I understand humanism to be the meta-ethical view that there exist discoverable (nonmoral) truths about the human condition, that is, about what it means to be human. We might think that as long as I believe I am realizing my unique human potential, I cannot be reasonably contradicted. Yet when we consider systemic oppression, this is unlikely. Systemic oppression makes dehumanizing conditions and treatment seem reasonable. In this paper, I consider the nature of understanding—drawing in particular upon recent defenses of (...) realism in the philosophy of science—and argue that humanism makes sense if we recognize more thoroughly the role of cause and effect in practical deliberation. By this I mean the cause-and-effect relation between mind and body and between minds, bodies, and the world. Three philosophical sources—Marxism, Buddhism and Christianity—show what this might mean, as I indicate in the second half of the paper. (shrink)
: In this essay, I suggest that significant insights of recent feminist philosophy lead, among other things, to the thought that it is not always better to choose than to be compelled to do what one might have done otherwise. However, few feminists, if any, would defend such a suggestion. I ask why it is difficult to consider certain ideas that, while challenging in theory, are, nonetheless, rather unproblematic in practice. I suggest that some questions are not pursued seriously enough (...) by philosophers, because certain popular liberal conceptions of individuality and freedom are taken too much for granted. (shrink)
: In this paper, I argue that stories about difference do not promote critical self and social understanding; rather, on the contrary, it is the way we understand ourselves that makes some stories relevantly different. I discuss the uncritical reception of a story about homosexuality in Cuba, urging attention to generalizations explaining judgments of importance. I suggest that some stories from the South will never be relevant to discussions about human flourishing until we critically examine ideas about freedom and democracy, (...) and their role in national identity, explaining the significance we give, or not, to such stories. (shrink)
Conventional wisdom and commonsense morality tend to take the integrity of persons for granted. But for people in systematically unjust societies, self-respect and human dignity may prove to be impossible dreams.Susan Babbitt explores the implications of this insight, arguing that in the face of systemic injustice, individual and social rationality may require the transformation rather than the realization of deep-seated aims, interests, and values. In particular, under such conditions, she argues, the cultivation and ongoing exercise of moral imagination is necessary (...) to discover and defend a more humane social vision. Impossible Dreams is one of those rare books that fruitfully combines discourses that were previously largely separate: feminist and antiracist political theory, analytic ethics and philosophy of mind, and a wide range of non-philosophical literature on the lives of oppressed peoples around the world. It is both an object lesson in reaching across academic barriers and a demonstration of how the best of feminist philosophy can be in conversation with the best of “mainstream” philosophy—as well as affect the lives of real people. (shrink)
In discussing Drucilla Cornell's remarks about Toni Morrison's Beloved, I consider epistemological questions raised by the acquiring of understanding of racism, particularly the deep-rooted racism embodied in social norms and values. I suggest that questions about understanding racism are, in part, questions about personal and political identities and that questions about personal and political identities are often, importantly, epistemological questions.