What is feminist philosophy? How are philosophy and feminism related? Can philosophy inform feminism? Can feminism improve philosophy? This course addresses these questions, focusing on the impact of feminist thinking within several areas of philosophy, in particular philosophy of language, metaphysics and epistemology. As if you were in a woodworking workshop, you’ll be introduced to a few new tools, and will learn how to use them. Instead of tools like a cutter or a press, you’ll learn about philosophical tools, which consist of concepts and conceptual analyses. For example, you’ll learn how to use the concept of hermeneutical injustice, and also how to perform analyses of topics like the nature of sex and gender. Instead of the endpoint of building a chair or a table, in the philosophy workshop you aim to analyze and understand. The goal is not to arrive at definite answers to the questions we’ll consider, but to ask better and better questions. In general, the objective of philosophical training is never to achieve the correct answers to all questions, but to develop a habit of critical analysis. We’ll learn about works of other philosophers, and produce new philosophical works.
The philosophical notions learned in this course will help you to critically examine events that you encounter in your daily life. For example:
- when your course syllabus only contains White male authors;
- when an Op-Ed on sex testing in female athletes says that sex is easy to determine;
- when a friend says in a confident tone “gender is socially constructed”;
- when a media report states that “sexual orientation is not a choice”;
- when you find yourself experiencing something you can’t classify because you don’t have a concept for it, or have only a concept that is negative, and therefore struggle to communicate your experience to others;
- when someone at the bar says “I have a sexual fetish for latinxs”;
- when someone says something and then someone else says the same thing, but only one of them sounds competent to you;
- when you find yourself disagreeing with a friend about what counts as “privilege”;
- when in a conference at your local community center you see a white cis heterosexual person “giving voice” to people of color, trans* and queer people;
- when someone says “feminism is no longer necessary”.
Being capable of critically examining such situations has three inmediate benefits: You’ll see more nuance and complexity; you’ll be acquainted with different relevant perspectives; and finally, you’ll stay away from unreflective reactions and will be able to develop arguments in support of your claims.
Examples of some of the questions we’ll be discussing:
How do we choose among different descriptions of reality? Are there better and worse concepts to represent reality? Is it possible to have an experience but lack a concept to express that experience? What are conceptual resources, and what is a conceptual gap?
What does justice have to do with philosophy of language, metaphysics and epistemology?
Can everyone do the same things with their words? What is the problem of speaking for others? What is sex? Is sex solely a matter of biology? What does it mean that gender is socially constructed? When we find some people attractive, and some other people unattractive, and we might even have sexual preferences for particular types of people, is there any problem with that? Is sexual orientation a choice?