Book Chapter

Scientific Perspectives, Feminist Standpoints, and Non-silly Relativism


Ashton NA (2020) Scientific Perspectives, Feminist Standpoints, and Non-silly Relativism. In: Crețu A & Massimi M (eds.) Knowledge from a Human Point of View. Synthese Library: Studies in Epistemology, Logic, Methodology, and Philosophy of Science, 416. Cham, Switzerland: Springer, pp. 71-85.

Defences of perspectival realism are motivated, in part, by an attempt to find a middle ground between the realist intuition that science seems to tell us a true story about the world, and the Kuhnian intuition that scientific knowledge is historically and culturally situated. The first intuition pulls us towards a traditional, absolutist scientific picture, and the second towards a relativist one. Thus, perspectival realism can be seen as an attempt to secure situated knowledge without entailing epistemic relativism. A very similar motivation is behind feminist standpoint theory, a view which aims to capture the idea that knowledge is socially situated, whilst retaining some kind of absolutism. Elsewhere I argue that the feminist project fails to achieve this balance; its commitment to situated knowledge unavoidably entails epistemic relativism (though of an unproblematic kind), which allows them to achieve all of their feminist goals. In this paper I will explore whether the same arguments apply to perspectival realism. And so I will be asking whether perspectival realism too is committed to an unproblematic kind of relativism, capable of achieving scientific goals; or, whether it succeeds in carving out a third view, between or beyond the relativism/absolutism dichotomy.

Feminist standpoint theory; Feminist epistemology; Perspectival realism; Relativism

Title of seriesSynthese Library: Studies in Epistemology, Logic, Methodology, and Philosophy of Science
Number in series416
Publication date31/12/2020
Publication date online30/11/2019
Place of publicationCham, Switzerland