Modern Engendering: Critical Feminist Readings in Modern Western Philosophy

By Bat-Ami Bar On | Go to book overview

Introduction

Bat-Ami Bar On

Whether we like it or not, we are within philosophy, surrounded by masculine-feminine divisions that philosophy has helped to articulate and refine. The problem is whether we want to remain there and be dominated by them, or whether we can take up a critical position in relation to them, a position which will necessarily involve the deciphering of the basic philosophical assumptions latent in discussions about women.

Michéle Le Doeuff1


I

I begin the introduction to this anthology with the same quotation from Michele Le Doeuff's "Women and Philosophy" with which I began the introduction to this book's sister volume about Plato and Aristotle. I do this since I believe that Le Doeuff captures well the situation of the feminist reader of the history of canonical Western philosophy. The feminist reader realizes that canonical Western philosophy has contributed to the production of the hegemonic system of interrelated gender differences. At the same time, it is far from obvious to her or him whether her or his thinking can become free from the influences of this system. Nonetheless, she or he takes a critical position toward this system in the hope that her or his work will contribute to a process of liberation. 2

As I noted in the introduction to the Plato-Aristotle volume, the contribution of the feminist critique is not unproblematic because of the many ways in which it may reinscribe just what it attempts to criticize and deconstruct, hence, in the final analysis, contribute to the philosophical production of gender differences. This might be clearer when thinking somewhat differently about what it is that anthologies like this do.

Some time ago I saw a new anthology of readings of the Western philosophical canon, and looking at the contents, realized that

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