SOPhiA 2021

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Epistemology of Sexual Objectification
(Epistemology, )

Objectivity is usually understood as a norm that leads to true propositions about the world. Yet Catharine MacKinnon writes that "to look at the world objectively is to objectify it". MacKinnon defines sexual objectification as men viewing and treating women as sexual objects of their desire while forcing them to be these objects made possible by men's social position of power. According to her objectivity and sexual objectification constitute each other. Evaluating the claim of objectivity being gendered Sally Haslanger objects in reconstructing an ideal of objectivity she calls "Assumed Objectivity". This ideal is independent from objectification and the male objectifier yet under conditions of gender inequality it legitimates and perpetuates objectification because aperspectivity is falsely assumed. Assumed Objectivity generally justifies an observer assuming to fulfill the norm of aperspectivity to attribute the regular behaviour of an object to it's nature and to treat it accordingly. Following this ideal the male observer is justified in viewing sexual submissiveness as being women's nature and in treating them accordingly. Under conditions of gender inequality the ideal of Assumed Objectivity therefore causes an error in modality in naturalising the social fact of objectification. This paper will show that the use of the ideal does not rely on falsely assumed aperspectivity but on premises about the category woman which themselves presuppose an existent context of gender inequality. In order for the ideal to be applied, regular behaviour has to be understood as being the direct and only result of an objects nature. This in turn means that social factors are necessarily excluded. I call this concept of nature Direct Nature. The error in modality therefore occurs as a precondition of the application of the ideal in the case of women, determining their female nature. The necessity of assuming this concept of nature also anticipates the false assumption of aperspectivity as a result, it renders condition 3 non-necessary. Applying the ideal to women under conditions of gender inequality therefore does not only perpetuate gender inequality as Haslanger argues but presupposes gender inequality. Therefore objectification and objectivity are indeed constitutive of each other as MacKinnon claims.

Chair: Stefan Sleeuw
Time: 14:40-15:10, 11 September 2021 (Saturday)
Location: HS E.002
Remark: (Online Talk)

Rose Troll 
(Goethe University Frankfurt, )



Testability and Meaning deco