Is There a “Feminist” Philosophy of Language?

Louise Antony

in Out from the Shadows

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199855469
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199932788 | DOI:

Series: Studies in Feminist Philosophy

Is There a “Feminist” Philosophy of Language?

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I distinguish two types of feminist projects within philosophy. One, which I call the “practicalist” project, aims simply to solve philosophical issues of concern to feminism, with no prior assumptions about the suitability of particular methods or theories. Another, which I call the “replacement” project, rejects certain methods or theories as too androcentric to serve feminist goals, and aims to replace them with “feminist” alternatives. I argue that we should abandon the replacement project. Because the replacement project depends on discrediting, rather than arguing against, the philosophical views to be replaced, it is potentially disrespectful to and exclusionary of feminists who happen to support the stigmatized view. The practicalist project, on the other hand, acknowledges that different feminists may find value in different places, even in work that is compromised by sexism. I illustrate my point by critically examining Jennifer Hornsby's arguments in favor of a certain view in the philosophy of language, and against another, on the grounds that the latter stems from “malestream” thinking. I argue that Hornsby's view is no less malestream than the view she rejects. I also argue that there are strong arguments in favor of the view she rejects, arguments that are obscured by her style of attack. Finally, I argue that the view Hornsby stigmatizes is actually more useful for feminist purposes than the view she favors. Thus, I conclude, there is justification for Hornsby's claim that hers is the more “feminist” philosophy of language.

Keywords: language; method; speech-act theory; meaning; communication; pornography; semantics; pragmatics; implicature

Chapter.  17580 words. 

Subjects: Feminist Philosophy

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