Are women adult human females?

Philosophical Studies 177 (12):3783-3803 (2020)
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Abstract

Are women (simply) adult human females? Dictionaries suggest that they are. However, philosophers who have explicitly considered the question invariably answer no. This paper argues that they are wrong. The orthodox view is that the category *woman* is a social category, like the categories *widow* and *police officer*, although exactly what this social category consists in is a matter of considerable disagreement. In any event, orthodoxy has it that *woman* is definitely not a biological category, like the categories *amphibian* or *adult human female*. In the first part, a number of arguments are given for the view that women are adult human females; the second part turns to rebutting the main objections. Finally, a couple of morals are briefly noted: one for activist sloganeering, and one for ameliorative projects that seek to change the meaning of ‘woman’.

Author's Profile

Alex Byrne
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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