lloyd, Genevieve (1941–)


Born in Cootamundra in New South Wales, Australia, Genevieve Lloyd studied philosophy at the University of Sydney and then at Oxford. Her DPhil, awarded in 1973, was on Time and Tense. From 1967 until 1987 she lectured at the Australian National University, and it was during this period that she developed her most influential ideas and wrote The Man of Reason: "Male" and "Female" in Western Philosophy, which was published in 1984. In 1987 she was appointed to the Chair of Philosophy at the University of New South Wales and was the first female professor of philosophy appointed in Australia.

Lloyd's contribution to feminist thought owes a good deal to Simone de Beauvoir. This is despite the fact that in The Man of Reason she is critical of Beauvoir's adoption of the pursuit of transcendence as the ideal of human excellence. Lloyd argues in this book that the historical notion of transcendence involves overcoming the body, which is represented as feminine, and so is a suspect value for women. At the same time her analysis of the symbolic meaning of philosophical concepts echoes Beauvoir. She follows Beauvoir in representing symbols as fundamentally dualistic, citing the Pythagorean table of opposites alluded to by Beauvoir in The Second Sex. Both agree that for the Pythagoreans, the male is associated with order and the right, light, and rational realm while the female corresponds to chaos and the left, dark, and irrational side of being. In an article published in Australian Feminist Studies in 1989, Lloyd explains that when Beauvoir speaks of woman as other she "is talking about the way culture has constructed the feminineabout its symbolic content" (p. 17). Likewise, Lloyd has been concerned with the ramifications of male power in the construction and control of symbolic structures. Unlike Beauvoir, however, she finds problematic the adoption by women of values traditionally symbolized as masculine. Yet she also shies away from a full endorsement of those strands of feminism of difference, which celebrate the body, emotion, and unreason as sources of essentially female values.

Though emphasizing the metaphorical association of reason with the male and reason's opposites and inferiors with the female, Lloyd is careful to avoid claiming that reason is literally male. In her concluding remarks to The Man of Reason, she says: "The claim that Reason is male need not at all involve sexual relativism about truth, or any suggestion that principles of logical thought valid for men do not hold also for female reasoners" (Lloyd 1984, p. 109). Nevertheless, she wants to avoid treating the maleness of reason as a mere metaphor that can easily be stripped away from the ideal of rationality. Alluding to Michèle Le Doeuff's (1948) claim that the metaphors and images used by philosophers constitute a philosophical imaginary of marginalized tropes integral to the commitments of a text, she undermines the distinction between the literal and metaphorical. Elsewhere she evokes Jacques Derrida's deconstruction of the philosophical distinction between literal truth and metaphorical embellishment. However, Lloyd has not developed a detailed analysis of the relationship between metaphor, literal truth, rational argument, and literary effect, and this lends a certain obscurity to her position.

Despite having inspired Lloyd's line of argument, Le Doeuff has been critical of Lloyd's analysis of Francis Bacon's metaphors, arguing that the association between reason and masculinity discussed by Lloyd and found in the twentieth-century translation of Bacon is not to be found in Bacon's Latin original. She suggests in The Sex of Knowing that in general, historical claims that women are irrational are (false) literal claims intended to undermine women's intellectual authority.

Lloyd argues that Cartesian dualism is particularly problematic for feminism, and in her edited collection Feminism and History of Philosophy, sums up this suspicion. "What made the Cartesian philosophy suspect for feminists was its association with the doctrine of dualismthe rigid separation of minds and bodies as utterly distinct kinds of being. The dichotomy came to be seen as reinforcing the denigration of women, in association with the body, in opposition to the ideal of reason associated with "male 'transcendence'" (Lloyd 2000, p. 9). In her later work, Lloyd urges the fruitfulness for feminism of Benedict de Spinoza's treatment of the mind as an idea of the body, which she interprets as an ontological doctrine that undermines the polarities of the Cartesian tradition. During the 1990s she turned to working on Spinoza and published a number of books on his thought.

It is nevertheless questionable whether Cartesian dualism is literally a suspect metaphysical doctrine for feminists or whether Spinoza's form of monism would serve women better. Feminist historians such as Margaret Atherton (1943) and Hilda Smith (1941) have argued that historically, dualism has favored feminism. Even prior to René Descartes, women such as Christine de Pizan (13651431) were able to point to the immateriality of the soul as evidence that women's souls were the same as men's and so women were men's spiritual equals. Moreover, Descartes's method, with its reliance on reason and clear and distinct ideas, was accessible to women who had not had a university education. Descartes was not himself a misogynist; he took seriously the arguments of his correspondent the Princess Elizabeth of Bohemia (16301714), and his philosophy ushered in a period during which significant numbers of women engaged with the new philosophy.

The impact the perennial but by no means universal association between the mind and a masculine master ought to have on one's views concerning the literal materiality of the soul remains obscure. Lloyd's seminal critique of the rhetoric of the male philosophical tradition has been widely influential. The consequences that one should draw from that critique, and its significance for feminism and metaphysics, remain contested.

See also Bacon, Francis; Beauvoir, Simone de; Cartesianism; Derrida, Jacques; Descartes, René; Pythagoras and Pythagoreanism; Spinoza, Benedict (Baruch) de.


Atherton, Margaret. "Cartesian Reason and Gendered Reason." In A Mind of One's Own: Feminist Essays on Reason and Objectivity, edited by Louise M. Antony and Charlotte Witt, 1934. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1993.

Beauvoir, Simone de. The Second Sex. Translated by H. M. Parshley. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1983.

Broad, Jacqueline. Women Philosophers of the Seventeenth Century. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Le Doeuff, Michèle. The Sex of Knowing. London: Routledge, 2003.

Lloyd, Genevieve, ed. Feminism and History of Philosophy, Oxford Readings in Feminism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Lloyd, Genevieve. " Feminism in History of Ideas: Appropriating the Past." In The Cambridge Companion to Feminism in Philosophy, edited by Miranda Fricker and Jennifer Hornsby, 165172. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Lloyd, Genevieve. "Maleness, Metaphor, and the Crisis of Reason." In A Mind of One's Own, edited by Louise M. Antony and Charlotte Witt, 6983. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1993.

Lloyd, Genevieve. The Man of Reason: "Male" and "Female" in Western Philosophy. London: Methuen, 1984.

Lloyd, Genevieve. Part of Nature: Self-knowledge in Spinoza's Ethics. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1994.

Lloyd, Genevieve. "Rationality." In A Companion to Feminist Philosophy, edited by Alison M. Jaggar and Iris Marion Young, 165172. Oxford: Blackwell, 1998.

Lloyd, Genevieve. Spinoza and the Ethics, Routledge Philosophy Guidebook. London: Routledge, 1996.

Lloyd, Genevieve. "Texts, Metaphors, and the Pretensions of Philosophy." Monist 69 (1986): 87102.

Lloyd, Genevieve. "Woman as Other: Sex, Gender, and Subjectivity." Australian Feminist Studies 10 (1989): 1322.

Pizan, Christine de. The Book of the City of Ladies. Translated by Earl Jeffrey Richards. London: Picador, 1983.

Smith, Hilda L. Reason's Disciples: Seventeenth Century English Feminists. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1982.

Karen Green (2005)

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