Job Talks: Through a glass darkly


Dear Professor Manners: 

I’m a pretty hot property on the philosophy job market this year.  I’ve had  three fly-outs and they all went very well.  I had a lot of great discussions with the faculty in each department.  Of course, I understood that the women faculty wouldn’t really be up to a discussion with someone like me, so I pretty much left them to discuss their feminism or whatever among themselves.  One or two tried to break into the guys’ discussion, but I took my cue from the faculty there and didn’t provide them with the opportunity to embarrass themselves.

Since I fit in so well with each department, I am expecting more than one offer.  What I am wondering is what is the right way to turn down an offer I know lots of people would die for?

You may have solved the problem already.  Your profession is noted for being full of people  with  few  or no social graces, and you can no longer assume that the behavior you recount means everyone agrees that women cannot do philosophy.  I understand you may be surprised and even shocked by this news, but the fact of the matter is that you may have thoroughly and visibly insulted people who have the power of deciding whether you deserve a long term job in their department. 

Even if the female professors are generous enough not to let their feelings of personal animosity toward you decide their vote on your candidacy, they may well be worried about your teaching.  It is well recognized, at least among feminist philosophers, that women undergraduates find philosophy classes less appealing than do men, and the sort of exclusionary behavior you indulged in is one of the causes of that.   

Perhaps you should get out that list of VAP’s and think of another round of applications.

not a moral issue?

There’s been much in the media, in the UK, recently about prostitution and proposed changes in the law (mostly prompted by the high profile case in which Steve Wright was convicted of the murder of five women working as prostitutes).

(Proposed revisions to the law, however, have been jettisoned for the moment, in an attempt to get the Criminal Justice Bill through Parliament as smoothly as possible. More here)

Radio 4 had a discussion about whether selling sex simpliciter is morally problematic – you can listen to the programme here (though programme may only be online until next wed. scroll down to ‘the moral maze and click listen.)

Its actually a pretty frustrating listen: many of the discussants don’t focus on the matter that is supposedly under discussion, namely of whether or not selling sex itself is morally problematic. So often they seem to be talking at cross purposes. Rather, there is discussion of the often horrific conditions that surround those working in prostitution.

Whilst this meant there was little clarity over the moral issue …

(only Michael Portillo seemed focused on this question; his claim being that when it somes to selling sex simpliciter, if both buyer and seller were informed and consenting, there was no moral issue, nor should there be a law against this (he seemed to suggest this was a thought that could generalise. But there are cases where this does not, in current law, hold: he would surely want to say (I think?) that selling and buying drugs (non-addictive ones, to remove complications about autonomy on the part of the buyer), for example, should not be legal))

… what the discussion DID seem to show, was that the moral issues surrounding selling sex should be of little relevance when considering what the legal position should be  – not least because even if it is morally wrong, this does not mean it should be illegal.

More relevant are the realities of the conditions in which many women work in prostitution, and what leads them into it. This  interesting article in today’s guardian (G2) which discusses prostitution without raising the moral issue at all.