This post ends with a real question. Please do tell us about the view from your place.
In my early days in feminist philosophy, a lot of women philosophers were talking about how Anglophone philosophy and philosophical writing was still dominated by theories and examples reflecting its monkish past. That is, the conceptions of knowledge in general, knowledge of other minds, rationality and decision-making all positioned their subjects as solitary, with little in the way of demands on their time, and with formal rules or formalizable procedures as the best guides to good outcomes.
Philosopher’s fascination with the apriori encouraged some to take such remarks as merely sociological objections to philosophical substance and, as such, close to irrelevant to their conclusions. That view then provided them with a reason for not reading the actual arguments. However, the feminist texts, once read, are much harder to dismiss. Here one might cite Jenny Lloyd’s The Man of Reason, Lorraine Code’s objection that Gettier was concerned with what is in fact a very restricted kind of knowledge, Helen Longino’s conception of science as social knowledge, and Annette Baier’s description of men’s moral philosophy as largely treating morality as like a system of traffic laws for self-assertors. And many, many others.
Over thirty years later, the traditional conception is still robust in some quarters, but feminist thought has an unexpected ally in much in cognitive neuroscience and naturalized and empirically informed philosophy. While some cognitive psychologists, such as Marc Hauser, are still looking for inborn moral rules, the more dominant idea is that little in living a rational human life is accomplished by reason or rules alone. John Doris, for example, has strong arguments against the idea that rational reflection could underlie human morality.** And as for the demands on one’s time, real human beings evolved to make fast and accurate judgments; epistemically or methodologically downgrading or ignoring all the information carried by the reactions of instinct and the emotions, as has been done for centuries in philosophy, can be vastly impoverishing. Thus Hume, who consigned the most important human mental operations to emotion and instinct, was long regarded as the arch-sceptic, until a losening of the grip of monkish intellectual virtues enabled us to see his genuinely constructive project.
Of course, one might want to, e.g., side with Kant over Hume, or Hauser over Doris and others; the point here is that the dialectic is much more open and congenial to strands in feminist thought that were once widely dismissed.
I and many other feminists can remember floating such ideas in earlier decades. The results were too often not pretty, though positioning the claims as naturalized philosophy could provide some protection. However, as a close friend at a conference pointed out to me, now there are experiments and clinical findings, which have made a lot of difference.
Is the man of reason now just one among many on a the philosophical stage? How does it look to you?
**As far as I know, this work is not yet in print.
Note: Earlier entries on this blog have discussed aspects of the feminist challenges; see, for example, here and here.