Feminist epistemology and philosophy of science studies the ways in which gender does and ought to influence our conceptions of knowledge, the knowing subject, and practices of inquiry and justification. It identifies ways in which dominant conceptions and practices of knowledge attribution, acquisition, and justification systematically disadvantage women and other subordinated groups, and strives to reform these conceptions and practices so that they serve the interests of these groups. Various practitioners of feminist epistemology and philosophy of science argue that dominant (...) knowledge practices disadvantage women by (1) excluding them from inquiry, (2) denying them epistemic authority, (3) denigrating their “feminine” cognitive styles and modes of knowledge, (4) producing theories of women that represent them as inferior, deviant, or significant only in the ways they serve male interests, (5) producing theories of social phenomena that render women's activities and interests, or gendered power relations, invisible, and (6) producing knowledge (science and technology) that is not useful for people in subordinate positions, or that reinforces gender and other social hierarchies. Feminist epistemologists trace these failures to flawed conceptions of knowledge, knowers, objectivity, and scientific methodology. They offer diverse accounts of how to overcome these failures. They also aim to (1) explain why the entry of women and feminist scholars into different academic disciplines, especially in biology and the social sciences, has generated new questions, theories, and methods, (2) show how gender has played a.. (shrink)
I am very grateful for the thoughtful and illuminating comments of Linda Alcoff, Sharyn Clough, Marianne Janack, and Charles Mills on my Hypatia paper. Together, they raise several related questions about the status of value judgments and the roles they might legitimately play in scientific inquiry. Two common concerns relate to the proper scope of the legitimate use of value judgments in science, and whether there are significant differences between value judgments and factual judgments with respect to their revisability. Let (...) me take up these common questions first. (shrink)
Amartya Sen’s ethical theorizing helps feminists resolve the tensions between the claims of women’s particular perspectives and moral objectivity. His concept of ‘‘positional objectivity’’ highlights the epistemological significance of value judgments made from particular social positions, while holding that certain values may become widely shared. He shows how acknowledging positionality is consistent with affirming the universal value of democracy. This article builds on Sen’s work by proposing an analysis of democracy as a set of institutions that aims to intelligently utilize (...) positional information for shared ends. This epistemological analysis of democracy offers a way to understand the rationale for reserving political offices for women. From a political point of view, gendered positions are better thought of as an epistemological resource than as a ground of identity politics – that is, of parochial identification and solidarity. (shrink)
The premise of this symposium is that the principle and ideal developed in Brown v. Board of Education2 and its successor cases lie at the heart of the rationale for affirmative action in higher education. The principle of the school desegregation cases is that racial segregation is an injustice that demands remediation. The ideal of the school desegregation cases is that racial integration is a positive good, without which “the dream of one Nation, indivisible”3 cannot be realized. Both the principle (...) and the ideal make racial integration a compelling interest. The Supreme Court recognized these claims in Grutter v. Bollinger. However, it failed to take full advantage of them. It thereby failed to answer crucial questions that must be answered by policies subject to strict scrutiny. In this essay, I shall display the links tying Grutter to Brown, discuss the vulnerabilities of Grut- ter in the absence of an explicit grounding in Brown, and demonstrate how the affirmative action policy upheld in Grutter, when explicitly grounded in Brown, survives strict scrutiny. To understand this argument, it is helpful first to explain the integrationist perspective that underlies it. (shrink)
My scholarly work on the problem of race relations began with a general inquiry into the theory of economic inequality. Specifically, my 1981 paper, "Intergenerational Transfers and the Distribution of Earnings," which appeared in the journal Econometrica, introduced a model of economic achievement in which a person's earnings depended on a random endowment of innate ability and on skills acquired from formal training. The key feature of this theory was that individuals had to rely on their families to pay for (...) their training. In this way, a person's economic opportunities were influenced by his inherited social position. I showed how, under these circumstances, the distribution of income in each generation could be determined by an examination of what had been obtained by the previous generation. My objective with the model was to illustrate how, in the long run, when people depend on resources available within families to finance their acquisition of skills, economic inequality comes to reflect the inherited advantages of birth. A disparity among persons in economic attainment would bear no necessary connection to differences in their innate abilities. (shrink)
If truth is not unproblematic, then neither is it inaccessible. And, telling the truth is decidedly a political act. "From the viewpoint of politics, truth has a despotic character," declared Hannah Arendt, in her essay, "Truth and Politics." "Unwelcome opinion can be argued with, rejected, or compromised upon," she goes on, "but unwelcome facts possess an infuriating stubbornness that nothing can move except plain lies." Moreover, at this late date in the twentieth century, we know that social justice is impossible (...) unless intellectuals tell the truth. This is a lesson which Vaclav Havel, the Czech playwright turned politician, teaches as well as anyone. In "The Power of the Powerless," his classic essay on the intellectual's role in opposing totalitarianism, he observes that: "Under the orderly surface of the life of lies... there slumbers the hidden sphere of life in its real aims, of its hidden openness to truth.". (shrink)
In Epistemic injustice, Miranda Fricker makes a tremendous contribution to theorizing the intersection of social epistemology with theories of justice. Theories of justice often take as their object of assessment either interpersonal transactions (specific exchanges between persons) or particular institutions. They may also take a more comprehensive perspective in assessing systems of institutions. This systemic perspective may enable control of the cumulative effects of millions of individual transactions that cannot be controlled at the individual or institutional levels. This is true (...) not only with respect to the overall distribution of such goods as income and wealth, but also with respect to the goods of testimonial and hermeneutical justice. Cognitive biases that may be difficult for even epistemically virtuous individuals to correct on their own may be more susceptible to correction if we focus on the principles that should govern our systems of testimonial gathering and assessment. Hence, while Fricker?s focus on individual epistemic virtue is important, we also need to consider what epistemic justice as a virtue of social systems would require. My paper will indicate some directions forward on this front, focusing on the need for integration of diverse institutions and persons engaged in inquiry. (shrink)
Responsible public policy making in a technological society must rely on complex scientific reasoning. Given that ordinary citizens cannot directly assess such reasoning, does this call the democratic legitimacy of technical public policies in question? It does not, provided citizens can make reliable second-order assessments of the consensus of trustworthy scientific experts. I develop criteria for lay assessment of scientific testimony and demonstrate, in the case of claims about anthropogenic global warming, that applying such criteria is easy for anyone of (...) ordinary education with access to the Web. However, surveys show a gap between the scientific consensus and public opinion on global warming in the U.S. I explore some causes of this gap and argue that democratic reforms of our culture of political discourse may be able to address it. (shrink)
In Democratic Authority, David Estlund 2008 presents a major new defense of democracy, called epistemic proceduralism. The theory claims that democracy exercises legitimate authority in virtue of possessing a modest epistemic power: its decisions are the product of procedures that tend to produce just laws at a better than chance rate, and better than any other type of government that is justifiable within the terms of public reason. The balance Estlund strikes between epistemic and non-epistemic justifications of democracy is open (...) to question, both for its neglect of the roles of non-epistemic values of equality and collective autonomy in democracy, and for the ways his use of the public reason standard overshadows empirically based epistemic arguments for democracy. Nevertheless, Estlund presents telling critiques of rival theories and develops a sophisticated alternative that illuminates some central normative features of democracy. (shrink)
John Dewey (1859-1952) lived from the Civil War to the Cold War, a period of extraordinary social, economic, demographic, political and technological change. During his lifetime the United States changed from a rural to an urban society, from an agricultural to an industrial economy, from a regional to a world power. It emancipated its slaves, but subjected them to white supremacy. It absorbed millions of immigrants from Europe and Asia, but faced wrenching conflicts between capital and labor as they were (...) integrated into the urban industrial economy. It granted women the vote, but resisted their full integration into educational and economic institutions. As the face-to-face communal life of small villages and towns waned, it confronted the need to create new forms of community life capable of sustaining democracy on urban and national scales. Dewey believed that neither traditional moral norms nor traditional philosophical ethics were up to the task of coping with the problems raised by these dramatic transformations. Traditional morality was adapted to conditions that no longer existed. Hidebound and unreflective, it was incapable of changing so as to effectively address the problems raised by new circumstances. Traditional philosophical ethics sought to discover and justify fixed moral goals and principles by dogmatic methods. Its preoccupation with reducing the diverse sources of moral insight to a single fixed principle subordinated practical service to ordinary people to the futile search for certainty, stability, and simplicity. In practice, both traditional morality and philosophical ethics served the interests of elites at the expense of most people. To address the problems raised by social change, moral practice needed to be thoroughly reconstructed, so that it contained within itself the disposition to respond intelligently to new circumstances. Dewey saw his reconstruction of philosophical ethics as a means to effect this practical reconstruction. (shrink)
Many problems of inequality in developing countries resist treatment by formal egalitarian policies. To deal with these problems, we must shift from a distributive to a relational conception of equality, founded on opposition to social hierarchy. Yet the production of many goods requires the coordination of wills by means of commands. In these cases, egalitarians must seek to tame rather than abolish hierarchy. I argue that bureaucracy offers important constraints on command hierarchies that help promote the equality of workers in (...) bureaucratic organizations. Bureaucracy thus constitutes a vital if limited egalitarian tool applicable to developing and developed countries alike. (shrink)
Th is paper investigates the epistemic powers of democratic institutions through an assessment of three epistemic models of democracy: the Condorcet Jury Th eorem, the Diversity Trumps Ability Th eorem, and Dewey's experimentalist model. Dewey's model is superior to the others in its ability to model the epistemic functions of three constitutive features of democracy: the epistemic diversity of participants, the interaction of voting with discussion, and feedback mechanisms such as periodic elections and protests. It views democracy as an institution (...) for pooling widely distributed information about problems and policies of public interest by engaging the participation of epistemically diverse knowers. Democratic norms of free discourse, dissent, feedback, and accountability function to ensure collective, experimentallybased learning from the diverse experiences of diff erent knowers. I illustrate these points with a case study of community forestry groups in South Asia, whose epistemic powers have been hobbled by their suppression of women's participation. (shrink)
It is predicted that the rapid acquisition of new genetic knowledge and related applications during the next decade will have significant implications for virtually all members of society. Currently, most people get exposed to information about genes and genetics only through stories publicized in the media. We sought to understand how individuals in the general population used and understood the concepts of “genetics” and “genes.” During in-depth one-on-one telephone interviews with adults in the United States, we asked questions exploring their (...) basic understanding of these terms, as well as their belief as to the location of genes in the human body. A wide range of responses was received. Despite conversational familiarity with genetic terminology, many noted frustration or were hesitant when trying to answer these questions. In addition, some responses reflected a lack of understanding about basic genetic science that may have significant implications for broader public education measures in genetic literacy, genetic counseling, public health practices, and even routine health care. (shrink)
Sunstein represents moral heuristics as rigid rules that lead us to jump to moral conclusions, and contrasts them with reflective moral deliberation, which he represents as independent of heuristics and capable of supplanting them. Following John Dewey's psychology of moral judgment, I argue that successful moral deliberation does not supplant moral heuristics but uses them flexibly as inputs to deliberation. Many of the flaws in moral judgment that Sunstein attributes to heuristics reflect instead the limitations of the deliberative context in (...) which people are asked to render judgments. (shrink)
This paper evaluates the economic assumptions of economic theory via an examination of the capitalist transformation of creditor–debtor relations in the 18th century. This transformation enabled masses of people to obtain credit without moral opprobrium or social subordination. Classical 18th century economics had the ethical concepts to appreciate these facts. Ironically, contemporary economic theory cannot. I trace this fault to its abstract representations of freedom, efficiency, and markets. The virtues of capitalism lie in the concrete social relations and social meanings (...) through which capital and commodities are exchanged. Contrary to laissez faire capitalism, the conditions for sustaining these concrete capitalist formations require limits on freedom of contract and the scope of private property rights. (shrink)
: The underdetermination argument establishes that scientists may use political values to guide inquiry, without providing criteria for distinguishing legitimate from illegitimate guidance. This paper supplies such criteria. Analysis of the confused arguments against value-laden science reveals the fundamental criterion of illegitimate guidance: when value judgments operate to drive inquiry to a predetermined conclusion. A case study of feminist research on divorce reveals numerous legitimate ways that values can guide science without violating this standard.
the arguments in their favour are weak. Arguments based on reciprocity fail to explain why only means-tested public benefits should be subject to work requirements, and why unpaid dependant care work should not count as satisfying citizens’ obligations to reciprocate. Argu- ments based on promoting the work ethic misattribute recipients’ nonwork to deviant values, when their core problem is finding steady employment consistent with supporting a family and meeting dependant care responsibilities. Rigid work requirements impose unreasonable costs on some of (...) the poor. A welfare system based on a rebuttable presumption that recipients will work for pay, conjoined with more generous work supports, would promote justice better than either unconditional welfare or strict requirements . (shrink)
The concept of preference dominates economic theory today. It performs a triple duty for economists, grounding their theories of individual behavior, welfare, and rationality. Microeconomic theory assumes that individuals act so as to maximize their utility – that is, to maximize the degree to which their preferences are satisfied. Welfare economics defines individual welfare in terms of preference satisfaction or utility, and social welfare as a function of individual preferences. Finally, economists assume that the rational act is the act that (...) maximally satisfies an individual's preferences. The habit of framing problems in terms of the concept of preference is now so entrenched that economists rarely entertain alternatives. (shrink)
McLachlan and Swales dispute my arguments against commercial surrogatemotherhood. In reply, I argue that commercial surrogate contractsobjectionably commodify children because they regardparental rights over children not as trusts, to be allocated in the bestinterests of the child, but as like property rights, to be allocatedat the will o the parents. They also express disrespect for mothers, bycompromising their inalienable right to act in the best interest of theirchildren, when this interest calls for mothers to assert a custody rightin their children.
Feminist epistemology has often been understood as the study of feminine "ways of knowing." But feminist epistemology is better understood as the branch of naturalized, social epistemology that studies the various influences of norms and conceptions of gender and gendered interests and experiences on the production of knowledge. This understanding avoids dubious claims about feminine cognitive differences and enables feminist research in various disciplines to pose deep internal critiques of mainstream research.
Most relational theories assert both that spatial discourse is reducible to talk about physical objects and their spatial relations, and that the relation of congruence derives from a non-metrical relation which intervals bear or possibly bear to measuring instruments. We have shown that there are serious logical difficulties involved in maintaining both these positions and the thesis of the continuity of space. We have also shown that Grünbaum's motivating argument for the reduction of congruence is unsound, and, moreover, that the (...) prospects of formulating the kind of definition which this reduction requires seem to rest upon a wholly vague notion of physical possibility. Alternatively, if congruence is taken as primitive, it seems plausible that spatial discourse can be reconstructed so that there is no ontological commitment to spatial objects other than physical objects. Whether or not this relational thesis is ultimately defensible requires more elaboration of the relational theory, and investigation of its role in the formalizations of current physical theories. It is odd, considering the wide currency of relational theories, that this work has never been done. (shrink)