Phenomenal Presence (of Women)

Esa sent us a link to this conference, with 50% of the invited speakers women. Note that it’s also a Call for Papers.

Phenomenal Presence: what is phenomenally given in experience?

Dates: 7th – 9th June 2010
Location: University of Fribourg (Switzerland)

– Martine Nida-Rümelin and Fabrice Theler (University of Fribourg)
– Fiona Macpherson (Centre for the Study of Perceptual Experience, University of Glasgow)
– Fabian Dorsch (Fribourg/Glasgow)

Submission deadline: 1st April, 2010 (for further details, please see below)

The topic of this conference is what it is for something to be phenomenally present in experience. Something’s being phenomenally present in experience should be contrasted with cases in which one merely comes to believe that something is present. For example, if I look at the kitchen floor and see muddy footprints on it, but I don’t see you, typically, the shape of the footprints will be phenomenally given to me in my visual experience. Now, I may form the belief that you are in the house because I see the footprints, but arguably, you would not be phenomenally present in my visual experience.

One reason that this question is interesting is that one might think that there are different ways in which things can be phenomenally present in experience. For example, imagine looking at an apple. The colour of the front face of the apple is something that is phenomenally given to you in a typical visual experience of an apple. This is a property that the facing surface of the apple seems to have and to which we seem to have direct access in visual perception. Furthermore, colours are very distinctive qualities. This example illustrates a central way in which something can be phenomenally present. But are there other ways?

Some people think that when looking at an apple it is part of the way that the apple appears that it is a whole round object even though there is clearly a sense in which we don’t see the whole round object – we don’t see the back side of the apple. Such people would think that the back side of the apple is phenomenally given in experience but it isn’t given in the same way that the colour of the front surface of the apple is given. Let us say that the colour of the facing surface of the apple is sensorily given and the back side of the apple is non-sensorily given. Are there these two different ways of being phenomenally given? Or is it simply the case that we form a belief about the backside of the apple, based on our knowledge of what apples are like?

Take another example: some people think that apples can be phenomenally presented as existing independently of our experience. If this independent existence is phenomenally present, it doesn’t seem to be sensorily presented, so how is it presented? Is there a distinctive quality associated with this independence from experience in the way that there are distinctive qualities associated with colours? If so, what is this quality exactly, and is it different to the quality that seems to be associated with the non-sensorial phenomenal presence of the backside of the apple? Is the way that this is non-sensorily given the same way in which the back side of the apple is non-sensorily given?

Finally, consider that the phenomenon of phenomenal presence might not be restricted to perceptual experience. For example, some people think that when I perform an action being the author of what happens can be phenomenally present to me. Similarly, some people think that there is phenomenology associated with having conscious thoughts, beliefs or desires. What is phenomenally present, if anything, in such cases and in what ways are such cases different to sensory and non-sensory perceptual presence?

In the conference we would like to discuss these issues using concrete examples. We wish to develop our understanding of the issue in order to clarify more general theoretical questions about the relation between the phenomenal and the intentional and about the nature of phenomenal consciousness.

Invited speakers:
– Jerome Dokic (Institut Jean-Nicod, Paris)
– Michelle Montague (Bristol)
– Susanna Siegel (Harvard)
– Daniel Stoljar (ANU)
– Pär Sundström (Umea)
– Fiona Macpherson (Glasgow)

– Fabian Dorsch (Fribourg/Glasgow)
– Martine Nida-Rümelin (Fribourg)
– Gianfranco Soldati (Fribourg)
– Fabrice Theler (Fribourg)

We invite papers on the topic of the conference suitable for presentation in no more than 45 minutes. Papers should be original and unpublished and authors should be willing to submit their papers for consideration for inclusion in an edited volume arising from the conference. The papers will be chosen by the organisers on the basis of abstracts of between 500 – 1000 words.

We will be able to pay for the accommodation costs (4 nights) of the accepted speakers, plus perhaps for some of the travel costs and the meals.

Instructions for authors:
– The abstracts should have a length of 500 – 1000 words and be sent in rtf, pdf or doc format.
– The submission deadline for abstracts is the 1st of April 2010.
– Abstracts should be submitted along with the name, the departmental and institutional affiliations and the contact details of the author.
– Authors will be notified of acceptance or rejection by the 15th of April 2010.
– Submissions should be sent electronically to Fabian Dorsch (

Muslim Cancer Support Centre

Reader RM is one of the organisers of what sounds like a really important initiative:

Muslim Cancer Support for Women!

In Kingston University – London, a group of young Muslim women activists have started a Project called ‘Muslim Cancer Support’ hoping to change the sad reality of Muslim women within their community, unheard, unrepresented, and catered for!

Cancer organisations and chaplaincies within hospitals at large are not perceived as welcoming or ‘helpful’ by Muslim women. They often ‘shy’ away from these support sessions because they don’t feel as though it caters for their needs – both spiritual and in terms of ‘privacy’. Add this ingredient to a culture of silence when it comes to talking about Cancer.

Recently a Muslim woman emailed one of the Volunteers about her struggles in life for determining her own life choices while battling with breast cancer – she beyond a doubt illustrated the need for supporting women battling with cancer, and in particular women from ethnic minorities.

Muslim cancer support aims to help change the lives of Muslim women by providing them with information packs, counselling, inspirational spiritual literature and regular hospitals visits.

Volunteers are welcomed, regardless of faith, gender, and race:
Help this little project be effective just by supporting it, twittering it, or even emailing it to your mates.

Fat Female Professors and Student Evaluations of Teaching

Some time ago in a discussion of how to get high scores on student evaluations of our teaching, a friend who teaches in another department remarked that the easiest way she knew to boost student evaluations was to lose 20 lbs. I laughed but I have been thinking about how norms of various sorts affect student evaluations of teaching ability. Recently I read “They Are Weighted with Authority”: Fat Female Professors in Academic and Popular Cultures,” by Christina Fisanick (in the journal Feminist Teacher volume 17 number 3). I know that women often do worse on evaluations in contexts in which a male professor is expected. Women aren’t punished for being women if the students expect a female professor. But it hadn’t struck me until reading Fisanick’s paper that students might also expect their professors to be slim and that fat women might face additional burdens beyond gender.

Fisanick writes: “Many researchers (Lewis; Weber and Mitchell) have argued that the “normal professor body” shares the same characteristics of the “normal body” in society. Most depictions of the “normal professor body” are white, male, middle-class, middle-aged, able, heterosexual, and thin. Where did this image of the “normalprofessor body” originate? How does it affect students’, professors’, administrators’,
and society’s expectations of what a professor should be or should look like? In a series of experiments, Claudia Mitchell and Sandra Weber discovered that images of teachers in popular culture greatly influence students’ and teachers’ expectations of teachers…..

For fat women, it is vital not only to pass as an academic, but also to pass as a woman. According to Sheila Kishler Bennett, women are unfairly evaluated by students, colleagues, and administrators, especially when they fail to follow “gender appropriate expectations” (177–78). Such expectations as niceness, friendliness,
pleasantness, and approachability (Bartlett 196) can be viewed differently by women and minority faculty and by students whose cultures interpret femininity, teaching, and even professionalism in ways not anticipated by the dominant culture. Therefore, women who fail to occupy typical gender roles are in double jeopardy of failure in the academic workplace. Female professors especially vulnerable to this second level of passing are often those who further occupy “othered” subject positions, such as women of color, fat women, women who are disabled, and lesbians.”

In order to counter bias in promotion and tenure decisions Fisanick suggests that we expand the methods used to measure teaching excellence for example by including case studies, student focus groups, ongoing peer observations, teaching portfolios, and a critical examination of teaching materials, such as syllabi, handouts, and assignment sheets. Do your institutions do any of these things? What other strategies do you think might be useful? I also wonder if anyone has done a study of how BMI correlates with teaching evaluations.