Feminist epistemology

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Feminist epistemology is an examination of the subject matter of epistemology, i.e., the theory of knowledge from a feminist standpoint. Elizabeth Anderson describes it as being concerned with the way in which gender influences our concept of knowledge and "practices of inquiry and justification".[1] It is generally regarded as falling under the umbrella of social epistemology.

Elizabeth Anderson argues that the concept of situated knowledge is central to feminist epistemology. Donna Haraway asserts that most knowledge (in particular academic knowledge) is always situated and "produced by positioned actors working in/between all kinds of locations, working up/on/through all kinds of research relation(ships)" (Cook, et al.),[2] and thus what is known and the ways in which this knowledge can be known is subject to the position—the situation and perspective—of the knower.

The English feminist philosopher Miranda Fricker has argued that in addition to social or political injustices, there can be epistemic injustices in two forms: testimonial injustice and hermeneutical injustice. Testimonial injustice consists in prejudices that cause one to "give a deflated level of credibility to a speaker's word":[3] Fricker gives the example of a woman who due to her gender is not believed in a business meeting. She may make a good case, but prejudice causes the listeners to believe her arguments to be less competent or sincere and thus less believable. In this kind of case, Fricker argues that as well as there being an injustice caused by possible outcomes (such as the speaker missing a promotion at work), there is a testimonial injustice: "a kind of injustice in which someone is wronged specifically in her capacity as a knower".[4]

In the case of hermeneutical injustice, "speakers' knowledge claims fall into lacunae in the available conceptual resources, thus blocking their capacity to interpret, and thence to understand or claim a hearing for their experiences."[5] For example, when the language of 'sexual harassment' or 'homophobia' were not generally available, those who experienced these wrongs lacked the resources to make a claim to being wronged in morally relevant ways.

The philosopher Susan Haack is a notable critic of feminist epistemology.[6][7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Anderson, Elizabeth, "Feminist Epistemology and Philosophy of Science", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2004 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)
  2. ^ Ian Cook, 'Positionality/Situated Knowledge' for David Sibley et al. (eds)Critical Concepts in Cultural Geography. London, IB: Taurus http://www.gees.bham.ac.uk/downloads/gesdraftpapers/iancook-situatedknowledge.pdf[dead link]
  3. ^ Miranda Fricker (August 2009). Epistemic Injustice: Power and the Ethics of Knowing. Oxford University Press. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-19-957052-2. Retrieved 8 March 2011. 
  4. ^ Miranda Fricker (August 2009). Epistemic Injustice: Power and the Ethics of Knowing. Oxford University Press. p. 20. ISBN 978-0-19-957052-2. Retrieved 8 March 2011. 
  5. ^ Lorraine Code, 2008. Review of Epistemic Injustice.
  6. ^ Haack, Susan (2000) [1998]. Manifesto of a Passionate Moderate: Unfashionable Essays. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-31137-1. 
  7. ^ Lynn Hankinson Nelson (1995). "The Very Idea of Feminist Epistemology". Hypatia 10 (3): 31—49. 

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