WCPA: Vancouver, 2014


Panel Discussion: Gender and Race in Early Modern Philosophy: Prejudice, Autonomy, Community

Amy Schmitter (UofA): Cartesian Prejudice and Poulain de Barre.

Poullain de Barre: everything written by men about women must be considered suspect. They are both plaintiff and judge.

Prejudice is bred of habit. We have a prejudice in favor of habit. Prejudice (df): belief made rashly or without proper epistemic support. Gain cognitive inertia; extremely hard to dislodge.

P de B: “the mind has no sex.” Men are physically stronger, but men and women are intellectually equal. Apparent female flaws caused by women’s education.

Contra Descartes’ method of truth, both the educated and non-educated base their beliefs on prejudice.

P de B warns his audience to expect to see women in men’s roles. Tries to normalize equal status; undermine current views. de Bouvoir’s “One” and the “Other” mirrors Cartesian dualism.

Lisa Shapiro (SFU):Gabrielle Suchon Status of Women and the Invention of Autonomy

Celibacy: the state of being voluntarily unmarried, without commitment, indifference, power to accept some other state, act of will. “Professions” as institutions, typically with no way out. “States” as forms of life.

celibacy is a commitment to a state of life. But it allows one the freedom to choose other forms of life. This is neutralism. The neutralist devises her own code of conduct.

Suchon on the status of women: professions available to women (marriage and religious vocation) restrict their options. Freedom and self-determination is a third choice.

Ann Levey: Hume on moral community and race. Hume says the soul foundation of morality is utility. Hume’s thought experiment regarding a fictional species that cannot harm humans, he says, implies that such a species would have no rights. Said to exclude Africans, native Americans, and women. Hume says no race except whites has managed to erect a civilized society.

For Hume, justice is honesty and respect for property. Both require rules to determine when this behaviour is required. These rules derive out of human experiments in social life. so this partly rescues Hume from charges he would exclude natives, blacks, and women on the grounds that they are weaker in some way. Society augment our abilities, helping us rise above our limitations. Maybe we granted moral standing to NA natives not because they were a threat, but because they were useful allies against other European powers.


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