As Co-Chairs of the Philosophy of Science Association Women's Caucus (PSA-WC), we write to encourage a diversity of paper and symposium proposals for the PSA 2014 meeting, to be held in Chicago, IL in November 2014. Note that the CFPs state, "The PSA 2014 Program Committee will strive for quality, variety, innovation and diversity on the program" and that "The Committee aims to prepare a program that reflects the full range of current work in the philosophy of science."
As PSA-WC Co-Chairs, we hope for submissions from areas that have in the past been traditionally underrepresented at PSA meetings, such as feminist philosophy of science, philosophy of race, philosophy of social science, philosophy of science in practice, history of philosophy of science, and more.
Male-only-invite philosophy conferences occur frequently in Germany (recall this discussion). The right thing to do is to contact organisers and, if need be, point out women who have been doing good work in the respective field. There may also be a case for male invited speakers to lobby for the inclusion of (more) women as invited speakers (see the petition initiated, in part, here at NewAPPS). Depending on the particular academic environment where the conferences happens, this can lead to an environment more accommodating to women. Due to the structural problems with the German academy, the beneficial results of gendered conference campaigns are likely to be limited to the expressive value of having women amongst speakers. This is, by itself, a lot.
The Gendered Conference Campaign aims to raise awareness of the prevalence of all-male conferences (and volumes, and summer schools), of the harm that they do. We make no claims whatsoever about the causes of such conferences: our focus is on their existence and effects. We are therefore not in the business of blaming conference organisers, and not interested (here, anyway) in discussions of blameworthiness. Instead, we are interested in drawing attention to this systematic phenomenon. (We also have an awesome theme song. And an interview about the theme song can be found here.)
The harms: All-male events and volumes help to perpetuate the stereotyping of philosophy as male. This in turn to contributes to implicit bias against women in philosophy, which very likely leads even those genuinely committed to gender equality to evaluate women's contributions as less good than men's. (It mayalso in some cases be caused by implicit bias, which means that women's names will leap less easily to mind than men's, but that is not our topic here.) For a quick discussion, go here. It also perpetuates stereotype threat, which very likely keeps women from performing as well in philosophy as they otherwise would. For some longer discussions, you may want to look at Sally Haslanger's and Jenny Saul's papers on the topic. (Jenny's is a download from the right hand side of her page.) We would like these harms to stop, and we think that a significant step toward achieving that is drawing people's attention to some of their causes.
When I studied philosophy in graduate school [in the 1990s--ES], my peers and I went to
classes where we were made to read Kripke and Davidson and Quine and
Putnam. Then, duty done, we met together at a coffee shop and discussed
the latest paper from Millikan, pens in hand, arguing passionately. I
cannot even recall how we found her work and knew we had to study it,
but somehow there was consensus among us that she was producing the most
exciting philosophy happening right then. Sometimes we were convinced
that Millikan got a problem wrong... more often we felt she had offered a
solution to some problem that other philosophers had mostly just
obscured. But that was not what made us study her work so eagerly. The
important thing was that Millikan gave us tools. Her theory of
proper functions was something we could actually use. It had wide and
general utility...And, as we contrasted her work with
what our instructors considered the contemporary canon, we felt certain
that Millikan represented the vanguard.
I mention all this because the second striking feature of Millikan's
responses to these thirteen criticisms is that she still seems the
radical maverick. If it is fair to consider her critics in this volume
as representative of current philosophy, then one gets the impression
that most of us are still catching up with Millikan....To see her respond to this
pressure, however, is very helpful to understanding the details and
applications -- and, ultimately, the novelty -- of her approach.--Craig DeLancey, reviewing Millikan and Her Critics [the volume includes a chapter by our very own Mohan--ES]
I sometimes wonder how common DeLancey's experience is of graduate students discovering and debating exciting work unrelated to one's instructors' sense of significance. I often have the disheartening sense that it is more common that graduates recycle the shared and undoubtedly sophisticated commitments of their graduate instructors (despite the now relatively easy access to other people's works). This recycling is often itself very sophisticated with accompanying mini-narratives that bolster the priority claims of privileged participants (see, for example, this interesting review). There is nothing dishonest about this kind of recycling and it allows the generation of progress, but one wonders if more frequent intellectual parricide/matricide wouldn't be healthier for the discipline.
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.
In your “Katie Roiphe: this much I know” piece
posted on The Guardian this past
July, you said you know that you make people uncomfortable because you claim
that women are partly responsible for their own date rapes; you know that women
who enjoyed Fifty Shades of Grey are
fantasizing about being the submissive sex again; you know that you get under
Unfortunately, Katie Roiphe, you haven’t gotten
under my skin – though I wish that you would. I wish that you’d get under my
skin, in my skin, in my mind, under the covers of my silence with me, for just
an hour. You can trust me. I won’t show you anything you don’t want to see.
I won’t. show you. anything. you don’t want to see.
I won’t show you what it’s like to be raped, because you don’t want to see it; in
The Morning After and other pieces, the
fact that you haven’t talked to many rape survivors is clear in your insistence
that a rape which fits even your “violent force” criteria for a rape doesn’t
count as a rape if the victim doesn’t call it that. I won’t try to show you the
body of research that shows that rape and attempted rape is an epidemic in the
U.S., because you don’t want to see it; instead of following the scholarly
journals that this research appears in, you opted to concentrate on a single
article in Ms. Magazine. I won’t show
you what it’s like to work in an environment rife with sexual harassment,
because you don’t want to see it; instead of talking to women who have been
harassed, instead of soliciting anecdotes from all corners, you have bolstered
your arguments with anecdotes and quotes from your own narrow niche of
But I will show you why your “The Philosopher and
The Student” piece in Slate was despicable, ignorant and mean-spirited. I will
show you how a power differential can twist reality. I will show you how your
refusal to see is the product of
creating a narrative in which you yourself are victimized.
techniques are things people say to get someone to drop out of a discussion,
either by leaving or becoming and remaining silent. There are a variety of forms that this can take. This post has an illuminating
taxonomy with a plethora of useful examples, all of which can be changed
mutatis mutandis to philosophy contexts. Inspired by the post I offer some
saying that because you're a woman [or black/trans*/queer/whatever].
exactly what I'd expect from a feminist." [Focal stress usually on the identity term.] You're just part of
the feminist take-over of this department.
These are all general merits of the book, which make it refreshing, stimulating, and well worth the reading time of Joe the Philosopher of Science (not to mention Joe the Doctor). In addition, the prose is clear and lively.--Alex Broadbent, Philosophy of Science, Vol. 80, No. 1 (January 2013), pp. 165-6.
I am all for clear and lively prose, especially in reviews. But "Joe the Philosopher of Science" and "Joe the Doctor" is inappropriate language for a professional review in a leading journal. It recycles stereotypes (cf. stereotype threat) without any philosophical benefit, or economy of prose.
Moreover, 'Joe the doctor' is also a terrible statistical generalization. In the US women were 47.0% of all first year medical school students in 2010-2011 and women are 45.4% of all residents/fellows. In Britain: women doctors will outnumber men by 2017. Finally, there is a very a good chance that when Prof. Broadbent needs medical care in South Africa his physician will be female. My unsolicited advise, don't call her "Joe," Prof.[*]
[*] My wife is a surgeon, so maybe I am not impartial observer here.
One of her observations (true in my experience) is feeling like an
imposters is often underlain by the assumption (which, if you reflected
on it in the light of the evidence you would find ludicrous) that the
pre-tokenistic method of selecting participants is purely meritocratic.
Recently (in a satirical context) I endorsed the proposal that we should pay no attention to the boy-wonders in our midst. I really think we do a disservice to our community and to philosophy by focusing on boy-wonders. 'Boy-wonder' is a sociological term. In what follows I remain agnostic about the intrinsic merits of young philosophers (male or female) who just happen to be or appear to be fantastically good at philosophy.
I define a 'boy-wonder' as follows: a male -- aged 20-28 -- who is quick on his feet, precocious, often with gifts in formal areas of philosophic, and annointed as 'the next big thing' by Some Important Philosopher(s) (SIPS) at a top department.* Words like 'genius' and 'brilliant' are often used in this context. (Often SIPS and their boy-wonders are dismissive of other people's contributions.) Philosophy is by no means the only discipline that has 'anointed' boy-wonders (economics does, too), but we like them a lot. By this I mean that boy-wonders do not only show up in the inflationary context of letters of recommendation, but they also impact the sexist mores in philosophy.
I offer seven considerations to rid ourselves from the whole set of practices that involve boy-wonders.
Comments on this thread, which began as a discussion of accusations of tokenism against women graduate students, veered off into discussions of (the perception) of effects of AA on "the job market."
A couple of comments caught my eye. One (#34) was that "Your fellow graduate students are not your competition, they are your colleagues.... Unlike your faculty advisers, your fellow students will know what it's like to be a graduate student at this school at this time, facing this job market. And they will (or should!) also be an important part of your professional network as you do enter into the job market." Another (#37) was that "people born in the 80's already have a (fairly understandable) generational grudge against the baby boomers."
I want to make two points here, about when the post-PhD TT "job market" changed, and who competes against whom.
Our friends at Feminist Philosophers have a depressing post about the contribution of junior men in creating an inhospitable climate to junior women in the profession. I have to admit that I often assume -- or at least hope -- that our discipline's general 'climate' issues are, in part, generational. But, of course, some younger scholars are clearly responding to signals from senior men about what's tolerated in the discipline, so the generational mores can be easily passed on to future cohorts without conterveiling efforts.
But the culture among PhD students is, in part, also sometimes beyond the grip of supervisors and faculty. In particular, one should not be blind to the fact that with uncertain job-prospects, other PhD students are also in some respects one's competition for scarce jobs. So, it might appear rational to try to reduce competition for these jobs by discouraging talented peers (even if immoral). Now, one way to discourage this is to make team-spirit among philosophers more rewarding (and to ensure that non-in-group-males are welcomed on the team).
I welcome other suggestions on how to think about this issue.
The Feminist Philosophy Archive Project project began when the Association for Feminist Ethics and Social Theory (FEAST) and the Society for Women in Philosophy (SWIP) wanted a way to handle SWIP archives, dating to 1971. While the SWIP archive is the immediate goal, the ultimate goal is an inclusive and international Feminist Philosophy Archive (FPA).
The coordinators of FPAP are Samantha Noll of Michigan State (email), and Christina Rawls of Duquesne (email); the advisors include Alison Jaggar, Joan Callahan, Ann Garry, and Sandra Harding. A website is in progress but a listserv is already in operation. To join it, please send an email to: LISTSERV@LSV.UKY.EDU and in the body of the email include the message Subscribe FPAP .
After all of this, it may come as a surprise when I say that I am
actually very hopeful about the future of gender issues in philosophy. I
don’t think we should be at all discouraged by the fact that there are
currently serious gender problems in philosophy. It’s what we should
expect, since we (as a profession) have only very recently begun to pay
serious and sustained attention to these issues.--Jennifer M. Saul writing in Salon.
There is much to rejoice in how the ‘McGinn affair’ (apologies for the tabloid-like terminology!) unfolded; in particular, this may well be the first time that a ‘big shot’
philosopher was in fact reprimanded for inadequate behavior of this nature towards a
graduate student. (And in my opinion, the central administration as well as the
department of philosophy at the University of Miami deserve to be praised for
taking the complaint seriously and carrying through with the investigation – something
that is by no means a given.) But we’ve also heard some people (as it so
happens, mostly senior, male academics) voicing the opinion that the reprimand
was disproportionate to what McGinn had actually done. After all, he had ‘only’
sent suggestive emails to the student; he hadn’t even attacked her physically
or anything like that. In my opinion, these people severely underestimate the
impact that even ‘mild’ forms of harassment can have on their victims, so in
this post I hope to be able to provide at least a glimpse of ‘what it’s like’
to be at the receiver end of a harassment episode.
I can’t speak much from personal experience, as luckily I’ve
never had to experience the kind of harassment in professional circles that
creates a situation of discomfort (or worse). (I have though once been sexually
harassed during an intercontinental flight, at age 18, and I remember very well
how difficult it is even to muster the courage to complain to whoever is in
charge or to the harasser himself.) But I’ve heard enough experiences from
others to start having an idea of the devastating effects it can have.
At the end of a laudatory* review of The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Phenomenology the reviewer makes the following point about gender and race imbalance** in authorial choices for Oxford Handbooks:
Second, OHCP contains twenty-eight essays, but only three of them are authored by women. Unfortunately, the low percentage of women contributors (or co-contributors) isn't a peculiarity of this particular volume. After glancing at the table of contents of forty-five Oxford Handbooks in philosophy, I found that fewer than 20% of contributions are either authored or co-authored by women.
Thus, though avowedly not a historian's history, this is still a history
of sorts: an unabashed example of great-man historiography, and I
emphasise the gendered term here. The 16 selected philosophers are all
men, and the four-page index of names includes about a dozen women. It
might be that all the significant thinkers in European aesthetics in the
last 200 years were men. More likely, it might be that conceptualising a
history of anything in
terms of 'significant figures' leads us too easily into consideration of
canonical males. This may seem a dreary complaint, but it is only
dreary because it keeps being made, and it keeps being made because it
is important. I am not at all accusing Wicks of sexism or misogyny;
rather, the invitation is to consider the possibly deleterious effects
of apparently innocent approaches, and the alternative effects a
different approach might have yielded...Wicks is quite right to choose the philosophers who fit his thematic
focus [i.e., "the socio-political uses to which art and aesthetic theory may be put"--ES], and the book is all the better for having such a focus. The
problem comes where Wicks selects thinkers who do not obviously have a
great deal to say on the theme, and tries to force them to say something
about it....It is almost as if Wicks felt compelled to include
chapters on these significant philosophers, and then further compelled
to fit them to the theme. Again, he writes well about their ideas, but
those ideas seem out of place. Conversely, some of the philosophers Wicks includes bear obvious
relevance to his theme, but less obvious relevance to the subject of
UPDATE: 19 July 10:15 am: This message is from the organizers of the letter, not from me; I am only posting it:
Signatories to the Letter of Concern have heard from colleagues who wish to add their signatures in support. This is splendid, and sharing support is important; we are limited by the availability of those with the time to compile supporting signatures, but through Sunday, July 21, we will be checking firstname.lastname@example.org for those of you who wish to send in signatures.
We encourage those with job security and tenure to sign; because of the risks (including retaliation), we'd ask junior people not to sign in support. The letter should be signed by, and was initiated by, senior members of the philosophy profession because, given our privileges, it is one of our chief responsibilities to provide support for the more vulnerable members of our profession.
Inspired by Plato onwards, theories of cosmic, physical, and moral sympathy (συμπάθεια--'fellow feeling') were developed in a variety of contexts (e.g., Galenic medicine, Stoic metaphysics, magnetism, moral psychology, magic, etc.). For all its variety, in most thinkers and traditions the very possibility of sympathy presupposes that sympathy takes place among things that are in one sense or another alike (sometimes within a single being/unity/organism) to be contrasted with the antipathy (ἀντιπάθεια) of un-alikes. (Here I just flag the non-trivial moral issues this raises for ethical theories that rely on sympathy/empathy.) Let's call this condition of the possibility of sympathy, "The Likeness Principle" (or TLP). I learned the significance of the TLP in Plotinian and Stoic thought from Eyjólfur Emilsson, René Brouwer.
The problem with this approach is that it will make many if not most of
our everyday decisions irrational, since something similar could be said
of each experience that we have. In some sense, each experience that
we have is both transformative and unique. Each experience that we have
changes us in some way and is unlike any other experience we have had
before it. While I may have seen red before, I have not seen it on this
day, in this particular light, and so on. While I may have eaten
chocolate ice cream before, I have not done it on this day, in this
weather, in this mood, and so on. So, my experience of seeing red or
eating chocolate ice cream, or whatever is in a sense unique and
transformative. In turn, it would follow, I cannot project my past
experiences of seeing red or eating chocolate to know what it will be
like, respectively, to see red or to eat chocolate ice cream on this
day, at this time, and in this way. So, if we take this rebuttal
seriously, it would work to rule out rational decision-making in most
cases. It will not only be irrational to choose to have a child but
also irrational to choose to see red, to eat chocolate ice cream, to
drive your car, to brush your teeth, and so on. This sort of rebuttal
pushes too far, since we do not think that our everyday decisions are
This is a fantastic collection on the gender imbalance in Anglophone philosophy. The essays represent a variety of approaches to the problem of women's underrepresentation. It is especially important that the book not only offers a way for philosophers to learn about psychological and sociological results that have a bearing on how we organize ourselves, but also a way for us to become more reflective about distinctively philosophical aspects of our practice.
realized I was a lousy teacher because I hadn’t approached teaching the
same way I approach everything else. I hadn’t approached it as
something I could learn from others and get better at... Nick Smith taught me to be confident but
open, and to use my personality in the classroom rather than sublimate."--B. Copenhaver [The whole interview is worth reading.]
In comments, David Chalmers generously acknowledged that his famous (co-authored) paper ""The
Extended Mind" was rejected by J Phil, Phil Review, and Mind before it
was finally accepted by Analysis (three years later)." TEM was published in 1998. So, I decided to compare the editorial performance of the Chalmers top-3 with Analysis between 1995-8 as measured by citation impact fifteen years later. (I used Harzing's Publish and Perish--this includes google.scholar citations, so it captures a lot of citations.)