It is always awkward when someone asks me informally what I’m working on and I answer that I’m trying to figure out what gender is. For outside a rather narrow segment of the academic world, the term ‘gender’ has come to function as the polite way to talk about the sexes. And one thing people feel pretty confident about is their knowledge of the difference between males and females. Males are those human beings with a range of familiar primary and (...) secondary sex characteristics, most important being the penis; females are those with a different set, most important being the vagina or, perhaps, the uterus. Enough said. Against this background, it isn’t clear what could be the point of an inquiry, especially a philosophical inquiry, into “what gender is”. (shrink)
In this collection of previously published essays, Sally Haslanger draws on insights from feminist and critical race theory and on the resources of contemporary analytic philosophy to develop the idea that gender and race are positions ...
A philosophically useful account of social structure must accommodate the fact that social structures play an important role in structural explanation. But what is a structural explanation? How do structural explanations function in the social sciences? This paper offers a way of thinking about structural explanation and sketches an account of social structure that connects social structures with structural explanation.
Recent work on social injustice has focused on implicit bias as an important factor in explaining persistent injustice in spite of achievements on civil rights. In this paper, I argue that because of its individualism, implicit bias explanation, taken alone, is inadequate to explain ongoing injustice; and, more importantly, it fails to call attention to what is morally at stake. An adequate account of how implicit bias functions must situate it within a broader theory of social structures and structural injustice; (...) changing structures is often a precondition for changing patterns of thought and action and is certainly required for durable change. (shrink)
Theorists analyzing the concepts of race and gender disagree over whether the terms refer to natural kinds, social kinds, or nothing at all. The question arises: what do we mean by the terms? It is usually assumed that ordinary intuitions of native speakers are definitive. However, I argue that contemporary semantic externalism can usefully combine with insights from Foucauldian genealogy to challenge mainstream methods of analysis and lend credibility to social constructionist projects.
Racism, sexism, and other forms of injustice are more than just bad attitudes; after all, such injustice involves unfair distributions of goods and resources. But attitudes play a role. How central is that role? Tommie Shelby, among others, argues that racism is an ideology and takes a cognitivist approach suggesting that ideologies consist in false beliefs that arise out of and serve pernicious social conditions. In this paper I argue that racism is better understood as a set of practices, attitudes, (...) social meanings, and material conditions, that systematically reinforce one another. Attitudes play a role, but even the cognitive/affective component of ideologies should include culturally shared habits of mind and action. These habits of mind distort, obscure, and occlude important facts about subordinated groups and result in a failure to recognize their interests. How do we disrupt such practices to achieve greater justice? I argue that this is sometimes, but not always, best achieved by argument or challenging false beliefs, so social movements legitimately seek other means. (shrink)
Across the humanities and social sciences it has become commonplace for scholars to argue that categories once assumed to be “natural” are in fact “social” or, in the familiar lingo, “socially constructed”. Two common examples of such categories are race and gender, but there many others. One interpretation of this claim is that although it is typically thought that what unifies the instances of such categories is some set of natural or physical properties, instead their unity rests on social features (...) of the items in question. Social constructionists pursuing this strategy—and it is these social constructionists I will be focusing on in this paper—aim to “debunk” the ordinary assumption that the categories are natural, by revealing the more accurate social basis of the classification.2 To avoid confusion, and to resist some of the associations with the term ‘social construction’, I will sometimes use the term ‘socially founded’ for the categories that this sort of constructionist reveals as social rather than natural. (shrink)
How do we achieve social justice? How do we change society for the better? Some would argue that we must do it by changing the laws or state institutions. Others that we must do it by changing individual attitudes. I argue that although both of these factors are important and relevant, we must also change culture. What does this mean? Culture, I argue, is a set of social meanings that shapes and filters how we think and act. Problematic networks of (...) social meanings constitute an ideology. Entrenched ideologies are resilient and are barriers to social change, even in the face of legal interventions. I argue that an effective way to change culture is through social movements and contentious politics, and that philosophy has a role to play in promoting such change. (shrink)
[Sally Haslanger] In debates over the existence and nature of social kinds such as 'race' and 'gender', philosophers often rely heavily on our intuitions about the nature of the kind. Following this strategy, philosophers often reject social constructionist analyses, suggesting that they change rather than capture the meaning of the kind terms. However, given that social constructionists are often trying to debunk our ordinary (and ideology-ridden?) understandings of social kinds, it is not surprising that their analyses are counterintuitive. This article (...) argues that externalist insights from the critique of the analytic/synthetic distinction can be extended to justify social constructionist analyses. /// [Jennifer Saul] Sally Haslanger's 'What Good Are Our Intuitions? Philosophical Analysis and Social Kinds' is, among other things, a part of the theoretical underpinning for analyses of race and gender concepts that she discusses far more fully elsewhere. My reply focuses on these analyses of race and gender concepts, exploring the ways in which the theoretical work done in this paper and others can or cannot be used to defend these analyses against certain objections. I argue that the problems faced by Haslanger's analyses are in some ways less serious, and in some ways more serious, than they may at first appear. Along the way, I suggest that ordinary speakers may not in fact have race and gender concepts and I explore the ramifications of this claim. (shrink)
Contemporary discussions of race and racism devote considerable effort to giving conceptual analyses of these notions. Much of the work is concerned to investigate a priori what we mean by the terms ‘ race ’ and ‘racism’ ; more recent work has started to employ empirical methods to determine the content of our “folk concepts,” or “folk theory” of race and racism. In contrast to both of these projects, I have argued elsewhere that in considering what we mean by these (...) terms we should treat them on the model of kind terms whose reference is fixed by ordinary uses, but whose content is discovered empirically using social theory; I have also argued that it is not only important to determine what we actually mean by these terms, but what we should mean, i.e., what type, if any, we should be tracking. My own discussion of these issues, however, has been confused and confusing. In giving an account of race or gender, is the goal to provide a conceptual analysis? Or to investigate the kinds we are referring to? To draw attention to different kinds? To stipulate new meanings? Jennifer Saul has raised a series of powerful objections to my accounts of gender and race, suggesting that they are neither semantically nor politically useful, regardless of whether we treat them as revisionary proposals, or as elucidations of our concepts. Joshua Glasgow has also offered a critique of my externalist approach to race as an effort to capture “our concept”. I agree with much of what they say, but I also believe that there is something I was trying to capture that. (shrink)
How does an object persist through change? How can a book, for example, open in the morning and shut in the afternoon, persist through a change that involves the incompatible properties of being open and being shut? The goal of this reader is to inform and reframe the philosophical debate around persistence; it presents influential accounts of the problem that range from classic papers by W. V. O. Quine, David Lewis, and Judith Jarvis Thomson to recent work by contemporary philosophers. (...) The authors take on the question of persistence by examining three broad approaches: perdurantism, which holds that change over time is analogous to change over space; exdurantism, according to which identity over time is analogous to identity across possible worlds; and endurantism, which holds that ordinary objects persist by enduring. Each of these approaches appears to be coherent, but each also has its own metaphysical problems. Persistence includes papers that argue for perdurantism, exdurantism, or endurantism, as well as papers that explore some metaphysical difficulties challenging each account. In this way the collection allows readers to balance the trade-offs of each approach in terms of intuitiveness, theoretical attractiveness, and elegance.Contributors:Yuri Balashov, William Carter, Graeme Forbes, Sally Haslanger, Katherine Hawley, H. S. Hestevold, Mark Hinchliffe, Mark Johnston, Roxanne Marie Kurtz, David K. Lewis, Ned Markosian, D. H. Mellor, W. V. O. Quine, Theodore Sider, Richard Taylor, Judith Jarvis Thomson, Peter van Inwagen, Dean Zimmerman. (shrink)
Are sagging pants cool? Are cows food? Are women more submissive than men? Are blacks more criminal than whites? Taking the social world at face value, many people would be tempted to answer these questions in the affirmative. And if challenged, they can point to facts that support their answers. But there is something wrong about the affirmative answers. In this chapter, I draw on recent ideas in the philosophy of language and metaphysics to show how the assertion of a (...) generic claim of the sort in question ordinarily permits one to infer that the fact in question obtains by virtue of something specifically about the subject so described, i.e., about women, or blacks, or sagging pants. In the examples I’ve offered, however, this implication inference is unwarranted. The facts in question obtain by virtue of broad system of social relations within which the subjects are situated, and are not grounded in intrinsic or dispositional features of the subjects themselves. The background relations are obscured, however, and as a result, the assertion is at least systematically misleading; a denial functions to block the problematic implication. Revealing such implications or presuppositions and blocking them is a crucial part of ideology critique. (shrink)
How should we explore the relationship between race and educational opportunity? One approach to the Black-White achievement gap explores how race and class cause disparities in access and opportunity. In this paper, I consider how education contributes to the creation of race. Considering examples of classroom micropolitics, I argue that breakdowns of trust and trustworthiness between teachers and students can cause substantial disadvantages and, in the contemporary United States, this happens along racial lines. Some of the disadvantages are academic: high (...) achievement is more difficult when one faces mistrust, ego depletion, effort pessimism, and insult. And within a knowledge economy, exclusion from knowledge work makes one vulnerable to injustice. But the problem goes deeper than achievement, for schools are contexts in which we develop self-understandings and identities that situate us as members of society. If students of color are systematically denied full participation in trusting conversations that create shared knowledge—especially, knowledge that holds power within the dominant culture—they are unjustly deprived resources to form flourishing selves that are suited to the positions of power and authority. The argument suggests that knowledge is not best understood simply as a commodity to be distributed, and opportunity is not just a matter of access. Moreover, even if access is granted, those who are motivated and talented can fail: they drain their willpower by coping with insults, or reasonably lose optimism about their efficacy. Over time, motivation may shift away from achievement, and under the circumstances this can be a rational response. The barriers to achievement are many, but true opportunity is impossible without trust and trustworthiness. (shrink)
It is a great honor to have such excellent commentary on my book, and I am happy to have the opportunity to discuss these issues with others who have done such important work on the topics. I will reply to the commentaries separately, beginning with the critique by Charles Mills (2013) and moving on to Karen Jones’s (2013). Reply to MillsRevisiting my projectMills considers four views that pose challenges to my account of race as a hierarchical social category.(1) Kitcher (2007) (...) and Andreasen (1998) (and others) argue that there is a biological reality to race. If, as I argue, it is not helpful to draw a sharp boundary between the social and the natural, should we embrace their framework and allow that race is both social and biological? Or is biologism’s history too troublesome for that? Am I implicitly committed to a problematic naturalism about race myself, given that I embrace a broad naturalism?So a remapping of this contrast would be something like the “natural” unmediated by hum .. (shrink)
Socializing Metaphysics supplies diverse answers to the basic questions of social metaphysics, from a broad array of voices. It will interest all philosophers and social scientists concerned with mind, action, or the foundations of social theory.
• Ongoing concerns about time to acceptance/rejection and time to publication. o NB: Schemas kick in when people are rushed. How does this affect the refereeing process? Does it matter for desk rejections, which may be quick and based on nonanonymized papers? Does it also affect referees? How?
Unlike feminist ethics, or feminist political philosophy, or even feminist epistemology and philosophy of science, feminist metaphysics cannot be said (yet!) to have standing as a full-fledged sub-discipline of either philosophy or feminist theory. Although one can find both undergraduate and graduate courses devoted to the other sub-fields just mentioned, a course in feminist metaphysics is a rare find; and there are few professional philosophers who would consider listing in their areas of specialization both feminist theory and metaphysics. There are (...) many reasons for this, some having to do with academic politics, e.g., women have not broken into the ranks of metaphysicians in anything like the numbers that can now be found in ethics or political philosophy, and some having to do with tensions between the methods and topics of standard feminist projects and standard metaphysical projects, e.g., feminism is typically taken to be a normative enterprise whereas metaphysics is not. (shrink)
The framing question of Mills' important and thought-provoking paper is whether there is reason for political progressives and radicals to employ the notion of a social contract for either descriptive or normative purposes. In contrast to the common response that the social contract is a piece of "bourgeois mystification" he argues instead that a reformulated conception of the contract, one which he calls the.
With some notable exceptions, feminist epistemologists have not focused (like many contemporary analytic epistemologists) on the the semantics of claims to know: What are the truth conditions of claims of the form S knows that p? My goal in this paper is to suggest a way of approaching the task of specifying the truth conditions for knowledge while (hopefully) making clear how a broad range of feminist work that is often deemed irrelevant to the philosophical inquiry into knowledge is, in (...) fact, highly relevant. My discussion may also show (though I’m not going to take this up explicitly) that there are reasons why the search for truth conditions for knowledge could have a legitimate place in feminist epistemological inquiry. (shrink)
I’ll start by giving a very brief summary of Sider’s position and will identify some points on which my own position differs from his. I’ll then raise four issues, viz., how to articulate the 3-dimensionalist view, the trade-offs between Ted’s stage view of persistence and endurance with respect to intrinsic properties, the endurantist’s response to the argument from vagueness, and finally more general questions about what’s at stake in the debate. I don’t believe that anything I say raises insurmountable problems (...) for Sider’s view; and in fact, I’m sure he’s in a better position to defend his view more convincingly than I’m able to defend mine. However, there is plenty worth discussing further. (shrink)
Gender is the social meaning of a person’s sex, and race is the social meaning of a person’s color. This paper reviews some accounts of these social meanings. It is argued that there are important differences between race and gender that count against treating them as parallel.
In the weeks after 9/11/01, the events of that day were described in many ways. One of the most significant "spins" came from the government: initially the events were described as "a terrorist attack," but not long after they became an "act of war". We were told that what occurred was not a crime to be addressed by punishing the perpetrators, but an attack on a nation-state which requires us to take up arms against the enemy.
"What is sexist oppression?" "What should be done about it?" Organized around these questions, Theorizing Feminisms: A Reader provides an overview of theoretical feminist writing about the quest for gender justice. Incorporating both classic and cutting-edge material, the reader takes into account the full diversity of women, highlighting the effects of race, ethnicity, nationality, class, sexuality, and religion on women's experience. Theorizing Feminisms is organized into four sections and includes fifty-four essays. The first section introduces several basic concepts commonly employed (...) when thinking about sexism--oppression, social construction, essentialism, intersectionality, gender, race, and class--and also raises questions about the perspective and legitimacy of the theorist. The second section surveys three approaches that attempt to characterize in a general way the source of injustice toward women: humanist feminism ("the sameness approach"), gynocentric feminism ("the difference approach"), and dominance feminism. Offering an alternate perspective, the third section introduces two "localizing" approaches, grounded in postmodernism and identity politics, respectively. Skeptical of theories that attempt to analyze social phenomena across history and culture, authors in this section challenge, rather than answer, the text's organizing questions. The final section explores the relationship of feminist theory to three liberatory projects--postcolonialism, neo-materialism, and queer theory--that do not characterize themselves as feminist, yet take gender as a significant category of analysis. Each section opens with an introduction and each essay is followed by helpful study questions. The majority of the essays are presented in their entirety. Theorizing Feminisms underscores the strong connection between feminist theory and practice by including essays that illustrate important political inspirations or applications of each theoretical approach. It also presents versions of the same approach from various points in history, revealing feminist theory to be dynamic and evolving, rather than static. Ideal for interdisciplinary courses in feminist theory, this volume will also serve as an invaluable reference for current and future generations of theorists. (shrink)