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  • The Cambridge Companion to Feminism in Philosophy
  • Ann Garry (bio)
The Cambridge Companion to Feminism in Philosophy. Edited by Miranda Fricker and Jennifer Hornsby. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2000.

Seeing the word companion in a title, a reader may imagine an expensive seven-hundred page book. However, do not confuse the Cambridge series of companions, the slimmer volumes, with the big ones from Blackwell. Miranda Fricker and Jennifer Hornsby have focused their volume of thirteen essays to engage with the philosophical issues and fields most familiar in Anglophone philosophy. The essays cover ethics and political philosophy as well as the various subfields of metaphysics and epistemology. Each author has been asked to both introduce a specific field and contribute to it. Amazingly, they are able do so in very clearly written essays that run between fourteen and seventeen pages. The standard format is to review major themes and currents of feminist philosophy in one's field and to develop an example in more detail (or, in the case of Alison Wylie's essay, to explicate common ground in feminist philosophy of science). It is a fine book.

The focus of the book is not feminist philosophy in general, but the ways in which feminism makes its mark on traditional philosophy. Although more emphasis is given to the possibilities for reconstructing or transforming philosophy in a feminist spirit, authors also explain the ways in which male bias, sexism, or cultural androcentrism has affected the allegedly gender-neutral abstract subject. Two authors illustrate well the way the essays conceive the relation between feminist and traditional philosophy. Sabina Lovibond calls upon the image of Neurath's boat. Feminist philosophers are (among those) repairing the philosophical boat while at sea (17). Alison Jaggar modifies Audre Lorde: "Rather than scrapping the master's tools, many feminist philosophers are working to transform them so that we may build a moral household that has no head nor master" (242).

The editors' introduction spells out very clearly the scope and aims of the volume: it is founded on the belief that philosophy can be redeemed; it is aimed at nonfeminist students and teachers as well as feminists; and it focuses on analytic philosophy because this tradition has been deemed the least hospitable to feminism. (Despite the volume's analytic focus, individual authors discuss Irigaray, Le Doeuff, Foucault, Habermas, and others as needed.) [End Page 230]

Two essays focus on history of philosophy: Sabina Lovibond's "Feminism in Ancient Philosophy: The Feminist Stake in Greek Rationalism" begins the volume, and Genevieve Lloyd's "Feminism in History of Philosophy: Appropriating the Past" finishes it. Lovibond argues that feminist philosophers need to rely on the Greek rationalist tradition in spite of its misogyny. She sets her argument in the context of the choice between our inherited "Hellenism and Hebraism" and in a discussion of care/justice ethics. Lovibond's essay is a good example of what Lloyd might cite as a feminist conversation with the past for the purpose of engaging in the present. Lloyd's own focus here is on the methodology of history of philosophy rather than on history itself. She rejects a dichotomy between past-centered and present-centered history, wanting feminists instead "to balance imaginative interpretation of cultural meanings with painstaking close reading of texts in the context of their own philosophical concerns" (260) and to be explicit in discussing their methodology.

The rest of the essays focus on contemporary issues. Ethics: Marilyn Friedman on autonomy and Alison Jaggar on moral justification; political philosophy: Diemut Bubeck on women's difference; metaphysics: Sally Haslanger on negotiating the natural; epistemology: Rae Langton on exclusion and objectification and Miranda Fricker on pluralism without postmodernism; philosophy of science: Alison Wylie on making sense of contingency and constraint; philosophy of language: Jennifer Hornsby on communicative speech acts; philosophy of mind: Susan James on personal identity and Naomi Scheman against physicalism; psychoanalysis: Sarah Richmond on the value of Melanie Klein for feminist philosophers. Where two essays are included in one field, the range of topics is good—with remarkably little repetition even as authors quickly highlight feminist themes in the area.

Obviously each author has her own point of view on...


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pp. 230-232
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Archived 2009
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