Querying and illustrating an exclusion at one and the same time! New Correction/amendment

New:  In our gendered conference campaign we try to recognize that the absence of women on a program may have from any of a variety of causes.  We  do not think that an underrepresentation of women philosophers shows anything at all about its cause.  In particular, we do not think it shows any general hostility to women or any conscious denial of  women’s contributions.  Given that the following post has been read to contain very negative allegations about  SPP, I deeply regret I did not address this issue earlier. 

Further, Rob Wilson, in a comment on a later post on the topic, argues that  including women philosophers invited to speak at the preceding workshop shows that  positive progress has been made since 2008.  I agree, though note that the workshop is organized by different people.  I also cited the workshop numbers for this year in a comment, but here are the figures for women speakers, with the first figure for the workshop and the second for the conference: (a) 2008: 0,  0; (b) 2009:  1, 3;  (c) 2010: 2 (or 3?), 1.  

Let me stress again this point:  It would be completely in error to come away from this reading this post thinking it in any way addresses issues about the climate for women.   And however it is read,  it is wrong and unfair to infer that members of SPP are  somehow people of ill-will toward women.

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NEAT TRICK!  But a philosopher can do it. 

The Society for Philosophy and Psychology has a way to go with gender.  The opening address  of this years’ conference is problematic; here the description is, followed by a few relevant facts: 

4:20-4:30 SPP 2010 Conference Welcome Council Chambers
4:30-5:45 Invited Speaker Council Chambers
Chair: Ron Mallon, University of Utah
Speakers:  Stephen Stich, Rutgers University, & Wesley Buckwalter, CUNY Graduate Center,
  
 Gender and Philosophical Intuitions: Why Are There So Few Women in Philosophy? 

1.  Some of the material referred to in the title  is interesting work on the question of whether so-called ‘philosophical intuitions’ are actually gendered.  (We discussed this a bit here.  There are links to some of the work.)  

2.  But Stich and Buckwalter are to relate this material to the very vexed question of why there are so few women in philosophy. 

3.  The society’s conference  have a dismal record of women philosophers as invited speakers; in two out of the last three conferences, no women philosophers were invited speakers.**  Accordingly, no women are asked to join Stich and Buchwalter in addressing the question of why there are so few women in philosophy. 

4.  Hence, the session enacts the exclusion it seeks to explain. 

5.  It is just possible that the systemic exclusion of women is at least as relevant as gendered intuitions in explaining why there are so few women in philosophy. 

Perhaps there just aren’t any senior women philosophers to ask to respond to the talk?  [groan, groan.] 

Here’s the list of the SPP’s officers; Jen Cole Wright and Ron Mallon are this years program chairs.  I expect comments made here will find their way to the executive committee.

**Correction:  thanks to RW in comments  for pointing out that Adina Roskies, a philosopher, was an invited speaker.

48 thoughts on “Querying and illustrating an exclusion at one and the same time! New Correction/amendment

  1. This is a very curious and factually erroneous post.

    Half of the executive committee of the SPP are women. In recent years, the program has been composed by a man and a woman. The president elect of the SPP is a woman (Louise Anthony). The Williams James Prize – the main prize of the society – is given to a woman, as has been the case in the past (e.g., Louis Santos, Fei Xu…). Looking at past programs briefly, it is just false that “in two out of the last three, no women philosophers were invited speakers”: 2009 – Millikan, Denise Cummins, etc.; 2008 – Gleitman (president) – a poor year though for equality; 2007 – Jacobson, Baillargeon, etc. And briefly looking at submissions, there are always a fair number of female speakers (though probably less than half).

    Pesky facts…

    As for Stich’s talk – this is silly. Do you seriously think that Stich denies the existence of discrimination? (Having read the paper, I assure you that this is not the case).

    em

  2. I am sorry EM, but you are simply wrong in your dismissal of our claims. Our focus is on the inclusion of women philosophers, not women in general. That is, in addition, the question that Stich purports to address.

    There have been no women philosophers as invited speakers in two of the last three conferences.** The added exclusion of any women from the opening discussion of why there are so few women in philosophy is at least odd and perhaps unacceptable.

    Surely, many people would know that at an academic conference, you shouldn’t have just white speakers addressing why there are so few blacks. Rob Wilson, whose blog on differently enabled people is exemplary, would, given his actions, not plan a talk on the absence of disabled people that featured the absence of disabled people. But the SPP is featuring a talk concerned with the absence of women philosophers that in fact has an absence of women philosophers.

    The “pesky” facts you cite are actually welcome; you are right that there are a number of women making important contributions to the conference and to the society. That women philosophers do not feature except in the role of contributed paper-speakers or poster presenters is actually remarkable for almost any field other than philosophy. (With the exception, of course, of Louise Antony, who is president elect.)

    Finally, I do not suppose that Stich denies the existence of discrimination, but he has been positioned so that his talk enacts it. No women philosophers are given any official time to comment on his explanations of their situation. If they were all 5 years old, that would be understandable. As it is, one is puzzled. Didn’t they know this is politically unacceptable, or did they know and thumb their noses at it?

    **(Or so, I say more cautiously, that has been my count; in addition, I am positive an early draft of the program did not have any women philosophers; this was confirmed by a number of people; I understand that was an objection to this, and I have been told nothing was done.)

  3. I should add that there’s a workshop before the SPP conference, and Bertram Malle, current SPP president, invited a number of women philosophers to participate in it. This is despite the fact that he is not a philosopher.

  4. Hi JJ,

    I don’t really know anything about the SPP, so this is just about the one item on the programme: I’m actually not so sure it’s bad. It certainly looks ridiculously bad: and now we will have 3 men discussing the absence of women. However, it’s just one paper, with a chair. And that doesn’t seem so problematic to me. If it were a panel, that would be different– or a series of papers.

    As I say, I have no personal knowledge of the workings of the SPP– and it sounds like there’s a lot of relevant background.

  5. Eduard– We welcome disagreement, but “this is silly” is arguably a violation of our “be nice” policies.

  6. JJ: good point about female philosophers. This makes a difference. But it is still the case that your claim is false: Millikan and Jacobson are philosophers and were invited in two of the last three past meetings.

    And I agree with Jensen. I don’t think a Black commentator would be called for if a single white speaker had a hypothesis about a causal factor explaining why there are so few Blacks in philosophy.

    EM

  7. I have the pleasure to inform that the blog Sexismo e Misoginia decided to confer « Prêmio Dardos» to your blog.
    This prize is a brasilien one and it was given to my blog ( a portuguese one) by SEAF blog.

  8. Jender, I think I wasn’t clear, though my explanation may not change anything. The point isn’t really just the one session; it’s that session in a context of no invited women philosophers on the program at all. Without this background, the session wouldn’t be an instance of a problem instantiated by the conference.

    We have said in our gendered conference campaign that not inviting women speakers is harmful and perpetuates the low numbers of women. It isn’t an accident that philosophy is now one of the worst in terms of women’s participation in the whole of academia. But again it is not that we oppose men getting together to discuss philosophy; what we are concerned about depends heavily on the context: women not invited, low numbers, etc.

    Would a black speaker be called for if three white person constituted a session trying to explain their absence? I wouldn’t necessarily expect white men to have a sense of the problem, but I’d be surprised if a black man or woman didnt get it. However, it would be something like politically incorrect. And that is one of the puzzles here: did the program chairs realize that it is politically incorrect and do it any way, or did they just not see the problem of explaining the absence of women in a session with women absent.

    Thanks, EM, I’m glad it sounds less wrong. Checking past programs, I see that Millikan spoke at one of them, and Jacobson at one before all these.

  9. Thanks for the clarification, JJ. That makes sense. My guess would be that the particular session was simply planned on its own, without attention to the overall picture– which may actually be a very common way in which these problems arise.

  10. I agree that the session is unacceptable. I think that Jender’s point, that these things may arise because of lack of overall attention to the big picture is a good one. Think about the recent Canadian debacle of spending 200 million to recruit 19 men scientists.

    One hypothesis regarding the SPP case is that the presence of women leaders in the organization might lead members to the view that gender is not a problem in this particular organization and hence might offer a justification or implicit permission to pay less attention to gender equity issues.

    This is a general issue across the academy, a woman university president or provost does not offer evidence of general gender equity within a university, although in my growing experience many faculty members and administrators speak or act as if this is the case.

    I think this shows the necessity of leaders consciously keeping the big picture in mind and keeping careful track of a number of variables when collecting and using data about an institution. Leaders need to be held accountable, and public discussions such as this one are good ways to do that.

  11. I think I still hesitate to say “the session is unacceptable”– it’s one paper, and it doesn’t strike me as a problem that both authors are male and a male is chairing. (Whereas the Canadian appointment of 19 males does strike me as unacceptable.)

    But I’m very willing to accept that the overall SPP situation may be unacceptable– I don’t have a good enough grasp of the details to go further.

  12. In my experience, SPP has been quite concerned with this issue in recent years, and eager to involve women philosophers both in its program and in its leadership.

    The remark that “in two out of the last three conferences, no women philosophers were invited speakers” is simply false. In addition to the examples above, there is:

    2009, invited symposium
    10:15–1:15 INVITED SYMPOSIUM: Implicit and explicit beliefs Woodburn 101
    10:15–10:55 Rob Wilson, University of Alberta
    Implicit cognition and extended sociality, and vice-versa: on some relationships
    between mind and society
    10:55–11:35 Virginia Valian, Hunter College and CUNY Graduate Center
    Gender schemas and the male superiority effect
    11:35–12:15 Tamar Gendler, Yale University
    Alief is good for me; is it good for you too?
    12:15–12:55 Susan Gelman, University of Michigan
    Psychological essentialism as a source of implicit beliefs

  13. Jender, I didn’t mean to put words in your mouth about the unacceptability of the session. My only point was that in both cases, the cause was not likely explicit ill will, but rather a lack of attention from leaders on the big picture. The pattern plays itself out big and small.

    spp, more data is good. I am curious about the ratio of women to men on the programs for the last few years. It is possible to dial back the claim of only X # of women, and still have a pattern of under representation. Data about such patterns would be better.

    One thing that troubles me is that there are many many organizations that are concerned about gender, i.e. that collectively have abundant goodwill, but at the same time don’t avail themselves of experts who could help them turn that goodwill into effective action.

    One concrete step for such organizations would be to systematically track data about their programs, members and leadership. This allows for more accurate self assessment and more effective action plans.

  14. There’s a clarification needed that might provide some clearer idea of why one could find the session problematic. I did say some negative things about having white people/non-disabled people discussing the absence of blacks or the differently enabled without any black presence and I meant, of course, in a comparable situation. What makes the situation comparable? A large part of it concerns where the expertise is located. I think once we see this we see what should have been insisted on in my post more explicitly: exclusion is problematic because, among other things, it tends to reduce the amount of available knowledge. It isn’t that just any old token woman would do; rather, there’s a vast amount of relevant expertise that has no representation and, arguably, as it is now configured, the session has some serious deficits in knowledge.

    In addition, of course, women are not given the respect of placement on the program.

    I think that it is important that this is a professional meeting and we expect speakers to have a fair amount of expertise in the topics they are discussing. While the people at the podium seem to have expertise about philosophical intuitions, their expertise about the causes of women’s relative absence in philosophy is almost certainly fairly minimal. There is the unfortunate concern, then, that they may feel the guys can just think about it and come up with an understanding of women’s exclusion. One sees signs of this way of thinking in any of the recent philosophical discussions of gender representation (the NY Times discussion, discussions on Leiter’s blog), but the spp should be querying such assumptions.

    At the same time, there is a huge amount of literature on gender bias in philosophical work and how women should/could respond to it. We’ve all been talking about the problem for decades, and there are a lot of great papers. in addition, there’s now a quite vast amount of work on gender discrepancies in academia and other similar contexts.

    There is also the fact that the sponsored and published research seldom indicts the content of a field as the problem. This is not completely precise; how the content is worked out in classes can be a problem, some researchers have claimed. A real model of how this all should be studied is Unlocking the Clubhouse, which is a study of Carnegie Mellon’s computer science program. The writers did actually reconnfigure the program and get a much higher proportion of women in it.

  15. JJ– For what it’s worth, I have read a draft of the paper. Stich asked me to because I know something about these issues. They are very, very clear about the fact that there are almost certainly a variety of causes of the low numbers of women in philosophy. They’re also clear that their goal is solely to explore one possible cause which they suggest *may* be one factor among many responsible for the gender disparities. I actually thought they did quite a responsible job.

    Though now I am thinking that the title may make it look like they think that they have fully cracked the problem, and that gives a very misleading impression of the paper.– Jenny

  16. The talk looks very interesting in any case. Anyone know if the talk will be recorded and podcasted? That would be very helpful for those of us unable to make it.

  17. Hi stoat, here’s a link to a discussion by Buckwalter of a paper by him and a link to a draft. You should get a good idea of the kind of research and some of the findings.

    It’s hard to know quite how to take claims that a difference in performance or aptitude is due to some underlying gender difference. It’s very interesting that one of the claims about where the difference shows up refers to gettier intuitions, which many feminists consider a paradigm of bad analytic philosophy.

    On the blog linked to Jennifer Nagel presents interesting arguments to say that any gender difference isn’t going to go very deeply – e.g., it won’t be biologically based. It would still be interesting if they found ones which are the product of the environment. It will also be interesting to see if the differences get valorized by people who accept the research. Presumably they won’t get valorized the way maths differences have, with the conclusion espoused by Tierney in tues NY Times that even if the differences are environmental, women still just aren’t as good.

  18. What’s nice about the Stich and co. paper is that it’s very much *not* arguing that women are less good at philosophy. They think philosophy is far too reliant on intuition-mongering, which they take to be a suspect methodology. Moreover, they think it’s made even worse by over-reliance on intuition-mongering from a tiny sub-group of humanity. In earlier papers, they’ve worked to undermine this methodology by showing cross-cultural variation.

    This paper argues that gender variation further undermines the credibility of the methodology. But it goes beyond that to suggest that the way philosophers rely on intuitions, by saying things like “it’s obvious that…” or “only an idiot would deny that…” may be having the effect of turning those with different intuitions away from philosophy. Their data suggest a lot of these people may be women. This, they think, is extremely bad for philosophy because it makes it a much narrower field and it makes people think they’re drawing on universally agreed truths when they’re not. It’s very much a criticism of philosophical method, not of women.

    Of course, it may well get misread as criticism of women because that’s how people love to report this stuff!

    They make no claims at all, by the way, about whether the differences are innate.

  19. Reading the paper was a slightly uncomfortable experience for me, because (a) I really have a strong dislike of gender difference claims; (b) I do a lot of intuition-mongering; and (c) I myself have all the intuitions men tend to have.

    But they’ve got some good evidence and some really provocative and interesting discussion.

  20. Somehow I just noticed the second half of spp’s remark above. Spp says the claim that two out of the last three conferences have no invited women philosophers is just false. The premise for this conclusion is that the 2009 conference had a number of women.

    Unfortunately, that leaves 2010 and 2008, neither of which have invited women philosophers, as far as I have been able to discern. spp does say something about the list being in addition to the above mentioned. However, the error in Machery’s comment about two women philosophers has been noted.

  21. Also, of that list, isn’t Tamar Gendler the only female philosopher? (Not that one isn’t better than none)

  22. Kathryn, you are right. I think Millikan also spoke at that conference. I suspect it is significant that two people have emphatically denied that the problem exists. Unfortunately, I’m not sure what the significance is. It might reflect a recognition that it would be a very bad thing, along with a conviction that the spp couldn’t be doing a very bad thing.

    It may also indicate that men notice the absence of women less than one might think.

  23. Another hypothesis: perhaps because there are plenty of female psychologists around it doesn’t *feel* like there’s an under-representation of women? Then, when someone points out the under-representation of women *philosophers* it is still hard to assimilate this fact because can be hard to change a belief.

    Also, as an outsider, I’ve found I have trouble following the claims and counter-claims. Is this right? EM suggested that there had been women phils in 2 of last 3 because Millikan and Jacobson were in 2 of the last 3. JJ agreed re Millikan but said Jacobsen was earlier. A symposium (the one with Gendler) was mentioned, but that was the same year as Millikan.

    Is that right?

  24. As far as I know, that’s right. 2009 did have at least two women philosophers, while Jacobson was 07 or 06.

    And the presence of women psychologists may well lead one to think there isn’t any problem. Still, it’s one thing to be surprised at the suggestion and another thing to be prepared to say the suggestion is false.

    I suppose that might just in part be a difference in confidence in one’s own opinions, and the fact, as you say, that it’s hard to change one’s mind. It might also be a product of the fact that a lot of what is operating here is below consciousness and has nothing to do with an overt desire to exclude women philosophers.

    Still, these aren’t reasons for thinking that without the psychologists the absence of women would have been noted.

  25. Regarding 2010: By my count, this year 2/5 of the invited speakers who are philosophers at the pre-conference workshop are women: Julia Driver and Susan Dwyer. And 2/5 of the invited speaking slots filled by philosophers at the conference itself are filled by women: Adina Roskies and Louise Antony. True, Roskies has a Ph.D. in each of neuroscience and philosophy, but I’m not sure we should count her as half a philosopher for all that. And true, Antony’s talk is a result of her being the president-elect for the SPP. But in the context it would seem very odd to discount her place on the program in light of that. Most invited slots are occupied by psychologists (the other “P”), this year as in many.

    A claim along the following lines–“Stich and Buckwalter, as men, giving an invited paper on gender and philosophical intuitions”, esp. once combined with the fact that there are no female philosophers on the invited program, provide a basis for thinking that SPP is a gender-suspect organization”–does not seem to me a credible claim. Perhaps nobody here intends to make that claim. The S-B paper itself presents some startling correlational data on the gendering of intuitions in philosophical argumentation whose significance remains unclear. My guess is that the paper will receive a lot of discussion by those who care about the topic in years to come.

  26. RW, thank you for the correction regarding Adina Roskies; I am not sure how that happened. I do not, however, count chairs as invited speakers – I don’t think it’s the sort of thing that could appropriately go on a cv as such, for example. My count, then, has 5 philosophy invited speakers, with one a women, which is certainly an improvement over both 08 and the previous count.

    It will be very interesting to see who discusses Stich and Buckwalter’s paper. It may be that women who are have some familiarity with empirical philosophy and have devoted some professional effort to trying to understand the paucity of women in philosophy will have a different take…or not. Right now, we just don’t know.

    Nothing said here was intended to be a criticism of the content of the paper.

  27. Another clarification question: Is Louise Antony chairing rather than speaking? (That’s how I’m reading JJ’s comment.)

  28. Having just looked at the Buckwalter paper (links to it in post), I’m inclined to give it a kind of added credibility because of the Gilligan work. Just what Gilligan’s “In Another Voice” showed has been the product of a lot of research, but she does seem to have uncovered and valued a sort of moral intuition that had previously been considered characteristic of a less well developed psyche. I think a lot of women recognized their own way of thinking in “an ethics of care.”

    At the same time, having come out on the men’s side with Gettier, I’m with the many, many women who have wanted to avoid gender essentializing and the idea that there was one authentic women’s way of thinking.

    Right now, in a quite different context, I’m finishing a paper on why models of the mind matter in feminist philosphy, and what women who never bought into the idealization of a disembodied mind managed to see. One interesting fact is that they/we managed to anticipate a widening of epistemic resources that cognitive neuroscience has since pointed out.

    Perhaps this area is here and now too contentious to discuss profitably, but I think it is worth considering whether we are on the brink of another rediscovery that repeats a theme deeply developed in feminist philosophy. Namely, that philosophically relevant intuitions may be gendered, at least to an initial glance. It’s going to be quite different from the cogsci repositioning because surveys of people’s intuitions are very different from fmri explorations of, e.g., the brains of people in the grip of an emotion. Still, the surveys will count as science-like, and thus may bring ideas we have been discussing for decades to a broader audience.

    It is, however, worth saying that the fact that one can find women’s intuitions are different from many men’s, and the exploration of that for both women in general and for women in philosophy, has been a very rich vein in feminist philosophy.

    Finally, let me say that I am shaken by the discovery that some people think it is not a big deal to have a session of men discussing women’s intuitions and their role in women’s absence in philosophy while women are absent from the session. I don’t have that much faith in my initial intuitions to leave them unquestioned.

    However, I am sure still that if a comparable session were done on African American intuitions and the paucity of African Americans in philosophy – in the absence of any African Americans in the session – I would probably not be able to go to it. That’s too much. If then white people came out announcing the discovery of a theme in fact well discussed in African American studies, I know what I’d do. And that’s laugh and laugh. This is just how things work, and objecting to them in public is painful.

  29. I must admit I feel the force of it too, JJ. I’m not sure why this case feels different to me, and perhaps I’m making a mistake in treating it differently.

  30. When I read the paper for Stich, I did point out the precedent in Gilligan. However, I don’t actually think the similarities go beyond the thought that women and men might have different approaches to philosophy in some way. Gilligan’s claims were very specific and as far as I could tell not at all like Stich and Co’s at the level of detail.

    Also, I should probably mention that I take Gilligan to have been pretty thoroughly undermined empirically. (Which I admit pleased me, given my instinctive dislike of gender difference claims.) So good new evidence of gender differences regarding philosophy are, to me, even more significant.

    I don’t think Stich and Co. are just repeating things we already knew, because (a) I don’t think the previous claims stand up; and (b) Their claims are really quite different, other than the fact that they’re claims of gender differences in philosophical thinking.

    But I too am troubled by JJ’s hypothetical.

  31. Jenny, I should say that I am a great fan of Stich’s work in general, and nothing I’ve said should go against the quality of his work. That said, I just don’t know whether they have gotten a genuine effect here. I haven’t read the paper, and I don’t know how it will stand the test of time. His work on the Godel case is importantly cross cultural, but its standing is still subject to shifts in reinterpretation and the gathering of further data.

    Whether what they are claiming is the same as what feminists have discussed for decades depends on how one is generalizing. The causal connection between women’s intuitions and their fate in analytic philosophy can’t be too different. Further, looking at specific claims, I suspect the similarities do go deeper than you think, but just how depends on what finally gets one of the best theory of what underlies the gender differences that are described. Buckwalter appears to advance a single explanation for the Gettier cases and the absent-cause cases and that’s a bit puzzling, since the latter is a matter of degree and the former isn’t. The Gettier case by itself looks very Gilligan to me.

    I thought that what undermined Gilligan was that she didn’t take the construction of gender into account, and so her results didn’t generalize outside of a fairly closed social world. I don’t know whether Stich and Buckwalter care about whether their results generalize beyond students in a university, or whether their data draws on more.

    I don’t know if I can speak any further to the African-American analogy, except to say that in thinking about these things, I usually consult my intuitions about what I can manage to construct in the way of an AA comparable case. I suppose we might try some time to write about relevant similarities and differences, but only when we have time to cope with a firestorm. I do think it is kind and generous of you to comment as you have. Monkey, ditto, if that’s what you meant.

  32. I worry about the way in which the session in question has been described. It was not a group of men talking about women’s intuitions. The way I understand it, one male was invited to speak about whatever topic he chose, and he decided to present a co-authored piece on gender, intuitions, and exclusion. So, while it’s not literally inaccurate to use the plural ‘men’, it’s a bit misleading. This is not anything like a panel.

    At the typical meeting of the SPP, there is a small number of invited sessions, and during a reasonably high proportion of them, scores of men sit rapt, listening to lectures by the likes of Alison Gopnik, Leila Gleitman, Fei Xu, Tania Lombrozo, etc. The fact that these women are psychologists simply doesn’t matter, if what we’re talking about is the atmosphere of the conference and the context of Stich’s presentation. Although one might, for certain purposes, note the lack of female _philosophy_ speakers in particular, the philosophy-psychology distinction seems irrelevant when we’re asking whether women are included in the SPP and treated with respect at the meetings — and whether it would be weird or icky for a man to give a talk there about women’s intuitions.

    Louise A.’s role in this year’s meeting is a borderline case. She was not a chair in the standard, low-involvement sense. Rather, she gave a substantial, well-prepared introduction of the President (with slides and jokes and the whole nine yards); so, while she was not quite an invited speaker, she was not a mere chair either.

  33. Actually, the claims of gender difference (which Gilligan was actually a bit equivocal about, more so than the literature inspired by her) really just didn’t hold up. Most of the original studies were not even comparative (e.g. the abortion decision study). Most of the differences in those that were comparative turned out to disappear once when controlled for education. E.g. there’d been a study comparing husbands and wives. The husbands turned out to have far more education than the wives, and education is the best predictor of justice thinking. Other differences disappeared once one controlled for problem-type: both men and women tend to use care thinking for personal problems. The only robust difference was in what sort of problem people raised when asked to discuss a moral problem from their lives– women were more likely to pick a personal one. (Which led to them employing care thinking more, since everyone does that more with personal problems.)

    Stich and Co. take their study to be very much a beginning– since they’re esp. aware of differences between different groups around the world, they’re aware of the limited group they sampled. In fact, their claims are v. tentative.

  34. JJ, I’ve been mulling over my different reactions to the Stich session and your hypothetical. Part of it at least is this: When I imagine a paper on racial differences in philosophical thinking my racism alarm bells go off. And it would take a lot to make them stop going off– an African American author would help, and much more so if they were also someone who had worked a lot on issues of racism and exclusion.

    But the sexism alarm bells don’t automatically go off when I imagine a paper on gender differences in philosophical thinking, and this is largely due to the work of Gilligan and the care theorists. I know there are plenty of women and plenty of feminists who make these claims.

    It also helps that pretty much every day there are more studies of gender differences coming out– it feels normal. As a matter of fact, I’m not usually very impressed by them, and a lot of them do seem sexist. But the fact that there are plenty of feminists saying similar things means that claims of gender difference means that I don’t immediately assume this in the same way that I would with the corresponding race claim.

  35. Thanks, RR, for the question and the information.
    My comment on the fact that there were only men in the session/on the podium was really meant to point out that the session instantiated something it was discussing AND to look at a less obvious way in which information is conveyed. Gender distribution is often an interesting feature of something and this is especially so when gender is the topic.

    This conference appears to be quite different from the 08 one where I think that there were something like 18 male philosophers presenting and two women, with no women philosophers as invited speakers. This year is a very considerable improvement because of the number of women who got contributed papers accepted. I’m not sure that it helps to count Antony’s chair’s introduction, however good as no doubt it was, as an “invited paper,” so there remains 1 invited female philosopher. At least that’s better than my initial count of zero.

  36. I don’t have much more time to spend on this, especially since there doesn’t seem to be any prospect of convergence. Let me close (I hope) my contribution by mentioning two things and saying a bit more about the issues:

    1. Here’s the latest review article I could find from the web of scienceon Gilligan:

    GENDER DIFFERENCES IN MORAL DEVELOPMENT AND ACQUISITION: A REVIEW OF KOHLBERG’S AND GILLIGAN’S MODELS OF JUSTICE AND CARE: Woods, Cindy J. P.Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal, Volume 24, Number 4, 1996 , pp. 375-383(9)

    Given the author’s review, it looks as though whether one finds the sort of difference’s posited by Gilligan depends in part on methology. Woods also makes some interesting suggestions about further research.

    2. Questions about the origin of any asymmetry between intuitions regarding the treatment of (white?) women vs. African Americans tend to be empirical; further, since they involve implicit biases, they may not be well discerned by introspection. There are a couple of other (than Jender’s) explanations around, including one we’ve discussed here. It revolved around the view that the outcry during the presidential campaign against racism was much louder in the media than that against sexism.

    I am pretty sure that the label “racism” does not go off when I read a non-black person writing about the causes and effects of racism; there are just so many really fine people doing that and some of them have provided important critiques. I think we’ve looked at Dovidio’s (sp?) work here, and it is very enlightening, though he’s not black. Equally, too many of the people I work with and/or admire strongly work in areas where gender differences can be relevant; I’m always interested if they are, and I don’t think I’ve ever had an uncomfortable discussion with any serious researcher on topics being researched. And that’s true for too for that part of Buckwalter’s paper. (This has been starkly untrue for some people, but they’re not in the group I’m mentioning.)

    In fact, I am not sure I introduced the term “sexism” here in this discussion, and I’m not sure that it’s appropriate. Nonetheless, there are two elements here which do raise questions for me in most contexts: (1) how the authority or power is used with respect to gender and race. The authority or power may be pretty minimal, but capable of having a significant impact. Just who gets to arrange the chairs at a meeting may make a big difference between whether it will be hierarchical or not. Similarly, who decides who will be the chair, whether there will be comments or additions, and so on. One of the most interesting questions here is whether those exercising the power have any clue about its implications; this is especially important when we are dealing with educators who teach and evaluate women on a regular basis and are in effect gate-keepers of a sort. (2) Conjectures about the causes and effects of gender representation. I don’t know if I have preconceived ideas here, though one could learn a lot about how some male philosophers think by reading the recent NY Times and Leiter’s blog when this has come up. I do particularly worry that people who aren’t aware of factors in (1) nonetheless think they can adequately address (2).

    I think it would be unfortunate if people came away from this discussion with the idea that factors mentioned in (1) are not really relevant to issues about women’s underrepresentation in philosophy. Factors, that is, such as choosing who chairs, whether women are included explicitly in a discussion, and so on.

    Finally, in case you are wondering about my consistency, when I mentioned not being able to go to a session without any black people on black oppression, I meant ones where those discussing the causes did not have special expertise about the causes.

    Enough!

  37. O, and it would be very unfortunate if the fact that I am pressed for time somehow led people who wanted to comment to refrain from doing so.

  38. I didn’t mean to suggest that you introduced the term ‘sexism’. I was just trying to sort out the causes of my different reactions to the cases. And my focus was on papers about race/gender differences in intuitions– not on papers analysing of race/gender oppression more generally.

    I do think you’re right about the power that gatekeepers have. And they’re so often unaware of it, following the way things have been done in the past without really thinking.

    I don’t think we’re going to change each other’s minds either, but at least we’ve provided a nice model of polite disagreement!

  39. For what’s worth, I have a review of the empirical literature on Gilligan in my 2003 textbook. (Unfortunately not available electronically.)

  40. “[T]he way philosophers rely on intuitions, by saying things like ‘it’s obvious that…’…may be having the effect of turning those with different intuitions away from philosophy.”

    Why would having different intuitions, by itself, turn many persons away from philosophy? The underlying problem would appear to be that the profession especially values the intuitions of a certain, dominant social group. Surely, we can imagine an incentive structure that highly values non-dominant intuitions.

    So I don’t see how the study of possible gender differences regarding intuitions would tell us much about the gross underrepresentation of women in philosophy, whether or not there are significant differences. But maybe I’m missing something crucial here.

    A main reason for gender and racial diversity is to increase the likelihood that the perspectives of women and minorities are included–on the assumption that non-dominant questions and interests from these marginalized groups can be particularly valuable. The philosophy profession’s refusal to take this seriously–in contrast to most others disciplines in the humanities and social sciences–seems more relevant to the underrepresentation issue than possible gender (or racial) differences re intuitions.

  41. Anon “sr”: You’re absolutely right about the problems you discuss. But there are also lots of others, some stemming from those and some separate. And I think the Stich one is interesting and plausible (if the gender difference claims are true). Just speaking from my own experience– I actually have all the mainstream intuitions in most areas. But I find that I have almost no intuitions whatsoever about analytic metaphysics. When I go to a paper on metaphysics, I feel a bit like everyone’s playing a game that I haven’t been taught the rules of. Or sometimes just like I’m lacking the crucial intuition-generating faculty that would allow me to play. And it does make me stay away from analytic metaphysics– I wouldn’t know how to begin to enter into these debates! If I had that experience in all areas of philosophy, I definitely wouldn’t decide on a career in philosophy. If lots of women are having that experience, then we need to know about it because it’s likely to be an important causal factor (among many).

    Moreover, if we *just* focus on getting more women into philosophy without trying to do something about it, the women we’re going to get are all going to be the ones with mainstream intuitions. And if there are tons of smart women out there with non-mainstream intuitions, philosophy will be the worse for it.

  42. Jender, I can’t find your comment about your textbook, but it is on Amazon with a “click to look inside” or something like that. It turns out one can read your critique of Gilligan. (This is not always good news to an author.) It also turns out that if one searches the web of science under “gilligan” and not with her first name, as I had before, there’s a significant amount of recent literature.

    Speaking as someone who does not generally have mainstream intuitions, I wouldn’t expect the difference necessarily to be gender related, but rather think that a woman who thinks differently can have a very hard time unless she has a supportive, active and fairly powerful background. Feminist philosophy communities have provided some background for a lot of women thinking out of the box, and I do think there’s been some brilliant rethinking going on there.

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