On the Virtues and Plausibility of Feminist Epistemologies

Epistemologia, Rivista Italiana di Filosofia Della Scienza (1):99-131 (2003)
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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 feminist epistemology: 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.



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Pieranna Garavaso
University of Minnesota, Morris
Nicla Vassallo
Università degli Studi di Genova

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