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.

5 thoughts on “The male philosophical canon

  1. Well, you can’t spell M&E without B-r-i-e. Okay, yes, you can, but I always include Brie Gertler on my M&E syllabus anyway. She’s got an undergrad-level article in the current edition of Feinberg and Shafer-Landau’s _Reason and Responsibility_. It generates such good discussion.

    I posted the following on TAR as well:
    I wish to add that we know what works in the anthropology of gender equity: Recognizing difference, talking about it, and noting that it matters helps minority students acclimate to an extraordinary degree. Insisting that gender does not matter, that it isn’t there, and that you don’t even notice your students have colors or genders has been proven to be a recipe for disengagement. The best way to get someone to give up and quit is to tell them you don’t see them.
    Therefore, I briefly criticized commentators on Leiter’s blog who insisted chauvinist comments are obviously irrelevant to philosophers’ works. This is demonstrably untrue on notable occasions (Kant, in particular, reveals a great deal of fascinating metaphysical commitments in the course of detailing the scarce rational capacities of women). More importantly, to persist in insisting that we “read around” such comments in the canon is to continue to deny recognition to, or to misrecognize, those students in the room on the losing side of a gendered comment. I realize that to insist it is irrelevant is well-intentioned. However, it is not the way to proceed. It is also a partial answer as to why women and minorities do not get the impression that they are, as Margaret Walker has so eloquently said, “welcome to enter and expected to enter.”

  2. *Sigh* I remember a time when me and other fresh-faced young undergraduates were very excited to read Hilary Putnam on a course about scepticism – we thought he was a woman.

  3. I’ve noted that Leiter’s comments are moderated; it would be interested to know if anyone has any problems in getting their comments accepted. I don’t have any reason to expect they would, btw.

  4. Every comment I’ve ever submitted to the Leiter Reports blog has been posted. Indeed, every comment I’ve sent to every moderated blog has been posted. Having said that, I’ve never submitted anything, you know, nutty.

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