Access to the full content is only available to members of institutions that have purchased access. If you belong to such an institution, please log in or find out more about how to order.


Feminist epistemology

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-P020-2
Version: v2,  Published online: 2021
Retrieved June 16, 2024, from

Article Summary

Feminist epistemology can take many forms: as a specialisation in the field of philosophy it addresses the question of how gender and the identity of knowers may be relevant to knowledge: to what counts as knowledge, justification, or true belief. In this guise, it can take the form of standpoint theory, coherentism, new versions of reliablism, epistemic virtue theory, or inquiries into epistemic injustice, the epistemology of testimony, or ignorance. But even as a subfield in philosophy, necessary (though maybe not sufficient) conditions for characterising particular approaches to epistemology as ‘feminist’ are: a) that it take into account the identity of knowers and b) that it challenge or reject the assumption that inquiries that begin with an abstract human subject in an abstract epistemic situation can be generalised to provide either norms for or descriptions of knowledge, justification, and belief formation.

But feminist epistemology is not simply a specialty in professional philosophy; it is a big tent inquiry. It knows no disciplinary boundaries, and reaches outside the academy, addressing concerns that arise not only as intellectual puzzles, but also in the lives of people who are not academics. Work (both theoretical and practical) done by people who are outside the field of professional philosophy draws on and addresses issues that relate to identity, knowledge, justice, persuasion, and social theory, which means that most feminist epistemology is not done as armchair investigations of abstract epistemic puzzles. It is more of an orientation to these areas of human experience than it is a set of theoretical commitments.

Feminist epistemology is a multidisciplinary orientation toward both feminist theory and theories of knowledge which takes as its starting point a commitment to investigating the realms of knowledge, gender, identity, and social hierarchies with a view to an analysis of how they might inform or reinforce each other. Like social epistemologies, feminist epistemologies attend to the ways in which social factors (such as judgments about the reliability or trustworthiness of others) enter into epistemic deliberations, but feminist approaches focus specifically on the ways in which identity categories and gender hierarchies underwrite, and are underwritten by, knowledge and knowing.

Citing this article:
Janack, Marianne. Feminist epistemology, 2021, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-P020-2. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

Related Articles