Question: if philosophy is male dominated, are women philosophers working on male thoughts/programs? Why or why not?

It should be of little surprise to find that people writing for a feminist blog will be disinclined to agree that women philosophers are all working on men’s thoughts. Nonetheless, there are lots to be said on related topics.

One phenomenon that is of interest is when one or more women develop an alternative to men’s thought in an area. For example, when it seemed that just about everyone was thinking about the necessary and sufficient conditions for “S knows that P” women philosophers started writing about how impoverished that approach to knowledge is. And though Aristotle and Hume are virtue theorists, Foot’s decades long investigation of morality and virtues hardly is merely working out the details of their programs.

Probably less well-known is Kristin Andrews work on animal psychology and its consequent revision of our understanding of folk psychology.

There are many more instances where women in effect propose a transformation of a field. I’d love to see examples our readers might come up with.

Of course, working out the details of others’ thought can also be powerful and important. Perhaps women working in metaphysics or logic come close to doing that.

Do please share examples you might think of!

11 thoughts on “Question: if philosophy is male dominated, are women philosophers working on male thoughts/programs? Why or why not?

  1. Yes! I think about this so much! If women have been forced to use male-dominated language and male means of thinking because the foundation of philosophy is male-brained, how can we express the other half of the human experience, never mind the rest of the shades in between, when we’re using a language not of our own? (I don’t think I articulated that as well as I’d hoped to)
    In one of my philosophy classes we’re studying Anscombe, who I simply find fascinating as well as difficult to understand. I wonder if that’s because of her style of writing, or because she’s being true to her own feminine-academic brain, differing from Plato, Hume, and Sartre that we’ve been studying thus far.

  2. I’m not sure whether “male thoughts” are purely male thoughts. They are living in a society where males and females coexist, and they interact with women on everyday basis. Their thoughts are definitely influenced by conversations and interactions with women. It’s a sort of narrative conception, if a man’s behavior and identity are affected by his surroundings (e.g. his family, community, country), and his surroundings include women, then women are a part of what defines him.

    However, there are some things which men can never experience such as pregnancy, and they give ways of thinking only women can have. So I believe that reflecting on how more women should engage in philosophical field is crucial.

    Thank you for the inspirational post! :D
    (I’m female by the way)

  3. I’m not sure whether “male thoughts” are purely male thoughts. Those male philosophers are living in a society where women and men coexist, and they interact with women on everyday basis. Their thoughts are definitely influenced by conversations/interactions with women. It’s sort of a narrative conception, a man’s behavior and identity are affected by his surroundings (e.g. his family, community, country), and his surrounding include women, therefore women are a part of what defines him.

    However, there are certain things which men can never experience such as pregnancy, and they surely give different perspectives that only women can have. So I believe it’s crucial for more women to engage in a philosophical field.

    Thank you for this inspirational post! :D (I’m female myself by the way…)

  4. Is there a particular male/female way of thinking? Isn’t that objectionably essentialist? (I’m inclined to think no and yes, respectively, but perhaps I’m wrong)

    I’m a big fan of Sally Haslanger’s Negotiating the Natural on this topic.

  5. This piece is really interesting but about:

    “Of course, working out the details of others’ thought can also be powerful and important. Perhaps women working in metaphysics or logic come close to doing that.”

    Huh?

    Signed,

    A female logician working on the details of her own thoughts

  6. I’m a female metaphysician/philosopher of logic who is also working on the details (and the big picture) of her own thoughts.

    Also I just want to note that trans men can, and do, experience pregnancy, and trans men are men.

  7. I second Juliette, above.

    Even “traditional” metaphysics mustn’t be non-feminist, written by non-feminists, or written by non-women. My example is the emerging project of articulating a metaphysics of pregnancy. Pregnancy challenges the very notion of numerical individuality, thus challenging the discreteness of the very referents that are the bread and butter of all analytic philosophy. See: https://www.southampton.ac.uk/assets/imported/transforms/content-block/UsefulDownloads_Download/E13065820B804133816196D2A525E89B/Kingma%20BUMP%20ERC_StG_2015%20B2FINAL.pdf

    And, self-interestedly: http://bayfap.weebly.com/sidzinska.html

  8. Michaela, that’s probably not true. Abortion is something that only a woman can have, and hence only women can get pregnant.

  9. It does appear true that philosophy is male dominated. Whatever makes that true doesn’t seem to mean that there is some special male way of thinking. I didn’t mean to suggest that there is.

  10. I think this is a great point and where metaphysics are crucial in developing new standards.
    There are many examples of this in alternative women’s health communities. Ideas being passed freely about our own bodies lacking the male overtones/fear and control based theories.
    And although they are not calling themselves philosophers the indigenous women currently fighting pipelines have many philosophical ideas and words worth reading.

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