About this topic
Summary If metaphysics is the study of what there is and what it is like— of what exists and the nature of that which exists (actually or potentially), then feminist metaphysics is metaphysics that pays particular attention to potential gender biases in our metaphysical methods, concepts, and theories. Along with other branches of feminist inquiry, it is a central tenet of feminist metaphysics that knowledge, including metaphysical knowledge, is socially situated, and thus that we need to attend to the social environment in which our theorizing takes place and the potential impact it has on our theorizing and theories. Of special importance to feminist metaphysics is the inquiry into feminist tools and methods, such as the concepts of gender, sex, gendering, social construction, objectivity, and bias.
Key works Important 20th century works include de Beauvoir & Parshley 1952, Frye 1983, Spelman 1988, Butler 1989, Butler 1993, and the edited collection Meyers 1997. Recent works include Alcoff 2006, Witt 2011, Haslanger 2012, and the edited volume Witt 2010.
Introductions The encyclopædia article Haslanger & Sveinsdóttir 2008;2011 provides an introduction and an overview.
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  1. Social Kinds and Conceptual Change: A Reply to Haslanger.Esa Diaz-Leon - manuscript
    Sally Haslanger (2006) is concerned with the debate between so-called social constructionists and error theorists about a given category, such as race or gender. For example, social constructionists about race claim that race is socially constructed, that is, the kind or property that unifies all instances of the category is a social feature (not a natural or physical feature, as naturalists about race would hold). On the other hand, error theorists about race claim that the term ‘race’ is an empty (...)
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  2. What Even is 'Gender'?B. R. George - manuscript
    This paper presents a new taxonomy of sex/gender concepts based on the idea of starting with a few basic components of the sex/gender system, and exhausting the possible types of simple associations and identities based on these. The resulting system is significantly more fine-grained than most competitors, and helps to clarify a number of points of confusion and conceptual tension in academic and activist conversations about feminism, transgender politics, and the social analysis of gender.
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  3. Not the Social Kind: Anti-Naturalist Mistakes in the Philosophical History of Womanhood.Kathleen Stock - manuscript
    I trace a brief history of philosophical discussion of the concept WOMAN and identify two key points at which, I argue, things went badly wrong. The first was where when it was agreed that the concept WOMAN must identify a social not biological kind. The second was where it was decided that the concept WOMAN faced a legitimate challenge of being insufficiently “inclusive”, understood in a certain way. I’ll argue that both of these moves are only intelligible, if at all, (...)
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  4. Experience and Knowledge: The Case of Sexual Abuse Memories.L. M. Alcoff - forthcoming - Feminist Metaphysics:209--223.
  5. Public Health, Political Solidarity, and the Ethics of Orientation Ascriptions.Matthew Andler - forthcoming - Ergo.
    How ought we socially to categorize individuals with respect to sexual orientation? In this paper, I engage with philosophical work on the foundations of political solidarity as well as public health research on the treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS in order to develop a categorization scheme that’s conducive to the normatively important aims of LGBTQIA+ social movements.
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  6. Imitation and Gender Insubordination1.J. Butler - forthcoming - Cultural Theory and Popular Culture:255.
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  7. Reimagining Transgender.Robin Dembroff - forthcoming - In Talia Bettcher, Perry Zurn & Andrea Pitts (eds.), Trans Philosophy: Meaning and Mattering.
    Transgender often is understood either as an identity, or else as the full spectrum of gender nonconformity. In this essay, I advocate for recentering transgender on the experience of costly and willful gender deviance.
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  8. The Metaphysics of Injustice.Robin Dembroff - forthcoming - In Ruth Chang & Amia Srinivasan (eds.), New Conversations in Philosophy, Law, and Politics. Oxford University Press.
    Patriarchy and white supremacy are unjust social systems, constituted by causal structures that produce systemic gender injustice and racial injustice. Intersectional theory highlights that these forms of injustice often are inseparable, as in instances of misogynoir. What does this mean for our understanding of unjust systems? Recent work in feminist theory suggests that intersectional insights undermine the idea that there are multiple unjust systems. In this paper, I hope to show that this is not the case. I’ll suggest that intersectional (...)
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  9. Political Philosophy and the Patriarchal Unconscious: A Psychoanalytic Perspective on Epistemology and Metaphysics.J. Flax - forthcoming - Discovering Reality:245--281.
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  10. The Instability of the Analytical Categories of Feminist Theory.S. Harding - forthcoming - Signs:645--664.
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  11. Objective Reality, Male Reality, and Social Construction.S. Haslanger - forthcoming - Women, Knowledge, and Reality:84.
  12. Gender and Social Construction: Who? What? When? Where? How?S. Haslanger - forthcoming - Theorizing Feminisms:16--23.
  13. On Being Objective and Being Objectified.S. Haslanger - forthcoming - A Mind of Oneâ’s Own:95--125.
  14. Oppressions: Racial and Other.S. Haslanger - forthcoming - Racism in Mind:97--123.
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  15. Becoming Like a Woman in Advance.Charles Snyder - forthcoming - Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy.
  16. Categorical Injustice.Ásta Sveinsdóttir - forthcoming - Journal of Social Philosophy.
  17. A Different Reality: Feminist Ontology.C. Whitbeck - forthcoming - Beyond Domination:64--88.
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  18. Form, Normativity and Gender in Aristotle A Feminist Perspective.C. Witt - forthcoming - Feminist Reflections on the History of Philosophy:117--136.
  19. The Metaphysics of Intersectionality Revisited.Holly Lawford-Smith & Kate Phelan - 2022 - Journal of Political Philosophy 30 (2):166-187.
    ‘Intersectionality’ is one of the rare pieces of academic jargon to make it out of the university and into the mainstream. The message is clear and well-known: your feminism had better be intersectional. But what exactly does this mean? This paper is partly an exercise in conceptual clarification, distinguishing at least six distinct types of claim found across the literature on intersectionality, and digging further into the most philosophically complex of these claims—namely the metaphysical and explanatory. It’s also partly a (...)
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  20. Review of Elizabeth Barnes' The Minority Body. [REVIEW]Chong-Ming Lim - 2022 - Mind 131 (522):650–659.
  21. Review of Donna Drucker's "Contraception: A Concise History". [REVIEW]Nicholas Danne - 2021 - Metapsychology Online Reviews.
    Drucker's contribution succeeds as a handbook of contraceptive history, but I criticize her definition of contraception as too broad, and I argue that a narrower definition undermines her reproductive justice claims.
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  22. Escaping the Natural Attitude About Gender.Robin Dembroff - 2021 - Philosophical Studies 178 (3):983-1003.
    Alex Byrne’s article, “Are Women Adult Human Females?”, asks a question that Byrne treats as nearly rhetorical. Byrne’s answer is, ‘clearly, yes’. Moreover, Byrne claims, 'woman' is a biological category that does not admit of any interpretation as (also) a social category. It is important to respond to Byrne’s argument, but mostly because it is paradigmatic of a wider phenomenon. The slogan “women are adult human females” is a political slogan championed by anti-trans activists, appearing on billboards, pamphlets, and anti-trans (...)
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  23. Routledge Handbook of Social and Political Philosophy of Language.Justin Khoo & Rachel Sterken (eds.) - 2021 - Routledge.
    Part 1. Social and political language: methodological and foundational Issues 1. Conceptual engineering in philosophy (Matti Eklund) 2. Social ontology (Mari Mikkola) 3. An invitation to social and political metasemantics (Derek Ball) 4. Linguistic prescriptivism (Alex Barber) 5. Speech acts (Rachel McKinney and Dan Harris) 6. On the Uselessness of the Distinction between Ideal and Non-Ideal Theory (at least in the Philosophy of Language) (Herman Cappelen and Josh Dever) Part 2. Non-ideal semantics and pragmatics 7. Lying, Deception, and Epistemic Advantage (...)
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  24. Finean Feminist Metaphysics.Asya Passinsky - 2021 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 64 (9):937-954.
    .Feminist metaphysicians have recently argued that many of the most influential contemporary meta-metaphysical frameworks are at odds with feminist metaphysics. In this paper I argue that the Finean framework of grounding, essence, and reality evades the main challenges that have been raised for alternative frameworks. The upshot of my discussion is that the Finean framework is an apt one for feminist metaphysics.
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  25. Oxford Handbook of Feminist Philosophy.Ásta Sveinsdóttir & Kim Q. Hall (eds.) - 2021
    This exciting new Handbook offers a comprehensive overview of the contemporary state of the field in feminist philosophy. The editors' introduction and forty-five essays cover feminist critical engagements with philosophy and adjacent scholarly fields, as well as feminist approaches to current debates and crises across the world. Authors cover topics ranging from the ways in which feminist philosophy attends to other systems of oppression, and the gendered, racialized, and classed assumptions embedded in philosophical concepts, to feminist perspectives on prominent subfields (...)
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  26. Categories We Live By: The Construction of Sex, Gender, Race, and Other Social Categories, by Ásta. [REVIEW]Elizabeth Barnes & Matthew Andler - 2020 - Mind 129 (515):939-947.
  27. Beyond Binary: Genderqueer as Critical Gender Kind.Robin Dembroff - 2020 - Philosophers' Imprint 20 (9):1-23.
    We want to know what gender is. But metaphysical approaches to this question solely have focused on the binary gender kinds men and women. By overlooking those who identify outside of the binary–the group I call ‘genderqueer’–we are left without tools for understanding these new and quickly growing gender identifications. This metaphysical gap in turn creates a conceptual lacuna that contributes to systematic misunderstanding of genderqueer persons. In this paper, I argue that to better understand genderqueer identities, we must recognize (...)
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  28. Beyond Binary: Genderqueer as Critical Gender Kind [Chinese].Robin Dembroff - 2020 - Philosophers' Imprint 20 (9):1-23.
    Chinese translation courtesy of Zhuanxu Xu. We want to know what gender is. But metaphysical approaches to this question solely have focused on the binary gender kinds men and women. By overlooking those who identify outside of the binary–the group I call ‘genderqueer’–we are left without tools for understanding these new and quickly growing gender identifications. This metaphysical gap in turn creates a conceptual lacuna that contributes to systematic misunderstanding of genderqueer persons. In this paper, I argue that to better (...)
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  29. Cisgender Commonsense and Philosophy's Transgender Trouble [Chinese].Robin Dembroff - 2020 - TSQ 3 (7).
    Chinese translation by Zhuanxu Xu. Analytic philosophy has transgender trouble. In this paper, I explore potential explanations for this trouble, focusing on the notion of 'cisgender commonsense' and its place in philosophical methodology.
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  30. Why I Don’T Believe in Patriarchy: Comments on Kate Manne’s Down Girl.Sally Haslanger - 2020 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 101 (1):220-229.
  31. Categorical Injustice. Ásta - 2019 - Journal of Social Philosophy 50 (4):392-406.
  32. Against Abolition.Matthew J. Cull - 2019 - Feminist Philosophy Quarterly 5 (3).
    Analytic metaphysics of gender has taken an ameliorative turn towards ethical and political questions regarding what our concept of gender ought to be, and how gendered society should be structured. Abolitionism about gender, which claims that we ought to mandate gender out of existence, has therefore seen renewed interest. I consider three arguments for abolitionism from radically different perspectives: Haslanger’s simple argument, Escalante’s Gender Nihilism, and Okin’s argument from ideal theory. I argue that none of the above manage to establish (...)
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  33. 'Yep, I'm Gay': Understanding Agential Identity.Robin Dembroff & Cat Saint-Croix - 2019 - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 6:571-599.
    What’s important about ‘coming out’? Why do we wear business suits or Star Trek pins? Part of the answer, we think, has to do with what we call agential identity. Social metaphysics has given us tools for understanding what it is to be socially positioned as a member of a particular group and what it means to self-identify with a group. But there is little exploration of the general relationship between self-identity and social position. We take up this exploration, developing (...)
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  34. Reconceptualizing Women for Intersectional Feminism.Youjin Kong - 2019 - Dissertation, Michigan State University
    This dissertation addresses the question of how to reconceptualize “women” in order to do a more intersectional feminism. Intersectionality—the idea that gender, race, class, sexuality, and so on operate not as separate entities but as mutually constructing phenomena—has become a gold standard in contemporary feminist scholarship. In particular, intersectionality has achieved success in showing that the old conception of women as a single, uniform concept marginalizes women and others who exist at the intersecting axes of multiple oppressions (e.g., women of (...)
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  35. Categories We Live By: The Construction of Sex, Gender, Race, and Other Social Categories.Ásta . - 2018 - New York, USA: Oxford University Press.
    We are women, we are men. We are refugees, single mothers, people with disabilities, and queers. We belong to social categories and they frame our actions, self-understanding, and opportunities. But what are social categories? How are they created and sustained? How does one come to belong to them? -/- Ásta approaches these questions through analytic feminist metaphysics. Her theory of social categories centers on an answer to the question: what is it for a feature of an individual to be socially (...)
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  36. Beyond Acting and Being Acted Upon.Emanuela Bianchi - 2018 - Philosophy Today 62 (3):1025-1036.
  37. Real Talk on the Metaphysics of Gender.Robin Dembroff - 2018 - Philosophical Topics 46 (2):21-50.
    Gender classifications often are controversial. These controversies typically focus on whether gender classifications align with facts about gender kind membership: Could someone really be nonbinary? Is Chris Mosier really a man? I think this is a bad approach. Consider the possibility of ontological oppression, which arises when social kinds operating in a context unjustly constrain the behaviors, concepts, or affect of certain groups. Gender kinds operating in dominant contexts, I argue, oppress trans and nonbinary persons in this way: they marginalize (...)
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  38. Why Be Nonbinary?Robin Dembroff - 2018 - Aeon.
    In this article, Dembroff argues that the category nonbinary should not be understood in terms of presentation or psychological states, but instead in terms of how its members are politically situated with respect to the binary expectations of Western gender ideology.
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  39. Disabilities Are Also Legitimately Medically Interesting Constraints on Legitimate Interests.Chong-Ming Lim - 2018 - Mind 127 (508):977-1002.
    What is it for something to be a disability? Elizabeth Barnes, focusing on physical disabilities, argues that disability is a social category. It depends on the rules undergirding the judgements of the disability rights movement. Barnes’ account may strike many as implausible. I articulate the unease, in the form of three worries about Barnes’ account. It does not fully explain why the disability rights movement is constituted in such a way that it only picks out paradigmatic disability traits, nor why (...)
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  40. Philosophy and the Apparatus of Disability.Shelley Tremain - 2018 - In Adam Cureton & David Wasserman (eds.), Oxford Handbook of Philosophy and Disability. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
    Abstract and Keywords Mainstream philosophers take for granted that disability is a prediscursive, transcultural, and transhistorical disadvantage, an objective human defect or characteristic that ought to be prevented, corrected, eliminated, or cured. That these assumptions are contestable, that it might be the case that disability is a historically and culturally specific, contingent social phenomenon, a complex apparatus of power, rather than a natural attribute or property that certain people possess, is not considered, let alone seriously entertained. This chapter draws on (...)
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  41. Realism and Social Structure.Elizabeth Barnes - 2017 - Philosophical Studies 174 (10):2417-2433.
    Social constructionism is often considered a form of anti-realism. But in contemporary feminist philosophy, an increasing number of philosophers defend views that are well-described as both realist and social constructionist. In this paper, I use the work of Sally Haslanger as an example of realist social constructionism. I argue: that Haslanger is best interpreted as defending metaphysical realism about social structures; that this type of metaphysical realism about the social world presents challenges to some popular ways of understanding metaphysical realism.
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  42. Die Geschlechtstheorie Freuds: Ihre Neuartigkeit Und Anwendung Auf den Feminismus.Yusuke Kaneko - 2017 - HACETTEPE UNIVERSITY JOURNAL OF FACULTY OF LETTERS 33 (2):150-167.
    Not a few feminist writers, such as Kristeva, Irigaray, and Chodorow, have dealt with Freud’s psychoanalysis so far, but it is not clear to what degree the Freudian theory grounds their arguments, because Freud himself developed his psychoanalysis mainly for the male mental world (Seelenleben). In this paper, we shall follow Freud’s train of thought exclusively from this angle. After the geneses of Pcpt.-Cs., id, ego, and super-ego (W-Bw, Es, Ich, and Über-Ich, respectively) are treated (§§7-10), we shed light on (...)
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  43. On the Apparent Antagonism Between Feminist and Mainstream Metaphysics.Mari Mikkola - 2017 - Philosophical Studies 174 (10):2435-2448.
    The relationship between feminism and metaphysics has historically been strained. Metaphysics has until recently remained dismissive of feminist insights, and many feminist philosophers have been deeply skeptical about any value that metaphysics might have when thinking about advancing gender justice. Nevertheless, feminist philosophers have in recent years increasingly taken up explicitly metaphysical investigations. Such feminist investigations have expanded the scope of metaphysics in holding that metaphysical tools can help advance debates on topics outside of traditional metaphysical inquiry. Moreover, feminist philosophers (...)
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  44. Substantivity in Feminist Metaphysics.Theodore Sider - 2017 - Philosophical Studies 174 (10):2467-2478.
    Elizabeth Barnes and Mari Mikkola raise the important question of whether certain recent approaches to metaphysics exclude feminist metaphysics. My own approach does not, or so I argue. I do define “substantive” questions in terms of fundamentality; and the concepts of feminist metaphysics are nonfundamental. But my definition does not count a question as being nonsubstantive simply because it involves nonfundamental concepts. Questions about the causal structure of the world, including the causal structure of the social world, are generally substantive (...)
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  45. The Minority Body: A Theory of Disability.Elizabeth Barnes - 2016 - Oxford University Press.
    Disability is primarily a social phenomenon -- a way of being a minority, a way of facing social oppression, but not a way of being inherently or intrinsically worse off. This is how disability is understood in the Disability Rights and Disability Pride movements; but there is a massive disconnect with the way disability is typically viewed within analytic philosophy. The idea that disability is not inherently bad or sub-optimal is one that many philosophers treat with open skepticism, and sometimes (...)
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  46. What Is Sexual Orientation?Robin A. Dembroff - 2016 - Philosophers' Imprint 16.
    Ordinary discourse is filled with discussions about ‘sexual orientation’. This discourse might suggest a common understanding of what sexual orientation is. But even a cursory search turns up vastly differing, conflicting, and sometimes ethically troubling characterizations of sexual orientation. The conceptual jumble surrounding sexual orientation suggests that the topic is overripe for philosophical exploration. This paper lays the groundwork for such an exploration. In it, I offer an account of sexual orientation – called ‘Bidimensional Dispositionalism’ – according to which sexual (...)
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  47. Woman as a Politically Significant Term: A Solution to the Puzzle.E. Diaz‐Leon - 2016 - Hypatia 31 (2):245-258.
    What does woman mean? According to two competing views, it can be seen as a sex term or as a gender term. Recently, Jennifer Saul has put forward a contextualist view, according to which woman can have different meanings in different contexts. The main motivation for this view seems to involve moral and political considerations, namely, that this view can do justice to the claims of trans women. Unfortunately, Saul argues, on further reflection the contextualist view fails to do justice (...)
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  48. The Routledge Companion to Feminist Philosophy.Ann Garry, Serene J. Khader & Alison Stone (eds.) - 2016 - Routledge.
    _The Routledge Companion to Feminist Philosophy_ is an outstanding guide and reference source to the key topics, subjects, thinkers, and debates in feminist philosophy. Fifty-six chapters, written by an international team of contributors specifically for the _Companion_, are organized into five sections: Engaging the Past Mind, Body, and World Knowledge, Language, and Science Intersections Ethics, Politics, and Aesthetics. The volume provides a mutually enriching representation of the several philosophical traditions that contribute to feminist philosophy. It also foregrounds issues of global (...)
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  49. Amelioration and Inclusion: Gender Identity and the Concept of Woman.Katharine Jenkins - 2016 - Ethics 126 (2):394-421.
    Feminist analyses of gender concepts must avoid the inclusion problem, the fault of marginalizing or excluding some prima facie women. Sally Haslanger’s ‘ameliorative’ analysis of gender concepts seeks to do so by defining woman by reference to subordination. I argue that Haslanger’s analysis problematically marginalizes trans women, thereby failing to avoid the inclusion problem. I propose an improved ameliorative analysis that ensures the inclusion of trans women. This analysis yields ‘twin’ target concepts of woman, one concerning gender as class and (...)
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  50. On the Apparent Antagonism Between Feminist and Mainstream Metaphysics.Mari Mikkola - 2016 - Philosophical Studies:1-14.
    The relationship between feminism and metaphysics has historically been strained. Metaphysics has until recently remained dismissive of feminist insights, and many feminist philosophers have been deeply skeptical about any value that metaphysics might have when thinking about advancing gender justice. Nevertheless, feminist philosophers have in recent years increasingly taken up explicitly metaphysical investigations. Such feminist investigations have expanded the scope of metaphysics in holding that metaphysical tools can help advance debates on topics outside of traditional metaphysical inquiry. Moreover, feminist philosophers (...)
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