The male philosophical canon

Brian Leiter has a post up about the Chronicle article JJ posted on yesterday which suggested that the maleness and sexism of the philosophical canon might be contributing to gender imbalance in the profession. He asks what people think of the hypothesis. It would be good for some of us to get in on the comments (though only students are allowed to post anonymously). In particular, Christopher Hitchcock has posted a request for female authors to teach in a particular class: “If I teach an intro M & E class, that focuses on skepticism, knowledge of an external world, etc. with texts like Plato’s cave, Descartes’ meditations, Berkeley, Hume on Induction, ‘Brains in a vat’ and ‘Elusive Knowledge’, are there any recommendations for writings by women that would fit in and be accessible to freshmen?” It would be nice to go offer some suggestions! And also, of course, to contribute to the rest of the discussion.

All-female reading lists?

Brian Weatherson has a nice post up, ruminating on the maleness of reading lists for intro philosophy courses.

… I had the idea the other day of putting together a syllabus for an intro philosophy class that only featured female authors. I’ve seen several such classes with all male reading lists, but I’d never seen an all female one. I’m interested in why so many intro classes in philosophy have an uneven gender balance, and one hypothesis is that (some) women are put off by all-male reading lists.

So I went to a few prominent anthologies used in intro teaching, and thought I’d start making lists of all the papers by women I found in them. I’m really bad at telling which papers will work in intro classes, so I use those big anthologies a lot as a guide to what I can get away with teaching. But I quit fairly soon after I started down that road, because it clearly wasn’t going to help.

All the anthologies I looked at had not a single paper by a woman that wasn’t on ethics. Admittedly I only looked at a handful of readers, and if I’d kept searching I would have found one or two papers by women on areas other than ethics that had been included in the standard readers. But still, I think this is a bit terrible, especially in readers with 100 or so articles.

So instead I started thinking about what an intro ethics course with only female authors would look like. And since there are lots of readers designed just for ethics courses, I thought they would be a better place to get started.

Read on, to find what he discovered.

Among other things, Weatherson’s tale shows the importance of this project.