Philosophy in a Feminist Voice

Philosophy in a Feminist Voice: Critiques and Reconstructions

Copyright Date: 1998
Pages: 344
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  • Book Info
    Philosophy in a Feminist Voice
    Book Description:

    In this book, Janet Kourany offers an antidote to the pervasive and pernicious strains in Western philosophy that discount women. Most areas of Western philosophy tend not only to ignore women, but also to perpetuate long-standing antifeminine biases of the society as a whole. It does not have to be this way. Rather than be part of the problem, philosophy can be a powerful force for much needed social change. In this collection of essays by some of the most noted feminist philosophers, Kourany showcases ideas on the newest work of Western philosophy that is benefiting women as well as men. Included here are articles by Eileen O'Neill, Louise Antony, Virginia Held, Susan Okin, Carolyn Korsmeyer, Nancy Frankenberry, Lorraine Code, Janet Kourany, Andrea Nye, and Susan Bordo, all of whom show further directions in which philosophy ought to proceed.

    This book demonstrates that feminist philosophy is not a separate area of philosophy that can safely be ignored by philosophers not "in" it. Rather, it relates to at least most of the major areas of philosophy, and its gains will stand to benefit all philosophers, no matter what their field.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2232-4
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. INTRODUCTION Philosophy in a Feminist Voice?
    (pp. 3-16)

    What is philosophy good for? Why do we do it, and why do we teach it and study it? Does it provide us with a deeper understanding of knowledge and reality, justice and virtue “than that somewhat chaotic view which everyone by nature carries about with him under his hat”?¹ Does it enable us to enlighten and empower artists and scientists and theologians and jurists with special insights into their fields? Does it enable us to live more satisfying lives? Exactly what does philosophy accomplish?

    Make the question more focused and concrete. We tell our students philosophy will do valuable...

  6. HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY Disappearing Ink: Early Modern Women Philosophers and Their Fate in History
    (pp. 17-62)

    Women are not included in the standard nineteenth- and twentieth-century histories of European philosophy as significant, original contributors to the discipline’s past. Indeed, only a few women’s names even survive in the footnotes of these histories; by the twentieth century, most had disappeared entirely from our historical memory. But recent research, influenced by feminist theory and a renewed interest in the history of philosophy, has uncovered numerous women who contributed to philosophy over the centuries.

    Ancient Women Philosophers 600 b.c.–500 a.d., the first volume of Mary Ellen Waithe’sHistory of Women Philosophers, has provided a detailed discussion of the...

  7. PHILOSOPHY OF PERSONS “Human Nature” and Its Role in Feminist Theory
    (pp. 63-91)

    Essentially positive conceptions of human nature have figured prominently in the normative theories of Western philosophers: Aristotle, Rousseau, Kant, and many others based their general ethical and political systems on substantive assumptions about the capacities and dispositions of human beings. Many of these views have been interpreted as affirming the inherent moral value and essential equality of all human beings, and a few have provided inspiration for emancipatory movements, including feminism.

    Nonetheless, for anyone who would find in these theories a message of universal equality, there is one immediate difficulty: none of the major philosophers intended their claims about the...

  8. ETHICS Feminist Reconceptualizations in Ethics
    (pp. 92-115)

    When feminist perspectives are brought to bear in ethics, they may at first suggest topics overlooked or neglected by the philosophical field of inquiry known as “moral philosophy” or “ethics.” Such topics include discrimination against women and justifiable remedies, abortion and reproductive technologies and the moral problems involved, violence against women, and many others.

    Soon attention may be turned to the moral theory appealed to in any discussion of ethical problems. And it will be seen that moral theory, like other philosophical theory, has a long history of gender bias.¹ Ethics, like most of philosophy, has been built on assumptions,...

  9. POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY Feminism and Political Theory
    (pp. 116-144)

    We are sometimes said to be living in a postfeminist era. Whether this is supposed to mean that feminism has been vanquished, or that it has lost its point or its urgency because its aims have been largely fulfilled, the claim is false. Women are still second-class citizens, very far from equality with men in a number of crucial respects. In the United States, 85 percent of elected officeholders (and far more at the highest levels) are still male—a situation more or less replicated in other nations, except for most of the Nordic countries. A similar state of underrepresentation...

  10. AESTHETICS Perceptions, Pleasures, Arts: Considering Aesthetics
    (pp. 145-172)

    Feminist analyses have been especially productive in the critical scrutiny of basic, formative concepts of a field. So many of the fundamental concepts of philosophy have been discovered to carry a gendered significance, that the old assumptions about the universal scope of philosophical claims regarding human nature, values, knowledge, ontology, perception, and the mind can no longer be taken for granted. All of these categories have a place in aesthetics, and in this essay I shall outline feminist critiques as they have developed within aesthetics and related areas in philosophy and art theory.¹

    The field of aesthetics is unusually diverse,...

  11. PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION Philosophy of Religion in Different Voices
    (pp. 173-203)

    Ranging from the scalding critique of Stanton to the reconstructive reflections of Irigaray, feminist philosophy of religion has been marked by a complex set of relations to the subject matter of religion, as well as to the discipline of philosophy. For those who find that the backlash against feminism and the revival of the religious right threaten to contribute as much to “women’s degradation” as old “theological superstitions” do, Stanton’s reasoning is still persuasive: the Word of God is the word of man, used to keep women in subjection and to hinder their emancipation. For others, who tend to identify...

  12. EPISTEMOLOGY Voice and Voicelessness: A Modest Proposal?
    (pp. 204-230)

    In a 1986 essay, I contend that stories “convey something about cognitive and moral experiences … that slips through the formalist nets of moral principles and duties, or standards of evidence and justification.” I continue: “The modest proposal urged here is that perhaps, by taking stories into account, theorists will be able to repair some of the rifts in continuity … between moral theory and moral experiences, and theory of knowledge and cognitive experiences.”¹ A student in my 1992 Philosophy and Feminism course has prompted me to take this passage as my point of departure here. Why, he asked, do...

  13. PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE A New Program for Philosophy of Science, in Many Voices
    (pp. 231-262)

    Science, a man? Science, infected? Isn’t this all nonsense? A category mistake? An oxymoron? And what does this have to do with philosophy of science?

    Certainly some of the most distinguished founders of modern Western science—the “fathers,” as it were, present at, and participating in, its (motherless) “birth”—did not think it nonsense to speak of their new charge in masculine terms. With the birth of modern Western science the proper objects of knowledge had shifted from forms—whether Platonic transcendent forms or Aristotelian abstract intelligible principles informing material things—to matter, nature construed as mere mechanism, a machine...

  14. PHILOSOPHY OF LANGUAGE Semantics in a New Key
    (pp. 263-295)

    If few feminist, African, Asian, or Hispanic philosophers have undertaken the conceptual leaps and imaginative projections necessary to enter the “alien hermeneutical circle” of contemporary English-speaking philosophy of language, only the most recalcitrant of male or white chauvinists would now claim, at least in public, that the reason is lack of intellectual ability.

    The failure of women or nonwhite male philosophers to take an interest in semantics would most likely be explained by disinclination: disinclination to take on the rigorous, brain-bending conceptual work of a properly scientific philosophy of language. In what follows, I will argue that this explanation does...

  15. AFTERWORD The Feminist as Other
    (pp. 296-312)

    As cultural critics, feminist theorists have produced powerful challenges: to dominant conceptions of human nature and political affiliation, to norms of scientific, philosophical, and moral reason, to ideals of spirituality, to prevailing disciplinary identities and boundaries, to established historical narratives. Yet how often do we see feminist theorists listed alongside Foucault, Derrida, Rorty, Taylor, Kuhn, or Fish as critics and reshapers of “The Disciplines,” “Science,” “Philosophy,” “Culture”? The answer is: rarely. More often we encounter a version of Edward Said’s formulation: “There are certainly new critical trends … great advances made in … humanistic interpretation…. Wedoknow more about...

  16. INDEX
    (pp. 313-322)