Changing Minds: Pragmatism and Feminism

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Since the 1990s Sally Haslanger has argued that part of the work of philosophers is not to describe a concept like women but to change it in order to help bring about a fairer society. Since, she argues, the definitions of such concepts should be formulated in accordance with an epistemological framework that foregrounds their normative role, the work of feminists is crucial in identifying the legitimate values that such concepts ought to serve and thus what their meanings should be. This paper evaluates Haslanger’s proposal that our values are best served by reducing the concept woman to ‘person subordinated on the grounds of her sex’ by contrasting it with an alternative that draws on Richard Rorty’s early work on the mind-body problem. According to this, the concept women should be subject not to reduction but to elimination, the consequence being that there never were any women.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-62
Number of pages13
JournalPolitical Studies Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2016


  • Sally Haslanger
  • Pragmatism
  • Epistemology
  • Feminism
  • Value Theory

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