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Debating Gender Eliminativism in Feminist Metaphysics Open Access


Other title
Social Ontology
Feminist Metaphysics
Anaytic Feminist Philosophy
Feminist Theory
Political Philosophy
Gender Eliminativism
Social Philosophy
Feminist Metaontology
Social Metaphysics
Trans Studies
Philosophy of Gender and Sexuality
Analytic Philosophy of Gender
Feminist Ontology
Gender Studies
Analytic Metaphysics
Philosophy of Social Science
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Rodriguez LaBrada, Eloy F
Supervisor and department
Heyes, Cressida (Political Science)
Examining committee member and department
Kellogg, Catherine (Political Science)
Brigandt, Ingo (Philosophy)
Morin, Marie-Eve (Philosophy)
Department of Philosophy

Date accepted
Graduation date
2017-11:Fall 2017
Master of Arts
Degree level
In this thesis, I give critical consideration to gender eliminativism, or the metaphysical view that gender (in a sense to be specified) is unreal and/or the normative view that gender (in a sense to be specified) ought to be purged from our social dealings. I evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of eliminativist proposals for contemporary feminist theory and activism (with particular implications for scientific and healthcare contexts). I ask whether, and why, a certain theory of gender eliminativism and practice of gender abolitionism might ever be serviceable for feminist purposes: In which contexts might eliminativism be effective as a “regulative ideal” for our theorizing and acting (and why)? In which contexts would it be normatively important to endorse eliminativism (and about what)? In short, were we to endorse eliminativism, which kind of eliminativism should—and could—we? While I contend that the metaphysical component of eliminativism is philosophically question-begging and politically impractical, I float the idea that the normative component of eliminativism—called “abolitionism”—might be defensible as a “regulative ideal” for some feminist theorizing about gender talk (Hussein). Following what Sally Haslanger calls an “ameliorative approach,” I suggest that understanding gender eliminativism/abolitionism in terms of our “pragmatic” political objectives—rather than in terms of their conceptual or metaphysical truth—might yield a resource for feminist theorizing and activism. A plausible, defensible version of eliminativism/abolitionism, I argue, would center on selective contexts and particular manifestations of hetero- and cissexist, objectifying gender talk and habit (Butler, Bettcher). In Chapter One I show why metaphysical eliminativism is philosophically implausible on conceptual grounds. In Chapter Two I demonstrate why metaphysical eliminativism sheds no light on the normative and ethical considerations any study of gender must include. In Chapter Three I explore how a regulative, normative, and abolitionist version of eliminativism could be plausible and useful in a medical, health-care context in the service of precluding trans*exclusion. I substantiate the claim forwarded by Matthew Andler and Talia Bettcher that, in a medical context, it is not always requisite to gender bodily organs, even while acknowledging physical differences (e.g. we can say that this “person” “has ovaries” without saying “this woman has ovaries,” to avoid cissexism). A part of the thesis is thus “deconstructive,” showing why metaphysical eliminativism is unjustified, while the other is “reconstructive,” examining the kind of normative eliminativism or abolitionism which might be defensible, if not useful.
This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for the purpose of private, scholarly or scientific research. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
Citation for previous publication
LaBrada, Eloy. 2016a. “Categories We Die For: Ameliorating Gender in Analytic Feminist Philosophy,” PMLA 131 (2): 449-459LaBrada, Eloy. 2016b. “Unsexing Subjects: Marie de Gournay’s Philosophy of Sex Eliminativism.” In Claudia Brodsky and Eloy LaBrada, eds. Inventing Agency: Essays on the literary and philosophical production of the modern subject. New York: Bloomsbury. 51-79.LaBrada, Eloy. 2016c. “Unlivable Loves: Hélisenne, Nietzsche, and the Metaphysics of Love.” JNT 46 (1): 1-38.

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