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23 February 2012


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Jonathan Weisberg

Not cheerleaders: catholic school girls. This kind of mistake would never get past the editors of Synthese.


I hope Vincent will explain what the f... he was thinking (or not thinking) when posting this. I hope it was some kind of mistake but then why doesn't he take the pictures, except the last one, down (the last picture is just portraying Vincent)?

Mohan Matthen

I am not holding my breath. In the Synthese affair, he was the strong silent type. Silent anyway.

Mohan Matthen

Did you go to a catholic school, Jonathan?—I have forgotten.

Jonathan Weisberg

I went here... that is all you need know on the matter.

Mohan Matthen

Are you kidding? Here is where I did. No cheerleaders there.

Carl Sachs

In these kinds of cases, the most commonly-asked question is something like, "what were they thinking?" But the sad part is the overwhelming likelihood that he wasn't thinking anything. He probably just thought it would be funny and gave it no more thought than that.

On a positive note, I think that the professional community responds to this kind of BS much more quickly and publicly than in the past, and that might even count as a kind of moral progress, if one believes in such a thing.

Ingo Brigandt

No, Hendricks has not apologized. This is a classic not-pology: he writes that he apologizes for "offending various parties in the philosophical community" (which has never been the point), but does not apologize for the misogynist presentation of his logic course and his promotion of a sexist image of philosophy professors.

And he has changed his public statement without acknowledgement. Originally, the statement repeatedly referred to one picture: "A recent picture ... I have removed the picture ..." (this is the statement he posted at the Feminist Philosophers and Leiter Reports, and Google cache shows that this was the original statement on his webpage). Upon being called out for this disingenuous claim, he has now modified the statement such that it refers to several pictures: "Some recent pictures ... I have removed the pictures ...".

Ignoring the unbelievable claim that he posted the pictures so that others can "view logic from a somewhat humorous and untraditional perspective", his public statements amounts to two counts of disingenuity and lack of intellectual integrity: the false claim that it was just about one picture, and the amendment of his claim without acknowledgement.

Jack Johnson

What was he thinking? Behavior like this suggests that the question isn't worth asking. Hendricks has just made my job - in part, convincing talented and suitably inclined women that logic is a viable option - inestimably harder, by confirming many of their worst suspicions. Thank you, Vincent F. Hendricks. Asshat of the Year.

Mark Lance

This is an important point, I think. There is nothing to add about this stupid, exploitative, sexist performance. But the profession has quickly and effectively responded. He was forced into taking it down. He gave a pseudo-apology. (I agree with Ingo about the specifics.) This sort of effective shaming creates a climate. Hendricks having been roundly denounced here, on Leiter, and on femphil, this will certainly serve as a deterrent to other reflexively sexist philosophers to think a bit more about their behavior. This is the way that social conventions change. Now if we could be as effective vis a vis other versions of sexism in the profession, ...

Eric Winsberg

It does cut both ways though. Everything you say is true, but this kind of exposure of such over-the-top shenanigans also create an opportunity for those guilty of those more subtle versions of sexism in the profession (which, surely, are the real problem) to pat themselves (ourselves?) on the back for not having pictures like that on their webpages.

Mark Lance

I suppose that is true. But though I don't know how to offer an argument, I just feel completely confident that on balance, social censure of such things does more good than harm.

Rebecca Kukla

I just want to underscore Ingo's point that this was a totally bogus apology and Hendricks should not get significant moral points for it, as the update indicates he should. He clearly got totally embarrassed and had to say something, and he said the minimal, "sorry I unexpectedly offended your pathetically delicate humorless sensibilities" thing, while blatantly misrepresenting the original website, and then changing his misrepresentation without comment when called on it. The so-called apology only underscores the problem, in my view.

Also, I agree with all of Carl, Mark, and Eric - it's good the outcry was swift and overwhelming, but he set a new low bar for what counts as outcry-worthy sexism.

Mohan Matthen

To be honest, I feel a sorry for the guy. It can't be pleasant being shown to the world as a vain and silly man with teenagerish preoccupations. (Preoccupied both like and by teenagers.) Speaking for myself I am glad that he issued an x-pology for any value of x, including not, pseudo, crypto etc. It's a sick-making episode, and I'll be glad when it slips under the horizon.

Mohan Matthen

I can't see where this comment is going. Are you saying it would be better to praise these shenanigans, or say "Boys will be boys"—and then nobody could pat themselves on the back?

John Protevi

What's all this about Connerie magazine?

Eric Winsberg

No no, of course not. I just think we should guard against the effect I'm talking about as well.

Mohan Matthen

That is the one that named him Hunk of the Month.


Well played.

Catarina Dutilh Novaes

Just to be clear: are you guys implying that Hendricks is not genuinely sorry for having posted the pictures, and that he's issued some sort of not-pology just because he had to say something? I do agree that the phrasing of the apology is not ideal, but fwiw I also think that he does realize he made a real mess of things rather than simply 'offending humorless people'.


Jonathan, at least you didn't end up at YU afterwards.

Michel X.

FWIW, I think John Protevi was just punning. 'Connerie' means 'BS' or 'idiocy' in French, and the magazine's name is 'Connery'. Oddly appropriate.

John Protevi

C'est vrai, dans l'affaire Hendricks il y a beaucoup de conneries.

But I think Mohan caught the pun the first time.


Nobody has deconstructed the photographs themselves, which have been extremely carefully done. It would be very interesting if Hendricks could let us in on what it was exactly that he was trying to do with these? They are full of references! Continental philosophers are great at this kind of thing. (Probably not too many of them are reading this blog though.)

Danish Student

As a student from Denmark, I find it appropriate to point out the following inaccuracy in the way this issue has been presented (this is not to say that it changes anything about the problematic character of the pictures, but I feel it is important to get the facts straight):

The website the pictures was posted on isn't any kind of course website. It is Hendricks' personal homepage. Danish students seeking information about the course wouldn't look here, but at the SIS-page (study information system) to which Hendricks' linked. So many student wouldn't notice these pictures, I though I know of some who have seen them. Their reaction was not to their sexist character, however. They rather found it hillarious how goofy they made Hendricks look.

I suspect many Danes would share this reaction: They would primarily see it as a (quite silly) joke. Danes seem to be a lot less sensitive to these kinds of things. Perhaps it's because our culture is in many ways quite relaxed about sex? Or it could be because we have few problems with discrimination against women (e.g. most women have fulltime careers, there is virtually no resistance against abortion)? It could of course also be that it is because we see ourselves as so progressive that we can't recognize sexism when it's right in front of us!

I don't know and these explanations are obviously not mutually exclusive.

I also want to second Catarina Dutilh Novaes' remark that Hendricks' apology admits of a more generous reading than the one given by Ingo Brandt. It is correct that in the phrase "I truly apologize for this", it is ambiguous whether 'this' refers to the posting of the pictures or the reaction they afforded. But the next part of that sentence: "I stand completely corrected", seems to indicate that he recognizes that he made a genuine mistake (as opposed to a mere strategic PR-mistake).

Mohan Matthen

I agree with Catarina. It's a not-pology because it doesn't actually say that he did anything intrinsically (as opposed to relationally) wrong. But I think the guy is feeling badly embarrassed in all sorts of ways.

Mohan Matthen
The website the pictures was posted on isn't any kind of course website.
I don't think this is accurate. It may not be the University's course system, or the official course page, but it is titled "Logic Course".
They rather found it hillarious how goofy they made Hendricks look. I suspect many Danes would share this reaction
Significantly, this parallels the kind of reaction that the Synthese protest got from many people. "In Europe, creationism isn't an issue." Therefore, you don't have to be vigilant of creationist intimidation. I don't buy it. The fact that this culturally relativistic defence has been used twice, in these quite different contexts, tells me only that some people think it cogent to excuse themselves by saying "This behaviour isn't bad in Denmark because it is tolerated in Denmark." You'll need to do better than this.
In any case, I am not wholly convinced that what you say is true. See comment 2 by Brit Brogaard, a proud Dane.
Finally, I didn't take Catarina's point to be the apology admits of a more generous reading. I took her to be saying that independently of what the apology might say, Hendricks is aware of bad things regarding the pictures beyond "offending humourless people."
Catarina Dutilh Novaes

Actually, I think that on a more generous reading we could also say that he not only acknowledges having done something relationally wrong, but also something intrinsically wrong. What he may mean by having 'offended people' could be related to what he now sees as the (objectively speaking) sexist content of the pictures, and the fact that having posted them would have offended people. It is the difference between telling a racist joke and then apologizing if people get offended, but still on the assumption that the joke isn't really racist, or apologizing for having offended people upon realizing that the joke truly was racist. I really do think that we are on the second scenario here.
(Not sure I'm making sense here, but I shouldn't even be reading all this stuff: I'm on holiday!)

Nathan Howard

While Danes may in fact be 'less sensitive to these things', I do not think that Danish mores are exclusively relevant here. North American and/or international ones are too (assuming, of course, that we can draw such sharp distinctions).

Assuming your claims, Danish women have few(er) problems with discrimination relative to their North American counterparts. But then the converse is true -- North American women have more problems with discrimination relative to their Danish counterparts. And it is VH qua North American professor (and internationally significant journal editor) who posted these pictures, not merely VH qua Danish professor. So there are reasons to care about this incident over and above those that apply in the possible world where VH does not occupy positions at Columbia and Synthese. This is not an 'in house' dispute amongst Danes, as you seem to imply.

(I have no views as regards the apology.)

Mohan Matthen

@24. Do tell.


To Danish Student: You have to look at the percentage of women on your faculty. The membership of the Association of Symbolic Logic is 12% female on last count. The percentage of females (regardless of rank, but look at the full professor numbers first) in faculties of Theoretical Philosophy in northern Europe is usually quite a bit lower. I don't know the figures for Denmark but in Scandinavia in general the situation is not good at all.

Mohan Matthen

Sorry Catarina, but I cannot see it. He says the pictures have "caused some debate". Then that his intention was "to view logic from a somewhat humorous and untraditional perspective." Then that "it" "had the opposite effect." ('It' has no gramatically correct antecedent, but I take it he is talking about posting the pictures.) Finally "I truly apologize for this." Though he is not a champion in correct antecedents, I can't see what 'this' refers to other than the offence taken by "various parties." I am perfectly prepared to agree that we are in your second scenario, but the difference between the two scenarios is contained not in the apology, but in the mind of the apologizer.

Danish Student

Mohan Matthen:

As far as I can see, the page was an advertisement for the course. That hardly qualifies as a course website? Anyway, my point was that this is not the place students from the University of Copenhagen would seek information - the SIS-system is the standard source for all courses.

But just to make it clear, my comment was not meant to excuse or defend. I am honestly concerned with these issues, and it deeply worries me that I as a Dane - and many Danes I speak with about it - have a hard time recognizing the problematic nature of these things before they are pointed out to us. When I wrote that we may be blinded by our own perceived progressiveness, I meant it as a serious possibility!

With regards to Berit Brogaard's comment, it is one that carries a lot of weight with me. Even more so her comment at the Feminist Philosopher's blog that she probably wouldn't have been a philosopher today if this had happened when she studied at the University of Copenhagen!

I am reporting how students (that I speak with) in Denmark perceive these things. Or at least how they express their perception of it. We are from a different generation than Berit and most have lived almost all of their lives in Denmark. Perhaps that explains the difference in our reactions.

Danish Student

Nathan Howard & JCK:

As I explained in my answer to Mohan Matthen, I did not intend to imply that we have no problems in Denmark or that this is a pure inhouse dispute. I realize it is easy to generate implicatures to that effect when trying to provide context (from one particular perspective), especially when it is a morally touchy subject such as this.

As to the philosophy faculty at the University of Copenhagen, there are no permanently appointed female professors. Of a total of 35 teaching faculty (including ph.d.-students who are counted as such in the Danish system) 10 are female. This is obviously not satisfactory! When I wrote that we have "few problems" I did not have philosophy in particular in mind, but the general state of affairs compared to many other countries. Or at least the common Danish perception of these states of affairs (I regard it as a serious possibility that I and others may be overrating how well Denmark is doing on this account!).

Mohan Matthen

Fair enough. I have completely lost touch with the views on such matters of students of your generation. But I hope you continue to think about this.


Thanks for these data. Discounting ph.d. students, could you tell me what the figures are? (I.e. the percentage of female faculty out of the total.) I would check this myself from the link you gave but I am not a Danish speaker.

Mohan Matthen

DS said that there are no permanently appointed female faculty.


Hi Mohan, DS said there are no permanently appointed female *professors*; I was wondering about the other (no-professorial) ranks.

Danish Student

I intended to use 'professor' in the American sense which (as I understand it) includes both associated professors and full professors - basicly, anyone with tenure.

In Denmark we have 'Lektor' and '(full) Professor'. These are the only permanent positions. None of these are held by women at the university of Copenhagen.

If you exclude ph.d.-students and 'ekstern lektor' (which, despite the name, are teaching-only and hired on a term-by-term basis), the numbers go down to 2 out of 19.

To complicate things a bit, these numbers do not include the Center for Subjectivity Research. It is closely associated with the philosophy department and employs many philosophers who teach courses at philosophy, but the staff also includes psychiatricians and theologians.


Dear DS: Thanks! About your "In Denmark we have 'Lektor' and '(full) Professor'. These are the only permanent positions. None of these are held by women at the university of Copenhagen."

You mean none of these (Lektor and full professor) are held by women in the *philosophy faculty.* Or did you really mean in the whole University?

Danish Student

No, of course just the division of philosophy. In fact, most of the other humanities are dominated by women. (I don't have a clear picture of how things stand at the other faculties - and don't rely to heavily on my numbers, they are just based on quickly counting names on the page I linked to).

Mark Lance

I am. I don't think anyone puts their apology in terms of "having offended people" if they are genuine. It is the most common trope of bullshit pseudo-apologies. It is of course possible that I am wrong - I'm claiming a universal empirical generalization, not a conceptual truth - and if so, I trust that having seen this reaction all over the place, he will clarify that he is sorry to have treated women in a trivializing and objectifying manner in a way that was utterly contrary to professional ethics, rather than being sorry for having offended.

Mohan Matthen

Actually, being sorry for having offended would be at least something. He's sorry that people took offence.

As a philosopher, I'm disturbed by the high-mindedness displayed here. Whence the urge to police the philosophical community?

the guy who wrote this:

...probably never read Beyond Good and Evil or On the Genealogy of Morals.

I found the pictures quite hilarious and my wife too!

Mohan Matthen

I didn't know Nietzsche had posted pictures of himself with a bunch of scantily dressed catholic schoolgirls. That changes everything. I'll stop being high-minded right now.


DS: A quick informal browse of the faculties at your university shows a rather small percentage of women in the professorial ranks, as you define "professor", in the University of Copenhagen overall. But there is nothing like gathering the actual data to get a real fix on what is going on. Maybe a constructive response to the situation that sparked this discussion would be just this kind of data-gathering effort.

It is hard to get actual figures, but just looking at philosophy and mathematics departments in Scandinavian universities, these tend to have a very low percentage of female faculty, if not in many places 0. If you just look at the senior ranks the figures are very dramatic, e.g. in your faculty of philosophy again there are NO women Lektors or Professors. Quite a dramatic situation, I would say.

A number of us in logic are involved in gender outreach. But first one has to recognize that there is a problem. In Scandinavia women generally have it much better than elsewhere, and this causes people to be a little bit complacent when it comes to gender imbalance in certain fields in certain universities.

Hendriks has apologised and that should be the end of it as far as he is concerned. On the other hand it looks like there may be something to do in the way of gender outreach in your department.

Maybe Vincent would be willing to get involved with such an initiative.

John Protevi

44 is not bad in terms of restraint. But it won't be long before the Hendricks Defense League just comes right out with the "Anglo-Saxon prudery" and the "feminazis" and is done with this dilly-dallying.


The problem is more pervasive than just Hendrick's pics. To give you some comparison, members of the almost all-male university faculty where I work (in continental Europe) frequently provide memorable quotes during their lectures. These quotes are collected in the student magazine and can be consulted there. If you know the department, you will perhaps recognize the style. To give a random pick of things these profs said during lectures over the past year and a half (three different individuals). I'm translating as literally as possible:
"You've no idea what a dirty man I am, miss."
"Let's talk about those times when women had no power whatsoever. In other words, all times. Except perhaps ours. "
"The female sexual parts are larger for women in [censured, a non-western country] than in western women I have known. By the way, I'm married."
The students find this all very funny and amusing. But these quotes do reflect the rampant sexism in my department. Unsurprisingly, we have a low number of women PhD students (only 20% or so) and even fewer postdocs.

Mark Lance

I love rhetorical phrases like "high-minded". (By 'love' here, I mean have hatred and contempt for, just so we are clear.) Should we be "low-minded"? Is thinking a bad thing?
You ask, as if rhetorically, "whence the urge to police the philosophical community?"
Well, leave aside the silly use of "police" - police are an institutional arm of the state that carries weapons, and locks people up under threat of violence, even when they aren't just beating the shit out of people - which has nothing to do with this effort by philosopher bloggers. The urge to morally criticize comes from giving a shit about the role of women in the profession and the effect that this sort of trivializing, objectifying display of them in a position of sexual subservience to a white man at least twice their age will have on potential philosophy students. If you think it is funny, then you - and your wife too! - are willfully ignorant of the world around you and just don't give enough of a shit to care about such things. In some sense, whatever. It isn't like moral laziness and apathy aren't common. But don't pretend to some sort of superiority because you are oh so cynical and humor-filled with your copy of Nietzche. (Is it next to Herman Hesse on your shelf?)

A former philosophy student who wishes to remain anonymous

Brian posted the following comment from a female grad student on his blog that I take it is representative of the consensus view:

"I found it deeply unsettling—the message was unequivocally that women, especially women about my age, were viewed in a sexual manner. This meant, to me as a young scientist, that I was not being viewed in the first instance as a promising intellectual star scientist."

Now, here's a Devil's advocate question for y'all. Why can't it be both? Why does everyone assume (or at least, talk like they assume) that these two ways of thinking of someone are automatically in conflict? I mean... that's not just in need of argument, it's obviously, blatantly, false. Intelligence and competence are very sexy, and the assumption, again totally false in my experience, that men think the opposite seems more sexist than anything about the photos.

Kathryn Pogin

Frankly, though I'm glad that the pictures are down and that he apologized for *something*, I find it deeply dissatisfying that he refers to this as a “somewhat humorous and untraditional perspective appealing to larger audience…” I don’t think it’s humorous at all to appeal to sexual fantasies of women fawning over those who hold power over them, nor exploit stereotypical views of women which emphasize their aesthetic value and ignore their intellectual value, in order to sell logic to a “broader” audience (and I put “broader” in scare quotes here, because in a sense, of course he’s right that a men’s magazine has a broader audience than logic might regularly have, but in another sense, in appealing to men this way, one clearly narrows the potential audience overall by demeaning women philosophy students). I'm actually not even certain it's untraditional-- unless he means making traditional views of women explicit is itself untraditional.

high-mindedness goes together with an urge to offend, apparently. Not that I'm surprised. Also: I do not think that it is inevitable to see a disjunction between finding something 'funny' and caring about the world around me

Mark Lance

Absolutely. Thinking and caring about ethical issues - which I take it is as close to cognitive content as "high minded gets" - goes very much along with an urge to offend sophomoric pseudo-aesthetic dismissal of serious ethical issues.

And while I have no idea what an "inevitable disjunction" might be, it is perfectly clear that finding serious morally bad behavior merely funny is incompatible with caring about the world around you.

I didn't think I said that I find 'serious morally bad behaviour merely funny'. I'm also not 'pseudo-aesthetically dismissing serious ethical issues'. I just don't think that the posting of those pictures constituted 'serious morally bad behaviour'.

Mark Lance

Of course you didn't say it; you merely did it.
Yes you are.
I realize that you are morally oblivious.

Mark Lance

I fear that I'm just feeding trolls here. And for that reason I'm off to watch mindless tv with a bottle of wine for the rest of the night. But just once: Are you serious?? You are attributing to critics the view that women can't be sexually attractive and smart? Really? The portrayal of the women in the photo: that was showing the sexiness of their intellect? Is that the position you want to go with here? Women dancing around in mini-skirts with pom-poms? That's portraying women as sexual by virtue of being smart?

The view you attribute is, indeed, blatantly false. But the attribution is blatantly moronic. And offensive. And annoying. And moronic.

John Protevi

Matt, I'm thinking 54 is in response to 50, right?

that you realize that I am morally oblivious is of course not a realization of a fact but of what you *think* I am, and that is of course consistent with your definition of 'serious morally bad behaviour'. I suggest that we just agree that we have different conceptions of what is morally acceptable and what not.


Right. I forgot to make that clear.


Well, It's not quite scantily dressed catholic schoolgirls, but maybe this is a good 19th century version?

(I mean that as a joke, in case it's not clear!)

Matt Lister

(To avoid confusion, there are two "Matts" commenting- I didn't notice it when I posted or I would have used my full name. I wouldn't mind taking credit for the Spinal Tap link, but it wouldn't be fair.)


This certainly adds data points to the judgment about Hendricks' personality and professionalism, and one shouldn't be so kind to call both this and the ID-scandal "poor judgment".Rather, Hendricks' certainly lacks common sense and manners, or at least, social sensibilities.

Apart from that, I second (or n'th) the wish that the e-protests to this kind of behavior extends to real life and more common sexism.

David Ripley

What an absolute trainwreck. For every implicit bias/unconscious discrimination/structural factors explanation for the low proportion of women in philosophy in general and logic in particular (and I have no doubt these explanations are part of the story), there's a bog-standard hostile environment explanation (which I suspect is a much larger part of the story than it often gets credit for---and of course these are linked, etc, etc). Contributing to that sort of environment like this is completely unacceptable.

The statement does little to help. It's better than just leaving things as they were, but on the scale of non-apologies, it's not Charlie Sheen bad, but it's not even Mel Gibson good.

(Also, while googling for apologies to compare this to, I found this, which may help brighten your day: Anthony Weiner’s Apology Speech (Presented By Guilty-Looking Dachshunds).)

A former philosophy student who wishes to remain anonymous

I'm not necessarily attributing that view to the critics (though they DO often talk as though there were some inherent conflict there). If anything, I feel like the critics, or at least the student I quoted, are, falsely, attributing that view to men in general (and, by extension, me).

I am... mostly serious (I did say it was something of a Devil's advocate argument). Your responses, less so; I'm seeing a lot of mockery, insult and righteous indignation but very little reasoned argument here.

Kathryn Pogin

That wasn't a student who Leiter was quoting, that was a senior female philosopher, discussing her time as a student. There is nothing wrong with thinking that competence and intelligence is sexy. There is something wrong with seeing female students and colleagues primarily as potential sexual partners, and treating them as such.


I have never posted to this blog before, but in this one case I find that I cannot resist sharing my thoughts for the sake of those on this thread who don't see what all the fuss is about. So let me take a stab at explaining why these images so deeply disturbed and angered me, and why I think something more than this one paragraph stab at an apology is in order.

I am a female philosopher, and a current job seeker. These photos, posted by a senior male professional philosophy on his website, are not at all "untraditional" or "humorous," as he disingenuously claims. They are very traditionally sexist: they treat women as nothing more than objects of sexual desire. And I don't see how that is funny. That these photos depict women as nothing more than sexual objects is not, I think, debatable. And I don't want to argue with those folks who think that treating women as sexual objects is OK, so long as the women being depicted consent, or whatever. I'm just not going to agree with those people, and that's fine. The larger and more pressing point is clearly this. In a profession in which we KNOW FOR A FACT that women are already marginalized in a thousand different ways, and are often not taken seriously, and subject to all sorts of unconscious bias, this sort of action is clearly and painfully horrifying. And what really angers and saddens me about this whole episode is that it is likely the case that Professor Hendriks really doesn't see anything wrong with these pictures, and really was taken aback by the reaction of women in the profession. We live in a world that has become so accustomed to treating women as, first and foremost, objects of male sexual fantasy, that it really doesn't even occur to the most educated among us that there is anything obviously wrong with it. Notoriously, it doesn't not even occur to women that there is a problem with it. So, perhaps Professor Hendriks is being honest when he reports that the intention of these pictures was to be "humorous." But that's the problem, isn't it? The problem is that this is the sort of thing that seems funny to the men who dominate our profession. But actually, there is nothing funny about degrading young women in this way. And what message is it sending to young women who go to his site? That you too can be a sexy logic bunny in one of his fantasies, and maybe if you are lucky, sleep with the wise logic professor? That you too can join his harem of hyper-sexualized, fawning students, eager to learn God-only-knows-what. To imply that the message here is that learning is sexy is just not credible. For one thing, the professor himself is cast in a traditional light. It is the women who are posed in sexually provocative stances, wearing next to nothing, and appear to be doing nothing that even remotely resembles learning logic. What they appear to be doing is waiting for the professor to bring them to some kind of sexual climax or release.

I could go on, but i won't. I hope the point is clear enough. I for one, do not accept his not-apology. I believe that he deserves to be reprimanded. In posting these photos on his website, he is, intentionally or not, creating a negative and hostile environment for women in the profession and for his potential and actual female students, and doing that should have negative professional ramifications.


Brian posted the following comment from a female grad student on his blog that I take it is representative of the consensus view:

If anything, I feel like the critics, or at least the student I quoted

That is pretty funny, it must be said, given your (sadly, none-too-bright) remarks. I mean, she had to have been a student, right? I know Leiter prefaced the quote by saying "A senior female philosopher at a top department writes", but I confess I agree with you that I have no idea what those words could possibly mean. Are they even in English?


I mean this as a substantive philosophical question, wondering about what most find intuitively obvious, and not at all as morally subversive as it sounds, but I am wondering why one oughtn't view women in a sexual way, such as how they are depicted in the V.H. pictures (or in far less conservative ways). (I take it that one might also view them as fantastic logicians as well, that they are not incompatible.) It strikes me that of all the philosophical problems still being worked on, sexual ethics is still one on the table. Is that right? Is the moral argument supposed to be based on how most people would view those images and the inferences they would make from them, such as that women are only capable of sex, certainly not logic? I take it that is more about discrimination than about sexual ethics, but do we really know what causes the gender imbalances in such fields? What should I read (empirical and philosophical) on these topics? I guess personally I'd like to be on the same boat as everyone else but I lack the requisite moral intuitions or cultural context and pressures. I hope I haven't been doing philosophy for so long that I've lost the ability to see intuitively or commonsensically (I've surely lost that) what the rest of you see (actually, a close pastor's wife often warns me about the same thing, but in the context of abortion. tant pis!).


I'm seeing a lot of mockery, insult and righteous indignation but very little reasoned argument here.

Huffity puffity. You present something resembling an argument for us to work with, or at least some evidence of elementary reading comprehension, and we might lay off the mockery. In the meantime, I shall pass you these smelling salts, which I keep about my person for occasions such as this when semi-literate anonymous internet people show up with a bad attitude and worse ideas expecting a certain dignity be accorded them by all and sundry.


I hope I haven't been doing philosophy for so long

Based on that comment I must say I certainly hope that as well.

John Protevi

I mean this as a substantive philosophical question

No you don't, and quit pretending otherwise. You mean it as a clever way to expose the over-sensitive sex-phobic PC monsters who are so extreme that rational folks like you just can't seem to keep up with how they keep changing the rules and it's oh so complicated now, and hey you, teach me about that there feminismalistic ethicalism I've started to hear about.*

*Fourth square from left, top row:

A former philosophy student who wishes to remain anonymous

I see we can add "red herrings" to my list. Sorry I misremembered the professional status of the speaker, but that's irrelevant to whether the assumption she appears to be making (along with other critics of these pictures) is justified. You're trying to slap me down with blatan fallacies of relevance I'm sure you wouldn't let a freshman get away with, and your last comment sounds more like something I'd expect from a religious zealot than a philosopher. If the case against the view I'm expressing is so clear-cut, surely it would be just as easy to explain why?

John Protevi

Matt has already explained why in 54:

A former philosophy student who wishes to remain anonymous

That's about as philosophically sound an answer as "because". But, I give up; it's clear I'm not going to get anything better here. I'd LIKE to see philosophers question their own assumptions more, and other people's motivations less (even if it were true that I was a troll, it wouldn't be relevant to anything!). But while this disappoints, it does not surprise; the fact that they so seldom live up to this ideal is one of the reasons I'm a FORMER philosophy student.

A former philosophy student who wishes to remain anonymous

Sorry, should say "and other people's motivations FOR QUESTIONING THEM less".

John Protevi

I'm not questioning your motivations for "questioning" us; I'm mocking you for your inability in 50 and elsewhere to distinguish "sexy" from "sexist."


I find it interesting that the racial dimension of these pictures, and Hendricks' own racial heritage (he has an African American father and calls himself a "halfblack"; see various interviews and other materials on his webpage: has not been mentioned at all in the discussion.


Dear Professors Lance and Protevi,

Although I agree with much of the views you have expressed here regarding the Hendricks incident, I feel compelled to leave a comment after reading the exchange that has taken place here. Frankly, I am disappointed to see philosophers in prominent professional positions openly insulting individuals who are attempting to engage them in discourse about relevant topics. I believe that it is our responsibility to maintain high standards of civility in debates, even if we feel that our opponents are not doing so. (In this case, it actually appears that some of your opponents, such as "A former philosophy student...," have maintained higher standards of civility.) After all, ad hominem fallacies are fallacies just the same.

I believe you should have the freedom to express yourself in any way you wish, but to see you posting such things under your full names, in a way which makes it easy to connect you to your professional positions, concerns me. For I fear that earnest, intellectually honest individuals might witness such an exchange and reasonably come to the conclusion that many (most?) philosophers do not care about finding the truth through rational debate (and exercising the charity and open-mindedness which accompanies that approach) so much as asserting their intellectual dominance over others or dogmatically championing their views and marginalizing all those who disagree.

I don't believe that either of you would address your students or colleagues in this way, and while these commentators are probably neither your students nor your colleagues, I would hope that the same standards of courtesy apply to all those with whom you willingly engage in the public sphere qua professional philosophers.


(Please forgive my anonymity. I am a current PhD student at a US university who will be on the job market in the relatively near future. As such, I feel compelled to protect myself, since my career may well come to depend on either of you evaluating me as an applicant. Given the way I have seen you respond to other commentators here who have disagreed with you, I do not discount the possibility that you will react harshly to this comment, in which case I would prefer that you not associate my real name with it, since you may well see that name on a job application and remember it.)

P.S. -- It occurs to me that one might argue that the way in which one may permissibly respond to (those one perceives as) "trolls" may reasonably differ (in being much harsher) than the way in which ought to respond to earnest, sincere interlocutors. However, I am not so sure that all your interlocutors here are trolls. Indeed, at least one seems to be claiming not to be a troll. Is it not possible that he or she is in fact sincere? You may believe him or her to be deeply mistaken, but this seems compatible with sincerity. In any case, why respond at all if one suspects a troll? Would it not be better to maintain professional decorum no matter the nature of one's interlocutor?


Scanning back over the comments, I recall that I meant to include "Modalist," as well, though some of what I said does not apply in quite the same way, since he or she is not posting under his or her real name.


Catarina Dutilh Novaes

"I am perfectly prepared to agree that we are in your second scenario, but the difference between the two scenarios is contained not in the apology, but in the mind of the apologizer." Fair enough. I guess what bothers me here is that the guy is already down, so no need to keep kicking him at this point.

It's true that I know Vincent personally and quite like him as a person (while not in any way denying that posting these pictures was an absolute disaster; he betrayed a total lack of judgment), so for a moment I thought I might be 'biased' here. But then I ran a little thought experiment, picturing someone I truly dislike being in a similar situation (Mohan, I'm pretty sure you know who I had in mind...); well, in that case too I would not want to engage in further mockery.

Like Rebecca Kukla, I'm a sex-positive feminist (whatever that means...), and some commentators here suggested that, from a less prude point of view, the pictures are not particularly sexist (merely 'sexy'). I completely disagree: they are cliché sexist to the point of being boring (while still being outraging). I also think Vincent still does not fully appreciate why they are so sexist, which goes on to show that there is still much need for feminist reflection to become more widespread and better known. As to posting them in a professional website, and in the webpage for a *course* for that matter, that makes it even worse, naturally. So there is an awful lot that is wrong here, but my feeling is that Vincent Hendricks has already been extensively chastised for his mistakes.

David Slutsky

Let me venture to comment after reading only comments numbered 69-80 here. On the issue of how people handle the discourse they use on their own blogs, I leave that up to them. Anyone who does not like it is free to visit other blogs. On the apparently more substantive issue at hand, focusing on comment #69 for instance, I generally and rather strongly side with the blog administrators/regulars here. I could easily teach the first few weeks of an entire feminism course simply analyzing the many things wrong and harmful (and wrong because harmful) with the images/pictures in question. Gender stereotypes are not only harmful in many ways themselves - they also facilitate gender discrimination and conscious and unconsciousness social pressures, reinforcement, and psychological internalization of sexist norms and those harmful gender stereotypes. For explication of these basic claims, please take some relevant courses in psychology, sociology, and women's studies. You can also find some explication of these basic claims in the relevant thread at the Feminist Philosophers blog (and I imagine but am not certain earlier in this comments thread here which I have not had time to read - this is a wonderful blog but since there are so many important/wonderful things to read, there simply is not enough time to cover everything...).


Sorry I misremembered the professional status of the speaker, but that's irrelevant to whether the assumption she appears to be making

It was quite relevant to the assumption you appeared to be making, however, and thus worth highlighting.

On a separate note, the quality of the concern-trolling here is really quite high. (See, e.g., 79 and 80.) I'm quite impressed.

Mark Lance

"Frankly, I am disappointed to see philosophers in prominent professional positions openly insulting individuals who are attempting to engage them in discourse about relevant topics."

One problem I have with a very large number of philosophers is that they, to steal John McDowell's phrase, spin in the formalistic void interested not at all with gaining any traction in the world of real politics where real lives are harmed. That is to say that the mere fact that someone uses sentences does not mean that they are attempting to engage in discourse. The posts I have mocked are either deliberate trolls, or people who are massively blind to some obvious sexism. To engage seriously with those views, as if they were rational attempts at discourse, is to encourage this sort of trope which plays a very clear role in public political debate, namely one of distracting serious people from serious moral harms, and deflecting efforts to deal with them into endless sophistical debates. I think it is frankly indecent to take seriously such nonsense.

As for students and colleagues: of course I respond differently to students. I am their teacher. But I will simply be engaging in other strategies to get them to see why they are not engaging in serious dialogue if they say things like this. I will not be pretending that such comments are a serious effort at dialogue. And if a colleague approached me with such a comment, I might be a bit more polite - using a real name gains you some credit in my view - but I would clearly and forcefully explain to them why I thought they were playing silly games with very bad moral effect. If someone does this anonymously, I have no respect for them at all.

Finally, the characterization of this as "respond(ing) to commentators here who have disagreed with you" is silly. We have both engaged with literally hundreds of people who disagreed with us in completely polite ways. We make a distinction when people are simply throwing up utter nonsense so as to distract from serious moral issues. Let me assure you: if you apply to Georgetown and present philosophical positions and arguments, you will find that we are all immensely collegial, friendly, and rigorous. If you wander in and say that people objecting to half naked cheerleaders in course ads just don't like sex, my scorn will be the least of your problems. (You should see how Mark Murphy responds to moronic immoral performances.)

John Protevi

AN: sometimes snark is much more philosophical, i.e., a higher form of "reasoned argument," than labored prose. Set yourself that as your koan for the day.

On a separate note, the quality of the concern-trolling here is really quite high. (See, e.g., 79 and 80.) I'm quite impressed.

Indeed. Though we might need to come up with the equivalent of Poe's Law for them; 79 is a little too pitch-perfect and comprehensive.


I think the problem with using scorn and strong language in a blog discussion like this is that it bends the discussion toward your indignation---which I actually appreciate very much by the way! And distracts from a discussion centered on, for example, strategy. Such a tone might be effective in combating sexism in the short term; but as we who have been fighting this battle for a long time can testify, it is much more effective to translate all that wonderful energy into action. (And maybe you have done so already, so apologies if I am not up on what is going on in your department on your initiative). And what is needed for that is a cool head, a light touch, a sense of charity, and, very important also, a sense of humor!

What we have got here is an all male lineup of permanent faculty in Hendrick's department, something which is actually the norm in many philosophy departments in Europe. Why is this? When I have asked the philosophers in these departments the question, I usually get silence in response, or I get the answer: "We have very good women students in the pipeline, which we will hire as soon as they are ready and as soon as there is an opening." Again, as a long term observer of the scene, I can tell you that that pipeline is very leaky! Somehow those talented women never make it into those positions.

The problem is very visible: there is a very pronounced lack of women on lists of plenary speakers at meetings, as senior faculty, or as members of editorial boards, etc etc. If we want philosophy (and logic) to flourish, as we all do, Vincent Hendricks included, the broadest possible pool of talent has to be given an equal chance in the profession.

So moments like this call for a lot of thought.

For those who have asked, a very good place to start educating yourself about these issues is here:

Danish Student

JCK: I completely agree that getting hard data on the table both makes the argument more convincing and also helps suggest constructive solutions. I don't know whether Hendricks would himself spearhead an effort to gather systematic data, but one can hope.

One clear data point which *is* available for the case of Denmark is that subjects such as philosophy, math, and computer science attracts proportionally few female students already at the level of freshmen. The statistics for 2009: under 10% of new students admitted to computer science ('Datalogi') were women ('kvinder'). The numbers are 35% for math ('de matematisk fag') and under 30% for philosophy ('filosofi'). The numbers for philosophy (and to some extent math) have improved during the last two years: This year, for the first time ever, we had over 50% female philosophy freshmen.

So I think in Denmark at least, the lack of women in professional philosophy and mathematics has a lot to do with how they are perceived by prospective students *prior* to their getting any experience with the profession and academic environment.

Now, from my experience this has a lot do with computer science, math, logic, and (academic) philosophy being perceived as geeky and dry - frankly, that you have to be mildly socially incompetent to want to study it. For some reason, men seem more willing to live with that stereotype than women.

When Hendricks writes that he wanted to depict logic in an untraditional way, he is correct insofar that it is untraditional for logicians to be depicted in that way - although the sexist clichés it draws on are themselves traditional. I suppose his intention was to break the typical steoretype (this seems to be a large concern of his - he has participated in many popularizing tv-shows in Denmark).

But *of course* wanting to break an old harmful stereotype in no way excusses creating or reinforcing a new one. Also, the above in no way adresses the effect of the pictures outside of the Danish context vis-a-vis Hendricks' international professional obligations.

Mohan Matthen

Thanks for this photo of Nietzsche and Lou. It's not scanty dress, but I'd love to know who Lou's whip is meant for—the horse/pony/donkey or Ree/Nietzsche.

Reinhard Muskens

No horse to be seen. I guess this was her answer to N's Wenn du zu den Frauen gehst, so nimm die Peitsche mit.


Dear philosophy dudes who want to defend VH:

Look, the issue isn't whether women can be viewed as both smart and sexy, or whether aging male philosophers can see the photos as artistic in some way. The point is that some undergraduate women will interpret photos like VH's, especially when presented on his homepage or on a page linking it with his logic course, in a particular way: they will understand it as a message that they will not be taken seriously as students or as future colleagues.

The point (again) is that, rightly or wrongly, some undergraduate women will interpret the photos this way. And this will have bad effects.

And what this means is that professional philosophers have a responsibility to try to avoid sending this sort of message. So they need to act like grown-ups and stop thinking only about themselves, and about how they wish they were perceived as hot sexy badasses, or as macho love gods, or about whatever other fantasies they have about undergraduate women, and take responsibility for presenting themselves in a way that at least tries to make the climate for women in philosophy more hospitable.

So, philosophy dudes: it's not about you. Get over it.

John Protevi

Jennifer @67: thank you for an excellent comment!

John Protevi

JCK @86: with all due respect, I don't see snark vs activism as a zero-sum game, but as you say, more like short vs medium term.

I think you'll find we at New APPS have been active in support of the GCC and have discussed at quite some length the pipeline issue with regard to gender, race, disability and "the embarrassed 'etc.'" since the beginning of the blog.

To wit, the search for "Gendered Conference Campaign":

John Schwenkler

Aargh, I have now had two lengthy comments disappear into the aether. Let me try once more.

I wanted to second what "letsgetreal" says above, and add that the audience that is likely to take away from these photos the message that young women are not (to be) taken seriously in philosophy is not confined to undergraduate women themselves. This message is conveyed also to female philosophers who are graduate students or post-grads, and -- perhaps worst of all -- to men at varying stages in their (potential) philosophical careers.

Nor does what is wrong with the message concern only the lack of seriousness with which women are (to be) taken seriously in philosophy (and the academy more generally). The photos depict a sexual dynamic where young women are flighty, submissive, and sex-obsessed, offering themselves (freely, of course!) to be dominated by older men who are calm, collected, and prepared to choose among them. That this represented sexual dynamic is put in the context of a classroom dynamic where the dominant man is a professor and the submissive females his students makes all this much worse.

And that the photos were posted on the Web page for an undergraduate course offered in an academic discipline, and a subdiscipline of that discipline, where women are sorely underrepresented and frequently complain of a misogynistic climate where they are not taken seriously as intellectuals, and at a time when the sexual harassment of female students by male professors is still a real problem, compounds things even further.

Even if we view the photos as a failed attempt at humor, they are like jokes about prison rape: what they make light of is not funny at all, but rather is something that needs to be faced up to with seriousness and combated actively by senior members of the philosophy profession. Instead, here we have a prominent senior philosopher who occupies multiple positions of authority doing precisely the opposite.

Is this enough for those who claim not to have had their oh-so-serious ignorance of the problem addressed in earnest? Or is it still more concern-trolling?

P.S. If you can't tell what makes the photos sexist, try asking yourself whether it would be possible coherently to represent the same scene, but with the gender roles reversed.

P.P.S. If you can't tell what makes them unsexy, I don't know what to say to you.


Thanks very much John for the heads up about what New APPS has been doing in support of the GCC and in stimulating discussing of pipeline and other relevant issues, very good to know.

And thanks DS for these really interesting data! What these numbers say to me is that the math and philosophy departments at your university have a real challenge before them, how to keep the female enrollment up. Perhaps at the same time they could track this group of incoming female students in some way, with the aim of trying to discover why they end up leaving math and philosophy---which they will typically do, unfortunately. I share DS's hope that VH might think about involving himself in such an effort, given that he is already so active in publicizing logic.

As this episode demonstrates so clearly, all but very few in our profession suffer from tone deafness in one way or the other; so much more important then for us to listen to students like DS, who are telling us about the cultural issues in play here.

John Protevi

Yes, I agree with your assessment of DS's contributions here. After a somewhat rocky start, the comments have been very much on point and appreciated.

Julie Klein

I second what you say here. The whole incident betrays a lack of professionalism and good sense. That these qualities are lacking in an incident about sex, race, and power is alas, not a surprise. VH has certainly made a fool of himself.

Mohan Matthen

I am a little afraid to ask because of what might emerge—but what is "the racial dimension of these pictures"? I find it difficult to see the relevance of race here.

Mark Lance

I mostly agree. All the action is in the action. (I've been involved in feminist activism for 25 years, not to say that I've done all I could or should, and my department is a pretty active place on this.) I also agree that a light touch and humor are also very useful in this. But so are, at times, summary dismissal of attempts to deflect one into endless sophistical debates. that is as much contrary to action as anything.

Lucas Thorpe


I also think that the tone in this discussion is sometimes potentially counter-productive. I din't read #50 and #79 as trolling. I took their questions and comments to be sincere. And implicitly suggesting that someone is insincere (which I think is an implication of calling them a troll) is not a good way to convince them, and perhaps onlookers, of your position.

And I do think that it is possible that the professor who commented on Leiter believes that (in the professional context) being found sexually attractive is perhaps incompatible with being respected philosophically. And it seems to me that questions in this ballpark can be philosophically interesting and that there is room for quite a bit of reasonable disagreement on such issues. It seems clear to me that sexual attraction and respect are (in general) compatible, and indeed that sexual attraction is often the result of such respect. I guess many of us have partners who are philosophers (I do) and I hope most of us both respect our partners and find them sexually attractive. There is a separate question about sexual attraction in professional relationships (between colleagues and between people in hierarchical relationships). It is clear that such attraction does occur: Professors sometimes find their students attractive and students sometimes develop crushes on professors. And I think there is room for legitimate discussion here about the appropriate attitudes towards such feelings. For example: One might think that the attraction itself is problematic and so believe that we have a duty to do what one can to eradicate such feelings. Or, one might think that such attraction is an inevitable part of human nature and (perhaps because one thinks that ought implies can) that we don't have a duty to eliminate such feelings, but instead have a duty to be self-aware about any such feelings - and to be careful about their expression. I've heard people agues for both positions in conversation. So I think that the point #50 does raise some legitimate questions.

Having said that, I don't think that this question is really relevant to the immediate question of one's attitudes to Hendricks' webpage. [and I'm not sure #50 suggests it is]. The page is clearly inappropriate, and damaging for a whole bunch of reasons - and I'm happy it led to such an intense response and that he has taken it down. At the least it shows a major lack of judgement on his part, and leads me to believe that he probably has a seriously inappropriate attitude to his female students (and perhaps female colleagues). I hope that this episode encourages him to think more deeply about his attitudes towards female students and colleagues, and how he expresses himself. Perhaps some good will come of this.

A final thought: I've seen a lot of people describe the pictures as "Hendricks surrounded by Scantily clad women" - and one might draw the conclusion that people describing the photos in this way think that this is the real problem with the photos he posted. Which might suggest that critics of Hendricks are just anti-sex puritans. I'm pretty sure that almost all the people who have described the pictures don't have such an attitude - but I think that some readers who were less shocked and appalled by these pictures might have drawn such a conclusion. So I think that it is important to stress that the problem with these photos is not primarily that we see some flesh.

I live and teach in Turkey and we have many conferences on the beach and go swimming a lot between talks. So I am sure there are photos of me next to studetns with bikini's. I don't think that any of these photos are on any webpages - but who knows. I certainly wouldn't post such picture's on a logic course page. I could imagine, however, someone including such pictures on the photo's page of a conference, or for the page of summerschool on the beach. [Come to our conference! We swim a lot and work on our tans between talks!]
If a colleague put up a bunch of conference photos that included some of the participants in swimming costumes - I might, depending on the photos, question their judgement and perhaps suggest that they think about perhaps taking them down - but I don't think I would be shocked or appalled. If, however, an older male professor had a photo page on his website and the only photos on it were pictures of him at conferences surrounded by younger women in Bikini's this would set bells ringing - and would in my eyes raise legitimate concerns about his attitudes towards his female students.

The real problem with Hendricks photos isn't that we see some flesh. The problem as I see it does not really have to do with sex or sexual attraction but with power and what the photos seem to express about his attitude to younger female colleagues and students. Even if he does not have such attitudes, it is reasonable to conclude on the basis of the photos that he does. And having reasonable reasons to believe that your teacher has such attitudes can be extremely damaging.

John Protevi

Lucas, you give the right answer yourself in your 3rd graf. Sure, we can discuss the interchange of sexual attraction and intelligence, but that really has nothing to do with the way these discussions show up, automatically, whenever there is a situation like we're in now. And in those cases, context matters, and the practical effect of such calls to "rational discussion" in those contexts are those diagnosed and properly denounced by Lance and letsgetreal and snarked at by myself and Modalist, inter alia.

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