Editors: Jennifer McWeeny and Ashby Butnor
: Columbia University Press – 318 pages
Book Review by
: Paiso Jamakar

The editors point out in their Foreword that there has been increasing interest in recent years on comparative (some call it cultural or global philosophy in colleges and universities. Numerous conferences every year, publications of books and journals, lectures given, academic positions offered, and other events attest to this growing desire for such philosophy.

But what is lacking in all these scholarly activities is the contribution of feminist philosophers to this discourse among non-Western philosophers. This book aims to fill that need to deepen and enhance that conversation.

To that end, the editors and contributors to this book have put together a series of articles on feminist philosophy issues in the chapters named below in the book’s Contents pages, which serve as a perspective of what you will find in it:      

Feminist Comparative Philosophy: Performing Philosophy Differently

Gender and Potentiality

  • Kamma, No-Self, and Social Construction: The Middle Way Between Determinism and Free Will
  • On the Transformative Potential of the “Dark Female Animal” in Daodejing
  • Confucian Family-State and Women: A Proposal for Confucian Feminism

Raising Consciousness

  • Mindfulness, Anatman, and the Potentiality of a Feminist Self-Consciousness
  • Liberating Anger, Embodying Knowledge: A Comparative Study of Maria Lugones and Zen Master Hakuin

Places of Knowing

  • What Would Zuangzi Say to Harding? A Daoist Critique of Feminist Standpoint Epistemology
  • “Epistemic Multiculturalism” and Objectivity; Rethinking Vandana Shiva’s Ecospirituality

Cultivating Ethical Selves

  • Confucian Care: A Hybrid Feminist Ethics
  • The Embodied Ethical Self: A Japanese and Feminist Account of Nondual Subjectivity
  • Dogen, Feminism, and the Embodied Practice of Care

Transforming Discourse

  • De-liberating Traditions; The Female Bodies of Sati and Slavery
  • Philosophy Uprising: The Feminist Afterword

Feminist Comparative Philosophy and Associated Methodologies: A Bibliography

The theme of this collection of essays is the liberation of people – from desires, harmful conventions, illusions, oppression, suffering, and other impediments.

Jennifer McWeeny and Ashby Butnor point out that when the “liberatory” aspects of the diverse Asian traditions are looked at collectively and discussed, new possibilities for transforming ourselves emerge. This book essentially places the traditions of Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism, and Hinduism in conversation with feminist traditions.

They cite some examples of what they found in such dialogue:

  • The fluidity of self-identity through analysis of the Buddha and Judith Butler
  • The improvement of care ethics by understanding the Confucian virtue of ren
  • A reinterpretation of the role of objectivity and the epistemic value of trust in contemporary Hindu-influenced ecofeminist politics
  • Consideration of different attitudes toward Indian and African women’s bodies within the feminist tradition itself, and
  • Many other juxtapositions

This is a rare investigation into feminist beliefs and traditions looked at in conjunction with several Asian religions and philosophies, namely Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism, and Hinduism. This is a really unique, pioneering work that fills the void of dialogue between feminist philosophy and Asian traditions.



Jennifer McWeeny is associate professor of philosophy at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

Ashby Butnor teaches philosophy and religion at Metropolitan State University of Denver and serves as the faculty coordinator for Learning Communities and First Year Success.


Ashby Butnor, Vrinda Dalmiya, Eliot Deutsch, Namita Goswami, Ranjoo Seodu Herr, Hsia-Lan Hu, Xinyan Jiang, Kyoo Lee, Keya Maitra, Erin McCarthy, Jennifer McWeeny, Li-Hsiang Lisa Rosenlee, and Chela Sandoval.