In Search Of Feminist Epistemology

The Monist 77 (4):472-485 (1994)
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The proposal of anything like a feminist epistemology has, I think, two sources. Feminist scholars have demonstrated how the scientific cards have been stacked against women for centuries. Given that the sciences are taken as the epitome of knowledge and rationality in modern Western societies, the game looks desperate unless some ways of knowing different from those that have validated misogyny and gynephobia can be found. Can we know the world without hating ourselves? This is one of the questions at the core of discussions of feminist epistemology. It has spinoffs, e.g., can we know the world in ways that will permit women as well as men to thrive? Can we know the world without hating any human group? and so on. Now, these questions might be answered in a way that does not require any rethinking of fundamental philosophical issues. Some philosophers might argue that sexism in the sciences from Aristotle to human sociobiology results from a masculinist blinding that impedes the normal workings of the human cognitive apparatus. Unblinded, that apparatus produces real knowledge rather than ideology. Or: that was then, this is now. This somewhat overestimates the progress made in the sciences in the last 20 years, but can be read as a promissory note.



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Helen Longino
Stanford University

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