Florida International University
Laurie Shrage's influential research examines the philosophical assumptions and political values that ground demands for the emancipation of women, reproductive and health care rights, toleration for diverse gender and sexual expression, and marriage and family equality. She approaches these demands and their justification not only abstractly, but also as concrete historical and cultural developments. This involves studying histories and ethnographies of political struggle by gender and sexual dissidents, in part so that she can recognize her own parochial moral assumptions.
Some describe this kind of philosophy as “applied philosophy,” which suggests that it only applies philosophical theories and does not critique and elaborate them. But Shrage describes what she does as “empirically informed” philosophy, which suggests that philosophical theorizing is not detached from the societies in which we live, and therefore we should try to understand the origins of our moral and political questions. Many in our field believe that philosophers of mind today should pay attention to scientific accounts of the brain, and similarly I contend that moral and political philosophers should pay attention to historical and social scientific accounts of political and moral problems.
In general, Shrage is more interested in using philosophical theories to explore and inform public debates over moral and political issues than in defending a particular school of philosophical thought. In this respect, she sometimes describes herself as a “pragmatic pluralist.” In the past decade, she has begun to study the social and institutional history of Philosophy in the U.S., in part to understand better the guild she has joined, and also why it attracts so few women and scholars of color. She hopes to write more about this over the next decade. For an outline of this project, see: http://www2.fiu.edu/~lshrage/FromPragmatismtoScientism.html