There is often resistance to the claim from feminist philosophy that knowledge is somehow "socially constructed", but what does that actually mean and is it really all that radical? Sometimes, our social situations or experiences dictate the kind of evidence we are likely to encounter and put us in a better position than others to know what's going on around us. Other times, these experiences can impact what we consider to be good evidence or what a community considers to be justified in the first place. Or maybe here's a simpler way to frame some of these ideas: when it comes to COVID-19 for example, who do you think knows best about what health care workers really need to do their jobs, CEOs or those on the front lines?
Links and Resources
- Natalie Alana Ashton
- Robin McKenna
- The paper
- Fear of Knowledge: Against Relativism and Constructivism by Paul Boghossian
- Feminist Epistemology and Philosophy of Science
- Uses of value judgments in science: A general argument, with lessons from a case study of feminist research on divorce by Elizabeth Anderson
- Nancy Hartsock
- Science as Social Knowledge: Values and Objectivity in Scientific Inquiry by Helen Longino
- Whose Science? Whose Knowledge? Thinking from Women’s Lives by Sandra Harding
Our aim is not so much to defend these feminist epistemologies – although we think
they can be defended – but rather to urge that those who defend the classical conception of knowledge have focused on the wrong target. The kind of social constructivism present in (some) feminist epistemologies is much more modest and plausible than the radical social constructivist view Boghossian considers and rejects as incoherent.
So, it’s not accurate to say that feminist epistemologists allow social factors to trump truth. They don’t dogmatically assert that justication lines up with beliefs which complement feminist aims, but instead show that certain of these feminism-complementing beliefs t with the evidence as well as, or better than, other beliefs, and that these have other (epistemic) benets to boot.