Feminist Philosophy - PHI00109I

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

Module summary

Feminist philosophers study issues in social and political philosophy, but also philosophy of language, metaphysics and epistemology. Are our conceptions of, for example, knowledge or value ‘gendered’ in problematic ways? How should debates in metaphysics be conducted? What is it to silence a particular group, and does pornography silence women? These questions and others will be addressed in this module, and the issues raised will be significant for philosophy generally.

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

Feminist philosophers are interested both in philosophical questions about social and political justice, and also in approaches to so-called ‘theoretical’ areas of philosophy (such as philosophy of language, metaphysics and epistemology) which involve paying careful attention to social and political issues. Feminist philosophers of language, for example, consider whether and how certain types of discourse ‘silence’ particular social groups – and women in particular. And feminist philosophers working in metaphysics and epistemology approach questions about what is natural, or what knowledge is, in a way that recognises – or at least hypothesises – that what we say and think about naturalness and knowledge (for example) is a product of and/or contributes to social attitudes and ideas about gender.

Some of the debates in feminist philosophy are about the content or actual effects of particular attitudes, ways of speaking, and ways of thinking. But others raise wider issues about the extent to which ‘theoretical’ philosophy can be and ought to be informed by ideas more usually associated with ‘practical’ philosophy, such as ideas about the ethical or political consequences of thinking and speaking in certain ways. We shall look at both types of debate.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 2500 words
N/A 70
University - closed examination
Feminist Philosophy
1 hours 30

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Essay 2500 words
N/A 70
University - closed examination
Feminist Philosophy
1 hours 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:


Miranda Fricker & Jennifer Hornsby (eds.), 2006. Several chapters of The Cambridge Companion to Feminism in Philosophy (Cambridge: CUP) [perhaps esp. Chapters 6, 7, 8, 10, 11 and 12]

Lorna Finlayson, 2016. An Introduction to Feminism (Cambridge: CUP)

Amia Srinivasan, ms. ‘Does Feminist Philosophy Rest on a Mistake?’, available to download from http://users.ox.ac.uk/~corp1468/Research.html.

Feminist Philosophy of Language

Rae Langton, 1993. ‘Speech Acts and Unspeakable Acts’, Philosophy and Phenomenological Affairs 22:4

Jennifer Hornsby, 1995. ‘Disempowered Speech’, Philosophical Topics 23:2

Elmar Unnsteinsson, (forthcoming). ‘Silencing Without Convention’, Pacific Philosophical Quarterly

Feminist Metaphysics

Alexis Burgess & David Plunkett, 2013. ‘Conceptual Ethics I’ & ‘Conceptual Ethics II’, Philosophy Compass 8:12

Sally Haslanger, 2012. Resisting Reality: Social Construction and Social Critique (Oxford: OUP), esp. Introduction and Chapters 3 and 4

Feminist Epistemology

Miranda Fricker, 2007. Epistemic Injustice: Power and the Ethics of Knowledge (Oxford: OUP), esp. Chapters 1 and 7

Sally Haslanger, 2012. Resisting Reality: Social Construction and Social Critique (Oxford: OUP), esp. Introduction and Chapter 12 

Amia Srinivasan, 2016. ‘Philosophy and Ideology’, Theoria 31:3

Feminist Ethics and Political Philosophy

Amia Srinivasan, 2017. ‘Feminism and Metaethics’ in T. McPherson and D. Plunkett (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Metaethics (London: Routledge)

Janet Radcliffe Richards, [1980] 1994. Selections from The Sceptical Feminist: A Philosophical Enquiry, Revised Edition (London: Penguin) [perhaps esp. Chapter 2, and Appendix 1]

Sabina Lovibond, [1996] 2015. ‘Meaning What We Say: Feminist Ethics and the Critique of Humanism’ reprinted in Essays on Ethics and Feminism (Oxford: OUP) [also relevant to Feminist Philosophy of Language topic]

Jana Thompson, 1994. ‘Moral Difference and Moral Epistemology’ in K. Lennon & M. Whitford (eds.), Knowing the Difference: Feminist Perspectives in Epistemology (London: Routledge) [also relevant to Feminist Epistemology topic]

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.