Please note: there will be no session in Week 14, first session on 11 April. (will be compensated by writing the exams during the semester break)
Questions about sex and gender are heavily debated in philosophy and society. This course will focus on the metaphysical questions related to gender phenomena. ”Metaphysics is the study of the basic structure of reality, of what there is and what it is like.” (Haslanger and Ásta 2018) So, is gender part of this reality, and if so, in what sense? For example, whales may have some common features that make them members of the kind whale. In analogy, are there features that all members of e.g. the kind man have in common? On the individual level, are gender properties essential to the individual, that is, ”would you be the same individual if you were gendered differently?” (Witt 2011). If there is something which is essential for being e.g. a woman, or if being a woman is essential for being you, the question is what it is. Or are these versions of gender realism all wrong, and should we adopt gender nominalism instead, the view that gender categories are completely constructed and not ‘real’? The debate about such metaphysical questions has recently gained new inputs from nonbinary and genderqueer positions (e.g. Dembroff 2020).
In this course, we will discuss recent philosophical texts dealing with the abovementioned questions. Participants will be asked to answer weekly preparatory questions related to the texts and hand in one essay containing personal reflection and argumentation. The main course language will be English. However, participants will be invited to contribute either in English or German in discussions and their written contributions.
Texts that we will probably discuss:
- Alcoff, Linda Martín (2005), The Metaphysics of Gender and Sexual Difference, in Andrew, B.S., Keller, J., and Schwatzman, L.H. (eds.), Feminist Interventions in Ethics and Politics, Lanham, pp. 17--39.
- Antony, Louise (2020), Feminism Without Metaphysics or a Deflationary Account of Gender, Erkenntnis 85, pp. 529--549.
- Ásta (2018), Categories We Live By, Oxford.
- Dembroff, Robin (2020), Beyond Binary: Genderqueer as Critical Gender Kind, Philosopher's Imprint 20, pp. 1--23.
- Diaz-Leon, Esa (2018), Kinds of Social Construction, in Garavaso, P. (ed.), The Bloomsbury Companion to Analytic Feminism, London, pp. 103--122.
- Jenkins, Katharine (2023), How to Be a Pluralist about Gender Categories, in Halwani, R., Held, J.M., McKeever, N., and Soble, A. (eds.), The Philosophy of Sex. Contemporary Readings (8th ed.), Lanham, pp. 233--259.
- Mikkola, Mari (2006), Elisabeth Spelman, Gender Realism and Women, Hypatia 21, pp. 77--96.
- Spelman, Elisabeth (1988), Inessential Woman, Boston.
- Stoljar, Natalie (2018), Gender and the Unthinkable, in: Garavaso, P. (ed.), The Bloomsbury Companion to Analytic Feminism, London, pp. 123--143.
- Witt, Charlotte (2011), The Metaphysics of Gender, Oxford.
Recommended reading for an overview and situating the seminar topic in a broader context: