By Kenneth Burke

In the dynamic environment of modern political science, a feminist philosophy of science offers a crucial perspective for addressing the challenges posed by the contemporary social, cultural, and economic environments. Political scientists grappling with the challenges of realpolitik, the complexities of neoliberal economic structures, and the limitations of political liberalism can greatly benefit from analyzing these global phenomena through the critical lens provided by a feminist philosophy of science. Likewise, feminism offers promise for a deeper understanding of the interconnections between ongoing cultural wars and the rise of populism that we witness in our political culture today, and then presents the opportunity to equip scholars with a diverse methodological toolkit to address them. To fully realize the potential for theory development in political science, two advances are necessary.

First, there must be a scholarly consensus on the definition, meaning, and implications of socially constructed realities. Acknowledging the differences between the varied views on how knowledge, perceptions, and societal norms are shaped proves key. Educational psychology offers direction for unity in this respect, providing insights into how cognitive processes and social environments interact to shape individual and collective knowing. Secondly, the need to advocate for a radical methodological pluralism. Innovative perspectives like dialetheism and paraconsistent logic are examples of approaches that can deepen an exploration of the multifaceted dynamics of power, gender, and social equity. Methodological pluralism can bolster feminist science in the interests of supporting political theory’s capacity to analyze, interpret, and respond to contemporary issues with depth, inclusivity, and efficacy.

The notion of socially constructed knowledge remains a key area of interest in numerous disciplines. Different epistemological perspectives lead to heterogeneous and complex considerations of the means by which knowledge arises through individual and social constructs. A feminist perspective offers a lens through which we can examine how cultural narratives and norms influence political decisions and outcomes in areas where gender, race, and class intersect. In feminist epistemology, the social construction of knowledge entangles with an analysis of power dynamics. Within this domain, several strands of thought offer differentiated insights. For instance, standpoint theory posits that knowledge is inherently situated and influenced by one’s position in society, suggesting that marginalized groups offer unique and vital perspectives often ignored in knowledge systems. Postmodern feminism questions the existence of a singular, unified female experience while highlighting the role of language and culture. Material feminism explores how material conditions and social practices, including labor and reproduction, impact the creation and dissemination of knowledge. Each of these approaches contributes to a broader understanding of how gender and power influence knowledge creation and underscores the need for a deeper investigation into the meaning of a socially constructed reality.

Feminist perspectives pave the way for a dialogue with educational psychology and the potential to support political theories. The contribution of educational psychology is multifaceted and involves aspects of cognition, creating shared meanings, and the examination of the ways in which social and cultural contexts influence learning. Constructivist and organismic theories emphasize the role of cognition and social interaction. This aligns with feminist epistemology’s emphasis on communal and collaborative practices in creating meaning. Feminist theory can utilize insights from psychology to advocate for more cooperative and dialogic forms of knowledge production while challenging traditional, hierarchical modes that have often marginalized women and minority voices. Educational psychology’s insights into how culture and context influence learning can likewise inform feminist perspectives on sociocultural factors which shape scientific knowledge. Recognizing these views would lead to a more comprehensive understanding of how social identities intersect to influence scientific inquiry. The exploration of psychology’s insights offers valuable tools for advancing a feminist philosophy, enabling a deeper understanding of the intricate web of socially constructed knowledge and its broader implications for diverse perspectives in the pursuit of theory development for political science.

Moreover, such a framework for a feminist philosophy of science would need advocate for a radical methodological pluralism in political theory. This stipulation proves pertinent in an era where economic realities are rapidly changing due to globalization and technological advancements. For example, methodological pluralism would allow for heterogeneous analyses of the political economy and its impact on different segments of society and marginalized social groups. The rise of populism, which often capitalizes on simplistic narratives and appeals to emotion, similarly poses a significant obstacle to democratic processes and institutions. The application of a feminist philosophy of science in political theory offers a critical perspective that can help in deconstructing populist rhetoric and strategies. By doing so, it can contribute to the strengthening of democratic ideals and practices by ensuring they are inclusive, equitable, and reflective of a diverse range of voices and experiences. Methodological pluralism, therefore, is not an academic preference but a strategic necessity. It equips political scientists with diverse analytical tools to navigate and reshape a complex political landscape.

Paraconsistent logic and dialetheism serve as an example of concepts which support a methodological pluralism and offer intriguing perspectives for feminist theorists due to the fact that they challenge logical and epistemological norms. Dialetheism’s belief that there are true contradictions directly confronts the binary logic which underpins Western thought. Feminist philosophers often critique binary thinking (e.g., male/female, rational/emotional, objective/subjective) for oversimplifying complex realities and reinforcing patriarchal and hierarchical structures. Dialetheism offers a strong philosophical foundation for embracing complexity and overcoming dichotomous thinking, which proves essential to analyzing gender dynamics and power structures. The views prove valuable for feminist philosophy and political theory as it provides a framework for navigating multifaceted social phenomena where traditional logic fails. It recognizes that real-world situations, especially those involving human behavior and societal structures, are not neatly explained by static interpretations. The application of novel perspectives through a methodological pluralism would foster interdisciplinary dialogue. These fields would benefit from engaging with concepts that contest traditional modes of thinking, enabling a more holistic and multifaceted approach to understanding and addressing political issues. Of course, neither can we ignore what political science itself offers for understanding the paradigm shifts in science.

The integration of a feminist philosophy of science and political science affords the potential for a transformative shift, propositioning for robust frameworks to address contemporary challenges. By acknowledging socially constructed realities, this brings to the fore the consequence of cultural narratives and norms in shaping political discourse and decision-making. Feminist epistemology provides invaluable insights into how knowledge can include diverse experiences and viewpoints. A synthesis with psychology would bolster more collaborative and inclusive forms of knowledge production that challenge traditional social structures. The emphasis on methodological pluralism challenges binary thinking and underscores complexity and diversity when seeking to understand political realities. Methodological pluralism is not only essential to grappling with the dynamics of power but also in problem-solving contemporary threats to democratic ideals. By fostering interdisciplinary dialogues and challenging conventional modes of thinking, feminist philosophy of science and political theory can equip scholars and practitioners to navigate and dismantle hegemonic narratives. This integration, therefore, is a practical imperative for creating a more inclusive, equitable, and representative political landscape.


Further Reading

Başkent, C., & Ferguson, T. M. (Eds.). (2019). Graham Priest on dialetheism and paraconsistency. Springer International Publishing.

Beilin, H., & Pufall, P. B. (Eds.). (2013). Piaget’s theory: prospects and possibilities. Psychology Press.

Bschir, K. & Shaw, J. (Eds.), Interpreting Feyerabend: Critical Essays. Cambridge University Press.

Cole, M., & Wertsch, J. V. (1996). Beyond the individual-social antinomy in discussions of Piaget and Vygotsky. Human development, 39(5), 250-256.

Dowding, K. (2015). The philosophy and methods of political science. Bloomsbury Publishing.

Godfrey-Smith, P. (2009). Theory and reality: An introduction to the philosophy of science. University of Chicago Press.

Haack, S. (1996). Deviant logic, fuzzy logic: beyond the formalism. University of Chicago Press.

Hammond, D. (2010). The science of synthesis: Exploring the social implications of general systems theory. University Press of Colorado.

Harding, S. (2008). Sciences from below: Feminisms, postcolonialities, and modernities. Duke University Press.

Kourany, J. A. (2010). Philosophy of science after feminism. Oxford University Press.

Latour, B. (1991). The impact of science studies on political philosophy. Science, Technology, & Human Values, 16(1), 3-19.

Otte, M. (1998). Limits of constructivism: Kant, Piaget and Peirce. Science & Education, 7, 425-450.

Pease, K. K. S. (2018). International organizations: perspectives on global governance. Routledge.

Potter, E. (2006). Feminism and philosophy of science: An introduction. Routledge.

Potter, E. (2007). Feminist Epistemology and Philosophy of Science. In The Blackwell Guide to Feminist Philosophy, 235-253.

Tryphon, A., & Vonèche, J. (Eds.). (2013). Piaget-Vygotsky: The social genesis of thought. Psychology Press.

Varela, F. J., Thompson, E., Rosch, E., & Kabat-Zinn, J. (2017). The embodied mind. MIT Press.

Von Bertalanffy, L. (1967). General theory of systems: Application to psychology. Social Science Information, 6(6), 125-136.


About the Author

Kenneth Burke is an experienced educator and administrator. He has a genuine passion for teaching and interdisciplinary theory development. After over a decade working abroad in Kurdistan and then South Korea, he has returned to the St. Louis, MO area to teach in the public schools and online as an adjunct. He is skilled in curriculum development, accreditation management, and quality control advising, with a proven track record of success in fostering student engagement and achievement.