Is Cogito truly a male phenomenon?


Elzbieta Pakszys
The Institue of Philosophy
Adam Mickiewicz University
Poznan, Poland


On reasons and consequences of androgynous approach in human mind studies

In contemporary feminist literature Rene Descartes’ (1596-1650) concept of Cogito has been denounced as an embodiment of exclusively masculine characteristics of human cognition. However, Cogito contains primarily those features of the mind which reflect ones’s self-assertion in subjectively overcoming sceptic dubito and reestablishing his own existence. Likewise, in philosophy, any Rationalist as well as Empiricist current has been regarded as androcentric, merely due to its exclusively male representation troughout history. Also, such formal and applied disciplines as logic, mathematics, geometry and computer science are considered gender-biased. In my paper I first focus on some examples of peculiar “female” cogitos, i.e. women who challanged the historical stereotype with their early and high competence in formal thinking: Maria Gaetana Agnesi(1718-1799); Sophie Germain (1776-1831); Ada A. Byron Lovelace (1815-1852), and others. This part of discussion serves as a basis for a reflection on the timeless issues of male/female mind vis a vis nature/ nurture dichotomy.

The exclusion of women from logic and analytical philosophy in the 20th century, real in numbers, will be illustrated with two contradictory examples:

  1. Polish women from the second generation of the Lvov-Warsaw school: Janina Hosiasson-Lindenbaum, Seweryna Luszczewska-Rohman, Maria Kokoszynska-Lutman, Janina Kotarbinska, Izydora Dambska, Maria Ossowska and
  2. rare women logicians and mathematicians from the Vienna Circle: Olga Hahn-Neurath, Amalie Rosenbluth, Kathe Strauss-Steinhardt, Rose Rand, Olga Taussky-Todd and Else Frenkel-Brunswik.

Contemporary problems of the cogito’s sex/gender will be discussed with reference to the so-called “Polgar sisters chess” experiment in Hungary. The appearance of the three female chess players, fully competitive with the male ones, is crucial for the assessment of the dychotomies in question, relating to human mind diversity.