Objectivity and orgasm: the perils of imprecise definitions

Synthese 199 (1-2):2315-2333 (2020)


Lloyd analyzes every proposed evolutionary explanation of female orgasm and argues that all but one suffers from serious evidential errors. Lloyd attributes these errors to two main biases: androcentrism and adaptationism. This paper begins by arguing that the explanation Lloyd favors—the by-product account—is guilty of the androcentrism which supposedly implicates the other explanations of female orgasm with numerous evidential discrepancies. This suggests that there is another error afflicting orgasm research in addition to the biases Lloyd identities. I attempt to diagnose and characterize this additional error. In short, I think the error is using an imprecise definition of the trait in question. Further, Lloyd takes her analysis to support Longino’s contextual empiricist model of scientific objectivity. I consider what implications this analysis has for contextual empiricism. Finally, I argue that theorizing about female orgasm should be done from a conceptual engineering approach.

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Samantha Wakil
University of Nevada, Las Vegas