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Whether the male is better suited for proper behavior [mores] than the female.

One inquires further whether the male is better suited for proper behavior than the female.

1. And it seems not. For an animal that is more teachable for proper behavior is more suitable. But according to the Philosopher in the beginning of the ninth book, the female is more teachable toward proper behavior than is the male. And this seems to be because of the argument that females resemble children, according to the Philosopher in this chapter. But children are more teachable than old people, as the Philosopher wishes in the second book of the Ethics. Therefore, etc.

2. In addition, prudence is an intellectual virtue. Without it, moral virtue cannot be perfected. But females are more prudent than males, as the Philosopher wishes. Therefore, etc.

The opposite is stated in the ninth book of this work, and this is clear. For generally, proverbially, and commonly it is affirmed that women are more mendacious and fragile, more diffident, more shameless, more deceptively eloquent, and, in brief, a woman is nothing but a devil fashioned into a human appearance. Thus I saw one like this at Cologne, who seemed to be a saint and yet, in brief, ensnared everyone with her love.

To this, one must reply that a female is less suited for proper behavior than is a male. For a female's complexion is moister than a male's, but it belongs to a moist complexion to receive [impressions] easily but to retain them poorly. For moisture is easily mobile and this is why women are inconstant and always seeking after new things. Therefore, when she is engaged in the act under one man, at that very moment she would wish, were it possible, to lie under another. Therefore, there is no faithfulness in a woman.

Believe me: if you believe her you will be deceived. Believe a teacher who has experienced it.[1]

Moreover, an indication of this is that wise men almost never disclose their plans and their doings to their wives. For a woman is a flawed male and, in comparison to the male, has the nature of defect and privation, and this is why naturally she mistrusts herself. And this is why whatever she cannot acquire on her own she strives to acquire through mendacity and diabolical deceptions. Therefore, to speak briefly, one must be as mistrustful of every woman as of a venomous serpent and a horned devil, and if it were allowed to say what I know about women, it would stupefy the entire world.[2]

1. On to the arguments. To the first, one must reply that instruction is of two types: for one is given concerning things that can be done [operabilibus] with respect to affect, and the other is given concerning things subject to cognition [intelligibilibus], and this consists in understanding and deliberating. As far as the first is concerned, the female is more teachable than the male, because she is more easily moved to different affects, toward which she is disposed. But as far as the second is concerned, the contrary obtains because the sensible powers are weaker in a woman owing to the coldness of her complexion, since she has a poorer sense of touch and, as a result, a weaker intellect.

2. To the second argument one must reply that a woman is not more prudent than a male, properly speaking, but she is cleverer. Therefore, prudence smacks of good, and cleverness smacks of evil. Therefore, the female is more prudent, that is, cleverer, than the male with respect to evil and perverse deeds, because the more nature departs from the one operation, the more it inclines toward the other. In this way, the woman falls short in intellectual operations, which consist in the apprehension of the good and in knowledge of truth and flight from evil. This is why one who inclines to evil inclines more to sensitive appetite, unless she is ruled by reason, as is apparent in the seventh book of the Ethics. Therefore, sense moves the female to every evil, just as intellect moves a man to every good. And this is why, etc.

  • [1] Corner identifies the first line of this couplet as stemming from the Catonis Disticha, but the second line is based on a phrase common throughout antiquity and frequently used by Michael Scot. See Corner (1983), 307-8. Cf. Haskins (1928), Otto (1890), 127, and Buchmann (1952), 226.
  • [2] "If it were allowed": A. uses the term fas est, which in antiquity meant allowed by divine law. One wonders if he were referring to prohibitions against
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