Research Lines

Women & Philosophy

Summary of the Proposal:

The proposal for an extension project on the theme 'Women in Philosophy' aims, first of all, to fill a serious gap in the way in which Philosophy courses (undergraduate and postgraduate) are structured. In fact, there is an absence of women in philosophy, and this absence can be understood in several senses: a (relative) absence of women in the departments and courses existing in Philosophy; an absence in the reference to female philosophers, in the elaboration of menus and choice of contents; an absence of debate about gender and its essential relation in the process of constitution of the own philosophical activity. In identifying the various dimensions of this absence, it becomes urgent to understand them, to assign them a meaning and to counter the justifications of the existing discourse to their effective legitimacy.

The purpose of this project is threefold: to bring into the visibility of discourse and practice women in Philosophy, i.e. women who make and did philosophy; to think of the relation between absence and invisibility: in fact, we could say that women were never absent from philosophy, but only invisible, forcing us to question why this invisibility; understand the vital importance of the gender issue in the way that Philosophy is constituted as a discipline and as a practice. We hope to bring the debate into the Philosophy course, as well as other undergraduate and postgraduate courses at UFMS, as well as to broaden the discussion about the relations between gender, equality and power to civil society in its different modalities (social movements, unions , NGOs, among others).

Relevant Information for Proposal Evaluation:

The project will be structured in order to promote regular lectures on the general theme of 'Women in Philosophy'; also organizing intensive courses that will create a privileged space for debate on the subject, in an interdisciplinary way, inviting the maturing of the philosophical practice, in its most critical and reflective aspect, of the participants.


Why the theme 'Women in Philosophy' is relevant? Why should we take it for granted? How should we problematize this topic? I think there are at least three possible perspectives of analysis: the first, reflects on the problem of the activity of philosophy made by women. Without entering into what constitutes this activity effectively, and starting from the principle that philosophy is a search for wisdom and a deep dive into reflection on the meaning of things, beginning with the sense of ourselves, I think everyone would agree that this experience - of reflection and search for meaning - is a fundamental experience of human existence, shared by men and women. But then, why do men especially give visibility to this activity? Here we could look at the very history of philosophy and try to identify the ways in which various philosophers - men - justify or legitimize the 'exclusion' of women from this specific and privileged domain of thinking. Looking at history we realize that by convention or social construction, women have been progressively excluded from certain activities, which in some way leads to the current state of affairs and explains it, but does not justify it. But when we say that x (in this case, gender difference) is a social construction, what do we really mean by that? Are we suggesting that x is an illusion, even partial? And if this were the case, would we be suggesting that the question of 'gender' is illusory, fictitious? And the question of 'race', which is also social construction? As Haslanger says, "what is the illusion (if any) and what is the reality in social constructions?" (Haslanger, 2012, p.5) If we look at the texts, we know that they are often used as vehicles of legitimation of racist and / or sexist institutions, and that this legitimation rests on a vision of specific 'human nature' where women and non-whites are inferior. (idem) Rousseau was perhaps the modern author who opened a field of philosophical and social analysis hitherto non-existent, namely, the field of the analysis of society, as a particular object of study. In fact, starting from the premise that nature makes us equal, Rousseau shows that there is no situation of existing or hypothetical domination that can claim any kind of legitimacy, since the logic of domination is only affirmed at the expense of inequality, renunciation and alienation of something that is inalienable - freedom. However, as we also perceive by a close reading of Rousseau, the problem is that inequalities are 'naturalized', they are incorporated as a second nature, which must be deconstructed and then rebuilt again. And this compels us to confront the relationship between social constructions and natural facts. From the gender point of view, this would mean understanding what kind of role this concept plays (and its correlative practices) and what kind of foundation (other than 'human nature') we can give it. As readers of philosophical texts we know that another tendency of men to justify themselves and legitimize their visibility is related to the reason / passion dichotomy in which men would have the monopoly or privilege of reason and women would be more determined by passion or emotion. Thus, we might think that the visible expression of philosophical thought is consolidated in modernity from a debugging of the 'human being', favoring reason over other spheres - which in turn will be the subject of inquiry by authors such as Horkheimer , Adorno, Marcuse, among many others, but that could be taken to the extreme with regard to the price we had to pay for 'rationalization' to the detriment of 'passion'. Finally, just to say that this is a possible approach - that of women's participation in philosophical activity, and the unfolding of this participation in the visibility / invisibility logic; inclusion / exclusion; reason / passion. A second line of inquiry would be the representation of women in philosophy. And here there is also an unfolding: on the one hand, in what way women are represented. The representation presupposes bringing into the presence what is absent, so it would be to perceive in what way women as absence, or as that or that which is absent are represented, and this representation can be made by men or by women. If it is done by men, how can one justify this representation, or in what form is this representation legitimate, if man is different from woman? If it is done by women, the problem is identical, albeit from another angle: how does one, or some women, represent women who remain absent? Here we would have the problem of legitimacy and universality. But in reality these questions open to one, deeper and prior to them: is it possible to offer a theory about 'woman'? Is it possible to postulate a meaning, to attribute meaning to being a woman? How to determine this meaning? And how does this not condition the possible meanings of this same concept and experience, of being a woman? What kind of approach should we adopt to work and reflect on social categories, terms that are complex and open to a perpetual contestation of meaning? This set of questions would refer to a long digression about how social categories are embodied, in the literal sense of being brought into the body, assimilated into the body, translated by the body; and about institutionalized and naturalized subordination and domination schemes. A third line of research would be more empirical, more sociological and political. It would start from an analysis of facts, for example, of how many women there are today in undergraduate and postgraduate philosophy courses, in Brazil and in the World; how many women lead research groups in philosophy; of how many women call themselves 'philosophers'. And here we would be in the last analysis led to the problem of how to read the facts. The natural unfolding of these various lines of research point to the need to create a space where all these issues and problems can be discussed. Therefore, although the theme is 'Women in Philosophy', we realize that we are quickly led to structural problems affecting all individuals - men and women - in particular, how social relations are constituted, justified and perpetuated; the role of discourses in the attempt to legitimize practices; the challenge of constructing subjectivity in the social web defined by power relations, among many others. The course invites a critical and reflexive engagement by students and professors of Philosophy, but extended to all other areas: psychology, sociology, history, education, economics, law, among others.