Feminist epistemology is an examination of epistemology (the study of knowledge) from a feminist standpoint. Elizabeth S. Anderson describes feminist epistemology as being concerned with the way in which gender influences our concept of knowledge and "practices of inquiry and justification". It is generally regarded as falling under the umbrella of social epistemology.
Feminist epistemology emphasizes how important ethical and political values are in shaping epistemic practices, and interpretations of evidence. Feminist epistemology studies how gender influences our understanding of knowledge, justification and theory of knowledge; it describes how knowledge and justification disadvantage women. Scientists of feminist epistemology claim that knowledge discriminate women by: preventing them from inquiry and presenting women as an inferior, because these theories of knowledge satisfy only male interests, which strengthen gender hierarchies.
The central idea of feminist epistemology is that knowledge reflects the particular perspectives of the theory. The main interest of feminist philosophers is how gender stereotypes situate knowing subjects. They approach this interest from three different perspectives: feminist standpoint theory, feminist postmodernism, and feminist empiricism. Standpoint theory defines a specific social perspective as epistemically privileged. Feminist postmodernism emphasizes the instability of the social identity explorers and therefore their representations. Empiricism focuses on combining the main ideas of feminism and their observations to prove feministic theories through evidence.
Elizabeth Anderson argues that the concept of situated knowledge is central to feminist epistemology. Donna Haraway asserts that most knowledge (in particular academic knowledge) is always situated and "produced by positioned actors working in/between all kinds of locations, working up/on/through all kinds of research relation(ships)" (Cook, et al.), and thus what is known and the ways in which this knowledge can be known is subject to the position—the situation and perspective—of the knower.
The English feminist philosopher Miranda Fricker has argued that in addition to social or political injustices, there can be epistemic injustices in two forms: testimonial injustice and hermeneutical injustice. Testimonial injustice consists in prejudices that cause one to "give a deflated level of credibility to a speaker's word": Fricker gives the example of a woman who due to her gender is not believed in a business meeting. She may make a good case, but prejudice causes the listeners to believe her arguments to be less competent or sincere and thus less believable. In this kind of case, Fricker argues that as well as there being an injustice caused by possible outcomes (such as the speaker missing a promotion at work), there is a testimonial injustice: "a kind of injustice in which someone is wronged specifically in her capacity as a knower".
In the case of hermeneutical injustice, "speakers' knowledge claims fall into lacunae in the available conceptual resources, thus blocking their capacity to interpret, and thence to understand or claim a hearing for their experiences." For example, when the language of 'sexual harassment' or 'homophobia' were not generally available, those who experienced these wrongs lacked the resources to make a claim to being wronged in morally relevant ways.
Sandra Harding organized feminist epistemology into three categories: feminist empiricism, standpoint epistemology, and post-modern epistemology. While potentially a limited set of categories, post-modern feminism was a transitional ideology that denounced absolute objectivity and asserted the death of the meta-narrative. While these three categories of feminist epistemology have their place in history (see feminist empiricism, standpoint feminism, postmodern feminism), as ideological frameworks they hold epistemic insights in contemporary feminist method. Feminist theorist Nina Lykke, has expanded upon these three categories to include "postmodern feminist (anti-)epistemology...[and]...postconstructionist feminist epistemology"
Feminist empiricism emerged from a feminist critique that gave attention to male bias in positivistic practices of science. 2nd Wave feminist researchers identified how quantification and objectivity, as facets of positivism, have been held as the “gold standard” for social and political science research. Quantification, and its political relationships to notions of objectivity, maintains methodological dominance and preference primarily in the United States. This is perpetuated by how funding authorities tend to prioritize quantitative research with positivist frameworks.
Feminist empiricists believe in the concept of positivism; that all knowledge can be understood objectively and can be accessed through empirical research. They assert that pre-feminist positivism was actually not objective at all, since traditional positivism's ‘androcentric bias’ led to only partial or ‘subjective’ knowledge of the world. In essence, all empirical inquiry is inherently skewed by value judgments and biased interpretation of evidence by male-biased authorities. For instance, it was not until retrieving statistical data on the prevalence of women in the workplace experiencing (what is now known to be) ‘sexual harassment’ through surveys in the 1970s that sexual harassment became identified by political authorities as a commonality. Without this intervention of feminists in an empirical field, this commonality would never have been identified as an issue, since males had no reason to pursue this phenomenon. Londa Schiebinger further asserts that empirical research “embodies many core feminist values”, in that feminist empiricists are actively seeking out and eliminating exploitative research whilst resisting strategic, oppressive explanations of data.
Feminist empiricism is critiqued for its belief that “objectivity” is best achieved through quantification, whether or not viewed through a feminist lens or utilized for feminist ideals. The division between quantitative and qualitative data has historically reinforced gendered dichotomies of “hard/soft, emotional/rational, worthy/worthless”. Many assert that ‘objective truth’ is a false concept, and thus feminist empiricists may overestimate the extent to which they can increase objectivity. Furthermore, positivism and quantitative research has been critiqued as a “detached” philosophical framework that inherently objectifies its research subjects.
Feminist empiricists respond to the problem of value-neutrality by lengthening Quine's argument: theory is not determined by evidence. Any observation counts as proof for particular thesis only if connected with certain background presumptions, because similar observation might support different hypotheses. In daily life, scientists face some restrictions in selecting the background assumptions, that are based on cognitive values like simplicity and conservatism, which a political and social philosophy that is based on retaining traditional social establishments. Feminist empiricists state that no logical or methodological principle categorically prohibits scientists from choosing their background assumptions as their political and social values or other interests. Therefore, feminist scientists may select their background presumptions on account of their opinions on some feminist values.
There are two central paradoxes with feminist empiricism
The paradox of bias Many feminist empiricists advocate for exposing the androcentric and sexist biases in scientific research, namely that people have a bias towards gender difference and sexuality. However, while feminist empiricists would claim that the feminist inquiry helps the development of science, their own perspective adopts certain bias about gender and science.
The paradox of social construction Many science criticisms expose that the scientific inquiry is influenced by both social and political factors.The androcentric and sexist theories are influenced by the society, as they claim, which can be understood as in order to eliminate the bias, the term like “ individualist epistemology” would be used. However, they want scientific research to be open to different social influences, of which the bias of female also partakes.
Criticism of empiricism theory: It is the most criticized theory by others, for its assumptions that transhistorical subject of knowledge exists outside of social determination (Harding 1990). Also feminist empiricism theory states that science will correct all the biases and errors in theories about women and other groups by itself.
At a basic level, standpoint epistemology asserts that marginalized groups such as women are bestowed with an “epistemic privilege”, where there exists the potential for less distorted understandings of the world than dominant groups, such as men. This methodology presents many new ideas to the Feminist Empiricist notion that androcentric dominance and bias presents an incomplete understanding of the world. A “standpoint” is not so much about a subject's biased perspective, but instead the ‘realities’ that structure social relationships of power.
Standpoint theories portray the universe from a concrete situated perspective. Every standpoint theory must specify: the social location from the feminist perspective, the scope of its privileges, the social role and the identity that generates knowledge and the justification of these privileges. Feminist standpoint theory states a privilege in gender relations, various feminist standpoint theories are based on the statement about the epistemic privilege in different feministic situations. Feminist standpoint theory is one of the types of critical theory, their main intention is to improve their situation. In order to achieve this critical aim, social theories must represent the understanding of feministic problems and try to improve their condition. Critical theory is theory of, by, and for the subjects of study. Feminism and feminist epistemology is all about inquiry, assumptions, and theories. Through these methods feminist epistemology overcomes the tension between bias on which feminist empiricism is based on. It presents an elaborate map or method for maximizing “strong objectivity” in natural and social science, yet does not necessarily focus on encouraging positivistic scientific practices, like is central to Feminist Empiricism.
Although standpoint epistemology has been critiqued for focusing too closely on a distinctive women's perspective which may render invisible concepts of historically and sociologically variable knowledge, Harding strongly asserts that standpoint epistemology does not essentialize any particular marginalized identity. Harding further argues that the methodology does not subscribe to notions of “maximizing neutrality” between groups in an effort to maximize objectivity, but instead recognizes that the power relations between groups are what complicate these relationships. This is in some ways contrary to Doucet's assertion that the controversy of how power influenced knowledge production is a post-standpoint, more contemporary debate. Standpoint epistemology also poses a necessity to ask critical questions about the lives and social institutions created by dominant groups; where the field becomes a sociology for women and not solely about women.
In practicality, standpoint theory has widespread use as "a philosophy of knowledge, a philosophy of science, a sociology of knowledge, a moral/political advocacy of the expansion of democratic rights". Although it has been asserted that “epistemic privilege” is inherent to marginalized groups, Harding poses standpoint theory as an explanatory means for both marginalized and dominant group individuals to be able to achieve liberatory perspectives. In building her standpoint epistemology, Sandra Harding used and built on the work of philosophers of science Thomas Kuhn and Willard Quine. Harding's standpoint theory is also grounded in Marxism, although she largely rejected Marxism for its portrayal of women in merely class terms.
In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Kuhn argued that scientific progress does not occur through gradual accumulation of correct ideas. Rather, he believed that there were occasionally large revolutions that completely overturned the previous scientific theories. When a crisis occurs within the prevailing theory of a time, revolutionary scientists will challenge them and build new scientific theories. For example, in his view, the transition from the geocentrism of Ptolemy to the heliocentric theory of Copernicus did not occur through a gradual series of challenges and improvements to the previous model. Rather, it was a sudden and complete revolution because it is impossible to conceptualize the theory of heliocentrism within the dominant geocentric theory. Kuhn argued that together, the ideas of Newton, Galileo, and Kepler completed the revolution that Copernicus started. However, most students of science do not learn of the many failed and alternative scientific paradigms. They are taught a version of the history of science where progress is guaranteed and linear. In Harding's view, Kuhn's theories showed that all science was situated within its historical context, and that any theory could remain accepted if its believers held power.
Criticism of standpoint theory: Philosopher Helen Longino is against standpoint theory, because she claims that standpoint theory can not provide the knowledge of which standpoints have the most privilege. Bar On (1993) said that if feminine ethics of care provides privileged perspective on morality, then our moral knowledge is convinced only by existence of gender relations. Bar On also claims that theory which explains structural relationship between advanced and less developed, which dictates epistemic privilege can not be applied to women. Marx claimed that class conflict derives other conflicts such as racism, sexism, national and religious conflicts.
Feminist epistemology is criticized by different philosophers. Feminist postmodernists blame feminist empiricists for assuming the existence of an individual and for admitting an uncritical concept of experience. Naturalized Quine epistemology of some feminist empiricists perceives knowers as socially situated; Hundleby, a standpoint theorist, criticizes feminist empiricism for disregarding the key role of women in political activities.
Standpoint theory is often criticized for the lack of evidence available to support it and the ideas underlying it, such as the lack of justification for the underdetermination theory Harding uses. Pinnick, to illustrate her point about Harding's poor evidence, points to standpoint theory's claim that science is more objective if it is politically motivated, which Pinnick claims runs contrary to what has happened in the past when scientists deliberately injected politics into their theories (she cites eugenics and intelligence test designs as examples of politicized science). She also criticizes Harding for claiming that marginalized groups produce better, less biased scientific results because, according to Pinnick, Harding fails to provide any empirical evidence for this idea.
Post-modern thought marks a feminist group shift away from dominant, positivistic ideals of objectivity and universal understanding. Instead, it acknowledges a diversity of unique human perspectives, none of which can claim absolute knowledge authority. Post-Modern feminism has thus been critiqued for having a relativist-stance, where ongoing power relations between key identities have been often neglected attention. It is possible to see this political stance in direct opposition to the “emancipatory aspirations” of women. However, Saba Mahmood would argue this critique is in some ways oppositional to global understandings of female desire, where the idea of ‘freedom’ is an essential, conditionally oppressive component to western feminism which may wrongly assume that women of eastern countries dominated by male power are victims needing to be liberated.
Donna Haraway, a post-modern feminist, shows how post-modern feminism recognizes positivism as an inherently oppressive ideology, where science's rhetoric of truth was used to undermine marginalized people's agency and delegitimize ‘embodied’ accounts of truth. Furthermore, they argue that ‘objectivity’ is an external, disembodied point of view left only to privileged (unmarked bodies), because marginalized (marked bodies) cannot have perspectives dissociated from ‘who they are’. Despite post-modern relativist criticism, this theory resists relativism in firmly recognizing power relations in that objectivity is a privilege of unmarked bodies. Haraway's theory of “situated knowledges” holds true to post-modern ideology, where knowledge should be placed in context; this creates a more limited range of knowledge than theoretical “objectivity”, but is richer in allowing for exchange of understanding between individual experiences. Positivism inherently gives way to authoritarian positions of knowledge which hinder discussion and render limited understanding of the world. Both positivist science and relativism have been recognized as contrary to post-modern feminist thought, since both minimize the significance of context (geographic, demographic, power) on knowledge claims.
Criticism of postmodernism: Key features of postmodernism: “Women” not the category of analysis and contains of perspectives which are controversial with feminist theory. The fact that women are in different social position can experience sexism differently, does not mean that they do not suffer from it (MacKinnon 2000). The postmodernism theory dissolves all groups, and supports the ideas that knowledge from any source is better than no knowledge at all (Bordo 1990).
Post-modern feminism's assertion of “situated knowledges”, plays well into Cherrie Moraga’s piece “Theory in the Flesh”, where the ‘physical realities’ of indigenous peoples’ lives are said to be the means of creating a decolonial politic against oppressive, inaccessible, Eurowestern academic methods of knowledge production. This epistemological framework has been utilized by feminists like bell hooks, who claims that theorizing is often tied to a process of self-recovery and collective liberation; it is not thus limited to those in the western academic realm, nor does it require ‘scientific’ research. Hooks asserts that theory and practical application of emancipatory politics can, and often do, exist simultaneously and reciprocally. Post-Modern feminism has given way to the question of whether or not there should be any particular feminist ways of knowing. A 'theory in the flesh' seems to suggest that prioritizing or normalizing any specific feminist epistemology would in itself be, and has been, oppressive.
This theory focuses on how power and gender relations behave in terms of value theory and epistemology. Bordo’s (1990) and Lloyd’s (1984) examined how “maleness” and “femaleness” are used in philosophical theories and discussions about relationship such as, reason/unreason, reason/emotion and objectivity/subjectivity. Lorraine Code’s (1987, 1991, 1995, 1996) with other feminist co-workers determined in which ways political and social routine shapes our identities and perspectives of our world and especially gender, how it leads to understanding of epistemic responsibility. Code’s works also have been influential in epistemological fields, which can be described as version of naturalism takes and reinvents simple and uncontroversial empirical beliefs, for example the belief like “I know that I am seeing a bird”, deforms the epistemic animal nature. Feminist epistemic virtue theorists rejects almost all the assumptions. Skeptical problems can not get any connections with it, so it is ignored and considered as a pseudo-problem.
Feminist science criticism mainly has five different kinds of research about gender and science to address five identified biases. These are studies of how:
Feminist science argues that the inquiry of science which informed by feminist epistemology is based on legalizing and produce the limiting partial bias. Pluralist feminist scientists and philosophers of science define feminist science as preferred content and “feminine” method.
Carla Fehr is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Waterloo where she holds the Wolfe Chair in Scientific and Technological Literacy.Elizabeth S. Anderson
Elizabeth Secor Anderson (born 5 December 1959) is an American philosopher. She is Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and John Dewey Distinguished University Professor of Philosophy and Women's Studies at the University of Michigan and is a notable American philosopher specializing in moral and political philosophy. Anderson is currently the chair of the University of Michigan's Department of Philosophy.Epistemological idealism
Epistemological idealism is a subjectivist position in epistemology that holds that what one knows about an object exists only in one's mind. It is opposed to epistemological realism.Feminist method
The feminist method is a means of conducting of scientific investigations and generating theory from an explicitly feminist standpoint. Feminist methodologies are varied, but tend to have a few common aims or characteristics, including seeking to overcome biases in research, bringing about social change, displaying human diversity, and acknowledging the position of the researcher. Questioning normal scientific reasoning is another form of the feminist method. Each of these methods must consist of different parts including: collection of evidence, testing of theories, presentation of data, and room for rebuttals. How research is scientifically backed up affects the results. Like consciousness raising, some feminist methods affect the collective emotions of women, when things like political statistics are more of a structural result When knowledge is either constructed by experiences, or discovered, it needs to both be reliable and valid. Strong feminist supporters of this are Nancy Hartsock, Hilary Rose, and finally Sandra Harding. Feminist sociologists have made important contributions to this debate as they began to criticize positivism as a philosophical framework and, more specifically, its most acute methodological instrument—that of quantitative methods for its practice of detached and objective scientific research and the objectification of research subjects (Graham 1983b; Reinharz 1979). These methodological critiques were well placed against a backdrop of feminist scholarship struggling to find a place for alternative values within the academy. Such concerns emerged from a sense of despair and anger that knowledge, both academic and popular, was based on men’s lives, male ways of thinking, and directed toward the problems articulated by men. Dorothy Smith (1974) argued that "sociology ... has been based on and built up within the male social universe".Feminist philosophy of science
Feminist philosophy of science is a branch of feminist philosophy that seeks to understand how the acquirement of knowledge through scientific means has been influenced by notions of gender and gender roles in society. Feminist philosophers of science question how scientific research and scientific knowledge itself may be influenced and possibly compromised by the social and professional framework within which that research and knowledge is established and exists. It has been described as being located "at the intersections of the philosophy of science and feminist science scholarship", and has attracted considerable attention since the 1970s.
Feminist epistemology often emphasizes "situated knowledge" that hinges on one's individual perspectives on a subject. Feminist philosophers often highlight the under-representation of female scientists in academia and the possibility that science currently has androcentric biases. Scientific theory has been accused of being more compatible with male cognitive styles and reasoning. Feminist epistemology suggests that integrating feminine modes of thought and logic that are undervalued by current scientific theory will enable improvement and broadening of scientific perspectives. Advocates assert that it may be guide in creating a philosophy of science that is more accessible to public. Practitioners of feminist philosophy of science also seek to promote gender equality in scientific fields and greater recognition of the achievements of female scientists.
Critics have argued that the political commitments of advocates of feminist philosophy of science is incompatible with modern-day scientific objectivity, emphasizing the success of the scientific method due to its lauded objectivity and "value-free" methods of knowledge-making.Feminist political theory
Feminist political theory is a diverse subfield of feminist theory working towards three main goals:
To understand and critique the role of gender in how political theory is conventionally construed.
To re-frame and re-articulate conventional political theory in light of feminist issues (especially gender equality).
To support political science presuming and pursuing gender equality.Feminist political theory encompasses a broad scope of approaches. It overlaps with related areas including feminist jurisprudence/feminist legal theory; feminist political philosophy; female-centered empirical research in political science; and feminist research methods (feminist method) for use in political science the social sciences. Indeed, one scholar notes that, insofar as almost all versions of feminism involve "demonstrating the ways in which politics, understood as power relations, is present in our everyday lives," one could reasonably "describe feminist theory as a whole as a kind of political philosophy." What frequently distinguishes feminist political theory from feminism broadly is the specific examination of the state and its role in the reproduction or redressing of gender inequality. In addition to being broad and multidisciplinary, the field is relatively new, inherently innovative, and still expanding; the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy explains that "feminist political philosophy serves as a field for developing new ideals, practices, and justifications for how political institutions and practices should be organized and reconstructed."Helen Longino
Helen Elizabeth Longino (born July 13, 1944) is an American philosopher of science who has argued for the significance of values and social interactions to scientific inquiry. She has written about the role of women in science and is a central figure in feminist epistemology and social epistemology.
She is the Clarence Irving Lewis Professor of Philosophy at Stanford University. In 2016, she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.Hierarchical epistemology
Hierarchical epistemology is a theory of knowledge which posits that beings have different access to reality depending on their ontological rank.Information source
An information source is a person, thing, or place from which information comes, arises, or is obtained. Information souces can be known as primary or secondary. That source might then inform a person about something or provide knowledge about it. Information sources are divided into separate distinct categories, primary, secondary, tertiary, and so on.Laura Ruetsche
Laura Ruetsche is an American philosopher focusing on the foundations of quantum physics, feminist philosophy and philosophy of science. Ruetsche is a Professor and Chair of the department of philosophy at the University of Michigan University of Michigan. Her book, Interpreting Quantum Theories: The Art of the Possible was published in 2011. Following its publication, she became a co-recipient of 2013 Lakatos Award. She has also published on a diverse array of topics, exploring, among other things, philosophically salient differences between non-relativistic quantum mechanics and quantum field theory, modal semantics for quantum physics and virtue-epistemological theories of warrant.List of epistemologists
This is a list of epistemologists, that is, people who theorize about the nature of knowledge, belief formation and the nature of justification.Lorraine Code
Lorraine Code (born 1937) is Professor Emerita of Philosophy at York University in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. Her principal area of research is feminist epistemology and the politics of knowledge.Nancy Hartsock
Nancy Hartsock (1943 – March 19, 2015) was a feminist philosopher. She was known for her work in feminist epistemology and standpoint theory, especially the essay "The Feminist Standpoint", which also integrated Melanie Klein's theories on psychoanalysis and the Oedipal crisis. Her standpoint theory derived from Marxism, which claims that the proletariat has a distinctive perspective on social relations and that only this perspective reveals the truth. She drew an analogy between the industrial labor of the proletariat and the domestic labor of women to show that women can also have a distinctive standpoint.
Hartsock was professor of political science at the University of Washington.Nancy Tuana
Nancy Tuana is an American philosopher who specializes in feminist philosophy. She holds the DuPont/Class of 1949 Professorship in Philosophy and Women's Studies at The Pennsylvania State University. She came to Penn State from the University of Oregon in 2001 to serve as the founding director of the Rock Ethics Institute
The Rock Ethics Institute, under her direction, has taken the lead nationally and internationally in developing innovative and deeply interdisciplinary modes of engaging in socially relevant ethics research through embedding ethical analysis into research in the sciences and engineering and by catalyzing research on ethically responsible policy making. Current research foci include climate change ethics, food ethics, industry sponsorship of research, global ethics, critical philosophy of race, and moral literacy and moral development. While Director, Tuana secured twelve tenure track ethics hires in order to support the Institute’s commitment to serve as a catalyst for deeply interdisciplinary ethics research and the infusion of ethics across the Penn State curriculum.Dr. Tuana's scholarly work ranges across the field of feminist philosophy and engages approaches from both Continental and American philosophical traditions. Her scholarly work includes books and articles in feminist history of philosophy, feminist science studies, and feminist epistemology. Her current research foci are twofold. The first is in the field of feminist analyses of anthropocentric climate change in which she has published a number of articles and working on a forthcoming book. The second is a focus on corporeal and genealogical temporality, the topic of a recent course at the Collegium Phaenomenologicum she co-taught with Charles Scott.
She is series editor for "ReReading the Canon" with Penn State Press. The series has over thirty volumes. She also served as co-editor with Laurie Shrage of "Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy." She was the editor for the APA Newsletter on Feminism and Philosophy from its inception until 1992. She has also guest edited special issues of Hypatia on the topics of feminism and science, epistemologies of ignorance, and feminism and climate change. She has also served as guest editor for three special issues of the journal "Critical Philosophy of Race." She was Director of two NEH Summer Seminars on Feminist Epistemology, the latter of which resulted in the conference on "Ethics and the Epistemologies of Ignorance." She served as a co-editor of the feminist philosophy topic area for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.Pieranna Garavaso
Pieranna Garavaso is an analytic philosopher at the University of Minnesota Morris. Her areas of interest include epistemological and metaphysical issues in philosophy of mathematics, philosophy of language, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Gotlob Frege, Bertrand Russell, and feminist epistemology. She received her doctorate in philosophy from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. She is the recipient of two distinguished teaching awards: the University of Minnesota, Morris Alumni Association Teaching Award in 2003 and the Horace T. Morse University of Minnesota Alumni in 2004.Sandra Harding
This article is about the American philosopher, not the Australian sociologist and university administrator of the same name.Sandra G. Harding (born 1935) is an American philosopher of feminist and postcolonial theory, epistemology, research methodology, and philosophy of science. She taught for two decades at the University of Delaware before moving to the University of California, Los Angeles in 1996. She directed the UCLA Center for the Study of Women from 1996 to 2000, and co-edited Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society from 2000 to 2005. She is currently a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Education and Gender Studies at UCLA and a Distinguished Affiliate Professor of Philosophy at Michigan State University. In 2013 she was awarded the John Desmond Bernal Prize by the Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S). (Earlier recipients of this prize include Robert Merton, Thomas S. Kuhn, Mary Douglas, and Joseph Needham.)
She has developed the research standard of “strong objectivity,” and contributed to the articulation of standpoint methodology. This kind of research process starts off from questions that arise in the daily lives of people in oppressed groups. To answer such questions, it “studies up”, examining the principles, practices and cultures of dominant institutions, from the design and management of which oppressed groups have been excluded. She has also contributed to the development of feminist, anti-racist, multicultural, and postcolonial studies of the natural and social sciences, asking the extent to which paradigms like feminist empiricism are useful for promoting to goals of feminist inquiry. She is the author or editor of many books and essays on these topics, and was one of the founders of the fields of feminist epistemology and philosophy of science. This work has been influential in the social sciences and in women/gender studies across the disciplines. It has helped to create new kinds of discussions about how best to relink scientific research to pro-democratic goals.
She has been a Visiting Professor at the University of Amsterdam, the University of Costa Rica, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, and the Asian Institute of Technology. She has been a consult to several United Nations organizations including the Pan American Health Organization, UNESCO, the U.N. Commission on Science and Technology for Development, and the U.N. Development Fund for Women. Phi Beta Kappa selected her as a national lecturer in 2007. She has lectured at over 300 colleges, universities, and conferences, on five continents.During what is known now as the "Science Wars", she was part of a debate regarding the value-neutrality of the sciences. This aspect of her work has been criticized by the mathematicians Michael Sullivan, Mary Gray, and Lenore Blum, and by the historian of science Ann Hibner Koblitz.Harding referred to Newton's Principia Mathematica as a "rape manual" in her 1986 book "The Science Question in Feminism", a characterization that she later said she regretted.Social epistemology
Social epistemology refers to a broad set of approaches that can be taken in the study of knowledge that construes human knowledge as a collective achievement. Another way of characterizing social epistemology is as the evaluation of the social dimensions of knowledge or information. It is sometimes simplified to mean a social justification of belief.One of the enduring difficulties with defining "social epistemology" that arises is the attempt to determine what the word "knowledge" means in this context. There is also a challenge in arriving at a definition of "social" which satisfies academics from different disciplines. Social epistemologists may exist working in many of the disciplines of the humanities and social sciences, most commonly in philosophy and sociology. In addition to marking a distinct movement in traditional and analytic epistemology, social epistemology is associated with the interdisciplinary field of science and technology studies (STS).Standpoint feminism
Standpoint feminism is a theory that feminist social science should be practiced from the standpoint of women or particular groups of women, as some scholars (e.g. Patricia Hill Collins and Dorothy Smith) say that they are better equipped to understand some aspects of the world. A feminist or women's standpoint epistemology proposes to make women's experiences the point of departure, in addition to, and sometimes instead of men's.