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Feminism and psychoanalysis

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-N072-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 22, 2024, from

Article Summary

Broadly speaking, there have been two main types of philosophical response to psychoanalysis. The first sets out to assess the scientific status of Freud’s hypotheses; the second uses the insights of psychoanalytic theory to re-evaluate the status and foundations of philosophy. Feminists in philosophy have overwhelmingly adopted the second stance, which in practice turns the first on its head, since the epistemological basis of science itself becomes a problem from the vantage point of psychoanalytic accounts.

Although in the popular imagination feminism and psychoanalysis are sworn enemies, and many feminists continue to be hostile to Freud, serious feminist engagement with psychoanalysis began with post-1970 feminism in the work of Juliet Mitchell, Luce Irigaray, Dorothy Dinnerstein and Nancy Chodorow. Feminists in philosophy turned to psychoanalysis in an attempt to understand what they perceived as the masculinism of philosophy and its attempt to exclude the feminine. Since psychoanalysis is specifically concerned with issues such as the formation of masculine and feminine identity at the level of the unconscious, it provides a framework for arguing that rationality and knowledge are always unconsciously gendered, thus challenging the self-proclaimed neutrality and universality of philosophy, a claim which feminists had come to see as increasingly suspect.

Citing this article:
Whitford, Margaret. Feminism and psychoanalysis, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-N072-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
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