xphil and male normativity

Kevin Timpe reports, on an xphil blog, that an informal survey of his students shows that their philosophical positions about whether sex is an essential or accidental property are influenced by their own sex. He was surprised to see that many more women than men said it’s an essential property.

This seems to me to confirm some feminist claims about the normativity of maleness — of course women would perceive their sex as an essential property more than do men, given that unusual attention is paid to the sex of women relative to that of men — that women are socially defined by their sex (as different from the perceived male baseline) in a way that men aren’t. It’s natural that this would bleed over into intuitions on questions of metaphysics.

It also suggests some of the value of xphil — not so much in testing the truth of intuitions (how would we do that?) or testing their consistency, or whether the armchair intuition is the same as the folk intuition, but in sorting out social from natural influences on those intuitions (or social influences from, well, direct introspective access to metaphysical/moral truth, contemplation of the forms, whatever implausible epistemic claim you want to make).

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One Response to “xphil and male normativity”

  1. frelkins Says:

    I might be tempted to explore an argument that women’s idea that sex is “essential” is an important part of heterosexual femininity on a psychological level.

    Many people implicitly, I would argue, believe that what is “natural” is also “essential.” Based on this assumption then, what the women are doing may make sense, as they seek what seems like a safe haven on which to hang their gender identification.

    Women may want to found reproduction as an inherent part of their speaking subjectivity, in an effort to discover a place for the maternal body, for their maternal needs.

    Kristeva argued that the maternal body existed outside the two major Western discourses, Christianity and science. She further noted the importance of the figure of the Virgin Mary in moving the body of the mother from nature to culture.

    In a society that may be becoming more post-Christian, women thus try to move the marker back to nature.

    This may appear to give a woman an unassailable rock to support her heterosexual performance, to justify and reify it. Thus Timpe’s finding may point to an important female self-deception.

    Maybe this is too un-PC to say. You tell me, Paul.

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