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Bridging the Gap: An Investigation of the Transition From Received Knowledge to Subjective Knowledge in Women's Development and in Gender-Aware Psychotherapy

13 December 1993


This dissertation provides a beginning rationale for the discovery of treatments specific to individual levels of epistemological development. As with other developmental theories, epistemological development has been shown to fall into groupings, variously known as perspectives or positions ever since the concept of stage has become untenable. Several studies have illuminated the particular characteristics of each epistemological developmental position; one focuses predominately on men and the other focuses on women. This discussion emphasizes the development of women’s ways of knowing. Ways of knowing is the descriptive way to indicate epistemology, and epistemology has been found to differ between women and men.

This dissertation hypothesizes the variable in this difference to be the socially limiting prescriptive nature of the feminine role. Complex, more relativistically organized understandings of reality, or epistemological perspectives, are postulated to be incommensurate with the Western feminine role, thereby proscribing women from attaining relativistic epistemological perspectives if they wish to maintain the still culturally-valued feminine role. On the grand scale, the current cultural epistemology is in the midst of a transition between paradigms, and the hypothesis of this work is that it is moving from a dualistic, waning paradigm toward the next level of complexity, an emerging cultural epistemological paradigm.

Aspects of culture and science that challenge the waning paradigm are described to provide a foundation for elucidating the paradigm which is emerging as a replacement. Women’s role, with its limitations to women’s ways of knowing, is seen as a fundamental part of the waning paradigm. In this dissertation, feminism is seen as the challenge that will impact these role limitations. Feminism is viewed in this dissertation’s argument as an important challenge to the waning epistemological paradigm, in that it reveals the depth of investment that the Western culture has in preserving the feminine role as limiting of women’s personal authority. To discover the connection between the embedded gender inequalities in Western culture and the philosophical paradigm, the Western epistemology’s dualistic construction of reality is explored. The importance of understanding epistemological development for the psychotherapist is noted and operationalized in the treatment format.


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