Women have historically been prevented from living autonomously by systematic injustice, subordination, and oppression. The lingering effects of these practices have prompted many feminists to view autonomy with suspicion. Here, Marilyn Friedman defends the ideal of feminist autonomy. In her eyes, behavior is autonomous if it accords with the wants, cares, values, or commitments that the actor has reaffirmed and is able to sustain in the face of opposition. By her account, autonomy is socially grounded yet also individualizing and sometimes (...) socially disruptive, qualities that can be ultimately advantageous for women. Friedman applies the concept of autonomy to domains of special interest to women. She defends the importance of autonomy in romantic love, considers how social institutions should respond to women who choose to remain in abusive relationships, and argues that liberal societies should tolerate minority cultural practices that violate women's rights so long as the women in question have chosen autonomously to live according to those practices. (shrink)
This essay counteracts that trend [regarding the debate about whether partiality can be justified, those supporting impartiality have generally been on the offensive arguing that morality calls for impartiality] by taking a closer look at the moral complexity of our social practices of partiality. My adoption of this approach does not represent an endorsement of current notions of impartiality. The ideal of impartiality, in my view, should be substantially reformulated. However, that the concept of partiality is transparently defensible. In this (...) discussion, I focus on the aspects of partiality that complicate the philosophical defense of it. In the first part of the discussion, I argue that the moral value of partiality depends partly on the moral value of the relationships it helps to sustain. It matters to the philosophical issues at stake that personal relationships can be abusive and oppressive. In Section II, I refer to the vastly unequal social distribution of the means for favoring loved ones. Because many people have inadequate resources for caring for their loved ones, our conventional relationship practices of partiality-practices by which we care only for our ``own''-can be disasterous for many people. This seriously complicates the defense of partiality. The paper ends with a discussion, in Section III, of ``global moral concern'' and the resistance which most partialists show to it. (shrink)
Feminist ethics supports the contemporary educational trend toward increased multiculturalism and a diminished emphasis on the Western canon. First, I outline a feminist ethical justification for this development. Second, I argue that Western canon studies should not be altogether abandoned in a multicultural curriculum. Third, I suggest that multicultural education should help combat oppression in addition to simply promoting awareness of diversity. Fourth, I caution against an arrogant moralism in the teaching of multiculturalism.
Virginia Held, best known for her landmark book Rights and Goods, has made an indelible mark on the fields of ethics, feminist philosophy, and social and political thought. Her impact on a generation of feminist thinkers is unrivaled and she has been at the forfront of discussions about the way in which an ethic of care can affect social and political matters. These new essays by leading contemporary philosophers range over all of these areas. While each stands alone, the essays (...) together demonstrate the lasting value of Held's work to the field. Includes an afterword by Held. (shrink)
In this unique volume, some of today's most eminent political philosophers examine the thought of John Rawls, focusing in particular on his most recent work. These original essays explore diverse issues, including the problem of pluralism, the relationship between constitutive commitment and liberal institutions, just treatment of dissident minorities, the constitutional implications of liberalism, international relations, and the structure of international law. The first comprehensive study of Rawls's recent work, The Idea of Political Liberalism will be indispensable for political philosophers (...) and theorists interested in contemporary political thought. (shrink)
Can men who dominate women nevertheless be happy or lead flourishing lives? Building on Claudia Card's exploration of moral luck, this paper considers the belief that male dominators cannot be happy. The discussion ranges over both virtue theory and empirical research into the "belief in a just world." I conclude that there are reasons to avoid believing that male dominators cannot be happy or flourish, and that feminism does not need that belief.
This review of Janice Raymond's A Passion for Friends focuses on her strong sense of the individual and of individuality. However, and this is the central contention of my paper, her perspective is quite distinct from liberal individualism. It is also a complex variation on the feminist concern with selves in relationships.
Autonomy has risen in esteem, then fallen, only to rise again in recent theorizing about women in society and culture. In this paper, I further bolster the renewed feminist interest in autonomy. I characterize feminist social aspirations in terms of three very abstract goals and then argue that women’s individual autonomy promotes at least two of them in crucial ways. Women’s autonomy will improve the quality of the close personal relationships that pervade women’s traditional moral concems (the first goal) and (...) it will enable women the better to resist traditional, gender-based constraints on their lives (the second goal). My conclusion is tempered, however, by the view that individual autonomy interferes to a significant degree with the solidarity and collective action by women needed to effect feminist social change (the third goal) . In passing, I gesture toward a conception of autonomy as a certain kind of narrative of self-development. (shrink)
In The View from Nowhere , Thomas Nagel develops a theory of practical reasoning which attempts to give the personal, or subjective, point of view its due2 while still insisting on the objectivity of ethics. On the objective side, Nagel affirms that there are truths about values and reasons for action which are independent of the ways in which reasons and values appear to us, independent of our own particular beliefs and inclinations . The objective foundation for these truths consists (...) in a certain distinctive process of understanding. Objective understanding is explicated in terms of an objective standpoint, a standpoint defined as impersonal, that is, as detached from the subjective point of view. The objective standpoint is structured by a conception ‘of the world as centerless—as containing ourselves and other beings with particular points of view’ . As with scientific reasoning, ‘we begin from our position inside the world and try to transcend it by regarding what we find here as a sample of the whole’. (shrink)
This paper raises some minor questions about Lisa Tessman’s book, Burdened Virtues. Friedman’s questions pertain, among other things, to the adequacy of a virtue ethical focus on character, the apparent implication of virtue ethics that oppressors suffer damaged characters and are not any better off than the oppressed, the importance of whether privileged persons may have earned their privileges, and the oppositional anger that movement feminists sometimes direct against each other.
Should women’s terrorist acts be understood differently than similar acts carried out by men? Does the gender identity of a terrorist make a difference to the meaning of a terrorist’s acts? Commentators who explain women’s involvement in terrorism often offer explanations other than political commitment. They often refer instead to factors in the women’s personal relationships, thereby drawing on gender stereotypes and diminishing the women’s political commitments. I suggest instead that terrorism by a woman involves symbolic political “testimony.” It amounts (...) to saying that someone who is a typically nonviolent sort of person has engaged in violence on behalf of a political cause. Because of this significance, women’s terrorism merits a more serious consideration as testimony than similar acts by men. (shrink)
: Nancy J. Hirschmann presents a feminist, social constructionist account of women's freedom. Friedman's discussion of Hirschmann's account deals with (1) some conceptual problems facing a thoroughgoing social constructionism; (2) three ways to modify social constructionism to avoid those problems; and (3) an assessment of Hirschmann's version of social constructionism in light of the previous discussion.
Debates about how to incorporate the severely cognitively disabled into liberal theory typically focus on John Rawls’s assumption that citizens choosing the principles of justice should be understood as full social cooperators. In this paper, we argue that social cooperation is not the fundamental barrier to the inclusion of the severely cognitively disabled. We argue that these persons are excluded from the entire project of liberal legitimacy in virtue of the apparent inability of a severely cognitively disabled person to understand (...) and evaluate the legitimacy of political principles for herself. Severely cognitively disabled persons lack a kind of access to political principles that is crucial, according to liberal theory, for political principles to be legitimate to someone, and not simply for someone. (shrink)