Chapter

The Analytic Tradition, Radical (Feminist) Interpretation, and the Hygiene Hypothesis

Sharyn Clough

in Out from the Shadows

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199855469
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199932788 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199855469.003.0016

Series: Studies in Feminist Philosophy

The Analytic Tradition, Radical (Feminist) Interpretation, and the Hygiene Hypothesis

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In analytic philosophy of science, political interests are viewed as a negative influence on science. I present an epidemiological case study concerning the “hygiene hypothesis” and argue that the inclusion of a particular set of feminist political interests has a positive influence. The hygiene hypothesis offers an explanation for the correlation between increased cleanliness and sanitation, and increased rates of asthma, allergies, and auto-immune disorders. That women have higher rates than men of all of these diseases is not accounted for, and is seldom noted in the hygiene hypothesis literature. I argue that there is a link between these sex differences and the hygiene hypothesis, namely, gendered standards of cleanliness, a standard that is typically higher for girls than for boys. Attending to this link increases the empirical adequacy of the hygiene hypothesis by reconceiving of relevant sources of evidence and opening up further avenues for study. I then argue that making the link between sex differences and the hygiene hypothesis requires a feminist political view of gendered child-rearing practices. Insofar as adding a gender analysis increases the empirical adequacy of the hygiene hypothesis, and insofar as this gender analysis requires a particular set of feminist political interests to be in play, we have a case where the addition of political interests proves empirically beneficial. I conclude by reviewing Davidson's model of radical interpretation to show how we can differentiate between those political interests that are beneficial in a particular scientific context and those that are not.

Keywords: feminism; gender; philosophy of science; Davidson; Donald; meaning holism; epidemiology; hygiene hypothesis; auto-immune disorders

Chapter.  12029 words. 

Subjects: Feminist Philosophy

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