Knowing (with) Others

Social Philosophy Today 22:187-198 (2006)
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Abstract

Feminist epistemologists and feminist philosophers of science have argued that our efforts to know the world are always situated, accompanied by such things as desires, beliefs, and interests that guide and shape what it is we discover and perhaps even what we can know. If this is the case, how is one to be receptive to that which is outside of the purview of one’s current understanding of the world? Some feminists have argued that in order to know more effectively and more broadly we need to make our knowledge communities as diverse as possible so as to insure the greatest possible range of discovery. Others have argued thatwe need to begin by adopting the perspectives of those marginalized by society.These suggestions of where we ought to begin our inquiry, however, do not adequately guide us in how we ought to proceed. In both cases, it is critical that we know and understand others as a condition for broadening the range of our sources of knowledge. Knowing others is a crucial yet often neglected epistemological problem. In this paper I begin by examining some problems that can arise with how we understand others. Drawing on the work of Cora Diamond, I suggest some possibilities that may help us with the problems sketched in the first part. Finally I argue that developing the virtue of care is critical if we are to further our possibilities for knowing the world in general.

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Gaile Pohlhaus
Miami University, Ohio

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