Debating Gender Eliminativism in Feminist Metaphysics

  • Author / Creator
    Rodriguez LaBrada, Eloy F
  • 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.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Arts
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. 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.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
    • Department of Philosophy
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Heyes, Cressida (Political Science)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Kellogg, Catherine (Political Science)
    • Morin, Marie-Eve (Philosophy)
    • Brigandt, Ingo (Philosophy)