CFP on meaning, etc. Deliberate or careless exclusion of women?

Looking at calls for papers, one would think there aren’t women doing philosophy at all.  And here’s another; see below.  I don’t want for a second to discourage women from responding, but the profession might as well have a deliberate policy of discouraging women from participation. 


5th International Symposium of Cognition, Logic and Communication


7-9 August 2009, Riga, Latvia.

 INVITED ORGANIZERS: Brad Armour-Garb (State University of New York at Albany, US), Douglas Patterson (Kansas State University, US), James Woodbridge (University of Nevada Las Vegas, US)



Jody Azzouni, Tufts University (US)

Simon Blackburn, University of Cambridge (UK)

Anthony Everett, University of Bristol (UK)

Mitch Green, University of Virginia (US)

Steven Gross, Johns Hopkins University (US)

James Higginbotham, University of Southern California (US)

Thomas Hofweber, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (US)

Fred Kroon, University of Auckland, (NZ)

Guy Longworth, University of Warwick (UK)

Peter Ludlow, Northwestern University (US)

Dean Pettit, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (US)

Gurpreet Rattan, University of Toronto (CA)

Stephen Schiffer, New York University (US)

Barry Smith, Birkbeck College (UK)

Jason Stanley, Rutgers (US)

 The symposium will take place on 7-9 August 2008 at the University of Latvia in Riga and is co-hosted by the Center for Cognitive Sciences and Semantics of the University of Latvia and the  Department of Philosophy at Kansas State University


Aim and Scope


Does understanding a language consist in knowing what its expressions mean? Although it may seem obvious that it does, the thesis has recently been questioned by members of a number of camps.  For example, some “inconsistency theorists” claim that because standard semantically paradoxical arguments (e.g., liar-like arguments) appear to competent speakers to be sound in virtue of meaning, this shows that linguistic competence–whatever exactly that consists in–cannot be knowledge, since what it grasps (e.g., a given semantic principle) need not be true.  Leaving aside the apparent non-factivity of linguistic competence, others  have noted that because understanding is not subject to Gettier-style cases, it follows that that notion–however it’s to be understood–cannot be knowledge.  Furthermore, some have taken standard accounts of the sub-personal nature of semantic competence to suggest that understanding might not even be worth taking as knowledge.


In a different vein, some have suggested that competent speakers can and do take on ontological commitments that they do not, or cannot, support. And so-called “pretense-theorists” (whether semantic or pragmatic) have proposed that the phenomenology of understanding is best accounted for by a fictionalist account.


In view of these developments, an extended reconsideration of the epistemic conception of understanding presses.  Possible topics, while they can include those mentioned above, are not restricted to them; the following (and relatives of them) strike us as potentially promising: views of (say) understanding , which see it is a kind of practical ability–one that falls short of knowledge; error theories that are based on the rejection of meanings qua abstracta;  skeptical views that are (roughly) along “Kripkensteinian” lines; or views that are based on works in historical traditions.


Call for Submitted papers: 


A limited number of papers will be selected for presentation at the symposium and considered for inclusion in the proceedings in the Baltic International Yearbook of Cognition, Logic and Communication.


Time allowed for presentations is 40 minutes including discussion. Submitted papers should have a maximum of 3000 words and should be accompanied by a 200 words abstract.


All submitted papers should be PREPARED FOR BLIND REVIEW, and should be sent electronically to:


DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSION IS 25 APRIL 2009. Authors will be notified in May 2009.


Symposium proposal:


In addition to individual papers, the scientific committee will be considering proposals for symposia. Time allowed for symposia is 2 hours (including discussion). Symposia should include a minimum of three and a maximum of four contributions. Submissions should be clearly identified as “Symposium proposal” and include:


1)    The title of the symposium

2)    A brief description of the topic and its relevance to the conference (200 words)

3)    The name, affiliation and academic status (student, lecturer, assistant professor, etc.) of each participant

4)    The title of each contribution as well as an extended 500-1000 word abstract.

5)    The name, affiliation and academic status of the person who will be chairing the symposium


Symposium proposals should be sent electronically to:

DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSION IS 25 April 2009. Authors will be notified in May 2009.

Scientific Committee: Brad Armour-Garb (State University of New York at Albany, US), Matti Eklund (Cornell University, US) Sandra Lapointe (Kansas State University, US), Douglas Patterson (Kansas State University, US), Jurgis Skilters (University of Latvia, LV), James Woodbridge (University of Nevada Las Vegas, US)

19 thoughts on “CFP on meaning, etc. Deliberate or careless exclusion of women?

  1. Do you know if there’s data on the gender ratios in particular subfields of philosophy? That sort of data would help in figuring out how probable it is that this happened by chance, or what’s going on here.

  2. the curious thing is that there’s a woman on the committee for it. (i’ll refrain from banging on about stockholm syndrome.) but btw jj, i think phil of language *does* have a deliberate policy of discouraging women from participating. i can’t imagine how else the field would look like it does (and ACT like it does).

  3. Neil the EW: I don’t know of any very reliable list of where women are working, but going by most cfps with a list of invited speakers, there aren’t any women working outside of feminist philosophy. And that’s just wrong.

    lp, you are right about the presence of a woman on the committee. We do need to realize that women can be conditioned by the same sexist environment as the one the men experience.

  4. A report on women in philosophy from a year ago collects the portion of women who have published in certain journals:

    Ethics: 19.30%
    JPhil: 13.33%
    Mind: 6.38%
    Nous: 11.62%
    Phil Review: 11.11%
    PPR: 12.26%
    PPA: 13.98%
    JPhil. Logic: 9% (source)

    Assuming this Symposium fits with the content of Mind, the percentages line up pretty well. Unfortunately it seems like Mind might be a bit behind anyway, even among heavily analytic journals.

  5. Phil of language does seem to be male dominated, but natural-language semantics, as practiced in linguistics depts, has a lot (well, “a lot”, compared to philosophy) of prominent women – Heim at MIT, Kratzer at Amherst, McConnell-Ginet at Cornell, etc. I wonder why, since Phil of Lang and semantics are in many ways, the same field (with different emphases – semantics is for example more mathematical).

    I think a possible reason for this is the huge influence of Barbara Partee, whose students (and their students) have made quite a mark on the field. I imagine Partee influenced a lot of women to go into linguistics, maybe women who wouldn’t have otherwise. (See Partee’s “genealogy of students” here:

  6. Thanks, Jay. There are two points about these figures that are important:

    1. 6 or 7 of the journals publish papers in the conferences’ field.

    2. There are good reasons for thinking the figures are influenced by the bias more generally existiing in the field, for lots of reasons. Some of these are direct; e.g., some of the editors do not do completely blind reviews, and so sort and cull when the author is known; some indirect and the result of poor mentoring of women in the analytic fields, the discouragement women receive, etc.

  7. dkm: wonderful link. I expect Partee’s influence was due partly to the newness of the field, and the fact that she was in effect helping to create it.

    I don’t mean to denigrate her achievement, but rather to point out that a comparable person in philosophy is unlikely to have as big an effect.

  8. lp– I think what’s so important about the implicit bias stuff is that it makes it clear women will be just as likely to be biased against women as men are. And also that no intention is necessary for some pretty dramatic effects.
    But as to the composition of the field: there are *plenty* of women in philosophy of language, certainly enough that there’s no excuse for a conference this big to have none. And this is perfectly consistent with women being underrepresented in philosophy of language, and with it being (often) a hostile environment for women. (Think of the very aggressive style in the field, which women more often than men find extremely uncomfortable; think perhaps also of the number of big names known for leching at students and junior faculty. Think of them, but DON’T NAME THEM. The point is to think about barriers to women, not to attack particular individuals.)

  9. yes, indeed jender. but, so far as women being biased against women in this sort of a case, do you think it’s just implicit bias? (i’m not entirely sure what it would mean for it to be “just” implicit bias; bear with me…) it seems to me like there’s actual pressure from men in the field for women to ‘fall in line’, if you will. so, it’s not just that women have these biases for the normal basic reasons that people do; it’s, further, that in a field that is so aggressive, etc, women are actually pushed into behaving in ways that are consistent with such biases more so than if they were simply making judgments on their own. does that make sense?

  10. (sorry, btw, i should be clear that i didn’t mean to be attacking lapointe. it just seems mad that the rest of the committee saw fit to have a woman on the committee, but didn’t see fit to invite any to speak.)

  11. lp, about your point in 12: maybe this is similar: raising a feminist issue at an otherwise ‘straight’ analytic conference can cause negative, repressive reactions.

  12. For shame. That is an appalling line up.

    Maybe we *should* be discouraging people from participating in such biased conferences – not discouraging women particularly, but discouraging *anybody* who does not want to be complicit in this kind of behaviour.

    I consider the speakers who accept to appear on such a slate to be as culpable as the organising committee. They should be asked to justify how they find it acceptable to appear in an all-male programme.

    Maybe if such events were boycotted for explicit reasons by people of all genders and backgrounds, and speakers were to find the decency to at least inquire who else has been invited and make it a condition of agreeing to speak that some attempt at equity is made, it might slowly become unacceptable for this kind of call to exist.

  13. I appreciate Jaded’s suggestion about people appearing on the slate – except that people are often invited and do not know who else is going to be on the slate.

    In fact, imagine you are invited to speak: how ready would you be to ask ‘Well, who else is going to speak?”? The one invitee I ever had ask me this was a young man; as the organizer, I was rather offended. If one asked, “Will there be other women?”, I think the obvious danger is that the inviter will think you, the invitee, are afraid to appear with only males! It’s really very tricky. It seems to me that it is up to the organizers.

    I also have a question, as Phil Language is not my area: WHY is it especially nasty/aggressive? I assume this is an accident of history? Could young women philosophers help to make it a better environment by [ very bravely] invading and behaving like decent pursuers of truth rather than school-yard bullies?

  14. cstar, i think you’re quite right about jaded’s suggestion. the other thing is that (as has been discussed elsewhere on this blog) most *women* these days aren’t comfortable even calling themselves feminists, let alone men. how likely is it that enough people would be willing to boycott? not very, i’d say. most likely the handful of brave souls who do will simply marginalise themselves. (tho in an ideal world, i think it would be precisely the right thing to do!)

  15. cstars, thanks for your comment. i’m sure you’re right and that invited speakers often don’t know who else is going to appear alongside them. But once a call like that is circulated speakers must be aware of the slate they find themselves on.

    Short of an explicit disclaimer on the part of the organisers saying something to the effect of “we did all we could to find speakers representative of the diversity of the field, but no women were available or interested in participating”, I’d like to know how the 15 men listed feel they can justify their continued involvement. They could, and in my opinion should, withdraw their support from the event.

    I agree the organisers bear the bulk of the responsibility. But I don’t think these participants can hide behind that as an excuse in such an extreme case.

  16. I wish we could all be completely on top of thse matters, as individuals. But, as a rule, if one is invited to speak at a conference – and one is not a ‘superstar’ [ick] – the likely response is “Oh, thank you; I would be delighted.” If and when the oragnizers reveal the whole lineup, it is usally late in the game. As a sometime organizer, let me point out that the lateness of such announcements is neither intentional nor entirely within the control of the organizers.
    So, imagine one finds out that the slate includes only one woman – oneself. What is the best response? I might say, ‘No thanks,” but I don’t think I can claim that any and every female philosopher has that obligation, given different situations.
    And. really, is it always best to say one will not participate because there are other excellent women philosophers in this area who have not been invited, or always best to say that one will particpate and, then, use the occasion to highlight the work of those other women philosophers, or always best to use some other strategy?
    I do not believe there is one best reaction to al cases [of this sort; I do think there is a one best response to, e.g., the use of torture]. I DO think that women in our discipline need to be in contact and need to support all outlets (journals, societies, etc.) that provide equitable opportunities for capable philosophers of any sex, race, etc.

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