What is Feminist Epistemology?


Haack's Two Categories of “New Feminism”:


(1) Epistemology that privileges "the way women see things".   This alternative seems to fit Code (though, in this case, appearances are deceiving).


(2) Epistemology "serving the interests of women".  This alternative fits Longino.


What is Haack's "old feminism"?










Which kind of Feminist Epistemology does Code endorse?


Code claims that the sex/gender of the knower is epistemologically significant.  Thus, she seems to be making a category (1) claim.  But every time she discusses those who do make a category (1) claim, she does not endorse their conclusions. 

Her own position is that the existing theories of knowledge reflect the maleness of their creators.  This is not a claim about knowledge itself, but about bias in the development of the existing theories of knowledge.  It makes her position a category (2) feminist epistemology.








Examples of views Code does not endorse:


(1) Standards of justification and knowledge are relative (560). 

      Code rejects subjectivism:

      “Some knowledge is better than other knowledge”(561).  [She does not seem to think that betterness is relative?]


(2) Women have a special way of knowing:  women’s intuition (565-566) or left-brained (566).


      Code is concerned that these classifications play into a history of discounting women as knowers on a par with men (567).


(3) Harding’s implicit “double standard” in empiricist thought (568).


      Code does not accept this criticism of empiricism (568).

She closes with one further claim:  Philosophers’ “alleged neutrality masks a bias in favor of institutionalizing stereotypical masculine values”(570). 


This is an objection that Longino will develop.

















Longino’s Local Epistemology


Longino claims not to be endorsing a "women's way of knowing", but she in fact endorses feminist epistemic virtues based on virtues that promote the goals of feminism.  She allows for different sets of epistemic virtues depending on one's goals.  This leads to the possibility of different conceptions of justified belief and knowledge.


Longino's Epistemic Virtues


The only universal epistemic virtue:  empirical adequacy


Variability in parochial epistemic virtues due to:  Underdetermination of theories by evidence (Quine’s Underdetermination Thesis) = There are always many equally good theories compatible with the experimental evidence (indeed, even with all possible experimental evidence).


Also, Kuhn’s Incommensurability Thesis is in the background.









Parochial mainstream epistemic virtues:  conservatism, ontological simplicity, unifying theoretical framework (or explanatory power and generality), fruitfulness and refutability, dominance and control.  


Parochial feminist epistemic virtues:  novelty, ontological heterogeneity, complexity or mutuality of interaction, applicability to human needs, and decentralization of power or universal empowerment. 



Where do the local feminist epistemic virtues come from?  They are the epistemic virtues that serve the primary feminist goal:  revealing the operation of gender. 


Haack’s Objections to Longino’s Relativism


Underdetermination Thesis does not establish what Longino claims.


Value-Ladenness Thesis does not establish what Longino claims. 


Inquiry should not be politicized.


Consider again Longino’s goal of revealing the operation of gender.  To reveal something is to find the truth, not to confirm one’s preconceptions.  How could feminist virtues, or any others, reveal anything, if what they reveal depends on the values of the inquirer?


Do our values determine whether statements about the operation of gender are justified?


Haack is commited to universal concept of truth and universal standards of evidence.