Analytical feminism

Last updated

Analytical feminism is a line of philosophy that applies analytic concepts and methods to feminist issues and applies feminist concepts and insights to issues that have traditionally been of interest to analytic philosophers. Like all feminists, analytical feminists insist on recognizing and contesting sexism and androcentrism. [1]



The term “analytical feminism” dates back to the early 1990s when the Society for Analytical Feminism was opened in at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. [2] It is used as an opportunity to discuss and examine issues concerning analytical feminism, in part to contrast the more prevalent influences of postmodernism and post-structuralism, and also to demonstrate that analytic philosophy is neither inherently or irredeemably male-biased. Analytic feminists have attempted to rehabilitate certain key concepts, such as truth, reason, objectivity, agency and autonomy, both because they are normatively compelling as well as in some ways liberating and empowering for women. Not limited to these concepts, analytical feminism has contributed to the historical arena of analytic philosophy such as the philosophy of language, epistemology, metaphysics and the philosophy of science. [3]

In 1995, the American philosophical magazine Hypatia published a special issue [4] clarifying the meaning of analytic feminism in the mainstream Anglo-American analytical context and in the range of feminist philosophical positions. In this issue, the authors such as Ann Cudd of the University of Kansas, Ann Garry of California State University Los Angeles, and Lynn Hankinson Nelson of the University of Washington proposed that analytic feminism typically was unrecognized and somewhat depreciated by not only analytical philosophers but academic feminist agenda as well. [5] Considered a sub-category of both analytic philosophy and feminism, analytic feminism acknowledges the philosophical traditions of both fields while simultaneously addressing prominent issues within said fields.

Philosophical approach

Analytical feminism, as defined by Ann E. Cudd: "Analytic feminism holds that the best way to counter sexism and androcentrism is through forming a clear conception of and pursuing truth, logical consistency, objectivity, rationality, justice, and the good while recognising that these notions have often been perverted by androcentrism throughout the history of philosophy." (1996: 20) Analytic feminists engage the literature traditionally thought of as analytic philosophy, but also draw on other traditions in philosophy as well as work by feminists working in other disciplines, especially sociology and biology. They, like most analytic philosophers, value clarity and precision in argument and tend to use more rigorously structured logical and linguistic analysis in reaching their conclusions and positions as compared to other philosophical approaches.

The majority of philosophers, including feminist philosophers, have at least some formal training in analytic philosophy, with some possessing extensive education and experience regarding analyticity. There has been a conscious effort to use the word ‘analytical’, the reason being that within the field of philosophy there is sometimes an inclination to assume all feminist work as tied to other methods to philosophy, whereas upon review much of the work in feminism is closer in method to analytic conventions. [6]

According to most analytic feminists, the best method for scholars to counter sexism and androcentrism in their respective areas of inquiry is by forming a clear conception of and practicing logical consistency and neutrality. [7]


Even though analytical feminists retain only some traditional concepts[ clarification needed ], it is not doctrinaire—indeed, there is even a spirit of contrarianism within it. Nevertheless, analytic feminists share a thing that we may call a "core desire" rather than a core principle, that is to say, the need to hold on to enough of the essential normative notions of the modern European tradition to aid the kind of normativity which is necessary for both feminist political theory and philosophy. This "core desire" finds its appearance by means of the core concepts of analytical feminism. [8]

Bridge building

Analytic feminists' use of core ideas and their excerpt to the work of traditional analytic philosophers permit them to communicate with and build bridges amongst different types of scholars, for example, traditional analytic philosophers, other feminist philosophers, and, in some cases, scientists or scholars in social studies. [9]

Reconstructing philosophy

One tenet of analytic feminism holds that if philosophers positions are applicable universally, they must be usable by men and women alike, and from a range of social situations. This is a basis for what can be considered the reconstruction of philosophy via analytic feminism. This approach, which somewhat mirrors the construction of feminist philosophy tradition, attempts to limit the creation of areas or categories of philosophy that apply to only some women and feminists. It's an attempt to apply to 'all' (men and women) instead of 'some' (women and/or feminists) with specific examples of topics being feminine ethics, gynocentric ethics, or lesbian ethics. The basis for this universal approach would be an analytic feminist ethics and metaphysics which would create and establish a new criterion of adequacy for the fields of ethics and metaphysics. The goal of Miranda Fricker and Jennifer Hornsby, editors of The Cambridge Companion to Feminism in Philosophy, is to have this position included in the mainstream of the discipline (Fricker and Hornsby 2000).

Not basing the approach on any 'essential' characteristics, be they experiences or otherwise, it can maintain the importance of a variety of perspectives, while crafting a 'working' theory. 'Working' is defined as being particularly inclusive, of both men and women, but also simultaneously eliminating oppressive consequences. A wide range of experiences, interests, and background must be reflected with the theory 'working' only if it is applicable to all these issues and concerns.

There are a variety of approaches regarding the reconstruction of philosophy within analytic feminism. Some philosophers, such as Bailey (Bailey 2010) and Gary (Garry 2012), include the use of intersectionality in their approach. Miranda Fricker (2007) and Kristie Dotson (2011) make use of concept of Privilege (social inequality) in theirs, particularly with regard to epistemic ignorance and epistemic injustice. [10] In 2018, Alice Crary offered a critique of some of these recent trends in analytic feminism. [11]

Related Research Articles

Analytic philosophy style of philosophy

Analytic philosophy is a style of philosophy that became dominant in the Western world at the beginning of the 20th century. The term can refer to one of several things:

Marilyn Frye is an American philosopher and radical feminist theorist. She is known for her theories on sexism, racism, oppression, and sexuality. Her writings offer discussions of feminist topics, such as: white supremacy, male privilege, and gay and lesbian marginalization. Although she approaches the issues from the perspective of justice, she is also deeply engaged with the metaphysics, epistemology, and moral psychology of social categories.

The ethics of care is a normative ethical theory that holds that moral action centers on interpersonal relationships and care or benevolence as a virtue. EoC is one of a cluster of normative ethical theories that were developed by feminists in the second half of the twentieth century. While consequentialist and deontological ethical theories emphasize generalizable standards and impartiality, ethics of care emphasize the importance of response to the individual. The distinction between the general and the individual is reflected in their different moral questions: "what is just?" versus "how to respond?". Gilligan criticizes the application of generalized standards as "morally problematic, since it breeds moral blindness or indifference."

Feminist philosophy is an approach to philosophy from a feminist perspective and also the employment of philosophical methods to feminist topics and questions. Feminist philosophy involves both reinterpreting philosophical texts and methods in order to supplement the feminist movement and attempts to criticise or re-evaluate the ideas of traditional philosophy from within a feminist framework.

Helen Longino American philosopher

Helen Elizabeth Longino is an American philosopher of science who has argued for the significance of values and social interactions to scientific inquiry. She has written about the role of women in science and is a central figure in feminist epistemology and social epistemology. She is the Clarence Irving Lewis Professor of Philosophy at Stanford University. In 2016, she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Women have engaged in philosophy throughout the field's history. While there have been women philosophers since ancient times, and a relatively small number were accepted as philosophers during the ancient, medieval, modern and contemporary eras, particularly during the 20th and 21st century, almost no woman philosophers have entered the philosophical Western canon.

Linda Martín Alcoff is a Latin-American philosopher and professor of philosophy at Hunter College, City University of New York. Alcoff specializes in epistemology, feminism, race theory and existentialism. She is the author of Visible Identities: Race, Gender, and the Self (2006) and The Future of Whiteness (2015).

<i>Hypatia</i> (journal) journal

Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy is a peer-reviewed academic journal published quarterly by Wiley-Blackwell. As of March 2018, the journal is led by an interim editor, Ann Garry, and two interim co-editors, Serene Khader and Alison Stone. Book reviews are published by Hypatia Reviews Online (HRO). The journal is owned by a non-profit corporation, Hypatia, Inc.

<i>The Politics of Reality</i> book by Marilyn Frye

The Politics of Reality: Essays in Feminist Theory is a 1983 collection of feminist essays by philosopher Marilyn Frye. Some of these essays, developed through speeches and lectures she gave, have been quoted and reprinted often, and the book has been described as a "classic" of feminist theory.

María Lugones is an Argentinian-born feminist philosopher, activist, and Associate Professor of Comparative Literature and of women's studies at Binghamton University in New York State.

Jennifer Mather Saul is a philosopher working in philosophy of language and philosophy of feminism. Saul is a professor of philosophy at the University of Sheffield and the University of Waterloo.

Marilyn Ann Friedman is an American philosopher. She holds the W. Alton Jones Chair of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University.

Anita Superson is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Kentucky. She was also the visiting Churchill Humphrey and Alex P. Humphrey Professor of Feminist Philosophy at the University of Waterloo during the winter term of 2013.

Ann Garry is a Professor of Philosophy, Emerita at California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA). While at CSULA, Garry was the founding director of the Center for the Study of Genders and Sexualities, and also served several terms as the chair of the Department of Philosophy. She has also held several visiting appointments, including serving as the Humphrey Chair of Feminist Philosophy at the University of Waterloo and Fulbright lectureships at the University of Tokyo and Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest. Although Garry no longer teaches full-time, she continues to work with graduate students.

Joan Callahan was a Professor Emerita of Philosophy at the University of Kentucky, an institution where she taught for more than twenty years and served in a variety of roles, including as director of the Gender and Women's Studies Program. Callahan's research has focused on feminist theory, critical race theory, ethics, social and political philosophy, the philosophy of law, and on the junctions of these topics.

Ann E. Cudd is Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor & Professor of Philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh. From August 2015-August 2018, She was Dean of the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences at Boston University. She was formerly Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Studies as well as the University Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the University of Kansas. She is also an affiliated faculty member with the Women, Gender, and Sexualities Studies Program. Cudd is one of the founders of analytical feminism, was a founding member of the Society for Analytical Feminism, and served as its president from 1995-1999.

Louise M. Antony is an American philosopher who is currently professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Before joining the faculty at UMass Amherst in 2006, she taught at several other colleges and universities. She specializes in philosophy of mind, epistemology, feminist theory, and philosophy of language.

Diana Meyers is a philosopher working in the philosophy of action and in the philosophy of feminism. Meyers is Professor Emerita of Philosophy at the University of Connecticut.

Claudia Card American philosopher

Claudia Falconer Card was the Emma Goldman (WARF) Professor of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, with teaching affiliations in Women's Studies, Jewish Studies, Environmental Studies, and LGBT Studies.

Nancy Tuana is an American philosopher who specializes in feminist philosophy. She holds the DuPont/Class of 1949 Professorship in Philosophy and Women's Studies at The Pennsylvania State University. She came to Penn State from the University of Oregon in 2001 to serve as the founding director of the Rock Ethics Institute


  1. Ann E. Cudd. "One Woman's Attempt at a Definition". Archived from the original on 2012-03-24.
  2. Norco College - Riverside Community College District. "Society for Analytical Feminism".
  3. Monash University Publishing. "History of Analytical Feminism".
  4. "Hypatia-Special Issue: Analytic Feminism-August 1995". Hypatia. 10 (3). 1995. doi:10.1111/hypa.1995.10.issue-3.
  5. Alessandra Allegrini. "THE NATURALISM QUESTION. HOW TO RE-THINK THE ANALYTIC – CONTINENTAL DICOTHOMY FROM A FEMINIST EPISTEMOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE". Archived from the original on 2011-09-28. Retrieved 2011-06-14.
  6. Samantha J., Brennan; Anita M., Superson (2005). Hypatia. pp. 1–9. ISSN   0887-5367.
  7. bookrags. "Analytic Feminism".
  8. Nelson, Jack; Nelson, Lynn Hankinson (2003). Feminist Interpretations of W. V. Quine (2003 ed.). ISBN   978-0-271-02295-6.
  9. Moulton, Janice (1989). Women, knowledge, and reality: explorations in feminist philosophy (1996 ed.). ISBN   978-0-415-90712-5.
  10. Ann, Garry (September 2010). Analytic Feminism (Spring 2011 ed.). ISBN   978-1-158-37777-0.
  11. Crary, Alice. "The methodological is political: What’s the matter with ‘analytic feminism’?" Radical Philosophy RP 2.02, June 2018