The New Leveller

Images-115Richard Marshall interviews Elizabeth Anderson in 3:AM Magazine:

3:AM: You are known for your work in feminist epistemology and philosophy of science. So can you first say what the motivations for such an approach were in philosophy and who were the pioneers?

EA: I have argued that feminist epistemology and philosophy of science is a branch of naturalized, social epistemology focusing on the causes and consequences of gendered ideas and practices on the presuppositions, content, methods, concerns, cognitive authority, uses, composition and organization of diverse fields and modes of inquiry. It’s what you get when you join naturalizing trends in epistemology and philosophy of science with feminist concerns, such as the ones that underlie your previous question about the relative paucity of women in philosophy. Pioneers in the field include Linda Alcoff, Louise Antony, Lorraine Code, Patricia Hill Collins, Donna Haraway, Sandra Harding, Nancy Hartsock, Sally Haslanger, Evelyn Fox Keller, Elisabeth Lloyd, Maria Lugones, Helen Longino, Charles Mills, Lynn Nelson, Nancy Tuana, and Alison Wylie. This is far from an exhaustive list; I apologize for errors of omission.

3:AM: So what are the basic components of feminist epistemology and feminist science? Is Harding’s tripartite classification of empiricist, standpoint theory and postmodernism still the menu of frameworks for this approach?

EA: Harding’s classification remains a useful entrée to the field. Very roughly, feminist empiricism advocates the use of empirical methods to analyze, uncover, and avoid sexist and androcentric biases in inquiry. Feminist standpoint theory claims that women, or feminists, have privileged access to certain truths or epistemic authority over certain questions concerning women’s oppression and women’s interests. Feminist postmodernism questions the unity of the category “woman,” stresses the importance of intersecting identities (of race, class, age, nationality, religion, etc. with gender) in analyzing the processes and products of inquiry, and adopts interpretive approaches to scientific theories that highlight the contingencies of their conceptual frameworks and presuppositions.

In practice, these approaches have converged.