Fundamental problems / Founding problems

What exactly is meant by ‘woman philosopher’? Is it different, and if so in what respect, from a philosopher woman? Is it different from a man philosopher? Is there a distinction between a male philosopher and a female philosopher from the point of view of philosophy? If so, what is it? If not, from what point of view is this distinction relevant? These questions, which are as weighty as they are banal, cannot be avoided.

These fundamental problems are also founding problems.

It is a matter of determining the object of our study, which proves to be the subject of the study, the active participant in this Network, the woman philosopher. Is it sex, gender that is being accorded prominence here, stressed, lent greater visibility? Is sexual differentiation being insisted upon? Having a sex? Their impact upon the pursuit of knowledge? The individual or generic experience of this pursuit? Is a woman philosopher one who calls herself that, or one who is called that by others ― and which others? Can a man be a woman philosopher? Can he philosophise like a woman, this side of or beyond the being, the quality, the determination — sex, gender, sexuality mixed together? Is philosophy a way of liberation for women who, still today, and despite the major headway made, would have a need of this support for affirmation and conquest?

We have chosen this provisional response: Even if a man can be a philosopher “like” a woman, it is women that this Network has chosen to bring together.

A network of this kind only makes sense if international, taking into account historical and geographical characteristics. It welcomes women whose circumstances are not the same, in terms of politics, economics, culture, perhaps language, nationality, place in the world, and the country in which they live and work.

One of the primary points of agreement among us concerns the radically transdisciplinary character of the Network: women philosophers overturn generalisations; they call into question again the distinctions drawn between disciplines, the ways disciplines have been carved out, universities have been carved out, themselves moreover often different from country to country, stereotypes like, for example, “philosophy for men, literature for women”. Thinking of the interactions and tracing the links between the diverse expressions of thought sustains the entire edifice of the network. We are not precluding universal reporting and conversation.

Problem of speaking and of feedback. Whoever speaks of networks is, of course, speaking of members and non-members, therefore, possible feelings of being left out or discriminated against, which would be the opposite of the intended goal. The sometimes often blaring absence of the voices of women philosophers on a good number of subjects ―because not listened to or marginalised― induced us to create an international support system. But what kind of response do we wish to have? How far will the Network have to go to realise the solidarity it is hoping for?

We do not wish to silence any question, put an end to any debate. As the Network is enriched with new members, it will give rise to new questions. Precisely this will constitute its value and its utility. We are displaying prudence, not imposed prudence, but earnest, resolute, active prudence.

Hourya Benis, Barbara Cassin and Geneviève Fraisse

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