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Feminist epistemology is an examination of epistemology (the study of knowledge) from a feminist standpoint. Elizabeth S. Anderson describes feminist epistemology as being concerned with the way in which gender influences our concept of knowledge and "practices of inquiry and justification".It is generally regarded as falling under the umbrella of social epistemology.
Epistemology is the branch of philosophy concerned with the theory of knowledge.
Knowledge is a familiarity, awareness, or understanding of someone or something, such as facts, information, descriptions, or skills, which is acquired through experience or education by perceiving, discovering, or learning.
Elizabeth Secor Anderson is an American philosopher. She is Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and John Dewey Distinguished University Professor of Philosophy and Women's Studies at the University of Michigan and is a notable American philosopher specializing in moral and political philosophy. Anderson is currently the chair of the University of Michigan's Department of Philosophy.
Feminist epistemology emphasizes how important ethical and political values are in shaping epistemic practices, and interpretations of evidence. Feminist epistemology studies how gender influences our understanding of knowledge, justification and theory of knowledge; it describes how knowledge and justification disadvantage women. Scientists of feminist epistemology claim that knowledge discriminate women by: preventing them from inquiry and presenting women as an inferior, because these theories of knowledge satisfy only male interests, which strengthen gender hierarchies.
The central idea of feminist epistemology is that knowledge reflects the particular perspectives of the theory. The main interest of feminist philosophers is how gender stereotypes situate knowing subjects. They approach this interest from three different perspectives: feminist standpoint theory, feminist postmodernism, and feminist empiricism. Standpoint theory defines a specific social perspective as epistemically privileged. Feminist postmodernism emphasizes the instability of the social identity explorers and therefore their representations. Empiricism focuses on combining the main ideas of feminism and their observations to prove feministic theories through evidence.
Elizabeth Anderson argues that the concept of situated knowledge is central to feminist epistemology. Donna Haraway asserts that most knowledge (in particular academic knowledge) is always situated and "produced by positioned actors working in/between all kinds of locations, working up/on/through all kinds of research relation(ships)" (Cook, et al.),and thus what is known and the ways in which this knowledge can be known is subject to the position—the situation and perspective—of the knower.
Donna J. Haraway is an American Professor Emerita in the History of Consciousness Department and Feminist Studies Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz, United States. She is a prominent scholar in the field of science and technology studies, described in the early 1990s as a "feminist, rather loosely a postmodernist". Haraway is the author of numerous foundational books and essays that bring together questions of science and feminism, such as "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century" (1985) and "Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective" (1988). She is also a leading scholar in contemporary ecofeminism, associated with post-humanism and new materialism movements. Her work criticizes anthropocentrism, emphasizes the self-organizing powers of nonhuman processes, and explores dissonant relations between those processes and cultural practices, rethinking sources of ethics.
The English feminist philosopher Miranda Fricker has argued that in addition to social or political injustices, there can be epistemic injustices in two forms: testimonial injustice and hermeneutical injustice. Testimonial injustice consists in prejudices that cause one to "give a deflated level of credibility to a speaker's word":Fricker gives the example of a woman who due to her gender is not believed in a business meeting. She may make a good case, but prejudice causes the listeners to believe her arguments to be less competent or sincere and thus less believable. In this kind of case, Fricker argues that as well as there being an injustice caused by possible outcomes (such as the speaker missing a promotion at work), there is a testimonial injustice: "a kind of injustice in which someone is wronged specifically in her capacity as a knower".
Miranda Fricker, FBA is an English philosopher who is currently Presidential Professor of Philosophy at the City University of New York Graduate Center. Fricker coined the term epistemic injustice, the concept of an injustice done against someone "specifically in their capacity as a knower", and explored the concept in her 2007 book Epistemic Injustice. She is also a Research Professor of Philosophy part-time at the University of Sheffield.
Epistemic injustice refers to unfairness due to aspects of knowledge, how it is communicated, and how it is understood. The term was coined by Miranda Fricker in 2007, but its meaning has since evolved, and the concept's origins can be traced to discussions about oppression, power and knowledge from long before the term was coined.
In the case of hermeneutical injustice, "speakers' knowledge claims fall into lacunae in the available conceptual resources, thus blocking their capacity to interpret, and thence to understand or claim a hearing for their experiences."For example, when the language of 'sexual harassment' or 'homophobia' were not generally available, those who experienced these wrongs lacked the resources to make a claim to being wronged in morally relevant ways.
Sexual harassment is a type of harassment technique that relates to a sexual nature and the unwelcome or inappropriate promise of rewards in exchange for sexual favors. Sexual harassment includes a range of actions from mild transgressions to sexual abuse or assault. Harassment can occur in many different social settings such as the workplace, the home, school, churches, etc. Harassers or victims may be of any gender.
Homophobia encompasses a range of negative attitudes and feelings toward homosexuality or people who are identified or perceived as being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT). It has been defined as contempt, prejudice, aversion, hatred or antipathy, may be based on irrational fear, and is often related to religious beliefs.
The philosopher Susan Haack is a notable critic of feminist epistemology.
Sandra Harding organized feminist epistemology into three categories: feminist empiricism, standpoint epistemology, and post-modern epistemology.While potentially a limited set of categories, post-modern feminism was a transitional ideology that denounced absolute objectivity and asserted the death of the meta-narrative. While these three categories of feminist epistemology have their place in history (see feminist empiricism, standpoint feminism, postmodern feminism), as ideological frameworks they hold epistemic insights in contemporary feminist method. Feminist theorist Nina Lykke, has expanded upon these three categories to include "postmodern feminist (anti-)epistemology...[and]...postconstructionist feminist epistemology"
Feminist empiricism emerged from a feminist critique that gave attention to male bias in positivistic practices of science.2nd Wave feminist researchers identified how quantification and objectivity, as facets of positivism, have been held as the “gold standard” for social and political science research. Quantification, and its political relationships to notions of objectivity, maintains methodological dominance and preference primarily in the United States. This is perpetuated by how funding authorities tend to prioritize quantitative research with positivist frameworks.
Feminist empiricists believe in the concept of positivism; that all knowledge can be understood objectively and can be accessed through empirical research.They assert that pre-feminist positivism was actually not objective at all, since traditional positivism's ‘androcentric bias’ led to only partial or ‘subjective’ knowledge of the world. In essence, all empirical inquiry is inherently skewed by value judgments and biased interpretation of evidence by male-biased authorities. For instance, it was not until retrieving statistical data on the prevalence of women in the workplace experiencing (what is now known to be) ‘sexual harassment’ through surveys in the 1970s that sexual harassment became identified by political authorities as a commonality. Without this intervention of feminists in an empirical field, this commonality would never have been identified as an issue, since males had no reason to pursue this phenomenon. Londa Schiebinger further asserts that empirical research “embodies many core feminist values”, in that feminist empiricists are actively seeking out and eliminating exploitative research whilst resisting strategic, oppressive explanations of data.
Feminist empiricism is critiqued for its belief that “objectivity” is best achieved through quantification, whether or not viewed through a feminist lens or utilized for feminist ideals. The division between quantitative and qualitative data has historically reinforced gendered dichotomies of “hard/soft, emotional/rational, worthy/worthless”.Many assert that ‘objective truth’ is a false concept, and thus feminist empiricists may overestimate the extent to which they can increase objectivity. Furthermore, positivism and quantitative research has been critiqued as a “detached” philosophical framework that inherently objectifies its research subjects.
Feminist empiricists respond to the problem of value-neutrality by lengthening Quine's argument: theory is not determined by evidence. Any observation counts as proof for particular thesis only if connected with certain background presumptions, because similar observation might support different hypotheses. In daily life, scientists face some restrictions in selecting the background assumptions, that are based on cognitive values like simplicity and conservatism, which a political and social philosophy that is based on retaining traditional social establishments. Feminist empiricists state that no logical or methodological principle categorically prohibits scientists from choosing their background assumptions as their political and social values or other interests. Therefore, feminist scientists may select their background presumptions on account of their opinions on some feminist values.
There are two central paradoxes with feminist empiricism
The paradox of bias Many feminist empiricists advocate for exposing the androcentric and sexist biases in scientific research, namely that people have a bias towards gender difference and sexuality. However, while feminist empiricists would claim that the feminist inquiry helps the development of science, their own perspective adopts certain bias about gender and science.
The paradox of social construction Many science criticisms expose that the scientific inquiry is influenced by both social and political factors.The androcentric and sexist theories are influenced by the society, as they claim, which can be understood as in order to eliminate the bias, the term like “ individualist epistemology” would be used. However, they want scientific research to be open to different social influences, of which the bias of female also partakes.[ clarification needed ]
Criticism of empiricism theory: It is the most criticized theory by others, for its assumptions that transhistorical subject of knowledge exists outside of social determination (Harding 1990). Also feminist empiricism theory states that science will correct all the biases and errors in theories about women and other groups by itself.
At a basic level, standpoint epistemology asserts that marginalized groups such as women are bestowed with an “epistemic privilege”, where there exists the potential for less distorted understandings of the world than dominant groups, such as men.This methodology presents many new ideas to the Feminist Empiricist notion that androcentric dominance and bias presents an incomplete understanding of the world. A “standpoint” is not so much about a subject's biased perspective, but instead the ‘realities’ that structure social relationships of power.
Standpoint theories portray the universe from a concrete situated perspective. Every standpoint theory must specify: the social location from the feminist perspective, the scope of its privileges, the social role and the identity that generates knowledge and the justification of these privileges. Feminist standpoint theory states a privilege in gender relations, various feminist standpoint theories are based on the statement about the epistemic privilege in different feministic situations. Feminist standpoint theory is one of the types of critical theory, their main intention is to improve their situation. In order to achieve this critical aim, social theories must represent the understanding of feministic problems and try to improve their condition. Critical theory is theory of, by, and for the subjects of study. Feminism and feminist epistemology is all about inquiry, assumptions, and theories. Through these methods feminist epistemology overcomes the tension between bias on which feminist empiricism is based on.It presents an elaborate map or method for maximizing “strong objectivity” in natural and social science, yet does not necessarily focus on encouraging positivistic scientific practices, like is central to Feminist Empiricism.
Although standpoint epistemology has been critiqued for focusing too closely on a distinctive women's perspective which may render invisible concepts of historically and sociologically variable knowledge, [ jargon ] any particular marginalized identity. Harding further argues that the methodology does not subscribe to notions of “maximizing neutrality” between groups in an effort to maximize objectivity, but instead recognizes that the power relations between groups are what complicate these relationships. This is in some ways contrary to Doucet's assertion that the controversy of how power influenced knowledge production is a post-standpoint, more contemporary debate. Standpoint epistemology also poses a necessity to ask critical questions about the lives and social institutions created by dominant groups; where the field becomes a sociology for women and not solely about women.Harding strongly asserts that standpoint epistemology does not essentialize
In practicality, standpoint theory has widespread use as "a philosophy of knowledge, a philosophy of science, a sociology of knowledge, a moral/political advocacy of the expansion of democratic rights".Although it has been asserted that “epistemic privilege” is inherent to marginalized groups, Harding poses standpoint theory as an explanatory means for both marginalized and dominant group individuals to be able to achieve liberatory perspectives. In building her standpoint epistemology, Sandra Harding used and built on the work of philosophers of science Thomas Kuhn and Willard Quine. Harding's standpoint theory is also grounded in Marxism, although she largely rejected Marxism for its portrayal of women in merely class terms.
In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions , Kuhn argued that scientific progress does not occur through gradual accumulation of correct ideas. Rather, he believed that there were occasionally large revolutions that completely overturned the previous scientific theories. When a crisis occurs within the prevailing theory of a time, revolutionary scientists will challenge them and build new scientific theories. For example, in his view, the transition from the geocentrism of Ptolemy to the heliocentric theory of Copernicus did not occur through a gradual series of challenges and improvements to the previous model. Rather, it was a sudden and complete revolution because it is impossible to conceptualize the theory of heliocentrism within the dominant geocentric theory. Kuhn argued that together, the ideas of Newton, Galileo, and Kepler completed the revolution that Copernicus started. However, most students of science do not learn of the many failed and alternative scientific paradigms. They are taught a version of the history of science where progress is guaranteed and linear.In Harding's view, Kuhn's theories showed that all science was situated within its historical context, and that any theory could remain accepted if its believers held power.
Criticism of standpoint theory: Philosopher Helen Longino is against standpoint theory, because she claims that standpoint theory can not provide the knowledge of which standpoints have the most privilege. Bar On (1993) said that if feminine ethics of care provides privileged perspective on morality, then our moral knowledge is convinced only by existence of gender relations. Bar On also claims that theory which explains structural relationship between advanced and less developed, which dictates epistemic privilege can not be applied to women[ clarification needed ]. Marx claimed that class conflict derives other conflicts such as racism, sexism, national and religious conflicts.
Feminist epistemology is criticized by different philosophers. Feminist postmodernists blame feminist empiricists for assuming the existence of an individual and for admitting an uncritical concept of experience. Naturalized Quine epistemology[ jargon ] of some feminist empiricists perceives knowers as socially situated[ jargon ]; Hundleby, a standpoint theorist, criticizes feminist empiricism for disregarding the key role of women in political activities.
Standpoint theory is often criticized for the lack of evidence available to support it and the ideas underlying it, such as the lack of justification for the underdetermination theory Harding uses. Pinnick, to illustrate her point about Harding's poor evidence, points to standpoint theory's claim that science is more objective if it is politically motivated, which Pinnick claims runs contrary to what has happened in the past when scientists deliberately injected politics into their theories (she cites eugenics and intelligence test designs as examples of politicized science). She also criticizes Harding for claiming that marginalized groups produce better, less biased scientific results because, according to Pinnick, Harding fails to provide any empirical evidence for this idea.
Post-modern thought marks a feminist group shift away from dominant, positivistic ideals of objectivity and universal understanding.Instead, it acknowledges a diversity of unique human perspectives, none of which can claim absolute knowledge authority. Post-Modern feminism has thus been critiqued for having a relativist-stance, where ongoing power relations between key identities have been often neglected attention. It is possible to see this political stance in direct opposition to the “emancipatory aspirations” of women. However, Saba Mahmood would argue this critique is in some ways oppositional to global understandings of female desire, where the idea of ‘freedom’ is an essential, conditionally oppressive component to western feminism which may wrongly assume that women of eastern countries dominated by male power are victims needing to be liberated.
Donna Haraway, a post-modern feminist, shows how post-modern feminism recognizes positivism as an inherently oppressive ideology, where science's rhetoric of truth was used to undermine marginalized people's agency and delegitimize ‘embodied’ accounts of truth.Furthermore, they argue that ‘objectivity’ is an external, disembodied point of view left only to privileged (unmarked bodies), because marginalized (marked bodies) cannot have perspectives dissociated from ‘who they are’. Despite post-modern relativist criticism, this theory resists relativism in firmly recognizing power relations in that objectivity is a privilege of unmarked bodies. Haraway's theory of “situated knowledges” holds true to post-modern ideology, where knowledge should be placed in context; this creates a more limited range of knowledge than theoretical “objectivity”, but is richer in allowing for exchange of understanding between individual experiences. Positivism inherently gives way to authoritarian positions of knowledge which hinder discussion and render limited understanding of the world. Both positivist science and relativism have been recognized as contrary to post-modern feminist thought, since both minimize the significance of context (geographic, demographic, power) on knowledge claims.
Criticism of postmodernism: Key features of postmodernism: “Women” not the category of analysis and contains of perspectives which are controversial with feminist theory. The fact that women are in different social position can experience sexism differently, does not mean that they do not suffer from it (MacKinnon 2000). The postmodernism theory dissolves all groups, and supports the ideas that knowledge from any source is better than no knowledge at all (Bordo 1990).
Post-modern feminism's assertion of “situated knowledges”,plays well into Cherrie Moraga’s piece “Theory in the Flesh”, where the ‘physical realities’ of indigenous peoples’ lives are said to be the means of creating a decolonial politic against oppressive, inaccessible, Eurowestern academic methods of knowledge production. This epistemological framework has been utilized by feminists like bell hooks, who claims that theorizing is often tied to a process of self-recovery and collective liberation; it is not thus limited to those in the western academic realm, nor does it require ‘scientific’ research. Hooks asserts that theory and practical application of emancipatory politics can, and often do, exist simultaneously and reciprocally. Post-Modern feminism has given way to the question of whether or not there should be any particular feminist ways of knowing. A 'theory in the flesh' seems to suggest that prioritizing or normalizing any specific feminist epistemology would in itself be, and has been, oppressive.
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This theory focuses on how power and gender relations behave in terms of value theory and epistemology. Bordo’s (1990) and Lloyd’s (1984) examined how “maleness” and “femaleness” are used in philosophical theories and discussions about relationship such as, reason/unreason, reason/emotion and objectivity/subjectivity. Lorraine Code’s (1987, 1991, 1995, 1996) with other feminist co-workers determined in which ways political and social routine shapes our identities and perspectives of our world and especially gender, how it leads to understanding of epistemic responsibility. Code’s works also have been influential in epistemological fields, which can be described as version of naturalism takes and reinvents simple and uncontroversial empirical beliefs, for example the belief like “I know that I am seeing a bird”, deforms the epistemic animal nature. Feminist epistemic virtue theorists rejects almost all the assumptions. Skeptical problems can not get any connections with it, so it is ignored and considered as a pseudo-problem.
Feminist science criticism mainly has five different kinds of research about gender and science to address five identified biases. These are studies of how:
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Feminist science argues that the inquiry of science which informed by feminist epistemology is based on legalizing and produce the limiting partial bias. Pluralist feminist scientists and philosophers of science define feminist science as preferred content and “feminine” method.
Wilfrid Stalker Sellars was an American philosopher and prominent developer of critical realism, who "revolutionized both the content and the method of philosophy in the United States".
Women's studies is an academic field that draws on feminist and interdisciplinary methods in order to place women’s lives and experiences at the center of study, while examining social and cultural constructs of gender; systems of privilege and oppression; and the relationships between power and gender as they intersect with other identities and social locations such as race, sexual orientation, socio-economic class, and disability.
In philosophy, constructive empiricism is a form of empiricism.
Sandra G. Harding is an American philosopher of feminist and postcolonial theory, epistemology, research methodology, and philosophy of science. She taught for two decades at the University of Delaware before moving to the University of California, Los Angeles in 1996. She directed the UCLA Center for the Study of Women from 1996 to 2000, and co-edited Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society from 2000 to 2005. She is currently a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Education and Gender Studies at UCLA and a Distinguished Affiliate Professor of Philosophy at Michigan State University. In 2013 she was awarded the John Desmond Bernal Prize by the Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S).
The philosophy of social science is the study of the logic, methods, and foundations of social sciences such as psychology, economics, and political science. Philosophers of social science are concerned with the differences and similarities between the social and the natural sciences, causal relationships between social phenomena, the possible existence of social laws, and the ontological significance of structure and agency.
Standpoint theory is a theory found in some academic disciplines which is used for analyzing inter-subjective discourses. This body of work proposes that authority is rooted in individuals' knowledge, and the power that such authority exerts.
Standpoint feminism is a theory that feminist social science should be practiced from the standpoint of women or particular groups of women, as some scholars say that they are better equipped to understand some aspects of the world. A feminist or women's standpoint epistemology proposes to make women's experiences the point of departure, in addition to, and sometimes instead of men's.
Objectivity in science is an attempt to uncover truths about the natural world by eliminating personal biases, emotions, and false beliefs. It is often linked to observation as part of the scientific method. It is thus intimately related to the aim of testability and reproducibility. To be considered objective, the results of measurement must be communicated from person to person, and then demonstrated for third parties, as an advance in a collective understanding of the world. Such demonstrable knowledge has ordinarily conferred demonstrable powers of prediction or technology.
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 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.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to epistemology:
Nicla Vassallo, is an Italian philosopher with research and teaching interests in epistemology, philosophy of knowledge, theoretical philosophy, as well as gender and sexuality studies. She is currently a Full Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Genova, Italy.
Epistemology or theory of knowledge is the branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and scope (limitations) of knowledge. It addresses the questions "What is knowledge?", "How is knowledge acquired?", "What do people know?", "How do we know what we know?", and "Why do we know what we know?". Much of the debate in this field has focused on analyzing the nature of knowledge and how it relates to similar notions such as truth, belief, and justification. It also deals with the means of production of knowledge, as well as skepticism about different knowledge claims.
Strong objectivity is a term coined by feminist philosopher Sandra Harding, known for her work on feminist standpoint theory. Harding suggests that starting research from the lives of women "actually strengthens standards of objectivity". Strong objectivity can be contrasted with the "weak objectivity" of supposed value-neutral research. Strong objectivity is posited in contrast to scientific objectivity since strong objectivity takes into consideration researcher bias, something that Harding argues can never really be removed; a researcher's life experiences will always be a lens through which they view the world and subsequently their research.
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.
The feminist method is a means of conducting of scientific investigations and generating theory from an explicitly feminist standpoint. Feminist methodologies are varied, but tend to have a few common aims or characteristics, including seeking to overcome biases in research, bringing about social change, displaying human diversity, and acknowledging the position of the researcher. Questioning normal scientific reasoning is another form of the feminist method. Each of these methods must consist of different parts including: collection of evidence, testing of theories, presentation of data, and room for rebuttals. How research is scientifically backed up affects the results. Like consciousness raising, some feminist methods affect the collective emotions of women, when things like political statistics are more of a structural result When knowledge is either constructed by experiences, or discovered, it needs to both be reliable and valid. Strong feminist supporters of this are Nancy Hartsock, Hilary Rose, and finally Sandra Harding. Feminist sociologists have made important contributions to this debate as they began to criticize positivism as a philosophical framework and, more specifically, its most acute methodological instrument—that of quantitative methods for its practice of detached and objective scientific research and the objectification of research subjects. These methodological critiques were well placed against a backdrop of feminist scholarship struggling to find a place for alternative values within the academy. Such concerns emerged from a sense of despair and anger that knowledge, both academic and popular, was based on men’s lives, male ways of thinking, and directed toward the problems articulated by men. Dorothy Smith (1974) argued that "sociology ... has been based on and built up within the male social universe".
Miriam Solomon is Professor of Philosophy and Chair of the Philosophy Department as well as Affiliated Professor of Women’s Studies at Temple University. Solomon's work focuses on the philosophy of science, social epistemology, medical epistemology, medical ethics, and gender and science. Besides her academic appointments, she has published two books and a large number of peer reviewed journal articles, and she has served on the editorial boards of a number of major journals.
Feminist empiricism is a perspective within feminist research that combines the objectives and observations of feminism with the research methods and empiricism. Feminist empiricism is typically connected to mainstream notions of positivism. Feminist empiricism proposes that feminist theories can be objectively proven through evidence. Feminist empiricism critiques what it perceives to be inadequacies and biases within mainstream research methods, including positivism.
Feminist philosophy of science is a branch of feminist philosophy that seeks to understand how the acquirement of knowledge through scientific means has been influenced by notions of gender and gender roles in society. Feminist philosophers of science question how scientific research and scientific knowledge itself may be influenced and possibly compromised by the social and professional framework within which that research and knowledge is established and exists. It has been described as being located "at the intersections of the philosophy of science and feminist science scholarship", and has attracted considerable attention since the 1970s.