David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Ezio Di Nucci
Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa
Jack Alan Reynolds
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The split in our thinking between "masculine" and "feminine" is probably as old as language itself. Human beings seem to have a natural tendency to divide things into pairs: good/bad, light/dark, subject/object and so on. It is not surprising, then, that the male/female or masculine/feminine dichotomy is used to classify things other than men and women. Many languages actually classify all nouns as "masculine" or "feminine" (although not very consistently: for example, the Spanish masculine noun pollo means "hen", while the feminine polla is slang for "penis"). This is perfectly natural; it is part of the way categorisation works in language. This does not, however, mean that it is right. It is probably unimportant whether a table or a chair is thought of as masculine or feminine. It may not even be very important these days whether we think of the sun as male and the moon as female (like the ancient Greeks) or vice versa (like most of the German tribes). However, when we start associating abstract concepts like Reason or Nature with men and women, we run into serious difficulties.
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