Fundamental Epistemology

"A more fundamental project now confronts us. We must root out sexist distortions and perversions in epistemology, metaphysics, methodology and the philosophy of science-in the “hard core” of abstract reasoning thought most immune to infiltration by social values."
Discovering Reality, Sandra Harding and Merrill B. Hintikka (1983)

Until roughly the mid-twentieth century, liberal feminist politics had little apparent impact on American universities. But thereafter the transformation was swift. Throughout the second half of the twentieth century, student demographics shifted, women’s studies flourished, and remarkable reforms to the liberal arts curriculum became entrenched. There was no surprise when feminist theory moved into the humanities or the “soft” sciences. And, these days, the radical edge is worn off the idea of departments and faculty lines devoted to women’s studies. Indeed, the curricular shifts in academe that are associated with the rise in the feminist profile are by now hardly more radical than our expectation that women shall enjoy equal protection under law.

But all is not entirely well with feminist theory and the academy, as can be seen with the curricular reforms at the intersection of feminist theory and the “hard” sciences. For some of us, it is a surprise to be told that science, mathematics, and technology are fundamentally androcentric and in addition that this hard core of abstract reasoning is, in principle, deleterious to women. But for most of us, it is something of a shock to our epistemic sensibilities to be told that the “hard core”, knowledge itself and the methods by which it is to be achieved, require a feminist shake up.

Let me emphasize: It is one thing to digest that literature or religious practice is shot through with androcentric bias and systematic mistreatment of women, but it is quite another matter to grasp that serious scholarship in science, across the so-called hard core, and the application thereof is a sham, in thrall to prevailing social values and controlled by a self-interested, white male elite.

Of course, the fact that all of this is a surprise, a shock, or just plain bemusing, fails to tell us anything one way or another about the merits of feminist theory. To assess the theory, we need a clear statement of this feminist challenge to traditionally conceived methods of good reasoning.

The Fundamental Project

In the introduction to their influential book, Discovering Reality: Feminist Perspectives on Epistemology, Metaphysics, Methodology, and Philosophy of Science (1983), editors Sandra Harding and Merrill B. Hintikka warned readers of the failure of feminist efforts to bring liberal reform (a concern for fair play) to science and announced the radical feminist project for philosophy of science:

The attempt to add understandings of women to our knowledge of nature and social life has led to the realization that there is precious little reliable knowledge to which to add them. A more fundamental project now confronts us. We must root out sexist distortions and perversions in epistemology, metaphysics, methodology and the philosophy of science-in the “hard core” of abstract reasoning thought most immune to infiltration by social values. (ix)

This is a noteworthy moment in feminist epistemology, especially the remarkable claim “that there is precious little reliable knowledge” in the targeted hard core. This is to deny the epistemic progress marked by blinded trials, advances in statistical measurement, even the rather low level theoretical applications of Newtonian physics. All of which makes one wonder what the fundamental project is all about and how we are to make the most charitable sense of its formulating thesis.

I may be in full agreement with arguments for a level playing field. I may even have a tendency to appreciate a wide range of the more radical conclusions the fundamental project would propose, if not the premises used to reach those conclusions.

But, as an epistemologist of science, I am bound to respond to the feminist project, that is, to feminist theory as it moves out of humanistic studies and extends itself to science and the foundations of knowledge, by which I mean: to assess the validity and the soundness of the arguments for the conclusions feminists purport to show. Conclusions may be grand, but one ought to accept conclusions on the basis of good arguments only. And my remarks are directed, in the first instance, against the arguments. But it would be impossible for me, in the scope of a single essay, to assess the full range of the feminist project, or even the complete array of feminist arguments concerning science and knowledge.

So I propose to limit my remarks to the best arguments. By best, I mean to pick out arguments based on two criteria:

(1)Arguments which are well-formulated. (This rules out a certain swathe of the feminist critique, namely feminist contributions that self-consciously eschew argumentative form.)
(2) Arguments that present a serious or a radical challenge to the epistemic foundations of knowledge. (After all, if not a serious challenge, i.e., if not genuinely different and demonstrably better, then why bother?)

Based on these criteria, I focus on Professor Sandra Harding’s arguments, particularly as found in her recent book Is Science Multicultural? Postcolonialisms, Feminisms, and Epistemologies (1988). Harding’s arguments have the benefit of being prominent among those arguments most often cited by feminists themselves as evidence for the thesis that this fundamental project will make a significant contribution to philosophical foundations. In other words, what I am trying to do now is an initial step, namely, to motivate the fundamental project. This requires proponents to show evidence of the alleged distortions and perversions. If we cannot establish first that there are distortions and perversions, then this fundamental project is a non-starter.

As we will see, Professor Harding’s ideas about the foundations of knowledge range from the sociopolitical to the high arcana of haute epistemics. At the moment, we are concerned with the latter end of the spectrum. This is to say that at this end, or in this mode of argumentation, Harding questions the very rationality of knowledge claims in the “hard core”, and so her work is a fitting place to begin.

The Feminist Challenge

Harding’s arguments about the very nature of science and rationality concern me here exclusively. In other words, I want to emphasize the disclaimer: I am not considering any range of Harding’s arguments that may serve to garner fair play for women. This is important, but it is not my brief here.

Given the impressive range of Harding’s publications (which began to make their mark by the 1970s), my concern is narrow, but justified, on the basis of Harding’s own insistence that she intends to address fundamental epistemic categories at the hard core, and to do so in a manner she takes to be friendly to science and rationality. By this, Harding means to say that her argumentation is a friendly critique that aims to improve the “hard core” of knowledge.

Harding contends that the feminist project will do better than extant methods to achieve common cognitive aims. By way of an example, the particular cognitive aim that is a steady focus in Harding’s critique (and in her replacement epistemology) is the cognitive aim for beliefs and theories that have high evidentiary warrant based upon objective standards of rationality.

The feminist project then, at least for Harding, does not question either the possibility or the desirability of scientific rationality. The project does question the notion that philosophy of science has embodied or can embody rationality, unless those aims and epistemic goals associated with the feminist project embody the fundamental nature of the epistemology of science. Expressed in this way, as a dichotomy, it is plain that Harding intends to argue that the feminist project provides necessary conditions for science and rationality. And, I will try to show that Harding intends also to state sufficient conditions (namely, being a woman, and thus having a woman’s standpoint on nature).

To begin to assess matters, let me scale down the ambitions of the grand feminist project. Let us focus the discussion solely on Harding’s express aim (and promise) to improve science. As I take it then, with respect to this slightly streamlined goal, the feminist project makes two promises:

Promise (1): The feminist project will provide a comparatively better theory for the justification of scientific belief.

Thus, we ought to expect the feminist project to have a distinctive and demonstrably improved means for warranting sentences that purport to reflect features of the world.

Promise (2): The feminist project will provide a distinctive and demonstrably better methodology aimed to guide future inquiry toward its epistemic aims.

Thus, we ought to expect the feminist project to retain and satisfy the epistemic and methodological value placed on a normative role for any theory of knowledge. This reminds us to invoke a criterion of minimum adequacy: that the theory gives standards that justify what is believed and what should be believed in science. We – epistemologists of science – want more than merely correct descriptive accounts of scientific belief and method. Correct descriptive accounts surely are necessary, but they are not sufficient to fill out the epistemology of science.

With this backdrop of epistemic desiderata, here are important points for consideration, that are made in Harding’s (1998) book:

Women and men in the same culture have different “geographical” locations in heterogeneous nature, and different interests, discursive resources, and ways of organizing the production of knowledge from their brothers. Here [in this book] the focus is on gender differences, on the reasons why it is more accurate and useful to understand women and men in any culture as having a different relationship to the world around them. (90)

The issue is…about the resources that starting off research from women’s lives can provide for increasing human knowledge of nature’s regularities and the underlying causal tendencies anywhere and everywhere that gender relations occur. (90)

In many ways they [women and men; or perhaps I should say, persons of different gender] are exposed to different regularities of nature that offer them different possible resources and probable dangers and that can make some theories appear more or less plausible than they do to those who interact only with other environments. (96)

When science is defined in terms of these linked meanings of objectivity and masculinity,…science itself is distorted. (139)

Standpoint approaches can show us how to detect values and interests that constitute scientific projects…Standpoint approaches provide a map, a method, for maximizing a “strong Objectivity’ in the natural and social sciences. (163)

Based on these passages, I take it that Harding hypothesizes that women have a special insight into causal regularities, the very bedrock of science, which can improve science by boosting objectivity. As we read, it is “more accurate” to understand persons of different gender as “having a different relationship to the world”. This different relationship, in the case of women, “can provide for increasing human knowledge”, and we are told specifically that the kind of knowledge Harding has in view is “nature’s regularities and underlying causal tendencies”. So, the different relationship to the world enjoyed by women and on the basis of which knowledge can be increased is set in a different causal nexus where women are “exposed to different regularities of nature”. And, finally, we are told that the different, gendered geography, will “detect values and interests”, presumably otherwise not detected, and this in turn will produce “a strong Objectivity”, “in the natural and social sciences [emphasis added, for the reason that many interpreters of Harding say that Harding’s hypothesis does not encompass natural science, yet here Harding directly belies claims to narrow the scope of her project].”

There are many interesting issues embedded in the hypothetical expressed here (that women have a special insight into causal regularities in virtue of their geography/gender), and the arguments that surround it. The point I want to call attention to, is that throughout these passages Harding’s substantive content asserts an empirical hypothesis about women and knowledge, or – because the fundamental project is about science – about women and the epistemic goals of science. (For the purpose of this essay, we will have to not raise the question of how it is that the fundamental feminist project speaks for women or for feminists. It is a murky issue to understand how the categories of women and feminists do, or do not, overlap.) After all, as Harding writes, if we start off research from women’s lives, then the promised result is “knowledge of nature’s regularities and their underlying causal tendencies.” It seems only right to assess these theory-linked events as an empirically testable, hypothetical statement about a means-to-end relation, that asserts there to be an emergent, epistemic boost, to be gained by the feminist project. And remark carefully: the scope of the hypothetical (linking women, insight, causal regularities, boosted objectivity) is not across anything so narrow as “women’s issues”, but instead to nature’s regularities across the natural and the social sciences. Ambitious. But, so any challenge to traditional epistemology ought to be.

Recall that, as we understand the feminist project, the cognitive aims of science, are not in question. However, the feminist project questions the efficacy of traditional methods to achieve these aims. Harding is explicit about this: the feminist project will change methods, doing so by an infusion of “women’s standpoints on nature.” To consider how the feminist project fares then is to assess the strength of the claim that women’s standpoints promote a (comparatively) better methodology to achieve just those cognitive aims that traditional epistemology itself values. Understood in this manner, that women’s standpoints promote a comparatively better methodology – Harding’s arguments are impressive for the methodological promise they make that the very goals and values enunciated by traditional epistemology are better served by the feminist project.

So then, how fares this project? There is just one point to make. The sole point is that we must remain agnostic about its evidentiary merits or demerits. This is because we are without evidence to test the hypothesis: certainly, we have no data that would test the strength of the hypothesis as asserting a causal relationship between women and cognitive ends. Thus, any self-respecting epistemologist who places a premium on evidence-driven belief and justification ought not to accept the hypothesis. By extension, there is no reasoned basis to draw any definitive conclusion about the project itself. No matter how self-evidently correct or right-headed the project may appear, epistemic propriety demands that doxastic commitment be delayed, one way or another, until there is data. At this time, there is none. (Querying exactly why adherents to the fundamental project have not engaged in empirical trials that might provide support for the thesis that feminist epistemology of science should replace traditional epistemology of science is not an easy task, and a task made all the more difficult when, as too often is the case, feminists claim to provide such support when, in fact, purely descriptive narratives are all that are provided. Given the time frame, some argue that the complete lack of normative support for the thesis is sufficient to reject it. At any rate, I prefer to maintain the moderate, agnostic stance toward the thesis and toward Harding’s hypothesis.)

Special Cases

So far, my reservations concerning the feminist project may appear to be selective, based on a too narrow range of feminist argumentation. Or, my reservations may appear too broad, in that I have not taken into consideration what is said to be a rich, widely ranging spectrum of particular arguments that either individually or as a programmatic group prove the hypothesis that underlies the fundamental project and, doing even more, trace the new, and improved, epistemology that the fundamental project makes possible.

I surely have no intention to give short shrift to the argumentative strength of the full range of feminist critique of science, in so far as arguments are provided. And it is argument that we need, not either anecdotal report or historical narrative (which is not to deny that in the long run anecdote and history are important elements of a philosophy of science; but these elements must not substitute for the usual apparatus of epistemology that supports methodological advice and a means to justify belief). So to forestall the charge that I fail to do justice to the feminist critique, let me now cite noted feminist contributions other than Harding’s.

Lorraine Code and New Epistemological Categories

The first set of arguments I wish to examine are those by Lorraine Code (What Can She Know? Cornell University Press 1991). Here we get something slightly different from Harding.

As long as ‘epistemology’ bears the stamp of the postpositivist, empiricist project of determining necessary and sufficient conditions for knowledge and devising strategies to refute skepticism, there can be no feminist epistemology. [These conditions] are inimical to feminist concerns on many levels: ontological, epistemological, moral, political. Ideals central to the project-ideals of objectivity, impartiality, and universality are androcentrically derived. Their articulation maps onto typical middle-class white male experiences…(314)

This of course is blatant heresy, in its implicit recommendation for a nearly unrecognizable theory of knowledge. But that does not mean it is wrong. (Nonetheless, I am reminded of a remark that if science is androcentric, then this is the best endorsement for androcentrism that one can find.) In any case, noting that Code’s view audaciously rejects pretty much all that is near and dear to the heart of epistemologists, does not duly respond to the implicit challenge Code makes as against traditional epistemological categories. so, let us now look with seriousness.

If Code’s reasoning intends to support the conclusion that the epistemology of science ought to be based on feminist categories (for now, let us leave this to be defined as the negation of whatever belongs to white male categories), then Code’s reasoning commits a patent non sequitur. This is because, even if epistemology is exactly as Code says it is, it does not follow that feminist epistemology must or can replace it; perhaps astrology ought to replace it. But Code has more to say:

I contend that mainstream epistemology, in its very neutrality, masks the fact of its derivation from and embeddedness in a specific set of interests: the interests of a privileged group of white men. (ix,x)

There is no arguing against the claim that men, in general, are guilty of oppressive practices as against women, in general. But from this truism, how are we to demarcate a “white male point of view” regarding either women or epistemological principles? We can state facts about white men as a group, but where is the evidence to warrant assertions about white men and epistemic categories, or about white men, epistemology and women? We would be better off looking to link members of identifiable economic groups with corresponding ideologies, although even success in this kind of project notoriously falls short of showing causal connections. Still, overall, socioeconomic categories are better predictive factors than gender.

A point in Code’s favor is that she rejects any turn to essentialism, because to do so, she writes, “would risk replicating the exclusionary, hegemonic structures of the masculinist epistemology…”(316). However, here too, Code’s reasoning moves to an irrelevant conclusion. For where is the evidence to show that a single theory of knowledge, even hegemonic male epistemology, does always and will always exclude real alternatives to it? Instead, science or its history seems to be punctuated by white males as agents of scientific change, if not progress.

Perhaps Code’s remarks are intended to be a call for sensitivity to various kinds of knowers (what Harding, for example, calls a multicultural standpoint). Perhaps women have distinctive capacities (such as, as some have suggested, a generalized, special sensitivity to distress calls), unique developmental circumstances that we are able to show are not shared by males. (These developmental circumstances would map nicely onto Sandra Harding’s concept of “different geographical locations” as between genders.) Gender differences may be a significant mark in human knowing: (some) women may exemplify a distinctive mode of knowledge. But how distinctive? Is this what it says it is, women’s way of knowing, or may men aspire to it? Is its presence, or non-presence, uniform across gender categories? The difficulty is this: how do we know? which is to ask: how can we test, one way or the other? One looks in vain for an answer.

Helen Longino and Communitarian (Intersubjective) Epistemology

Now, let me next turn to arguments by philosopher and historian of science Helen Longino. I would want to make clear that my remarks are directed to Longino’s contributions to philosophy and epistemology of science only, not to her involvement in any historical projects concerning science, where she has contributed a rich, and richly done, variety of materials.

Helen Longino’s recent book, The Fate of Knowledge, is advertised as proceeding on the premise that philosophers downplay social forces, whereas sociologists emphasize them, but that both assume mistakenly that social forces are solely a source of bias and irrationality. As all philosophers of science know, it is sheer caricature to presume such a dichotomy, as between philosophers and sociologists, although I have not the time in these remarks to argue this point. (It is worth noting that philosophers have themselves been the ones to spill much ink over the role that may be played by arational factors in science.) However, more importantly, the book is advertised to do far more than rehearse a potted story about philosophy of science.

Helen Longino challenges this assumption [that is, the propriety of the questionable dichotomy, not that there is a dichotomy], arguing that social interaction actually assists us in securing rationally based knowledge. This insight allows her to develop a new account of scientific knowledge that integrates the social and cognitive. (Princeton University Press advertisement, Philosophy of Science, Vol69 No. 1, March 2002, p171)

I want to focus my remarks on the putative insight, viz. “that social interaction actually assists us in securing rationally based knowledge” and that this insight allows Longino “to develop a new account of scientific knowledge”. If successful, Longino will satisfy one of the early adequacy conditions we placed on the fundamental project.

There are two claims here. In the first instance, Longino appears (as stated in the quote from the blurb) to have resolved the question that most vexes me, namely, how, if at all, do social factors boost our efforts to justify scientific belief? But let me delay discussion of this point for a moment and turn to the second instance.

Let me make a brief interjection. I hasten to say that not all communitarianisms in science are a bad thing. Francis Bacon made a valiant effort to incorporate community into the new learning with his New Atlantis. And even Charles Sanders Peirce placed special epistemic and methodological emphasis on the community of scientific believers.

Returning to the blurb. In the second instance, we have the assertion that Longino develops a new account of scientific knowledge. Just as before (when we considered Harding), we want to know how the new epistemology does a better job of justifying science and its practice. This is to ask questions such as, what old problems does the new epistemology resolve? what comparatively better predictive force does the new epistemology have? and so forth through the familiar range of questions about science and its practice.

However, in this book, it appears that Longino continues to work with a communitarian epistemology, or what she calls an intersubjective basis for the methodology of belief justification. This is to say that, in her view, the ultimate justifier for any claim to know is the community of believers. The difference to remark upon is that Longino’s epistemology of science is one where consensus is community-driven, whereas the epistemology that Longino’s arguments aim to replace is one where consensus is evidence-based. This ought to bring into sharp contrast the difference. For, regardless of how a communitarian style epistemology may be dressed up, in the end, the community is the final arbiter of belief. There is, even in the long run, no objectively compelling ground for belief, only grounds for a particular community. In her own words: []justification is] “dependent on rules and procedures immanent in the context of inquiry” (92). This stance evades a pernicious relativism (if, in fact, it does) not by appeal to normative epistemology, but by appeal to normative sociology.

In any case, does Longino show that social interaction assists us in securing knowledge? To say, merely, that social interaction contributes to the success of science is an idea that is neither new, nor the special provenance of persons outside philosophy. (Cf. David Hull (1988), Science as a Process. Larry Laudan (1984), Science and Values.) David Hull, and others, all have worried about the ways in which sometimes grubby motives produce scientifically noble ends. This is to say that over and over again, philosophers of science such as Hull, Laudan, Lakatos, and even Feyerabend, all worry the question of how historical and cultural contexts have contributed to the development, evaluation, and acceptance of theories. (Indeed, in 1984, only one year apart from the “fundamental project” manifesto, Richard Boyd dubbed this kind of philosophy “social constructivism”.)

But if we want to understand “contributes to” in the sense of providing an epistemic boost, then we need to show that we do (or can do) better science by means of this intersubjective deliberation. And we would show this on the basis of isolated and tested-for social factors. In other words, we have to once and for all place this idea, that there is some new epistemological category, into our epistemic cross-hairs, and then see what the testing process reveals. It has not been done.

Let me mention briefly a recent effort to argue that social interaction contributes in a positive way to science. This is K. Brad Wray’s essay, “The Epistemic Significance of Collaborative Research”, published in Philosophy of Science last year. (Philosophy of Science, V69 No. 1, March 2002, pp150-168.) Here Wray attempts to test the causal role that collaboration plays in science, by testing the epistemic effect that collaboration has in accessing the scarce resources that are needed to carry out research. Wray’s test thesis is that collaboration ought to demonstrably boost realizing epistemic goals over scientists or teams that do not collaborate. (This is, in addition, a nice take on a communitarian thesis.) Wray intends to show that by collaborating as research teams, scientists have greater success in accessing scarce resources needed to carry out research and this success in turn enables them to realize the epistemic goals of science more effectively than scientists who do not collaborate.

Wray’s arguments bring together a vast array of research. To summarize the aim of his project, he writes:

Ideally, it would be useful to have information on specific research groups, showing increased productivity after collaboration, followed by greater funding, which in turn would be followed by continued collaboration. Unfortunately, at present, such data are not available. (158-9)

So, in the end, Wray is able to trace a social trend in the practice of science, but not able to show an epistemological effect based on the trend. He admits that he finds no evidence for boost due to collaboration. Indeed, despite valuable insights brought together in this essay, Wray’s conclusions float completely free of the epistemology of science. While Wray makes a fairly interesting case that there is an identifiable, and even well-tracked, causal connection between a rise in collaborative research and funding success, this conclusion does not run to the epistemic import of collaboration and scientific aims.

Let me recapture now the focus on Helen Longino’s arguments. Longino provides a pretty good case study for feminist epistemology of science. And here I do not want to be misunderstood: for on one hand, we have Longino qua philosopher of science, on the other hand we have Longino’s philosophical arguments qua feminist. Considered in the latter guise only , how, if at all, do Longino’s arguments boost the epistemic success of science?

Longino’s focus is on evidence and the concept of objectivity. She relativizes evidence to background beliefs and on this basis says that she shows both the opportunity and need for a feminist critique of evidence. In other words, Longino argues (1) that background beliefs are tainted with bias, but (2) if we were to use better background beliefs, then we will likely have better science.

But, how is it peculiarly feminist to decry (distorting) bias in background belief? Everyone allows that our beliefs are warranted against a background, and everyone aims for this background to be unbiased to the extent possible (or, of course, if the bias boosts, then to maximize its presence and impact).

Moreover, the history of philosophy of science simply does not support the claim that feminists, or women, have any special claim on “rooting out sexist bias’ in science.

Along with other feminist philosophers of science, Longino needs to show what remains still not done: that our scientific understanding of objects in the world is improved (boosted) when voices from a specific political or social-or gendered, or marginalized–position participate.

Conclusion: A Plea for Methodology

Despite volumes written in the name of the feminist project, and conclusions drawn on the strength of the hypothesis that the feminist project will boost progress toward cognitive aims associated with science and rationality (and, one might add, policy decisions enacted in the name of these aims), the whole rationale for the feminist fundamental project remains (after twenty years, plus) wholly unsubstantiated.

Since that time when advocates of the feminist project claimed to discover that “there is precious little reliable knowledge” at the “hard core,” and they then began to advance what I have called the boost hypothesis, no tests have been made to support the hypothesized connection as between women and the cognitive ends of science.

Without question, there is a wealth of anecdotal reportage, and a whole lot of desire to promote women’s involvement across all fields of inquiry, in particular within science. But anecdote and desire do not provide the kind of evidentiary warrant that should be relevant to an assessment of the feminist project. As matters stand, the hypothesis rallies only those already converted to it – a situation that is no boon to rationality!

More, reliance on anecdotal reportage represents a step back by way of testing hypotheses. And, as for the sociopolitical gains made to secure a level playing field on behalf of women, these gains were achieved on the basis of compelling data. It would be nothing short of a self-defeating maneuver for women to advert to standards of proof that undercut the reasoned grounds for these past gains.

I return again and again to questions about methodology and justification, and raise and re-raise objections about lack of empirical support, just because feminist philosophical arguments make empirically based assertions about science and women or gender.

In one sense, my refrain is made in the interest of a simple concern for good scholarship: if any author makes an empirically based claim, then the author is bound to provide supporting evidence. I fail to find substantiating, empirically based evidence, anywhere in this literature.

But, so what? Why ought this to be of any great concern? The reason is this:

Science is not so much a particular subject matter as it is a kind of methodology for obtaining reliable knowledge. And it is when we are concerned with methodology: ‘what methods ought we adopt to achieve our aims?’ that the fundamental feminist project is so unimpressive.

On its face, there is a whole lot of common sense to the notion that more women doing science will make science better. But intellectual history is riddled with commonsensical notions that careful scrutiny reveals to be misguided. And, even worse, intellectual history includes an encyclopedia of public policy decisions, taken on the basis of misguided common sense or skewed evidence, most often to the detriment, the peril even, of society.

For myself, I have the usual level of self-interest: I delight at the prospect that public policy be rewritten to encourage and to privilege women in hard core disciplines. However, my self-interest is tempered by a sense of epistemic value, namely the value of evidence-based public policy. So, before endorsing public policy that would flow logically from the feminist fundamental project, the evidence base that would undergird the fundamental project must be available to be assessed. Yet, it is not.

And so, we are back to our starting point. If it is correct to view science as a methodology, then it follows that this fundamental project is a dismal failure, for the reasons that there are no results unique to it (which is to say that there are no new facts) and that there surely is no new, even different, methodology that is correctly said to be uniquely feminist.

This article originated as a lecture for the Fifth International Conference of the German Society for Analytic Philosophy and will be published by MENTIS in the GAP.5 Volume (forthcoming, 2004). Cassandra Pinnick is a professor of philosophy at Western Kentucky University and Executive Secretary of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science. Her book (edited with Noretta Koertge and Robert F. Almeder) Scrutinizing Feminist Epistemology, has recently been published.

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