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The University of Southampton
Lifelong Learning

Philosophy and Feminism

Feminist approaches to philosophy have been wide-reaching, critically evaluating both social structures and philosophy itself. They argue that the influence of sexism is pervasive and more so than one might initially think. This course will provide an introduction to some of the many ways in which feminist thought has attempted to highlight these, and will evaluate the aspects of our lives that are at stake. These include matters as diverse as politics, ethics, language and how we acquire knowledge. The module will begin by considering how we might understand what it is to be a ‘woman’ or ‘female’ in the first place, as this is itself far from clear.

Mind the Gap Philosophy and Feminism
Philosophy and Feminism

This module aims to introduce some of the main topics within the feminist approaches to philosophy, as well as providing an introduction to more general aspects of philosophical reasoning and argument. 



The module will typically comprise the following:


Sex and Gender

Sex and gender are often seen as pertaining to biological and social matters respectively: we might say there is a distinction between being biologically female and being a woman in the eyes of one’s culture with all of the trappings this brings. Firstly though, is there actually such thing as gender given that the lived experience of women differs so greatly. If so, what might it be? Secondly, to what extent can we talk of sex as being distinct from gender and how might social influences affect how we understand individuals’ physiology?


Politics: What is Discrimination?

Is discrimination simply a matter of treating people differently? We will cover two different accounts of discrimination – the ‘difference’ and ‘domination’ models. These will then be further considered in the context of issues concerning work and the family, as well as sexual harassment.


Ethics: Care and Justice

This session will introduce a distinction that feminists have drawn between justice- and care-centred ethical theories. While the former accounts have been historically prominent, and include both Utilitarianism and Kantian ethics, we might take them to be a reflection of men’s experiences as traditionally construed. We will look, then, at alternative accounts that have been proposed by some feminist thinkers.


Language: The Problem with ‘Mankind’

What might the problem be with using ‘man’ to refer to humans in general? Or ‘manageress’ for a manager who happens to be a woman? How might certain aspects of language be seen as expressing a specifically masculine viewpoint? This session will examine some of the arguments concerning these questions, as well as the possibility for reform.


The Self and Autonomy

Traditionally, the self has been seen as consisting in an autonomous individual, distinct from all others. Such autonomy was taken to involve being unaffected by others and one’s own emotions. In this this section of the module, we will consider how feminists have critiqued these ways of understanding ‘the self’ and ‘autonomy’, as well as their positive proposals.


Epistemology: The Importance of Standpoint

Focussing specifically on scientific knowledge, might we think that the practice of science has been influenced by male-centric biases? And if so, how should we best avoid this? One prominent account states that oppressed groups have a particular standpoint that gives one a particular advantage when it comes to acquiring knowledge. Objections to this approach from other feminists will also be discussed.





Course Start Date: Tuesday 19 April- Tuesday 24 May 2016

Time: 19:00-21:00

Length: 6 weeks

Fee: £100.00 (£95 for University Staff and Students)


To book your place on this course please click here to be taken to our online store.


Please note that your course will only run if it receives a sufficient number of bookings . This will be confirmed closer to the start date of the course. If your course is cancelled due to insufficient booking numbers, you will receive a full refund. Please note that the booking/payment confirmation that you receive should not be taken as a guarantee that the course will run. This confirmation will be sent to you separately once it has been established that the course will go ahead.




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