Modern Engendering: Critical Feminist Readings in Modern Western Philosophy

By Bat-Ami Bar On | Go to book overview

Feminism has always been concerned to struggle against the hierarchical gender relations obtaining among people, and more recently, academic feminists have struggled to uncover the distortions in knowledge caused by unequal gender relations. Feminist scholars have successfully uncovered androcentric assumptions in theoretical concepts underlying history, literature, arts and sciences. But technical philosophical theories have appeared to be--like good scientific theories--immune from gender politics, hermetically sealed off and politically innocent. I suggest that philosophical theories as well as scientific ones only appear this way through the lens of old- fashioned history of ideas and of the epistemology supporting it. The production of Locke's theory of knowledge was not immune from gender politics, but one sees this only when one adopts another epistemology which assumes, pace Locke, that knowledge is produced through complex interactions between people and that a good epistemology should pay attention to how people interact to produce knowledge. Philosophers have been loathe to collapse the distinction between sociology of knowledge and epistemology as it has traditionally been conceived, but feminists require a new epistemology to struggle against the sort of suppression Locke practiced of women's contributions to knowledge production.


Notes
1.
Cf. Two Treatises of Government, 2nd ed., ed. Peter Laslett, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1967.
2.
Cf. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, ed. Peter H. Nidditch , Oxford: Clarenden Press, 1975.
3.
Christopher Hill, The World Turned Upside Down, New York: Penguin Books, 1982, p. 15.
4.
Cf. my "Modeling the Gender Politics in Science," Hypatia 3:1 ( Spring 1988); Mary Hesse, The Structure of Scientific Inference, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1974; W. V. O. Quine, The Web of Belief, New York: Random House, 1978; and David Bloor, "Durkheim and Mauss Revisited: Classification and the Sociology of Knowledge," Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science 13:267-297.
5.
Christopher Hill, The Century of Revolution: 1603-1714, London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, Ltd., 1961, p. 111ff.
6.
Hill, 1982, p. 40ff.

-47-

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