The Proceedings of the Twenty-First World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 3, 2007

Human Rights

Heather D. Macquarrie
Pages 159-164

Ethics and the Role of Women in Transforming Violent Conflict
Why Hegel Matters

In October 2000, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1325 on "Women, Peace and Security", calling for women's full and equal participation in all aspects of conflict prevention, resolution and peacebuilding. The world is at last recognizing that gender issues and peace are inextricably connected, and that women's involvement in peace efforts is essential for the prevention of renewed conflict. Given the need for women's involvement in peace and security issues, we must address the reasons why women's influence is limited, why they still do not have access to power or leadership roles, while their level of participation in the armed forces is minimal to non-existent. Meanwhile, wars rage. This paper argues that to think through the deeper connections between gender issues and peace is to engage in an unsettling, necessarily philosophical inquiry about the nature of modern ethical life— as a dysfunctional system of separate and competing ethical imperatives: family and state, public and private, individual and state, masculine and feminine. My inquiry is conducted from the standpoint of Hegel's philosophy. In the Phenomenology of Mind. Hegel draws upon the tragedian Sophocles for his insight that once upon a time in the ancient world, universal ethical substance divided itself into distinct ethical spheres of human and divine law. Human relationships to these ethical worlds were shaped by gender. The division of ethical substance precipitated conflicts that eventually caused the ancient world to collapse. For Hegel, the project of modernity is all about the recovery, in self-conscious form, of a harmonious ethical life, through reconciliation of conflicting ethical worlds. Hegel's philosophy of modern life has its shortfalls, but is a powerful resource for the argument that gender justice is a condition for long-lasting peace.