Men Write About Wittgenstein

Mind Someone has put together a collection of the “Top Wittgenstein Articles” (from a variety of journals). They are currently available for free access here.

They are all by men.

(Thanks, N!)

Update: Mind‘s Editor in Chief, Prof. Tom Baldwin has helpfully joined in the discussion (see his comment below). Apparently, though it was linked from the Mind website, this list comes as a surprise to the editors of Mind and isn’t something they had anything to do with! Prof. Baldwin has asked OUP to remove the link to the list from Mind‘s website.

38 thoughts on “Men Write About Wittgenstein

  1. In case anyone wonders about whether there are any women alive who have published in this field (Analytic Philosophy/Wittgenstein): Meredith Williams, Marie McGinn, Juliet Floyd, Jane Heal and Catherine Elgin are all major players. There are many more who have published articles on Wittgenstein in this style, too: Heather Gert & Dawn Phillips come to mind. I am not really commenting on how the list came about, just trying to counter the consequence that people might think maybe no women work in this field.

    And, I am not counting women such as myself who do not work in the style of work that Mind would likely be surveying, such as Genia Shonbaumsfeld (Kierkegaard), Marjorie Perloff (English) or myself (History and Philosophy of Science).

  2. This is simultaneously outrageous… and not totally surprising.

    Nothing from Cora Diamond? Alice Crary? Marie McGinn? Anscombe, for goodness sake? Those are just off the top of my head – there are many more one might list.. I can’t imagine a good excuse for this.

  3. I hope a query was sent to them asking why. As comment #1 indicates, there aare names one would think could not be missed.

    I’m trying to think if anything of Foot’s could have counted as on Anscombe?

    Anyway, what a shame.

  4. Even leaving aside the all-male nature of the list it’s a pretty odd list for “top” Wittgenstein articles. I wonder what the criteria was.

  5. Um… it’s a very strange list. It looks like it’s restricted to papers in OUP journals, right? So it’s “top Witters articles in OUP archives”, not top simpliciter. Not that this excuses the gender balance.

  6. Yeah, as far as I can tell it’s all OUP journals. Mind has apparently been publicizing the list via the following email announcement:

    “In case you didn’t know, Mind has teamed up with other popular philosophy
    journals to provide a free compilation of some of the best scholarly
    articles that address the works of Ludwig Wittgenstein, one of the most
    influential philosophers of the 20th century. To view these articles for
    free, go to:”

    For what that’s worth.

  7. couldn’t the organizers of Mind and other popular philosophy journals have invited previously published articles by women scholars of Wittgenstein, but these previously published articles all turned them down?

  8. Does it matter, mm? The point here is not what the organizers did or didn’t do, it’s about tracking the extraordinary number of men-only books and events. Knowing that someone’s tracking them has already made some people more conscious of the need to make gender balance is a priority, so clearly it’s effective. Is there a reason we’re rehashing this again, though? It seems to have been discussed in detail on the thread ‘men discuss metaphysics’.

  9. I was joking, sorry. (it doesn’t really make sense to say that an article declined to be included does it?). It was my way of pointing out that typical remark made by some folks in this kind of context re: not knowing which people invites went out to, who declined, etc. — just has no application here. Implicit bias seems like the most obvious explanation here.

    I also resisted making jokes about the alleged snarkiness of ME’s title of the post, which took a tremendous amount of willpower. Consequently, I lacked the will power to resist eating half a tub of chocolate moose tracks ice cream.

  10. ME, look what your title did! Not only did you fail to be sufficiently euphemistic for the maintenance of easy privilege, you also caused the consumption of half a tub of chocolate moose tracks ice cream! I demand… somethingsomething. [nod].

    (And, mm, in relation to the article declining to be included, no, it doesn’t… I keep forgetting, though, that we give up rights to determine republication to the journal who publishes us. Sigh. See how hopeful I am? ;-P Don’t worry, not for long, I’m sure!)

  11. Thanks for this blog entry. It is an odd list, but in the spirit of the GC campaign’s interest in neutralizing bad effects that all-male lists of “top” philosophy articles may have, I’d like to counteract the image that anyone writing about Wittgenstein in the style of the sort of articles that MIND or these other journals publish would necessarily be male with a list of some women who do so: Jane Heal, Meredith Williams, Marie McGinn, and Juliet Floyd are distinguished major players; Dawn Phillips and Heather Gert up and coming ones. That’s just from thinking of women I have seen speak on the subject; not using any search engines.

    When I say ‘counteract the image”, I mean the image disingenuously and implicitly painted by articles that appeared a few years ago in mainstream publications speculating as to why women are not interested in philosophy.

  12. Yes! The rampant consumption of ice-cream! At last, my nefarious plans have come to fruition.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, the rest of the FP bloggers and I are meeting at the coven to boil some testicles in our ritual method of determining what to blog about next.

  13. From: Tom Baldwin (editor, Mind)

    I just heard about this list today. I have discovered that the list was drawn up by the OxfordUP journal marketing department. It certainly has NO connection with Mind – either with the editorial team or with the Mind Association executive committee. I have asked for the link from the OUP Mind webpage to be removed, and have been assured that this will happen soon.
    I share the concerns that motivated ‘magical ersatz’s grumble, though tracking back through recent issues I did not find any articles on Wittgenstein by women. For what it is worth, however, my latest (December 2010) data show that the acceptance rate for submissions to Mind from women (5.5%) is greater than that for submissions from men (3.9%), although the ratio of submissions to Mind is: women 10%, men 90%. On conferences, the Mind executive committee has recently agreed to ask conference organisers who receive support from Mind to try to ensure that there is a gender balance among speakers; at the last conference I organized, out of five speakers, four were female.

    So I hope you feminists do not bear a grudge against Mind because of this incident.

  14. Thank you so very much for the helpful information, Prof. Baldwin. I’ve updated the post accordingly.

    And it’s great to have those acceptance statistics from Mind and the information about the Mind Association’s efforts to promote gender-balanced conferences. This is all really good news, and we really appreciate your sharing it with us on this forum.

    (And I’d agree that an all-male list of this kind might be an understandable contingency if it was drawn from recent papers on Wittgenstein – but the papers on the list go back to 1989! It’s an odd list. . .)

    Again, thanks so much for participating in our discussion, and for taking these concerns seriously.

  15. Yay for prof. Tom Baldwin! that’s really good to hear.

    I hereby retract snarky joke made earlier in the thread. and thanks for sharing the stats about submission and acceptance rates!

  16. It is depressing, isn’t it? I suggest one solution is to workshop with female colleagues or students on papers that could be published in Mind. You know what I’m saying? I’m saying, women in philosophy could intentionally dedicate serious efforts to publishing in male-dominated journals. We rarely do this. We should.

  17. It is my understanding that Mind preserves anonymity between editor and author, so that the editor doesn’t know the name, gender, or anything else about the author (at least, if the paper is properly blinded). This is a great practice, and I commend Mind for this.

  18. Mind does indeed practice double anonymous review (as it were). Anonymous is quite right that Mind should be commended for this. All journals should do this.

  19. I’ve never been entirely convinced that all journals should do that. One thing you might want an editor to be able to do is to counteract various negative effects of sexism. If you knew a submission was by a woman and were a person such that this primed you to be conscious of your and your referees’ potential implicit biases, this might alter how you viewed the paper and how you read the referee reports in a positive light. Or if you think that not enough women are submitting to your journal because of sexism in the profession, you might want to help by being to some extent favourable to submissions from women. Even in just the very mild sense that if you’ve got two excellent submissions but don’t have the space to take them both, you favour the one written by a woman over the one written by a man. It’s not obvious to me that that would be a bad practice: but of course if the editor doesn’t have that info, she couldn’t choose to implement that plan. I agree that the double-anonymous system minimises the potential harm of a bad editor, but I worry that it also doesn’t allow for the pro-active good editor (and am not pessimistic enough to think it clear that most would fall into the former category!).

  20. Does the literature on implicit bias show that one can counteract one’s implicit biases in the way you describe? I was under the impression that the literature shows that dealing with people anonymously is a far better way to counteract one’s implicit biases than to consciously try and do so.

    The second point you mention could be dealt with by de-anonymising after review. Once all the reports are in, and the paper ranked as publishable or not, the editor could then check names and choose articles with the target of balancing gender, etc.

  21. Yeah, I confess I don’t really know the empirical research here: I’m just kind of conjecturing on what I believe I’d do myself. I know as a Compass editor, I consciously aim for a 50/50 balance in gender to try to redress under-representation; but that’s a very different situation, as it’s invited papers.

    Sure, the editor could de-anonymise after review. That would be close to what I had in mind. But I was thinking that was the kind of thing people are objecting to when they advocate double-anonymous refereeing: after all, a biased editor could at that point discriminate against women (consciously or not). I thought the call for double-anonymous reviewing was a call for the editors, referees, and everyone involved in making a decision on publication being unaware of author identity until a final decision had been made RE acceptance. No?

  22. Not as far as I am aware. A malicious editor – i.e., one with conscious intent to discriminate – could always find ways to do so. For example, by secretly checking a file to see who the author of some paper really is. Any conversations I’ve been in on this issue haven’t concerned conscious discrimination by malicious editors, but implicit biases. (Like you, I and most people I’ve talked to about this are not pessimistic enough to think that there are lots of editors out there consciously intending to discriminate. But there are lots out there with implicit biases, since those are something we all have, no matter how well intentioned.)

    So what’s required is a method of making sure that the paper is assessed fairly. The assessment can then be plugged in to a larger mechanism where further constraints are added after de-anonymising – such as making sure that no two papers are published by the author in the same year, gender balance, and all the other things that an editor might consider.

  23. My understanding was that ‘double-masked’ peer review referred to situations where the author and the reviewer are both anonymised to each other, but the editor knows who both are.

    The stats from Thomas Baldwin – thanks for those! – makes me wonder whether all journals keep these kinds of records. If so, it would be awesome (though massively complicated) to collect those kinds of stats together (even if just voluntarily submitted to a website). It could give us some really great information about how gender imbalance occurs – and help address it, from both ends, in that journals could compare themselves to others in their work to address the imbalance, and women philosophers could be strategic about where they submit. Does anyone know if these stats are regularly produced?

  24. Wildly – ah – maybe you’re right. In that case we’re trying to talk about triple-anonymous review: the editor doesn’t know the author of a paper, and neither the author nor the reviewers know each others’ identities. This is the practice at Mind.

  25. I wouldn’t have thought that Wildly’s conjecture about the terminology is right, since people seem to be asking for double-anonymous refereeing, but the system Wildly describes is just the norm across the board.

  26. [shrug] It’s what I’ve been required to do when editing double-anonymous peer reviewed journals, and it’s what seems to be taken as standard definition on wikipedia (I know, I know, source of all wisdom, right?). And yeah, it’s the norm in most fields, but some fields apparently take single-masked, meaning that the reviewer doesn’t know who the author is, as standard.

    One thing I think is worth thinking about in terms of triple-anonymous peer review is that it does require substantial online systems to be in place, which is often not possible for smaller or newer journals. I’m not sure what I think about triple-anon peer review… more thinking required :-)

  27. I believe the terminology is not uniform. Some people reserve ‘triple’ for the practice of keeping author, editor, referee all ignorant, and some people leave the author out of the count and are just puzzled about who the third person would be in ‘triple’.

    If you keep the editor ignorant for the entire process, you do add other problems. At ETHICS, editors can id the author after assigning referees; the main point is to then correct a mistake like having assigned the paper’s author as referee, her thesis advisor or thesis student, his best friend or wife, etc.

    I think this has worked pretty well, but it isn’t ideal. The editor does sometimes make important decisions after finding out who the author is. For one thing, your first referee choices might decline, and then you’re in the not-so-good position of choosing new referees in full knowledge of the author. (The best way around this is to put a bigger list of referees into the editorial manager before the big reveal.) And for another, editors can and do override referee verdicts, and of course sometimes the referee verdicts are borderline.

    It’s hard to design an efficient and fair process, it really is.

  28. Good to know, Jamie Dreier, thanks! At least the process you describe at Ethics sounds like it avoids desk-rejection at first glance on the basis of “she’s-nobody”-ism.

  29. Tom, no grudge at all.

    I wonder what other stats you have about gender. Perhaps asking women to review books/ papers more would help??

    I *think* Mind has a reputation for slow decisions. If that is so, I wonder if it could impact women’s decisions more? There are reasons why that could make a difference to people less optimistical about their chances of acceptance. One might well expect women to be less optimistic if they look around very carefully

  30. Let’s see. Only 10% of submissions to Mind are from women. The list of outrage — over which the editor of Mind can’t seem to apologize enough — is, I gather, of length 10, all of them men.

    Let’s assume that Mind’s statistics are a fair representation of the sort of pool from which the list was selected.

    So I go to my handy-dandy binomial distribution calculator, and enter .10 as the probability of success for a given trial (10% women), 10 trials (the list is length 10), and 0 successes (no women among the 10).

    The probability of such an outcome? 35%

    (Try it at home, in the following link!)

    So, I gather, even in situations in which the decisions for entry onto a list were entirely fair, as demonstrated by basic statistics, it’s OK if even 35% of the time the “gendered conference campaign” (or some cognate) declares the existence of bias that simply must — MUST! — be corrected?

    Is that how it’s supposed to work?

  31. Anon – if you had bothered to read the information contained in this post and the following thread, you would have discovered that the papers are not drawn only from Mind (which, it turns out, had nothing to do with producing the list), but from a number of different journals.

  32. Funny, ordinarily I’d take down a comment in which editors of Mind sound browbeaten and the rest of us are attributed outrage, but I have always liked the stattrek site, so I’m leaving #36 up for the one part of it that’s useful.

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