Another CU-Boulder investigation August 26, 2014
A philosophy conference so diverse it merited a news story August 18, 2014
The Diverse Lineages of Existentialism meeting was a far cry from a typical philosophy conference. In a discipline dominated by white men, this conference hosted as many women as men and a large number of people of color along with white participants. In a discipline often characterized by its esoteric isolation from public and politics, instead there was outpouring of conversations about social justice and lived human experience. Given the recent public and professional conversations about the lack of diversity in philosophy, the Diverse Lineages of Existentialism (DLE) conference is a hopeful glance into the future of the discipline – one that is long overdue and necessary if philosophy is to continue as a viable and relevant living and growing field, both in the academy and in the public imagination.
“Why I Left Academia: Philosophy’s Homogeneity Needs Rethinking” August 15, 2014
“The pressure to accept and conform to a narrow conception of philosophy was pervasive. [...] While much of the rest of the academy has evolved to reflect these demographic changes, philosophy remains mired in a narrow conception of the discipline that threatens to marginalize philosophy even further. [...] I loved studying philosophy, and truly have no regrets about devoting nearly a decade of my life to it. But I also grew tired and frustrated with the profession’s unwillingness to interrogate itself. Eventually, I gave up hope that the discipline would ever change, or that it would change substantially within a timeframe that was useful to me professionally and personally.”
“It’s not that women and minorities are (inexplicably) less interested in the “problems of philosophy”—it’s that women and minorities have not had their fair say in defining what the problems of philosophy are, or what counts as philosophy in the first place.”
Eric Schliesser on the Boulder situation August 8, 2014
As usual, Eric has many thoughtful things to say. Here are just a couple of them.
It is encouraging that after the settlement, the victim has decided to stay in the profession and at Boulder; this suggests to me that there is reason that the majority of our peers at Boulder are, in fact, already (quoting Curtis) “making progress.” Our colleagues at Boulder deserve our respect and support in doing so. It’s not impossible that in doing so they are, in fact, showing the way forward to the rest of us…
As I claimed a few month’s ago, victims’s lawsuits “and the harsh light of publicity are the best means to destroy the culture of silence in the profession and to give everybody incentives to do the right thing (protect victims and to ensure that success goods are not abused). It’s a sad fact that the victims and relative powerless are the ones that are now the best hope for reform and wisdom. But that’s how the situation looks to me now.” The size of the settlement $825,000 at Boulder is of the right order of magnitude to generate the right incentives.
Sexism’s Dilemmas August 2, 2014
Very often abusive conduct leaves one without any good alternatives. A kind of abuse described in an earlier post can at least prompt two responses that may well make things worse.
Two reactions are: getting angry, and dropping out as much as possible.
1. Anger can lead its recipients to reflect on and reassess their actions. But insiders, when faced with an angry outsider, may take her reactions to show they were right and she is an awful person. Her actions may even be cited as part of the department’s recruiting new members of the department into the boys’ club. I think this is one way that disrespect is taught, and neophytes come to believe that yes, some women, people of color, etc., have a great deal of difficulty fitting into the department culture.
2. The second reaction is dropping out, at least to the point of avoiding the insiders as much as possible. This reaction is recommended by a lot of “how to cope with an awful boss” books. This alternative has been chosen by some women faculty; it is recommended as a way of preserving one’s health and sanity. However, dropping out presents the abusers with a great opportunity for gossip and conjecture which may well be promulgated all the way to the upper administration. Think of all those people who think feminists are just trying to get special treatment; they really believe that. A department’s account of an outsider dropping out may get similarly off-base explanations.
I think that it is actually very significant that these two routes are very problematic. Foregoing them both has the victim having to hang around being nice and sweet. That sounds like something an oppressor would like.
So what to do? I think that this is a big question for our community. I do not have any easy answers. Right now I’ve started to look at books on autonomy. I hope that philosophers can find ways for people in oppressive situations to have autonomy and self-respect.
Legal action of one sort or another is possible, but it can also be quite destructive. People can have a lot of trouble quelling their desire to retaliate, and trying to work one’s way through such situations can consume one’s life. (Right now even people who write about the law as it applies to the Ludlow case may receive a threat of legal action from his lawyers.) In addition, I do think that it is difficult to get far without a lawyer, and that easily becomes very expensive.
Though I have spoken about women, anyone who may be in an outsider role can be targeted.
In trying to understand why a group in a department might target someone, I found the following very useful:
“Pluralism in ‘Academic Politics’: The Collateral Damage of
Cronyism and Legal Aspects of Common Misconduct”
APA Newsletter on Feminism and Philosophy, Spring 2013.
Who bears responsibility? July 17, 2014
Important questions about sexual misconduct in philosophy, being asked by Heidi Lockwood over at Daily Nous. Go join in the discussion!
How to recruit more female undergrads? July 8, 2014
Advice is being solicited here. Do consider offering ideas.
On staff-student relationships July 7, 2014
Some things in academia never change. Even in an age when the feminists apparently control everything, it seems that the practice of older (usually male) scholars sleeping with much younger (usually female) graduate students is alive and … well, I wouldn’t say “well.” With two such relationships making recent news in the discipline of philosophy alone, for some of the older generation of male professors (again, mostly male), the grad students are still a dating pool—and vice versa. This is not just icky—it is highly damaging to the profession.
Philosophical Profiles July 1, 2014
This will hopefully help raise the profile of women philosophers:
A new series of interviews with distinguished and influential philosophers working on a range of issues of interdisciplinary interest, from Political Philosophy, the rights and status of children, Bioethics, Sex and Gender, the nature of free will, personhood, right through to the physical structure of the universe. Each philosopher discusses his or her particular area of focus and how he or she became interested in that area in a way that should be accessible to a general audience. The production of Philosophical Profiles is under the aegis of the Journal of Cognition and Neuroethics<http://www.cognethic.org/jcn.html>.
For additional information, please contact Simon Cushing by emailing