NWSA Journal 15.1 (2003) 193-195
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Ecofeminist Philosophy: A Western Perspective on What It Is and Why It Matters by Karen J. Warren. New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2000, 256 pp., $65.00 hardcover, $21.95 paper.
Karen Warren's Ecofeminist Philosophy: A Western Perspective on What It Is and Why It Matters is a well-organized explication of the ideology that perpetuates the domination of women and nature. It would make an excellent introductory textbook for a class on environmental philosophy, feminist studies, or ecofeminism. It is clear and concise, employing figures and phrases like "Ups vs. Downs," which, albeit ingenuous, are well suited for students. Because of its accessible style, the book will serve particularly well as an introduction to ecofeminism. Finally, because of the discussions regarding moral pluralism and the reconciliation of holism with individualism, the book also captures a somewhat higher level of intellectual interest. [End Page 193]
In "Chapter 1," Warren argues that environmental philosophy ought to be coextensive with feminism by citing empirical evidence that occurrences of environmental destruction are often coincident with hardships for women.
The second chapter considers varieties of ecofeminist perspectives on what Warren calls "women-other Other" connections, claiming that her depiction of the logic of conceptual frameworks will capture the main points of these other versions of ecofeminism.
The next seven chapters outline Warren's view. "Chapter 3" argues that value dualisms have caused oppressions of women and nature and the resolutions of these oppressions will occur by re-conceiving the logic of domination inherent in value dualisms. For readers familiar with her work, this is a reformulation of her earlier writing. In "Chapter 4," Warren argues that ecofeminism is the most radical—indeed, is beyond radical to transformative—of any type of environmental philosophy. Adherents to other environmental philosophies will find this particular chapter contentious, and perhaps unsubstantiated.
Arguing for moral consideration based on care is the subject of the next chapter, and is an excellent and timely discussion of how moral pluralism might actually function. The following section, the sixth chapter, complements this by describing how ecofeminism/moral pluralism might apply in the case of vegetarianism.
Warren then shifts to a discussion of the relationships among ecofeminism, ecological "hierarchy theory," and the ethics of Aldo Leopold. This section challenges J. Baird Callicott's overstated claims that Leopold is a holist and instead interrelates holism with individualism in a conciliatory and convincing argument. This discussion, like the previous, is a welcome addition to the field of environmental philosophy, providing solid arguments as to the way the holism/individualism divide might be bridged.
"Chapter 8" describes how political theories of distributive justice fall short and the ways in which ecofeminism can adequately avoid those shortcomings while also supplying some of the strengths found in theories of distributive justice. The last chapter argues that feminist spirituality should be linked to ecofeminism.
Curiously, the book lacks a concluding portion to draw the project together. Nonetheless, the work itself does not lack cohesion completely. Warren states her position and clearly argues her case for ecofeminism, what it is, and why it matters.
Two points of contention emerge from Warren's description of domination and oppression. The first stems from her intermittent discussions of other Others, those who are neither women nor non-human others. Warren often claims without argument that feminism is "naturally" concerned with the oppression of other humans, since women are members of all classes and races. In addition, Warren does not consider deep [End Page 194] ecology's position against domination and individualism to be strong enough because it does not explicitly label women's oppression a priority. Accordingly, it would be interesting for her to address in more detail just exactly how ecofeminism's beyond-radical, transformative status is to be completely reassuring, say, to men of lower classes or oppressed races who may be in competition with upper-class women. And further, it seems important to discuss the ways that prioritizing women successfully addresses possible conflicts between women's desires; i.e., conflicts...