REVIEWS

Sharon L. Crasnow and Anita M. Superson (editors)
Out from the Shadows: Analytical Feminist Contributions to Traditional Philosophy
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012 (ISBN 978-0199855476)
Reviewed by Rebecca Mason, 2013
Narrated by Miranda Pilipchuk

Out from the Shadows is a collection of eighteen essays by some of the most highly influential and widely respected analytical feminist philosophers in the profession. Anyone familiar with the analytical feminist literature will not be surprised by the range of issues addressed in this volume. Nevertheless, the authors demonstrate that novel insights can be gleaned even after decades of feminist research. They remind us that even where compelling feminist arguments have been made, there is still work to be done with respect to incorporating these insights into the philosophical mainstream. Only one of the articles has been previously published.

The essays that comprise this volume display the remarkable variety of analytical feminist contributions to traditional philosophy. Although the anthology is more heavily weighted toward social and political, and moral philosophy (including, notably, several contributions to metaethics), it also showcases analytical feminist work in epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy of language, and philosophy of science.[1] Many of the authors illustrate that even topics that are not obviously amenable to feminism (for example, skepticism) have the potential to deliver deep insights when examined from a feminist point of view.

The contents of the anthology are not organized according to traditional philosophical categories such as "metaphysics and epistemology" or "value theory." Rather, the volume is structured by subtle associations among ideas taken up from various theoretical perspectives. For instance, Andrea C. Westlund, Robin S. Dillon, Miranda Fricker, and Heidi E. Grasswick each focuses on social, as opposed to individualistic, approaches to traditional philosophical questions. Louise Antony and Ann Garry foreground the importance of methodological pluralism in feminist theory and practice. And Ann E. Cudd and Phyllis Rooney both discuss the relationship between analytical feminism and mainstream analytical philosophy. This is a virtue of the volume for which its editors ought to be applauded. Analytical feminism already blurs the boundaries between practical and theoretical philosophy. The thematic composition of the anthology nicely displays the theoretical dexterity of feminists working in the analytical tradition.

Overall, the quality of the contributions to this volume is mixed. Although some authors break new ground, others rehearse arguments that have been defended elsewhere. Several authors effectively defend novel and interesting conclusions, but other arguments misfire. Given the size of the anthology, I do not have space in this review to discuss every essay. In what follows, I focus on a handful of contributions in order to highlight some of the volume's strengths and weaknesses.

Heidi E. Grasswick's "Knowing Moral Agents: Epistemic Dependence and the Moral Realm" identifies an important connection between standpoint epistemology, moral epistemology, and the epistemology of testimony.[2] Given the feminist insight that an individual's social location matters for what she can know, Grasswick argues that our reliance on moral testimony may be both epistemically and morally responsible. If some knowers are in a better position than others to reliably perceive the morally relevant features of the world, then those without a clear or discerning view may have good reason to defer to their testimony.

For instance, Grasswick suggests that women may be better positioned than men to recognize sexist behavior. Given that behavioral expressions of sexism are often extremely subtle (these behaviors are sometimes called "microagressions"), she argues that it is reasonable to suppose that those individuals toward whom microagressions are most often directed are better able than others to detect sexist behavior. Accordingly, those who, given their social location, routinely fail to recognize sexist behavior must rely on those individuals who have a better view.

Grasswick's feminist analysis of moral testimony also supplies a novel response to an objection to feminist standpoint theory. According to standpoint theorists, members of socially privileged groups are poorly positioned to understand the oppressive social relations in which they participate. But if members of these groups cannot know about oppression from their social location, then they have no obligation to know about oppression (310). Grasswick argues that this unwelcome implication of feminist standpoint theory can be avoided by recognizing the importance of our reliance on the moral testimony of those who are in a position to know about oppressive social relations. Although members of socially privileged groups may not be able to acquire firsthand knowledge of oppression, they can acquire knowledge of oppression at second hand. According to Grasswick, we are not morally or epistemically divided by the heterogeneity of social location. To the contrary, epistemic chasms give way to relations of interdependence and trust between differently situated knowers.

Feminists have long argued that scientific inquiry is legitimately sensitive to values in addition to facts. In "Uses of Value Judgments in Science: A General Argument, with Lessons from a Case Study of Feminist Research on Divorce," Elizabeth Anderson argues that the real worry motivating proponents of value-free science is that our acceptance of value judgments is dogmatic. Anderson claims that this worry is misguided since it rests on a false assumption about the epistemic character of moral and political values. She argues that value judgments are not intrinsically dogmatic: there is evidence that counts for and against particular moral and political commitments. Anderson thus concludes that the influence of factual and value judgments is bidirectional: good science need not be value-free because values are not science-free.

Anderson notes that she is not the first to emphasize the bidirectional influence of facts and values. She mentions Lynn Hankinson Nelson, who also argues that moral and political theories, like biological and chemical ones, are subject to empirical refutation.[3] But Anderson complains that Hankinson Nelson's "commitment to Quinean holism, in which our factual and evaluative theories confront, as a body, the totality of evidence, prevents her from modeling the specific ways that particular observations can be used to support or undermine particular value judgments" (378-79). There are two points worth noting here. First, it is unclear how Anderson's view differs from the kind of holism Hankinson Nelson defends. According to Anderson, value-laden inquiry avoids the sort dogmatism that worries advocates of value-free science because our moral, political, and empirical beliefs are not epistemically segregated. She argues that factual and normative judgments "are integrated in the same web of belief" and so stand in evidentiary relations to one another (402). One would like to know how this does not amount to a straightforward endorsement of holism.

Second, Anderson's criticism of Quinean holism strikes me as misguided. Holism is simply not incompatible with a thorough specification of the ways in which particular observations can be used to support or undermine particular value judgments. Perhaps Anderson is making the weaker claim that epistemic holism does not determine the appropriate doxastic response to empirical observations (that is, whether an observation confirms or disconfirms a factual or evaluative hypothesis). If so, she is quite right. But holism does not prevent us from devising methodological principles of belief-revision either (although the holist must admit that even these are susceptible to empirical refutation). To this end, Anderson might be read as calling on feminist philosophers of science to rigorously articulate the evidentiary relationship between factual and evaluative judgments. However, there is nothing about a philosopher's commitment to Quinean holism that prevents her from answering Anderson's call.

In "The Analytic Tradition, Radical (Feminist) Interpretation, and the Hygiene Hypothesis," Sharyn Clough likewise appeals to holist considerations to argue that our moral and political values are empirically tractable. But Clough's most novel and interesting contribution is her demonstration of how feminist theory might augment a specific scientific hypothesis. Specifically, she argues that epidemiological and immunological research could be empirically strengthened by incorporating feminist insights about gender socialization. Research suggests there is a correlation between standards and practices of cleanliness and sanitation, and morbidity rates for allergies, asthma, auto-immune diseases, and depression. Because of increased sanitation, populations in the industrialized North and West are less likely to be exposed to certain bacteria and microorganisms than are populations living in less industrialized regions of the global South. According to the hygiene hypothesis, these lower rates of exposure lead to a higher incidence of certain diseases.

Clough points out that, within populations, there are sex differences in the prevalence of diseases that fall within the scope of the hygiene hypothesis: women in industrialized countries have higher morbidity rates than men. These differences are clinically salient, but have mostly been ignored by epidemiologists and immunologists. Clough argues that the over-representation of women in the relevant clinical populations might be explained by the gendered socialization of children. Feminist social-scientific research shows that standards of cleanliness are higher for girls than for boys (467). Clough argues that women might have higher morbidity rates than men because women are taught from a young age to have higher standards and practices of cleanliness than men are. This means that young girls are less likely to be exposed to bacteria and microorganisms than are young boys. Clough suggests that these gender differences in norms of good hygiene might explain differences in immunocological health outcomes between women and men. Although Clough's feminist hygiene hypothesis must be investigated in further detail (she mentions several studies that are highly suggestive), her analysis is both fascinating and compelling.

Another recurrent subject of analysis in analytical feminist philosophy is the phenomenon of "silencing." According to Rae Langton and Jennifer Hornsby, pornographic depictions of forcible sex can induce the belief that women who say "no" in sexual contexts actually intend to consent. A woman may say "no," sincerely intending to refuse; however, if a man's interpretive dispositions have been contaminated by pornography, he may fail to recognize what she intends to do with her words. On their view, a hearer's recognition of a speaker's intention to perform a speech act is a necessary condition for her ability to perform it (Langton 1993; Hornsby and Langton 1998). They argue that a woman who does not secure uptake for her illocutionary act of refusal actually fails to refuse. Her refusal is silenced.

Against Langton and Hornsby (and Austin), it has been argued that a speaker can perform an illocutionary act though she fails to achieve uptake (Bird 2002; Antony 2011). In "Illocution and Expectations of Being Heard," Maura Tumulty argues that even if this objection succeeds, a speaker may yet be unable to refuse. She claims that this is so because one cannot intend to do something if one believes that a necessary condition for doing it is absent (227). So, a speaker cannot intend to refuse if she believes that (i) her hearer will not recognize her intention to refuse, and (ii) his recognition of her illocutionary intention is a necessary condition for her ability to do so. But Tumulty fails to include the second condition for successful refusal.[4] She argues only that a woman who believes that she will not be heard as refusing cannot refuse (228). This is an invalid inference. A speaker can refuse if she believes that the hearer will not recognize her illocutionary intention just so long as she does not believe that securing uptake is a necessary condition for her ability to do so. She fails to refuse only if she also believes (ii). Once the second condition is specified, however, Tumulty's argument is valid but implausible. Here's why.

It is extraordinarily unlikely that any woman who is not intimately familiar with the details of either Austinian speech act theory or Langton's and Hornsby's silencing argument (that is, most women) will have the belief that uptake is necessary for refusal. Moreover, many women who are adequately familiar with the relevant literature disagree with Austin, Langton, and Hornsby that uptake is a necessary condition for illocutionary success. They too will lack the requisite belief. Therefore, the second condition for a speaker's ability to intentionally perform the illocutionary act of refusal will almost never be satisfied. Moreover, in the unlikely event that a woman does hold the belief that uptake is necessary for illocution, Tumulty's argument does not undermine free-speech defenses of pornography.

Langton and Hornsby argue that women cannot perform the illocutionary act of refusal unless men recognize their intention to refuse. If men who consume pornography do not realize that women who say "no" intend to refuse, then pornography might prevent women from refusing unwanted sex. Langton and Hornsby use this conclusion to argue that the censorship of pornography is justified: the free speech of pornographers silences the free speech of women. However, if women can refuse without achieving uptake, then they are not silenced by pornographic depictions of forcible sex and censorship is not justified.

According to Tumulty, however, a woman's ability to refuse can be thwarted even if uptake is not a necessary condition for illocution. If a woman believes that her refusal will not secure uptake, and that uptake is a necessary condition for her ability to refuse, then her illocutionary act will misfire. She claims that this is sufficient to render free-speech defenses of pornography "less obviously compelling" (234). But pornography is not plausibly responsible for a woman's belief that uptake is a necessary condition for her ability to perform the illocutionary act of refusal. She may be unable to refuse and so she may be silenced, but she is not silenced by pornography. If she is not silenced by pornography, then Tumulty has done nothing to undermine free-speech defenses of it.

With regard to methodology, the contributors to this volume also demonstrate that there is no single way to practice analytical feminism. Instead, feminists working in the analytical tradition vary in the extent to which they accept the deliverances of traditional analytical philosophy. Although analytical feminism is methodologically unified to the extent that analytical feminists employ analytical methods, broadly construed (that is, clear and rigorous argumentation, careful analysis of terms), they disagree about which concepts and frameworks best serve feminist ends and which need to be revised or abandoned in light of the experiences of women.

Several contributions to the anthology address these methodological issues explicitly. For instance, in "Is There a 'Feminist' Philosophy of Language?" Louise Antony argues that "the best feminist philosophy . . . is work that has developed simply from the application of a feminist mind to a philosophical problem, with free appeal to whatever concepts and background theories seemed to that feminist thinker to be the right ones to use" (246). Those familiar with Antony's work will recognize in the present essay a recurring theme in her contributions to analytical feminist philosophy: feminists should avoid the temptation to label particular methods as "feminist" (and others as "masculinist"). Antony argues that this practice is both myopic and exclusionary. It is myopic because feminism might be served by a variety of theoretical perspectives. It is exclusionary because it discounts theoretical differences among feminists.

Like Antony, Ann Garry enjoins feminists to practice feminist philosophy in a way that is inclusive and pluralistic. In "Who is Included? Intersectionality, Metaphors, and the Multiplicity of Gender," Garry argues that we should do philosophy intersectionally and that this requires feminists to "de-center white, middle-class women in our theories and practices" (493). This point is not new, but it is one that bears repeating. Consider that the present volume comprises contributions from eighteen feminists, seventeen of whom are white. This is symptomatic of the fact there are very few women of color in philosophy, and even fewer who work in the analytical tradition.[5] Garry's contribution reminds us that we must take collective responsibility for this disparity by striving to include members of marginalized groups in our theories, bibliographies, conferences, anthologies, and profession more generally. 

Analytical feminists are united by their focus on areas of concern to women, but analytical feminist philosophy is nonetheless diverse, both topically and methodologically. Out from the Shadows showcases this diversity and demonstrates the richness of analytical feminist contributions to traditional philosophy. Readers will find the collection both accessible and rewarding.


[1] The editors acknowledge that the collection does not include every area of analytical philosophy, notably the philosophy of mind. Analytical feminists have made contributions to this area (see Scheman 1983 and Antony 1995).

[2] Grasswick claims that mainstream analyses of testimony fail to recognize that "in any case of testimony, there is much more going on than mere telling: there is a telling within the context of a particular relationship of interaction" (330). This is false. Edward Hinchman and Richard Moran argue that the interpersonal relationship between two parties in a testimonial exchange should be the central focus in the epistemology of testimony (Hinchman 2005; Moran 2005). Sanford Goldberg's  reliabilist analysis of testimony is also deeply interpersonal. On his view, the reliability of processes in others' minds affects whether a belief constitutes knowledge (Goldberg 2010).

[3] Louise Antony and Richmond Campbell defend a similar thesis, although Anderson does not discuss either (Antony 1993; Campbell 1998).

[4] This may be because, at the crucial point in her argument, she confuses a speaker's illocutionary intention with her perlocutionary intention. "If one believes uptake will not be secured, one will believe one cannot achieve the aim of getting the audience to cease in virtue of recognizing one's refusal. And so one cannot intentionally perform an action defined by that aim: one cannot refuse" (228; emphasis mine). The intention here is perlocutionary.

[5] The names of three women of color who do feminist work in the analytical tradition come to mind, but there may be others: Linda Alcoff (epistemology), Kristie Dotson (epistemology), and Ishani Maitra (philosophy of language).

 

References

Antony, Louise. 1995. Is psychological individualism a piece of ideology? Hypatia 10 (3): 157–74.

Antony, Louise. 1995. Quine as feminist: the radical import of naturalized epistemology. In A mind of one’s own, ed. Antony, L. and Witt, C. Boulder: Westview.

------. 2011. Against Langton's illocutionary treatment of pornography. Jurisprudence 2 (2): 387–401.

Bird, Alexander. 2002. Illocutionary silencing. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 83 (1): 1–15.

Campbell, Richmond. 1998. Illusions of paradox. Boulder, Colo.: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers.

Goldberg, Sanford. 2010. Relying on others: An essay in epistemology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hinchman, Edward S. 2005. Telling as inviting to trust. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 70 (3): 562–87.

Hornsby, Jennifer, and Rae Langton. 1998. Free speech and illocution. Legal Theory 4 (1): 21–37.

Langton, Rae. 1993. Speech acts and unspeakable acts. Philosophy & Public Affairs 22 (4): 293–330.

Moran, Richard. 2005. Getting told and being believed. Philosophers' Imprint 5 (5): 1–29.

Scheman, Naomi. 1983. Individualism and the objects of psychology. In Discovering reality, ed. Sandra Harding and Hintikka Merrill. New York: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Rebecca Mason is a PhD candidate in the Department of Philosophy at Northwestern University and holds a BA and MA in philosophy from Dalhousie University. She works mostly in the philosophy of language, but her research extends to issues in feminism, epistemology, philosophy of mind, and metaphysics.

Her contact email is: remason@u.northwestern.edu.

Her website is: http://www.remason.ca

"Many of the authors illustrate that even topics that are not obviously amenable to feminism (for example, skepticism) have the potential to deliver deep insights when examined from a feminist point of view."