Friday, April 15, 2011

Clough, Sharyn. Review of Alexandra L. Shuford, FEMINIST EPISTEMOLOGY AND AMERICAN PRAGMATISM . NDPR (April, 2011).

Shuford, Alexandra L.  Feminist Epistemology and American Pragmatism: Dewey and Quine.  London: Continuum, 2010.

Feminist Epistemology and American Pragmatism: Dewey and Quine by Alexandra Shuford is the third in a recent series of books from Continuum that will be of interest to those following debates within feminist epistemology and philosophy of science (the other two books are Rationality and Feminist Philosophy by Deborah K. Heikes, reviewed earlier this year in NDPR, and Objectivity in the Feminist Philosophy of Science by Karen Cordrick Haely). Each of these three books is authored by philosophers new to these debates, consistent with Continuum's mission to "actively seek out the emerging generation." These slim volumes are not inexpensive ($120.00 each and not available in paperback), but each contains something of value.

The strength of Shuford's presentation is her application of Dewey's theory of inquiry to the problem of the high rate of caesarean sections in US hospitals. This latter problem is serious and Shuford's analysis is a welcome addition to feminist attempts to address it. This key chapter, "Feminist Pragmatist Inquiry," is the last of six that also include "Birthing Feminist Pragmatist Epistemologies," "Quine's Naturalized Epistemology," "Antony's Analytic Feminist Empiricism," "Nelson's Holistic Feminist Empiricism," and "Dewey's Theory of Inquiry."

Shuford's main thesis is that Nelson and Antony's feminist use of Quine, though in the right pragmatist spirit, still fails to acknowledge fully the embodied nature of knowing that is captured by Dewey and is necessary for understanding and criticizing phenomena. . . .


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