Events

Philosophy Program Seminar: Gender and the Unthinkable

Summary

Philosophical questions arise in response to people’s experiences of gender as central to their identities. In what sense, if any, is gender an essential or necessary property of individuals? Without my gender, would I still be me?

Start Date

21st Jul 2017 1:00pm

End Date

21st Jul 2017 3:00pm

Venue

Room 210, Social Science Building, Sandy Bay campus and video-linked to X117 in Launceston

RSVP / Contact Information

No RSVP required. Enquiries: David.Coady@utas.edu.au

presented by

Natalie Stoljar

McGill University, Canada

Philosophical questions arise in response to people’s experiences of gender as central to their identities. In what sense, if any, is gender an essential or necessary property of individuals? Without my gender, would I still be me?

One possible philosophical answer is metaphysical. Charlotte Witt’s recent work defends an Aristotelian metaphysical proposal called unification essentialism, or “uniessentialism,” namely that gender is a “functional essence” that unifies individuals who inhabit many different social roles – for instance, teacher, parent, and citizen – into a single, ontologically separate individual. This paper rejects both Witt’s uniessentialism and the metaphysical strategy in general.

Associate Professor Stoljar argues for a “social and psychological” or “ethical” analysis of gender essentialism on which gender is an essential component of a person’s sense of self or self-conception. She proposes that gender is essential to self-conception in two senses: gender can be a “volitionally necessary” component of self-conception, an aspect of the will that is so significant for one’s sense of self that it would be unthinkable to repudiate it. In addition, or alternatively, gender can be an aspect of self-conception that is “circumstantially inescapable.” It is a practical identity that constrains self-conception, whether we like it or not.