Jody Bart, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Women and Gender Studies

In 1952 Simone de Beauvoir made the claim that "representation of the world, like the world itself, is the work of men; they describe it from their own point of view, which they confuse with absolute truth."1 This has continued to be a major underlying assumption in much feminist theory since the 1970s and has resulted in the emergence of a type of feminist theory concerned with questions of knowledge, referred to as "feminist epistemology." It might be thought curious that this surge of interest among feminists in epistemology should occur at a time when there appears to be a growing philosophical movement away from epistemological questions in general, and foundationalism in particular.2 But this becomes less curious when we remember that feminism, which refers to all those who seek to end women's subordination, is social/political philosophy. Feminism shares the view of Karl Marx, expressed on his monument stone in Hyde Park, that "philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways. The point however is to change it." Therefore, feminist theory is political theory, even when its object is not overtly political. For instance, feminist psychoanalytic theory is concerned with, among other things, the disparity between women's experience and the traditional psychoanalytic representation of human development. This latter view portrays women's psychology in a fundamentally negative light. Feminist theories are committed to uncovering the mechanisms involved in women's psycho/social development and psychological difficulties. Also, these theories attempt to show the unacceptability of traditional psychoanalytic theories which have served to perpetuate women's subordination. While women's psychology is the explicit object of inquiry, the implicit aims of such research are political - that is - to contribute to the struggle to end the oppression of women.

The same aims underlie feminist epistemological projects. The recognition that epistemological assumptions have political implications has had a dual effect on feminism. First, it stimulates an internal "theoretical self-consciousness concerning the intellectual presuppositions of feminist analyses".3 For example, third world women and women of color question the ability of any particular group of women, namely Western, white, middle-class women, to "know" what is in the interest of all women.4

Second, it has led to the identification of androcentric biases in the sciences by challenging epistemological assumptions with negative social or political consequences for women. Men's claims to "know" women's natures, abilities, limitations, and so forth have been a fundamental element of feminist criticisms since its genesis, primarily because it is precisely these claims which are used to justify the social and political subordination of women.5 For instance, to the epistemological question "Who can be legitimate knowers?" the answer has historically been, "not women". The denial that women can be fully rational agents has a long history. Aristotle, drawing on principles of biology he believed to show women were both physically and mentally inferior to men, argued that "The women has [a deliberative faculty] but it is without authority."6 Therefore, "The man is by nature superior and the female inferior; the one rules and the other is ruled."7 This attitude was continued with few revisions throughout the history of Western science and it is both noteworthy and problematic that evidence confirming the aptness of this stereotype of women is often adduced from sources and by methods which appear to comply, at least at the time, with acceptable standards of objectivity. Londa Schiebinger illustrates:

In the mid-nineteenth century, social Darwinists invoked evolutionary biology to argue that a woman was a man whose evolution - both physical and mental - had been arrested in a primitive stage. In this same period, doctors used their authority as scientists to discourage women's attempts to gain access to higher education. Women's intellectual development, it was argued, would proceed only at great cost to reproductive development. As the brain developed, so the logic went, the ovaries shrivel. In the twentieth century, scientists have given modern dress to these prejudices. Arguments for women's different (and inferior) nature have been based on hormonal research, brain lateralization, and sociobiology.8

Feminist analyses have significantly illuminated the epistemological and political consequences of male bias in the sciences, in philosophy, and in many other fields. These consequences are not trivial and have had a serious impact on women's lives. Feminist criticisms, therefore, which uncover these biases, deserve serious attention. But feminists do not stop here. Feminist epistemologists seek to construct a distinctively feminist epistemology, that is, a feminist theory of knowledge. These theorists hope to modify or reconstruct the theoretical structures which shape epistemological and scientific investigations. Their aim is to yield a better picture of reality than the so-called androcentric picture that now prevails.

Clearly, this project raises significant questions. To begin with, what is a "feminist" epistemology? What makes a theory of knowledge different enough to count as an epistemological endeavor distinct from the rest of non-feminist epistemology? After all, it is argued, epistemology, the study of knowledge, is gender neutral, isn't it? There are all kinds of theories of knowledge, ranging from skepticism, which doubts the possibility of knowledge, to theories which postulate that knowledge is possible to various degrees of certainty. Some theories argue for various justification strategies for cognitive claims, while others argue over the epistemic relationships of "knowing how" to "knowing that" to "knowing plus some direct object". Still, it is all epistemology.

Critics of feminist epistemology also assert that even where these projects seem to generate new facts, new knowledge, or more humbly, better theories, the evidence used in support of these claims is generally not substantially different from the kinds of evidence used to support conventional claims. For instance, Carol Gilligan's work challenges the basic premises of Lawrence Kohlberg's theory of moral development, where women's moral experience has fallen into a shadowy realm of the not properly moral.9 Gilligan asserts that the apparent failure of women to achieve autonomy and moral maturity as measured on Kohlberg's scale is more plausibly interpreted as evidence of inadequacy in the scale itself than as a demonstration of natural female inadequacy. Gilligan's claims, however, are assessed in terms of the scope of her investigation, the breadth of her research, the scale of her evidence, and the explanatory force of her theory. For critics of feminist epistemology, a specifically feminist theory of knowledge is superfluous because it appears that the results of feminist research are justified (or not justified, as the case may be) in non-controversial, traditionally acceptable ways. Even if, these critics argue, gender does play a decisive role in shaping our perspectives, the question of what, if anything, makes one perspective better than another, remains. Wouldn't one theory be better than another because its evidence is more unbiased, more comprehensive, more inclusive (i.e., accounts for more of the phenomena in question)?

What distinguishes feminist epistemologies from non-feminist epistemologies is precisely the emphasis feminist theory places on the role of gender in shaping our perspectives. When used as an analytical technique to evaluate epistemological claims, these theories have been immensely valuable. Many feminists have made significant contributions to the epistemological terrain as regards questions such as who can be "knowers", or what sorts of experience can count as justification of knowledge claims. But the development of a distinctively "feminist" theory of knowledge premised on the supposed superiority of women's gender-conditioned experience is a shaky endeavor at best, a politically disastrous project at worst. It is shaky because there is no good reason to believe that women are any less prone to error, deception or distortion than men, or to believe that all women in all social/historical conditions share the same or similar experience of reality. The project of developing a specifically feminist theory of knowledge that rests on the assumed corrective power of women's perspectives smacks of a kind of essentialism from which women have been trying to extricate themselves for centuries. It implies, among other things, that women's experiences and perceptions are essentially one way and not another. This could have politically disastrous effects for women. Throughout history women have had to overcome beliefs that we are "essentially" non-rational, emotional, nurturing, and so forth. The identification of these supposedly "essential" characteristics have then been used to restrict women from most political, social, and economic spheres. Re-claiming or re-valuing women's so-called essential characteristics still limits women's autonomy by asserting a determined or fixed women's nature.

In this paper, I will identify the current feminist epistemological strategies which I feel are inadequate, particularly when used to support the general feminist political aim of ending the oppression of women (thereby increasing women's autonomy). I will focus on various feminists' claims and criticisms regarding objectivity and show some of the strengths and weaknesses of these positions. I will then turn to several non-feminist views on objectivity to show some similarity these theories share with their feminist counterparts as well as some of their weaknesses. It is my position that, while the stress on the role of gender is unique to feminist epistemological critiques, they emerge from and are contiguous with a long history of pre-feminist and non-feminist criticisms. Recognizing this intellectual heritage and philosophical connectiveness will have the political advantage of placing feminist epistemological theory squarely within a historical discourse, rather than marginalized as a subject of interest to "women only".

If male-dominated conceptual frameworks yield a flawed or incomplete picture of reality, what are the alternatives? Sandra Harding surveys three types of feminist epistemological strategies: feminist empiricism; feminist standpoint theory; and feminist post-modernism.10

Feminist empiricism would retain the two basic philosophical assumptions of science. The first assumption, philosophical realism, asserts the existence of the world as the object of knowledge independent of the human knower. The second assumption is the empiricist conviction that all knowledge derives from experience through the senses. Feminist empiricists assert that with the inclusion of women (which means literally including more women as scientists and researchers as well as including more women's experiences as objects of inquiry) in all phases of observation and theory formation, gender bias can be eradicated and objective knowledge achieved. Harding notes:

There are facts of the matter, these critics claim, but androcentric science can not locate them. By identifying and eliminating masculine bias through more rigorous adherence to scientific methods, we can get an objective, de-gendered (and in that sense, value-free) picture of nature and social life. Feminist inquiry represents not a substitution of one gender loyalty for another - one subjectivism for another - but the transcendence of gender which thereby increases objectivity.11

Feminist empiricism suffers from most standard criticisms of foundationalism and empiricism, beginning with the Humean problem of induction. Anti-foundationalists are quick to point out that observation generates correlations which cannot prove causation. No matter how strong the evidence we have for assessing probabilities may be, we can never attain uncontestable truth. If traditional empiricism underestimates the role of theory in shaping perception, feminist empiricism overestimates the power of women's perspectives to increase objectivity.

Feminist standpoint theories appropriate the Marxist belief in the epistemological superiority of the perspective of the oppressed class, in this case, women. These theories reject the notion of an unmediated truth, arguing that knowledge is always mediated by a myriad of factors related to an individual's particular position in the socio/historical landscape, at a specific point in history. Mary Hawkesworth explains:

Although they repudiate the possibility of an unmediated truth, feminist standpoint epistemologies do not reject the notion of truth altogether. On the contrary, they argue that while certain social positions (the oppressor's) produce distorted ideological views of reality, other social positions (the oppressed's) can pierce ideological obfuscations and obtain a correct and comprehensive understanding of the world.12

Although feminist standpoint theories assert that concepts of knowledge are historically and sociologically variable, other features of their arguments contradict this claim. Claiming the existence of a distinctive women's "perspective" that has "privileged" insight into the nature of reality is tantamount to asserting the existence of a uniform and universal women's experience that generates this univocal vision. But this position ignores the social, historical, and cultural differences between women. This view fails to explain why some women see the truth and some do not. Faced with competing feminist knowledge claims and political agendas, a universal women's standpoint theory can have little adjudicating force. There is no homogeneous women's experience and hence no singular women's standpoint.

The third category of alternative epistemologies vying for feminist allegiance is feminist post-modernism. These theories challenge the notion that there is such a thing as objective reality to be structured. Given the situatedness of each finite knower, and the various conditions which shape individual identities, post-modern feminists are skeptical about the idea of any unitary women's consciousness or unitary women's experience. These views reject all universal or universalizing claims about existence, nature, and the powers of reason. Post-modernists encourage instead "a commitment to plurality and the play of difference", unhampered by any predetermined gender identity or "authoritarian impulses of the will to truth".13 The attraction of feminist post-modernism is that it seems to hold out the promise of an increased freedom for women. But it also tends to foster a politically paralyzing relativist stance. To mobilize a social movement you must offer a positive alternative, a vision of the better society towards which you ask people to struggle. An ideology which claims only subjective veracity can have little persuasive force for social change.

Brief as this summary of these alternative feminist epistemologies is, it exhibits the difficulties each theory has in addressing all feminist concerns. Both feminist empiricism and feminist standpoint theory, which sustain claims concerning a privileged perspective of the world, are challenged by insights generated by the long struggle of women of color within the feminist movement, that there is no uniform "women's reality" to be known, no coherent perspective to be privileged. Feminist post-modernism's plea for tolerance of multiple perspectives is in conflict with feminists' desire to develop a successor science that can refute androcentric biases in the sciences and support feminists' positive political aims. I will now turn to some feminist epistemological critiques.

Many aspects of feminist epistemological critiques are now well known. Much of this work has been extremely valuable, yet some trends in feminist theory have been less positive. For instance, responding to abusive intellectual practices which have oppressed women throughout history, feminist analyses have, understandably, often subtly shifted from the identification of misinformation about women, to the conspiracy theory of a design by men to disseminate disinformation about women. It is not necessary to engage in discussion on the merits of this position to recognize that this shift in emphasis from misinformation to disinformation has had unfortunate effects on feminist approaches to epistemology. Concentrating on the source of knowledge, men, rather than on the validity of specific claims advanced by men, has shifted the analysis away from issues of justification, toward psychological and functional analyses. The result has been a slide from epistemology per se to sociology of knowledge which, in turn, has allowed several highly controversial epistemological assumptions regarding the nature of knowledge, the process of knowing, assessment criteria, and standards of evidence to be incorporated unreflectively into feminist arguments.

One of the more controversial of these positions suggests that the whole notion of objectivity expresses a fundamentally male approach to knowledge and the world. Ruth Blier expresses this idea:

Science is the male intellect: the active, knowing subject; its relationship to nature - the passive object of knowledge - is one of manipulation, control and domination; it is the relationship of man to woman, of culture to nature.14

Yet another feminist critique refers to "the ostensibly non-involved stance" as the male epistemological stance which "does not comprehend its own perspectivity".15 The assertion is that what has traditionally been accepted as unbiased and objective is, in fact, intricately embedded in a particular world-view. This perspective, it is argued, is "specifically male and tends to exclude or devalue the experiences and the points of view of women".16 These types of critiques deny the objectivity of traditional standards of objectivity and advocate the inclusion of women's experience in scientific research and theory formation to correct our perceptions.

Some feminist treatments of knowledge approach the problem of objectivity by suggesting that part of the difficulty emerges from the dualistic categories into which we have tried to place all knowledge. This approach includes the curious claim that reason is gendered.

The claim here is that science rests on and is defined by the assumptions of a polarity between man and woman that structures our views of and investigations into what constitutes men's and women's natures.17

Rationality, a tough, rigorous, impersonal, competitive, unemotional, objectifying stance, is said to be "inextricably intertwined with issues of men's gender identities" such as obsession with separation and individuation.18 Evidence from many areas, most notably biology, anthropology, and sociology, is often used to reinforce the stereotype of "male" as active, rational, superior, and of "female" as passive, emotional, inferior. Paradoxically, these stereotypes are adduced from animal behaviors onto which are falsely projected human sex roles. This research is then used as evidence for the claim that these roles are biologically determined. The contention is that the assumption that active behavior on the part of an organism exemplifies the male principle, and passive behavior the female, leads biologist to "see" in certain theory-determined ways. While in the very recent history these types of claims have come under criticism, the stereotypes persist.19 It is argued that these assumptions underlie all our views about what constitutes knowledge. Across the board, our culture accepts and perpetuates these dualisms in art, literature, science, philosophy, and all social institutions. Our customs and social structures reflect our belief that these dualisms really exist in the world, particularly in the natures of men and women. An alternative view argues the converse, that these dualisms do not exist in nature, but are our way of describing, ordering, and analyzing our perceptions and experiences. In the words of Ruth Blier, "We tend to mistake our cognitive techniques to comprehend the universe for the universe itself".20

Lorraine Code, puzzling over the knowledge/experience dichotomy, asserts it to be of a piece with several other dichotomies standardly taken to mark crucial philosophical distinctions, all of which have epistemological implications: namely, the mind/body, reason/emotion, theory/practice, and public/private dichotomies, among others.21 Feminists are now considering the male/female dichotomy as similar to these and are thinking that, along with the other dichotomies, the distinction between male and female is evaluative and not merely descriptive. In each dualistic relationship, the left-hand term is the more highly valued and the right-hand term is often outrightly denigrated. Feminist critiques claim that to treat such dualisms as representing contradictory and mutually exclusive spheres is to perpetuate false dichotomies, not because these ways of classifying do not order our perceptions, for clearly they do, but because they leave out or undervalue women's experiences. For many feminists, these false dualisms actually represent continua whose extremes are not separable and continuously interact with one another.

Feminist analyses which concentrate on men as the source of knowledge and the social purposes served by androcentric rationality, as the central epistemological issues, are premised on many highly problematic assumptions about the nature of reason and the process of knowing. Rather than acknowledging that reason, rationality, objectivity, and knowledge are themselves essentially contested concepts that have been the subject of centuries of philosophical debate, there is a tendency to conflate all reasoning with one particular conception of rationality.

Objectivity is often attacked, even by non-feminist realists, for its inherent limitations: every observer, by the very act of observing from a single vantage point, must be to some extent subjective. Scientific method employs many safeguards that limit subjectivity, but inevitably the constraints of perspective remain. Israel Scheffler argues that these very restrictions can direct us toward a greater objectivity:

Our categorizations and expectations guide by orienting us selectively toward the future; they set us, in particular, to perceive in certain ways and not others. Yet they do not blind us to the unforeseen. They allow us to recognize what fails to match anticipation, affording us the opportunity to improve our orientation in response to disharmony. The genius of science is to capitalize upon such disharmony for the sake of a systematic learning from experience.22

This view, not surprisingly, assumes a unified ontological ground: "reality itself ... independent of human wish and will, progressively constrains our scientific beliefs".23 Scheffler sees observation as the prime methodology of scientific evaluation, providing, in spite of its innately subjective nature, an objective counterpoint to the predisposing factors of assumption and conviction.

In the late 19th century, Charles Peirce advanced a definition of truth that parallels Scheffler's defense of observation. Peirce held that human opinion is not only subject to inaccuracy and error, but that acknowledgment of the error factor is "an essential ingredient of truth".24

The confessed fallibility of our beliefs works as a permanent stimulus to further inquiry.... This idea of confessed inaccuracy [is] not only a condition of the truth of assertions, but an essential characteristic of scientific method.25

While no single scientific statement can be known with certainty to be true, the principle of fallibilism leads always toward an idea of finished scientific knowledge. Although this ideal is, in practice, unattainable, fallibilism is said to guide us unerringly in its direction. Objective truth, for Peirce, is what the rational processes of human intellect would arrive at if all the facts were known.

Karl Popper regards objectivity in a different light. While not renouncing realism altogether, he considers that we are more severely limited in what we can know of reality. He writes:

My use of the terms 'objective' and 'subjective' is not unlike Kant's. He uses the word 'objective' to indicate that scientific knowledge should be justifiable, independently of anybody's whim: a justification is 'objective' if in principle it can be tested and understood by anybody.... Now I hold that scientific theories are never fully justifiable or verifiable, but that they are nevertheless testable. I shall therefore say that the objectivity of scientific statements lies in the fact that they can be intersubjectively tested.26

While sounding very much like fallibilism, Popper's vision stops short of the Peircian ideal of ultimate truth. Perhaps Popper is more skeptical of the potential accomplishments of human rationality. Certainly he considers that our discoveries about reality are more sharply constrained by the limits of subjectivity. Since there is no escape from the limits of point of view, intersubjectivity is the best we can do.

In case it should be thought that only some feminist theorists suggest the deployment of a knowledge that is intuitive, emotional, engaged, and personal, may I point out the philosophy of Michael Polanyi. He dispenses with objectivity by redefining it beyond recognition. He associates objectivity with passion and intuition, not with detached observation. Polanyi would discard the tenets of scientific methodology for the purportedly superior approach that he calls "personal knowledge". Passionate commitment, a sense of cosmic responsibility, and utter confidence in one's personal authority constitute the salient ingredients of this exotic prescription. The scientist becomes a shaman, assigning greater weight to personal conviction than to sensory evidence.

It is the act of commitment in its full structure that saves personal knowledge from being merely subjective. Intellectual commitment is a responsible decision, in submission to the compelling claims of what in good conscience I conceive to be true. It is an act of hope.27

It is certainly that. If conscience is the principal criterion to which intellectual commitment must submit, then this hope could more properly be called beatific faith. Rationality, for Polanyi, is not a human faculty to bring to bear upon observed fact but is a characteristic of nature itself. Objectivity is a property rather mysteriously engendered by passion and faith, and truth is linked to a vision "far beyond our comprehension".28 While he posits a unified reality, a "universe which can speak for itself,"29 his notions of how to read that reality are as unilluminating as personal accounts of mystical experience.

Hilary Putnam would preserve truth through a pragmatist hybrid he calls "internal realism", which claims that "realism is not incompatible with conceptual relativity".30 Our conceptual schema give intelligibility to our questions and answers. Truth and falsity are preserved, but only within conceptual frameworks. This view rejects the spectator view of "truth as correspondence to a pre-structured Reality".31

Truth, on this conception, stands in peril of dismemberment by the claims of relativism. If my truth about a given situation differs from yours, and there is no possibility of an arbitrating standard, doesn't the very notion of truth lose its meaning? No, argues Putnam, because the "facts" remain. "There are `external facts'," claims Putnam, "and we can say what they are. What we cannot say - because it makes no sense - is what the facts are independent of all conceptual choices."32 By citing "externality", Putnam hopes to obviate the charge that he appears to claim that facts do and do not have independent status, but he gives an equivocal defense:

We can and should insist that some facts are there to be discovered and not legislated by us. But this is something to be said when one has adopted a way of speaking, a language, a 'conceptual scheme'. To talk of 'facts' without specifying a language is to talk of nothing.33

Inquiries are conducted by applying the rules of the particular game (the conceptual framework) to the facts at hand, but the shape and existence of the facts themselves depend on the rules. Putnam goes a step beyond Kant, who says that we can't know about the noumenal world. For Putnam the very notion of a noumenal world is unintelligible. "Internal realism says that we don't know what we are talking about when we talk about `things in themselves'."34 Putnam declares that there are no intrinsic properties, so how can there be "external facts"?

For Putnam, there can be no objective standards of truth or ontological status. People arguing from different positions have no recourse to external, arbitrating criteria. Putnam's view doesn't require - indeed, doesn't admit - a "best version".

One does not have to believe in a unique best moral version, or a unique best causal version, or a unique best mathematical version; what we have are better and worse versions, and that is objectivity.

This is a peculiar sort of objectivity, and it is difficult to see what relation it could have to the word's denotation as it is commonly understood. Because his "internal realism" admits of "better and worse versions", Putnam believes that it is saved from the paralyzing skepticism that nullifies the possibility of rational discourse across perspectives or conceptual frameworks. But, on his own account, there can be no standard by which to measure "better" and "worse".

What, indeed, has become of truth? If the assumptions of Putnam are correct, there is no objectively ascertainable truth. Traditional objectivists like Scheffler fail to solve the problem of conflicting points of view. Popper is well on his way down the slippery slope of relativism, and Polanyi is evidently off in a world of his own. If there is an objective reality to be investigated, I am unpersuaded that a feminist epistemology will be any more successful in its attempt to offer an exclusive premium on truth. It does seem that some sort of synthesis is in order, incorporating not only the perspectives of women but of other disempowered groups as well. We would still, however, require some sort of objective - or consensual - standard by which to guide such a synthesis.

Given the very long and eclectic history of epistemic debate, and the apparent movement in philosophy away from foundationalism, feminist efforts would be more productively engaged in developing a critical feminist epistemology rather than a uniquely feminist theory of knowledge. Recognizing the complexity of all knowledge claims, feminism as a set of social political philosophies need only adopt a minimalist standard of rationality that requires belief be apportioned to evidence and that no assertion be immune from critical assessment. With this standard, feminist analyses can achieve their various social and political aims: they can refute unfounded claims about women's "nature", they can identify androcentric bias in concepts, methods, and theories, and they can point out the practical implications of these biases which obstruct women's full participation in social, political, and economic life.

Feminists need not claim a universal, ahistorical validity for their analyses or claim that women have an exclusive window on truth. Many feminists recognize this and encourage a plurality of perspectives. Feminist claims derive their justificatory force from their capacity to illuminate existing social relations, to show the weaknesses in alternative explanations and to debunk opposing views. Feminist analyses confront the world by providing concrete reasons in specific contexts for the superiority of their views. These claims to superiority are not derived from some privileged standpoint of the feminist knower, but from the strength of rational argument, and the ability to demonstrate point by point the deficiency of alternative positions.

Notes

  1. Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, trans. H. M. Parshley (N.Y: Vintage, 1972), p. 161.

  1. Jacques Derrida, Dissemination (Chicago: U. of Chicago Press, 1981).

    Discussions concerning excessive preoccupation with epistemology abound. Another good paper is Paul Kress' "Against Epistemology", Journal of Politics 41, no. 2 (May 1979): 526-42. Even more arguments may be found against foundationalism such as Richard Rorty's Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Un. Press, 1979). By this, I do not mean to suggest that foundationalism is in anyway "dead" as a philosophical topic. Nor do I suggest that there are no foundationalists. Philosophical trends can be pointed out and there is a growing body of literature which is non-foundational or anti-foundational in contemporary philosophy.

  1. Mary E. Hawkesworth, "Knowers, Knowing, Known: Feminist Theory and Claims of Truth", Signs 14, no. 3 (Spring 1989): 533-56.

    See also, Nancy Hartsock, "The Feminist Standpoint: Developing a Ground for a Specifically Feminist Historical Materialism", in Discovering Reality: Feminist Perspectives on Epistemology, Metaphysics, Methodology, and Philosophy of Science, by Sandra Harding and Merrill Hintikka, eds., (Dordrecht: D. Reidel, 1983).

  1. Angela Davis, Women, Race and Class (N.Y.: Random House, 1981).

  1. Mary Wollstonecraft, Vindication of the Rights of Women, ed. Charles Hagdman (N.Y.: Norton, 1967).

    This is but one example of an early critique, many others could be cited, notably John Stuart Mills', the Subjection of Women, (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1970). The critique continues today, to suggest but a few: Andrea Nye's Feminist Theory and the Philosophies of Man, (N.Y.: Routledge, 1989) is a well-discussed overview of such critiques. Allison Jaggar's Feminist Politics and Human Nature, (Totowa, N.J.: Rowman & Littlefield, 1983), Ch. 11 is an attempt to show the importance of epistemology to feminist political aims. Carol Gilligan, In a Difference Voice, (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Press, 1982) raises many questions regarding the ways in which gender biased assumptions influence scientific methodology and theory formation. It also has become a classic example of the very practical consequences of these assumptions for women, in this case, regarding the psychological development of females.

  1. Aristotle, Politics, 1 13. 1260 al 13.

  1. Ibid., 15. 1254 b13-14.

  1. Londa Schiebinger, "History and Philosophy", in Sex and Scientific Inquiry, eds. Sandra Harding and Jean F. O'Barr, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), p. 26-27.

  1. Carol Gilligan, In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women's Development, (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1982).

  1. Sandra Harding, Whose Science? Whose Knowledge? (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell Un. Press, 1991), ch. 4.

    This is the most recent articulation of the alternatives which stems from her earlier work The Science Question in Feminism, (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell Un. Press, 1986).

  1. Ibid., Whose Science? Whose Knowledge?, p. 289.

  1. Mary Hawkesworth, (see note 3 above), p. 536.

    I might add that this paper attempts to sketch an alternative feminist epistemological direction different from those surveyed here. See also, Nancy Hartsock, "The Feminist Standpoint" (see note 3 above).

  1. Jane Flax, "Post-modernism and Gender Relations in Feminist Theory". Signs 12, no. 4 (Summer 1987): 621-43.

    Harding (see note 6) has a thorough discussion of feminist post-modernism or you can go to the well-spring, the French feminist in an anthology such as French Feminist Thought: A Reader, ed. by Toril Moi.

  1. Ruth Blier, Science and Gender, (N.Y.: Pergamon Press, 1984), p. 196.

  1. Catharine MacKinnon, "Feminism, Marxism, Method, and the State", Signs 13, no. 5 (Spring 1982): p. 538.

  1. Marsha Hanen, "Feminism, Objectivity, and Legal Truth" in Feminist Perspectives: Philosophical Essays on Method and Morals, eds. Lorraine Code, Sheila Mullett, Christine Overall, (Toronto: Toronto Press, 1988), p. 30.

    This work gives an excellent overview of the types of epistemological issues which Canadian feminist philosophers are concerned with. This anthology particularly emphasizes questions about the relationship of knowledge theory with moral theory.

  1. Ibid., p. 29.

    A full discussion of the epistemological/political consequences of the tenacity of stereotypes in determining women's place in an epistemic community may be found in Lorraine Code's "Credibility: A Double Standard" found in this same collection.

  1. Susan Bordo, "The Cartesian Masculinization of Thought," Signs 11, no. 3 (Spring 1986): 439-56.

  1. Lord Zuckerman, "Apes are not Us", New York Review of Books (May, 1991).

    And many other critiques of imposing any anthropormorphisism on non-human species abound. But the impact of these ways of thinking is very much with us. Lorraine Code's most recent work, What Can She Know: Feminist Theory and the Construction of Knowledge, (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell Un. Press, 1991) is one of the most coherent discussions concerning the lingering effects of stereotypes of women, regarding their epistemic inferiority, on mainstream Anglo-American epistemology.

  1. Ruth Blier, Science and Gender, (see note 10), p. 197.

  1. Lorraine Code, "Credibility: A Double Standard", (see note 13), p. 75-6.

  1. Israel Scheffler, Science and Subjectivity, (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1967), p. 44.

  1. Ibid., p. 11.

  1. H. S. Thayer, "Pragmatism," in A Critical History of Western Philosophy, ed. D.J. O'Connor, (London: Free Press of Glencoe, 1964), p. 445.

  1. Ibid., p. 445-6.

  1. Karl Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery, (N.Y.: Basic Books, 1959), p. 44.

  1. Michael Polanyi, Personal Knowledge, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958), p. 64-5.

  1. Ibid., p. 65.

  1. Ibid., p. 5.

  1. Hilary Putnam, The Many Faces of Realism, (LaSalle, Il.: Open Court, 1987), p. 17.

  1. Ibid., p. 43.

  1. Ibid., p. 33.

  1. Ibid., p. 36.

  1. Ibid.

  1. Ibid., p. 77.


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