Monday, March 29, 2010

Epistemology: Individual vs. Group Association

Alcoff begins her essay by defining epistemology as, “that branch of philosophy which seeks to have knowledge about knowledge itself.” In other words, how do we know what we know? Specifically, in this class we are asking the question as women, how does our knowledge of knowledge differ from others. When, I first consider the question, I thought it was a very good way of identifying a different type of knowledge. Through women’s voices on learning how they obtain knowledge, we gain a better understand of knowledge as a whole. People, as groups, experience things differently. For example, in my psychology of gender class, we learned how men and women perceive things differently due to biology and more importantly due to socialization. This could go along with race differences. By learning about different races and ethnicities, we are able to gain more knowledge about knowledge itself. We are able to know how we know certain things that may not have been available to us through our own experience. When first considered, I found this idea to be very beneficial to society. Through attaining more knowledge about others, one can gains a better appreciation for knowledge as a whole.

The way society treats certain groups of people varies from men, to women, to homosexuals, and the list continues. The idea of identifying different types of epistemology seems to broaden our perspective as a whole, but it made me question whether group experiences could identify how I know something completely. Take our class for example. I am sure that the way I know what I know varies immensely from the other women in the class. To define epistemology through the lense of the feminist or to have a certain race’s epistemology seems to stereotype that group and characterize it by simplifying how that group obtains knowledge. It does not take a single perspective into account, but rather it takes a wide range into consideration and tries to make it more understandable as a whole. In our section on women and race, we said at some point you have to discriminate, but I feel that each individual knows things so differently than the next it would be hard to characterize knowledge as a whole. This question of whether a specific group’s epistemology can represent the whole parallels the ampersand problem in that if you don’t discriminate into groups, you eventually get down to single individuals experience of knowledge.

To more clearly state what I have been considering, is if feminist epistemology or a certain specific epistemology can truly represent how they know what they know? Is there an oversimplification to understanding how we know as individuals?

1 comment:

  1. This is a great post! It reminded me a lot of Spelman's additive analysis. How do we balance taking different groups perspectives into account yet still realize that variation exists within those groups? However, how do we make sure that we are not just considering individuals? On the one hand, I think it is very important to consider that different groups possess different ideas of knowledge. Most importantly, I feel that this point must be taken into account when creating legislation or generating mandates that affects every person. We certainly in this case cannot only consider one epistemology. However, for it becomes a lot more complicated when we talk in practical terms. How do I talk to people? How do I make sure that I am being "politically correct?" How do I make sure that I fully express my belief? I am not sure if know the answer to these questions yet.


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