Feminist and Social Epistemologies



 Feminist and Social Epistemologies
PHILO 394.72
Mondays and Thursdays 4:10-5:25
Professor Linda Martín Alcoff
Department of Philosophy
212-772-5081, lmartina@hunter.cuny.edu
Office Hours: Thursdays 1:30 – 3:00
Office: Hunter West 1419
Epistemology is in some ways the most basic of all the fields of philosophy, in asking what can we know? While the modern traditions in western philosophy debated alternative accounts about justification and belief that were generally focused on individuals, more recent work has focused on the social and political dimension of  how claims are justified, how beliefs form, and even how truth is defined. Most of what we know is learned from others rather than from our own individual experience, and the way we learn from others, and the way we learn in groups, is subject to the contingencies of social and political structures in our context. It behooves us, then, to epistemically analyze these social and political contingencies.
This course will explore recent work that considers the relationships between knowledge, epistemology, society, identity, and power. We will pursue questions such as the following: What counts as epistemic injustice? What are the epistemic lessons to be learned---and not simply the sociological or political ones---from the history of the ways in which women and whole groups of people across the globe have been presumed to be inadequate knowers? What lessons should be learned from the biases in the history of science about scientific norms such as objectivity? The work that we will read includes feminist epistemology, post-colonial studies, social epistemology, critical race philosophy, and science studies.
Beyond the critical project, we will look at work that develops normative reconstructions of epistemology with these histories in mind. These include, for example, proposals to build in a reflexivity about the political and social context in which belief formation and justification occurs, to reassess the role of certain social and political values as epistemic virtues, and to explore the role of identity and of context in judgment.
There will be five short papers, one due about every two weeks, an in-class mid-term, and a final paper. Short papers will be 2-3 page summaries and discussions of the readings.
Books: The following are available at Shakespeare and Co., on Lexington Ave between 68th and 69th:
1.     Miranda Fricker Epistemic Injustice
2.     Jose Medina Epistemologies of Resistance
3.     Sandra Harding, editor, The Standpoint Theory Reader
4.     Elizabeth Potter, Feminism and Philosophy of Science
5.     Elisabeth Lloyd The Case of the Female Orgasm
6.     Alexis Shotwell Knowing Otherwise: Race, Gender and Implicit Understanding
Schedule of readings:
Jan 28, 31: Introduction; Fricker chap 1
Feb. 4, 7: Fricker chaps. 2, 3, 4 FIRST PAPER DUE
Feb. 11: Fricker chap. 5
Feb. 20, 21: Fricker 6, 7 (Wednesday = Monday) SECOND PAPER DUE
Feb. 25, 28: Harding chaps. 1, 4, 5
March 4, 7: Harding chaps: 7, 8, 10 THIRD PAPER DUE
March 11, 14: Harding chaps. 15, 26, 27
March 18: Mid-Term
March 21, April 4: Lloyd chaps 1, 2, 3, 8
April 8, 11: Potter Introduction and chaps. 1, 2 FOURTH PAPER DUE
April 15, 18: Potter chaps. 3, 4, 6
April 22, 25: Medina Introduction and chaps. 1, 2 FIFTH PAPER DUE
April 29, May 2:Medina chaps. 3, 4, 5
May 6, 9: Shotwell chaps. 1, 2
May 13, 16: Shotwell chaps 4, 5.