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Speaker Series: Gina Schouten (Harvard University)
February 3 @ 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Title: Liberal Feminism, Social Critique, and Moral Methodology: What Can Reflective Equilibrium Accomplish?
Abstract: This paper brings together two strands of opposition to liberalism: First is the substantive strand, concerning liberalism’s feminist, anti-racist, and egalitarian credentials. Second is the methodological strand, concerning liberalism’s method of moral justification, reflective equilibrium. In response to the substantive strand of opposition to liberalism, left-liberal feminists have argued that, properly understood, liberal values entail a deep critique of sexism, racism, and economic inequality, and furnish an emancipatory, democratic vision for progress toward a more just society. My question in this paper is: Does liberalism’s method of moral justification undermine these liberal feminist attempts to answer the substantive challenge? I defend reflective equilibrium in order to support a negative answer to that question: Liberal feminist attempts to redeem the progressive potential of liberalism are not undermined by their use of reflective equilibrium as a method of moral justification. I make my case by engaging with recent work by Sally Haslanger, in which she criticizes reflective equilibrium generally but with a particular focus on its implications for feminist normative theorizing.