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Contemporary Philosophy


Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


Hegel: A Feminist Revision by Kimberly Hutchings (Polity Press) Hegel is a signi­ficant reference point for many feminist philosophers and there is already a considerable body of feminist scholarship which engages with Hegel. In Hegel: A Feminist Revision, Hutchings examines the philosophical connections and debates between Hegelian thought and feminist philosophy. However, Hutchings does not simply to catalogue ways in which Hegel figures in different feminist philosophical argu­ments. Instead Hutchings demonstrates that Hegel's thought has something to contribute to significant philosophical arguments within feminism over sexual difference, epistemology and moral and political theory. The fulfilment of claim clearly requires both the articulation of a particular perspective within feminist philosophy and a specific interpretation of Hegel's thought. Feminist philosophy is not a uniform body of thought and my characterization of feminist debates will reflect a perspective which some feminist philosophers would want to reject. Similarly, Hutchings’ interpretation of Hegel is a con­testable, left-Hegelian one with which other feminist philosophers and Hegelian scholars will find plent to contest This means that the persuasive­ness of any of the arguments in Hegel: A Feminist Revision depends on the extent to which readers recognize and identify with the kind of feminist philosophy and the kind of Hegelian philosophy that Hutchings articulates and defends. It should be clear from the outset, however, that Hutchings  does not argue that Hegel himself was in any sense a feminist. It is patently obvious from his own remarks on sexual difference that, even in the context of his own time, Hegel's attitude to women was patriarchal and at times misogynist. If Hegel's work is useful to feminist philosophers it is in spit of his own ideological position on the `woman question'.

Hegel famously complained of the inability of Prefaces or Intro­ductions to accomplish the intellectual journey on which a book is designed to take a reader. In line with this complaint, in this review one can only assert the main claims about feminist philosophy and Hegel. The heart of the argument is the claim that Hegel is battling with the same conceptual conundrum that constitute debates in feminist philosophy. Central is the conundrum of how to escape the conceptual binary oppositions (between culture and nature, reason and emotion, autonomy and heteronomy, universal and particular, ideal and real) which have associated women with the denigrated term and prescribed the exclu­sion of women from the practices of both philosophy and politics. As Hutchings expoundas it, feminist philosophy can be defined as a project to think the world differently, but one which is forever prey to a tendency to lapse back into the terms it is seeking to transcend. This is particu­larly clear in debates internal to feminist philosophy, in which the difficulty of “thinking differently” becomes apparent in feminist char­acterizations of opposing positions. Hutchings argues that Hegel prefigures the reductive pattern of internal philosophical debates within feminism in his account of the temptations of modern thought to lapse into one­sidedness and exclusivity in his Phenomenology of Spirit and Science of Logic. In addition, Hutchings argues that Hegel provides a resource for resisting the temptations of modernist transcendence, through his insistence on the inseparability of being from truth and his historicization of both being and truth. Having made this argument, Hutchings puts forth an account of its`implications for feminist ontology, epistemology and moral and political theory. The later part of the book attempts to show how a Hegelian feminism would respond to contemporary feminist debates about knowledge, morality and politics.

The argument which follows is divided into six chapters. Chapter 1 puts forward an account of feminist philosophy as a response to the explicit and implicit masculinism of the philosophical tradition. It is claimed that this masculinism is inherent in the hierarchical binary oppositions which have underpinned the conceptual framework of mainstream Western thought. Feminist philosophy is therefore largely preoccupied with developing frameworks for thought which do not repeat the hierarchical binaries of the tradition. An important aspect of feminist attempts to re-think established philosophical conceptual frameworks has been engaging with canonic philosophical texts. Within this engagement Hutchings suggests that different pathways for feminist philosophy can be discerned, some of which reject the philosophical tradition altogether and some of which `collaborate' with it. On this basis, Hutchings distinguises between four different ideal types of feminist philosophy. These ideal types are labelled: rationalist; critical; sexual difference; and postmodernist. As with any ideal types, these modes of feminist thought are rarely completely distinguishable in practice, but nevertheless this classification provides a tool for analysing the logic of feminist philosophical debate. Hutchings then goes on to demonstrate this logic through the examination of three significant areas of feminist philosophical inquiry in epistemology, moral philosophy and political theory. The chapter concludes that feminist philosophy is caught in a struggle with the binary thinking which it aims to overcome yet which it finds difficult to escape. It is suggested that this pattern is reminiscent of the `way of despair' chronicled in Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit and turn to the exploration of this claim.

An interpretation is offerred of Hegel's philosophy as a re­sponse to the problems of binary thinking which have been intensified, Hegel argues, in the turn to transcendence which is characteristic of modernity. This is a turn which Hegel associates particularly with Kant's critical philosophy and the principles underpinning the French revolutionary terror. Hutchings’ account of Hegel treats the Phenomenology of Spirit and the Science of Logic as the key to Hegel's philosophical approach. In addition, it offers a brief exposition of Hegel's philo­sophies of nature and right which have been important to feminist engagements with Hegel's work. In the final section the argument returns to the domain of feminist philosophy and an overview of the ways in which Hegel's work has been read by feminist thinkers. It is argued that for rationalist feminists, Hegel's work is of limited philosophical interest. However, for critical, sexual difference and postmodernist categories of feminist philosophy Hegel's work has figured as an important interlocutor. This latter claim is the focus of the following chapters, which seek to show both how certain feminist philosophers have used Hegel and how Hegel may be more useful to feminist philosophy than even those who engage constructively with his work generally acknowledge.

Next Hutchings the focuses is on the work of Beauvoir and the uneasy relation to Hegelianism in both Ethics of Ambiguity and The Second Sex. It is argued that Hegel's account of the emergence of self­conscious being in the Phenomenology o f Spirit might have been more useful to Beauvoir's argument than is explicit in her texts, if her encounter with Hegel had not been so decisively mediated by the contestable readings of Hegel offered by Sartre and Kojeve of the `struggle for recognition'. Hutchings suggest that an alternative Hegelianism is

discernible in Beauvoir's phenomenology of women's subject position in The Second Sex and the way in which it (women's subject position) figures as an impossible identity of subject and object and of self and other. Then Hutchings explores how the ways in which feminist philosophy moves beyond Beauvoir in critical, sexual difference and postmodernist directions continue to formulate arguments in part in relation to Hegel's work. In Beauvoir's case it is Hegel's story of the emergence of self-consciousness, and in particular of the `struggle for recognition', which is central to the interpretation and significance of Hegel. For the thinkers explored, Patricia Mills, Luce Irigaray and Judith Butler, it is the story of Sophocles' Antigone (both the play and Antigone the character) retold by Hegel in the Phenomenology which becomes the crucial point of encounter between feminists and Hegel. In the case of all the feminist philosophers the crux of their engagement with Hegel is connected with the way he explains the position of women in his account of the mediation between the realms of nature (organic, animal being) and spirit (self-determination) in the Phenomenology. Hutchings argues that in each case there are problems with the way in which Hegel is interpreted. These problems are important not simply because Hegel can be inter­preted differently, but because they are philosophically significant for the tendency of debates between feminist philosophical positions to return to the logic of the `way of despair'. Next Hutchings fleshes out the claim repeatedly made in the preceding analysis, that her alternative interpretation of Hegelian philosophy can be used as a resource for addressing ongoing debates in feminist philosophy concerned with the ontology of sexual difference and its implications for feminist claims to truth. It is argued that Hegel offers an escape from the `way of despair' via a radical historicization of accounts of both being and truth.

The arguments proposed next explor the implications of the feminist Hegelianism for moral and political agency and judgement. Hutchings then examines the recent trajectory of work in feminist ethics following Gilligan's intervention and the introduction of the idea of an `ethic of care', with the ensuing debate over `care' versus `justice'. A variety of theoretical positions are explored, in particular those of Elisabeth Porter and Rosalind Diprose who represent critical (Porter) and postmodernist (Diprose) modes of feminist philosophy respectively, and who are both concerned to move beyond the care versus justice debate. It is argued that this move entails a radical shift in the ambitions of moral philosophy, which is not fully accomplished by either Porter or Diprose themselves. However, both Porter and Diprose articulate their own positions partly via a reading of Hegel which is used as a prompt to examine Hegel's critique of what he terms the `moral point of view' and to assess the extent to which Hegel may be useful in drawing out the implications of the critique of the either/or of care versus justice which Porter and Diprose are anxious to transcend. An account is given of Hegelian ethics, and strong parallels are found between this and the kind of moral philosophy championed by the feminist philosopher Margaret Urban Walker. This approach to moral theory abandons the invoca­tion of a privileged ground for moral judgement and prescription, encouraging the feminist moral philosopher to concentrate on phe­nomenological adequacy and genealogical honesty in accounting for moral claims and goals. In conclusion, Hutchings argues that this kind of development within feminist moral theory does not preclude critique and commitment to transformative political goals, but it does pre­clude the invocation of a moral high ground as a short cut to defini­tive judgement and prescription. Crucial to this development is a shift of the ground of authority of moral claims to the relations of recognition between the philosopher, the object of moral concern and the recipients of the philosopher's judgement. This means that moral judgement can never be anything other than risky.

In the course of the exploration of both feminist and Hegelian ethics it becomes clear that both approaches to moral theory problematize distinctions between the realms of morality and politics. Next Hutchings turns explicitly to feminist political theory and the question of how women's position within the liberal state is to be understood, judged and challenged. The argument focuses on evaluat­ing the contributions to addressing this question in the work of Carole Pateman and Catharine MacKinnon respectively. Hutchings argues that there is a fundamental ambiguity in both Pateman's and MacKinnon's argu­ments about the meaning of what Pateman defines as `the sexual contract'. In both cases the contract is presented as simultaneously oppressive and as offering possibilities for resistance and political transformation. It is argued that Hegel's account of women's posi­tion in the modern state in the Elements of Philosophy of Right helps to explain the ambiguities diagnosed in Pateman's and MacKinnon's analyses. Moreover, Hegel's argument also helps to articulate a way forward for feminist political philosophy which involves the strategic mobilization of the normative resources of the liberal state. The kinds of practical implications this entails are spelled out in relation to ongoing debates within feminist political theory about conceptions of citizenship and political agency both within and across the boundaries of the liberal state. The conclusion to the book comprises a brief set of reflections on the characteristics of Hegelian feminism for which the book has been arguing. This is accomplished through examin­ing the commonalities and differences between Hegelian feminism and the other trajectories of feminist philosophy with which the book has been mostly concerned (critical, sexual difference and postmodernist feminisms). The book concludes with the claim that Hegelian feminist philosophy is distinguished by its focus on a phenomenological project of comprehension, by its modesty concerning the status of its own philosophical claims and by a this-worldly ethics and politics.

Heartbreak: The Political Memoir of a Feminist Militant by Andrea Dworkin (Basic Books) A bittersweet memoir of falling in love with books, ideas, and the fight for social justice--from the sixties to the present--by one of the most brilliant feminist thinkers of our time.

Always innovative, often controversial, and frequently polarizing, Andrea Dworkin has carved out a unique position as one of the women's movement's most influential figures, from the early days of consciousness-raising to the "post-feminist" present. A tireless defender of women's rights, especially the rights of those who have been raped and assaulted, and a relentless critic of pornography, Dworkin is one of feminism's most rigorous minds and fiercest crusaders.

Now, in Heartbreak, Dworkin reveals for the first time the personal side of her lifelong journey as activist and writer. By turns wry, spirited, and poignant, Dworkin tells the story of how she evolved from a childhood lover of music and books into a college activist, embraced her role as an international advocate for women, and emerged as a maverick thinker at odds with both the liberal left and the mainstream women's movement. Throughout, she displays a writer's genius for expressing emotional truth and an intellectual's gift for conveying the excitement of ideas and words. Beautifully written and surprisingly intimate, Heartbreak is a portrait of a soul, and a mind, in the making.

From Hearthbreak:

"How did I become who I am? I have a heart easily hurt. I believed that cruelty was most often caused by ignorance. I thought that if everybody knew, everything would be different. I was a silly child who believed in the revolution. I was torn to pieces by segregation and Viet Nam. Apartheid broke my heart. Apartheid in Saudi Arabia still breaks my heart--I don't understand why every story about rising oil prices does not come with an addendum about the domestic imprisonment of women in the Gulf states. I can't be bought or intimidated because I'm cut down in the middle. I walk with women whispering in my ears. Every time I cry there's a name attached to each tear."

A Mind of One's Own: Feminist Essays on Reason and Objectivity (2nd Edition) edited by Louise M. Antony and Charlotte, E. Witt (Westview) (PAPERBACK) A book of tremendous influence when it first appeared, A Mind of One's Own reminded readers that the tradition of Western philosophy-- in particular, the ideals of reason and objectivity-- has come down to us from white males, nearly all of whom are demonstrably sexist, even misogynist. In this second edition, the original authors continue to ask, What are the implications of this fact for contemporary feminists working within this tradition? The second edition pursues this question about the value of reason and objectivity in new directions using the fresh perspectives and diverse viewpoints of the new generation of feminist philosophers. A Mind of One's Own is essential reading and an essential reference for philosophers and for all scholars and students concerned about the nature of knowledge and our pursuit of it.

Editors’ Summary: The resulting essays span a full range of positions concerning the value of reason and objectivity for feminist thought--­from those arguing that the traditional notions are fine as is, to those who think that they need to be reconceptualized in light of feminist thought, to those who reject them altogether. Our contributors also discuss a wide variety of related topics, and we are pleased with the intellectual richness of the chapters that resulted from our original idea.

One clear issue raised by feminist readings of the history of philosophy concerns the value of the canon for feminist theory and action. One question concerning the canon that has been debated in academia recently is the question of diversity. Should we open up the curriculum to include new voices and perspectives that have been excluded, or should we continue to teach the traditional canon? Our contributors raise a different issue with regard to the traditional canon by examining it from a feminist perspective. What do the writings of the philosophers whose thought has formed the core of Western philosophy have to offer feminists? Our contributors differ in their responses to this question, but read together these essays reveal that the thought of traditional philosophers is rich with possibilities for feminist interpretations.

Because such major figures of our tradition as Aristotle and Kant defined reason in their own male image and denied women full rationality, bath the ideal of reason itself and the value of Aristotelian and Kantian thought have become suspect in feminist eyes. Two contributors to this volume, Marcia Homiak and Barbara Herman, take issue with this negative evaluation of Aristotle and Kant. Homiak argues that Aristotle's ideal of rationality and the rational life is one that feminists have good reason to accept. She considers two feminist criticisms of the rational life‑that it excludes the emotional side of our moral lives and that it sacrifices particular, personal ties in favor of general principles. In response, she points out that the Aristotelian rational ideal does not exclude the emotions. And she argues that caring relationships, if they are not to be oppressive to women, ought to exist within the context of an Aristotelian rational life. Herman claims that certain of Kant's views on sex and marriage are surprisingly echoed in recent feminist thought and that Kant's solution to the moral problem of sexuality is interesting and worthy of consideration. Specifically, Herman finds in Andrea Dworkin's feminist reflections on sexual intercourse an echo of Kant's concerns about the negative effects of sexual appetite on the moral status of the persons involved. If Herman is right, then feminists might find Kant's attempts to resolve the moral problems of autonomy and respect for persons created by sexual desire interesting and worthwhile rather than merely puritanical.

Feminist epistemologists have criticized both the rationalist and the empiricist strands of modern epistemology. Margaret Atherton presents an interpretation of reason in Descartes different from recent feminist interpretations, and she argues that her interpretation explains why Descartes' contemporaries like Mary Astell and Damaris Lady Masham could use his notion of reason to argue for the education of women. The fact that Descartes' contemporaries found a gender‑neutral notion of reason in his thought and used it for feminist ends complicates any simple assessment of the value of Cartesian reason for feminism today. In a similar vein, Annette Baier suggests that feminists take another look at Hume 's empiricism. Drawing on Hume's historical and ethical writings, as well as his essays, Baier argues that what we find is a nonindividualistic, social epistemology that harmonizes with the feminist insight that knowledge is a cooperative endeavor rather than an individual achievement.

Several of the essays in this volume explore the feminist thesis that reason and objectivity are gendered concepts associated with maleness or with men. They address the question of what it might mean to think that reason is gendered and what the consequences of that position are for feminist philosophers. Genevieve Lloyd continues the study of the maleness of reason begun in her historical essay The Man of Reason. Here, she argues that reason's metaphorical maleness operates on the symbolic level and that it is not a unitary phenomenon but rather a complex network of images, some relatively superficial and easily cleansed, others more profoundly embedded. Our understanding that reason is metaphorically male, and that the symbolic connections between reason and gender are complex, should lead us to appreciate the contingency of the maleness of reason rather than leading us to reject reason because it is male.

Switching the focus from the symbolic representation of reason's maleness to the social construction of gender and gender norms, Sally Haslanger explores the feminist claim that the notion of objectivity or aperspectivity is itself implicated in objectifying social relations, in particular in the objectification of women by men. What is the connection between the epistemic category of objectivity and the socially constructed gender category of being male? Drawing on the work of Catharine MacKinnon, Haslanger argues that the epistemic norm of assumed objectivity contributes to the success of functioning as a man in our culture‑it contributes to the successful objectification and eroticized domination of women by men‑although it falls short of being sufficient for functioning as a man.

Elizabeth Rapaport's essay is also concerned with understanding the idea of gender in Catharine MacKinnon's theory. Rapaport approaches the question of gender by contrasting MacKinnon's brand of feminist legal reasoning with that of liberal feminists and followers of Carol Gilligan. What distinguishes MacKinnon's approach to legal questions is her unique notion of gender as a socially constructed and inherently oppressive category. Rapaport explains MacKinnon's view of gender and defends it against the charge of gender essentialism.

Two contributors take a critical stance toward the value for feminists of ideals of reason or objectivity that characterize the knower as disembodied, individual, and unitary. Naomi Scheman examines the undemocratic consequences of the Cartesian conception of the knowing subject. By comparing the process through which the individual, disembodied, and unitary Cartesian subject is achieved to the process of repression and projection that Freud described as constitutive of paranoia, Scheman makes the case that the norms of modern, Cartesian epistemology both underlie oppressive social relations (like the relations between men and women) and induce a kind of epistemic paranoia in its privileged knowers. Robin Schott argues that the rejection of women's bodily existence exemplified by some postmodern and radical feminists echoes a similar rejection of material existence found in traditional philosophy. Schott argues in particular that the postmodern deconstruction of the category "women" is idealistic and is an inadequate foundation for feminist theory because it ignores the bodily condition of women that is both the basis for considering women as a group and integral to their lives and eventual liberation.

Several contributors who have worked and written extensively on philosophical topics that appear unrelated to feminist concerns‑naturalized epistemology, social contract theory, empiricism in the philosophy of science, realist metaphysics‑argue for the value of work on these topics for feminist theory and feminist social change. Louise Antony argues that analytic epistemology has been misunderstood by its feminist critics and that one strain of analytic thought‑naturalized epistemology‑‑actually facilitates feminist inquiry. She argues that naturalized epistemology provides a theoretical standpoint from which one criticizes the epistemic ideal of objectivity (conceived as neutrality or impartiality) without undercutting one's ability to condemn pernicious biases. In a similar vein, jean Hampton argues that the adoption of the contractarian approach to moral and political problems is fully compatible with feminist insights. Hampton responds to the basic feminist criticism of contract theory‑that the image of the contract is inadequate for relationships in the personal or private realm‑by arguing that feminists should be concerned with distributive justice within the household and by acknowledging that there are aspects of human relationships that cannot be captured by the heuristic device of the contract.

Helen Longino argues that contextual empiricism (as developed in her recent book Science of Social Knowledge) meets the methodological needs of feminist studies of science better than the available alternatives. In particular, Longino argues that contextual empiricism provides an account of scientific inquiry that allows feminists to claim both that scientific inquiry is value laden or ideological and that it produces knowledge.

Then Charlotte Witt questions the antimetaphysical trend in recent feminist thought. Witt argues that there are no specifically feminist reasons for the rejection of traditional metaphysics, and she points out that both neopragmatist and postmodern metaphilosophies deprive feminist thinkers of the conceptual resources needed to critique existing social relations. Furthermore, she argues, several important feminist projects‑the criticism of the philosophical tradition as phallocentric, the development of Carol Gilligan's different voice, and Catharine MacKinnon's indictment of pornography‑require metaphysical investigation and argument.

The chapters in this book make a substantive contribution toward clarifying the relationship between feminist thought and traditional philosophy. In particular, it contains excellent essays that make the case both for and against a feminist philosophy that uses the traditional philosophical tools of reason and objectivity.

The essays chosen for this second edition both enlarge the themes of the original articles and take the volume in new directions. Three points were considered. First, discussions that were consonant with the volume's main focus: conceptions of reason and objectivity "credentialed" within mainstream philosophy but contested within feminism was necessary. Second, topics that had application beyond the narrow confines of academic philosophy to give a broader utility to the volume. Finally, attention was given to a new generation of feminist philosophers to reflect on the issues treated in the first edition. Of course there are numerous topics that fit this criteria, and many new voices in feminist philosophy, but the papers chosen especially complement and enrich the original collection of essays.

One topic that met all our desiderata is the topic of rational choice theory. It has a long philosophical history reaching back to the political theory of Thomas Hobbes and the economic thought of Adam Smith, but it is also precisely the sort of theory that many feminists have in mind when they deplore the androcentrism of philosophical theories of rationality. Moreover, it is a theory with broad implications for economics, law, and the social sciences. The chapters by Ann Cudd and Elizabeth Anderson, which grew out of a marvelously cooperative and productive debate between the two at a meeting of the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association meetings, concern the question of the andcocentrism of "the rational agent" assumed by rational choice theory. Their nuanced assessments of the value of rational choice theory for feminism advances our understanding in several ways. Looking at the theory through the lens of feminism sheds new light on its presuppositions and limitations. Conversely, the attempt to treat feminist values and goals within the context of rational choice theory illuminates important questions for feminist thought, like the value of autonomy. These chapters can be read profitably in connection with Jean Hampton's similarly complex treatment of contractarianism in her contribution to the original collection.

Philosophical issues posed by global feminism and multiculturalism seemed eminently appropriate for our volume, particularly those stemming from cultural practices that at least seem oppressive of women. Uma Narayan focuses on the practice of veiling in her discussion of custom, choice, and autonomy. While rejecting the idea of "group rights" or "cultural rights" adopted by some feminists and political theorists, Narayan advocates a position that recognizes the autonomy and respects the choices of many of the women who choose to participate in activities that appear repressive to many Western feminists. Her valuable contribution moves deftly between theory and practice and from culture to culture in developing a mode of understanding women unlike oneself that neither patronizes nor exoticizes. Its practical applications and real‑world significance are obvious in a world where the processes of cultural globalization and cultural diversification are equally potent.

Karen Jones's essay also focuses on the issue of cultures in conflict and the challenge inherent in coming to understand and accept what may seem, from one's own perspective, to be literally unbelievable. Her case study is the asylum plea of Fauziya Kassindja, a young woman fleeing genital mutilation and forced marriage in her homeland, Togo. The U.S. Immigration judge in the case, Donald Ferlise, denied asylum on the grounds that Kassindja's story was "not credible." Jones manages to draw some useful lessons from this appalling case, developing a structure of guidelines for the evaluation of astonishing reports. In its practical orientation, its sensitivity to detail, and its feminist motivation, Jones's paper makes a useful contribution to both epistemology and feminism, and in this way seems a sterling example of the kind of "engaged" epistemological work that feminist epistemologists (including Louise Antony in her chapter in the original volume) have long been calling for. It connects clearly with feminist work on epistemic authority and the mechanisms by which some testimony is legitimated as knowledge while other testimony is dismissed as epistemically suspect. It makes a positive contribution to the feminist goal of developing more adequate, situated epistemic norms.

The work of Catharine MacKinnon on objectivity and its role in the construction and epistemology of gender remains a touchstone for feminist theory. Rachel Zuckert takes up MacKinnon's charge that objectivity, like other basic values of liberalism, codes for a male epistemological point of view and thereby contributes to the subordination of women. Zuckert argues that, ironically, MacKinnon's most persuasive criticisms of liberalism make use of the norm of objectivity in a way that is, in fact, congenial to liberal thought. This chapter can be usefully read alongside the contributions of Sally Haslanger and Elizabeth Rapaport, who also attempt to uncover MacKinnon's basic theoretical commitments and discuss the ways in which her conceptual apparatus intersects with traditional philosophical categories. The fruitfulness of this feminist engagement with foundational metaphysical issues confirms the conclusion drawn by Charlotte Witt in her first edition chapter that feminists should not and will not cease to do metaphysics.

Old Dead White Men's Philosophy by Laura Lyn Inglis, Peter K. Steinfeld (Humanity Books) "I was amused and stimulated by this book. It tweaks the noses of the 'great thinkers,' reverses their reversals, and offers bright glimpses of the Background which they have attempted to hide. All those dead white men will roll over in their graves." -- Mary Daly, author of Quintessence

Until very recently the practice of philosophy was focused on white, European men who are mostly dead. Perhaps the way is now open even in philosophy for new interpretations, meanings, and dialogues in which women discover their own sources in the patriarchal canon of the past. And if such sources do not exist, perhaps the potential for such a voice can be found in the nature of the metaphors that inform those texts.

In a series of alternative dialogues, philosophers Laura Lyn Inglis and Peter K. Steinfeld rethink the canon of Western thought using hermeneutics of subversion that reads between the lines. Here one will read about Plato's cave and the Eleusinian mysteries; what might happen if Anselm's proof for God encountered an argument for a Goddess; a version of Kierkegaard's myth of Abraham in which he must respond to Sarah; a curious conversation between Nietzsche's Ubermensch and an old woman in a nursery rhyme; and a Heidegger who must confront the matricidal nature of his abyss. Ingliss and Steinfeld's alternative readings create texts that never occurred. But how might philosophy have been different if they had?

Contents: Preface Introduction  1. Plato's Cave: Subterranean Explorations 2. Anselm's Proof: The Art of Conceiving 3. Kierkegaard's Dialectic: The Abyss on the Way to Mt. Moriah 4. Nietzsche's Prophecy: The Eternal Return of What Comes Before 5. Heidegger's Poetry: Behind the Beginning Conclusion Bibliography Index

Sympathy and Solidarity and Other Essays by Sandra Lee Bartky (Feminist Constructions: Rowman & Littlefield) Author’s introduction: The first essay in the collection, "Suffering to Be Beautiful," is a link between my older and newer interests. It is directly a sequel to a much-anthologized paper on the female body from an earlier collection, entitled "Foucault, Fem­ininity and the Modernization of Patriarchal Power." In fact, whole chunks of that paper reappear in this one, simply because I couldn't think of any bet­ter way to say what I had already said. However, the current version responds to some criticisms of the earlier version. I still maintain that "disciplinary practices," as such practices are understood by Foucault in Discipline and Pun­ish, are importantly involved in the process whereby a female body is turned into a "properly" feminine one, nor have I retreated from the position that this process is, on the whole, disempowering to women. I have tried to construct a more systematic enumeration of just what this disempowerment entails, also a systematic list of the ways in which we are coerced, bribed, and even blackmailed into going along with it. I try too to develop two themes that are surely underdeveloped in the earlier paper. First, pleasure. I try to respond to the criticism that I have undertheorized the pleasure we take in turning ourselves into properly feminine women by spelling out in more detail the nature of these pleasures.

The second theme I neglected in earlier treatments of the topic is ambivalence. It is very likely impossible for any woman raised conventionally, as I was, to write without emotion or without ambivalence on these matters. It may be the case that the business of trying to achieve, as near as one can, physical perfection, is even more burdensome than my treatment of the topic suggests, or else there is far more pleasure at stake here than I am willing to admit to myself and to my readers. This the reader must decide. I think that there is considerable psychic ambivalence at work here, a phenomenon that is echoed, I hope, in my treatment of the ambiguity of meaning carried by the various disciplinary practices themselves. As students of philosophy, we learned that "everything is what it is and not some other thing." But in the present case, this is false: the disciplines of the body are in and of themselves complex; for example, the memory of acquiring and exercising them may be tied to a powerful nostalgia for the past, for one's youth, for friends who have somehow drifted away.

The next three chapters relate directly to the poststructuralist turn in feminist theory, namely, the question of the status of the subject, in particular, the strife between "essentialist" theories of the subject and those that foreground "difference." Having devoted a good deal of attention to female subjectivity and female sexuality, I found it necessary to open myself to criticism implied by much poststructuralism, namely that I had conceptualized "the subject" in ways that were fundamentally flawed.

Now there is really no such thing as "poststructuralism," i.e., there is no "ism." There is instead congeries of theories, some having virtually nothing in common, others sharing some "family resemblances." As it was impossible to focus on every thinker on whom this title has at some time rested, I decided to focus on a thinker widely held to represent this tendency: Michel Foucault. Foucault's texts are relatively lucid and many of his ideas have been incorporated into contemporary feminist theory. I myself had written a successful paper drawing heavily both on Foucault's analysis of disciplinary practices directed toward the body that have shaped the modem subject, also his claim that domination changes its character in the transition from feudalism to modernity.

Now Foucault is widely thought, at least in his major works, to have announced the "death of the subject," the view that we are wholly constructed within socially dominant discourses and practices, that we are "effects" of "regimes" of power and knowledge and that therefore we lack the self-determination that has been thought traditionally to characterize the moral agent. But if moral agency is an illusion, so is political agency: where then does this leave feminism, or any other movement for social reconstruction?

In "Agency: What's the Problem," following Peter Dews's exposition of Foucault's ideas in Discipline and Punish and The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1, I argue that Foucault implicitly assumes what he explicitly denies, i.e., some measure of self-determination on the part of the subject. Hence, Foucault does not nullify the subject; he presents an incoherent, i.e., an inconsistent theory of agency, but an incoherent theory of agency is no theory at all. In the later volumes of the History of Sexuality, Foucault shows us (male) agents in antiquity who are quite a bit freer than his modern subjects: they seek and sometimes achieve balance, moderation, and self-determination in the design of their sexuality. Since the late Foucault puts forward a conventional notion of agency, and the earlier Foucault an incoherent, hence self-nullifying theory of agency, agency is safe, at least for now from at least this poststructuralist. I close the chapter with an attempt to diagnose the inconsistencies in Foucault's treatment of the sexual subject: these I trace to a conception of power that is so expansive it leads inevitably to confusion.

I am aware that my slash‑and‑bum critique of Foucault in "`Catch Me if You Can': Foucault on the Repressive Hypothesis" will irritate and even anger many who find Foucault's analyses in Volume I of the History of Sexuality to be among the most illuminating in contemporary philosophy. But my critique of his critique has been sticking in my craw since 1980, when I first encountered it. Over the years, I found more and more that feminist theorists tend to accept Foucault's understanding of the subject, of sexuality, of knowledge and power as if these views were self-evident. Whenever I face an oppositional consensus, I assume that I am in the wrong. I think that is why it took me so long to write this chapter. I argue that most of the reasons Foucault offers to reject concepts of repression developed, e.g., by left‑wing followers of Freud, are by no means persuasive. I argue too that the paradigmatic case Foucault offers as an illustration of what goes on in "repressive" situations has a game‑like, playful quality; the effects of repression, I suggest, are painful and destructive. Wherever the truth lies, it seems clear to me that Foucault's account of repression seriously neglects the sense of guilt, the dysfunction, the shame, and the general misery that have to be told as part of this story. Moreover, I argue that Foucault seriously misrepresents the views of his antagonists, whom I take to be Freud and the Freudo-Marxists, nor can an account of anything like sexual repression afford, as does Foucault's, to neglect unconscious processes.

"Sympathy and Solidarity" was likewise inspired by poststructuralist concerns. It has long been charged that feminist theory has taken the experience of privileged white women in current or formerly imperialist states to be essential, and the experience of all other women to be marginal; this has come to be called the "problem of difference," the problem being the "occlusion" of differences among women. Various diagnoses are offered by`contemporary poststructuralists, most of whom indict the entire Western tradition in philosophy, for example, for "logocentrism," the mistaken belief that there is some ultimate unitary word, presence, essence, reality, or truth that can provide a foundation for theory, experience, and expression. While I deal more fully with these theories in the body of the chapter, suffice it to say here that the problem of difference has been conceived in largely cognitive terms, i.e., as allegiance to a flawed theory of meaning or an untenable metaphysics.

I treat the problem of difference not as fundamentally a metaphysical or an epistemological problem, but as a political issue. The problem, it seems to me, has to do with the building of solidarities among women who differ markedly from one another in terms of privilege‑of race, nationality, sexual orientation, etc. Now the best builder of solidarities is joint work, but in joint work there is still the problem of understanding the Other and her view of the world in her difference from myself. I resuscitate, for the purposes of the essay, Max Scheler's phenomenology of Mitgefuhl, literally "feeling‑with" or perhaps "sympathy." I find in this canonical figure resources for conceptualizing both barren as well as more fruitful access to the disadvantaged Other. I find too that Scheler's account is sketchy and needs to be supplemented. This chapter was, for me, a voyage of discovery into a phenomenological universe I had never entered. The chapter is dense and layered: all sorts of directions for further inquiry suddenly reveal themselves, as well as questions, especially about the widespread absence of sympathy, the excessive privatization that characterizes contemporary life in societies like ours. I take this to be a political as well as a moral problem.

In "Unplanned Obsolescence: Some Reflections on Aging" I treat aging as more or less of a calamity, focusing not on the physical disabilities that many aging people must face, but on the loneliness that often accompanies the loss of friends and perhaps an intimate Other, and on the growing obsolescence of o ‑cultural and intellectual perspective. While the analysis is not formally gender‑specific, I note the particular disabilities aging women face as a consequence of the cultural figurations of femininity. I study the strategies that some older women have adopted to counter their social depreciation. Mindful of criticisms of my work that I do nothing but diagnose social evils and never offer strategies of resistance, I end the chapter by outlining a number of strategies that are worth considering. I conclude by imagining a strategy for women only, which will irritate and perhaps shock some readers, though I hope that others will try it.

"Phenomenology of a Hyphenated Consciousness" was written for an anthology on marginalization. I first thought of writing on women as a marginalized group, which I think we largely are, but everything I imagined saying seemed stale and repetitious. Then I remembered typical introductory sociology texts in which Jews are normally taken to be paradigmatic of a marginalized people‑‑"marginalization" in this case, referring to those who live partly in and partly outside, i.e., on the margins of the dominant political, economic, social, and cultural "center." Here was my subject: I was, after all, a Jew and so I had a fund of personal experience on which to draw. The essay itself is largely autobiographical, showing how at least one person, myself, navigated an initially depreciated social identity. I close by looking briefly at patterns of other Jewish‑American identity formations without comparison or judgment. I uncover at the end, something I had not gone looking for (these works often take on a life of their own, as characters in novels are said to do!), namely a host of questions about the particular duties and responsibilities of persons who affirm an ethnic identity.

Like the chapter on the repressive hypothesis, "In Defense of Guilt" had been sticking in my craw for many years. The persons who initiated me into radical politics had utter contempt for "liberals," especially for "guilty liberals," indeed, the ideas of "guilty" and fquot;liberals" were virtually impossible to pry apart. But so powerful was that consensus that I was rendered speechless. This made me profoundly uneasy, as I had been a "liberal" for many years prior to my radicalization, and because I knew that deep down, I felt guilty because of advantages I enjoyed that were systematically denied to many other people. In this chapter, I argue that "guilt," understood as a recognition of one's complicity in injustice, is an acceptable motive for political action (philosophy paper as act of revenge!). I maintain that white persons are complicit (whether they want to be or even recognize that they are) in the functioning of a racial caste system that bestows upon them (typically at the expense of others) unearned privilege I sketch a number of white‑skin privileges to make vivid how privilege is embedded for whites in what we do no see an never experience. I distinguish guilt as complicity from other forms of guilt and speculate concerning ways of lessening the complicity of whites in an unjust racial hierarchy.

"Race, Complicity, and Culpable Ignorance" is the last chapter in the collection; in it, I extend and expand one of the principal themes of "In Defense of Guilt," namely, the cognitive and affective strategies used by whites to allow themselves to live in a state of denial concerning their own complicity in the perpetuation of racism. My approach is phenomenological, though I touch upon at least one psychoanalytic theory of racism. The "subject" in this chapter is a "nice" white person, someone who says he abhors racism, admires Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and is shocked and outraged by the Aryan Nation and the Ku Klux Klan.

These final essays on racism are my first efforts at writing anything publishable on this topic. I find this much more difficult than writing about sexism; the difference lies of course in my own relationship to the two forms of oppression. There are dangers that lie in wait in both cases. When I write about sexism, I am writing from the perspective of the victim; but when I write about racism, I write from the social location of the victimizer, the oppressor. In condemning "nice" white people I am condemning myself. I am a white person, indeed, a "nice" white person. I am, to some degree or another, revealing myself in ways that make me squirm. One of my editors chided me for writing about "nice" white people with contempt and even hatred. The contempt and shame we feel for our own people is often more intense than what we feel for the Other. I have since modified my language, recognizing that racism in white people is far more than a moral flaw, including as it does, the "common sense," what Heidegger would have called the "average every, dayness" for whites`of racist attitudes. It is difficult for most people to leave the herd consciousness of the herd. I know these people; they are my family; they were our neighbors in the suburbs; some of them are people I love. But proper academic writing‑so far‑has been allowed only a posture of detachment and "objectivity." Writing about racism generates in me complex and intense feelings that are not normally expressible within the proper parameters of proper philosophical writing. Such writing is always expected to "keep its cool," which is only another way of pointing to its androcentricity. The writing style in which we learn to do philosophy reflects the traditional subject of much modern philosophy, namely, the Cartesian cogito.

In the case of sexism, there is of course the danger of overgeneralization, hence ethnocentrism and unintended racism, discussed earlier. There is also the danger that here, as in the case of racism, one's anger and outrage will escape the restrictions put upon one's self by the stylistics of academic prose and overflow the essay. The tears must be wiped off the page before it goes to the printer. But what is the matter with allowing anger and outrage to inflect one's writing? The taboo on the expression of emotion in philosophical writing reflects the no longer universally held belief that reason and emotion are distinct and that if one expresses emotion, one's text will be lacking in rationality, objectivity, and proper detachment.

Another danger is that one's work may well be taken as an exaggerated and somewhat superannuated lament lacking relevance for women today ("Well, maybe it was that way for your generation . . ."). Even if one's work is taken seriously by those readers for whom it is principally intended, there is still a good number of mainstream philosophers for whom feminist philosophy has no authentic philosophic content, so is nothing but a lament after all. And this judgment gave rise, for some in my generation of feminist philosophers, to a kind of self-doubt that I hope will die out with my generation, the advance‑guard of the Second Wave. Younger feminist philosophers ought to be able to go about their business free of such self‑doubt. But secretly, some of us Jworried some of the time that our critics might be right after all, that what we were doing wasn't really philosophy. In fact, we were struggling to expand the scope of "real" philosophy in ways that were then and are still quite radical. So we stuck it out. The personal voice‑my voice‑is prominent in many (but not all) of these chapters. I have only just learned that an important trend currently in literature is the writing of memoirs by "ordinary" people. "important" people-statesmen, diplomats, generals‑have always written their memoirs, but what is happening now is the writing of memoirs by private people, those who lack celebrity status and whose names are not household words. Sometimes these writers of memoirs have some small distinction, sometimes not.

Now the use of the memoir and of the personal voice has entered philosophy by way of feminism. 13 The fact that I have allowed my own experience and my own memories to be expressed in some of these chapters is perhaps a revolt against the impersonal and detached style of the Cartesian subject, though while I was writing these essays, I had no conscious intention to start a revolt. Thinking it over, I see that it is a pretty good idea, when coupled (of course) with careful analytic distinctions and persuasive argumentation.

Part of the reason, I think, for the tremendous success several years ago of the Feminist Ethics and Social Theory Conference in Clearwater, Florida (out of which, quite spontaneously, the group FEAST was born), was due to the`presence in many papers of the author's voice. This gave to the scholarship presented there a vibrancy and immediacy that is normally lacking in philosophical writing. The feminist critique of the abstract subject of traditional philosophy, whose "view from nowhere" allows him (sic) no determination by race, class, gender, age, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, is now finding ex­pression, I think, in the style in which the new philosophy is being done. There is no reason to think that a philosopher's experience of life or her mem­ories, expressed directly, cannot buttress an argument or broaden the concep­tual scope of a subject area; indeed, the inclusion of the personal voice can make a philosopher's moral or political vision more vivid and more com­pelling. So, I do not appear before my readers, particular persons that you are, disguised as a Mind Thinking, but as the particular person that I am. The voice in these chapters is my own.

Worlds of Knowing: Global Feminist Epistemologies by Jane Duran (Routledge) investigates how societies award the status of "knowledge"--and the social and political power that comes with it--to information and skills obtained through conventionally male institutions such as churches and universities in this book. Moving throughout South Asia and North and Central America, she explores ways in which women are re-appropriating "the right to know"--in the sciences, within religious institutions, and in the political sphere.|/span>

To Be Two by Luce Irigaray, translated by Monique Rhodes (Routledge) gives new clarity to her project, grounding it in relation to such major figures as Sartre, Levinas, and Merleau-Ponty. Yet at the same time, she enriches her discussion with an attempt to bring the elements - earth, fire, water - into philosophical discourse. Even the polarities of heaven and earth come to play in this ambitious and provocative text. At once political, philosophical, and poetic, To Be Two one? How can identity be created, or discovered, in relation to others?


From the beginning, the relationship with the other has been considered as a genealogical one in our tradition. Such a reduction of the question of the other is probably tied to the privilege enjoyed by the patriarchal family as the model of social organization: both civil and religious.

We have considered the other as Father (or son) and as brother,; while through necessity subjugating fraternity to paternity, the other of the everyday to the Other as father.

This model, which was constructive for a time, appears to be a source of non-truth, of non-ethics, in particular, but not exclusively, for the reality of sexual difference.

With this in mind, I will turn to the philosophy of Emmanuel  Levinas.

According to this philosopher, the face of the other appears to me through the face of God (the other resembles God, and I see the face of the other thanks to my relationship with God). Respect for the other, an ethical relationship with him is possible thanks to , the passage through the absolute Other: God.

This method, this ethical way seems mistaken to me for many  reasons, even if it is a mistake not always easily uncovered or  avoided.

1. Respecting the other in the name of God means imposing my God upon him, not respecting him as other.
2. Levinas' God is bound to a language, a language imposed upon nature - micro- and macrocosmic - which constitutes a people. This idea of a people does not consider the bodies, the hearts, the words of women and men to have equal value. For Levinas the man, the passage through his God is, perhaps, an imposition of limits upon his instincts, upon his natural intemperance, but does not represent a way of respecting the other as other. Instead, it might lead to the other's subjection to an absolute of reason, of spirit, of the power of one discourse which, in the name of God, deprives him, and above all her, of a transcendence which is appropriate to him, to her.
3. Placing God between the other and me prevents the present dialogue between us. The Other includes us in the same discourse:, we speak only in his horizon, in his truth, assuming that this is even possible. In a certain sense, we no longer speak to each other: we update or repeat something which has already been said. The singular authority of a God as envisioned in the masculine does not favor communication between the two genders: man and woman.
4, The God of Levinas is not incarnate, sensible, perceptible to the senses: he remains faceless. How does one see the face of the other through this invisibility? For Levinas, perceiving the other, contemplating him, encountering him in the present, in presence, takes place thanks solely to a morality already composed of language, a morality alien to real incarnation, here and now. Certainly, I will respect the other to the extent that I cannot kill him, rape him, etc., but not as body and language which are present to me in their becoming. The other is always already placed in a moral context, defined by written words, which distance him from me: the other is already in the past, a past in which laws and customs are more suited to the masculine than to the feminine subject.

In order to respect the other, I must leave simple morality behind. I must think of him as a body, as a heart,.and also as a present word. I must consider him a singular incarnation which resists already existing language: I must hold on firmly to him as to a singular sensibility, thought, and truth. Behaving towards him in an ethical manner, in the name of my values, is the same as destroying him in his alterity. In reducing the other to a moral dimension of my life, I have already isolated myself from his alterity, his truth, and also from a possible Other.

The other is two. Would not subjecting him to a single language, to a single truth, involve destroying him as other? Certainly, passing through a God in order to respect the other does not appear to be the best way of recognizing either gender. When doing this, I can neither love the other in a sensible way nor leave him his life. He finds himself within the horizon of my law: I obey my law instead of recognizing the other as other.

This way of proceeding will not guide me further in my becoming, will not help me to walk between love and thought, or escape the abstraction and violence of the neuter. (Levinas condemns this in the philosophy of Heidegger, but he himself does not seem to escape the neutralization of the other or the danger which comes from science and techne.)

In order to approach the other while respecting and safeguarding his alterity, perhaps we can take as our point of departure the following corporeal, affective and intellectual reality: the other is a mystery.

Recognizing that the other is and will remain a mystery for me, I can: respect him as other without subjecting him to any of my laws; marry ethicality and truth in my relationship with the other: I think of the other as the mystery which he is for me, as a truth, certainly, but always as one which is unknown to and inappropriable by me, unable to be dominated or universalized; change the relation between love and truth: respecting the mystery of the other through love implies that this respect for a truth which will never be mine modifies my, our relationship with the truth.

Instead of being light opposed to darkness, or knowledge opposed to ignorance, truth is light which does not give up mystery, light which illuminates without revealing; never total, never authoritarian or dogmatic, but light always shared between two subjects irreducible to one another.

This respect for the mystery of the other represents a positive and negative path towards him, or her. In so far as I am confronted with such a mystery, it represents the same towards me.

If our culture were to receive within itself the mystery of the other as an unavoidable and insurmountable reality, there would open up a new age of thought, with a changed economy of truth and ethics.

Beyond transforming our relationship with truth, the mystery of the other would allow us to enter into a philosophy, and not only an ethics, of love, into a thinking of subjectivity as intersubjectivity.

The mystery of the other, the irreducibility of a mystery between us, makes possible:
- the renunciation of the opposition between adult and child, father and son, an opposition which has subjugated the relationship with the other to genealogy;
- the horizontal definition of the relation with the other as other: not the other who is necessary to me as father, nor the other, often necessary to him, as son (see for example Levinas' discourse on alterity), but the other who is tied to naturality;
- a horizontal thinking of the relationship with the other which through natural and spiritual necessity - ontical and ontological is found in a philosophy of sexual difference.

If the mystery of the other were reduced to the observation that his and my history are not the same, we would not actually be dealing with a mystery: it would be a secret which could often be recounted, explained, and named. This so-called mystery is presented as an empirical given which reason can attempt to explain, reveal, and interpret.

The other, whose mystery will never be a shared secret, the other who will always remain a mystery to me, is the other of sexual difference.

Only by considering this mystery as irreducible- can we begin the construction of intersubjectivity: physical, sensible, thinking with the other as other.

Such an elaboration (a philosophical one, in particular) is based upon the recognition of a mystery which will never be revealed: an idea which has remained foreign to Western thought up until now.

Sketching this new horizon in philosophy, founded upon an inappropriable truth, involves, as a first gesture, a necessary respect for the virginity of the other. It is a prerequisite for establishing a philosophy of sexual difference and of intersubjectivity.

If this were to come about, virginity would not be reduced to a natural reality, would not be ascribed only to the feminine or to the neuter, but would be the other name for the fidelity of each gender to itself, with a respect for the other gender.

Virginity is, in fact, the necessary condition for the existence of a word which is present here and now between us: woman and man, women and men.

Virginity is the other face of an aporia inhabiting a word which heeds sexual difference. The absence of a like discourse suitable for the two genders, the need for an almost absolute silence

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