When I signed up for this class I was concerned that feminist philosophy could only pertain to me tangentially. I thought that as a man I would not be inspired and motivated to the same degree that most women would be by the subject. On the contrary, however, I have been captivated by the way in which much feminist philosophy challenges the most basic assumptions of mainstream philosophy itself.
Philosophy is a discipline which prides itself on thinking critically about society and the human experience in a way that no other does. Often have philosophers looked down upon the masses (and women) as ignorant of the supposed faulty and irrational basis of their simple lives. Feminist thinkers turn this arrogance on its head, pointing out as Oyewumi does that Western thought is based on “bio-logic,” or revealing as Alcoff does that Western epistemology is controlled by privileged white males. These bold thinkers have challenged philosophy to become self-conscious, to understand how it has served to perpetuate the widespread irrationality that it so tirelessly bemoans. I use the term “self-conscious” because these feminist scholars are calling philosophy to engage in a process that is painful and embarrassing, but all the more significant because of it.
Of course, there is the legitimate concern that a reevaluation of philosophy’s basic tenets threatens to disintegrate into mere relativism. Alcoff, however, deals with this concern when she writes: “We do not need to uphold the relativist notion that everyone’s view has an equal claim to truth in order to hold that truth is more likely to be obtained through a process that includes the articulation and examination of all possible views.” Indeed, the defect with mainstream philosophy as feminists view it is not that philosophy has an overly conservative definition of truth which it needs to expand, but that it must increase its acceptance of different avenues to the truth. Therefore, to address feminist critique, philosophers need not accept a hopeless relativism; they need only cease excluding arguments from consideration based on sexism and racism.
By challenging philosophy to undergo a purging of its prejudices, feminist philosophers have shown feminism to be of direct benefit to al sexes, races, and classes. For how can the consideration of all well supported arguments ultimately come to anything but the benefit of all? In fact, the changes that feminist thinkers are calling for would prove to be some of the most revolutionary in the history of Western philosophy.