Feminist philosophy

Feminist philosophy is an approach to philosophy from a feminist perspective and also the employment of philosophical methods to feminist topics and questions.[1] Feminist philosophy involves both reinterpreting philosophical texts and methods in order to supplement the feminist movement and attempts to criticise or re-evaluate the ideas of traditional philosophy from within a feminist framework.[2]

Main features

Feminist philosophy is united by a central concern with gender. It also typically involves some form of commitment to justice for women, whatever form that may take.[3] Aside from these uniting features, feminist philosophy is a diverse field covering a wide range of topics from a variety of approaches. Feminist philosophers, as philosophers, are found in both the analytic and continental traditions, and a myriad of different viewpoints are taken on philosophical issues within those traditions. Feminist philosophers, as feminists, can also belong to many different varieties of feminism.[2]

Feminist philosophy can be understood to have three main functions:

  1. Drawing on philosophical methodologies and theories to articulate and theorize about feminist concerns and perspectives. This can include providing a philosophical analysis of concepts regarding identity (such as race, socio-economic status, gender, sexuality, ability, and religion) and concepts that are very widely used and theorised within feminist theory more broadly. Feminist philosophy has also been an important source for arguments for gender equality.
  2. Investigating sexism and androcentrism within the philosophical tradition. This can involve critiquing texts and theories that are typically classified as part of the philosophical canon, especially by focusing on their presentation of women and women's experience or the exclusion of women from the philosophical tradition. Another significant trend is the rediscovery of the work of many female philosophers whose contributions have not been recognised.
  3. Contributing to philosophy with new approaches to existing questions as well as new questions and fields of research in light of their critical inquiries into the philosophical tradition and reflecting their concern with gender.[3]

Feminist philosophy existed before the twentieth century but became labelled as such in relation to the discourse of second-wave feminism of the 1960s and 1970s. An important project of feminist philosophy has been to incorporate the diversity of experiences of women from different racial groups and socioeconomic classes, as well as of women around the globe.


Feminist philosophers work within a broad range of subfields, including:

  • Feminist epistemology, which challenges traditional philosophical ideas of knowledge and rationality as objective, universal, or value neutral. Feminist epistemologists often argue for the importance of perspective, social situation and values in generating knowledge, including in the sciences.
  • Feminist ethics, which often argues that the emphasis on objectivity, rationality, and universality in traditional moral thought excludes women's ethical realities.[3] One of the most notable developments is the ethics of care, which challenges traditional assumptions about justice and the nature of the subject of ethics. Care ethics involves a greater recognition of interpersonal relations and relations of care and dependency.
  • Feminist phenomenology investigates how both cognitive faculties (e.g., thinking, interpreting, remembering, knowing) and the construction of normativity within social orders combine to shape an individual's reality. Phenomenology in feminist philosophy is often applied to develop improved conceptions of gendered embodied experience, of intersubjectivity and relational life, and to community, society, and political phenomena.
  • Feminist aesthetics, which concerns the role of gender and sexuality in art and aesthetic theorising, including the representation of women in art.
  • Feminist metaphysics, which focuses largely on the ontology of gender and sex and the nature of social construction. Feminist historians of philosophy also examine sex biases inherent in traditional metaphysical theories.

Major figures

Influential feminist philosophers include:


Critics of feminist philosophy are not generally critics of feminism as a political or cultural movement but of the philosophical positions put forth under the title "feminist philosophy".

Writers and thinkers who have criticised aspects of feminist philosophy include:

See also


  1. "Feminist Philosophy - Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy". www.iep.utm.edu.
  2. 1 2 Gatens, M., Feminism and Philosophy: Perspectives on Difference and Equality (Indiana University Press, 1991)
  3. 1 2 3 Kittay, Eva Feder & Linda Martín Alcoff, "Introduction: Defining Feminist Philosophy" in The Blackwell Guide to Feminist Philosophy, Blackwell Publishing, 2007. ISBN 0470695382
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