In the Corpus of his biological works, Aristotle investigates the fulfillment of the vital functions of all living beings, which, according to the philosopher’s teleological vision, rank in a hierarchy at whose top is Man, by excellence the complete and perfect being. In such a representation, a description of the female nature finds its place as well, also considered for each animal species and ranking in the same hierarchy. Aristotle’s reflection on the female, both from the physiological and the psychological-behavioral point of view, is always set in relation with the corresponding male. A female nature does not exist by itself, with its own well defined identity, but its characteristics are rather described in relation with the male ones, in most cases in depreciative sense or following quantitative categories. Female’s nature is distinguished by its weakness and frailty, both physical and psychological, as opposite to male’s strength and vigour. However, as soon as Aristotle investigates motherhood, the event which pre-eminently characterizes female’s nature, a sort of reversal of the identity principles occurs. Namely, in order to dignify and bestow some authoritativeness upon the maternal figure, the mother is ascribed a series of characteristics which normally belong only and entirely to the male identity. Therefore, motherhood is brought back to the channels of the male identity, even though with the purpose of dignifying the female, usually depreciated and considered the inferior alter ego of the perfect being: Man.
Soardi, M. (2006). Il femminile come alterità in Aristotele [Sito web].