In this paper I develop and support a feminist virtue epistemology and bring it into conversation with feminist contextual empiricism and feminist standpoint theory. The virtue theory I develop is centered on the virtue of epistemic trustworthiness, which foregrounds the social/political character of knowledge practices and products, and the differences between epistemic agencies that perpetuate, on the one hand, and displace, on the other hand, normative patterns of unjust epistemic discrimination. I argue that my view answers (...) important questions regarding epistemic agency which both contextual empiricism and standpoint theory leave open, but need to have answered. Feminist virtue epistemology thus emerges as providing an integrative framework for pluralism in feministepistemology that illuminated connections among theories through engagement with the lived experiences, aspirations, and epistemic work of feminist epistemic agents. (shrink)
Abstract: This essay explores the relation between feministepistemology and the problem of philosophical skepticism. Even though feministepistemology has not typically focused on skepticism as a problem, I argue that a feminist contextualist epistemology may solve many of the difficulties facing recent contextualist responses to skepticism. Philosophical skepticism appears to succeed in casting doubt on the very possibility of knowledge by shifting our attention to abnormal contexts. I argue that this shift in context (...) constitutes an attempt to exercise unearned social and epistemic power and that it should be resisted on epistemic and pragmatic grounds. I conclude that skepticism is a problem that feminists can and should take up as they address the social aspects of traditional epistemological problems. (shrink)
This paper argues that AI follows classical versions of epistemology in assuming that the identity of the knowing subject is not important. In other words this serves to `delete the subject''. This disguises an implicit hierarchy of knowers involved in the representation of knowledge in AI which privileges the perspective of those who design and build the systems over alternative perspectives. The privileged position reflects Western, professional masculinity. Alternative perspectives, denied a voice, belong to less powerful groups including women. (...)Feministepistemology can be used to approach this from new directions, in particular, to show how women''s knowledge may be left out of consideration by AI''s focus on masculine subjects. The paper uncovers the tacitly assumed Western professional male subjects in two flagship AI systems, Cyc and Soar. (shrink)
Although widely recognized as founder and key figure in the current re-emergence of pragmatism, Charles Peirce is rarely brought into contemporary dialogue. In this book, Kory Sorrell shows that Peirce has much to offer contemporary debate and deepens the value of Peirce’s view of representation in light of feministepistemology, philosophy of science, and cultural anthropology. Drawing also on William James and John Dewey, Sorrell identifies ways in which bias, authority, and purpose are ineluctable constituents of shared representation. (...) He nevertheless defends Peirce’s realistic account of representation, showing how the independently real world both constrains social representation and informs its content. Most importantly, Sorrell shows how members of a given community not only represent but transform a shared world—and how those practices of representation may, and should, be improved. (shrink)
In this paper, we examine some issues debated in mainstream epistemology for which the social features of knowledge are relevant, such as the epistemic relevance of social contexts, the nature of practical knowledge, and the epistemic role of testimony. In the first part of the paper, we show how feminist epistemologies have usefully stressed the social character of knowledge in many central areas of debate within mainstream epistemology. We call these the virtues of feministepistemology: (...) the denial of the neutrality and autonomy of the epistemic subject, the focus on practical knowledge, and the ensuing attention to the social dimensions of the epistemic process. Our conclusion on the social dimensions of knowledge is the thesis that the epistemic subject can know only in connection with others. In the second part of the paper, we address the issue of the plausibility of feminist epistemologies by discussing three main criticisms which have been raised against them. We conclude that, even if these criticisms are valid, the legacy of feminist epistemologies remains because the social features of knowledge are plausibly significant not only within but also without the perspectives of feminist epistemologies. (shrink)
More than one philosopher has expressed puzzlement at the very idea of feministepistemology. Metaphysics and epistemology, sometimes called the 'core' areas of philosophy, are supposed to be immune to questions of value and justice. Nevertheless, many philosophers have raised epistemological questions starting from feminist-motivated moral and political concerns. The field is burgeoning; a search of the Philosopher's Index reveals that although nothing was published before 1981 that was categorized as both feminist and epistemology, (...) soon after, the rate of publication in feministepistemology rose to between 15 and 25 articles per year.1 At the same time, social epistemology was also beginning to grow as a separate identifiable field of inquiry. (shrink)
Recent work in naturalised epistemology has focused almost exclusively on the intersection of cognitive psychology and theory of knowledge; work from sociolinguistics is just now beginning to gain ground. At the same time, feminist epistemologies have striven to articulate the precise paths of connectedness and relatedness that gynocentric theory standardly postulates as being characteristic of female ways of knowing. This paper attempts to articulate the intersection of sociolinguistically naturalised epistemology and feminist theory of knowledge. A model (...) of gynocentrically centred justification is presented, and it is concluded that the intersection of these areas is a rich and rewarding one. (shrink)
Feministepistemology 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 feministepistemology 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)
Feministepistemology has often been understood as the study of feminine "ways of knowing." But feministepistemology 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.
This essay surveys twenty-five years of feministepistemology in the pages of Hypatia. Feminist contributions have addressed the affective dimensions of knowledge; the natures of justification, rationality, and the cognitive agent; and the nature of truth. They reflect thinking from both analytic and continental philosophical traditions and offer a rich tapestry of ideas from which to continue challenging tradition and forging analytical tools for the problems ahead.
This article examines the best contemporary arguments for a feministepistemology of scientific knowledge as found in recent works by S. Harding. I argue that no feministepistemology of science is worthy of the name, because such an epistemology fails to escape well-known vicissitudes of epistemic relativism. But feministepistemology merits attention from philosophers of science because it is part of a larger relativist turn in the social sciences and humanities that now aims (...) to extend its critique to science, and Harding's "standpoint feminism" is the best-developed case. She attempts to make new use of discredited philosophical ideas concerning underdetermination, Planck's Hypothesis, and the role of counterfactuals in historical studies of science. (shrink)
The juxtaposition encompassed in the phrase "feministepistemology" strikes some feminist theorists and mainstream epistemologists as incongruous. To others, the phrase signals the view that epistemology and the philosophy of science are not what some of their practitioners and advocates have wanted or claimed them to be-but also are not "dead," as some of their critics proclaim. This essay explores the grounds for and implications of each view and recommends the second.
I understand feministepistemology to be epistemology put at the service of feminist politics. That is, a feministepistemology is dedicated to answering the many questions about knowledge that arise in the course of feminist efforts to understand and transform patriarchal structures, questions such as: Why have so many intellectual traditions denigrated the cognitive capacities of women? Are there gender differences in epistemic capacities or strategies, and what would be the implications for (...) class='Hi'>epistemology if there were? I argue here that such questions situate feministepistemology much more in mainstream epistemological discussion than probably most feminists would admit, finding that, at least for issues in these areas, the naturalistic approach to the study of knowledge advocated by W. V. Quine has been extremely useful. (shrink)
Lines of argument to support the notion that global bioethics can use work from feministepistemology are set out, and much of the support for such contentions comes from specific cases of ethical issues in indigenous cultures. Theorists such as Kuhse, Arizpe, Egnor and Bumiller are cited, and it is concluded that local feminist epistemologies often conflict with standard ethical views, but that the failure to incorporate feminist thought undercuts hopes to establish a viable bioethics on (...) an international scale. (shrink)
Surgery is an important part of contemporary health care, but currently much of surgery lacks a strong evidence base. Uptake of evidence-based medicine (EBM) methods within surgical research and among practitioners has been slow compared with other areas of medicine. Although this is often viewed as arising from practical and cultural barriers, it also reflects a lack of epistemic fit between EBM research methods and surgical practice. In this paper we discuss some epistemic challenges in surgery relating to this lack (...) of fit, and investigate how resources from feministepistemology can help to characterize them. We point to ways in which these epistemic challenges may be addressed by gathering and disseminating evidence about what works in surgery using methods that are contextual, pluralistic, and sensitive to hierarchies. (shrink)
In her elaboration of the distinction between connected knowing and separate knowing, Professor Clinchy addresses some conceptual relations that are central to Polanyi’s epistemology. I believe Polanyi would be happy to see the strong echoes ofhis thoughts in feministepistemology, and the feminists will find substantial support from Polanyi’s philosophy.
While most of healthcare research and practice fully endorses evidence-based healthcare, a minority view borrows popular themes from philosophy of science like underdetermination and value-ladenness to question the legitimacy of the evidence-based movement’s philosophical underpinnings. While the feminist origins go unacknowledged, those critics adopt a feminist reading of the “gap argument” to challenge the perceived objectivism of evidence-based practice. From there, the critics seem to despair over the “subjective elements” that values introduce to clinical reasoning, demonstrating that they (...) do not subscribe to feminist science studies’ normative program——where contextual values can enable good science and justified decisions. In this paper, I investigate why it is that the critics of evidence-based medicine adopt feminist science’s characterization of the problem but resist the productive solutions offered by those same theorists. I suggest that the common feminist empiricist appeal to idealized epistemic communities is impractical for those working within the current biomedical context and instead offer an alternate stream of feminist research into the empirical content of values (found in the work of Elizabeth Anderson and Sharyn Clough) as a more helpful recourse for facilitating the important task of legitimate and justified clinical decision-making. I use a case study on clinical decision-making to illustrate the fruitfulness of the latter feminist empiricist framework. -/- Keywords: Evidence; Underdetermination; Gap Argument; Value Judgments; Value-laden Inquiry; FeministEpistemology of Science; Evidence-based Medicine; Clinical Reasoning; Epistemic Communities. (shrink)
In this post-9/11 era marked by religious and ethnic conflicts and the rise of cultural intolerance, ambiguities arising from the conflation of multiculturalism, sexism, and religious fundamentalism jeopardize the delivery of culturally safe nursing care to non-Western populations. This new social reality requires nurses to develop a heightened awareness of health issues pertaining to racism and ethnocentrism to provide culturally safe care to non-Western immigrants or refugees. Through the lens of post-colonial feminism, this paper explores the challenge of providing culturally (...) safe nursing care in the context of the post-9/11 in Canadian healthcare settings. A critical appraisal of the literature demonstrates that post-colonial feminism, despite some limitations, remains a valuable theoretical perspective to apply in cultural nursing research and develop culturally safe nursing practice. Post-colonial feminism offers the analytical lens to understand how health, social and cultural context, race and gender intersect to impact on non-Western populations' health. However, an uncritical application of post-colonial feminism may not serve racialized men's and women's interests because of its essentialist risk. Post-colonial feminism must expand its epistemological assumptions to integrate Taylor's concept of identity and recognition and Bakhtin's concepts of dialogism and unfinalizability to explore non-Western populations' health issues and the context of nursing practice. This would strengthen the theoretical adequacy of post-colonial feminist approaches in unveiling the process of racialization that arises from the conflation of multiculturalism, sexism, and religious fundamentalism in Western healthcare settings. (shrink)
This collection is one of the first to offer feminist perspectives on epistemology from thinkers outside North America. It presents essays from an international group of contributors, including Rosi Braidotti, Gemma Corradi Fiumara, Anna Yeatman, Sabina Lovibond and Liz Stanley. Using approaches and methods from both analytic and continental philosophy, the contributors engage with questions of traditional epistemology and with issues raised by postmodernist critiques. The essays deal with the central question of difference: the difference which a (...)feminist perspective yields in relation to traditional knowledge and the effects on feminist perspectives of differences between women. This awareness of difference requires a re-evaluation of the idea of objectivity and the justification of knowledge claims in ways that focus attention on the subjects who constitute the knowledge producers. Knowing the Difference presents some of the most innovative thinking in feministepistemology and sets the agenda for the next decade. (shrink)
Alexandra Shuford's book is primarily designed to address the following question: "What can Deweyan pragmatism contribute to a feminist empiricist epistemology?" (viii). Her answer is Dewey's conception of habit, and in her final chapter, she illustrates the utility of this conception by comparing what she labels the "medicalized" model of labor and birth to that employed by practitioners of midwifery. Before looking at Shuford's reading of this contrast more closely, however, it needs to be noted at the outset (...) that she also regards her constructive project to be one of "augmenting" or "extending" the efforts of Lynn Hankinson Nelson to formulate a feminist empiricism derived from Quine's naturalized epistemology. .. (shrink)
Feminist epistemologists who attempt to refigure epistemology must wrestle with a number of dualisms. This essay examines the ways Lorraine Code, Sandra Harding, and Susan Hekman reconceptualize the relationship between self/other, nature/culture, and subject/object as they struggle to reformulate objectivity and knowledge.
Many feminist epistemologists have been inclined to embrace socialized epistemology. There are, however, many different theses that go by that name. Sandra Harding, Lynn Hankinson Nelson, and Elizabeth Potter hold various of these theses, but their reasons for holding those theses, while they do support less ambitious theses, do not support the theses they are offered to support.
Feminist philosophy of science has been criticized on several counts. On the one hand, it is claimed that it results in relativism of the worst sort since the political commitment to feminism is prima facie incompatible with scientific objectivity. On the other hand, when critics acknowledge that there may be some value in work that feminists have done, they comment that there is nothing particularly feminist about their accounts. I argue that both criticisms can be addressed through a (...) better understanding of the current work in feministepistemology. I offer an examination of standpoint theory as an illustration. Harding and Wylie have suggested ways in which the objectivity question can be addressed. These two accounts, together with a third approach, ‘model-based objectivity’, indicate there is a clear sense in which we can understand how standpoint theory both contributes to a better understanding of scientific knowledge and can provide a feministepistemology. (shrink)
In this ground breaking new book, Kirsten Campbell takes up the debate, but instead of asking what feminist politics is or should be, she examines how feminism changes the ways we understand ourselves and others. Using Lacanian psychoanalysis as a starting point, Campbell examines contemporary feminism's turn to accounts of feminist "knowing" to create new conceptions of the political, before going on to develop a theory of that feminist knowing as political practice in itself.
: Some feminist epistemologists make the radical claim that there are varieties of epistemically valid warrant that agents access only through having lived particular types of contingent history, varieties of epistemic warrant to which, moreover, the confirmation-theoretic accounts of warrant favored by some traditional epistemologists are inapplicable. I offer Aristotelian virtue as a model for warrant of this sort, and use loosely Aristotelian vocabulary to express, and begin to evaluate, a range of feminist epistemological positions.
As has been noted by Alvin Goldman, there are some very interesting similarities between his Veritistic Social Epistemology (VSE) and Sandra Harding's Feminist Standpoint Theory (FST). In the present paper, it is argued that these similarities are so significant as to motivate an incorporation of FST into VSE, considering that (i) a substantial common ground can be found; (ii) the claims that go beyond this common ground are logically compatible; and (iii) the generality of VSE not only does (...) justice to the inclusive ambition of FST, but even solves a well-discussed problem for the latter. (shrink)
This essay proposes a possible direction for feministepistemology-an embodied rationality that defines the process of knowing as a dialogue with particulars or the "things themselves." On the grounds that modern reality is marked by abstract projects of homo mensura, I argue that the task of postmodernism is to ground cognition in the world by breaking the habit of looking at the world, as if from a distance, and by ceasing to think about the world as if it (...) were composed of a collection of objects-in-general. (shrink)
This article explores the epistemological and strategic issues facing feminists embarking upon narrative explorations into women's experiences. It considers the implications for feministepistemology of acknowledging women's participation in dominant ideologies about their social role. Focusing upon questions of women's agency, it asks how this `conforming knowledge' might complicate postmodernist feminist notions of resisting and reconstructing law's categorisation of `Woman'. It also represents an attempt to clarify, in advance of my own analysis of women's agency in abortion (...) decision-making, why postmodern feminists might talk to women – the `subjects' of law's constructive power. It seeks additionally to open a discussion among a wider audience of feminists about what we might do with the information uncovered through listening to women's own stories in an area pronounced upon authoritatively by a multitude of discourses. (shrink)
Meynell’s contention is that feminists should attend to pictures in science as distinctive bearers of epistemic content that cannot be reduced to propositions. Remarks on the practice and function of medical illustration—specifically, images Nancy Tuana used in her discussion of the construction of ignorance of women’s sexual function (2004)—show pictures to be complex and powerful epistemic devices. Their affinity with perennial feminist concerns, the relation between epistemic subject and object, and the nature of social knowledge, are of particular interest.
Sandra Harding's feminist standpoint epistemology makes two claims. The thesis of epistemic privilege claims that unprivileged social positions are likely to generate perspectives that are “less partial and less distorted” than perspectives generated by other social positions. The situated knowledge thesis claims that all scientific knowledge is socially situated. The bias paradox is the tension between these two claims. Whereas the thesis of epistemic privilege relies on the assumption that a standard of impartiality enables one to judge some (...) perspectives as better than others, the situated knowledge thesis seems to undermine this assumption by suggesting that all knowledge is partial. I argue that a contextualist theory of epistemic justification provides a solution to the bias paradox. Moreover, contextualism enables me to give empirical content to the thesis of epistemic privilege, thereby making it into a testable hypothesis. (shrink)
While feminist epistemologists have made important contributions to the deconstruction of the traditional representationalist model, some elements of the Cartesian legacy remain. For example, relativism continues to play a role in the underdetermination thesis used by Longino and Keller. Both argue that because scientific theories are underdetermined by evidence, theory choice must be relative to interpretive frameworks. Utilizing Davidson's philosophy of language, I offer a nonrepresentationalist alternative to suggest how relativism can be more fully avoided.
Work on representing women's voices in ethics has produced a vision of moral understanding profoundly subversive of the traditional philosophical conception of moral knowledge. I explicate this alternative moral "epistemology," identify how it challenges the prevailing view, and indicate some of its resources for a liberatory feminist critique of philosophical ethics.
The paper proposes that gender can be used to explore alternative epistemologies represented within AI systems. Current research on feministepistemology is reviewed then criticisms of the main philosophical position dominant in AI are outlined. These criticisms say little about epistemology and nothing about gender. It is suggested that the way forward might be found within the sociology of scientific knowledge as its approach is in accord with the postmodernist view of feministepistemology in seeing (...) knowledge as a cultural product. However, the sociology of knowledge must brush up its feminist credentials and feministepistemology must supply more concrete examples with which to test out our theories in AI. (shrink)
Originally titled “Institutional, Group, and Individual Virtue,” this was my paper for an Invited Symposium on "Intersections between Social, Feminist, and Virtue Epistemologies," APA Pacific Division Meeting, April 2011, San Diego. -/- Abstract: This paper examines recent research on individual, social, and institutional virtues and vices; the aim is to explore and make proposals concerning their inter-relationships, as well as to highlight central questions for future research with the study of each. More specifically, the paper will focus on how (...) these studies can be approached in a systematic way such that it contributes to greater convergence between virtue theory, feministepistemology, and social epistemology. To this end the paper develops a model of responsibility qua diachronic (longitudinal) assessment of the inquiry-directed agential habits (motivations, activities, and strategies), while explaining the place of this model within a broader, 15-point proposed “Responsibilist” research program. (shrink)
This collection of essays, first published two decades ago, presents central feminist critiques and analyses of natural and social sciences and their philosophies. Unfortunately, in spite of the brilliant body of research and scholarship in these fields in subsequent decades, the insights of these essays remain as timely now as they were then: philosophy and the sciences still presume kinds of social innocence to which they are not entitled. The essays focus on Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Hobbes, Rousseau, and Marx; (...) on the 'adversary method' model of philosophic reasoning; on principles of individuation on philosophical ontology and philosophy of language; on individualistic assumptions in psychology; functionalism in sociological and biological theory; evolutionary theory; the methodology of political science; and conceptions of objective inquiry in the sciences. In taking insights of both Liberal and Marxian women's movements into the purportedly most abstract and value-free areas of Western thought, these essays chart sexist and androcentric assumptions, claims and practices in the cognitive, technical cores of Western sciences and their philosophies. They begin to identify the distinctive aspects of women's experiences and locations in male-supremacist social structures which can provide resources needed for the creation of post-androcentric thinking in research, scholarship, and public policy. Such uses of feminist insights remain controversial today, and even among some feminists. These authors were all junior researchers and scholars two decades ago; today many are among the most distinguished senior scholars in their fields. Their work here provides a splendid opportunity for upper-level undergraduate and graduate students in philosophy and the social sciences to explore some of the most intriguing and controversial challenges to disciplinary projects and to public policy today. (shrink)