From Boing Boing. (Thanks, Mr Jender!)
Rankings and Implicit Bias September 26, 2014
There’s some really interesting discussion starting to take place about the pros and cons of various kinds of ranking systems for philosophy. A couple of years ago I wrote a paper on the potential for implicit bias in both the PGR and the REF. I thought it might be useful for that paper to be a part of these discussions, so I’m posting the penultimate draft of it here. (Also, I can’t figure out how to use my university’s newly updated CMS. Grr!)
The paper is “Ranking Exercises in Philosophy and Implicit Bias”, in Journal of Social Philosophy, 43:3, 2012.
It was only after publishing the paper that I noticed another interesting difference between REF and PGR. I’m no great fan of the REF– it has lots of problems, but it does have the nice feature of not weighting an areas of philosophy more heavily than any others. Whatever area your work is in, it’s only ranked by people in your area, and there’s no overall ranking of departments, except in so far as various competing ones can be (and are) arrived at through the rankings of work, impact, etc. So there’s no case to be made that a department will do better in the REF by hiring an analytic metaphysician than a pragmatist. Departments are free to just go by quality and teaching/supervising needs, without worrying that they should favour particular areas for the sake of the rankings.
A defense of a defense of emotion in philosophy September 16, 2014
In an important post Magicalersatz assserts:
The idea that philosophers should start from first principles, construct premises, and ‘follow the argument where it leads’ without hindrance from emotion or personal perspective is a romantic one. It’s also an absurd one. We all come to the table with biases, presuppositions, and background assumptions – whether we admit it or not. And yes, these types of commitments are present even in ‘the core’.
The fact that her statement can seem just common sense may be a testimony to the way in which ideas from empirical research is permeating our perspectives. And if it doesn’t seem just common sense, you should know that there is a great deal of empirical support for the idea that reason alone isn’t going to get us far. We can and should try very hard to get rid of – or at least mitigate – morally problematic biases, but the idea of a good, substantive philosophy emerging from pure reason is a myth.
The thesis that human beings are not purely rational, even when we think we are being so, started to emerge with a number of researchers in the 1960’s-70’s. The first official attack on the Cartesian conception of reason that has many in Anglo-American philosophy in its grip comes with Damasio’s 1994 Descartes’ Error:
ALTHOUGH I CANNOT tell for certain what sparked my interest in the neural underpinnings of reason, I do know when I became convinced that the traditional views on the nature of rationality could not be correct. I had been advised early in life that sound decisions came from a cool head, that emotions and reason did not mix any more than oil and water. I had grown up accustomed to thinking that the mechanisms of reason existed in a separate province of the mind, where emotion should not be allowed to intrude, and when I thought of the brain behind that mind, I envisioned separate neural systems for reason and emotion. This was a widely held view of the relation between reason and emotion, in mental and neural terms.
In the Introduction of new editions, Damasio notes correctly the now entrenched nature of his views:
I advanced the hypothesis … that emotion was in the loop of reason, and that emotion could assist the reasoning process rather than necessarily disturb it, as was commonly assumed. Today this idea does not cause any raised eyebrows …
Of course, the details are not fully worked out, there are competing hypotheses (dual process pictures, for example) that do not incorporate all his ideas, and so on. BUT in general the demise of the ‘man of reason’ is pretty much a done deal.
On reasons for diversifying the profession September 12, 2014
“What I still do not believe is that we should add Asian philosophers, or African-American philosophers, to the curriculum in order to “encourage” (on some misguided theory) minorities to enroll in philosophy courses.”
I agree. We certainly should not add anyone to the curriculum on the basis of a misguided theory. But knowing all that we know about stereotype and implicit bias, we have very well-supported theories in favour of adding demographic diversity to our syllabi. Knowledge of these theories tells us that our selections for syllabi are very likely influenced by implicit biases which it make it more likely that we will select white men. It also tells us that demographically diversifying our syllabi is no mere marketing ploy, but rather something which is likely to have real effects on the attitudes not just of students from underrepresented groups, but also on those of other students.* Those who are making such suggestions are not acting as “identity politics police”, as Leiter would have it. We are carefully examining the evidence, and working to improve our profession. Eugene Park’s testimony is a further piece of evidence (albeit anecdotal) that these suggestions are on the right track.
*For a summary of some of this, see my “Implicit Bias, Stereotype Threat and Women in Philosophy”, downloadable at the lower right, here.
José vs. Joe September 3, 2014
Of course, we’ve posted about issues discrimination and bias issues with resumes before, so this will not be surprising to our readers, but it’s a subject worth revisiting (and I was pleased to see this from a source like BuzzFeed!).
From the Huffington Post:
His name is José Zamora, and he had a routine.
During his months-long job search, he says he logged onto his computer every morning and combed the internet for listings, applying to everything he felt qualified for. In the Buzzfeed video above, he estimates that he sent out between 50 to 100 resumes a day — which is, in a word, impressive.
But Zamora said he wasn’t getting any responses, so on a hunch, he decided to drop the “s” in his name. José Zamora became Joe Zamora, and a week later, he says his inbox was full.
As he explains in the video, “Joe” hadn’t changed anything on his resume but that one letter. But what Zamora had done, effectively, was whitewash it.
From Eric Schliesser and Bryce Huebner.
Blacks make up just 1.32 percent of the total number of people professionally affiliated (as grad students or faculty) with U.S. philosophy departments.
Approximately 0.88 percent of U.S. philosophy Ph.D. students are black.
Approximately 4.3 percent of U.S. tenured philosophy professors are black.
Of black philosophy Ph.D. students in the U.S., half are female. That is about double the rate of the U.S. philosophy Ph.D. student population as a whole.
The distribution of black female Ph.D. students across philosophy Ph.D. programs is much lower than black males. Specifically, 69 percent of black female Ph.D. students are at Penn State.
The top areas of specialization for U.S. black philosophers are (1) Africana, (2) Race, (3) Social and Political, (4) Ethics, and (5) Continental philosophy…every time we treat the LEMM as the CORE parts of philosophy (recall) and every time we mock SPEP-style Continental philosophy, we are, in effect, also (further) marginalizing (insulting, demeaning, etc.) the majority of BIPs. Every time you are a bystander to this, you are very likely complicit to making matters worse when it comes to the status of BIPs. –
The kinds of critical race theory and the kind of continental philosophy that are commonly taught at Penn State are precisely the kinds of philosophy that tend to be dismissed, rejected, and marginalized by philosophers working at fancier institutions. Assuming that there is a stable practice of treating this kind of work as “not really philosophy,” we should expect these judgments to serve a gatekeeping function, keeping Black women out of academic philosophy, or at least keeping them from getting jobs at the ‘best’ PhD granting institutions.
What is the State of Blacks in Philosophy in the US? August 28, 2014
This research note is meant to introduce into philosophical discussion the preliminary results of an empirical study on the state of blacks in philosophy, which is a joint effort of the American Philosophical Association’s Committee on the Status of Black Philosophers (APA CSBP) and the Society of Young Black Philosophers (SYBP). The study is intended to settle factual issues in furtherance of contributing to dialogues surrounding at least two philosophical questions: What, if anything, is the philosophical value of demographic diversity in professional philosophy? And what is philosophy? The empirical goals of the study are (1) to identify and enumerate U.S. blacks in philosophy, (2) to determine the distribution of blacks in philosophy across career stages, (3) to determine correlates to the success of blacks in philosophy at different career stages, and (4) to compare and contrast results internally and externally to explain any career stage gaps and determine any other disparities.
Just a couple of people recently fatally shot for being black August 10, 2014
There’s the man shot in the toy section of Walmart, for holding a toy gun, while saying “it’s not real”. (This in an open carry state.)
And the teenager who was shot for walking in the street, not the sidewalk, who had his hands in the air.
[Many expletives have been deleted.]
Rewards and punishment for hiring those unlike oneself July 24, 2014
When women advocated for other women, they were seen as colder, and when people of color advocated for people like them, they were seen as less competent. “People are perceived as selfish when they advocate for someone who looks like them, unless they’re a white man,” said David Hekman, one of the study’s authors.
For more, go here.