Gendered Epistemology and Mind Textbooks

In the comments on this post about gendered metaphysics textbooks, a reader writes:

It would be helpful to have analogous threads on epistemology and philosophy of mind anthologies as well. I decided not to use Neta and Pritchard’s Arguing about Knowledge for this very reason (1 woman out of 44), and Sosa, Kim, Fantl, and McGrath’s Epistemology: An Anthology is better but not great (9 out of 60). As for philosophy of mind, I’ve used Chalmers’ Philosophy of Mind: Classical and Contemporary Readings (2 out 63), and I haven’t had the time to investigate alternatives…

David Chalmers helpfully points toward this thread for some philosophy of mind suggestions. But does anyone have further suggestions, particularly for epistemology?

15 thoughts on “Gendered Epistemology and Mind Textbooks

  1. Linda Alcoff’s _Epistemology: The Big Questions_ has 7 out of 26 female authors (and a female editor, obviously.) so between 1/3 and 1/4 female. To my mind, the book is a bit too heavily geared to the issues (and often papers) that were big in the late 70’s and early 80’s, but I don’t teach epistemology so don’t have a very good idea how much of a problem that might be.

  2. Some more resources in contemporary epistemology would be great. Some of the big SEP articles on central topics in epistemology have 0-10% female citations, so that (somewhat lazy) way of finding more articles by women doesn’t work.

    But here are some suggestions for papers that might work at undergrad level. (Of course there’s tons more great research by women in epistemology, but like most research articles, it’s hard to find stuff that will be accessible to students withouut much background.)

    Any course that looks at post-Gettier work, or at virtue epistemology, should use Linda Zagzebski’s work, especially her great paper “The Inescapability of Gettier Problems”. I’ve been trying to make my current course feel less male-centered than it actually is by using that paper as a focal point, and seeing how various responses to the puzzles can handle the general argument that Zagzebski draws out of the Gettier puzzle cases.

    And a course that has anything on testimony should use Jennifer Lackey’s work. I taught off her book last term, which was great, but some of the papers would work well in a smaller unit, especially the PPR paper “Learning from Words”.

    There’s tons of great new work coming out of MIT, by Miriam Schoenfield, Sophie Horowitz, Jennifer Carr, Katia Vavova and others. Some of that is going to be very hard going for an undergrad course. But I think that Horowitz’s “Epistemic Akrasia”, for example, does a really nice job setting up the debate she’s taking part in, and makes several nice moves to advance that debate, so would be something that undergrads with some background could really get a lot out of.

  3. I co-taught a module called ‘Trust, Knowledge, and Society’ last year, and some of the most obvious choices for key readings were papers by women. E.g. Elizabeth Fricker on testimony (Mind 1995), Karen Jones on trust (Ethics 1996), Alison Hills on moral testimony (Ethics 2009), Jennifer Lackey on group belief, Sarah Stroud on epistemic partiality (believing your friends) (Ethics 2006), Jessica Brown on pragmatic encroachment (Nous 2008), Sharon Street on evolutionary explanations of belief (Phil Studies 2006).

    Sarah McGrath, Miranda Fricker, Annette Baier, Pamela Hieronymi, Carolyn McLeod, Melinda Fagan, Margaret Gilbert, Tamar Gendler, Marcia Baron, and Jennifer Nagel also featured on the ‘further reading’ – granted, this wasn’t a standard intro to epistemology, but knowledge and belief were overarching themes.


  4. The current syllabus I’m using for epistemology includes 24 readings, 10 of which are by female authors, including Susan Haack, Linda Zagzebski, Lorraine Code, Sandra Harding, Elizabeth Anderson, Jennifer Lackey, Karen Jones, Lynn Hankinson Nelson, Margaret Gilbert, and Miriam Solomon. As you might guess, the course spends a lot of time on standpoint epistemology, testimony, trust, and social epistemology, but these are topics of considerable interest, and there’s no single anthology that gives them all decent representation.

  5. In my Intro class this term I’m using Zagzebski “What is Knowledge?”, Catherine Elgin “True Enough” and Jennifer Lackey on testimony, following up on Hume.

  6. Over the summer I asked a friend who edits for a small academic publishing house what the response would be to the idea of an all-female intro reader for non-ethics courses. He cited the cost of the permissions necessarily to compile such an anthology and the fact that it would have to exclude most of the canon as the main reasons why something like this would be difficult. A larger publisher might be more open to the idea, perhaps by commissioning the readings.

    Are there any general epistemology or metaphysics crowd-sourced lists of essential readings by women philosophers similar to the one for intro courses detailed at the following link? It would be great for people to add their suggestions either to that list or to other lists for more advanced students.

  7. Catherine Elgin’s “Non-foundationalist Epistemology: Holism, Coherence, and Tenability” in Steup and Sosa’s (otherwise very male) Contemporary Debates in Epistemology is very accessible. I assign it as one of the readings on coherentism for an intro course in epistemology.

    Extracts from Sally Haslanger’s “What Knowledge Is” and “What Good are our Intuitions” is excellent and could be paired with some naturalised epistemology readings. (This would be better for more advanced undergraduates.)

    Susanna Rinard’s “Why Philosophy Can Overturn Common Sense” is an excellent discussion of Moorean arguments.

  8. I’m teaching Lackey on Testimony (It Takes Two to Tango) today, and, although it’s longer than other things I’ve had them read up to this point, in the past two times I’ve taught this class, the students have really enjoyed discussing it! I structure my class a little differently from a standard epistemology class (I minimise Gettier and skepticism as much as possible) – we’ll also be reading Ishani Maitra’s commentary on Fricker on Epistemic Injustice, Sarah McGrath on Moral Knowledge, Brie Gertler on Introspection, Louise Antony on the A Priori, Katia Vavova on Disagreement, Catherine Elgin plus also Susan Haack on the Foundationalism/Coherentism debate. The main problem for me in trying to get more women philosophers into the syllabus is balancing this with the need to keep things accessible for undergraduates – the more recent the work, the more difficult it tends to be (whether written by men or women). But I do try to add at least a few new papers by women each year.

    I’m excited about looking at these other suggestions and seeing if they’ll fit into my class!

  9. Thanks for the suggestions! It’s hard to find articles that teach well. By the way, I find Fricker’s original epistemic injustice article — from the late 90s (anthologized in Goldman’s Social Epistemology) works well that way. The course I teach is specifically social epistemology but that is an appropriate focus if one wants to move beyond the material in the Alcoff volume.

    I also like the original Lorraine Daston article on the nature of objectivity (1992 in Social Studies of Science, before her big book with Gallison. I don’t know Jones’ article in Ethics, but her piece from A Mind of One’s Own is very good and accessible, and perhaps more epistemological.

    I’m currently looking at Cynthia Townley’s short book on ignorance as an option. The introduction is a little technical, but I think the ideas are good. It challenges the common assumption that testimony deteriorates evidence, which I think is a pretty juicy idea, and should get students excited.

  10. PS: Dear darling organizers of the feminist philosophers blog….
    Would you add a category to your list at left with women authors? It would be helpful to be able to point colleagues there.

  11. Sliwa’s stuff on testimony is super accessible. I’ve successfully taught it multiple times to undergrads. Liz Harman’s stuff is always clear and some of it touches on issues in epistemology (like her “I’ll be glad I did it” reasoning paper). Sharon Street’s stuff on evolutionary debunking arguments has already been mentioned, and it’s great. Because parts of the Phil Studies paper can be hard going for some undergrads, I often assign her more accessible “Does Anything Really Matter or Did We Just Evolve to Think So?” in stead or in addition. I love teaching Mary Midgley’s stuff on moral relativism and have been meaning to look and see what she’s said about epistemology (she has a book on knowledge). I also suspect Elizabeth Lloyd is a good resource for stuff on bias, science, and objectivity.

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