Feminist philosophy is a philosophy approached from a feminist perspective and also the employment of philosophical methods to feminist topics and questions. Feminist philosophy involves both reinterpreting philosophical texts and methods in order to supplement the feminist movement and attempts to criticise or re-evaluate the ideas of traditional philosophy from within a feminist framework.
Feminist philosophy is united by a central concern with gender. It also typically involves some form of commitment to justice for women, whatever form that may take. Aside from these uniting features, feminist philosophy is a diverse field covering a wide range of topics from a variety of approaches. Feminist philosophers, as philosophers, are found in both the analytic and continental traditions, and a myriad of different viewpoints are taken on philosophical issues within those traditions. Feminist philosophers, as feminists, can also belong to many different varieties of feminism.
Feminist philosophy can be understood to have three main functions:
- Drawing on philosophical methodologies and theories to articulate and theorize about feminist concerns and perspectives. This can include providing a philosophical analysis of concepts regarding identity (such as race, socio-economic status, gender, sexuality, ability, and religion) and concepts that are very widely used and theorised within feminist theory more broadly. Feminist philosophy has also been an important source for arguments for gender equality.
- Investigating sexism and androcentrism within the philosophical tradition. This can involve critiquing texts and theories that are typically classified as part of the philosophical canon, especially by focusing on their presentation of women and women's experience or the exclusion of women from the philosophical tradition. Another significant trend is the rediscovery of the work of many female philosophers whose contributions have not been recognised.
- Contributing to philosophy with new approaches to existing questions as well as new questions and fields of research in light of their critical inquiries into the philosophical tradition and reflecting their concern with gender.
Feminist philosophy existed before the twentieth century but became labelled as such in relation to the discourse of second-wave feminists of the 1960s and 1970s. An important aspect of feminist philosophy is whether it can capture the experiences of women around the globe and from different social classes.
Feminist philosophy covers a broad range of topics, including:
- Feminist epistemology challenges traditional philosophical ideas of knowledge and rationality as objective, universal, and value neutral. Feminist epistemologists usually argue for the importance of perspective, social situation and values in generating knowledge, including in the sciences.
- Feminist ethics argues that the emphasis on objectivity, rationality, and universality in traditional moral thought excludes women's ethical realities. One of the most notable developments is the Ethics of care, a feminist ethics developed in the 1980s that challenges the traditional universalist and objectivist approaches to ethics. Care ethics involves a greater recognition of interpersonal relations and relations of care and dependency.
- Feminist phenomenology investigates how both cognitive faculties (e.g., thinking, interpreting, remembering, knowing) and the construction of normativity within social orders combine to shape an individual's reality. As phenomenology is the study of phenomena, feminists use these theories to understand awareness of the self, of others, of personal experience, and embodiment of intentions and actions.
- Feminist aesthetics concerns the representation of women in art and the role of gender and sexuality in aesthetic theorising.
- Feminist metaphysics examines sex biases inherent in traditional metaphysical theories, as well as presenting metaphysical theories in which gender is explicit.
- Feminist existentialism involves taking a feminist approach to existentialism by emphasising lived situation, bodily existence and social relations while also retaining the existentialist focus on the freedom of the subject.
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Influential feminist philosophers include:
- Linda Martín Alcoff
- Sandra Lee Bartky
- Simone de Beauvoir
- Judith Butler
- Claudia Card
- Lorraine Code
- Miranda Fricker
- Olympe de Gouges
- Sally Haslanger
- Luce Irigaray
- Alison Jaggar
- Julia Kristeva
- Uma Narayan
- Martha Nussbaum
- Val Plumwood
- Mary Wollstonecraft
- Iris Marion Young
Critics of feminist philosophy are not generally critics of feminism as a political or cultural movement but of the philosophical positions put forth under the title "feminist philosophy".
Writers and thinkers who have criticised aspects of feminist philosophy include:
A phenomenological approach to the question of gender, which treats masculinity and femininity as not pertaining ascriptively to males and females, but as alternative ways, open to both women and men, of human beings presenting themselves as who they are, is taken by the Australian philosopher, Michael Eldred. 'Feminine' being is then thought as an 'interstitial' mode of encounter between you-and-me rather than showing off who one is in self-presentation. This approach is indebted to both the German tradition of dialogical philosophy and to Heidegger's questioning return to Greek ontology in search of as yet latent, alternative historical modes of (human) being apart from the established Western modes of 'substantial' standing presence..
- Analytical feminism
- Hypatia transracialism controversy
- List of feminist philosophers
- Women in philosophy
- Gatens, M., Feminism and Philosophy: Perspectives on Difference and Equality (Indiana University Press, 1991)
- Kittay, Eva Feder & Linda Martín Alcoff, "Introduction: Defining Feminist Philosophy" in The Blackwell Guide to Feminist Philosophy, Blackwell Publishing, 2007. ISBN 0470695382
- Eldred, Michael, 2005, 'Barely encountering you'
- Eldred, Michael, 2008, 'Metaphysics of Feminism: A Critical Note on Judith Butler's Gender Trouble'
- Eldred, Michael, 1999, Phänomenologie der Männlichkeit Roell, Dettelbach, 266 pp. ISBN 3-89754-137-8