Over at Feminist Philosophers, they've posted the CFP for a conference on Diversity in Philosophy that, I'm proud to say, is being hosted and co-sposored by my alma mater, Villanova University, along with Hypatia and the APA's Committee for the Status of Women.
The conference will be held at Villanova on May 28-30, 2015 and the deadline for submissions of 250-500 word proposals is January 1, 2015.
More info and the full CFP follows after the break.
In an earlier post, I discussed Nicholas Wade provocative new book, A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History, and mentioned that it had been getting a lot of reviews and attention because of its controversial claim that contemporary science supports the view that biological races really exist after all. But now, the definitive review has been written and posted to the Gentopia blog. Stephen Colbert couldn't have said it better himself. Check it out.
Nicholas Wade's new book A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History is barely off the presses and it has already been the subject of numerous reviews, largely because of its provocative argument for the reality of human races, based on recent studies that associate different statistical genetic clusters with particular continental groups. I have yet to read the book, but one author of such reviews in particular caught my eye: Agustin Fuentes (see here and here), in part because of his assertion that:
If you are making a scientific argument about genetic variation, you need to focus on populations -- and be clear about your definitions. Throughout the book, Wade uses the words "cluster," "population," "group," "race," "subrace" and "ethnicity" in a range of ways, with few concrete definitions, and occasionally interchangeably.
I focused on the connection between the concepts of race and population – and time – in a recent talk; for those who want the gory details, it's at minute 43 of this video. (I recommend the other talks as well!)
In my role as intructional faculty, I aim to grade everything anonymously, which is a provision I enjoyed as an undergraduate. My current method is to ask students to write their names on the back of their papers and exams, which also helps me to return them. One of my students remarked that I must do this because I am particularly biased. She may be right. But there is reason to believe that we are all biased against minority groups in our grading practices. Take this publication on the perception of grammatical and spelling errors by partners at 22 law firms: "The exact same memo averaged a 3.2/5.0 rating under our hypothetical 'African American' Thomas Meyer and a 4.1/5.0 rating under hypothetical 'Caucasian' Thomas Meyer. The qualitative comments on memos, consistently, were also more positive for the 'Caucasian' Thomas Meyer than our 'African American' Thomas Meyer." It seems obvious to me that these effects could have an impact on the grading of philosophy papers and exams. (It may be worth noting that the gender/race/ethnicity of the partner did not affect these findings, although "female partners generally found more errors and wrote longer narratives"). And take this publication on faculty assessment of a student applicant, mentioned a couple of years ago here at NewAPPS: "Our results revealed that both male and female faculty judged a female student to be less competent and less worthy of being hired than an identical male student, and also offered her a smaller starting salary and less career mentoring." The difference in mean rated competence, hireability, and mentor-worthiness was of the order of 10%. Again, it seems obvious to me that these effects could have an impact on the grading of philosophy papers and exams, which could be a grade-letter difference (i.e. the difference between a B and a C). Since perceived differences in grading standards could have an impact on whether students choose to stay in philosophy, it seems to me that anonymous grading would both be more just and would encourage a more diverse range of participants in philosophy (see other suggestions on this over at Daily Nous). What does everyone else think? Do you grade anonymously? If not, why not?
Update: Other posts on this topic are here and here.
In a post last month for Demos, Matt Bruenig argued that if one in fact cares about childhood poverty, a recent conservative position promoting marriage as a means of reducing childhood poverty rates is as cruel as it is misguided (http://www.demos.org/blog/4/14/14/single-mother-child-poverty-myth). In a nutshell, Bruenig notes that countries with low childhood poverty rates have not achieved this success via promoting marriage, nor are their rates of single-parenthood markedly different from those in the U.S.
One way to put this basic observation is that people promoting marriage are deliberately ignoring most of the variation that matters. Yes, it is true (ceteris paribus, of course!) that in the international sample Bruenig looks at, in every country, the children of single parents are more likely to be poor than the children of married parents living together.* But far more variation in childhood poverty rates is associated with different policies in the different countries, and not with the relationship status of the parents; indeed, even if the child poverty rate in the U.S. dropped to the level associated with children living with married parents living together in the U.S. today, it would still be substantially higher, indeed, quite grossly higher, than in the other countries Bruenig looks at.
On the basis of this year’s partial hiring data, Marcus Arvan notes that the majority of tenure track hires (a whopping 88%) are from people of Leiter-ranked programs. Only 12% of hires are from people of unranked programs. Also, 37% of all tenure track hires come from just 5 schools, the Leiter top 5 list - this is amazing if one ponders it, and one may wonder at the direction philosophy is going to, if most of its future tenured workforce comes from just a few select programs.
This has caused a lot of debate: why would people go to grad school in unranked programs at all? Why attend an unranked program if you can’t get into a highly ranked one? But what is often overlooked are the many factors, such as class and ethnic background, may contribute to someone not getting (or, as I will examine in more detail below), even applying to get into top programs. In fact, going for pedigree may be a particularly effective way to screen out people who come from poorer backgrounds and of different ethnicities.
Over at Times Higher Education, Nathaniel Adam Tobias Coleman has written an important piece calling the discipline on the carpet for its overall failure to critically engage its own whiteness.*
There is a lot of remarkable stuff in the piece, which is organized around the paired questions of "who 'gets to do' philosophy?" and "who 'gets done' in philosophy?." It should be read in its entirety. As a teaser, however, let me just reproduce the following paragraph, which I'll discuss a bit below:
In a 2012 blog posting titled “What could leave philosophy?”, Brian Weatherson, professor of philosophy at the University of Michigan, argues that “[f]or a few areas [of philosophy], it is easy to imagine them being in other departments, because they already overlap so substantially with work done in other departments”. Thus, instead of seeing overlap as an opportunity to collaborate across disciplinary boundaries, Weatherson sees overlap as an opportunity to police, enforce and constrict the boundary around philosophy. This narrow-mindedness is an example of what Kristie Dotson, assistant professor of philosophy at Michigan State University, has called philosophy’s “culture of justification” – not the legitimate demand that one justify the conclusion of one’s arguments, no, but the illegitimate demand that one justify that what one is doing counts as “philosophy”.
Is an African American political prisoner in the US. He was convicted of killing a police officer in the course of resistance work with the armed wing of the New African Liberation Army. He has been held in solitary confinement for the last 30 years, in violation of numerious international agreements, and under conditions that clearly constitute torture. Below is a letter from various Nobel Laureates calling for his release into the general population, and information on how to support him.
[UPDATE, Sat 18 Jan 2014: 4:00 pm CST: Moving to front to highlight this very important post by Tommy Curry and John Drabinski, with thoughtful comments by Jason Stanley.]
Many people have already read this important piece in NYT's The Stone. I have seen a few online reactions as well, including this one and this one by Eric Schliesser. Here's one by Peter Levine. What I'd like to do here is offer the comments to further reactions and / or to links of other online discussion.
A few days ago, while trying to open the interwebs thingy to allow me to start entering my grades, I was prevented from doing so by a pop-up menu that referenced LSU's Policy Statement 67. The text included unsubstantiated and highly dubious claims such as that most workplace problems are the result of drugs and alcohol abuse by workers. And this was only a few weeks after all of the chairs at LSU had to provide verification that every single faculty member had read a hysterical message from our staff and administrative overlords that justified expanding the extension of pee-tested employees at LSU to now include faculty. The wretched communiqué justified pee-testing faculty because of new evidence showing that marijuana is harmful to 13 year olds.*
Anyhow, when I scrolled to the bottom of the popup, I had to click a button saying not only that I read the document but also that I "agreed" with it.
I honestly don't get this. Are my beliefs a condition of employment at LSU? There was no button that said I read it but didn't agree with it.
The debate around the Black Pete tradition in the
Netherlands rages on: while many outspoken voices have presented different
arguments on why the tradition should be at the very least severely modified (I
recommend in particular the pieces by Asha ten Broeke), a very large portion of
the population has expressed its support and fondness for the tradition as is,
in particular by ‘liking’ a Facebook page, a ‘Pete-tion’, defending the
continuation of the tradition. As of now, more than 2 million Facebook users
have ‘liked’ this page, and last Saturday supporters gathered for a rally in
Interestingly, in its most recent update, the Pete-tion FB
page (Pietitie, in Dutch) proudly announces that it is ‘against racism, let us
be clear on that’. Now, what they mean by ‘racism’ here must surely be
different from what Black Pete critics mean when they describe the tradition as
racist. More generally, and as often the case, it seems that those involved in
the debate may at least to some extent be talking past each other because
different meanings of ‘racism’ are floating around. (To be clear, I do not
think this is a merely verbal dispute; there does seem to be a core of true
disagreement.) Well, one of the skills we philosophers pride ourselves on is the skill of language precisification and conceptual analysis. So in what
follows I’ll attempt to distinguish some of the different meanings of racism
underpinning the debate, in the hope that such a clarification may somehow
contribute to its advancement. (Full disclosure: what I really want to accomplish is to
convince my many intelligent, well-meaning friends who do not see the racist
component of the tradition that it is there,
and that it is problematic.)
There is a growing body of evidence that student evaluations not only 1) do not measure teaching effectiveness, and may well be negatively correlated with it, but also 2) that women and other visible minorities fare worse across the board on them. In other words, they're ineffective at measuring what they are frequently seen to measure and highly discriminatory in what they do measure.
The current state of the research is nicely summarized by Philip Stark in this post at The Berkeley Blog, which should be read in its entirety. Even having previously known about much of what Stark discusses, I was particularly stunned by the following:
• students’ ratings of instructors can be predicted from the students’ reaction to 30 seconds of silent video of the instructor: first impressions may dictate end-of-course evaluation scores, and physical attractiveness matters
• the genders and ethnicities of the instructor and student matter, as does the age of the instructor
It's enough to make one wonder how we have allowed the practice of conducting these evaluations to go on for so long and why anyone takes them seriously at all.
Our very own Catarina has taken sides in the exchange between Rebecca Kukla (who started it in this very interesting interview), and Jennifer Saul. But in doing so, Catarina (a) endorses what I take to be a mythic origin birth of philosophy. (I hesitate to disagree with one of the great historians of philosophy of my generation!) This matters because consequently, Catarina (b) overlooks plausible alternative ways of doing philosophy available at the 'origin' of philosophy. But even if I were wrong about (a) and (b), Catarina's argument (c) tacitly embraces optimal institutional design (whereas I am skeptical that we can attain the circumstances in which we would endorse those institutions). At one point Catarina writes:
As Rebecca points out, this
argumentative model of inquiry is at the very birth of Western philosophy in
Ancient Greece. Philosophy has always been a dialogue of people disagreeing
with each other, and this is precisely what makes it a worthwhile enterprise.
First, I doubt that a "dialogue of people disagreeing
with each other" is "precisely what makes" philosophy "a worthwhile enterprise." I believe it's the searching after certain ends (truth, illumination, liberation, beauty, good, etc.) and the various to-be-expected by-products it generates (wonder, joy, insight, self-doubt, critical stance, etc.) that make philosophy a worthwhile enterprise. Second, Catarina endorses here an origin-myth of philosophy that is quite plausible if we focus on Platonic dialogues, but less so if we take a more expansive view of the origins of philosophy. For example, Parminedes' poem is very philosophical (with important reflections on the nature of reason). It certainly has dialogical elements in it. But its predominant mode is a magisterial stance.
Description: Critical Philosophy of Race will examine issues raised by the concept of race, the practices and mechanisms of racialization, and the persistence of various forms of racism across the world. It opposes racism in all forms; it rejects the pseudosciences of old-fashioned biological racialism; it denies that anti-racism and anti-racialism summarily eliminate race as a meaningful category of analysis. The journal is sponsored by the Rock Ethics Institute at The Pennsylvania State University.
It would be unjust to allow Erik Loomis's presence in the blogosphere to be defined only as someone to whom those concerned with free speech rallied when he was attacked in the wake of the Newtown massacre. For Loomis is also the author of an extraordinary series of posts at Lawyers, Guns, and Money entitled "This Day in Labor History."
On January 25, 1941, A. Philip Randolph, head of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and the most important civil rights leader of the World War II era, called for a March on Washington to protest discrimination in defense industry work. The success of this movement in convincing the government to act on employment discrimination both opened unprecedented economic opportunities for African-Americans during the war and helped lay the groundwork for the modern civil rights movement after the war.
One of the key insights:
Roosevelt was desperate to avoid the embarrassment of a nation preparing to fight fascism having its own caste system publicized before the world.
this influence, and despite the
reception Dingler's ideas found in Paul Lorenzen's constructivist
“Erlangen School” from 1950 on, today neither philosophers nor
historians take notice of Dingler's original approach. One reason for
this might be his concessions to National Socialist politics,
which pale, however, in comparison to those of a certain Martin
My friend Barbara said the other day, “There are so many books I would like to have on my shelf. But no one has written them yet!” One of the books I would like to have on my shelf is about Frantz Fanon, activist models of decentralized political organization, and 4E cognitive science models of the brain as a distributed network. If you want to write this book, here are a few quotes from The Wretched of the Earth to get you started. If it’s already been written and I just haven’t found it yet, please post the title, and I will fill that spot on my shelf.
“The meeting of the local cell or the committee meeting is a liturgical act. It is a privileged opportunity for the individual to listen and speak. At every meeting the brain multiplies the association of ideas and the eye discovers a wider human panorama” (136).
“Let us reexamine the question of cerebral reality, the brain mass of humanity in its entirety whose affinities must be increased, whose connections must be diversified and whose communications must be humanized again” (237-8).
“No, it is not a question of back to nature. It is the very basic question of not dragging man in directions which mutilate him, of not imposing on his brain tempos that rapidly obliterate and unhinge it. The notion of catching up must not be used as a pretext to brutalize man, to tear him from himself and his inner consciousness, to break him, to kill him” (238).
My theory, which belongs to me, and is mine, is that Schaefer Riley is *trying* to get fired, so she can drive up her lecture fee on the “woe is me, the liberals have deprived me of my First Amendment rights” circuit as well as ditch the Chronicle for the greener pastures of Fox News.
Steve Champion, now Adisa Akanni Kamara, is an inmate on death row at San Quentin. He has been in prison for 30 years, since he was 18 years old. His essay, “The Sword into a Pen,” narrates his transformation from a gangbanger into an intellectual, poet, storyteller, and activist.
Together with Anthony Ross, now Ajani Addae Kamara, and Stanley “Tookie” Williams, he read and studied work by Plato and Fanon, Heidegger and Che Guevara, Marx and Machiavelli. “We had gone from thugs to bookworms,” he writes (65). How did this transformation happen?
Together, King, Wallace and Woodfox are known as the Angola 3. Their struggle for justice is not set in a repressive dictatorship on the other side of the world. It is not a horror story from the U.S. War on Terror. It is happening in our own backyard, at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, otherwise known as Angola Prison.
Angola Prison is named after the slave plantation upon which it was built, which in turn was named after the Portuguese colony where the first slaves on this land were transported. Even today, the forced labor of black prisoners working in the cotton fields of Angola Prison conjures up images of slavery.
Anxiety is classically distinguished from fear by its "free-floating" character; while fear has an object, anxiety is alertness without an object, a potentiality, a tendency toward fear.* Using a Simondonian image, anxiety is metastable and pre-individual, like a super-saturated liquid, needing only a slight disturbance to start its crystallization. We should note that Simondon's notion of individuation, imaged by crystallization, centers on the putting into connection of different orders of magnitude; I use the notion of "events as crystallizations" to investigate case studies in terms of political affect as connecting the social, somatic, and subjective scales.
Rich Benjamin's NYT piece on the Trayvon Martin case, "The Gated Community Mentality," puts some (small-scale "geo-political," if you will) orders of magnitude on the table, but suffers by not getting below the personal and subjective to the neural and affective. The term "mentality" in his title indicates that personal or psychological subjectivity is his lower bound.
On Delany’s account, the effect of the Fugitive Slave Law, at least as Judge McClean interprets it, is to subject all unowned black persons to the domination of all white persons. For by requiring that the self-proclaimed slave catcher be taken at his word, the law leaves unconstrained the ability of any white person to arrest and seize any black person. In effect, it renders all titularly free blacks vulnerable to the power available to all whites in exactly the way that, according to Frederick Douglass, a black slave is vulnerable to the power exercised by his or her white master.
The affinity to the Trayvon Martin incident is perhaps obvious. Chief Lee’s statement that Zimmerman was not arrested for lack of evidence sufficient to challenge his claim that he had not acted in self-defense (“We don’t have anything to dispute his claim of self-defense”) appears to imply that, absent such evidence, a white or otherwise non-black man (there is some controversy as to whether Zimmerman should be identified as white, or Hispanic, or both, although no one seems to be claiming he is black) claiming self-defense after killing a black man is simply to be taken at his word. It is hard to resist the thought that race matters here, for who believes that, had an adult African American male killed a white teenager under similar circumstances, the police would have taken him at his word and so declined to arrest him?
Catarina's post has provoked a lively discussion on the inter-relations of sex, race, and class in feminism. This Nationpost by JoAnn Wypijewski* recounts a conversation with Pamela Bridgewater, Professor of Law at American University. Bridgewater's goal is to pull reproductive rights from an anhistorical arena of choice and privacy and into the historical struggle for civil (political and corporeal) freedom. The key intersection here is to expand the view of slavery from that of a narrowly economistic focus on exploitation in commodity production to a perspective that includes that of the exploitation of female reproductive capacity in slave breeding.
As Bridgewater puts it at the conclusion of this excerpt from Wypijewski's piece: “If we integrate the lost chapter of slave breeding into those two traditional but separate stories [civil rights and reproductive rights], if we reconcile female slave resistance to coerced breeding as, in part, a struggle for emancipation and, in part, a struggle for reproductive freedom, the two tales become one: a comprehensive narrative that fuses the pursuit of reproductive freedom into the pursuit of civil freedom.”
Professional pressures exist for some of us to pass as mainstream philosophers.
Academic passing is the performance of legitimating one’s projects as “properly” philosophical by attempting to conceal or neutralize what might be perceived as threatening identities, positions, topics, and/or methodologies (Dotson 2011 [or here]). Some strategies for passing concern taking great care to travel only trails blazed by previous philosophers, showing emphatically that one’s ideas flow from professionally acceptable intellectual traditions, when in reality they are inspired by rather different ones. For example, I know colleagues whose philosophical ideas spring from the writings, histories and social realities of members of their own non-European communities. Yet career maintenance requires them to show these ideas as being the natural outgrowth of some tradition in epistemology or political philosophy or phenomenology, for example, when in fact they are not.
While examples abound the issue I explore concerns a specific question that often prompts academic passing. That question, often asked of a paper written or presented by someone with a Ph.D. in philosophy, is “How is this paper philosophy?”
Is the reviewer being too polite here? Or does the restraint make the message even more clear?
Precisely because this volume is likely to be widely read and used, however, it is worth critically reflecting both on its construction and on the tradition of political philosophy it represents. In particular, some commentary on the choice of thinkers and topics for a book claiming the authoritative title "Political Philosophy in the Twentieth Century" is inevitable. In the introduction, Zuckert lists a number of thinkers who "could and perhaps should have been included," (p. 15) among them Simone de Beauvoir. Beauvoir's inclusion would have assured some direct reflection on the question of gender, as well as served as a marker of one of the most fundamental social and political developments of the twentieth century, the dramatic challenges to traditional gender roles and the expansion of women's rights and participation in politics. That a chapter on Beauvoir was not included is indeed regrettable.
Equally inexplicable is the exclusion of any sustained engagement with questions of race (indeed, no thinker primarily concerned with race even makes Zuckert's "B" list of should-have-been-includeds). Insofar as race was one of the central, constitutive components of twentieth-century politics and the central pivot point for civic activism and debates over social change in the postwar United States, this exclusion is impossible to justify. Further, insofar as one of the main uses of this text will be (as noted above) to allow different parts of the political tradition to speak to one another, it would have been a great virtue if the volume had slightly broadened the conception of what it is to do political philosophy by including a social theorist like W.E.B. DuBois, Oliver Cromwell Cox, or Frantz Fanon -- or alternatively, an essay focused on the rich discussions of the meaning of democracy and by extension the political condition found in mid-century African-American authors such as James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, and Richard Wright.
Readers are invited to suggest authors for inclusion, and / or to discuss how "political philosophy" is conceived such that the choices of this volume are possible.