The Science Question in Feminism. Sandra Harding. 1986

Book jacket: first comprehensive critique.

Harding wants to trace trends in feminist critique, identifying tensions and conflicts, inadequate concepts informing their analysis, unrecognized obstacles and gaps, extensions that would help create emancipatory meanings and practices. (10)

Chapter 1: Five feminist critiques and three feminist epistemological programs.

Harding outlines 3 feminist epistemologies:
feminist empiricism - just require science to use its own methods correctly
standpoint feminism - women ask different, better questions because they are repressed
feminist post-modernism - science is altogether the wrong project, essentialist, universalizing


Chapter 2: problems in the understanding of both science and gender in feminist science criticisms. How these create obstacles to the development of a feminist theory of science. Harding's revision: "more adequate concepts of science and gender"

Science cannot be questioned. Scientific theory rests on these ideas:

Quine gives 2 dogmas of empiricism:
1) a belief in and a split between analytic and synthetic (fact)
2) reductionism: each meaningful statement is equivalent to some logical construct upon terms which refer to immediate experience

Harding: if the below is science, scientists don't do it! And it's not modern anyway. It's a myth.
1) Putting beliefs to experimental observation
2) Relying on induction and deduction
3) Holding all assumptions open to critique

Three solutions (55-56)bReverse discrimination; eliminate bias; do something other than essentializing science. Give up the dogmas of empiricism.
Society is gendered; Science is a totally social activity; so science is gendered.

Science is an elitist effort (79-80) preserving racist and classist organizations of society. Reduction, gender stereotyping and labor division (82) BUT…. It is not only the
question, but the entire methodology and project. 5 further critiques p. 85-91
Self reflective social science and NOT physics should be the model for all science.
Physical science is culturally biased. Social science andocentric. (85-91)

Chapter 3-5
Feminist approach to equity issues in the structure of science. The reality of science's historical structure. Androcentrism in the selection of problematics and in the design of research biology. Science's contribution to the construction of gendered meanings for nature and inquiry. Biological sex difference and sexual desire is socially constructed

Chapter 4 summary on p. 105-110.

Chapters 6 and 7
Feminist theories of knowledge, the epistemological grounds for modern science, proposed alternative justificatory strategies -4 theorists: Hilary Rose, Dorothy Smith, Jane Flax, Nancy Hartsock - forms and purposes of knowledge-seeking that are different from science as it is practiced. The relationship between these projects and ex-colonial science emancipation projects. Difficult questions about successor science and feminist postmodernist critiques

Chapters 8 and 9 - the history of science and why socially progressive knowledge seekers have gone by the boards. What lies does adult "science" tell about its infancy? Who has tried to offer correctives? Social historians of science. What have they left out of the story? Surprise, it's gender!

Chapter 10 instabilities and tensions in the feminist theories Harding has been developing. Questions posed by science critiques that cannot be answered in the terms in which they have been posed.

Can feminism be a totalizing theory? Yes, since gender is everywhere. But no, it ought not be, because none of the definitions can be fixed into an essential speaker. One must criticize bad science AND science-as-usual.

We may go back to Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, but reject Locke, Hume, Descartes and Kant…?

Feminists science critiques "have assumed a reversal of the "unity of science" thesis so central to the members of the Vienna Circle. For feminists, it is a moral and political, rather than scientific, discussion that has served as the paradigm - though a problematic one - of rational discourse."