Friday, March 19, 2010

Why is this Technically Philosophy?

In our class, we are often presented with gross injustices to women, and we find ways to prescribe what we “ought” to do from what actually “is” the status quo. I support any type of progress made, but often times, the realizations that we come to seem intuitive or outlandish to claim otherwise (like in the case of Spelman or McIntosh). Why prompts me to ask: why do these topics need to be classified as philosophical questions? Do these dilemmas not seem more in place with a social science, like psychology or sociology, and by labeling it philosophy, are we detracting from potential engagers in the subject matter? To the first question, nothing strictly philosophical strikes me in most of our readings, but that is not to say the importance is downgraded. It just seems that the feminist movement did not arrive out of the ivory tower of philosophy, so why must it be confined there in the present? The movement was more physically involved than a disembodied discourse floating through textbooks and journals, so it just strikes me as odd that these topics need to be strictly called “philosophical.” Also, by labeling these questions one thing, it seems to reinforce a sort of border-war that exists between academics: insane mutterings that includes things like philosophy and biology should not mix; chemistry and accounting are two different worlds, etc. While the subject matter differs, each subject doesn’t occur in a vacuum, so analysis from another point of view would lend criticism to another field. It would maintain order, yet at the same time allow for the inter-mingling of subjects. These topics we have been grappling with seem more sociological or psychological, but by lending a philosophical analysis, we are able to add meaning to subject that wouldn’t be there otherwise. The criticism that philosophy is able to contribute is valuable for its additive capabilities, and therefore we are apply to apply it to more socially relevant topics, like feminist philosophy (and philosophy of race, social justice, etc.). So while these may not be the traditional targets of philosophical inquiry like the nature of life or theories of knowledge and knowledge acquisition, the feminist focus seems to highlight an edifying effect that philosophy can have, and at the very least should connect to ethical considerations, like what should be considered rights of a person or what is a person, in general.


  1. I think Alcoff had a similar question and one that is relevant to your post. She questions whether philosophy is political, but within her argument she critiques the ways philosophy has always functioned. We made a point today in class that I had thought little about. Philosophy is fundamental to other areas of academia due to their epistemological or metaphysical questions. Yet, philosophy as a whole has a very narrow demographic which usually exludes women, non-white races etc. So, although some of the questions of feminist philosophy may seem more along the lines of sociology or psychology, it is actually the perception of philosophy that is changed through the lense of different perspectives besides the normative, which adds to a broader sense of our understandings.

  2. While philosophy may seem fundamental, is it actually considered so in social interactions? For example, when you ask a friend, what color is my shirt?, they are not tempted to consult Descartes or Kant for why they have certain beliefs regarding perception, rather it is much more likely that they settle on an establish dialogue or product of conversation that would justify shirt color. Yes, the expansion of epistemology would be helpful in giving a voice to those previously silenced, as well as analyzing the conditions of past epistemologies and epistemologists, but I feel that the range of people that believe traditional philosophy to be strictly foundational are just as limited to those that have contributed to its evolution. It seems that social practices are more often referred to for fundamental structures, but I haven't given up hope on a sort of philosophical project that Alcoff suggests, as it is still a viable option to pursue.

  3. The fact that we discuss what is gender, and what is sexuality i think ties into philossophy. We have traditional epistemoligical ideas that need to be addressed philosophically. If we don't address the idea that metaphysically women have the purpose of being feminine, then we do not create any change. While alot of this isn't philosophy, it does challenge traditional ideas we hold. If we dont change how we metaphysically look at women, there wont be any change


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.