Academic journal article Text Matters

Engaging the "Forbidden Texts" of Philosophy

Academic journal article Text Matters

Engaging the "Forbidden Texts" of Philosophy

Article excerpt

Pamela Sue Anderson Talks to Alison Jasper

AJ: In reference to your work in feminist philosophy of religion, Tina Beattie implied that you were per- haps less willing to explain the "par- ticularity" of your "own religious positioning" (Beattie, New Catholic Feminism 76-80), or I might say, feminist genealogy than your cri- tique of "male-neutral" would seem to require (cf. Anderson, A Feminist Philosophy 13, 142-48). Would you be prepared to say something about your own background and the re- lationship of what you see as your philosophical project to, for exam- ple, Christianity?

PSA: Yes. In the course of this in- terview I will position myself in relation to my own religious back- ground, or if you like, my "feminist genealogy." Yet, if you don't mind, it is important to admit that over the years I have found theologians who object to the lack of any ex- plicit religious positioning given to my own yearning, very frustrating! Generally, this objection has seemed to either misunderstand or dismiss the nature of my feminist struggle. In particular, this has obscured my struggle against an intransigent epis- temological obstacle which blocked women's claims to think, to know or-simply-to have ideas of their own in philosophy.

For example, Beattie recognizes that the heart of my feminism is philosophical; and yet she chal- lenges my philosophical method for being blind to my own religious po- sitioning (Beattie 78). Her challenge is clear: it is that I do what I accuse male philosophers of doing when I employ philosophical methods as if these methods are neutral of my own presuppositions and, in partic- ular, my religious positioning. Beat- tie also recognizes my determina- tion to uncover and to struggle with the myths of gender identity em- bedded in the texts of philosophy of religion; and yet she objects to my bracketing off the specificities of my own religious desire, in order to explore the resistance to gender-op- pression within other religious tra- ditions, notably in Hindu practices of bhakti (Beattie 77; cf. Mukta, Up- holding the Common Fife).

After having been trained to read philosophical texts in the 1980s with the hermeneutic insight of Paul Ricoeur, I began to see the vital need in the early 1990s for more than Ricoeurian hermeneutics. The need was for a method which enabled feminists to learn from the gender practices of other cultures, especial- ly through the religious matters of texts. While Ricoeur's hermeneutics had already made me a thinker sen- sitive to damaging presuppositions, or "prejudices," in philosophical and theological thought, I became explicitly aware of the serious and generally hidden obstacle to recog- nizing oppressive gender-bias not only in reading Hartsock's "The Feminist Standpoint," but in both reading and discussing Sandra Hard- ing's "feminist standpoint episte- mology" (Flarding, Whose Science?). As a result, I worked to develop an epistemological method, employing Flarding's "strong objectivity" and "self-reflexivity" explicitly for a fem- inist philosophy of religion (Ander- son, A Feminist Philosophy 70-80).

Flarding argued that objectivity in epistemology remains "weak" as long as we are unaware of our own privileged positions in making claims to knowledge but, equally, of our reasons for action and religious prac- tices. We can only acquire more ob- jective knowledge by "thinking from the lives of others" who occupy po- sitions on the margins of the domi- nant epistemology (Flarding, Whose Science? and "Rethinking Stand- point Epistemology;" cf. Anderson, A Feminist Philosophy 67-87). The feminist task is not thinking that we have neutrality, but instead is strug- gling to see ourselves reflexively and less partially; that is, to see an alter- native account of oneself as another. We gain less partial knowledge both of ourselves and of others not by claiming absolute objectivity but by working towards the engaged vision of a feminist standpoint. …

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