Feminist metaphysics

Where metaphysics tries to explain what is the universe and what it is like, feminist metaphysics questions how metaphysical answers have supported sexism.[1] Are ideas we have about fundamental subjects like: the self, mind and body, nature, essence, and identity formed with gendered bias? For instance, feminist metaphysics would ask if Cartesian dualism—the concept of humans having minds separate from our bodies—privileges men or masculinity.[1]

Social construction

The famous quote “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman,” coined by Simone de Beauvoir, can be considered feminist metaphysical critique. De Beauvoir does not deny that some people are born with female body parts, but that those body parts need not imply how one is socially situated. Yet for many societies being in possession of those body parts prescribes social roles, norms, and activities, and the differences are said to be necessary, because they are natural.[2]

Since de Beauvoir many feminists have presented the view that social hierarchies are perpetuated by the fallacy that they are metaphysically "natural". In fact, the power that comes from naturalising myths about universal categories, has made feminists wary of accepting that any category at all is "natural". And subsequently a response is that any such supposedly "natural" category, should not be a basis for how we organize ourselves socially.[3]

Critique of social construction

If being a woman is not due to "situation", like biology, de Beauvoir claims that it is due to "instrumentality" of women's freedom. Critic Judith Butler finds this problematic because de Beauvoir's reasoning, now plots "situation" against "instrumentality", plays into Cartesian body-freedom dualism.[4]


  1. ^ a b Haslanger, Sally; Sveinsdóttir, Ásta Kristjana (2011). "Feminist Metaphysics". In Zalta, Edward N. (ed.). The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2011 ed.). ISSN 1095-5054. OCLC 224325075.
  2. ^ de Beauvoir, Simone (1949). The Second Sex. New York: Vintage Books. pp. Chapter 1. ISBN 978-1-473-52191-9. OCLC 896850610.
  3. ^ Warnke, Georgia (2008). After Identity: Rethinking Race, Sex, and Gender. Cambridge, UK & New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-88281-1. OCLC 165408056.
  4. ^ Butler, Judith (1990). Gender Trouble. New York: Routledge. p. 12. ISBN 978-0-415-90042-3. OCLC 19630577.

Further reading

  • Battersby, Christine. The Phenomenal Woman: Feminist Metaphysics and the Patterns of Identity. New York: Routledge, 1998. ISBN 978-0-415-92035-3 OCLC 37742199
  • Howell, Nancy R. A Feminist Cosmology: Ecology, Solidarity, and Metaphysics. Amherst, N.Y.: Humanity Books, 2000. ISBN 978-1-573-92653-9 OCLC 36713191
  • Raschke, Debrah. Modernism, Metaphysics, and Sexuality. Selinsgrove: Susquehanna University Press, 2006. ISBN 978-1-575-91106-9 OCLC 63679917
  • Witt, Charlotte. Feminist Metaphysics Explorations in the Ontology of Sex, Gender and the Self. Dordrecht: Springer, 2010. ISBN 978-9-048-137831 OCLC 695386850
  • Schües, Christina, Dorothea Olkowski, and Helen Fielding. Time in Feminist Phenomenology. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2011. ISBN 978-0-253-00160-3 OCLC 747431814
  • Witt, Charlotte. The Metaphysics of Gender. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. ISBN 978-0-199-74040-6 OCLC 706025098

Aristotle (; Greek: Ἀριστοτέλης Aristotélēs, pronounced [aristotélɛːs]; 384–322 BC) was a philosopher during the Classical period in Ancient Greece, the founder of the Lyceum and the Peripatetic school of philosophy and Aristotelian tradition. Along with his teacher Plato, he is considered the "Father of Western Philosophy". His writings cover many subjects – including physics, biology, zoology, metaphysics, logic, ethics, aesthetics, poetry, theatre, music, rhetoric, psychology, linguistics, economics, politics and government. Aristotle provided a complex synthesis of the various philosophies existing prior to him, and it was above all from his teachings that the West inherited its intellectual lexicon, as well as problems and methods of inquiry. As a result, his philosophy has exerted a unique influence on almost every form of knowledge in the West and it continues to be a subject of contemporary philosophical discussion.

Little is known about his life. Aristotle was born in the city of Stagira in Northern Greece. His father, Nicomachus, died when Aristotle was a child, and he was brought up by a guardian. At seventeen or eighteen years of age, he joined Plato's Academy in Athens and remained there until the age of thirty-seven (c. 347 BC). Shortly after Plato died, Aristotle left Athens and, at the request of Philip II of Macedon, tutored Alexander the Great beginning in 343 BC. He established a library in the Lyceum which helped him to produce many of his hundreds of books on papyrus scrolls. Though Aristotle wrote many elegant treatises and dialogues for publication, only around a third of his original output has survived, none of it intended for publication.The fact that Aristotle was a pupil of Plato contributed to his former views of Platonism, but, following Plato's death, Aristotle developed an increased interest in natural sciences and adopted the position of immanent realism. Aristotle's views on physical science profoundly shaped medieval scholarship. Their influence extended from Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages into the Renaissance, and were not replaced systematically until the Enlightenment and theories such as classical mechanics. Some of Aristotle's zoological observations found in his biology, such as on the hectocotyl (reproductive) arm of the octopus, were disbelieved until the 19th century. His works contain the earliest known formal study of logic, studied by medieval scholars such as Peter Abelard and John Buridan. Aristotle's influence on logic also continued well into the 19th century

He influenced Islamic thought during the Middle Ages, as well as Christian theology, especially the Neoplatonism of the Early Church and the scholastic tradition of the Catholic Church. Aristotle was revered among medieval Muslim scholars as "The First Teacher" and among medieval Christians like Thomas Aquinas as simply "The Philosopher". His ethics, though always influential, gained renewed interest with the modern advent of virtue ethics, such as in the thinking of Alasdair MacIntyre and Philippa Foot.

Charlotte Witt

Charlotte Witt (born 27 September 1951) is a Professor of Philosophy and Humanities at the University of New Hampshire.

Christine Battersby

Christine Battersby FRSA (born 3 March 1946) is a British philosopher and Reader Emerita in Philosophy at the University of Warwick. She was the visiting Fleishhacker Chair of Philosophy at the University of San Francisco during April 2013. Battersby is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. She is known for her research on feminist aesthetics.

Diane Stein

Diane Stein (born 1948) is a feminist, Wiccan, a Reiki practitioner, and an author.

Stein was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She graduated from Duquesne University in 1970 with a Bachelor of Science in Education and English Literature. In 1972 she received a Master of Arts in English Literature from the University of Pittsburgh.

Her first book, on the I Ching, was The Kwan Yin Book of Changes (1985), also published as A Woman's I Ching [Hacker, Moore, and Patsco, I Ching: An Annotated Bibliography p. 132]. She has since written more than 25 books on alternative healing, natural remedies, women's spirituality, and feminist metaphysics.

She considers healing such an important element of goddess spirituality that she specifies that all rituals must contain elements of healing (Beverly Engel, 2000, Women Circling the Earth: A Guide to Fostering Community, Healing, and Empowerment, page 70).

She currently lives in Florida.

Elizabeth V. Spelman

Elizabeth V. Spelman is a philosopher in the United States. She is currently a professor at Smith College. She is a Barbara Richmond 1940 Professor in the Humanities. Due to this position she currently resides in Northampton, Massachusetts.


Femininity (also called girlishness or womanliness) is a set of attributes, behaviors, and roles generally associated with girls and women. Femininity is socially constructed, but made up of both socially-defined and biologically-created factors. This makes it distinct from the definition of the biological female sex, as both males and females can exhibit feminine traits.

Traits traditionally cited as feminine include gentleness, empathy, humility, and sensitivity, though traits associated with femininity vary depending on location and context, and are influenced by a variety of social and cultural factors.

Feminist philosophy

Feminist philosophy is an approach to philosophy from a feminist perspective and also the employment of philosophical methods to feminist topics and questions. Feminist philosophy involves both reinterpreting philosophical texts and methods in order to supplement the feminist movement and attempts to criticise or re-evaluate the ideas of traditional philosophy from within a feminist framework.


A girl is a young female, usually human, usually a child or an adolescent. When she becomes an adult, she is described as a woman. The term girl may also be used to mean a young woman, and is sometimes used as a synonym for daughter. Girl may also be a term of endearment used by an adult, usually a woman, to designate adult female friends.

The treatment and status of girls in any society is usually closely related to the status of women in that culture. In cultures where women have a low societal position, girls may be unwanted by their parents, and the state may invest less in services for girls. Girls' upbringing ranges from being relatively the same as that of boys to complete sex segregation and completely different gender roles.

Illusionism (philosophy)

Illusionism is a metaphysical theory first propounded by professor Saul Smilansky of the University of Haifa. It holds that people have illusory beliefs about free will. Furthermore, it holds that it is both of key importance and morally right that people not be disabused of these beliefs, because the illusion has benefits both to individuals and to society. Belief in hard incompatibilism, argues Smilansky, removes an individual's basis for a sense of self-worth in his or her own achievements. It is "extremely damaging to our view of ourselves, to our sense of achievement, worth, and self-respect".Neither compatibilism nor hard determinism are the whole story, according to Smilansky, and there exists an ultimate perspective in which some parts of compatibilism are valid and some parts of hard determinism are valid. However, Smilansky asserts, the nature of what he terms the fundamental dualism between hard determinism and compatibilism is a morally undesirable one, in that both beliefs, in their absolute forms, have adverse consequences. The distinctions between choice and luck made by compatibilism are important, but wholly undermined by hard determinism. But, conversely, hard determinism undermines the morally important notions of justice and respect, leaving them nothing more than "shallow" notions.Smilansky's thesis is considered a radical one, and other philosophers disagree with it. Professor Derk Pereboom of Cornell University, for example, disagrees that hard incompatibilism necessarily does away with self-worth, because to a large extent that sense of self-worth isn't related to will at all, let alone to free will. Aspects of worthiness such as natural beauty, native physical ability, and intelligence are not voluntary.James Lenman takes a similar line, arguing that Smilansky's expression of the problems is overstated. The problems that he presents are less fundamentally metaphysical than simply practical in nature.


Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that examines the fundamental nature of reality, including the relationship between mind and matter, between substance and attribute, and between potentiality and actuality. The word "metaphysics" comes from two Greek words that, together, literally mean "after or behind or among [the study of] the natural". It has been suggested that the term might have been coined by a first century CE editor who assembled various small selections of Aristotle’s works into the treatise we now know by the name Metaphysics (ta meta ta phusika, 'after the Physics ', another of Aristotle's works).Metaphysics studies questions related to what it is for something to exist and what types of existence there are. Metaphysics seeks to answer, in an abstract and fully general manner, the questions:

What is there?

What is it like?Topics of metaphysical investigation include existence, objects and their properties, space and time, cause and effect, and possibility.

Problem of why there is anything at all

The question "Why is there anything at all?", or, "Why is there something rather than nothing?" has been raised or commented on by philosophers including Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Martin Heidegger – who called it the fundamental question of metaphysics.

Sally Haslanger

Sally Haslanger () is an American philosopher and professor. She is the Ford Professor of Philosophy in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She held the 2015 Spinoza Chair of Philosophy at the University of Amsterdam.

Sarah-Jane Leslie

Sarah-Jane Leslie is the Dean of the Graduate School and Class of 1943 Professor of Philosophy at Princeton University, where she is also affiliated faculty in the Department of Psychology, the University Center for Human Values, the Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies, and the Kahneman-Treisman Center for Behavioral Science and Public Policy.She is known for her work on the cognitive underpinnings of generic generalizations and the relationship between these generalizations and social cognition, and her work on perceptions of brilliance and academic gender gaps. She is the author of numerous articles in philosophy and psychology, and has published in journals such as Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Cognitive Psychology, and Philosophical Review. Leslie's work has been discussed by various media outlets, including The Washington Post, NBC, and The Wall Street Journal, and on the radio at NPR, WHYY, and CBC Radio.

Ásta Kristjana Sveinsdóttir

Ásta Kristjana Sveinsdóttir (born October 5, 1969) is an Icelandic philosopher living in San Francisco, California. She is the 4th Icelandic woman to have completed a doctorate in philosophy and the first in metaphysics. Born in Reykjavík, she has a BA in mathematics and philosophy from Brandeis University in 1992, AM in philosophy from Harvard University, 1997, and PhD in philosophy from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2004. She was a host lecturer at Vassar College in New York in late 2004 and early 2005 and has been a lecturer in philosophy at San Francisco State University since the autumn of 2005.

Sveinsdóttir is predominantly concerned with metaphysics, and the philosophy of language and epistemology, ethics and aesthetics. She has authored papers on feminist metaphysics such as The Metaphysics of Sex and Gender.

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