Rational Agency and Feminist Philosophy

Do posts on rational agency or new behavioral econimics count as feminist?  Does feminist philosophy have to address issues explicitly about women or gender?

One thing going on behind the scenes here is that we see wordpress’s daily tally of the main search terms bringing  readers to this blog.  And sometimes one is “kyriarchy,” which Jender wrote about.   And that’s the pyramid structure of power relations that constrain and oppress so many.

 Looking recently at the search terms and that  post, I realized that feminists’ work that isn’t explicitly about women or gender may none the less have a very closely related topic, the kyriarchy.  Writings about the conception of rational agency or the domination of traditional economics can certainly be in many ways about the kyriarchy.  For example, the European self-conception of rational agency is  very present still in discourse about the “conquered” or enslaved.  

Three questions arise.  Please join in on them.  To some extent they raise the question of whether professional philosophy has often to present itself as politically disengaged.  Perhaps the answer to that  is easy.

1.  If we counted papers on  the kyriarchy as feminist, would there seem to be more feminist papers in the top journals?

2.  If  papers and books on the kyriarchy were candidates for feminist works, would we end up with works in the feminist corpus which really are not feminist at all, maybe to the point of being hostile to women?

3.  Are there many papers in philosophy which do criticize the products of the kyriarchy as unfortunate ways of thinking but don’t seem to contain any awareness of their political significance?  Relatedly, is bringing out the political significance of one’s criticism of the ideas of rational agency a way of inviting rejection by Phil Rev?

I would think that a lot in virtue ethics and some neo-Wittgensteinian work does undertake tasks very congenial to criticizing some of the cultural artefacts of  the kyriarchy.  Is Alva Noe’s work on perception covertly relevant  to the kyriarchy?  Any other candidates?  Specific or more general?

3 thoughts on “Rational Agency and Feminist Philosophy

  1. Looking back on this post, I’m chagrined to find it has the standard problems. Will they never go away!?! So it’s simplistic, inaccurate, etc. But there are underlying issues, surely. How does feminist philosophy really fit on the philosophical landscape? Which of the many feature or qualities that we expect of it make it a largely maginal field, relative to the mainstream? Is it gender, or self-reflexive scrutiny or politics or what?

    Please share your perspective.

  2. Interesting issues, JJ. It does seem like work on e.g. economic inequality– and there certainly are plenty of philosophers who write about that– is work about kyriarchy. Now, of course, not all work on economic inequality is anything that feminists should like– Nozick writes on economic inequality, for example, arguing that it’s just fine. But then, not everything on gender is something feminists should like…

    It’s very hard of course to answer your questions head-on without a definition of ‘feminism’. Argh.

  3. Jender, Yes, of course work on economic inequality. And some work on economic inequality might reach conclusions one likes but invoke an impersonal calculator model of decision making that is hardly feminist.

    It occurred to me that there may be ways of seeing the top journals as publishing more feminist/feminist-friendly work that we think of them as doing. If so, this might be a wedge OR it might be something to keep in mind when one feels the work one wants to do is quite different from the work that will get one tenure.

    It might be that feminist work is more like a family resemblance group. let me say off the top of my head (and so maybe foolishly) that we might give more thought to the reluctance to publish feminist work. E.g., if the idea is that feminist considerations are irrelevant, it might be worth one’s while, and interesting to a feminist, to work on questions about assessments and relevance.

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