Syllabus for Feminist Philosophy, Fall 2012


Dr. Cynthia Freeland                                                          

Phil. 3356 (sect. 10015)/6356 (sect 10023)

TuTh   1:00PM - 2:30PM AH Room 9

Philosophy Dept. University of Houston                                 

Agnes Arnold Room 511; (713) 743-3206                                 

Office Hours MW 11-12 and by appt.



This course is an advanced survey of feminist philosophy. We will consider the roles of women in the history of philosophy, liberal vs. radical feminism, accounts of the body in feminist philosophy, recent controversies over “difference” vs. “sameness” feminism, feminist views on science and epistemology, and feminist challenges to more traditional philosophical views about autonomy and the self.

No philosophy background is assumed, but there will be regular reading assignments and students new to the discipline may find some of these readings more dense and abstract than what they are used to. The class will involve roughly 50% lecture and 50% class discussion, sometimes in small groups; grading will reflect the requirements of regular reading, writing, and group participation. For details, see below.


Learning Outcomes

This course aims to give you a better understanding of definitions of gender and sex, feminist ethical theories and epistemologies, disputes about essentialism, and the role of women in the history of philosophy. You will improve your analytic, speaking, and writing skills by participating in class discussions that bring out key points in the readings; by doing writing assignments that encourage your own independent critical reaction to topics in feminist philosophy; and by completing assigned papers and take-home exams that require you to analyze abstract discussions and apply the results to particular examples.


Advisory Note

Some students may find the topics dealt with in this class personally challenging, since feminist philosophy addresses controversial topics concerning the body, sexuality, race, religion, disability, etc. Some of the course material discusses issues such as domestic violence, anorexia and bulimia, breast cancer, rape, and the use of pornography. These could be upsetting for a variety of reasons. While some class discussion and personal writing about these topics is appropriate, keep in mind that this is not a self-help course and the professor is not a qualified therapist. All class discussions must be kept respectful! Remember that the university counseling services are available to all students free of charge.


There will be five units in the course, covering different varieties of philosophical approaches to and bases for feminism (see the list below).  A unit outline will be distributed via the course website with the schedule of readings and assignments for each unit.  A more detailed overall schedule is available on-line and each unit schedule will be distributed in class at the start of that unit.

Outline for Units One and Two

Weeks 1-3             Part One:  Feminism, Canons, and Methods in Philosophy:  

Weeks 4-6             Part Two:  Liberal Feminism and Equality

Weeks 7-9             Part Three: Radical Feminism and Revolution

Weeks 10-12         Part Four:  Difference Feminism and the Body

Weeks 13-15         Part Five: Feminism, Nature, and Science


Grading & Requirements

Grading will involve the following components; all due dates will be available on the on-line course schedule. The schedule is subject to revisions in case of professor illness, absence, and/or weather emergencies, so please check it often! 

Graduate student requirements: The essays for the take-homes and feminist critiques will be expected to be longer; each graduate student must also lead a class discussion on an assigned essay. Topics and dates will be worked out in advance with the professor.


Take-Home #1      30%

Take-Home #2      30%

Comments: Each take-home will each involve two essay questions, with each question worth 15 points or 15% of your final grade. The topics will be announced one week in advance. There will be some choice of topics.  Essays will be graded on the basis of content as well as style and the correct use of grammar, punctuation, etc. All essays must be typed, double-spaced. The length guide is roughly 2 pages per essay, or four pages total. All essays must be submitted to the course website on Blackboard Vista using


Discussion Papers    10 x 2 points each = 20%

Comments: The topic will be suggested in advance in class; it will involve some reaction to one or more of the readings for that week. These papers may be informal and hand-written; the length guide is 1-2 pages each. No late discussion papers will be accepted; e-mail is acceptable; some extra credit will be assigned later in the semester to allow for make-ups.


Feminist Analysis or Critique  2 x 5 points each    10%

Comments:  The topic will be suggested in advance; it will involve writing a feminist analysis or critique of something in the news or the media (film, TV show, etc.). Note that the second critique must involve a topic that is related to Unit Five on feminism in science.  The critique should be typed; the length guide is 1- 2 pages. The critique can assume an informal tone (like a blog entry) but it should use correct grammar, spelling, etc.

More Information on the Feminist Critique (on-line)


Attendance 5%

Class Participation    5% 

Based on a combination of quantity and quality of contributions.


Absences and Late Work:

Excused absences or late assignments will be accepted only in cases of a genuine emergency (illness, family death, hospitalization, child or parent care emergency); documentation must be supplied. Note that car trouble, holiday plans, athletic competitions, musical and theatrical performances, job interviews, out-of-state weddings, and/ or computer trouble do not constitute genuine emergencies; plan ahead to get the work submitted on time!



All work submitted for this course must be your own. Plagiarism is a violation of the university’s Academic Honesty Policy. Plagiarism includes use of sources without proper citation, including paraphrasing without credit. The penalty for a plagiarized assignment will be a zero grade on that assignment.



If you have a disability, please supply the supporting documentation to the professor immediately so that appropriate accommodation can be made. 




Rosemarie TONG, Feminist Thought: A More Comprehensive Introduction

Susan BRISON,  Aftermath: Violence and the Remaking of a Self   

Cordelia FINE, Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference

Luce IRIGARAY, This Sex Which Is Not One 



Andrea NYE, The Princess and the Philosopher


Relevant Websites

Society for Women in Philosophy

Feminist Philosophers Blog

Charlotte Witt, “How Feminism Is Re-writing the Philosophical Canon”

What Is It Like to be a Woman in Philosophy?