Many philosophy professors first encountered this form of question as about the kind(s) of truth that philosophy aims to uncover and clarify. Or so I would suppose. Certainly for my peer group, there was also a strong and uncomfortable sense that philosophy is somehow irrelevant, but for some of us at least that was just one more very hard problem. And against it we could balance thousands of years of human enquiry.
Yet so fast has been the change in the philosophical community that for many of us – again I am assuming – Anita Allen’s concerns about what philosophy is are now deeply important. Perhaps this is due to the fact that enough women are in philosophy and have experienced its exclusionary nature without being co-opted by it. We know that acceptance involving passing is at best a painful tool to use.
Or so it seems here and now, and other takes would be very welcome. But all this is a lead up to another version of the title question. While Allen’s statement
I feel that philosophy is hoisting itself by its own petard. Its unwillingness to be more inclusive in terms of issues, methods, demographics, means that it’s losing out on a lot of vibrancy, a lot of intellectual power.”
clearly in some ways rings true, I’m wondering whether the exceptions are also significant. To say this is not to defend philosophy against the charges of sexism and racism, but I’m wondering now how uniform the field is.
What exceptions, you might ask. Well, a lot of philosophy of mind has gone empirical while at the same time taking some account of the phenomenological tradition. And though the now closely related cognitive psychology is hardly a feminist stronghold, it seems a lot better than philosophy has been. A consequence is that there are more women at conferences, though journal publication remains significantly exclusive. Perhaps ethics has also changed; the cadre of female virtue ethicists, for example, is certainly notable.
Such changes can actually lead one to despair, since they can make the socially regressive attitudes of philosophy departments all the clearer. And such attitudes obviously create a very major problem for combating the field’s racism. But one might wonder whether the field is starting to fracture in a way that at least creates opportunities feminist department members might be able to use to more the field further forward.
Is it time to think about strategizing perhaps more broadly? Any recommendations? Additions? Objections?