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Empowerment and Interconnectivity: Toward a Feminist History of Utilitarian Philosophy

Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Empowerment and Interconnectivity
    Book Description:

    Feminist history of philosophy has successfully focused thus far on canon revision, canon critique, and the recovery of neglected or forgotten women philosophers. However, the methodology remains underexplored, and it seems timely to ask larger questions about how the history of philosophy is to be done and whether there is, or needs to be, a specifically feminist approach to the history of philosophy. In Empowerment and Interconnectivity, Catherine Gardner examines the philosophy of three neglected women philosophers, Catharine Beecher, Frances Wright, and Anna Doyle Wheeler, all of whom were British or American utilitarian philosophers of one stripe or another. Gardner’s focus in this book is less on accounting for the neglect or disappearance of these women philosophers and more on those methodological (or epistemological) questions we need to ask in order to recover their philosophy and categorize it as feminist.

    eISBN: 978-0-271-06126-9
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. INTRODUCTION: Empowerment and Interconnectivity: Toward a Feminist History of Utilitarian Philosophy
    (pp. 1-32)

    The central figures in this book are all nineteenth-century utilitarians of one stripe or another. They also have in common the fact that they have been seen as feminist, although they do not all share the same type of feminist views. Two of them—Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill—are major figures in our Western philosophical canon. Others—Anna Doyle Wheeler, William Thompson, Frances Wright, and Catherine Beecher—are on the margins of our history of philosophy, their work neglected or their philosophical substance questioned or unrecognized.

    What originally drew me to these philosophers was my study of the...

  4. 1 WHEELER AND THOMPSON: The Appeal and the Problem of Empowerment
    (pp. 33-74)

    Anna Doyle Wheeler and William Thompson’s 1825 work,Appeal of One Half the Human Race, Women, Against the Pretensions of the Other Half, Men, to Retain Them in Political, and thence in Civil and Domestic Slavery, is a radical argument that starts with a rebuttal of James Mill’s claim that women’s interests are ‘‘covered’’ by those of their husbands and fathers, and ends with a call for a new form of cooperative living as the only way for there to be true equality—understood as equal happiness—for women. TheAppealbegins with an introductory letter from Thompson to Wheeler...

    (pp. 75-116)

    The next philosopher I wish to examine, Catharine Beecher, is an interesting case. Despite the fact that she was one of the most productive female philosophers of the nineteenth century, and it could be reasonably claimed that she was the first female American philosopher with a fully worked out philosophical system, Beecher is best known as domestic economist.

    Claiming Beecher as a utilitarian feminist philosopher may at first seem a stretch to those who know her only as a domestic economist. Beecher is certainly a utilitarian, but not in the strict classical mode. Her commitment to women has also been...

  6. 3 FRANCES WRIGHT: Interconnectivity and Synthesis
    (pp. 117-153)

    Ernestine Rose, speaking at the tenth National Woman’s Rights Convention in 1859 , said, “Frances Wright was the first woman in this country [the United States] who spoke on the equality of the sexes. She had indeed a hard task before her. . . . She had to break up the time-hardened soil of conservatism, and her reward was sure—the same reward that is always bestowed upon those who are in the vanguard of any great movement. She was subjected to public odium, slander, and persecution” (quoted in Kolmerton 1990, 111). Rose encapsulates the contributions of Wright to feminist...

    (pp. 154-190)

    I now want to use the interpretive lens of the empowerment question, which is admittedly still in its embryonic stage, to examine the works of Westerncanonicalphilosophers who have been claimed as feminist rather than neglected, forgotten, or misinterpreted. I believe that this type of application will allow me to develop the feminist perspective for doing the history of philosophy I want to offer. In this chapter I turn to canonical nineteenth-century (male) philosophers who have written on the subject of women. I briefly discuss claims that James Mill and Jeremy Bentham held feminist views, and I show that...

    (pp. 191-202)

    This work was initiated by my interest in recapturing, evaluating, and interpreting forgotten or neglected historical works of feminist philosophy. In other areas of philosophy, such as ethics or epistemology, feminist philosophers have challenged the maleness and gender biases of the Western intellectual tradition; however, there has been relatively less time spent on examining the maleness and gender bias in how the Western philosophical canonitselfhas been constructed. It is true, but somewhat obvious, that women and feminists have been left out of the canon because of gender bias or sexism; what is less obvious is how women and...

  9. References
    (pp. 203-208)
  10. Index
    (pp. 209-215)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 216-216)