Feminist Philosophy

Philosophy 3395, Fall 1995

Professor Cynthia Freeland

Units IV and V Take-Home Exam

Directions: Write on one question from Section A and one from Section B. Please type your answers. Due in the philosophy office (AH 513) , 5 p.m. on Wednesday, December 13th. No late papers accepted without a medical excuse.

Section A

1. What sense does it make to speak of science being gendered? Refer to at least two articles from Harding's anthology that suggest different sorts of answers to this question, and explain various things that might be meant by this claim. Compare your answer on this question to your view about whether there is a female or feminine ethics. Alternatively, use Irigaray's notion of how philosophical discourse is gendered to construct an account of how scientific discourse is gendered‹emphasizing discourse, metaphors, analogies, the history of women's exclusion, etc.

2. Consider the nature and role of values and politics in science in one or more of the cases we read about (primatological studies, Nazi medicine, the Tuskegee syphilis study, forestry in India, studies of Depo-Provera ‹ or any other scientific study you know about). Describe "strong objectivity" as recommended by Harding, and relate her views on this to the quesiton of whether science is or must be "political." What is the value of strong objectivity in correcting gender inequities or biases in science? What problems do you see for this notion? Are there any alternative recommendations in any of the articles that seem more promising?

Section B

3. Describe Irigaray's attitude toward the history of western philosophy. What alternatives are there beyond simply rejecting this tradition? (What is "jamming the machinery"?) Does she seem to consider herself a philosopher‹why or why not? How might she view other sorts of feminist philosophy we read earlier in the course, e.g. maternal ethics or ecofeminism? Does Irigaray propose some sort of feminist philosophical method that might be quite distinct from Noddings' idea of feminist ethics? Comments?

4. Irigaray has been criticized for "essentialism." To what extent is her idea of speaking as (a) woman biologically based? Do you see this as a problem? Identify strengths and/or limitations of her alternative forms of discourse. (Refer to Iris Young's article, "Breasted Experience," as an example, if youwish.) What does Irigaray mean by speaking about a feminine discourse, or about philosophy's avoidance of sexual difference?

5. Discuss this criticism of Irigaray; true or false? "Irigaray has nothing at all to tell us about social action, problems of race and class, the material conditions of life, or positive political change." Compare Irigaray's to Trinh T. Minh-ha's notion of the political implications of writing.

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    March 26 1996