There have been a few suggestions that I could say more. The thing is, any time I think of talking about one thing, I realize that I am leaving so much out. But let me try some more observations.
- Perhaps most important: the chief organizer, Alison Wylie, created a wonderful thing. The intelligence with which the conference was organized seemed to me particularly reflected in the conversations that became possible as it progressed. And it all worked much better than we could have expected.
- The presence of the rest of the world was more marked at this conference than any other philosophy conference I have been to. Lorraine Code said at one point that we can’t talk about decentering the subject, since there isn’t any center any more. Many conferees are very concerned about how our concepts have been marked by Western approaches, even postcolonial approaches. Again Code is recommending a new scepticism. One might see this as also related to the idea that we need to move beyond valuing knowledge. Valuing knowledge, Libby Potter said (at least according to my notes) is part of a quest to escape anxiety.
- One of the nicest features of the conference for me was the ability to have a kind of extended conversation. A talk by Claudia Card on evil had mentioned the effects of evil; evil can reduce its victims. At a later very thoughtful talk on moral travel and forgiveness, Heidi Maibom articulated a worry that was oddly close to what I was thinking: Is forgiveness really all that good? Perhaps it simply increases the burden on the victim. Or the demand for it is a way for the perpetrators to keep themselves at the center. We later saw Claudia Card during a break and picked up again this topic. One consequence of that is that I now have a copy of CC’s book on atrocities. This topic resonates with me in an unfortunately personal way, and I did feel I could bring a greater understanding to some issues about forgiveness.
- There was an equity lunch. Alison Wylie described an initial meeting of the women’s task force that Sally Haslanger organized. A number of the people there had been at the earlier meeting and we got an update on some initiatives on things like a mentoring initiative and plans to get data about women philosophers. Someone can surely help out in the comments by saying more. One thing discussed here and elsewhere in the conference was getting men involved. Feminists are rightly wary of being male-centered, and as a consequence, plans to relate to the rest of the profession bring up tensions. In some ways, the conference itself provided evidence for the possibility of flourishing with a kind of mild separatism. In the last 25 years, with very little help from the rest of the profession, a whole area of professional philosophy has really been defined. At the same time, everyone realizes that there are very important concerns for feminist-identified scholars, particularly young scholars.
- The conference ended with a panel on new directions. Some issues about what I think we can still call identity politics were raised. Everyone there is aware that many of us are members of marginalizable groups. We couldn’t but notice that the conference was very largely white, and so worries from women of color at the end were important. One person on the last panel (and she will know who she is) addressed the fact that the founding mothers of Hypatia may be leaving in the foreseeable future. Lynn Nelson Hankinson’s “Oh thanks” for these observations was very funny.
- A last observation, for now at least: I had no sense at all of being even near a battle zone, either during papers or in discussions. This made it seem quite different from an APA conference!