Discussion Paper Submission

 

Abstract: My main attempt in this paper is to bring feminist border politics into discussions with feminist empiricist theories of knowledge through the works of Josiah Royce.  W.V. Quine’s work has been used as a fruitful resource for feminist empiricists, however, I argue that Quine’s dyadic structure of knowledge prevents an adequate understanding of “recalcitrant experience” and thus is not culturally sensitive to social and cultural differences, which are important commitments in feminist epistemology.  I show how Royce’s theory of interpretation, which introduces a triadic structure of knowledge, offers a theoretical interpretive tool for feminist empiricism to understand the issues raised in feminist border politics. This perspective will enable empiricism to develop a new and more culturally sensitive way of thinking about the world.

Title: Border Communities and Royce: The Problem of Translation and Reinterpreting Feminist Empiricism

 

Contemporary feminist epistemologists have been concerned with understanding how knowledge is construed within empiricist frameworks (science) of knowledge or developing (anti-empiricist) “standpoint epistemologies.”  Latina feminist theorists, such as Ofelia Schutte and Gloria Anzaldúa have contributed much to the discussion calling for a “new kind of consciousness,” which seeks a way to understand the experiences of the marginalized without falling into the conceptual pitfall of assimilation, which has been a concern in standpoint epistemology.  Additionally, this perspective seeks to maintain a coherent theory of knowledge that avoids relativism.  My main attempt in this paper is to bring feminist border politics into discussions with feminist empiricist theories of knowledge through the works of Josiah Royce.  I show how Royce’s theory of the role of interpretation in the processes of knowledge offers a theoretical interpretive tool for feminist empiricism to understand the issues raised in feminist border politics.

            This paper examines the works of W. V. Quine and Josiah Royce in light of the questions raised from the works of Ofelia Schutte and Gloria Anzaldúa regarding the problem of translation and understanding difference.  I first introduce the concerns raised by Schutte and Anzaldúa as to how theories of knowledge operate in a dyadic structure utilizing a binary logic.  I argue that these theorists come from a particular theoretical location, namely the borderlands, which seek to discursively undermine the dichotomization of knowledge and create new ways of understanding the incommensurabilities of experience.  Second, in light of Lynne Hankinson Nelson’s attempts to use Quine’s holistic theories in feminist empiricism in order to challenge current scientific methods, I discuss, “recalcitrant experience,” as Quine understands it and the implications of this type of experience, as seen in his discussion regarding the problem of translation and the indeterminacy of language.  Third, I introduce Royce’s theory of interpretation as a necessary third process in order to understand recalcitrant experience in generating knowledge claims.  This challenges Quine’s dyadic formation in the processes of knowledge and also avoids the assimilation of recalcitrant experience.  Finally, I argue that Royce’s theory of interpretation challenges the dyadic structure in Quine’s empiricism and introduces a triadic structure of knowledge, which consequently allows the concerns of Schutte and Anzaldúa to take place within feminist empiricist discussions of knowledge.  This perspective will enable empiricism to develop a new and a more culturally sensitive way of thinking about the world.

Avoiding Assimilation and Relativism: Recognizing Cross-Cultural Incommensurability

            Questions regarding cross-cultural relations and possibilities of incorporating intersectionalities of differences in theory are common concerns for feminist border theorists.  These questions are important in philosophy not only because it challenges the way people of different cultures, social positions, and backgrounds interact with each other, but also, these questions challenge how theories are formed about the world.  In order to get a better understanding of how feminist border theorists contribute to theories about the world, I discuss two important arguments underlying the works of Schutte and Anzaldúa.

            First, Schutte argues for a principle of incommensurability that must be recognized in cross-cultural language exchanges.  She points out that there is a “residue of meaning that will not be reached in cross-cultural endeavors” (Schutte 2001, 49).  However, instead of disregarding this meaning, which is determined by the specific cultural difference, Schutte describes this incommensurability as “ sites of appreciation” (Schutte, 51).  One way of commonly conceiving incommensurability is “arithmetically.”

What I get from the differently situated speaker is the conveyable message minus the specific cultural difference that does not come across.  Theorized in this manner, the way to maximize intercultural dialogue would be to devise a way to put as much meaning as possible into the plus side of the exchange, so as little as possible remains on the minus side (Schutte, 49).

 

Moreover, this quantitative description of incommensurability, as Schutte argues, does nothing to further understand what cultural difference is.  For Schutte, incommensurability resonates a kind of  “strangeness,” a “displacement of the usual expectation.”  Taking into account the cultural differences of others, one does not “bypass these experiences or subsume them under an already familiar category” (Schutte, 49).  Schutte recommends using “non-totalizing” concepts to account for difference.  Pluralism and diversity are all concepts that need to be re-examined if what counts as pluralism or diversity is made to “fit within the overall rationality that approves and controls the many as one” (Schutte, 50).

            A second important argument is the concept of intersectionality.  Schutte claims that most Latin American cultures “intersect” various cultures’ temporalities (African, indigenous, Spanish colonial, and modern), given the history of colonization and slavery in the Americas.  Thus a speaker’s discourse in Latin America may intersect with various other cultures discourse and temporalities.  Furthermore, immigrants in the United States bring these “forms of cultural difference and hybridity” (Schutte, 50). 

            The intersectionality of the different speakers allows for two possibilities in theory.  First, the intersectionality breaks down the binary ways of thinking.  Anzaldúa argues,

In perceiving conflicting information and points of view, [the mestiza] is subjected to a swamping of her psychological borders.  She has discovered that she can’t hold concepts or ideas in rigid boundaries (Anzaldúa 1987, 378).

 

Thus, the mestiza “copes by developing a tolerance for contradiction” (379).  Second, the intersectionality of different concepts and ideas allows the mestiza to negotiate between cultures, thereby fostering new ways of thinking about the world.  The negotiation between cultures is possible only if one recognizes and appreciates the differences between cultures.  In this sense, the negotiation of seemingly contradictory cultures becomes a “ third element” in the mestiza consciousness.  The third element amounts to a new consciousness born amidst differences, yet creatively acts to wholly understand the complexities of the culturally fractured self.

The Immanence of Assimilation

Feminist empiricists, such as Nelson have used Quine’s theories to further feminist critiques in empiricism.  There are two aspects in Quine’s theories that should be noted, given the foregoing discussion.  First, he sets up a dyadic structure of knowledge.  It is the world and how we talk about the world.  Second, the dyadic structure assumes an individual model of knowledge, which constantly opposes our larger going theories with new experiences emerging from the world.  This perspective is unhelpful in understanding how translation and interpretation works, particularly in cases of radical cultural differences as suggested by Schutte and Anzaldúa.

            There are two factors, which lead Quine to set up a dyadic structure in theories of knowledge.  First, his holism is evident in his interest in eliminating the conceptual boundaries that seem to hinder our understanding of how the world and language actually work.  This project led to the demise of the analytic and synthetic division and in so doing postulates a “network” of theories, which broadly construes science to include common sense, scientific, and philosophical theorizing (Nelson 1990, 23).  These theories are interdependent with each other.  They formulate the basis of our going theories of world.  Nelson describes this interdependence between epistemology and the rest of our going theories as “radical” (Nelson, 24).  Epistemology is radical only insofar as common sense and scientific theories are not posed epistemologically prior to one another. In fact, they emerge interdependently and at the same time.  Additionally, the project of science cannot appeal to anything outside our going theories broadly construed.  Thus, it is like Neurath “rebuilding a ship while staying afloat on it” (Nelson, 24).

            Moreover, what counts as evidence is constrained by our going theories of the world.  In fact, Nelson claims that a view of  “coherence - to our experiences and others of our theories - is the overarching standard we use in judging whether theories and beliefs are warranted” (Nelson, 28).  Thus the common-sense sailor’s claim, “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight.  In the mornin’, take warnin’” coheres with any meteorological claim, which indicates the presence or absence of storm patterns.  The coherence theory of evidence and Quine’s insistence to holism concomitantly avoids the problem of relativism.  First, a description of science must explain  “our successful theorizing as well as providing explanations of our failures” (Nelson, 28).  As Nelson points out, this proves that science is not an “irrational activity” and productive work can be accomplished given this insistence.  Second, our sensory evidence and our theories about our sensory evidence constrain what we can know in science.  In other words, our particular theories make sense in relation to our going background theories.  Therefore, it is impossible to read the contents of a Peanuts comic strip in a book from Shakespeare.  The evidence and the standards of evidence constrain what we experience.

            Given the above discussion of interdependence, empiricism is recast to include all of our going theories.  Quine goes beyond traditional attempts of locating empirical meaning in the following passage,

The idea of defining a symbol in use was, as remarked, an advance over the impossible term–by-term empiricism of Locke and Hume.  The statement, rather than the term, came with Bentham to be recognized as the unit accountable to empiricist critique.  But what I am now arguing is that even in taking the statement as unit we have drawn our grid too finely.  The unit of empirical significance is the whole of science (Two Dogmas:42).

 

In this sense, empirical meaning is recast to the “whole of our theories”, which consists in our common sense, scientific, and philosophical theorizing.  Thus, individual sentences do not have meaning in isolation.  They are always understood in connection with our going theories.

            It is not surprising then for Quine to portray ontology as “holistic” or “naturalized”. For Quine, “it is impossible to discuss ‘ontology’ (what there is) without discussing ‘theory’ (what we say there is)” (Nelson, 97).  The relation between language and the world are infused and interdependent.  One consequence of this view of ontology is that absolute questions regarding ontology (what there is) are meaningless since it abstracts our going theories from the world.  There can be no “things in themselves” or “free-floating” ideas abstract from the world and our experiences. 

            The foregoing discussion leads to a few consequences regarding recalcitrant experience.  Given Quine’s dyadic structure in knowledge, resulting in his holism, recalcitrant experience is absorbed into the network of our going theories.  Additionally, as Nelson points out, Quine, despite his insistence on widening the epistemological space for common sense and philosophical theorizing, the common sense person and the philosopher are clearly individuals (Nelson, 257).  An individual model in epistemology results in the fact that recalcitrant experience is understood by analogy indirectly through our current going theories.  However, in more complex situations, such as communicating with Martians or an indigenous tribe or first-generation immigrants, how can one, on an individual and dyadic model, translate a “recalcitrant” experience correctly or given the constraints of our language, how can we understand “recalcitrant” experience sufficiently?  In accounting for this problem of translation, I will characterize Quine’s argument of the indeterminacy of language and translation.

            In his essay, “Ontological Relativity,” Quine argues that meaning is grounded in the behavior of speakers.  Given the possibilities for obscurity on the learning process of a word or language, all that we have to work with is the behavior of other speakers.

In the case of words not directly ascribing observable traits to things, the learning process is increasingly complex and obscure; and obscurity is the breeding place for mentalistic semantics.  What the naturalist insists on is that, even in the complex and obscure parts of language learning, the learner has no data to work with but the overt behavior of other speakers (Ontological Relativity: 8).

 

Thus the idea of a “mental museum” in the mind of those that are culturally different from one’s own cultural background must be abandoned because it is impossible to know whether or not the translation is correct or in error, since there is no access to the “mental museum” of the culturally different speaker.  The translation could only be understood implicitly in the dispositions of the speaker in terms of her behavior.  The naturalist sees meaning in the case of the museum myth as nonsense (O.R: 30).

            Another factor in Quine’s argument is the problem of the inscrutability of reference.  In other words there is nothing in ostention to “solve” the ambiguity between two culturally different speakers.  When I point to a rabbit, and the culturally different speaker says “gavagai,” is there is nothing in ostention that proves that the culturally different speaker is referring to  “rabbit part,” “rabbit stage,” or other derivations.  It is difficult to know, given the differences in culture and language, exactly whether or not one’s translation is correct in terms of the culturally different speaker.  Only the behavior of the speaker can be used to identify whether or not one’s translation is correct, and the standard, which guides us in this case is quite vague and somewhat obscure given the problem of the inscrutability of reference.  Given Quine’s views, the standard emerges in the practice of translation. But what is this practice? 

            According to Quine, the difficulty of translation in different languages need not be a problem.  For Quine, there are two kinds of translation: home translation (within a speaker’s cultural background and language) and radical translation (“radically” different to the speaker’s cultural background and language).  However, Quine thinks that “radical translation begins at home” (O.R.:46).

Must we equate our neighbor’s English words with the same strings of phonemes in our own mouths?  Certainly not; for sometimes we do not thus equate them.  Sometimes we find it to be in the interests of communication to recognize that our neighbor’s use of some word, such as “cool” or “square” or  ”hopefully,” differs from ours, and so we translate that word of his into a different string of phonemes in our idiolect (O.R.:46).

 

Thus we translate “homophonically,” meaning identical pronunciation of the same sounds or words, with persons who share the same language.  The principle of charity is employed to “temper” homophony to adequately construe “our neighbor’s word heterophonically,” meaning slight variations of pronunciation in concert with the same sounds or words.  In both cases of translation one important consequence follows Quine’s argument.  We eventually resolve the problem of translation and the problem of inscrutability of reference,

with our neighbor’s verbal behavior, by cunningly readjusting our translations of his various connecting predicates so as to compensate for the switch of ontology.  In short, we reproduce the inscrutability of reference at home (O.R.:47).

 

In the case of radical translation, homophonic translation is “suspended” and it seems as if the only way to translate in cases of radical translation is by employing heterophonic principles.  That is why “ radical translation begins at home”; we have to “readjust” the culturally different speaker’s behaviors into our own language, or our larger going theories.

            One factor underlying Quine’s analysis is his assumption of the individual knower.  It is the individual who translates the radically different speaker’s verbal behavior.  It is the individual who conceals the difference of the culturally different speaker and continues to assimilate the difference into her own language and theories.  And finally it is the individual who operates in a dyadic relation with the world.  Maintaining the assumption of the individual knower in a dyadic relationship with the world as the method in approaching epistemology leads to a few conceptual consequences.  First, this assumption impedes our view of persons as members of a community.  It would be impossible to understand persons connected to a community and the social and cultural context one grew up in.  Second, this assumption would not permit any cultural or political concerns to be a factor in conceiving a person.  In this model, cultural and political concerns are separate from the person, regarding any epistemological issues.  Finally, this assumption impedes our understanding of difference.  Quine assumes that differences within subcommunities and the larger community will be “worked out”.  In fact, recalcitrant experience will be “cunningly readjusted” to fit the going theories of the larger community.  In assuming the individual model in epistemology, differences will be assimilated rather than understood on the culturally different other’s terms.  There is no conscious moment of reflection and interpretation.  Like truth, assimilation of recalcitrant experience is immanent.

Conscious Reflection, Interpretation and Translation

            Unlike Quine’s approach to the problem of translation, Royce conceives epistemology and ontology differently and thus, introduces a third process to mediate between the world and our theories of the world.  For Quine, it is the interdependence between the world (objects in reality) and how we talk about the world (our ideas or concepts of the objects in reality), which constitutes our network of going theories.   This interdependence is achieved by “cunningly” fitting our experiences of the world into our larger going theories without any reflective consideration.  However, Royce argues that there is third factor, namely the interpretation of the world and how we talk about the world.  This third factor is crucial in the process of knowledge.  While Quine’s dyadic structure of knowledge may be helpful in understanding experience within the confines of the network of theories, this method is particularly unhelpful when trying to understand recalcitrant experience, as argued in the previous section.  Thus, the process of interpretation can be clearly expressed in cases of radical translation.  Royce describes two cases, which exemplify the need for interpretation in cases of radial differences.  First, Royce uses the example of the traveler going to a foreign country to illustrate the practical need for the process of interpretation.

            The traveler crosses the boundary to a foreign country.  At the time and place of his crossing, the traveler carries bank-notes from his own country, which possesses a cash-value in his land, but does not have a credit-value in the foreign country he enters.   Beyond the boundary, he is most likely unable to use his bank-notes in ordinary transactions.  For Royce, this need not be a problem.  He argues,

Consequently, at the boundary, a new process may be convenient, if not for the traveler’s purpose, indispensable.  It is the process of exchanging coin of the realm which he leaves for that of the foreign land which he enters.  The process may be easy or difficult, may be governed by strict rules or else may be capricious, according to the conditions which prevail at the boundary.  But it is a third process, which consists neither in the presentation of cash-values nor in the offering or accepting of credit-values (Problem of Christianity, 283).

 

According to Royce, the process is two-fold.  First it is a process of interpreting the different cash-values of the two countries based on the laws and customs that both countries recognize as the exchange rate.  Secondly, it is a process of acting based on the interpretation (283).  In this example, the issue for Royce is not the principles that make the interpretation possible or the conduct involved in the interpretation.  Rather, it is the fact that a new process takes place and the form of this process is not reducible to either the bank-notes or the cash values.  In other words, the dyadic structure is unhelpful in explaining the process of money-changing, or the process of translation in cases of incommensurable competing concepts, or in cases of cross-cultural communication.

            In cases of cross-cultural communication, Royce recognizes the need for interpretation in a larger spiritual sense.  For one thing, Royce acknowledges the epistemological chasms between people particularly of different cultures.  He claims that the active synthesis, the practical processes of interrelations between percepts and concepts are limited to the individual knower (283).  It is difficult to compare these processes with one’s neighbor, particularly if you are traveling in another country.  Royce describes this difficult and existential situation as

Our efforts to view the world as other men view it… [are] generally analogous to the traveller’s financial transactions when the crosses the boundary.  We try to solve the problem of learning how to exchange the values of our own lives into terms which can hope to pass current in the new or foreign spiritual realms whereto, when we take counsel together, we are constantly attempting to pass.  Both the credit-values and the cash-values are not always easily exchanged (284).

 

Royce notes, inasmuch as the process of exchange in bank notes to cash is different than exchanging “our coins for foreign coins,” the process of verifying our concepts with corresponding percepts is different than the “process of interpreting our neighbor’s mind” (284).  Thus, the processes of perception and conception alone and/or in synthesis, or the positivist extreme emphasis on percepts, limit one from creating any meaning in life.  In cases of cross-cultural communication, it is evident that neither the differently situated speakers alone or in synthesis can make the discourse between them meaningful.  According to Royce, the process of interpretation “seeks our social and spiritual” (284) relations.  This allows us to understand the relationships between percepts and concepts in which we not only find the practical congruities of our experience, but also enable us to create meaningful relations between them.  Therefore, without the process of interpretation, the world and how we view the world would be meaningless. 

            The second factor associated in exemplifying the necessity of the third in knowledge in cases of radical differences is the role of the interpreter, the mediator.  According to Royce, the process of interpretation is incomplete when limited to two terms: either persons or other objects.  In cases of radical differences, it is difficult to see the interpreting process between two radically opposed persons or objects. Royce uses the example of the Egyptian translator to illustrate the role of the interpreter.  An Egyptologist translates an inscription.  It appears there are only two beings present in this context: the Egyptologist and the inscription.  However, Royce argues,

But a genuine translation cannot be merely a translation in the abstract.  There must be some language into which the inscription is translated (286).

 

Suppose the, that the Egyptologist is translating the inscription into English.  Thus, the translator is translating the inscription to somebody who understands English.  If a person does not know English, then the translation does not work for her at all.  Therefore, there are three beings present in the interpretation: the translator, the inscription to be translated, and the possible person who can read English.  According to Royce, all three beings are necessary in order for an English interpretation to exist of the Egyptian inscription.

            The role of the translator is two-fold in this example.  First, the translator must know both the English and Egyptian languages.  Second, the translator must be able to mediate between the two languages so as “to be intelligible to both persons whom the translation serves” (286).    Because of the necessity of the three beings in the process, the order that is inherent in the translation avoids relativism and also maintains a coherent view of the world.   The mediation engenders a triadic relation, which is “non-symmetrical,” that is, it displaces the order of the terms emphasizing the role of the interpreter to determine the order of the object to be interpreted and who the interpretation is for.  The non-symmetry of the relation is important because it emphasizes the “happenings” of the interpretation.  In this case, the relation is set up as A interprets B to C.  As Royce argues, if the terms were transposed in any way, such as B interprets A to C, the account of the interpretation would be altered, or depending on the context, can either be false or meaningless.  Thus, the interpretation puts the three members of the triadic relation into a “determinate order” (287).  The interpretation organizes the three members in a meaningful way, such that relativism is avoided.

            The process of interpretation may be seen to be embedded or interdependent within our ways of thinking about the world, as Quine might put it.  For example, A perceives B.  In this case, the relation is a dyadic one. All that is needed for the relation to exist is two terms.  However, when viewing the process of interpretation as triadic, A interprets B to C, all three terms must exist in order to make the interpretation possible.  Thus, it characterizes the “conscious reflection” (287) that is needed for an interpretation to exist.  This conscious reflection is not reducible to the dyadic relation of A perceives B.  Coherence, or fitting, under a dyadic model occurs coincidentally and also unreflectively.  Terms, such as embeddedness, interdependence, or assimilation, conceal the interpreting process.  Unfortunately, the concealment of the interpreting process also masks the need for conscious reflection in any meaningful relations.  Thus, in cases of radical translation between differently situated speakers, the result of the discourse amounts to assimilation.  There is no interpretive process to translate the cultural differences between the two speakers.  As a result, incommensurable experience becomes assimilated unreflectively.

            According to Royce, conscious reflection requires three functions of the mind:

the mind interpreted, the mind to whom the other is interpreted, and the interpreter… [all] would remain distinct as now they are.  There would be no melting together, no blending, no mystic blur, no lapse into mere intuition… We should remain, for me, many, even when viewed in this unity (315).

 

 For Royce, assimilation is not immanent.  The process of interpretation requires more than what a dyadic relation offers.  It uncovers the necessary third process foundational to any meaningful relation between disparate speakers or conflicting concepts.  Conscious reflection is the third process, which fosters meaningful communication between speakers, creates meaning between conflicting concepts, and resolves two warring ideals, which may create chasms between people interpretive relation would ensure that there would be no “ melting together” or assimilation of the distinct members of the relation.

            Given the above discussion, it is obvious that Royce finds the third process necessary when faced with difference, or recalcitrant experience.  It is the act of comparison, which first recognizes the difference between two terms and then second seeks a meaningful connection between the differences.  Royce argues that the mental process of Comparison at first glance forms an appearance of dyadic relations regarding differences and similarities.  “The shock of difference” (299) immediately poses oppositional and binary categories, such as A is unlike B or D is similar to C.  However, when pressed further as to what constitutes the differences or the similarities of the opposing categories, the mental process of comparison seeks a meaningful connection between the two.  The difference needs to be interpreted.  Royce argues, in light of Peirce’s theory of signs, there needs to be a third idea to explain the relationship between the binary terms.  For example, the water at Waldo Lake is clearer than the water at Crescent Lake.  In order to understand the differences in water quality, a third idea needs to be brought in to interpret the differences.  This third idea is that the water in Waldo Lake comes purely from snow melt or rain.  There are no inlets that enter the lake as opposed to Crescent Lake.  Consequently, there are minimal nutrients in Waldo Lake, thus, contributing to its clarity.  Therefore, the third idea noting the lack of inlets at Waldo Lake, which contributes to its clarity, interprets the differences between the two lakes.

            One consequence in cases of comparison is that a new act is introduced to resolve the conflicting differences.  Without this new act, the differences, when left isolated from one another, will never fully coalesce or cooperate with each other.  As Royce argues,

For this act of originality and sometimes even genius may be required.  This new act consists in the invention or discovery or some third idea, distinct from both the ideas, which are to be compared (304).

 

This creative aspect in the third process of knowledge explains the logic of discovery that produces novel ideas in science.  Ingenuity is part of any human undertaking, whether it occurs in science, in the arts, or in building a house or sailing a boat.  Royce argues,

The really creative insight has come from those who first compared and then mediated, who could first see two great ideas at once, and then find the new third idea which mediated them, and illumined (307).

 

In cases of radical translation, this creative aspect in the process of interpretation also allows us to find a way understanding differences among people of different backgrounds and cultures.  The interpretation may lead to destructive consequences, however, the interpretation is the only path where one can creatively revise the interpretation in order to find a harmonious connection between seemingly radical differences. 

Conclusion:  Creating a Space for Feminist Border Politics in Feminist Empiricism

            Moving away from positing a dyadic structure to a triadic structure in knowledge is important when bringing in feminist border politics into discussion with feminist empiricism. Introducing Royce’s theory of interpretation in contrast to Quine’s holism allows this theoretical move to take place in two ways.  First, the concept of difference is reconceived in light of the necessary third process of interpretation. Thus, Schutte’s principle of incommensurability necessary in cross-cultural communication is recognized in Royce’s theory of translation.  In fact, the differences in which the interpreter mediates are considered “sites of appreciation,” insofar as they are necessary for interpretation to exist.  Differences are to be interpreted and not assimilated within the network of our going theories.  They are not to be considered “recalcitrant,” “obscure,” or “deviant,” needing an assimilative process to be understood.  Radical translation should not take place “at home,” as Quine suggests, rather, it needs to take place at the borders of the conflicting experiences.  At the borders of experience, there is a place where a third process of translation thrives.  It is at this confluence of experience where differences are translated instead of assimilated.  Conscious reflection in any endeavors of translation is important to communicate adequately with those who have radically different theories and backgrounds from one’s own.  Thus, our theories should not be dichotomized when faced with radical differences.  Instead, our theories should recognize the borders of our experience as a third place that plays an important role when differences are encountered.  Only at the borders of experience can one cross the boundaries successfully.  Border communities are present within any boundaries of experience.  They may be concealed by the boundary, but their existence is nonetheless real.

            The second aspect where Royce makes it possible for feminist border politics to be included in feminist empiricist discussions is that the third aspect of consciousness, the interpretive element, requires creative ideas to mediate and make meaningful connections between the differences.  Calling for a new “mestiza consciousness” Anzaldúa recognizes this creative need for interpretation.  She argues,

Because the future depends on the breaking down of paradigms, it depends on the straddling of two or more cultures.  By creating a new mythos – that is a change in the way we perceive reality, the way we see ourselves and the ways we behave – la mestiza creates a new consciousness (379).

 

The third element in the mestiza consciousness requires an intersection of “two or more cultures.” This point of intersectionality is not to be assimilated into one of its parts, nor does it melt away the differences.  It requires intricate translation, a creative idea to interpret the differences in terms of the other.  In order for the translation to be successful, the interpreter must understand the theories of both participants involved.  Conscious reflection aids the process of interdependence between differences without assimilating the difference into our larger going theories. 

             In conclusion, in order for feminist empiricism to understand the problems of difference that experience constantly supplies us with, a new way of conceiving knowledge, in light of these differences, must be introduced.  Our theories and the world cannot be unified in a dyadic relationship.  The process of interpretation and the need for mediation and translation, particularly when encountering cultural differences must be recognized.  Once this process is recognized, a theoretical space is created that allows our theories to consider the strategies of feminist border politics.  A process of translation needs to be recognized within our theories of knowledge in order to understand recalcitrant experience, which we continually experience when we theorize about the world.  Once feminist empiricists see the border communities, which overlap the boundaries of differences between radically different communities, as a source of knowledge, strategies for understanding recalcitrant experience in our theories of knowledge can emerge.  It is a third place where the process of mediation is possible and where meaning can be derived while avoiding the unreflective assimilation of differences.

 

Works Cited

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Nelson, Lynn Hankinson. 1990. Who Knows: From Quine to a Feminist Empiricism.

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Quine, W.V. 1969.  “Ontological Relativity” in Ontological Relativity and Other Essays.  New

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__________. 1980. “Two Dogmas of Empiricism” in From a Logical Point of View: Nine Logico-Philosophical Essays. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

 

 

Royce, Josiah. 2001. The Problem of Christianity, foreword by F. Oppenheim, S.J. Washington

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Schutte, Ofelia. 2001. “Cultural Alterity: Cross-Cultural Communication and Feminist Theory in

North-South Contexts” in Women of Color and Philosophy: A Critical

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