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Reviewed by:
  • Feminist Philosophy
  • Linda López McAlister (bio)
Feminist Philosophy. By Herta Nagl-Docekal . Katharina Vester . Boulder, Colo.: Westview, 2004.

The publication of this book in English, by one of the leading feminist philosophers in the German-speaking world, is an important event in feminist publishing. Apart from the work of some French feminist writers, until now, feminist scholars from Europe and elsewhere have either had to write in English or remain virtually unknown to American feminists. American publishers are loathe to bear the cost of translating works by writers from other countries who are not already household names. So it is a rare and much to be applauded opportunity that we can read, and share with our students, this outstanding book by the distinguished Austrian philosopher Herta Nagl-Docekal. Through [End Page 193] it we can tap into her extensive knowledge of feminist philosophical writings by other German-speaking thinkers, as well.

The book itself is an overview of four of the main philosophical topics dealt with by feminists over the last few decades as indicated by the section headings: "On the Anthropology of the Sexes," "Art and Femininity," "Reason: A Concept with Connotations of Masculinity," and "For a Nonessentialist Politics." What is perhaps the most striking thing about Nagl-Docekal's book is the virtuoso display of critical intelligence it contains. In each of the thematic chapters she lays out significant traditional positions on the issues in question and then proceeds to cut cleanly and directly to the logical problems at the heart of these positions. She presents many well-known feminist counterarguments and also subjects them to an equally rigorous and brilliant critique, paving the way for her own, usually more moderate, views on the matters at hand. It is a breathtaking display of analytical skill whose clarity and sensible argumentation are much to be admired and it displays a truly impressive range of knowledge of the history of philosophy and feminist philosophy of all kinds.

This book is certainly required reading for any feminist philosopher, but in addition it might be a useful book to use as a secondary source in an undergraduate feminist philosophy course, or possibly, as a book to build such a course around, selecting as one's primary sources the philosophers Nagl-Docekal deals with.

The translation from the German by Katharina Vester is, on the whole, excellent. I found only one instance where the translation misleads: the phrase "an exemplary method" is used when what is meant is a method that proceeds by using examples.

Linda López McAlister

Linda Lopez McAlister is Professor Emerita of Philosophy and Women’s Studies from the University of South Florida. While a Senior Fulbright Research Scholar at the University of Wuerzburg in 1973–74 she organized the first ever meeting of German women philosophers. Out of that meeting the Association of German Women Philosophers emerged and it then evolved into the International Association of Women Philosophers (IAPh,) on whose Board she served from 1992 to 2000. She was the General Editor of Hypatia from 1990 to 1995. Since retiring from USF in 2000, she has been living in New Mexico and devoting herself to theatrical pursuits. She recently directed Michael Frayn’s play Copenhagen, she is the host/coordinator of Albuquerque Radio Theater on KUNM-FM, and she is on the production crew at the new Roy E. Disney Center for the Performing Arts at the National Hispanic Cultural Center. (



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pp. 193-194
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Archived 2009
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