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20. Philosophy and Feminism


Subject Philosophy

Key-Topics feminism

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631219088.2002.00025.x


For women who have been in any way sensitized to the issues concerning gender and the situation of women, which have been central to contemporary feminism, to be a woman studying philosophy is to be faced with a set of problems about one's own location within the discipline. Above all other academic disciplines, perhaps, philosophy, in its historical aspect, appears as a history of ‘Great Men of Ideas’, and in the roll call of ‘great’ philosophers from the past, women seem to be singularly absent. Women philosophers whose names are known to us have tended, as Michèle Le Doeuff (1991) points out, to be restricted to the role of disciple of, or correspondent with, the ‘master’; as in the case of D escartes (chapter 26) and Princess Elizabeth of Bohemia (1618–80). The formal barriers to the independent study of philosophy that existed in the past for women have now largely gone. Quite a lot of women study philosophy; many come to think of it as their ‘intellectual home’. Yet relatively few of them ‘make it’ into academic posts, and those for whom philosophy continues to be central to their lives may also feel that there are ways in which philosophy can be alien and inhospitable to women. Being a woman and a philosopher, as Le Doeuff notes, is always something that is problematic, that has to be negotiated. In the majority of mainstream courses in philosophy, issues concerning ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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