Feminist Philosophy of Social Science

Authored by: Alison Wylie

The Routledge Companion to Feminist Philosophy

Print publication date:  May  2017
Online publication date:  May  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138795921
eBook ISBN: 9781315758152
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781315758152-27

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Abstract

Defining “feminist philosophy of social science” is a tricky business, not least because philosophy of social science is itself such a sprawling, heterogeneous field. I begin with a brief account of these field-defining difficulties as a way of situating the focus of this chapter: the work analytic feminist philosophers of science have done, often in dialog with practitioners, on a set of epistemic and methodological questions raised by explicitly feminist research programs in the social sciences. Most fundamentally the issue here is how to make sense of the fact that feminists, who bring to bear an explicitly situated, political angle of vision, have made significant, often transformative contributions across the social sciences. Their critical and constructive interventions pose a significant philosophical challenge to dominant “value free” ideals of epistemic integrity and objectivity. I consider two points of feminist engagement with this challenge. One is the “feminist method” debate of the 1970s and 1980s in which feminist social scientists, joined by feminist philosophers, wrestled with the question of what it means to do social science as a feminist. The second is feminist standpoint theory, as developed since the early 1980s by feminist social scientists and philosophers who take on directly the question of why it is that, contra dominant wisdom, situated interests and values not only play an ineliminable role in inquiry but, time and again, prove to be a crucial resource in improving the reach and credibility of social research. This analytic, epistemic engagement with feminist social science is just one area in which feminist philosophers have addressed issues central to philosophy of social science, anticipating by several decades a number of themes that are now coming to prominence in philosophy of social science.

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