a cautionary word about weight loss and pills

A few weeks ago I did a poll on whether one would want the side effects of a pill that causes weight loss. And in another post I mentioned falling. Oddly enough, the two were connected.

According to web lore, one of the generics of Wellbutrin has not been certified by the CDC or whatever as the same as the brand. And the uncertified one can cause really unpleasant side effects in a very, very small part of the population, anonymous people on the web maintain. Now, we are not talking a fall or two; I think I actually fell 7 times in about a week, mostly outdoors, and was prevented from falling 3 or so other times. This is actually very dangerous and I was worried.

Since no doctor or pill book seemed to know what might be going on, I decided to follow the web advice and switched back to the very expensive brand name. And I stopped falling.

Dizziness is listed as a possible side effect of Wellbutrin, but that is not what was happening. It felt as though some signal was not getting through, and in particular the ones that have one shift one’s center of balance when one’s carrying something, going up a step and so on. In fact, I think there might be some subtle counter-example to claims about knowledge without observation. That is, I suspect I could briefly access the signals consciously. But that’s not the point here!

And thanks to ChrisTS, who suggested that I try to find out what was happening! Her comment helped focus my attentions.

CFP: Feminist Philosophy and Pornography


16-18th of September 2013, Berlin


Anne W. Eaton (University of Illinois at Chicago)
Rae Langton (MIT)
Hans Maes (University of Kent)
Ishani Maitra (University of Michigan)
Mary Kate McGowan (Wellesley College)
Evangelia (Lina) Papadaki (University of Crete)

The heir of Playboy, Cooper Hefner, stated in a recent newspaper article that Playboy isn’t pornography – rather, Playboy is art and it empowers women (The Independent, Jan 6th 2013). This claim is in stark contrast with most feminist views: many feminists do not consider Playboy to be empowering and they take pornography to be a kind of harm. Rae Langton forcefully and famously argued for such feminist claims in her article “Speech Acts and Unspeakable Acts” (originally published in 1993). In her paper, Langton defends the philosophical cogency of Catherine MacKinnon’s view that pornography not only causes the subordination and silencing of women, but it also constitutes women’s subordination and silencing. Langton’s defence appeals to J. L. Austin’s speech act theory. She argues that pornographic speech illocutionarily subordinates women and silences their speech. It does the former in ranking women as inferior, legitimating discrimination against them, and depriving women of important rights to do with free speech. This last point connects to illocutionary silencing. Pornographic speech does not prevent women from making utterances. Rather, the thought is, pornographic speech may create communicative conditions that result in illocutionary disablement of women’s speech in specific contexts. Particularly this may be so with respect to women’s refusals of unwanted sex: if pornographic speech prevents the locution ‘No!’ from being seen to be a refusal in a sexual context, due to which sex is forced on the speaker, she has not successfully performed the illocutionary speech act of refusing the unwanted sex. In this case, there may be a free speech argument against pornography.

Since the publication of Langton’s seminal article, a rich philosophical literature on pornography has emerged. A number of philosophers from different backgrounds have either critiqued or defended Langton’s position (e.g. Ronald Dworkin, Leslie Green, Jennifer Saul, Judith Butler, Caroline West, Nellie Wieland, and many others). Despite the rich literature on the topic, precious little agreement still exists on some key questions: How do or should we define ‘pornography’? Does pornography in fact subordinate and silence women? What should legally be done about pornography, if anything at all?

The first goal of this conference is to take stock of extant debates and discussions. We wish to clarify the conceptual and political terrains of feminist discussions concerning pornography. In particular, we wish to investigate how do or should feminist philosophers define ‘pornography’ and related terms (e.g. harm, silencing, objectification). Further, what are the political commitments of those working on the topic, and what might be a helpful feminist political strategy with respect to the reality of pornography. Despite the wealth of literature on pornography over the past couple of decades, these questions are still in need of being addressed.

The second goal of this conference is to explore new issues and themes in the feminist philosophical debates that have emerged more recently. By doing so, we wish to create new lines of inquiry on themes that (to date) have received surprisingly little attention from feminist philosophers. We also aim to investigate how these new issues intersect with older, more established, debates. Specifically, we wish to examine three themes: HARM – EPISTEMOLOGY – AESTHETICS. We will investigate the themes themselves, how they intersect with one another, and how do or can these issues and their intersections help answer our first set of questions about feminist conceptual and political commitments. In more detail, we will be asking:

HARM – Are the existing conceptions of harm, illocutionary subordination and silencing plausible and/or helpful? Do they help us in settling questions about the legal treatment of pornography, or should we base our discussions in the legal domain on some other notions? Do feminist philosophers even have to settle the issue of pornography’s harmfulness once and for all?

EPISTEMOLOGY – What kinds of knowledge claims does pornography involve, if any? Does it involve maker’s knowledge, as Langton has recently argued (in her Sexual Solipsism, OUP 2009)? If so, is the maker’s knowledge that pornography involves harmful, as Langton claims? What would its harmfulness consist in?

AESTHETICS – What kind of representation does pornography involve? Is the representation (of women, sexuality, etc) in pornography harmful and if so, in what sense? How do the elements of reality and fantasy in pornography relate to one another? And how do these elements intersect with the previous two themes (harm and knowledge)? Can pornography be considered art (as Hefner Jn. claims)? If so, what consequences does this have for the view that pornography harms women?

We invite submissions on these themes (broadly conceived). The focus of the event will be on analytic feminist investigations of pornography; however, we also welcome paper submissions from other philosophical perspectives. Please email FULL PAPERS suitable for anonymous review of no more than 3,500 words by 15th APRIL 2013 to feminismhu@gmail.com with the subject title ‘CONFERENCE SUBMISSION’. (PDF submissions are preferred.) Notification of acceptance will be send late June 2013. We hope to be able to provide travel bursaries for accepted papers.

This conference is part of the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin Symposium Series Feminist Philosophy and…. For further information about the Symposium Series and about past events, please see http://blogs.hu-berlin.de/feminist_philosophy/. For queries concerning the forthcoming event on Pornography, please contact Mari Mikkola (mari.mikkola AT hu-berlin.de).

Even more disabled philosophers

Our side-project the Disabled Philosophers blog took a little hiatus, but it’s back up and running now with a beautiful post by Anna-Sara Malmgren. For the foreseeable future, this is how we’ll be running the blog – some posts, a hiatus, some more posts, lather, rinse, repeat. The primary point of Disabled Philosophers isn’t so much to be a blog – where you, I don’t know, read about your disabled philosopher of the week – but rather to be a public declaration and source of information. It’s something which we can look at from time to time to remind ourselves of things we might otherwise forget, and something which we can show to our students and our potential students.

Anyway, if you’re a disabled philosopher please consider sending us a post!

Women cricketers and a level playing field

Those readers who don’t habitually haunt the sports pages may have missed the news that Sarah Taylor, the very talented English wicketkeeper-batter, is involved in discussions that may result in her playing second XI county cricket for a men’s team in the coming summer (roughly: reserve-team at the highest level below international). She and other leading female players already play as a matter of course for men’s teams somewhat below this level.

The response among cricket followers and commentators has been by and large positive. Indeed, both the women’s game and individual women are generally treated (relatively) well by media and fans. And because of the nature of cricket, there’s no obvious reason why women with adequate opportunities, support and training couldn’t be successful at the highest level, at least in the longer forms (the shorter formats, especially T20, rely more on brute power).

However, this raises the question of whether integration is in fact desirable. Selma James seems to argue that, if the best players leave the women’s game to play for men’s teams, the women’s game will suffer. And implicit in this argument is the notion that, for one reason or another, there will never be full integration of the two.

I’ve been wondering about this sort of thing off and on for ages, and I really do not know what to think about it all. I think what I think is this. It seems that, in principle, sports that don’t rely (much) on physical strength, or in which skill can compensate for its lack, can and should be integrated at all levels. Sports that do might have to stay segregated, at least post-pubescence (assuming that we don’t just change the rules of sports such that strength isn’t a factor any more).

It also seems that, in practice, there would have to be a massive cultural change for women to get the opportunities necessary for integration at any level above the most amateur to occur. But I’d like to get straight on the principles before considering the practicals. And so far as principles go, I’m pretty muddled. Thoughts welcome.


Resource: Reading List for Non-Western Feminism

Because We’re Still Oppressed reblogged a reading list of Non-Western Feminism readings.  Check it out here!


From the OP:

It is my intention to put together a non-western feminism course syllabus for submission to my Women’s Studies department. In that spirit, I have collected a list of texts on non-western feminism, mostly in the voices of non-western women, to serve as a starting point for developing this syllabus.

I’m sharing this list with Tumblr because too often “feminism” is understood through a western lens, and this includes African-American and Latin@ feminism, as practiced in the academy. Positions at the margins of feminism, developed from theoretical frameworks that do not rely on western epistemology are necessary to disrupt the theoretical assumptions that we have grown too comfortable with.

Further, it is my intention that, as this list circulates tumblr through reblogs, more texts will be added to it so that space can be made for voices that are all too often unheard, new voices can be added to the feminist “canon,” and we can recognize the very real need for feminisms that arise in contexts outside the american and the western theoretical.