Today’s America

The NY Times called upon three philosophers to answer the question, “What is the philosophical theme, or themes, in the Declaration of Independence that should be recalled in today’s America?”. And guess what? They chose three white guys. We don’t know what led them to this selection– perhaps they asked lots of others, who turned them down. But we do know that a high profile article like this will help to shore up the already quite strong implicit tendency to assume that philosophers are white and male. Or at least that those we should call on to discuss the founding principles of America are.

(Thanks to Ruthann Robson for the link!)

9 thoughts on “Today’s America

  1. I completely agree that this is unfortunate, and it’s really worth discussing why. Following what I take you are saying, it seems to be at least in part because this is a visible cluster on a topic important on this national holiday. I’m wondering if there’s more; do the topics written on by women seem less significant? (Let me say that I’m told by NY cogniscenti that Lady Gaga – the topic of one of the women’s articles – is a cultural phenomenon, and surely they must know!) Or is it simply that the very fact of the clustering – despite the other articles – manages to establish its own supriority? E.g., something like the idea that women are fine, but for serious things, you want to get the men together.

    Or something else.

    At the same time, the series has so far, I think, 22% of its posts from women. Compared to what we normally see, that’s doing very well. So it’s interesting that sheer numbers overall is not enough.

  2. Abigail Adams, I seem to recall reading, asked that women should not be ignored in the Founding Fathers’ deliberations and her husband’s reply included the rebuff that “We know better than to repeal our masculine systems.”

    And it seems to me the masculine systems of the USA are still having the last laugh.

  3. “If God gave me the inalienable right to my firepower, dagnabbit the government ain’t gonna take it away!”
    Real philosophical. Almost sounds like a Xena-ism in reverse.

    Does anybody here think that adding more women’s voices to this discussion about the American right to blow shit up will call attention to its absurdity, or do you think it will just attract a whole lot of women who want His&Hers matching gun racks?

  4. Xena,
    I think it’s obvious that adding more women’s voices to the discussion about the American right to blow shit up would absolutely call attention to its absurdity…

  5. au contraire…NOWHERE in the text of the Declaration of Independence does it say anything about blowing shit up.
    You can read it for yourself here:

    The “right to bear arms” is in the Bill of Rights, which were AMENDMENTs to the Declaration of Independence. Even that is in reference to “a well-regulated militia.”

    If I’ve interpreted this right, I think the original intent was something like the Israelis (I think?), where EVERYONE is considered army reserve, so everyone knows how to safely handle firearms, to be called on in times of war ONLY. But that kind of got lost over the years….

    Not being much of a history buff, and being Canadian so I didn’t study much of this stuff in school, I thought I’d check out what Ye Olde White Dudes were actually saying…And truthfully, it seems really peaceful and reasonable.

    They called on His Highness King George to STOP making war on the good folks who settled, and whose first right was “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” The only mention of war or blowing anything up is in accusation, where they also berate Georgie for making their friends into neighbour-killers.

    Something to think about.

    As for More Old White (Rich) Dudes…I’m going to get in trouble for this, but they asked a Law faculty. The main reason upper-echelon lawyers and law professors are mostly rich white dudes? Tuition is so f***ing expensive. If more of “us” could afford it, maybe more of “us” could make grassroots changes…It’s a cycle that never ends.

  6. Synaesthetik, I was referring to the discussion between Grassley and Kagan, an ongoing hot-button in American politics for as long as I can remember, and yes, the point of absurdity to which I was referring was the way the original intentions of the founding fathers got screwed up over time.

    They’re calling on “Natural Law” (don’t get me started on that again–I’m SO not a proponent) to quibble over “God-given” or “inalienable” rights. Those would be your negative rights: i.e., the right to not get beaten down in a public street, robbed of your cash, and the right to not have to call yourself King Georgie’s bitch, etc., etc. However, “Protection From” DOES NOT include walking around armed like Schwarzenegger in T2 all the time or making (DAGNABBIT!! YOU VARMINT!!) enemies out of every bunny rabbit that dares look at whichever American border.

    Excuse me if my charicature was misleading. I was just trying to demonstrate how the means by which the Americans threw off their Imperialist masters turned their rhetoric and their practices into the same kind of monster. Herta was right to compare Bush to Hitler. And more American murders/firearms fatalities/year than all the American fatalities in both World Wars (around 60 000) doesn’t look like they’re protecting much besides their mercenary capitalism.

    And God told them to do that? And it’s not the business of the state to interfere? Maybe women could call attention to the absurdity of these statements, but I have to admit, when I’m “in Rome” as it were, (as in the Bush&Cheney years were tres Neo-Fascist) I feel a little vulnerable without firepower, too. Paranoia will destroy ya.

    And yes, they asked lawyers. Even if one is lucky enough to get financial aid, poor people like me still have to sit through philosophy classes with old money types who think Adam Smith and Milton Friedman are God’s freaking voice or something. If I had to do that long enough to get into law school, my mind would be next on my list of things I lost for higher education.

  7. I just managed finally to see this in the NY Times. It is part of the series “The Stone,” which has about 1/3 women – unfortunately, I can’t check now, but the lower figure I gave in # 1 was based on the assumption that these were 3 new man. They’re not. Further, the NY Times says that they asked the contributors to the series and the three were the ones who responded. So this appears to be a case where all the women in the group were asked.

  8. That’s a little more promising, jj. But it seems to be a pattern with people the feministphilosophers question about their practices. How can it be that so many VIP’s invite so many women to respond to so many important questions, cfp’s, etc., and only the men respond?

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