Deconstructing the Paradox of Modernity: Feminism, Enlightenment, and Cross-Cultural Moral Interactions

Journal of Religious Ethics 23 (2):333-363 (1995)
Feminist ethics has questioned the limits of and possibilities for the recognition of moral diversity within the Enlightenment legacy of Western rationality and modern universalism. I pursue this question by reading two contemporary theorists, Jürgen Habermas and Seyla Benhabib, who express a strong commitment to the recognition of diversity within a reason-centered reading of the Enlightenment. Despite their strong commitments, however, neither Habermas nor Benhabib can ultimately maintain a balance between the poles of egalitarianism and universalism within the framework of Western rationality. As a result, they fail to recognize diversity fully. Through these readings, I suggest a feminist ethics which subversively appropriates the Enlightenment tradition. This feminist ethics de-centers rationality and dis-locates modernity in order to find an alternate path toward the fulfillment of Enlightenment promises of emancipation.
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