Feminism and Modern Philosophy: An Introduction

By Andrea Nye | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

Shaping a past

History has its own history. Narratives that review the way history was written in the past are often prelude to new interpretations of history and new hopes for the future. Semi-mythic legends of the founding of ancient empires, ethnographic surveys for imperial administrators, sacred histories that highlight extraordinary moments of revelation and apocalypse, political chronicles of modern nation states, all have helped successive generations to understand better who they are and what they can hope for. This is true when the historical subject is politics or society, and even more so when the history is of ideas. In the spirit of an objective cataloging of demographic trends or economic data it might be possible to produce descriptions of a society's material life as the continental Annales school of historians attempted after World War II. It might be possible to emulate the natural sciences and apply some version of a covering law to political trends, as C. F. Hempel and Karl Popper proposed in the same era. When the subject is philosophy, it is impossible to avoid interpretation and evaluation. What is to count as philosophy? Which works are included as important? Those considered to be important in their own day? Hardly. Those whose writers had academic status? If so Locke, Hume, and Descartes are off the list. And once the important texts are established, by what principles are they to be interpreted and judged?

As important as the selection of texts and leading ideas is the arranging of those texts and ideas in temporal sequence. A story without a beginning and an end is no story at all. Events have significance in relation to crises and climaxes, initiations and conclusions. Histories of modern philosophy have been noteworthy for a high sense of drama. After a period of darkness-the proverbial "dark ages"-glimmers of "light" show as a first generation of philosopher-scientists in sixteenth-century Europe begin to question, often at

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Feminism and Modern Philosophy: An Introduction
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction - Shaping a Past 1
  • 1 - The Virtues of Misogyny 12
  • 2 - Descartes 34
  • 3 - John Locke and the State of Nature 48
  • 4 - Reworking the Canon 64
  • 5 - Jean Jacques Rousseau and the Noble Savage 84
  • 6 - David Hume 99
  • 7 - Feminist Antinomies 111
  • 8 - Feminist Critical Theory After Kant 127
  • Bibliography of Works Cited 145
  • Index 151
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