This article explores the debate on the equality of men and women in early modern Europe. It suggests that both scepticism and Cartesianism provided new arguments to establish the equal capabilities and entitlements of women and men. In this debate, traditional metaphysics was seen once again to support prejudices rather than evidence-based arguments. This article describes some of the most prominent feminist works during this period, including those of Anne Thérèse de Lambert, Gabrielle Suchon, François Poullain De La Barre, and Marie De Gournay.
In order to capture some of what is interesting and influential in contemporary North American feminist philosophy, this article pursues two strategies. The first half of the article offers a very brief historical sketch and characterization of a few fields of feminist philosophy. The second half focuses in more detail on a cluster of feminist issues in metaphysics concerning ‘essentialism’ and ‘intersectionality’.
Freedom or liberty—the terms will be used interchangeably in this account—is obviously of fundamental importance to politics. The ideal of a free society is one that animates a range of political positions, and its pursuit has been a galvanizing force in both national and international politics. Ideas about freedom have varied through Western history. One of the major variations is to be found in the contrast between positive and negative liberty. A positive conception of liberty is that freedom is not just or even freedom from coercion and interference but, rather, is realized in living a particular way of life in accordance with a conception of virtue. Positive liberty in this sense is goal directed and implies that to be free involves living in accordance with certain moral values. It is frequently argued that there are two ways of grounding ideas of basic moral rights: liberty and interests. The distinction between negative and positive liberty is important here. On the negative view of rights, a right is a protection against forbidden forms of coercion.
This chapter analyzes Levinas’s references to the feminine and the maternal through their connection to his treatment of time. Totality and Infinity provides a progressive narrative in which subjects are confronted with their responsibility to the other, and the feminine plays an instrumental role within that narrative. By contrast, Otherwise than Being discusses maternity in an anti-teleological, non-linear register. The maternal body is not the precursor to the ethical relation but an experience of ethical exposure, and one that confounds chronological representation. The concept of the maternal in Levinas’s later work thus more radically challenges the ideal of the “virile” subject, in ways that are congruent with feminist critiques, despite the fact that Levinas himself does not develop those possibilities.
This article focuses on Nietzsche’s views about women. It describes the emergence of Nietzsche’s antifeminism and misogyny in 1883 with Thus Spoke Zarathustra; before this Nietzsche was a ‘cautious feminist’. His attitudes changed following his disastrous experience with Lou Salomé; it was this biographical event, and not his philosophical thinking, that explains his ‘turn’ against women. The article also considers why Nietzsche’s women friends and other feminists often found his writings congenial despite his misogynistic remarks.
Identifying herself as a philosopher, author, and feminist, Simone de Beauvoir took the phenomenological ideas of the lived body, situated freedom, intentionality, intersubjective vulnerability, and the existential ethical-political concepts of critique, responsibility, and justice, in new directions. She distinguished two moments in an ongoing dialogue of intentionality: the joys of disclosure and the desires of mastery. She disrupted the phenomenological account of perception, revealing its hidden ideological dimensions. Attending to the embodied experience of sex, gender, and age, she challenged the privilege accorded to the working body and introduced us to the unique humanity of the erotic body. Her categories of the Other and the Second Sex exposed the patriarchal norms that are naturalized in the taken-for-granted givens of the life-world. In translating the phenomenological-existential concepts of transcendence and freedom into an activist ethics of critique, hope, and liberation, her work continues to influence phenomenology, existentialism, and feminist theory and practice.