In this article I describe and defend an account of social freedom grounded in intersubjective recognition. I term this the ‘normative authorisation’ account. It holds that a person enjoys social freedom if she is recognised as a discursive equal able to engage in justificatory dialogue with other social agents about the appropriateness of her reasons for action. I contrast this with Axel Honneth’s theory of social freedom, which I term the ‘self-realisation’ account. According to this view, the affirmative recognition of (...) others is necessary for obtaining a positive relation-to-self and hence freedom. I identify several problems with this account, which challenge the connection Honneth draws between social recognition and freedom. I show how the normative authorisation account avoids these problems and captures some basic features of our everyday, normative interactions. Finally, I suggest that the account fits well with recent work on epistemic injustice. Specifically, it shows that securing the social conditions of freedom requires ensuring epistemically-just social relations. Thus, the normative authorisation account is an explanatorily powerful, inclusive theory of social freedom that fits well with wider accounts of justice and freedom. Thus, it represents the most promising way of understanding social freedom in terms of interpersonal recognition. (shrink)
This paper explores the ambivalent effects of recognition through a critical examination of Axel Honneth’s theory of recognition. I argue that his underlying perfectionist account and his focus on the psychic effects of recognition lead him to overlook important connections between recognition and power. These claims are substantiated through Butler’s theory of gender performativity and recognition; and issues connected to the socio-institutional recognition of transgender identities. I conclude by suggesting that certain problems with Butler’s own position can corrected by drawing (...) more from the Foucauldian aspects of her work. I argue that this is the most promising way to conceptualise recognition and its complex, ambivalent effects. (shrink)
In this paper, I explore the role that regret does and should play in medical decision-making. Specifically, I consider whether the possibility of a patient experiencing post-treatment regret is a good reason for a clinician to counsel against that treatment or to withhold it. Currently, the belief that a patient may experience post-treatment regret is sometimes taken as a sufficiently strong reason to withhold it, even when the patient makes an explicit, informed request. Relatedly, medical researchers and practitioners often understand (...) a patient’s post-treatment regret to be a significant problem, one that reveals a mistake or flaw in the decision-making process. Contrary to these views, I argue that the possibility of post-treatment regret is not necessarily a good reason for withholding the treatment. This claim is justified by appealing to respect for patient autonomy. Furthermore, there are occasions when the very reference to post-treatment regret during medical decision-making is inappropriate. This, I suggest, is the case when the decision concerns a “personally transformative treatment”. This is a treatment that alters a person’s identity. Because the treatment is transformative, neither clinicians nor the patient him/herself can ascertain whether post-treatment regret will occur. Consequently, I suggest, what matters in determining whether to offer a personally transformative treatment is whether the patient has sufficiently good reasons for wanting the treatment at the time the decision is made. What does not matter is how the patient may subsequently be changed by undergoing the treatment. (shrink)
Sterilisation requests made by young, childfree adults are frequently denied by doctors, despite sterilisation being legally available to individuals over the age of 18. A commonly given reason for denied requests is that the patient will later regret their decision. In this paper I examine whether the possibility of future regret is a good reason for denying a sterilisation request. I argue that it is not and hence that decision-competent adults who have no desire to have children should have their (...) requests approved. It is a condition of being recognised as autonomous that a person ought to be permitted to make decisions that they might later regret, provided that their decision is justified at the time that it is made. There is also evidence to suggest that sterilisation requests made by men are more likely to be approved than requests made by women, even when age and number of children are factored in. This may indicate that attitudes toward sterilisation are influenced by gender discourses that define women in terms of reproduction and mothering. If this is the case, then it is unjustified and should be addressed. There is no good reason to judge people’s sterilisation requests differently in virtue of their gender. (shrink)
In this book Paddy McQueen examines the role that 'recognition' plays in our struggles to construct an identity and to make sense of ourselves as gendered beings. It analyses how such struggles for gender recognition are shaped by social discourses and power relations, and considers how feminism can best respond to these issues.
How should one decide whether to undergo an experience that changes who one is? In her discussion of ‘transformative experiences’, L.A. Paul argues that to choose rationally when deliberating first-personally, one should base one’s decision on ‘revelation’, i.e. to discover out what the experience will be like. If this solution is taken as the sole means by which a transformative choice is made, then I argue it is problematic. This is because (i) it overlooks the role that one’s practical identity (...) ought to play when making a major life decision; and (ii) it ignores morally relevant reasons for action. Even if we retain the revelation approach as only part of the means through which a transformative choice is made, I argue that revelation should frequently carry little weight in our decision-making. Rather than focusing on the subjective quality of future experiences, it is often preferable to reflect on who one is and what one’s endorsed practical identity commits one to. (shrink)
This paper establishes what constitutes a sexual interaction between two or more people. It does this by first defining a sexual activity as one in which the agent intends to satisfy a sexual desire. To understand what it means to engage in a sexual activity with another person, it draws from Bratman’s account of shared collaborative activity. A sexual interaction is defined as one in which two or more people engage in a sexual activity together, with the intention of satisfying (...) a sexual desire in a mutually responsive and mutually supportive way. The paper then uses this account to consider what things constitute sexual infidelity. The answer is a broad one: many things can count as sexual interactions and hence can be considered to be sexual infidelity. Contrary to what a lot of people think, this can include the private use of pornography. (shrink)
Many women identify sterilisation as their preferred form of contraception. However, their requests to be sterilised are frequently denied by doctors. Given a commitment to ensuring women’s reproductive autonomy, can these denials be justified? To answer this question, I assess the most commonly reported reasons for a denied sterilisation request: that the woman is too young, that she is child-free, that she will later regret her decision, and that it will lower her well-being. I argue that these worries are misplaced (...) and hence insufficient reasons for denying a request. I also argue that even if concern for patient welfare provides doctors with a valid reason to withhold sterilisation, this is overriden by respect for patient autonomy and the importance of enabling women’s reproductive control. Consequently, I suggest that adequately informed, decision-competent women should have their requests for sterilisation agreed to, even if they are young and/or child-free. In addition, I examine the impact of pronatalism on how women’s requests are understood and responded to by doctors. I show that the equation of women with motherhood can make it unjustifiably hard for them to access sterilisation, especially if they are child-free. Consequently, part of ensuring women’s access to sterilisation involves challenging pronatalist beliefs and practices. (shrink)
In this paper, I develop and defend the ‘Justified Decision Perspective’ in answer to the question of when we should regret the things we have done. I claim that one should not regret a past decision one has made so long as it was justified in relation to the kind of person one was at the time of acting. On this time-indexing account, judging a decision to be justified – at least for the purposes of assessing one’s regrets – is (...) a matter of identifying the practical reasons that were epistemically available to the agent when she was deliberating about what to do. Accordingly, when responding to her regrets, an agent should not invoke reasons that existed but were epistemically unavailable to her when she was deliberating; or reasons that only came into existence after she acted. The JDP has important implications for prospective regret. In particular, it implies we should worry less about experiencing regret in the future than many of us do. Thus, my overall aim is to show that we often have reason to reject our regrets, which means that regret should play a less prominent and painful role in our lives than it does currently. (shrink)
This paper examines recent forms of post-identity thought within contemporary gender theory, specifically the works of Rosi Braidotti, Elizabeth Grosz and Bobby Noble. Despite the many insights that these theories offer, I argue that they suffer from what Lois McNay has labelled ‘social weightlessness’ insofar as their models of subjectivity and agency are disconnected from the everyday realities of social subjects. I identify two ways in which this social weightlessness is manifested in radical gender theories that endorse a post-identity politics: (...) they overlook the social and political importance to many individuals of establishing stable, coherent identities; they are unable to offer a satisfactory account of agency. I suggest that these issues arise, at least in part, from the anti-recognition stance adopted by such radical gender theorists. I argue that by incorporating a properly nuanced model of recognition back into their theories they can imbue their accounts with a properly grounded model of the subject that is responsive to the inequalities and oppressions that infuse the particular concrete contexts in which we experience and live out our identities. (shrink)
This paper examines how specific concepts of the self shape discussions about the ethics of changing sex. Specifically, it argues that much of the debate surrounding sex change has assumed a model of the self as authentic and/or atomistic, as demonstrated by both contemporary medical discourses and the recent work of Rubin (2003). This leads to a problematic account of important ethical issues that arise from the desire and decision to change sex. It is suggested that by shifting to a (...) properly intersubjective and performative model of the self, we can better understand (1) the diagnosis of transsexuality; and (2) issues of success, failure and regret with regard to changing sex. The paper also reveals the important implications this shift has for how the relationship between medical practitioners and transindividuals is understood. The paper concludes by showing how the model of the self as authentic can individualise identity and thus downplay or overlook the tight intertwinement between self and other. A properly intersubjective, performative concept of the gendered self places other people at the centre of both an individual’s attempt at self-transformation and the ethical issues that arise during this process. (shrink)
This article examines Sheila Jeffreys’ analysis of the UK’s Gender Recognition Act (GRA) and her critique of trans identities. Situating her position within a wider radical feminist perspective, I suggest that her arguments against the GRA are grounded in a problematic understanding of sex and gender. In so doing, I defend how sex and gender are understood in the GRA. Furthermore, I show that radical feminist concerns about sex reassignment surgery and the complicity of trans individuals with stereotypical gender norms (...) are unwarranted. By highlighting the importance of attending to the embodied dimensions of sex and gender, I offer a partial defence of the UK’s GRA. In particular, I note the benefits that it can offer to trans individuals, although I suggest ways in which the GRA can be improved. Finally, I challenge radical feminists who see trans theory and identities as inimical to the goals of feminism. (shrink)
Phenomenology is one of the leading movements in twentieth-century philosophy and continues to exert a strong influence on many contemporary philosophical traditions and investigations. In recent years, phenomenological insights have been increasingly developed in relation to philosophy of illness, disability, race, gender, sexuality, and politics, leading to the emergence of critical phenomenology as a new, prominent field for interdisciplinary research. Magrì and McQueen's Critical Phenomenology: An Introduction is the first book of its kind, addressing the critical questions at the core (...) of both classical and contemporary phenomenology. This book provides a concise, accessible introduction to key areas of phenomenological research, such as intersubjectivity, bodily experience, race, gender, social experience, and political action. In doing so, it demonstrates both the rich history of phenomenology and its continuing philosophical and ethical importance. (shrink)
Key Concepts in Philosophy is an accessible account of philosophical concepts, theories and key thinkers with an emphasis on recent developments in the field. Containing over 300 entries, the terms are ordered alphabetically and cross referenced for ease of use. Suggestions for further reading follow the explanations, encouraging further reflection and independent learning.
This paper uses the concepts of slavery, citizenship, the body and political subjectivity to interrogate how gendered bodies are produced, regulated and normalised. It explores the ‘wrong body’ claim within transsexual narratives to analyse how we can be enslaved by/to our body. The coercive force of embodied existence is demonstrated by examining how gender norms act on us through our bodies, thus identifying the body as a major conduit of power. It argues that the ‘wrong body’ claim must be understood (...) as a discursive construction that is rendered possible by established gender norms and practices, which place heavy restrictions on the available actions of individuals. These norms and practices are linked to the normalising processes of becoming an acceptable citizen. It is argued that the enslaving effects of embodiment can be mitigated through constructing alternative narratives of gender based upon performativity and fluidity. Such alternative gender narratives are used to contest and disrupt the meaning of the acceptable citizen, thus opening up new claims for citizenship and new forms of embodied subjectivity. These narratives are then used to critique the medical community's understanding and treatment of transsexuality, which is itself a site of coercion and normalisation. (shrink)