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CEPPA Talk (online) – Paulina Sliwa (Vienna) & Tom McClelland (Cambridge)

October 5, 2023 @ 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm

Title: On seeing women as objects: objectification and affordance perception

Location: Teams (online only), the talk will be streamed from Edgecliffe G03

Abstract: Objectification is a central topic in feminist philosophy theorising. But what is it for someone to objectify another person? A common theme is that objectification involves treating and viewing the other person as an object. Thus, consider the following quotes:

‘A man, for example, who objectifies women will view them and treat them as having a nature which makes them what he desires them to be…’ (Haslanger, p.73)

‘The most subtle and deniable way sexualized evaluation is enacted – and arguably the most ubiquitous – is through gaze, or visual inspection of the body .… when objectified, women are treated as bodies – and in particular, as bodies that exist for the use and pleasure of others.’ (Fredrickson and Roberts, p.175)

In a classic paper, Nussbaum has unpacked the various aspects of “treating someone as an object”. What has received less attention is the role of perception in objectification. It is striking that in describing what objectification involves, the language of “seeing”, of “gaze”, of “looking” is central. Is this purely metaphorical talk? Or is there something literally visual going on?

Our aim in this paper is to answer this question: can we make sense of  objectification as a phenomenon with a genuinely visual component? We suggest that the notion of affordance perception – the idea that we perceive possibilities for action – allows us to do so. We draw out some consequences for the moral psychology of objectification as well as for the act of looking as a tool of oppression.


October 5, 2023
4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
Event Category:


Johannes Nickl