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Ethics & the Environment 7.2 (2002) 39-59

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Response to My Critics

Karen J. Warren


In the Preface to my book, Ecofeminist Philosophy: A Western Perspective on What It Is and Why It Matters, 1 I describe as both "exciting and taxing" the process of writing the book over more than one decade (Warren, x). It was exciting because I was contributing to the still nascent field of ecofeminist philosophy; it was taxing because I often found it difficult to know what I wanted to say about ecofeminism as a philosophical position. The book that emerged is my attempt to say, in my own voice and in a language and style amenable to a reflective lay audience, what I understand ecofeminist philosophy to be and why I think it matters.

Ecofeminist Philosophy is premised on the conviction that ecofeminist philosophy has liberating potential to generate insights and recommendations for any theory, practice, or policy that is feminist, ecofeminist, or environmental. The version of ecofeminist philosophy I defend focuses on a variety of contingent interconnections—historical, empirical, socioeconomic, conceptual, linguistic, symbolic and literary, spiritual and religious, epistemological, metaphysical, political, ethical, and theoretical—among the dominations of women, other subordinated humans, nonhuman animals, and nature. It locates the commonalities of mutually reinforcing "isms of domination" (e.g., sexism, racism, classism, heterosexism, ageism, colonialism, [End Page 39] ethnocentrism, speciesism and "naturism," or the unjustified domination of nonhuman nature) in oppressive conceptual frameworks, institutions, and practices mediated and justified by a "logic of domination." Connecting these isms of domination to pressing contemporary feminist and environmental issues, I argue for a version of ecofeminist philosophy that provides both critical analyses of and creative solutions to the intersecting practices, policies, and structures of unjustified ("isms" of) domination.

From my perspective, the book is bold and daring. It advocates positions (e.g., regarding spirituality) typically eschewed by feminist and ecofeminist philosophers. It takes positions (e.g., on moral vegetarianism) that are at odds with much mainstream ecofeminist literature on nonhuman animals (particularly ecofeminist animal rights literature). It defends unfamiliar or unpopular philosophical positions (e.g., on the moral considerability of nonhuman animals and nature, on the nature of social justice, on ethics as "care-sensitive," and on theory as theory-in-process). It provides an account of ecofeminist philosophy that is grounded in good science, though not in canonical ideals of objectivity and rationality. It uses cross-cultural empirical, historical, social, and cultural data to motivate and test the theoretical claims of ecofeminist philosophy. And it supports the need for and role of emotional intelligence (including the ability to care) in ethics, ethical-decision making, and the creation of life-affirming, nonviolent communities and social systems.

Given the nature of the issues I address and the positions I advocate in Ecofeminist Philosophy, it is to be expected that critics will raise questions, offer criticisms, and encourage further reflection on my part about my conception and defense of ecofeminist philosophy. That is precisely what the three critics who have written commentaries on my book for this special Symposium of Ethics & the Environment—philosophers Chris Cuomo, Trish Glazebrook, and Jim Sterba—have done. It is a humbling and gratifying experience to have one's scholarship the focus of a special issue of a journal; it is even more so when the critics offer comments that are helpful and constructive. I am grateful for the time and philosophical energy all three critics have invested in writing their commentaries.

In what follows, I comment on each essay separately. My hope is to provide each essay with the thoughtful attention it deserves, while offering clarifying remarks on what I attempted to do, and the version of ecofeminist philosophy I defend, in Ecofeminist Philosophy. [End Page 40]

Trish Glazebrook's Essay

It was a pleasure to read Professor Trish Glazebrook's essay. Glazebrook understands what I attempted to do in this book, while also providing useful, illuminating questions and suggestions for future work. I am grateful for her supportive sensitivity and scholarly attention to what I argued in Ecofeminist Philosophy and to ways I might improve my...


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