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Feminist Philosophy - PHI00109I

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  • Department: Philosophy
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Hannah Carnegy-Arbuthnott
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2020-21
    • See module specification for other years: 2019-20

Module summary

If feminism is a political practice aimed at ending patriarchy, what is the point of feminist philosophy? This module explores how philosophy can help us tackle important questions around key feminist issues, and conversely, how feminist insights can serve to critique philosophical methods and theories. Topics will include: the metaphysics of gender, theories of intersectionality, objectification, and feminist critiques of liberalism and capitalism. We will also grapple with questions arising from practices such as pornography, markets in sexual and reproductive labour, or the institution of marriage. For example, does pornography silence women, and what is wrong, if anything, with selling sex?

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2020-21

Module aims

  • To foster an appreciation of some of the key debates in feminist philosophy – i.e. philosophical enquiry into knowledge, reality, language, ethics and politics motivated by concerns about the significance of gender, and/or constrained by ethical and/or political norms relating to the proper status of women and other gender groups.
  • To introduce students to the critical study of demanding texts which deal with often controversial subjects in a measured and analytical way.
  • To encourage students to think carefully and critically about the relation between ‘theoretical’ philosophy (e.g. epistemology, metaphysics and philosophy of language) and ‘applied’ philosophy (e.g. ethics, and social and political philosophy).
  • To help students to see the ‘real-world’ significance of various philosophical ideas and arguments.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module, students should:

  • know - what some of the big ideas in feminist philosophy are, what several of the questions being debated are, and what many people think makes feminist philosophy distinctive.
  • understand - some of the leading ideas in the field and their motivation, and some of the available critical approaches to those ideas.
  • be able to - articulate clearly and precisely what is at issue in debates in feminist metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of language and moral and political philosophy; and reach a careful judgement about what to say in those debates.

Module content

If feminism is a political practice aimed at ending patriarchy, what is the point of feminist philosophy? This module explores how important theoretical questions around sex and gender bear on practical ethical and political debates. We will cover some central topics in feminist philosophy, including: the metaphysics of gender, theories of intersectionality, objectification, and feminist critiques of liberalism and capitalism. Having covered some of the key theoretical concepts from feminist philosophy, we will tackle philosophical questions that arise around practices such as pornography, markets in sexual and reproductive labour, or the institution of marriage.

Questions will include: how should we understand the category ‘woman’? How does gender intersect with other axes of oppression? How does our use of language reflect and reinforce gender norms? Can liberalism account for gender injustice in the family? Is capitalism inherently patriarchal? What should a political critique of sexual desire look like? We will also interrogate what it is to do ‘feminist philosophy’, and grapple with some of the tensions that arise from trying to combine something so political – feminism – with the starkly analytical discipline of philosophy.

Assessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay/coursework
Essay 2500 words
N/A 70
Online Exam
Feminist Philosophy
N/A 30

Special assessment rules

None

Reassessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay/coursework
Essay 2500 words
N/A 70
Online Exam
Feminist Philosophy
N/A 30

Module feedback

Written feedback on formative work will be provided within two weeks of the submission deadline.

Written feedback will be given on summative essays within four weeks of the submission deadline, and there will be an opportunity for students to view their exam scripts and receive oral feedback on their exam performance.

Indicative reading

Key texts might include:

Fricker, Miranda, and Jennifer Hornsby. The Cambridge Companion to Feminism in Philosophy. Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Finlayson, Lorna. An Introduction to Feminism. Cambridge University Press, 2016.

Bauer, Nancy. "Is Feminist Philosophy a Contradiction in Terms?." (2003).

Srinivasan, Amia. "Philosophy and ideology." THEORIA. Revista de Teoría, Historia y Fundamentos de la Ciencia 31, no. 3 (2016): 371-380.

Hooks, B. ‘Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center South End Press’. Boston, MA, 1984.

Mikkola, Mari. ‘Feminist Perspectives on Sex and Gender’, 2008.

Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble. Routledge, 2002.

De Beauvoir, Simone. The Second Sex. Knopf, 2010.

Bettcher, Talia. ‘Feminist Perspectives on Trans Issues’, 2009.

Bettcher, Talia Mae. "Trapped in the wrong theory: Rethinking trans oppression and resistance." Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 39, no. 2 (2014): 383-406.

Jenkins, Katharine. ‘Amelioration and Inclusion: Gender Identity and the Concept of Woman’. Ethics 126, no. 2 (2016): 394–421.

Crenshaw, Kimberle. ‘Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics’. U. Chi. Legal f., 1989, 139.

Zack, Naomi. Inclusive Feminism: A Third Wave Theory of Women’s Commonality. Rowman & Littlefield, 2005.

Haslanger, Sally. ‘Gender and Race:(What) Are They?(What) Do We Want Them to Be?’ Noûs 34, no. 1 (2000): 31–55.

Davis, Angela Y. Women, Race, & Class. Vintage, 2011.

Okin, Susan Moller. Justice, Gender, and the Family. Vol. 171. Basic books New York, 1989.

Cudd, Ann E., and Nancy Holmstrom. Capitalism, for and against: A Feminist Debate. Cambridge University Press, 2011.

Langton, Rae. ‘Speech Acts and Unspeakable Acts’. Philosophy & Public Affairs, 1993, 293–330.

Nussbaum, Martha C. "Objectification." Philosophy & Public Affairs 24, no. 4 (1995): 249-291.

Bauer, Nancy. How to Do Things with Pornography. Harvard University Press, 2015.

Satz, Debra. Why some things should not be for sale: The moral limits of markets. Oxford University Press, 2010.



The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): changes to courses

The 2020/21 academic year will start in September. We aim to deliver as much face-to-face teaching as we can, supported by high quality online alternatives where we must.

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