X-Phi, Gender and Intuitions

Wesley sends us a link to a blog post which begins:

Since Plato, intuitions have played considerable evidentiary roles in shaping philosophical discourse. Yet, given the gender imbalance in professional academic philosophy today, intuitions imported from the armchair mostly belong to a bunch of men. But do the epistemic intuitions of male philosophy professors represent consensus? A growing body of empirical evidence suggests they don’t.

In a new paper [Gender and Epistemic Intuition], I present a series of experimental studies showing that men and women intuit about important epistemological thought experiments in surprisingly different ways…

Check it out and weigh in! And come back here to tell us about it.

4 thoughts on “X-Phi, Gender and Intuitions

  1. I think the post on X-phi could be seen as creating a bit of a dilemma. On the one hand, many of us can confirm that discussions in philosophy which rest on intuitions can leave one feeling alienated. On the other hand, invoking special women’s ways of thinking are unlikely to end up doing us much good.

    In addition, the discussion is muddled by the claim that there are no differences in the way women think, while I think the more accurate claim would be that such differencess that do exist are being shown to be due to environmental causes, some of them extremely pervasive. E.g., it isn’t that women haven’t scored as well as men on maths tests because they don’t have a Y-chromosone; rather, they have often lacked the encouragement, practice, training, etc.

    If there are environment causes for differences in men’s and women’s intuitions, then that’s still a very interesting result. In this case, the arguably more practically engaged lives of women might end up being a plus. That is, it might be one good benefit from the burden of extra care so many of us carry. At least, unlike mathematics, it is not clear moral reasoning or other judgments of relevance are improved by being able to sit alone in one’s study all day long and having someone else take care of human relations when one is home.

  2. Pretty flimsy as an explanation of why there are relatively few women in philosophy. It also has the appeal of psychological explanations for a variety of ills that are otherwise hard to fix: like the myth that a good attitude can help people survive cancer. Being sensitive to gender differences and careful to listen to women’s “voices” in class is easier than figuring out the whole complicated tangle of institutional factors that discourage women from going into philosophy, and making a good faith effort to fix them.

    In addition to investigating gender differences and speculating about their source, we should be asking why people are so keen to find gender differences that this research gets so much financial support and has such widespread popular support. Why the market for feminist epistemology or for questionable stuff like Gilligan’s shoddy research.

    On the other side though, I’d be interested in seeing whether ethicists as a group have different intuitions from others in the profession. I’ve felt alienated and finally decided to desist from further work on ethical issues because I don’t share the subtle intuitions of most people who work in ethics and related areas. In retrospect, I realize that thought experiments suggested in the one ethics course I took were supposed to be counterexamples to utilitarianism: I never even saw them as problematic. I cheerfully throw the fat man in front of the trolley every time.

  3. I often check this blog – it really is a great resource for “news feminist philosophers can use” – but I’ve never commented…

    H.E. Baber, I have been turned away from any serious work in ethics precisely because I do not share the ‘common’ intuitions. I too “cheerfully throw the fat man in front of the trolley every time”. Anyway, I found your comment refreshing. Especially the question about funding the search for gender differences.

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