[Helpsheet prepared for Phi 383W class, Spring 2000]
I. Review from Last
Uses an "intersectional framework" to make analyses
from the standpoint of persons subject to multiple oppressions--specifically,
here, a black feminist standpoint.
Distinguishes three types of intersectionality:
structural intersectionality: oppressive social and
institutional structures intersect
political and rhetorical intersectionality: persons
caught at the intersection of multiple oppressions may find that a discourse
that purports to liberate from one oppression may explicitly or implicitly
legitimate other forms of subordination (e.g. anti-sexist discourse may
implicitly legitimate racism).
representational intersectionality: images stereotyped
in keeping with one form of oppression intersect with images stereotyped
through another form of oppression to create specific stereotyped images
and narratives of persons caught at the intersection of multiple oppressions
(e.g stereotypes of blacks intersect with stereotypes of women to create
specific stereotypes of black women, and specific narratives supposedly
representing the lives of black women). Consequently the narratives told
by multiply marginalized persons themselves are not heard; the stereotyped
narratives get in the way.
Re. "2 Live Crew":
the prosecutors' "antisexism" was a cover for
the defendersí "antiracism" was a cover
for their sexism
An alternative epistemology poses
a far greater challenge to dominant views than do alternative knowledge-claims.
Collins draws on two, distinct alternatives to Eurocentric,
masculinist epistemologies: Afrocentric epistemologies and feminist epistemologies.
She finds several points of commonality between these
One important difference: the Afrocentric epistemologies
have greater institutional support within the black community than feminist
epistemologies have within the dominant, white community.
She leaves open the question of whether there are any
knowledge-claims which hold up in translation from one epistemology to
Major differences between positivist
(Eurocentric, masculinist) epistemological assumptions and Afrocentric
feminist epistemological assumptions:
Lloyd (essay #1):
1. inquirer must be detached
|1. inquirer must engage concrete experience
|2. emotion and values must be removed from the knowledge-validation process
2. an ethic of caring and an ethic of personal
accountability must be applied in the knowledge-valudation process:
-- emotions and empathy are central to the process
-- personal creditiliby is relevent
-- inquiry always has an ethical aim
|3. adversarial debate is thought to be the way to truth.
||3. dialogue is regarded as the way to assess knowledge-claims; connection
and caring lead to truth
Lloyd (essay #2):
Ancient Greece: (e.g. Aristotle) ? male rationality
is different from female rationality
Descartes: reason is associated with the male;
emotion, with the female
reason is "methodized"--start
with self-evident, rational intuitions and proceed by deductive method
to reach conclusions
emotion viewed negatively
Spinoza: "passive emotion" viewed negatively;
"active emotion," positively
18th century "philosophes" (Voltaire, Diderot,
"popularized" reason by denying that it requires special
training in deductive method
saw a positive role for passions: they motivate action
19th century "romantics":
exalted imagination and feeling; tended to repudiate
but put women on a pedestal (away from politics)
20th century: now seeing attempts to expand,
not repudiate, reason
We can distinguish (as Harding does) between structural
gendering and symbolic gendering--that is, between the gendering of individual
women and the gendering of concepts (the association of certain concepts
with a certain gender).
Once we differentiate structural
and symbolic gendering, then we can more clearly see how the two interact.
Furthermore, we can see more clearly the nature of the
symbolic operations that constitute our thinking:
Making distinctions is itself a symbolic operation (something
we do, using language).
Metaphor is a more complex symbolic operation.
Much of our thinking is constituted
by a complex web or metaphors.
Furthermore, the distinction between literal and metaphorical
uses of language is an "unstable" distinction.
NB: Lloyd herself, in this article, both uses and undermines
the distinction between structural and symbolic gender.
Lloyd agrees with feminists who
say we must affirm, valorize the multiplicity and indeterminacy which were
rejected by the "Man of Reason" tradition with its insistence on
unity and stability.
However, she is hesitant to associate
multiplicity and indeterminacy with a feminine principle of any
sort. She fears that doing that would reinstall old polarities.
Hence she is reluctant to accept Irigarayís association
of multiplicity ("difference") and indeterminacy with the "feminine Imaginary."
Lloyd sees in Irigarayís deconstructionist position
a complex metaphor created by the "crossing" of two traditional, masculinist
1st metaphor: reason is male / emotion is
2nd metaphor: body is differenced, gendered
/ soul is neutral, ungendered
new "crossed" metaphor: soul is neutral
and male / body is differenced (multiple) and female
II. NEW MATERIAL
Descartesí use of the idea of mind as motion,
seeking the stability of self-evident intuitions and deductive conclusions,
serves as another example of the impossibility of deciding whether his
language is literal or metaphorical--and hence an example of the instability
of the literal/metaphorical distinction.
Ancient Greek philosophers saw need for both rationality
and passion (the charioteer and the horse, to use Platoís metaphor).
The point was to keep them in the proper ratio.
The 17th century redefined
reason. It took the distinctions among reason, emotion, and sense,
and regarded them in this way: "reason" now meant deductive, inferential
reasoning; "emotion" was regarded as irrational. "Sense" if taken as "sensuality"
was assimilated with emotion as irrational, but, at the same time, "sense"
was rehabilitated by regarding sense perception as the raw data for inferential
reason to act upon.
Jaggar's project can be
seen as a (limited) attempt to "rehabilitate" emotion, which the
tradition has continued largely to associate with irrationality, and to
Contrary to the positivist tradition, emotions are:
intentional: they are "about" something, not just "dumb"
social constructs, not just individual physiological
responses: our cultureís linguistic and cognitive resources influence
what emotions we think there are, as well as what sorts of emotional
expression we think are appropriate.
active engagements with the world: in fact, for the
study of emotion, the distinction active/passive is inadequate. Emotions
are better thought of as habitual responses?and this means they can be
(a) implicated in
(b) the experiential basis for values
NB: This means that emotion:
reveals something about
reveals something about society and is influenced
is a potential force for change
is a link between observation
The "Myth of Dispassionate Observation" is the idea
that knowing results from detached, dispassionate observation, while emotion
has no place in the validation of knowledge. The results of these
beliefs include the following:
Males are trained to be lacking in emotional awareness
and flexibility, and, at the same time are granted epistemic authority.
Thus dominant [masculinist] values are "naturalized" (made to seem natural
Women also assume these dominant values--but not entirely;
they alsoexperience dissonant, "outlaw" emotions.
Functions that "outlaw emotions" can have include:
They can motivate inquiry
They can allow us to perceive things differently
They can lead to the articulation of the standpoint
of the oppressed, which usually provides less distorted knowledge than
the standpoint of the dominant.
Emotions are "epistemologically indispensable, but not
Reconstructing knowledge is a
process that requires a simultaneous reconstructing of the self.
Hence, attention to emotion, critical self-examination,
and time spent developing emotional acumen are essential parts both of
social theorizing and of political practice.
Shiva largely rejects the agenda of science, on grounds
that it is patriarchal, capitalist, and reductionist.
She re-examines the origins of modern science in the
15th and 17th centuries, focusing especially on Bacon
(1561-1626), whom she contrasts with the alternative tradition represented
by Paracelsus (the "hermetic" as opposed to Baconís "mechanical"
She also contrasts the Baconian, mechanical worldview
with traditional Indian views of nature as Pakriti,a feminine principle.
Note the confluence of these developments, in the 15th-17th
The rise of modern science, with its replacement of
organic metaphors by mechanistic metaphors. (E.g., earth is no longer Mater
[mother] but rather matter.)
The rise of capitalism and the exploitation of nature
as a resource for human industry.
Witch-hunting and violence against women.
Rise of nation-state, which steps in to turn the new
myths into institutionalized ideology.
Hence we get a variety of forms of reductionist
Organism reduced to mechanism
All value reduced to money value
Diversity reduced to homogeneity
Knowledge reduced to context-free abstraction
Contemporary fruits of these processes:
as economic progress
ecological destruction (violence against nature)
imperialism and violence against subsistence economies
violence also against women
Harding addresses the question: What attitude should
a feminist take toward the Enlightenment tradition with its foregrounding
of epistemology, and specifically of an epistemology that valorizes science
and scientific progress?
NB: There is a broad debate going on today about the
relative value of Enlightenment philosophy and its valorization of science,
on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the set of anti-Enlightenment
critiques roughly grouped under the term "postmodernism."
To put it all too crudely, the current debate pits science,
epistemology, modernism and "Enlightenment" philosophy (18th
c. philosophy) over against postmodernist critics of Enlightenment thinking,
epistemologyís attempts to justify some knowledge claims above others,
and "the science agenda" which claims to be one of progress.
Harding sees this broader debate,
between Enlightenment critics and the science agenda as being recapitulated
to some degree within feminism. After all, there are postmodern
feminists and feminists who reject postmodernism and more or less accept
the science agenda.
Some of the postmodern feminists she discusses: Flax,
Some of the anti-postmodernist feminists she discusses:
Irigaray, Hartsock, DiStefano
However, she also sees the conflict
as less stark, once it is brought within feminism. After all, even
feminist postmodernists can see the need for justificatory strategies?i.e.,
for epistemology; and even feminists who support some kind of science agenda
move away from Enlightenment versions of that agenda.
Why feminists need to develop justificatory strategies
* Neither objectivism nor interpretationism is tenable
Since a new epistemology must be generated by feminists,
they will need a decision procedure for "internal" use, i.e. for choosing
the best alternative among those they generate.
A feminist epistemology is needed as a resource for
developing less distorted knowledge and ending male domination.
What is Hardingís own position on the debate?
She argues for a "robust, principled
Why? Because there really are conflicting needs
among women today, and the "pomo versus science-agenda" debate is a reflection
of these real conflicts. To deny the ambivalence, the tension, would be
to deny an important social reality today.
Major feminist stances on epistemology
Postmodernists: reject epistemology as "grand theorizing
Feminist Empiricists: say the problem isnít science,
itís badly done science.
Feminist Standpoint theorists: make a deeper critique
of science agenda than feminist empiricists, but do not reject that agenda
feminist standpoint epistemologists give some degree
of epistemic privilege to the standpoint of the oppressed, arguing that
the latter are in a position to develop a "double vision" that yields a
more comprehensive view.
Comparison of femnist empiricism
and feminist standpoint epistemology:
Empiricists think stricter adherence to scientific method
can solve the problem; standpoint epistemologists disagree, claiming instead
that no ahistorical principle of inquiry (including "scientific
method") can adequately solve the problem, and also that science is permeated
by political life. I.e., adherence to method doesnít mean we can
be blind to history or to politics.
Feminist empiricists are less likely to insist explicitly
on the value of a bifurcated consciousness (versus the Enlightenment ideal
of the unified consciousness, the self-identical self as knower). They
are also less likely to have a clear explanation of why women of color,
e.g., must be explicitly brought into science if a less distorted body
of knowledge is to be generated (since empiricism does not grant epistemic
privilege to the standpoint of subordinate groups as standpoint epistemology
tends to do).
Nelson, like Harding, rejects
both the "objectivism" with traditionally associated with science and the
"interpretationism" often associated with postmodern thought. We see this
in her statement of commitment to all three of the following: realism,
empiricism, and feminism.
As an empiricist and a naturalistic realist, she must
reject postmodernism, at least in its more exaggerated forms of unrestricted
relativism and/or claims to the "incommensurability" of alternate scientific
But as a feminist, she must reject the traditional objectivist
beliefs that the agent of knowledge (the knower) is an isolated individual,
and that evidence is simply?well, evident! (self-announcing, unproblematic).
Over the last four decades, Nelson claims, we have certainly
learned these things:
That "truth has no signpost":
Current science will doubtless be abandoned eventually
Science might have evolved differently (and in this
sense, multiple theories are possible)
Weíve no reason to think our sense organs are
refined enough to let us discriminate which among several theories is the
That the factors relevant to the
construction of knowledge include social relations, politics, and values.
But itís not enough to know that knowledge is
socially constructed. We need a theory of evidence.
Her thesis: our evolving theories,
standards, and practices shape the nature of the evidence available to
Note what is involved in that thesis:
There are two general constraints
on knowledge and claims:
First, experience (which is largely structured, we must
grant, by our theories)
Second, a larger system of accepted theories and standards
(which make possible the experiences out of which new theories and standards
can be generated).
In other words, there are two general constraints, and
those constraints are in a dialectical relationship to one another: they
are mutually constitutive.
With Nelson's thesis as the beginning of a theory of
evidence, we can see why it is false to say that the error of basing a
developmental psychology on the experience of males alone has always been
The "containing theories" and standards prevailing among
psychologists and other scientists made the tacit assumption that it was
ok to take males as the norm.
The experiences researchers had were therefore experiences
with unrepresentative samples (being all male).
But it is the combination of experience and containing
theory that constitutes evidence--so the error was not evident,
i.e., not obvious.