Code, Lorraine (1937–)

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Lorraine Code is a Canadian philosopher with interests in epistemology, feminist epistemology, and the politics of knowledge. She is Distinguished Research Professor of Philosophy at York University, where she is also appointed to the Graduate Programs in Women's Studies and Social and Political Thought. Code has authored five books and numerous articles, and has edited five collections. From 1999 to 2001, she served as a Canadian Council Research Fellow.

Code describes her work as an interrogation of local and global politics of knowledge that harm people and nature. She argues, for example, that traditional philosophical epistemologies foster the exploitation of people and nature by Western sciences and institutions because they include tenets that obscure the role of social and political relations in the formation of knowledge. Recently Code has undertaken the constructive project of developing an alternative, "ecologically modeled" epistemology that, she maintains, avoids the failings of traditional epistemologies.

Code's critical and constructive projects consistently focus on the ethical dimensions of knowledge making and epistemological accounts of it. In Epistemic Responsibility (1987) she argues that epistemic responsibility is not exhausted by "purely epistemological" standards. Code contends that an emphasis in epistemology on virtue and responsibility would result in attention to the social contexts of knowing, including the relevance of social relations and social roles to what is recognized as knowledge. Such analyses would, in turn lead, to more robust notions of epistemic responsibility.

A concern with the ethical implications of epistemology is also central in What Can She Know? (1991). Here Code focuses on the "alignments" in "mainstream epistemology": on one hand, characteristics its values (for example, objectivity and rationality) and, on the other hand, shifting conceptions of masculinity. Code argues that these alignments contribute to institutional knowledge (for example, in the sciences and law) and to social institutions that undermine women's abilities to act as knowers while rendering invisible the politics of gender at work. She uses these alignments in a more general argument that subjective factors inform all knowledge claims and epistemic ideals. From this perspective, theories of knowledge that obscure the role of such factors are not just factually flawed, but they are also ethically flawed because they underwrite the continuation of a form of subjectivity that, although changing overtime, has consistently put women at a disadvantage. Not surprisingly, when Code poses the question in this work of whether a distinctly feminist epistemology is desirable, she is not enthusiastic. She holds that efforts to achieve universality, which she here attributes to epistemology in general, are at odds with the attention to particularity, context, and other aspects of subjectivity that her arguments call for.

In Rhetorical Spaces: Essays on Gendered Locations (1995), Code undertakes the kind of fine-grained studies she recommends. Her essays explore cases in which specific and rhetorically and socially constructed locationsincluding those of marginalization and powerhave an impact on who is deemed credible and what counts as knowledge. In one, a victim of sexual harassment seeks to reconcile her memories with conflicting accounts and to understand how trusting herself relies in part on her credibility in the eyes of others. Other essays, focusing on institutionalized knowledge such as health care, explore ways in which everyday knowledge practices are sites of social interactions that contribute to or deny credibility to various subjects and groups.

In Ecological Thinking (2005) and elsewhere, Code builds from her earlier work to advance a sustained argument for what she calls "an ecologically modeled" theory of knowledge. Code maintains that explanatory models in ecology are promising for a theory of knowledge precisely because they assume a mutual dependency of organisms, an interrelatedness between their well-being and features of their environment, including features that are cruel. Code argues that such models contrast sharply with the individualism and instrumentalist conceptions of rationality that characterize traditional epistemology and obscure the ethics and politics of knowledge-making practices. Incorporating these noninstrumentalist ideas into epistemology, she maintains, would result in a model that could accommodate the insights of feminist, multicultural, and postcolonial studies into precisely those dimensions of knowledge making that have been obscured by traditional epistemology.

See also Epistemology; Feminist Philosophy; Feminist Epistemology.


books by code

Epistemic Responsibility, Dartmouth: University Press of New England, 1987.

What Can She Know: Feminist Theory and the Construction of Knowledge. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991.

Rhetorical Spaces: Essays on Gendered Locations. New York and London: Routledge, 1995.

Ecological Thinking. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Feminist Philosophy: Routledge Contemporary Introductions to Philosophy. New York and London, Routledge, 2005.

edited collections

Feminist Perspectives: Philosophical Essays on Method and Morals (with Sheila Mullett et al). Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1988.

Changing Methods: Feminists Transforming Practices (with Sandra D. Burt). Orchard Park: Broadview Press, 1995.

Encyclopedia of Feminist Theories. New York and London: Routledge, 2000.

Feminist Interpretations of Hans-Georg Gadamer. University Park: Penn State University Press, 2002.

The Sex of Knowing (with Michelle DeDoeuff et al). New York and London: Routledge, 2003.

other works by code

"What Is Natural about Epistemology Naturalized?" American Philosophical Quarterly 1 (1996): 122.

"Feminists and Pragmatists: A Radical Future?" Radical Philosophy 87 (1998): 2230.

"How to Think Globally: Stretching the Limits of Imagination." Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy 2 (1998): 7385.

"Flourishing." Ethics and the Environment 1 (1999): 6372.

Lynn Hankinson Nelson (2005)

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Code, Lorraine (1937–)

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