If Hume has been hailed as a friend of feminists, Kant has often been declared the enemy. Feminists have rejected his rationalist ethics as the antithesis of feminine caring. They have charged his "unity of apperception" with being a prototype for illegitimate masculine authority and Western hubris. They have condemned "pure" reason as the sovereignty of "rational man" over feminine connectiveness. Where Hume emphasized the sociability of custom and habit, Kant idealized a delusive individualism that severs human ties. Where Hume approved feeling as the basis of morality, Kant made emotion the downfall of virtue.
In Cognition and Eros, Robin Schott traced a history from Plato to Kant of the idea that understanding and feeling are in opposition and that women, identified with eros, are a threat to knowledge. Such views, she charged, are typical of philosophy. They support and further male dominance. She described her own difficulty in accepting this judgment. Brought up in an analytic tradition with roots in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century rationalism, "schooled in the philosophical tradition of objectivity," it was hard for her to conclude that universal forms of knowledge were not needed. At the same time, as a woman, she felt alienated, not capable of the detachment from feeling and relation that Kantian reason seemed to require. She had to "dirty" her hands in social history, she said, before she could free herself from the illusion of rational autonomy imposed on her by philosophical training. She had to go back in history for "original ascetic impulses" that distanced reason from physical desire. She had to combine these with a modern "flight from the body" blamed on "commodity capitalism" (Cognition and Eros, pp. ix-x). Philosophy, Schott concluded, is not "pure" reason. It has historical content. Seemingly neutral metaphysics and epistemology reflect and support oppressive social relations. Philosophy in