Infuriating editorial of the day

If your blood pressure is feeling up for it, you might want to read Andrew Irvine’s latest tirade against university hiring policies. Called “The real discrimination at universities is against men,” it’s available here. Clearly some comments/letters to the editor are warranted. Irvine, a full professor in philosophy at the University of British Columbia, is also the author of “Jack and Jill and Employment Equity,” Dialogue, vol. 35 (1996), no. 2, 255-291, available here.

taking Nietzsche very seriously?

 Brian Leiter writes:

This is very odd, and, one hopes, it is simply the product of just bad writing:  NEH summer stipends may not be used for “projects that seek to promote a particular political, philosophical, religious, or ideological point of view.”  Won’t this prevent most philosophers from applying, unless they’re writing a survey piece?  One assumes that, given the list, by “philosophical” they mean something closer to “political” and “ideological,” and not someone proposing to defend four-dimensionalism or compatibilism or epistemic internalism …

I thought BL must be right until I remembered a comment on one of our recent posts.  SeanH quoted Leiter quoting Nietzsche:

“[Philosophers] all pose as if they had discovered and reached their real opinions through the self-development of a cold, pure, divinely unconcerned dialectic…; while at bottom it is an assumption, a hunch, indeed, a kind of ‘intuition’…that they defend with reasons they have sought after the fact. They are all advocates [Advoktaen] who resent that name, and for the most part even wily spokesmen for their prejudice which they baptize ‘truths’–and very far from having the courge of the conscience that admits this, precisely this, to itself…”

Is, then, all philosophy ideology?  Or at least as practiced today?  Is the NEH just taking Nietzsche very seriously?

(Since the net is infamous for failure in communication, perhaps I should note this post is something of a joke.  But not entirely.  For example, Cartesian assumptions about what isolated philosophical reflection can discover seem still alive and well.  I myself regard much of philosophy of mind as the product of woefully unexamined  dogma, though the details of this are not necessarily germaine.  Do readers have other examples of the ideology present in today’s philosophy?  Maybe with a little more detail than I have given so far?)

Academic Boycott of Middlesex

There is now a call for an academic boycott of Middlesex, with the full support of the philosophy department. Spread the word far and wide, especially to non-philosophers. And commit to the boycott here.

The text is as follows:

We the undersigned therefore commit ourselves to an academic boycott of Middlesex University until it shows evidence of full reinstatement and continued support for its philosophy program.

Prior to such reinstatement, we will refuse to act as external examiners or to deliver talks at the school. We will encourage colleagues to reject job offers at Middlesex. We will refuse to visit campus for any reason other than to protest the decision to close the philosophy program. We will, in short, cease to engage with Middlesex as a legitimate academic institution.

A mother’s life and a church’s moral failure?

Of course the RC Church thinks only a bishop can make some judgments, but perhaps we should judge this bishop.

Here’s what happened:

Sister Margaret was a senior administrator of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix. A 27-year-old mother of four arrived late last year, in her third month of pregnancy. According to local news reports and accounts from the hospital and some of its staff members, the mother suffered from a serious complication called pulmonary hypertension. That created a high probability that the strain of continuing pregnancy would kill her.

“In this tragic case, the treatment necessary to save the mother’s life required the termination of an 11-week pregnancy,” the hospital said in a statement. “This decision was made after consultation with the patient, her family, her physicians, and in consultation with the Ethics Committee.”

Sister Margaret was a member of that committee…the bishop of Phoenix, Thomas Olmstead, ruled that Sister Margaret was “automatically excommunicated” because she assented to an abortion.

“The mother’s life cannot be preferred over the child’s,” the bishop’s communication office elaborated in a statement.

The bishop doesn’t seem to have characterized the decision correctly.  There are two options:  (a) do nothing and it is highly  likely the mother and fetus both die, and four children are left motherless or (b) perform an abortion and the 11 week old fetus dies.

Nicholas Kristoff, the NY Times columnist writing about the report, calls for a public outcry to retify this injustice.  What do you think?

Feminist Philosophers Emeritae

It’s a sign of the successes of feminist philosophy that there is now a significant and growing number of retired feminist philosophers. (And with current economic conditions, more may be retiring early.) Kate Lindeman is urging that we pay some attention to this group, and she’s quite right to do so. While some may be happy to leave their philosophical work behind, others are eager to remain engaged. So we should think about ways to help with this. Kate suggests that we need to:

1. Overcome the PERCEPTION that emerita/ae are no longer part of

2.Provide some vehicles to facilitate integration [practical
things like those we did re: women with children]

3. Offer vehicles for emeritae – especially those not living in
academic oriented communities.

And she has some suggestions for how we could go about doing this:

1. APA and even SWIP, for the most part, have been for ‘currently employed or at least employable’ academic philosophers. We should try to change this.

2. Encourage younger scholars and emeritae to co-author or co-edit, an excellent opportunity for both.

3. Invite emeritae to give papers.

4. Make conferences, etc more accessible to older philosophers who may be constrained by both health and income– web-based events and video links may help here.

5. Publicise that emeritae are welcome– e.g. in the group eligible for travel grants/bursaries.

6. Create a list of emeritae who are interested in speaking at conferences, guest-lecturing, etc.

7. Create a SWIP Emeritae?

8. Do a conference or volume on the issue.

What else can we do? Please brainstorm in the comments! (Thanks to Sally Haslanger and Ann Garry as well as Kate Lindeman.)

CFP: Under-represented Groups in Philosophy

Under-represented Groups in Philosophy
November 26th 2010
Cardiff University

A SWIP-UK/ BPA conference
Supported by: The Mind Association, The Aristotelian Society

Keynote speakers
Professor Helen Beebee (Birmingham University, UK)

Professor Louise Antony (UMass, Amherst, USA)

Organisers: Dr Jules Holroyd, Dr Alessandra Tanesini

Papers that address any aspect of the problem of under-representation within the profession, or strategies for responding to these problems and their philosophical underpinnings, or suitably related issues are invited for submission.

Abstracts or short papers of up to 3000 words should be sent to: HolroydJ[at] suitably prepared for anonymous refereeing.

The deadline for submission is August 10th 2010. Decisions will be made as promptly as possible.

This conference aims to focus attention on the following topics;

a)identifying the specific problems that minorities in philosophy encounter, especially those that may perpetuate or sustain that minority status;

b)articulating the philosophical concepts and frameworks that may be of use in thinking about these problems;

c)identifying strategies that might be employed in attempting address gender imbalances and the underrepresentation of disabled people and individuals of minority racial or ethnic identities

d)exploring the philosophical underpinnings of these strategies, and critically assessing them.
Read More »

Middlesex: It’s getting worse.

From the Save Middlesex Philosophy Blog:

Some Middlesex University Philosophy students, along with Philosophy professors Peter Osborne, Peter Hallward, and Christian Kerslake, were suspended from the University this afternoon. Hallward and Osborne were issued with letters announcing their suspension from the University with immediate effect, pending investigation into their involvement in the recent campus occupations. The suspension notice blocks them from entering University premises or contacting in any way University students and employees without the permission of Dean Ed Esche ( or a member of the University’s Executive.

As John Protevi writes:

Administrators at other universities are carefully monitoring this situation and due to a ratcheting effect, if these suspensions are not overturned by international protest, they will become common practice. We must prevent this administrative bullying of our colleagues, who were doing nothing but attempting to present their side of the case to public opinion.

What can you do?

Please forward this information to colleagues and to any listservs you may belong to.

Please sign the online petition at: Please include your institutional affiliation and location.

Please write a letter of protest by email, and in hard copy, concerning the original decision, the suspensions, or both. If you have already written in protest of the original decision, please consider writing again to protest the suspensions, which are in some sense an even more serious matter, as they strike at the very heart of academic freedom itself.

a. Examples of previous letters are here:

b. Email addresses of the Board of Governors of Middlesex University are here:;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;

c. Please follow your email with a hard copy letter on departmental letterhead. The postal address is:

Board of Governors
Middlesex University in London
The Burroughs
London NW4 4BT England

d. Personal letters are great; departmental letters are even better.

e. If you agree to have your letter published on the Save Middlesex Philosophy website, you should BCC

f. If you have a blog, please make a post on the situation and link to

Do antelopes lie to get sex?

The NY Times reports on those tricky antelopes:

This is a story about deception and sex in the wild plains of Kenya.  

Antelope deception, that is, for the purposes of sex.  

During mating season, a male topi antelope will try to keep females in heat from leaving his territory by pretending that a predator might be in the area, according to a study that will appear in the July issue of The American Naturalist.When a female appears to be leaving, the male will run in front of her, freeze in place, stare in the direction that she is going and snort loudly. Typically, that snort means that a predatory lion or cheetah was spotted, but in this case the male is faking it.

 Anthropomorphizing can be cute, but one could worry this goes too far.  However, the original article provides a definition of deceiving that can help a bit:  

“acts from the normal repertoire of the agent, deployed such that another individual is likely to misinterpret what the acts signify, to the advantage of the agent” 

Still, one wonders why the “other individual” is misinterpreting, and what the misinterpretation amounts to.  Presumably, the female  antelope’s reaction  is appropriate as a reaction to an alarm signal.  Perhaps the idea is that she misinterprets his intentions.  However, this suggests that she sees other antelopes as minded creatures having intentions, which attributes fairly heavy cognitive machinery to her.  Further, since male topi antelopes apparently do this quite a bit, one suspects she will not be surprised at the outcome.

 The journal article is free and it contains a number of examples of lies misleading actions by members of various species.

A Discussion You May Want to Join

Josh Glasgow writes:

I wanted to alert you to a discussion we’re going to have next week at PEA Soup. In our partnership with the journal, Ethics, an e-copy of Elizabeth Brake’s new article, “The Case for Minimal Marriage: What Political Liberalism Implies for Marriage Law,” is being made available for free to our readers. PEA Soup will then host a discussion of the article, introduced by Cheshire Calhoun, beginning Tuesday, June 1. We thought that your readers might be interested, in case you wanted to announce it on your blog. More information can be found here.

This sounds like an excellent thing. I hope lots of us go and join in!