Feminist Radical Empiricism as Ideal Theory

Audrey YapAudrey Yap
University of Victoria
March 15, 2014  11:10 am-12:40 pm

Abstract: Feminist epistemologies consider ways in which gender (among other social factors) influences knowledge. In this talk, I want to consider a particular kind of feminist empiricism that has been called feminist radical empiricism (where the empiricism, not the feminism, is radical). The particular feature of this view I am interested in is its treatment of values as empirical, and consequently up for revision on the basis of empirical evidence. Proponents of this view cite the fact that it allows us to talk about certain things such as racial and gender equality as objective facts. I will raise the concern that the way in which they model the role of values in epistemology may be a problematic idealization of the open-mindedness of human agents. This results in the view being an “ideal theory” of sorts if we want to use it to talk about prejudice, making it self-defeating for one of the most important applications of a feminist epistemology.