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Part 1, Question 1: Compare and contrast two of the three standpoint theories
covered in class, i.e., Harding, Collins, and/or Wylie's different versions of
standpoint theory. 

In this paper I will demonstrate key similarities and substantial differences
between Sandra Harding's and Patricia Collins' standpoint theories. I will
compare and contrast them with respect to the three primary elements of any
standpoint theory. First, I will examine their notions of what constitutes a
situated knower. Then, I will explain what the domain of knowledge is for each
of the two theorists. Finally, I will explain each of Harding's and Collins'
ideas about who are epistemically disabled.

Harding and Collins have distinct but similar views about what it means to be a
situated knower. On Harding's view, a situated knower is "embodied and visible"
(Harding, 63) and this is because the lives that they live are present and
manifest in the results of their thoughts and ideas (63). They are also
fundamentally not distinct from objects of knowledge; situated knowers are in
the same field of objects of knowledge as things that can be known are in (64).
This is not so distinct from Collins' view. Collins claims that "for ordinary
African-American women, those individuals who have lived through the experiences
about which they claim to be experts are more believable and credible" (Collins,
759). This is because there is a difference between having knowledge and having
wisdom. Collins claims that "knowledge without wisdom is adequate for the
powerful, but wisdom is essential to the survival of the subordinate" (759). On
Collins' view, African-American women are the subordinates who require
credibility to make knowledge claims (759). However, Collins and Harding diverge
on their ideas about the reality these situated knowers experience. For Harding,
"the subject of liberatory feminist knowledge... must also be the subject of
every other liberatory knowledge project" (Harding, 66). That is to say,
feminists and feminist knowledge will be required to understand race, class, and
sexuality and how all of these different things construct the other (66). For
Harding, there has to be a dialogue between knowers to produce knowledge.
Collins is different from Harding on this point. To Collins, black women have a
strikingly different material reality than white women do. Indeed, she states
that "African-American women, as a group, experience a different world than
those who are not Black and female" (Collins, 747). Black women have a
"self-defined standpoint on their own oppression" (747) and their distinctive
experiences of their world construct a very different kind of world in which
they work, learn, and live.  While Harding requires a dialogue between situated
knowers, Collins finds this dialogue fundamentally impossible. There is a kind
of incommensurability between white women and black women. Collins says that
"while white women may value the concrete, it is questionable whether white
families... and white community institutions provide comparable types of
support... [and Black men] cannot participate in Black women's sisterhood"
(763). Collins in fact claims that it is a necessary prerequisite to live life
as an African-American woman to produce Black feminist thought because of the
situated nature of Black women's knowledge (770). Not only are Collins and
Harding similar with respect to what it means to be a situated knower, but they
also have similarities and differences about their domains of knowledge.

Harding and Collins have clear similarities and differences with respect to the
domain of inquiry their standpoint theories apply to. For Harding, strong
objectivity requires that the subject of knowledge be located in the same plane
as the object of knowledge (Harding, 69). This objectivity and strong
reflexivity are manifested in the domains in which situated knowers inquire: in
employing the scientific method in research projects, "from the perspective of
those whose lives have been marginalized by [scientific] communities" (69). Only
in coming together through dialogue in research can situated knowers analyze
their experiences and ideas to create historically and experientially accurate
knowledge about the lives of marginalized groups and individuals (68). For
Collins, on the other hand, knowledge is generated by situated knowers only
insofar as they uncover their oppression. The oppression of marginalized groups
carves out their material reality they experience as knowers and gives them a
unique set of material conditions from which they can produce situated knowledge
(Collins, 756). Indeed, Afrocentric feminist epistemology is significant in
virtue of the fact that it allows "understanding of how subordinate groups
create knowledge that enables them to resist oppression" (757). As this
knowledge base and resistance is what defines the material conditions
experienced by situated knowers, on Collins" view the domain of inquiry is
relegated to that of resistance and knowledge of one's own oppression and
oppressive world as a subordinate. These ideas on situated knowledge and domains
of inquiry allow Harding and Collins to have similar and contrasting ideas on
the concept of epistemic disablement.

Harding and Collins both have a concept of epistemic disablement and claim it is
rooted in having a privileged position in society. Harding's standpoint theory
requires that standpoints stem from women's or marginalized people's
perspectives.  This is because those in the dominant group are epistemically
disabled. She claims that "it is relatively easy to see that overtly racist,
sexist, classist, and heterosexist claims have the effect of insisting that the
dominant culture is superior" (Harding, 60). She goes on to say that only those
who are members of the powerful groups of these societies whose social
hierarchies arise out of sexism, racism, and heteronormativity would see these
kinds of claims as universal and generalizable (60). The inability of these
privileged communities to eliminate their innate values and biases from their
scientific practices makes them less objective in their knowledge production and
indeed, yields a serious epistemic disability in this respect (70). Indeed,
Harding says that "the starting point of standpoint theory is that in societies
stratified by race, ethnicity, class, gender, [and] sexuality... politics
shaping the very structure of society, the activities of those at the top both
organize and set limits on what persons who perform such activities can
understand about themselves and the world around them... the natural world [is]
not visible" (54). The people who define the normal conditions and standards of
life at the top of this stratification are unable to see the world for how it is
to other people. Likewise, Collins makes similar claims about the epistemic
disablement of the dominant class in her standpoint theory. She claims that the
experiences of African-American women generate a distinctive black feminist
consciousness concerning their own material reality and the conditions in which
they live (Collins, 748). Indeed, the subordinate group in a society has a
completely different set of experiences of their world, and Collins claims that
this provides them with a different set of tools for navigating their world
(772). For the African-American woman, because of their position as laborers,
they have an intimate knowledge of the aspects of society the privileged class
is unaware of; they know where the food is made and how the clothes are sewn,
and it wasn't by some "good fairy or spirit" (748) as those who are
epistemically disabled may believe it to be.

In summary, Collins and Harding have comparable yet strikingly dissimilar
standpoint theories. While their positions on there being a situated knower are
similar in how the subject of knowledge is also an object of knowledge, the
constitution of the material reality and conditions experienced by the knower in
both theories have a different composition. Likewise, both have particular
domains of inquiry for generating knowledge, the domains themselves are distinct
and separate, one being from the perspective of generating and doing research
and the other in understanding one's own oppression. Finally, both Harding and
Collins share very similar viewpoints on the concept of epistemic disablement,
with both being rooted in the dominant class or group being unable to see their
own position's innate assumptions and values as the normal state of affairs or
indeed, really understanding how the world operates from other people's

Part 1, Question 2: Helen Longino's 4 criteria for a transformative, critical
discourse (112) sparked a great deal of debate in feminist epistemology, e.g.
the debate between Rolin and Intemann. Summarize with detail the debate between
Rolin and Intemann over Longino's criteria for a transformative, critical

The primary feature of the debate between Rolin and Intemann is whether or not
Longino's four criteria for a transformative, critical discourse constitutes a
feminist epistemology. In this paper I will explain the debate between both
authors and their positions. Longino's four criteria for a transformative
discourse are that there are (i) publicly recognized forums for criticism, (ii)
theories must respond to dissent or criticism (accountability), that there be
(iii) publically recognized standards (normativity), and finally that there is
(iv) an equality of intellectual authority (Longino, 112). Intemann criticizes
Longino's account from the position that a Millian science is too value-neutral
and thus it cannot be a feminist theory. Rolin responds to this kind of
criticism by arguing that the requirements on scientists engaging in discourse
to argue for and defend their default entitlements, along with Longino's
criteria, allow for the accountability required to support feminist values.

Intemann criticizes Longino's theory on the grounds that it isn't a feminist
theory. She claims that Longino's account of ideal science is a version of
Millian, democratic science (Intemann, 114). Longino's system, with a proper
structuring of the "marketplace of ideas" (114) through her fourth criterion,
provides a way in which all ideas of merit are heard, especially from
minorities, and the standards scientists are held to provide a way in which they
are able to make their practice more objective (115). The problem, Intemann
says, is with the foundation of Longino's theory being built out of Millian
science, which cannot "fully serve feminist aims" (119). Indeed, Millian science
is 'value-neutral', as it does not privilege any particular kind of ethical or
political value, feminist or not (119). In this way, these background values
scientists have serve only to achieve a "critical evaluation of background
assumptions" (120), but it is exactly this endorsement of neutrality which
allows competing individual values to appear and thrive in their participation
in scientific communities. On Longino's view, Intemann claims, scientists with
sexist and racist values will hold equal intellectual authority, and even though
feminist scientists may see the positions of these scientists as unjustified,
they will be necessarily allowed into the ideal scientific community by
Longino's fourth criterion (120-121). While Longino's third criterion could be
argued as a way to strip intellectual authority from scientists who hold
unjustified values, this only undermines the value-neutrality of Millian science
by proposing that there are particular values or interests the ideal scientific
community wishes to exclude (122). Likewise, Longino's second criterion cannot
constrain the inclusion of problematic value-holding scientists, as they
frequently revise their views in light of criticism from other scientists. For
instance, creationists revise their understanding of creationism to respect the
evidence revealed by the fossil record (122). Intemann concludes, therefore,
that Millian science’s value-neutrality does not allow for problematic
values to be removed from scientific discourse, and thus as a Millian theory
Longino's four criteria form inadequate grounds for a feminist science. Rolin,
however, disagrees with this conclusion and argues that it indeed can provide a
way for science to hold feminist values. 

Rolin takes on the role of defending Longino's contextual empiricism and four
criteria for a transformative discourse from Intemann's objection.  She says
that Intemann's position claims that "the thesis of social objectivity has
counter-intuitive consequences" (Rolin, 33), those being that all contextual
values are regarded as equally beneficial for the ideal or diverse research and
scientific community. Rolin says that Intemann's criticism is accurate "in that
the thesis of social objectivity requires that knowledge claims be justified in
a well-designed community practice" (33), but that they need not be value or
moral free. Indeed, these background assumptions are encoded in positions put
forward, as scientists are "embedded in liberal democratic societies" and that
"scientific communities are not isolated islands of culture" (41). These values
that scientists maintain are what Rolin calls "default entitlements" (38).
Default entitlements carry with them a defense commitment. In virtue of this
defense commitment, holders of a standard have a duty to "defend, revise, or
abandon" their entitlement when presented with an "appropriate argument" (38).
These are the accountability and normativity requirements of Longino's thesis,
namely the second and third criteria. While the specifics of what constitutes an
appropriate argument are left unsaid, presumably such arguments would be
utilizing particular kinds of moral or social values to point out problematic
assumptions. Indeed, Rolin claims that "feminist moral philosophy provides
plenty of resources for a scientist who finds it necessary to argue for feminist
values or against anti-feminist values" (41). Because of the value-neutrality
allowed by Millian science, certainly feminist values are allowed to enter into
a critical discourse and "it is unlikely that just anything will pass with
respect to moral and social values in a scientific community that fulfills to a
high degree the four norms in Longino's thesis of social objectivity" (41). This
requirement on ideal scientific communities to fulfill the four norms to a high
degree are what allow for feminist values to thrive and, indeed, to reject and
remove anti- or non-feminist values from scientific practices and communities. 

The debate between Rolin and Intemann about Longino's four criteria for a
critical, transformative discourse provides an insight into how democratic
science and the maximization of objectivity is supposed to play out in Longino's
contextual empiricism. The question of whether or not Longino's theory is a
feminist one in virtue of it being a Millian science is an important point that
illuminates key problems in an inclusive scientific community. While Intemann
argues that value-neutrality supports a level playing field for intellectual
authority across spectrums of values, Rolin suggests that a properly understood
set of standards and critical discourse assist in eliminating values from
scientific communities that feminists find problematic. 

Part 2, Question 3: One of the general themes of the readings thus far has been
an emphasis on 'good' and 'bad' science. Articulate one theory of 'good science'
from the standpoint theory readings and a theory of good science from the
'feminist empiricism' readings. How are they similar? How are the different? 

In this paper I will discuss the standpoint theory laid out by Sandra Harding
and the feminist empiricism explained by Helen Longino and compare and contrast
them insofar as they are theories of 'good science'. I will do this by examining
each of their theories along three primary dimensions. First, I will examine
their positions on where claims about knowledge originate from. Second, I will
explain how this knowledge is that of a 'good' science; namely, its character in
having and supporting feminist values. Finally, I will consider how they are
similar with respect to the ways in which their science is carried out and how
it works. 

Harding and Longino have two similar views on who the subject of knowledge is.
Harding says that standpoint theories claim "that all knowledge attempts are
socially situated" (56), with some of these social locations better situated in
the hierarchy of society to produce and answer questions and problems. For the
standpoint theorist, the subjects of knowledge are situated in society, steeped
in the history and knowledge of that society. They are "embodied and visible"
(63), and things one thinks they consider on their own "only gets transformed
from [one's] personal belief to knowledge when it is socially legitimated" (65).
Knowers are situated in their communities and the knowledge claims available to
them. The justifications available are only so in the social class they inhabit.
Insofar as those beliefs are socially legitimated by communities, Longino and
Harding have similar positions. Longino considers ideal scientific communities
to be the primary subject of knowledge. Longino argues that scientific knowledge
isn't constructed by individuals applying some sort of method like in the
traditional epistemology view, but is rather by individuals interacting with
each other, refining and reviewing their observations and hypotheses (Longino,
111).  Scientific knowledge is thus an outcome of a kind of critical dialogue
between communities. These communities are productive of knowledge "to the
extent that it facilitates transformative criticism" (112). This is where
Longino's four criteria for a critical, transformative discourse, those being
(i) publicly recognized forums for criticism, (ii) theories must respond to
dissent or criticism (accountability), that there be (iii) publically recognized
standards (normativity), and finally that there is (iv) an equality of
intellectual authority come into play (112). This view is to be contrasted with
the classical 'view from nowhere' and is, as Longino calls it, better thought of
as "views from many wheres" (113). Harding and Longino then are similar with
respect to their necessity for a dialogue or discourse shaping and refining
ideas and knowledge, but they different with respect to their applicability as a
feminist account of epistemology. 

Harding and Longino have stark contrasts between their positions on what 'good
science' is with respect to feminist values. For instance, on Harding's view, a
feminist standpoint theory begins from the perspective of women's lives (65).
The subject of feminist knowledge, if it is to be a liberatory body of
knowledge, is bifurcated and deeply interrelated to all other women's
standpoints and lives (65-66). Knowledge must be generated not just from one
ideal woman's perspective but rather from all women's perspectives if it is to
"avoid deluding dominant group women about their own situations" and privileging
their positions (67). However, women aren't just the unique generators of
feminist knowledge. Indeed, in order for any kind of analytical dialogue to
occur within communities to change and revise ideas and legitimate knowledge,
men must begin their own inquiries and "contribute distinctive forms of
specifically feminist knowledge from their particular social situation",
beginning from the perspective of women's lives (67). This position has a strong
privileging of a woman's standpoint and starting position in the generation of
feminist knowledge. In Longino's contextual empiricism, however, one does not
see such a strong inclination towards the default position being one of woman.
Indeed, she claims that "what consensus exists [in a dialogic community] must
not be the result of the exercise of political or economic power or of the
exclusion of dissenting perspectives; it must be the result of critical dialogue
in which all relevant perspectives are represented" (Longino, 113). This
intellectual equality is supposed to put all ideas on a level playing field in
the scientific community so that underprivileged and underrepresented ideas and
positions have equal access to scientific forums. However, this position does
not rule out non-feminist or anti-feminist positions from participating in a
scientific community. Indeed, it could be thought to accept their positions
openly into the dialogue and revisionary discourse, in hopes of furthering the
community's knowledge claims through openness and value-neutrality. Longino
recognizes this possible criticism and points out that, while the requirement
for intellectual authority does not forcibly rule out these sorts of positions,
"nature and logic impose constraints" (113). That is to say, this equality does
not allow for any idea to be supported or accepted, but that everyone is able to
participate in the community's scientific practices. But, she recognizes, "it
fails to narrow reasonable belief to a single one among all contenders, in part
because it does not constrain belief in a wholly unmediated way" (113). This is
one of the biggest divergences between Harding and Longino: one is expressly
feminist from the ground-up, demanding a women's perspective be adopted in the
pursuit of generating feminist knowledge, while the other only has mechanisms
that might, if used effectively, strain out anti-feminist values and assumptions
in their scientific projects. However, Harding and Longino begin to share
similarities again in the ways in which their theories are put to use. 

Harding and Longino share similar ideas about how to employ their theories in
scientific communities and knowledge production. Harding argues that her
standpoint theory provides the requisite pieces to maximize the objectivity of
knowledge. In order to maximize objectivity, subjects of knowledge must be
placed "in the same critical, causal plane as the objects of knowledge (Harding,
69). In order to maximize objectivity, because the subjects of knowledge are
situated in a rich history of values and culture, their beliefs must be examined
critically as parts of the objects of knowledge. Thus, a "maximally critical
study of scientists and their communities can only be done from the perspective
of the marginalized" (69). Therefore, scientists and their communities need to
be integrated into democracy-advancing projects, not only for scientific
reasons, but for moral ones. The communication between situated knowers
undertaking scientific projects to answer important questions posed by
marginalized groups is paramount to the success of those research projects. Only
after all of these things are taken into consideration is objectivity maximized
and good science being accomplished, on Harding's view. This idea sounds like an
explicit instance of Longino's theory. While Longino concedes that here theory
is an ideal one, where "these criteria for objective communities represent not a
description of actual scientific communities but a set of prescriptions that are
probably not anywhere satisfied" (Longino, 113). Longino too seeks to create the
fundamentals for more objectivity scientific discourse and discovery. The
primary way in which she puts her ideal theory to use is in her semantic view of
theory. The semantic view is an alternative to the view of theories as "sets of
propositions" and is instead a specification of a set of relations among objects
or processes (114). This theory's adequacy is judged by its ability to relate to
the world. That is to say, the relations posited by the model are mapped onto
some portion of the actual, experienced world (115). These models aid in our
understanding of the world and how we interact with it in a more abstract way.
Thus, 'good science' would be a theory in which the relations posited by our
scientific theory isomorphically maps onto the experienced world in easily
identifiable ways, that "guide our interactions with and interventions in the
world that we seek" (115). Feminist models would enable the model theoretic
conception to point out partialities in current, less feminist-oriented models,
and reveal "some aspect of natural phenomena and processes" that were previously
concealed (116). The key point in all of this is that there is not just one
perfect model-theoretic analysis. Indeed, many models can be generated, and from
"different subject positions" (117). Longino goes on to say that very few of
these models will be solely feminist if they are exclusively gender focused, and
so long as subcommunities within marginalized scientific projects address a
common domain and share standards in common, they must be in critical dialogue
"with those subcommunities identified with more mainstream science" (117). This
sounds incredibly similar to Harding's position on how to maximize the
objectivity of scientific research projects: through communication between not
just mainstream scientists, but necessarily with the marginalized group of
situated knowers. 

In this paper I have considered the similarities and differences between Harding
and Longino's theories insofar as they are representations of 'good science'. I
have considered how they track along three distinct domains.  Harding and
Longino are relatively similar in their construction of scientific and epistemic
communities, both having their knowers steeped in historical and cultural facts
and relationships. However, they become dissimilar with respect to their
strength in claiming to tout a feminist theory, Harding having the stronger of
the two in claiming that their theory is one of liberation. Finally, Longino
proposes a strikingly similar position to the one Harding has about the
maximization of objectivity in scientific practices and community projects,
proposing something that tracks quite closely with the execution of Harding's
community research projects and dialogue between researchers and marginalized


Collins, Patricia Hill. "The Social Construction of Black Feminist Thought."
'Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society' 14.4 (1989): 745-73.

Harding, Sandra. "Rethinking Standpoint Epistemology: What Is 'Strong
Objectivity'?" 'Feminist Epistemologies' (1993): 48-82.

Intemann, Kristen. "Diversity and Dissent in Science: Does Democracy Always
Serve Feminist Aims?" 'Feminist Epistemology and Philosophy of Science' (2011):

Longino, Helen. "Subjects, Power, and Knowledge: Description and Prescription in
Feminist Philosophies of Science." 'Feminist Epistemologies' (1993): 101-120.

Rolin, Kristina. "Contextualism in Feminist Epistemology and Philosophy of
Science." 'Feminist Epistemology and Philosophy of Science' (2011): 25-44.


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