Reason, feminism and philosophical education

Gilbert Burgh
University of Queensland
Many feminist philosophers have formulated arguments on how the construction and use of reason and rationality, especially in the western philosophical tradition, has silenced, in particular, women's voices. Some writers, such as Luce Irigaray (1985), have suggested that women develop their own discourse and ignore philosophical tradition, whereas others, for example Genevieve Lloyd (1984), contend that this tradition must be confronted. Recently, these concerns have been voiced by feminist philosophers who have been addressing the connections between feminism and the philosophy for children. Terri Field (1995) expresses her concern that traditional philosophy with its established dichotomies (e.g., mind/body, reason/emotion, masculinity/femininity, subjectivity/objectivity) devalues and excludes the somatic, affective and imaginative from philosophical investigation and constructs practical barriers for women to partake in such activity. She uses a feminist critique of reason to assess philosophy for children and its goals of reasonableness. San MacColl (1994, p.5) asks ‘would you wish on women or small girls a practice of philosophy which you yourself have come to see as deeply imbued with disguised, gendered ideals and associations?’ MacColl’s question expresses well the concerns of feminists interested in the philosophical education of children. This paper looks at some of the criticisms by feminist philosophers of traditional western epistemology and how this may impact on philosophy for children.
Keywords Philosophy for Children  feminism  Reason
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