Week of: 
October 12, 2004
What is it: 

Some feminists hold that there are specially feminine ways of knowing, and the current scientific research is flawed for not recognizing them. Some hold that philosophy itself is a thoroughly phallocentric enterprise, and deeply flawed. Other feminists vigorously reject these views. Join John and Ken as they discuss the philosophies of feminism with Barrie Thorne from UC Berkeley, co-author of Feminist Sociology: Life Histories of a Movement.

Listening Notes: 

What is feminism? It starts with the recognition that male chauvinism and sexism are prevalent in our society. Ken asks if there is analogy between racism and sexism. Ken introduces Barrie Thorne, professor of sociology at Berkeley. Thorne says that feminism presupposes that gender is not a fact of nature. Gender, which is sociological stuff like child rearing, is contrasted with sex, which is biological stuff like reproductive organs.

What about the idea that men care about autonomy and women care about connectedness and nurturing? Thorne says that that idea is powerful but not accurate. Is it accidental that societies have gender roles? Thorne says that all societies have had gender roles. Ken distinguishes between sameness feminism, which says that males and females are fundamentally the same, and difference feminism, which says the differences between the sexes needs to be accepted by changing certain values in society.

 Are the fundamental categories of thought, such as reason, gendered? Thorne thinks that the basic categories of thought are not gendered but that they may be used in gendered ways. Thorne points out that there has been work in psychology saying that old theories of development overvalue separation and undervalue connectedness. Is philosophy's method of argumentation gendered? Is the Socratic method a male thing? Are gender differences biological?

  • Roving Philosophical Reporter (Seek to 04:47): Amy Standen asks women what they think feminism is. 
  • Philosophy Talk Goes to the Movies (Seek to 47:30): John and Ken delve into the philosophical themes in What the Bleep Do We Know?, a movie which deals with the relation between quantum mechanics and humanity.

Barrie Thorne, Professor of Sociology and of Gender and Women's Studies, University of California Berkeley

Bonus Content: 
Related Resources: 
  • The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

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