Feminist Epistemology: Coping with the Collapse of a Objective Value Free Epistemology

  • Abstract:

    The collapse of the ideal of a value free epistemology has been a central topic in Feminism. In response to this epistemological fall out, Feminism has developed both theoretical and ground level tools for exploring epistemological disagreements without the need for idealized deliberation or intentional communicative action. Neither the condition of epistemological reflexivity nor the heterogeneous relevance of values can alone justify a non-foundational method for the feminist epistemology. Instead, both reinforce and inform each other creating a stronger epistemological approach than either alone. I go on to argue that reflexivity must be expanded into a form of internal critique modeled on Patricia Hill Collins’ “outsider within” and Gloria Anzaldúa’s “world traveling”. This model allows for value relevance being domain or world specific without value isolation. This is because different values overlap within domains and worlds. Values can be indexed as relevant or irrelevant by observing domain and value overlaps and disagreements. Instead of relying on foundationalist metaphors, I argue we can retain the contributions of feminist standpoint theory regarding epistemic privilege, so long as they are indexed to a particular domain of value discourse or a world. This allows for loving understanding and nurtures the possibility of epistemic coalition building to address oppression in all its forms. It actively allows for the inclusion of voices that have traditionally been excluded from philosophical discourse for no epistemic reason. Yet, the reflexive criteria for disambiguating the heterogeneous value discourse does allow for the exclusion of voices which propagate and encourage an epistemology of ignorance.