A Continued Discussion

In the past week, I have focused on Ásta’s article, “The Metaphysics of Sex and Gender.” Specifically, my goal has been to write a sympathetic summary of her interpretation. With this established, I will have a grounding for later criticizing and building upon her work.

As part of my initial drafting, I have written criticisms with short explanations and evidence. One of these criticisms focuses on Ásta’s somewhat negative presentation of Judith Butler’s partly personal motivation for writing Gender Trouble. There is a suggestion that Ásta believes that Butler’s personal experience detracts from her metaphysical theory. Ásta’s comment brings up two points.

Firstly, why do philosophers negatively view other philosophers’ personal motivations in their writings? In the 1990 Preface of Gender Trouble, Butler explicitly addresses her own experiences as a lesbian, a gender nonconforming person, and an activist in the LGBTQIA+ movement. Butler clarifies that the preface is not a full apologia.

Although it may be extreme to claim that all subjects for composition have a personal component, works on sex and gender particularly accompany an autobiographical component. Should the philosophy community allow this ideal of authors striving to divorce their personal experiences from their theories in order to better capture truth or objectivity? Is it extreme or naïve to think that humans’ personal experiences are inextricably interwoven into their theories and that readers should honor the author’s unique experiences, not discount them– within reason? No author alone can write a perfect theory of metaphysics; it is impossible for a human to achieve a godlike view of how things really are. Moreover, there seems to be some arrogance to an author who writes a metaphysical theory and believes she or he solved or completed metaphysics. Instead, competing and complementary theories better get at the truth of things along with a reader’s sympathetic and critical approach.

Secondly, Butler explicitly addresses her own experiences which may partially inform her thoughts; Ásta does not address her own. What are Ásta’s conscious and subconscious motivations for her criticism and theory? Is she aware of them?

Comments

  1. emdavies says:

    I really agree with this, it is impossible for people to be completely unbiased and remove all personal history from affecting how they interact with their work. Instead, personal history should be embraced and seen as a positive for how it can better enhance a writers work and how it brings a unique experience to the field of research and, together with other writers’ histories, can create a holistic view of the current climate and theories.