In the eighteenth century, western philosophers and scientists, supposedly the greatest thinkers of their time, generally held the smarter-than-average white male as the supreme being. This was backed, of course, by “scientific observations” (curiously so, by those same superior white males). In an extension of an Aristotelian concept, the law of nature was used to explain the proper places that were to be held by men and women.
According to authors Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Immanuel Kant, women are meek and docile creatures whose sole aim or purpose in life is to serve men and their needs (whatever those may be; whatever the men demand). Kant even goes so far as to say that a woman who receives an education may as well be a man; because as he says, “A woman who has a head full of Greek,…, or carries on fundamental conversations about mechanics,…, might as well even have a beard…”
It appears that women would have a hard time advancing, or even stepping a foot, in the field of science. Or literature, or politics, or any field requiring any sort of “rational thought”. This is not meant to demean the women who were excellent at running a household or business, because those can be difficult in their own right. However, women in those times would be limited in the fields of study, if they were even allowed to study outside of their homes.
Based on the last two excerpts by Carolus Linnaeus and William Cowper, people of color would also have a very difficult time stepping foot into the field of academia. Linnaeus writes that “black, phlegmatic, relaxed Africans” are “governed by caprice”. In class, we learned that being governed by caprice is similar to saying that one does something just to see what will happen, and the person who does these capricious acts are typically considered unpredictable and annoying. He is insinuating that they are of the lowest order of the human race by placing them last on the list and saying that they are practically governed with anarchy. Cowper also chimes in with a lighter tone, albeit a dark message. His poem says that he does not agree with the idea of slavery, but that he would not fight it because he enjoys the spoils of slavery. He does not care as much about the lives of those working under incredibly harsh conditions as he does coffee or tea. This is presumably a satire; but that is not clear to me.
I think that because of these prejudices and discrimination against the female gender and different races certainly could have limited a lot of brilliant minds. There are very intelligent people from all sorts of different backgrounds that might have been excluded from the scene of scientific field in the eighteenth century leading into the nineteenth century.
With such a limited perspective on the order of humans, it seems that the theory of evolution’s progression from the eighteenth century through the nineteenth century would have a long way to go before it could be close to accurate. There were so many observations that had to be made about the true nature of men and women of all types during that time in order to come to the conclusion that race and gender does not make one human better than another. This leaves out all of the other incredible discoveries that were made about evolution that did not pertain to humans or the nature of humans.
*The image included in this blog was found during a search for an appropriate coffee meme. It was found in an imgur album titled “25 Horribly Sexist Vinage Ads” posted by the user baasic. I want to include a disclaimer that the images of ads found in the album are liable to be offensive and do not in any way reflect my own opinions.