Janus-faced: A beginning of the semester quiz: Addition

Introductory addition:  We’ve struggled on this blog a number of times with finding the right rhetoric to call attention to the fact that some conferences are in effect all male, thus contributing to further  marginalizing women in the profession.  It’s easy to praise the precedent-breaking conferences like the Auburn one, few though they are, but the others are harder.  We do not want to report it in the way one reports the weather, say.  It isn’t inevitable, it is the product of human decisions (if  not the decision to privilege men as such), and so on.  At the same time, many of the members of the blog do not want to issue strong judgments about members of the profession who may, after all, be well-meaning.

Further, we are convinced that having women speakers makes a potentially important contribution to raising the quality of the content of a conference.  New ideas, as network theory insists, tend to come from the periphery, not the center.  The inclusion of women philosophers is important for a number of reasons.

Now there’s a worry that my attempt to call attention to the two very different ways these conferences are organized obscures more than it reveals.  Hopefully this introduction addition helps!  This is serious stuff.)


We all know that Janus, the Roman god, had two faces, one looking forward and one looking backward.  Now, in one hundred words or less, describe why these two conferences might remind one of Janus.  Before you start writing, you may want to review the material here.

Conference One:  Auburn Philosophy Conference

Topic of the 2010 Conference:
Ontology of Ordinary Objects

Keynote Speakers:

Lynne Rudder Baker, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Amie Thomasson, University of Miami
Kathrin Koslicki, University of Colorado, Boulder


Karen Bennett, Cornell University
Crawford Elder, University of Connecticut, Storrs
Thomas Hofweber, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Paul Hovda, Reed College
Kris McDaniel, Syracuse University
L.A. Paul, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Brian Epstein, Tufts University

Conference Number Two:  2nd Copenhagen Conference in Epistemology:


AUGUST 19-20, 2010

Speakers include David Christensen (Brown), Jerry Gaus (Arizona),
Stephan Hartmann (Tilburg), Rainer Hegselmann (Bayreuth), Vincent
Hendricks (Copenhagen), Michael Lynch (UConn), Erik J. Olsson (Lund),
and Duncan Pritchard (Edinburgh).

The second is from a cfp.

(Thanks to JT for the first and AFEMMSS-L for the second.)

15 thoughts on “Janus-faced: A beginning of the semester quiz: Addition

  1. If i might make a suggestion:

    I’ve been following the campaign for gender equity re: conferences with interest, and am a regular reader of your blog. So I think I am pretty sure that I got what this post is about.

    But a casual reader might be left scratching his or her head.

    And since (in my humble opinion) the organizer of the ontology conference did a great job with respect to ensuring good representation of excellent female metaphysicians, it might be better just to straightforwardly praise him (which I assume is the point about looking to the future), and then contrast explicitly that praise with the epistemology conference.

    That is *if I got your intentions correctly*. (If I didn’t see the filed under bit and I didn’t know the background, I might think that what you were trying to communicate was something like: metaphysics, how old fashioned, I can’t believe that they are still doing that, but wow epistemology of democracy, that sounds new, interesting and important.)

    just my two bits.

  2. that msg was a bit snarkier sounding than i intended it to be. i am a supporter. just worried about the message getting across.

  3. mm, thanks so much for your concern. You’re saying, I think, that people who haven’t been following the conversation we’ve been having won’t get this: having these all male keynote speaker conferences is looking towards philosophy’s past, while the inclusion of women is, we at least hope, looking toward the future.

    Well that’s too possible. So thanks again. For people who might be curious about the rhetoric we have in fact used, here’s Jender’s earlier comment about “future directions” in metaphysics:

    For why this all matters – in fact matters a great deal – do see the first link in the post, which is to the gendered conferences campaign.

  4. Hi JJ,

    Yeah, that is exactly what I was worried about.
    I also think that it is a good idea to include a straightforward message of ‘good job’ to the conference organizer of the ontology conference. Positive reinforcement and all that i guess.

  5. For some anecdotal information: I’m drooling over this ontology conference and am currently moving heaven and earth (i.e. looking everywhere for funding options) to get there. On the other hand, an all-male list of speakers tends to kill my interest in attending a conference, no matter how good its topic sounds, and no matter how interested I am in the work of each individual speaker. I’m assuming I’m not alone in this.

    At any rate: thanks for bringing this conference to my attention. I’d seen it announced before and thought it seemed great but figured it was too far away (i.e. too expensive) for me, but after looking at this list of speakers again, I’ve decided not to miss it without at least trying all I can first.

  6. Eyja, could you be a student? I wonder if some of the following might help:

    Using SWIP-L to see about sharing some of the expenses, especially if driving is at all feasible.

    Writing the dept and telling them how this conference has attracted attention for all sorts of reasons and would they be able to help students, either with small grants or arranging places to stay, and so on.

  7. Thanks for the ideas jj, maybe they can help someone. But no, I’m not a student but a post-doc with a job and I’m in Europe so getting myself to Alabama is a bit steep. Getting funding for conferences at which I give papers myself is usually doable, but at this one I’d only be a spectator. However, I may have found a way to get the bulk of the cost covered (by getting an educational grant from my union); I’m hoping for a response about it tomorrow.

  8. Don’t know if this is helpful or not, Eyja, but I did a hotels.com search. From the online map, It looks like there is a Day’s Inn about 300 meters from the conference hotel, and it’s rates are about 60 US dollars a night. Mind you, I have no idea how nice a hotel it is so you might want to ask the conference organizer. But booking there would save you around 30$ a night.

  9. Sorry to double post, but also wanted to mention that to Eyja that you should look into flights getting into Atlanta, GA. (If you haven’t already.) I think most of the speakers are flying in there (I am, for example), and there is a shuttle service to pick us up. Atlanta is a big international airport, so hopefully something will work out for you.

  10. mm, I agree that the organizers deserve praise for their vision — this should be a thrilling conference for their students and the philosophers who can attend.
    Eyja, I hope you can get there; perhaps the organizers can help you with alternative accommodations.

    Here’s hoping the cfp for the democratic epistemology conference will receive some important feminist perspectives.

  11. Aw, thanks, you’re all being so sweet and helpful. The good news is that it does look like I’ll be able to get a fixed sum that should cover the cost of travel with a little bit left toward the hotel bill, although I’ll have to cover the rest of it myself. Staying at the conference hotel itself should be more pleasant, right, and perhaps worth a few extra dollars? My sole previous experience of staying in Alabama consists in one night in a very filthy and bug-infested motel room back in 1996 (fortunately it was dark when we arrived so the discovery wasn’t made till the next morning), so most hotels will probably seem great in comparison.

    Now I’ll just have to figure out the logistics of the trip and make a couple of decisions, and I should be all set for the conference.

  12. The explanation for the differences in the lineups is really pretty straightforward — women don’t much like politics, with all its strategizing and public debate and arguing and important issues so on, but they do tend to stay at home with the kids and thereby come into contact with a great number of ordinary objects. QED.

  13. Oooh, good point, Kieran. Perhaps things would change if we managed to introduce some ordinary objects into typically male environments. ;)

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