The Philosophy Café

Is the Ideal Man a Real Man?


September 29, 2014
7:30 PM


Used Books Department
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138


This event is free; no tickets are required.

This month's topic: Is the Ideal Man a Real Man?

Have you ever said “That’s what I call a real man!”? Or heard, “I’m looking for a real man.”? How did you understand that? What is a real man?
Is the real man too macho, too aggressive, too defined by power over women to survive as an ideal? Do we follow the star of our evolving ideals toward perfect equality, peace, and cooperation, or do we love some differences between men and women too much? Do we want some asymmetry to guarantee a battle of the sexes—and a reconciliation?
The archetype of the real man is big and strong, with a big, strong voice: he’s ready to command, and to fight if he has to. Does a real man always use his strength and courage for good? Is a real man always good? Is Whitey Bulger a real man?
Traditionally a real man would protect and provide. Then what happens when the protecting demands no physical combat and the providing is done with the mind more than the body? What happens in rich democracies, with their ideals of equality and professionalism? Is our relatively secure life, so heavenly compared with the struggles of the past, a garden where real men tend to be dangerous and disruptive, threatening the peace of the community? Or do we still need real men? What for?
Physical skill, skill with tools and machines, with his hands, helps make a man real. Is there something working-class about this? Is the key ingredient a little dirt? Can a gentleman be a real man? How civilized can a real man be, and how uncivilized? Do real men read poetry? Philosophy? Can a real man be gay? How do men change when they become skilled at repairing computer programs instead of cars?
What is an unreal man? A nerd? A dork? A geek? A saint? Here sexual power comes in: attractiveness, and attraction, to women. Magnetic opposites attract. Does a real man beget many children? If not, will evolution kill him off? Are women voting against him with their wombs?
Is fidelity the realest part of a real man? Do we judge his fidelity by what temptations he faithfully resists?
Are there differences between the sexes that we should encourage, and cultivate? Would you bring your baby up to be a real man? Why? How? Should big boys cry? Should they fight? Should we value aggressive competitiveness in men? How about in women?
Used Books Department
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes

As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and the Adidas Store. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.

Event Series: Philosophy Café

The Philosophy Café is a monthly gathering meant for the informal, relaxed, philosophical discussion of topics of mutual interest to participants. No particular expertise is required to participate, only a desire to explore philosophy and its real-world applications. Each month's topic with suggested readings is posted in advance. More information can be found at

The Philosophy Café is generally held on the last Monday of each month (September through June) at 7:30 in the Used Book department on the lower level of Harvard Book Store. (Date and time subject to change.) The discussion will end at 9pm.

Space and chairs are limited. Please plan to arrive early.

General Info
(617) 661-1515

Media Inquiries

Accessibility Inquiries

Support Your Local Indie Bookstore

Here are a few of the ways you can support your bookstore during challenging and uncertain times.

Learn More »

Shipping & Delivery

Shipping rates
and options, locally
and throughout
the U.S.

Learn More »

Gift Cards

Support Harvard Book Store's tomorrow. Buy a gift card today. Redeemable in the store and on, and they never expire.

Learn More »