PHIL 2500 Lecture Notes - Feminist Epistemology, Frankfurt School, Western Canon
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Wednesday March 6th
Feminist Epistemology & Emotion
-Feminist epistemologists contest: Thinking knowledge is universal, objectivity,
emotion-western tradition wrongly conceptualizes knowledge focuses on rationality
Love and Knowledge-Jagger
She focuses on how western tradition overlooks the role emotion when we
conceptualize knowledge. Western canon- emotion is regarded with suspicion.
Hostile reaction when it comes with validating knowledge attached to emotion.
-There’s a separation, can’t be conflated.
• Reason - Emotion
• Rational - Irrational
• Mental - Physical
• Cultural - Natural
• Universal - Particular
• Public - Private
• Male – Female
Left column associated with each other, right side associated with each other. Right
side is devalued.
-By investigating the emotions those who are oppressed- minority contributes to
the development of critical social theory, contests people who a just focus on
rationality and positivism. Mixing social investigation/observations with what it
means to have objective knowledge. Can’t separate the two. We can’t have
knowledge without being conscious of social theory
-Less ideological account of knowledge. How we construct knowledge is not just the
left side of the binaries, not the only valuable way. Opens it up.
Terms-Positivism, empirical testing, bias,
“Within the western philosophical tradition emotions have been considered
potentially or actually subversive of knowledge. Reason rather than emotion has
been regarded as the indispensible faculty for acquiring knowledge.”
There is worry that emotion invalidates emotion. Need to separate them. Paranoia
that emotions could overthrow rational enterprises, if we allowed emotions into
epistemology. Concern that emotion can distort our observations, false concern.
-Emotion can help, not hinder or invalidate.
-Empirical knowledge: observation and experiences, make them universal. Done in
an objective manner, no emotion tainting it. They’re being rational. Your emotions
steer you path. It’s supposed to be a political. It’s supposed to be neutral knowledge.
She critiques this as absurd, you can’t separate yourself from the quest of
knowledge. Biases are the starting point of any scientific study. You make the choice
of what you choose to study. Comes from their preferences. Also the choices you
make in what you study, who you study, the questions you ask- those come at your
discretion. It can’t be completely detached. Biases are the starting point for our
studies. Biases are connected to our emotions. Our system of belief- our experiences
our intersections of our age, race, education etc. determines what it is we study, how
devote our time to that study.
-Cannot separate our emotion from our empirical research.
-The Myth of the dispassionate investigator- similar to disembodied knowledge. It’s
impossible. Oxymoron, inconsistency. Those who have power- that a dispassionate
investigator- they have a lack of awareness of emotions. They’re lack of awareness
of emotions, they think their doing this neutrally. They don’t think they doing this
neutrally, their ignoring their emotions, don’t know emotions are playing a role.
-Reason gets associated with dominant groups, gets valued. Stereotypes of women’s
emotionality. The myth of the dispassionate investigator upholds, lifts up, and
values the epistemic authority of the dominant group. The dominate group gets
attached with not being emotional, being dispassionate they get associated with
rationality. Uphold the values those who have control, and power. Makes
subservient those who are “too emotional” ignore whatever points of view they
“ . . . rather than repressing emotion in
epistemology it is necessary to rethink the relation
between knowledge and emotion and construct
conceptual models that demonstrate the mutually
constitutive rather than oppositional relation
between reason and emotion”
-Bridge the gap or collapse the dichotomy. Those constructs aren’t separate-
reason and emotion. Emotion typically starts the process. Collapses the binary.
-Emotions help us observe the world. Emotion effect, shapes and defines our
observations. If we both read something we might have different summaries. We’re
not objective observers.
-• “I wish to begin bridging this gap through the
suggestion that emotions may be helpful and
even necessary rather than inimical to the
construction of knowledge” (p. 153).
Problems with theory on emotion-
-There are problems in adopting this, emotions aren’t simple. How do we
define, describe ant theorize emotion- lots of discrepancy. There are primary and
secondary emotions, universal emotion- difficult to categorize. We don’t have a
universal sense of what emotion is.
-Even how we describe emotion- we conflate “feeling” and emotion. Anger- the
feeling that we get are different for different people. The physical sensation may be
different. Lay people don’t have a grasp. No wonder because emotion is ignored, it’s
not part of our methodology- not part of our education.
-The Dumb View-
The positivist approach. Minimizes human emotions to physical sensations. It’s
actually ignoring the internal cognitive element of emotions. The implication is that
emotions are ignored.
-Emotion as a social construction
-Jagger- 1. We learn how to properly emotionally respond to situations.
Children who are taught to fear stranger. We learn in our cultures, they’re not
universal. What types of emotional expression are appropriate. Some are “touchy-
feely” others are stoic. What we should feel, how we should express. We
conceptualize and give language to structure emotion. Some languages have 20
words or different ideas of love. The way we define emotion helps us emote. We
participate in defining what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable.
-“emotions are uncontrollable.” Wrongly seen as passive. Have both mental and
physical- in some ways involuntary in other ways chosen. Any knower- emotion is
-Emotion is necessary for human survival. Fear can be helpful.
Hierarchy- groups who are dominant over others. The norms and values tend to
serve the dominant group within a capitalist, white supremisicist, male dominated
society the predominant vales will serve the interests of rich white men. The very
language of emotion in our culture imbedded in our culture create norms that serve
dominant groups. Denying or obstructing new ways of knowledge. Subordinate
people with emotional. Leads to subversive sub-cultures who have knowledge that
is devalued (especially political). Their observations don’t coincide with the
-Outlaw emotions-“People who experience conventionally
unacceptable, or what I call ‘outlaw’ emotions,
often are subordinated . . . . may even doubt their own sanity”
-emotions that go against the grain, we don’t value them. People of colour are more
likely to become angry at a racist joke. Their response doesn’t fit in with what’s
valued, their emotional response is not taken seriously. They get dismissed, doesn’t
lead to any change, doesn’t lead to any discourse- leads to- internalizing
embarrassment, they believe they’re over reacting. If it’s a cycle. Then they might
stop reacting with anger, which is what the dominant ideology would want. This
happens over time. Derogatory jokes subjugate already subjugated people. No real
funny racist joke. Sometimes people claim or flip the hierarchy with their joke- or
you could just be upholding the hierarchy. That might just be an example of them
internalizing the “appropriate” emotional response.
“the perspective on reality that is available from the
standpoint of the subordinated, which in part at least
is the standpoint of women, is a perspective that
offers a less partial and distorted and therefore
more reliable view . . . . the emotional responses of
subordinated people in general have a kind of
Feminist epistemologists contest: thinking knowledge is universal, objectivity, emotion-western tradition wrongly conceptualizes knowledge focuses on rationality. She focuses on how western tradition overlooks the role emotion when we conceptualize knowledge. Hostile reaction when it comes with validating knowledge attached to emotion. Western dichotomies: reason - emotion, rational - irrational, mental - physical, cultural - natural, universal - particular, public - private, male female. Left column associated with each other, right side associated with each other. By investigating the emotions those who are oppressed- minority contributes to the development of critical social theory, contests people who a just focus on rationality and positivism. Mixing social investigation/observations with what it means to have objective knowledge. We can"t have knowledge without being conscious of social theory. How we construct knowledge is not just the left side of the binaries, not the only valuable way. Within the western philosophical tradition emotions have been considered potentially or actually subversive of knowledge.