This course follows two main lines of inquiry. First, it explores the impact of feminist thinking on several areas of philosophy, in particular philosophy of language, metaphysics and epistemology e.g. how can feminist values help us do better epistemology? Second, it uses the philosophical toolkit to analyze questions of concern for feminism, e.g. what is sexual consent? How best to explain injustice? How does inequality and injustice affect our capacity to communicate?
IN THE PHILOSOPHY WORKSHOP
As if you were in a woodworking workshop, you’ll be introduced to several 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 binding a book, in the philosophy workshop you aim at analyzing and understanding. The goal is not to arrive at definite answers to the questions we consider, but to ask better and better questions. As we ask better and better questions, we will reveal the underneath complexity of seemingly simple issues. 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 will train this habit by learning several philosophers' theories and analyses, and by producing new philosophical works ourselves.
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 your interlocutor introduces a problematic presupposition into the conversation;
- when a media report states that “sexual orientation is not a choice”;
- when you find yourself experiencing something you can’t quite express because you don’t have a concept for it;
- when someone at the bar says “I have a sexual fetish for latinxs, it's just a personal preference”;
- when someone says something and then someone else says the same thing, but only one of them sounds competent to you;
- when during an event at your local community center you see a white cis heterosexual person “giving voice” to people of color, trans* and queer people;
- when you wonder whether what you feel for your romantic partner or friend is love;
- when someone says “feminism is no longer necessary”.
Being capable of critically examining such situations has three immediate benefits: You’ll see more nuance and complexity; you’ll be acquainted with different relevant perspectives, instead of only your own view on the matter; and finally, you’ll stay away from unreflective reactions and will be able to develop arguments in support of your claims.
The following are some of the questions we’ll be discussing:
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? Can we oppress with the words we say? Can we harm with the presuppositions we make? What is the problem of speaking on behalf of others? What is sex? Is sex solely a matter of biology? What does it mean that gender is socially constructed? Is sexual orientation a choice? What is love? What is required to legitimately consent to sex? Is a naked woman always objectified? What does it take to resist dominant gender norms?