Feminist methodologies in moral philosophy
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This thesis develops a critique of the methodology of mainstream academic moral philosophy, based on insights from feminist and more generally anti-oppressive political thought. The thesis consists of two parts. In the first, I loosely characterise a certain dominant methodology of philosophy, one based on giving an important epistemological role to existing, 'pre-theoretical' moral attitudes, such as intuitions. I then argue that such methodologies may be critiqued on the basis of theories that identify these moral attitudes as problematically rooted in oppressive social institutions, such as patriarchy and white supremacy; that is, I identify these attitudes as ideological, and so a poor guide to moral reality. In the second part, I identify and explore of a number of themes and tendencies from feminist, anti-racist, and other anti-oppressive traditions of research and activism, in order to draw out the implications of these themes for the methodology of moral philosophy. The first issue I examine is that of how, and how much, moral philosophers should use abstraction; I eventually use the concept of intersectionality to argue for the position that philosophers need to use less, and a different type of, abstraction. The second major theme I examine is that of ignorance, in the context of alternative epistemologies: standpoint epistemology and epistemologies of ignorance. I argue that philosophers must not take themselves to be well placed to understand, using solitary methodologies, any topic of moral interest. Finally, I examine the theme of transformation in moral philosophy. I argue that experiencing certain kinds of personal transformation may be an essential part of developing accurate ethical views, and I draw out the political implications of this position for the methodology of moral philosophy.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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