Does philosophy have a woman problem? (Snort!)

Collecting some news from comments and adding in a bit of our own, we draw your attention to:

1.  The Bad:  The four volumes of Oxford Studies in Metaphysics have no female authors.  At all.”But,” we hear frequentlly, “there aren’t any women doing metaphysics.  The lie is given to this by:

2.  The Good: A conference at Leeds on Ontology with excellent women metaphysicians from Cornell, Yale, Leeds and Toronto.  Cheers for the organizers, one of whom has been a frequent commentator here.

3.  The getting better.  First, the bad news.  The Society for Philosophy and Psychology is having its annual conference this week in Philadelphia.  There are no women philosophers among its invited speakers.  On the main program there are two women giving ‘contributed’ papers and one female commentator.**  The male philosophers on the main program total 29 (approximately).  There’s also a two-session workshop before the conferences in experimental philosophy, and there are no women philosopherss.

But then there’s good news.  When it was apprised of the problem of low representation of women, the Society’s executive committee determined to create a committee on diversity to try to understand philosophy’s exclusionary practices and to retify the problems they have caused, at least in the Society and in the field.

**There was a second woman asked to comment, we are told.  She declined the paper they offered, but said she’d consider a different one.  And that was the end of the correspondence. 

(Edited in response to Sally’s correction.)

13 thoughts on “Does philosophy have a woman problem? (Snort!)

  1. Oxford University Press’s reader, Introduction to Philosophy: Classical and Contemporary Readings, by John Perry, Michael Bratman, and John Martin Fischer has 69 readings, 4 of which are by women. Nice introduction to the field for our undergrads.

  2. I’m looking at OUP’s Philosophy: The Quest for Truth edited by L. Pojman and L. Vaughn and it’s not much better. 5 of the 84 entries are written by women. If you don’t count Ruth Benedict and Ayn Rand as philosophers, there are only three female philosophers included in the volume. The female philosophers (on my admittedly elitist reading of ‘philosopher’) happen all to be included in the section on the moral permissibility of abortion.

    On the upside…
    … I see no mention of how Princess Elisabeth killed Rene Descartes.
    … The ratio of articles authored by Louis Pojman to those authored by women is 3/5, which is better than expected.

  3. It might be worth noting that it is Oxford *Studies* in Metaphysics rather than Oxford Readings in Metaphysics. I don’t think OUP is continuing with the Oxford Readings series anymore (they were the little books collecting previously published articles on a topic, e.g., Gary Watson’s _Free Will_). There is an Oxford Handbook in Metaphysics too, with only one woman of 23 authors.

  4. Thanks, folks, for all the bad news! With any luck, one or two people might rethink their second editions/next vol.

  5. U can have conferences, workshop etc with a large number of female participants. and u can have a large number of books of female philosophy teachers. U can have a large number of rigorous female philosophers as well, in future. As they say impossible is nothing!!!

    But let’s, for now, not place conference participation, contributions as a writer and the ilk on the same stage with the temperament of an analytical philosophy. Philosophy is a different ball game, much like theoretical physics.
    Philosophy has no woman problem it seems.

    The time to ask the question whether women have philosophy problem is not yet ready.

  6. I don’t know what, if any, inference one should draw from the following, but perhaps someone might find it a bit of useful info: The members of the program committee for this year’s SPP — the ones who issue the invitations — were all women (2 philosophers and 2 psychologists).

  7. Steve, it’s a pretty difficult fact. It you look at the two women philosophy presenters, you’ll see one of them was on the program committee.

    I think one thing one might conclude is that women haven’t any better ‘basic instinct’ about how to address the sexism in the field than guys do.

  8. I don’t think it’s all that surprising: (1) The research tells us that everyone’s subject to unconscious biases– women against women, blacks against blacks, etc; (2) All sorts of factors that we’ve discussed help to bring it about that there are more prominent men than women. A committee that wants prominent speakers, then, is likely to end up with more men than women– no matter what he composition of the committee. (3) It often takes a concsious, explicit decision to overcome (1) and (2). Men may make such a decision, women may not– it’s not going to be determined by sex/gender. (It’s also worth noting that even feminist women may not do this– there are disagreements about methods. So, for example, some feminists might think that we should focus our efforts at a different point in the academic pipeline; or even that we should focus our efforts on e.g. women in poverty rather than women academics.)

  9. Let me clarify: I should have said that women don’t necessarily have any better an idea than the guys do. That is, it doesn’t come with the biology.

    Actually, I’m not sure that’s exactly right, or at least we do need to recognize that women do have a perspective as a minority in the field that needs to be included in any good solution.

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