A life is such a strange object, at one moment translucent, at another utterly opaque, an object I make with my own hands, an object imposed on me, an object for which the world provides the raw material and then steals it from me again, pulverized by events, scattered, broken, scored yet retaining its unity; how heavy it is and how inconsistent: this contradiction breeds many misunderstandings.
THE MAKING OF A LIFE-STORY
In the Interlude that comes between parts I and II of Force of Circumstance, Simone de Beauvoir's third autobiographical volume, she reflects on what a peculiar object a life is. The peculiarity accrues when it is viewed not so much as a thing lived, but rather as an object of ongoing written representation – an object amenable to that double publicity entailed by the telling of one's own life-story in a published memoir. For the author, some of this peculiarity must inevitably be reflected back onto the life lived, because as the project of writing a memoir gets under way and life infuses the page, so will the prospect of the written record begin to infuse the experience of living. Certain experiences will take on the aspect of a theme, certain events the significance of an aberration, a confirmation of a pattern, a turning point, a nemesis, and so on, even while they are being spontaneously lived. We know that even as a little girl, if out of sheer romanticism, Beauvoir thought of her life as a “lovely story” in the making.
This Companion represents a departure from the previously published volumes in its series. Each of those dealt with a single philosopher and with a male one in every case, whereas this one brings women in and treats a theme rather than an authority. So far as the departure allows, this book's principal aim is in line with that of other Companions: it consists of new papers by an international team of philosophers at the forefront of feminist scholarship; and these have been written with non-specialists in mind, so that the collection can serve as an introduction to the area. We have tried to design it to be helpful to any student or teacher of philosophy who is curious about feminism's place in their subject.
The present Companion has a further aim. It is intended to foster appreciation of the potentially far-reaching impact of feminist thinking in philosophy. As departments of women's studies and gender studies have grown up in the last twenty years, there has come to be more and more published work falling under the head of feminist philosophy.
Those Greeks were superficial - out of profundity.
Someone might wonder how there can be feminist epistemology - 'knowledge is simply knowledge, regardless of gender, and that's all there is to it'. There are philosophers of a relativistic mindset, some feminists among them, who would challenge the idea that knowledge is 'simply' knowledge, believing it to be both less and more than it seems. Those, for instance, who regard 'true' as an 'empty compliment' that we pay to propositions we want to endorse, or as part of a philosophical 'discourse of legitimation', will regard 'knowledge' too as a metaphysically empty stamp of approval. Metaphysically speaking, then, they believe knowledge to be less than it seems. But politically speaking, they believe it to be more than it seems; for once their view of knowledge is in place, it is only a small step to the suggestion that propositions approved as knowledge are likely to reflect the perspectives and even serve the interests of those whose social power shapes the practices of approval. Since being female has placed one historically at the less powerful end of gender relations, it would be easy then to see how there could be a role for feminism in the theory of knowledge. Feminism would have a ready-made task in counteracting and protecting against gender bias in the processes and institutions of approval.
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