Rebecca Kukla in 3 AM Magazine

With some very nice words for FP’s work on behalf of women in philosophy, but also some important points about other directions that efforts to diversify should take:

The overwhelming whiteness of philosophy is staggering, and I think it leads to insular thinking that harms philosophy itself, as well as being self-perpetuatingly exclusionary in fairly obvious ways.

More controversially, perhaps, she suggests that we should devote less attention to the maleness of philosophy in order to pay more attention to the whiteness of philosophy. (A part of me said: why can’t we just do both? Then I reflected more on the limitations of time constraints, and thought perhaps she’s just being realistic.)

But– as one the strongest defenders of the Be Nice rule– I deeply don’t agree with this:

Third, let me go on record as saying that I think that the whole idea that women are put off by or unsuited to the aggressive, argumentative style of philosophy is crap. Discursive intensity and tenacity, a high premium on verbal sparring and cleverness, and a fundamentally critical dialogical method have been central to philosophy since its birth, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. The fact is, most people, regardless of gender, find that kind of discourse difficult, overwhelming, and somewhat threatening; the Athenians didn’t crack out the hemlock for no reason. This is why most people should not be philosophers, and that’s just fine.

Now, I don’t actually know whether women are put off by aggressive argumentative style. But I am firmly convinced that it’s bad for philosophy. It is more than possible to be critical and careful and to raise objections without being an arsehole. And guess what? Better philosophy ends up being done. Far too much philosophical discussion is more about showing that one is more clever than the speaker (or the objector) rather than trying to understand shit. This is one of many truly great things I have learned from my colleagues at Sheffield. (And why yes, one can still swear a lot while advocating niceness. In fact, I find it fucking irresistible.)

UPDATE: Here’s the interview. (Sorry!)

77 thoughts on “Rebecca Kukla in 3 AM Magazine

  1. Thanks for this!

    As we discussed off-air, I think this (the ‘be nice’ part) may be a difference in how we put things rather than a disagreement. I really didn’t mean to be standing up for being an asshole or against being nice. So ‘aggressive’ was maybe an ambiguous word choice on my part. I meant to make the (still controversial, I think) claim that we have no good reason to think that women are less suited to vigorous, intense debate organized around dialogical critique than men, and that such conversation is pretty much at the heart of the philosophical method. I really do find that *most* people are not really happy or comfortable with how philosophers ‘converse’, regardless of their gender. I think you can do that vigorous, intense philosophy thing without being an asshole.

    Thanks for the chance to clarify, though I am sure many will still disagree.

    (And yeah, I totally agree that we should be worrying about ALL forms of inclusivity, including gender inclusivity, and also that we sometimes need to think about how to spend our shift our priorities in light of our very finite resources and time.)

    By the way here is the link to the interview for those who are interested:

  2. Thinking about interaction style, perhaps we just need to do two things:

    1) be more pluralist; there are many styles of intellectual interaction and while we might only be masters of some we should be facile with many and rigorous about variation;

    2) focus on the “good” bits and try to separate out the bad bits; for example, while I do enjoy aggressive debating (and winning, I’m afraid), the very best aspects of such interaction is the exhilaration; instead of a fencing match of wits, we should sky dive, or dance.

    A great dance certainly is vigorous, intense, and even, at times, antagonistic but it is also often mutualistic, supportive, interdependent and greater than the individual dancers or steps.

    (I actually get this quite often with my closest colleague at Manchester. We had to stop having joint co-supervision meetings because it was really too much to expect of our students to break in or keep up. It’s a delight, but it can be quite daunting for other folks.)

  3. Bijan, I think that is sage advice and a nice comparison. I don’t see vigorous debate and mutual support as inherently in tension with one another at all. My very best friends are all people with whom I debate so hard that it can be as exhausting as a major physical workout, and they form my most important support community too. But it’s all too easy to cross over from skydiving to fencing (and dirty fencing at that) without meaning to, and all too easy to start striving to beat the competition rather than to train hard and effectively together.

    OK did I mix metaphors inexcusably there?

  4. A great dance is wonderful, but both have to be dancing to the same music, and in many debates each is dancing to a different drum.

    Each has different values or a different goal or just a different dance style, a dance style as different as the fox trot is from salsa.

  5. Hi Rebecca,

    I’ve no problem with mixed metaphors ;) Most any activity can become pathological, dissonent, unpleasant, or mean spirited, of course. But I bet the incidence of sky divers getting into a fencing match is fairly low :)

    swallerstein, it’s just a metaphor, but dancers don’t have to be dancing to the same music (or to music at all), or at least not to the same beat. Different dances can be doing very different things and still mesh.

    (I am thinking more of modern dance instead of a couples style.)

  6. I’m completely with Rebecca here (about the Be Nice rule). Philosophical “sparring matches” I find to be both FUN and useful (someone said “exhilarating”, and yes, it can be that), and whether or not one can pull if off without “being an asshole” depends on two things: one, the self-confidence of the interlocutor (that is why most philosophers seem like arrogant assholes to many non-philosophers), and two: **the meaning of “Be Nice”**. (And nothing I say here is meant to suggest that there aren’t a fucking load of fucking assholes out there).
    An anecdote: a young woman philosopher (relatively recently) gave a talk at which she presented *analogies* to p apparently as arguments for concluding things about p. No argument at all was even attempted to argue that p and its analogies were relevantly situated so that one could conclude anything about p on their basis. Everyone in the room appeared to be flumoxed by the presentation. After it became evident that no one would say anything, I took it upon myself to say that she “hadn’t presented any argument whatsoever” for her claim. Was that a *nice* thing to do? **I very much think so.** (I’m hoping I saved her from future embarrassments, and taught her something about standards in her chosen profession.) Was it a *nice* thing to hear? **Surely not.** As one member of the audience said to me: “Algú ho havia de dir!” [Someone had to say it!]
    Now, I distinctly felt that I had violated the “Be Nice” Rule, and paranoid or not, I distinctly felt mildly shunned for the rest of the conference by the “Be Nice”-ers in the audience (or which there were several). Assume I was not totally paranoid. Now, is *that* being nice?

    Niceness is the most superficial of virtues. It is no match for honesty and straight-talking, which are to be distinguished from pompousness and abuse.
    (BTW, I was the only one (of the Be Nicer’s, I mean) to join the presenter afterwards for a drink and a chat. We talked about the lacunae in her presentation. I think *that* was nice of me.)
    I cannot help but find it frankly sexist to insist on the mode of delivery rather than the substance, as if women were delicate things who will fall apart if they are refuted too roughly.
    And none of what I say here should be interpreted as supporting pompous abuses of accumulation of advantage by those artificially pumped by implicit biases to consider themselves over-clever.

  7. Hi Adele,

    I find your claim “Niceness is the most superficial of virtues.” to be interesting. Is it true? I mean, to be genuinely nice? I find it sometimes to be extraordinarily difficult. Feigning niceness is actually pretty difficult for me in many cases. But even if we are just talking an amiable manner, it can be really challenging.

    And perhaps, if we buy, “I was cruel only to be kind”, it might be that your actions were, and were meant, to be nice but are not easily seen as such.

  8. Doesn’t the idea that attending to the whiteness of philosophy and attending to the maleness of philosophy are (at least, for pragmatic reasons) two separate, mutually-exclusive projects, requiring their own resources, efforts, and time fly in the face of the idea of intersectionality? (It seemingly implies that all women are white, that all non-white people are men, and that, therefore, there are no women of color.)

  9. No I really don’t think it implies that at all, nor do I think either Jenny or I suggested the projects were mutually exclusive. But we have all sorts of initiatives and campaigns and so on that target gender inclusiveness and I think we need more that specifically target other kinds of inclusiveness. I don’t see how doing such things presuppose in the slightest that everyone thus targeted would be male. One has to be able to attend to a type of exclusion in a more than hand-wavey way in order to do anything substantive about it – one can’t always target everything simultaneously or we will have only blunt tools, and that’s not what any sophisticated understanding of intersectionality would demand.

  10. I – a white male – have self-interested reasons for a “be nice” rule; more specifically, for a culture that doesn’t place a premium on verbal sparring and what Rebecca calls “cleverness”. I’m just not good on that stuff. I am far better on paper. Okay, so much the worse for me, you can say: my weaknesses are no reason to jettison something that is valuable (and as a bystander I can appreciate the verbal sparring). That’s right, but it is worth thinking about people who don’t just happen, as I do, to not be very good on their feet, but who have a predictable disadvantage in this area. Being good at verbal sparring is the product of a certain kind of background, which encourages and values articulate discussion. It is the product of cultural capital, in Bourdieu’s sense, and cultural capital is typically something that is rewarded in academic contexts even though it is not (and cannot be) taught there. Working class kids will often lack this kind of skill; women may feel less confident in exercising it and may (therefore) be less likely to acquire it. So there are good reasons to de-emphasize this kind of cleverness. I think we place too much of a premium on it.

  11. Women MAY feel less confident in exercising it and/or be less likely to acquire it. But color me dubious. I think that’s just a stereotype and I see no reason to accept it as an empirical generalization.

  12. It seems a plausible claim (given that women are encouraged to speak less, and especially in contexts in which Important Matters are being discussed). It is of course an empirical claim. The claim about class is also empirical, but seems overwhelmingly likely to be true: working class kids are less likely to acquire easy facility with verbal expression in the right register. That claim, too, could be false (plausible seeming empirical claims sometimes are). I will go in search of data.

  13. Well from the armchair, FWIW (which is not too much I realize), the class claim seems more plausible than the gender claim. I’ve never noticed women being disproportionately inarticulate, though male philosophers often like to claim that we are.

  14. Yes, I haven’t noticed that either, and I am now quite worried that I made the claim at all. I agree the class claim seems more plausible. My impression – confirmation bias driven though it may be – is that people from lower SES backgrounds go on to PhDs and academic careers far more often in the sciences than in the humanities (broadly construed), and my explanation for that is that cultural capital, which is acquired early, plays a greater role in the latter than the former, whereas the skills required for science are acquired effortfully, through formal education. Still no data, though.

  15. I wholeheartedly agree that one shouldn’t assume that women are “put off by or unsuited to the aggressive, argumentative style of philosophy”. But I think men are often put off by women who are comfortable with that style, such that there is a premium to be paid by women who use it successfully. Instead of recognition, they often meet with hostility, especially if the target is a man present in the audience.

    I made the mistake early on in my career of thinking that authors – especially senior ones – would always welcome critical engagement with their work. Soon I started suspecting that the better my argument, the less appreciative these guys would be. And that’s a weird feeling. The lesson seemed to be that the more I succeeded by the standards of philosophy, the less recognition I was likely to receive and the more enemies I would make – a frustrating double bind. There seems to be a cultural expectation that women be “nice” – nicer than men (compare the perils of aggressive wage negotiations for women – being assertive can backfire). Maybe these kinds of experiences, rather than discomfort with the aggressive argumentative style per se, explains why quite a few women say they prefer a “gentler” style of argument. I once asked my students to consider in an essay whether “Socrates was nice”, so they could reflect on what niceness really is and whether all kinds of niceness are productive in an academic setting. My suspicion is that, all things being equal, the Athenians would have handed Socrates the hemlock much earlier, had he been a woman, and that cultural expectations haven’t changed as much as we would like to think.

  16. re: Neil@16

    It wouldn’t surprise me if persons from lower socio-economic backgrounds tend to favor the sciences over the humanities, but I don’t think that the main reason for this trend is necessarily differences in “cultural capital.” One of the barriers that Rebecca mentions in the interview is the fact that studying philosophy can seem a precarious career choice, and therefore impractical or unattractive to people who are economically disadvantaged. By contrast, good job prospects is surely one of the primary reasons for which many students are drawn to the sciences.

  17. Adele, you say:

    “I took it upon myself to say that she “hadn’t presented any argument whatsoever” for her claim. Was that a *nice* thing to do? **I very much think so.** (I’m hoping I saved her from future embarrassments, and taught her something about standards in her chosen profession.) Was it a *nice* thing to hear? **Surely not.** As one member of the audience said to me: “Algú ho havia de dir!” [Someone had to say it!]”

    I can see how the substance of the point you were making was something that ought to be communicated to the speaker. But what I – and others who find ‘aggressive’ styles of philosophy problematic – would object to is the way in which you elected to communicate that point. I simply don’t agree that ‘someone had to say’ to the speaker something as harsh as that she had presented ‘no argument whatsoever’ for her claim. Why not just say something to the effect of ‘In your paper, you’re making arguments for p based on analogies to p. But I can’t see how the former supports the latter – it seems like all of the analogous claims you’re making could be true, but p false.’ It’s easy to give the substantial philosophical content of a point, even a highly critical point, without being insulting or rude. Why people seem to run the two together remains a mystery to me.

    Tone and content can and do come apart. What people who object to ‘aggressiveness’ in discussion are often objecting to is tone, not content. It’s not that you made a devastating objection. There’s nothing wrong with a good counter-example! The problem, rather, lies with framing these points in a way that’s combative or harsh – especially when there’s no need to adopt that tone in order to communicate the philosophical point.

    You worry that in objecting to aggressive tone we’re ‘treating women like delicate flowers’. But I don’t think most of the people who object to such aggressiveness are objecting to it only when it’s directed at women. We’re objecting to it full stop. (And conjecturing that it has bad effects, full stop – though those bad effects may be magnified in the case of traditionally underrepresented groups in philosophy like women or racial minorities.)

  18. Let me just add to my comment #17 above that members of minorities may also be harmed if they are perceived as “aggressive” in discussion – this would apply, for instance, to African-American or Afro-Caribbean men or members of other groups that the majority implicitly perceive as “threatening”. The same presumably applies to philosophers (or aspiring philosophers) with working class accents or appearance – their objections may be read as expressions of hostility rather than perceptive criticism. If you constantly have to go out of your way not to be seen as hostile or in any way aggressive, this makes it much harder to engage in the kind of “productive adversarialism” that historically defines the discipline.

  19. It seems there’s a reasonable consensus against assholes and in favor of productive disagreement. The trick, then, is to say more about where stated disagreement passes from being productive to being asshole-ish. I like magicalersatz’s suggestion: there’s an important distinction is between attending to a possible weakness of a position presented and attending to a possible weakness in the presenter of the position.

    We can feel personally invested in our philosophical positions, and at least some personal investment is unavoidable, since any errors in the position are *our* errors. That’s why it can feel so threatening to have one’s views called into question.

    But when we want to disagree with another, or raise questions about their position, we can choose our words carefully to *distinguish* between the author of the position and the position we want to query.

    Still, even this is not enough. Plato’s dialogues reveal how how personally damaging philosophical dialogue can be and how the strategy I’ve just mentioned might help. But they also issue an important warning: the strategy typically does not work for Socrates when he manages to disagree persuasively with every position his interlocutor raises. His interlocutor still gets angry and *with Socrates*, and most unfortunately, the interlocutor gets impatient *with philosophy*. I really wish philosophers managed to notice this and to take it to heart. It’s most crucial when we’re dealing with young philosophers whose positions are less fully developed and whose mastery of this or that set of argumentative patterns is incomplete. In such encounters, if we focus unrelentingly on weaknesses, we are inviting frustration with philosophy, and only the most heroic or self-ignorant students will press on. So in such encounters, if we care about encouraging philosophical progress, the conversation *must* focus on building up some of the promising features of the position presented, and not merely on the places with which one might reasonable disagree.

    This maneuver isn’t simple, either. When building up for another as when disagreeing, there is assitude to be avoided, such as condescension and pedantry and impatience. But we must be sure to try, at least if we want to welcome students into philosophy and to find productive disagreement without being assholes.

  20. Well put, Magical.
    I think of that difference as the difference between thinking *against* the speaker and thinking *with* the speaker. And, as jennysaul says, of course better philosophy is produced when you think *with* another: one is so much more creative and confident, and enjoys digging ever deeper, when having another’s good will by one’s side.

  21. I love how magical put it in comment 19.

    Another thing that jumped out to me about Rebecca’s interview is the mention of class along with race. I haven’t seen much discussion of class when it comes to issues of inclusiveness in philosophy, and it seems like class presents a unique set of issues. One reason class inclusiveness may require different tactics is that, in some sense, the end point of the philosophy pipeline may involve the transformation of a person’s class status. When a woman finishes her Ph.D. and lands a TT job, she’s still a woman. When a black person finishes her Ph.D. and lands a TT job, she’s still black.

    But when a working class person finishes her/his Ph.D. and lands a job, in some relevant sense she/he might not be working class anymore. That seems to present special issues.

  22. And God only knows that we could have a “being a working class person in philosophy” blog that should get thousands of stories. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen a paper in social/political philosophy where I just say to myself “who, aside from upper/middle class white people, cares about this…” or “wow, who counts as the ‘public’ in this context…”

  23. Something that helped me out re: class (and sexuality) issues was the book /Resilience: Queer Professors from the Working Class/. It is basically a collection of stories from professors talking about their experiences. I would recommend it to anyone looking for more anecdotes :p.

    I must admit to being skeptical of the idea that someone stops being working class upon receiving a phd and a job. Why would that be the case? Much like a new immigrant to Canada might still identify themselves as Chinese (insofar as their habits, culture, moral beliefs etc reflect their history as a Chinese Citizen), I take it that many “professors from the working class” feel a special and non-trivial connection to their history as a working class person. Working class is a cultural thing, not just eg having enough income to own a car or having certain factual knowledge.

  24. I am really glad this conversation is turning to class, which I agree presents special issues for some of the reasons raised. It is not quite so visible as gender and race (though not exactly invisible). And Matt’s and Jarrod’s dialogue is telling – you both do and don’t switch classes when your salary changes. And I also agree with Matt that the thoughtless class-specific assumptions that academics make without even knowing it are amazing.

    I also really, really agree with Karen that women can get socially penalized for being tenacious, clever, intense arguers in special ways, and that that sucks. But I do think it is also worth insisting, again, that MOST people can’t deal with that kind of discourse, and PLENTY of the people who are good at it and thrive on it are women. We can debate how essential that kind of discourse is to philosophy and where it crosses over to assholitude, but that’s all separate from the point that it should not be treated as some kind of special masculine forte. I think Catarina Novaes put this well over at newapps this morning.

  25. I agree with you regarding the nature of being working class. But my point is that transformation is a possibility in a way that it doesn’t seem like a possibility for gender and race. I also suspect (but obviously would need some evidence to demonstrate) that there are far more working class people in academia who don’t want to be working class than there are women who don’t want to be women. Lots of working class folks use college generally (and academia specifically) as a part of a deliberate project to transform their class status.

    I doubt there are many women who use college as a part of a project to no longer be women (though it might depend on how we’re using “woman” – I suspect there are some radfem folks who find the cases to be more analogous).

  26. I agree with Rebecca that women are not obviously less interested in ‘aggresive’ philosophical conversation than men are. But (reitterating what’s already been mentioned above with a rant of my own) it’s not obvious to me that we should be maintaining the culture of finding combative conversation impressive or an indication of philosophical acumen or epistemically useful. If I have the same aims as my interlocutor – i.e. to discover the truth about a given matter – then cooperation towards that aim seems perfectly rational (rather than competition, which makes sense if our aims are mutually inconsistent). Sometimes cooperation will involve being critical of the points made by others, but it seems that the optimal way to do this will not involve not strongly committing the person to points made during the conversation (such that it’s seen as a weakness rather than a strength if they alter their position in response to new evidence), not offering solely negative points (e.g. failing to attempt to give any response to your own objections to the position in question), not misusing authority (e.g. stating that you don’t understand a point in a way that suggests the point is incoherent rather than as a request for clarification or followed by possible interpretations of the point) and so on. The best philosophical conversations I’ve had have been akin to highly engaged mutual problem solving. But a lot of philosophy conversation has struck me as little more than a dialectical contest whose purspose isn’t primarily to get at the truth (and if it is intended to be, then it seems obviously suboptimal) but seems to be something else, such as determining a social hierarchy among the people present. Such conversations often involve exactly these kinds of maneuvers and seem to at best a bit of a time sink.

    There are lots of reasons for women to be less inclined to engage in the aggressive-competitive kind of conversation described above rather than the aggressive-cooperative kind of conversation. Firstly, the latter just seems more rational than the former (to me, at least). But also the former is presumably more about making yourself look impressive at the expense of your intelocutor, and women would seem to face particular problems with this: for example, such behavior may be perceived as rude in a woman but not in a man (the ‘he’s impressive, you’re a bitch’ problem), and insofar as the behavior is more associated with maleness than with femaleness, not displaying paradigmatically female traits might have its own social costs. One way of resolving this problem is to try to make it more socially acceptable for women to engage in aggressive-competitive dialogue, but that hardly seems like a great outcome to me.

  27. A quick reply to Karen #17 about the double bind:

    ” *men* are often put off by women who are comfortable with that [aggressive, argumentative] style, such that there is a premium to be paid by women who use it successfully. Instead of recognition, they often meet with hostility, especially if the target is a man present in the audience.”

    Absolutely true, and documented to death. But just as true *of women* as of men!

    Question: is it better to succumb to the gender schema (women are expected to be nice; “Be Nice”) or to bend it?

    Absent a univocal answer to this question, might I suggest that every woman do what is comfortable to her, and that women (and men) **support women** whose attempts to bend gender schemas will be met with hostility, if only by not succumbing to that hostility themselves.

    Being nice might benefit philosophy… but it has seldom benefited women.

  28. I think ‘adversarial’ and ‘argumentative’ are often being conflated in these debates about the philosophical method. The argumentative method, I take it, is the kind of rigorous back and forth of ideas Rebecca is supporting. This can, although it doesn’t have to, be adversarial. But I think this adversarial style of is what most people think of as the philosophical method — taking on an opponent and demolishing their argument. I think we’re missing something important here: in order to reasonably take on an adversary, the other person needs to be relatively well matched with them (a novice jouster doesn’t go up against the best in the land without being laughed at). And in doing philosophy, especially when being trained up, we’re not going up against equals: students (both grad and undergrad) are reading and writing about the very best philosophers and are often arguing with their professors, all of whom are presented as authority figures. And whether the students take themselves to have the proper standing to take on these authority figures can be at least partially a function of how the students are socially situated. So, it’s not just a matter of women being told they have to ‘be nice’ — rather, it’s that women and people of various races and ethnicities have often been continually told that they don’t have the appropriate social postion to enter into these kinds of exchanges.

    We can keep the argumentative method without it being adversarial though. Every time I teach, I tell my students their job is to be the author’s best friend: we tell our friends when they’re screwing up and we tell them when they aren’t giving themselves enough credit. This fits into the argumentative method, but without the pernicious aspects of the adversarial approach. I find that students are far more comfortable doing this — and that they do more interesting philosophy this way. They’re more ready to take themselves to have the necessary standing to try to help the author than to go up against the author.

    The other reason I like this approach is that it allows for more than one ‘winner.’ In the adversarial approach, only one person can come out on top. When you’re working to improve someone’s argument with the mindset of acting as their friend, or cheering from their corner (whatever), then it can be a collaborative project: ‘winning’ is when the best argument has been crafted, not one person besting the other.

  29. Rebecca:

    For those of us who are not in Facebook and are interested in your response, would it be possible to copy-paste your response here? Thank you.

  30. @28

    I agree that “Lots of working class folks use college generally (and academia specifically [become philosophy professors?]) as a part of a deliberate project to transform their class status” is a claim that requires empirical evidence.

  31. Really? I took myself to be showing probably excessive modesty in including that disclaimer. I take it as pretty intuitively obvious that many working class folks go to college in order to move out of the working class and into a middle class lifestyle. Maybe empirical evidence would show otherwise, but I’d be surprised.

  32. My sense is that at least some of the conceptual distinctions here – esp. parsing differences between “adversarial” and “argumentative” – may miss the target. I think the most salient issue is politeness and civility, such that one can be either “adversarial” or “argumentative” in polite and rude ways. In other words, neither the adversarial nor the argumentative are prima facie problematic as modes of discourse. The trouble is when either (or some other approach) is styled toward rudeness, either through the content or manner in which one speaks.

    My own sense is that philosophers have largely neglected the importance of good manners, both as a moral issue and as a professional one. Socrates seems inevitably to come up in these sorts of discussions and I worry that the “father” of philosophy is taken as a heroic figure who is heroic in part because he punctures other people’s claims and, frankly, looks a bit cool doing it, not to mention brave since he does after all get killed for his trouble. It’s easy to *romanticize* the posture of the philosopher in this style, but far, far harder to emulate Socrates to good effect. Instead, we seem to end up with people who want to imagine they’re being “like Socrates” by “demolishing”, “attacking”, or ostensibly “charitably” disabusing others of flawed views. I study Confucius and am persistently struck by the difference in him qua “father” of a tradition. Yeah, he was brave and opposed the status quo, had brushes with death doing it. But if you read the Analects, what you find is that the text spends vanishingly little time describing these escapades or remarking the bravery of Confucius. Instead, there are whole stretches of text describing how polite he was: to the elderly, to superiors, to prospective students. How different might philosophy be if we romanticized *that*?

    Here’s something perhaps a bit more practical. When I discuss climate in my department’s session for beginning graduate students, I tell them that they ought self-consciously cultivate the view that in philosophy we’re pursuing ideas together, with the shared aim of developing meaningful insight into whatever in particular we consider. When they hear a speaker and see that the speaker’s effort has failed or is compromised, I suggest they ought strive to cultivate regret followed by appreciation, thinking along the lines: “Damn! I really wish this argument had worked out, but even the argument’s flaws will aid in developing better directions.” Only after thinking this, after trying to *feel* regret that an argument hasn’t succeeded (since we ought all want them to succeed!) should they lodge whatever objection they wish to make. My hope is that this positions them toward politeness and, I have to say, I have enjoyed some really collegial seminars where students seem to have earnestly taken this on board.

  33. Well, if all you think “working class” is just an income bracket, then it is obviously the case that people go to college to leave the working class (I would be more suspicious of the claim that people become humanities professors to do so!). I doubt, however, that many people go to college with the aim of losing the cultural aspect of their working class status. And it is the cultural part that is analogous to the status of women in the philosophy profession.

  34. Yeah, I’d still maintain that many people to go college with the aim of losing the cultural aspect of their working class status. I think this is especially true in rural America (though I’ve also seen it among some urban working class folks). I knew plenty of people who would have sold their souls to get out of my home town and its cultural life.

  35. There are also people who consciously attempt to lose certain aspects of working class culture (e.g., vocabulary, regional accents, social attitudes, product preferences, etc.).

  36. Rebbeca – in the Facebook thread (which I cannot put this comment on), you state that ‘It is really interesting to me that everyone keeps talking about the ‘adversarial method’. I very very carefully did NOT use that word in my interview. I said ‘critical dialogical method’ and I chose my words carefully.’ But in the interview you said that ‘a high premium on verbal sparring and cleverness, and a fundamentally critical dialogical method, have been central to philosophy since its birth, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.’ Perhaps you meant ‘verbal sparring’ to imply dialogue that’s primarily cooperative rather than dialogue that’s primarily adversarial, but surely ‘verbal sparring’ implies competitive dialogue much more than it implies cooperative dialogue. If so, then it hardly seems surprising that people reading it are interpreting this as, at least in part, a defense of the adversarial method. (I think I disagree with the core point as well, but it seems like you think this is a far fetched interpretation of what you said, which doesn’t seem particularly fair to me.)

  37. Yes, sparring was one of several conjuncts there, and when you spar (but not necessarily when you are being clever, or dialogical, or tenacious…) you have an adversary. But the ‘adversarial method’ is a technical term and that was not what I was defending as some sort of privileged philosophical methodology.

    By the way the facebook thread is public and I think anyone can comment on it. At least I hope so.

  38. I don’t disagree that you weren’t trying to defend the adversarial method – that’s very clear from what’s been said since. However, I don’t think this is as clear from the terms used in the original interview, which as I said above at least doesn’t seem like an implausible reading of what you’re referring to when you defend ‘verbal sparring’ (which just doesn’t seem to fit as well with non-adversarial methods to my ears). Also, I can’t comment on the Facebook page, though I can see it. This might be some kind of issue with my own settings.

  39. Right. Well, I think I will have to default back to the “provide evidence that philosophy professors from the working class stop identifying with the working class upon receiving a phd and job (or earlier)” angle because I think that is a pretty absurd thing to believe (perhaps less so in America, for obvious reasons). I think it would be a huge mistake to think that working class people problems can somehow be boiled down to income difficulties, much in the same way “women make X less money than men” is a pretty poor explanation of sexism. But this is just my anecdotal experience and those eg from the book I noted above. Hopefully most professors from the working class do not have to deal with the same pressures that keep working class people out of college in the first place (if only because they have managed to abandon their past).

  40. Rebecca:

    When I click on your link to your response in Facebook, I need to enter my Facebook account and password.

    I could create a Facebook account under a false name and maybe I will one of these days. It would be fun to invent a biography for myself and to disinform those who collect data from Facebook, but until then, I have no way to read what you write.

  41. Verbal sparring can be great fun to watch, for those of us who aren’t particularly good at it (Rebecca kicks ass at it). I’ve never minded that–in fact, I enjoy it–but I have frequently minded, and been turned off by, the kind of sparring that is basically frat-boy behavior in which the lads scramble to prove to each other who has the longest penis. I’ve seen plenty of that at APA sessions and it not only says Women Not Welcome, it also says Black Men and Working-Class Men Not Welcome. If philosophy is truly going to be hospitable to everyone who can make the moves, it has to outgrow that kind of nonsense.

  42. I confess to being skeptical of the claim that there is a class problem in philosophy, or at least of the claim that there is one that’s not solely attributable to race and gender issues.

    For one, philosophy does a very good job, on the whole, of making one’s wealth a less relevant factor in one’s ability to attend grad school. No tuition, in addition to often generous TA and fellowship stipends (to the great envy of other disciplines), and loan accessibility can make it nearly irrelevant.

    Further, one does not typically wear one’s “class” in the way one does with race and gender – nor is it likely to come out in philosophical discussion. Certainly, it won’t be concluded from looking at professional philosophers that succeeding at philosophy requires a certain class background (at least not in the U.S.) And I, for one, would be interested to see examples of mainstream social or political philosophy that only upper class people would be interested in.

    At the very least we should get some empirical data on the class backgrounds of philosophers as a starting point.

  43. Like Matt, I am struggling to pin down the voice of 46. If it’s serious, I am kind of at a loss for how to begin to respond.

  44. Well, it wasn’t meant to be a joke.

    Maybe I’m missing something very obvious. Perhaps I’m relying overly on anecdotal experience, as no one I attended grad school with could even remotely be considered to have come from a background as beyond “middle class”, and more than a few from what might be considered poor.

    I’m certainly open to having my mind changed.

  45. I don’t feel like I can address this all in blog comment form so let me just focus on entry conditions. You say, “For one, philosophy does a very good job, on the whole, of making one’s wealth a less relevant factor in one’s ability to attend grad school. No tuition, in addition to often generous TA and fellowship stipends (to the great envy of other disciplines), and loan accessibility can make it nearly irrelevant.”

    – If you are responsible for helping support your parents, raising a child, keeping an out of work spouse in health insurance, etc., as many working class people are in their 20s, fellowship stipends are not only not generous, they are basically unlivable.

    – Many working class people simply can’t afford to risk spending their 20s at a pursuit that may well not get them any job at all at the end.

    – Many working class people can’t afford to leave their home area because of various responsibilities and family pressures.

    – Probably most obviously, disproportionately few working class folks, including very smart ones, will have gotten themselves a decent undergraduate education to start with. See here:

    – When they do, they are more likely to come out of cheap regional schools where grad school in the humanities is not even on the imaginative table, nor are they nearly as likely to have received the kind of preparation and encouragement to get them to the point where applying is a viable option.

    – They will have faced implicit biases and stigma because of how they talk, dress, etc for years – undergrad profs will be less likely to take them seriously, they will be less likely to take themselves seriously, etc.

    This is all about the barriers to making it to grad school in the first place, and obviously it is a really incomplete list – I am sure others will chime in. I’m too overwhelmed with stuff to say, at the moment, at the ways in which the experience of grad school is class-biased once one is there. Maybe I will write more later or others will take up the task.

  46. “Probably most obviously, disproportionately few working class folks, including very smart ones, will have gotten themselves a decent undergraduate education to start with. See here:

    When they do, they are more likely to come out of cheap regional schools where grad school in the humanities is not even on the imaginative table, nor are they nearly as likely to have received the kind of preparation and encouragement to get them to the point where applying is a viable option.”

    I have to imagine that part of the problem for poor and working class students is bias on the part of faculty at “elite” graduate schools, who regard the regional universities poor and working class students disproportionately attend as not “decent” or “cheap,” and who believe that the faculty at such schools are less likely to have offered them “the kind of preparation and encouragement to get them to the point where applying is a viable option.” Poor and working class students often can’t even get into the most well-regarded graduate programs because the faculty there do not respect their pedigree.

  47. I’d obviously second everything Rebecca said – those are lots of great points about entry barriers and the worries facing grad students. From my own perspective, the biggest one was the prospect of lost income from age 21 (when I graduated college) to 28 (when I got the Ph.D). Plenty of people from a working class background go to college for reasons of social and economic mobility. The prospect of attending grad school – no matter how good the stipend (which, at most places, is poverty-level) – represents the prospect of failing to be economically mobile and saddling oneself with debt for which there are no trust funds nor parental bailouts forthcoming.

    I’ll try to address the more controversial point about mainstream social/political philosophy. It’s actually a pretty difficult phenomenon to describe, because so much of it is just…I know it when I see it. There’s a great deal of philosophical work out there…disembodied reflection on concepts like citizenship or democracy, thought experiments in social and political philosophy, disproportionate focus on certain “luxury” issues in the mainstream literature…that assumes the reader is a middle-class or upper-class person. Again, it’s difficult to describe, but I see it a half-dozen times every time I go to a block of talks on mainstream social/political philosophy.

    Maybe someone else might chime in with some clearer examples.

  48. Pepe, all true. But let’s also be realists about the fact that in a big, underfunded and under-resourced regional state school with open or near-open admissions and armies of adjuncts teaching the classes, students, particularly those ‘marked’ as working class, really ARE less likely, on average, to get focused attention and decent preparation for grad school. It’s not merely a snobby perception thing.

  49. Lots to say here. But my initial post was obviously not very clear.

    The point I was making was about class problems specific to philosophy, in the context that philosophy has problems with regard to race and gender. These were being discussed together, after all. My point was that the kinds of things that lead to race and gender under-representation (structural things about the profession) do not seem to be there with regard to class.

    All of the points AK raises are correct, as barriers. But these are not unique at all to philosophy and would apply to any profession. And, I’d argue, philosophy does a better job of mitigating against these at the grad school level. Certainly better than law school, med school, and a whole host of other humanities programs.

    I had thought that one of the goals of the “What it’s like” blog (referenced by MD), was to point out how hostile philosophy is to women. Surely, the degree to which philosophy is hostile to poorer folks isn’t comparable – so much so that the word “hostile” seems misplaced. And as far as the philosophy itself, I would have thought that the profession was largely sympathetic to class-based philosophy, as opposed to feminist thought or race-related philosophy.

    It also doesn’t strike me as incredulous-stare-inducing to suggest that we inquire into how great the under-representation is. The stats on race and gender are (embarrassingly) clear. Let’s find out what they are for class.

  50. I take it that the goals of What it’s like, and consciousness-raising in general, are much less specific than that. The goal seems to be put issues of personal experience on the table so that people can gather the issues and think systematically about them. Describing the blog’s point as being to “point out how hostile philosophy is to women” is to describe merely one small part of the blog’s overall goal, I’d gather.

    In your original post, you suggested general skepticism about class problems in philosophy. I (and I’d say Rebecca, too) was trying to address some of those basic problems.

  51. I don’t know how you would measure class representation. It’s hard enough measuring race representation. I really don’t even know how one would go about starting to measure class, except perhaps via self-reporting, which has its own obvious pitfalls. For example, I would have no idea how to non-misleadingly categorize my own class background when I was in grad school; it was …. complicated, to put it mildly. In principle, stats are good, but it seems pretty crashingly obvious to me that philosophy (like most professions requiring a lot of education) is dominated by people from relatively privileged backgrounds, and that tons of smart kids with lots of potential from less privileged backgrounds get shut out or alienated. A more specific sense of the numbers would be nice but doesn’t strike me as super important.

  52. It’s not as though class issues disappear if one *does* choose philosophy from the position of an economically less advantaged background than is typical. I went to an elite college (– am quite sure I got in under ‘geographic distribution’, or at least that that’s what sealed the deal), as an emancipated minor. I think things have changed since, but at the time, Wellesley didn’t have a way of even recognizing that as a category of applicant for purposes of financial aid, so I went through college on loans. Still carry most of those loans, and will be infinitely slowly paying it off well into my 60s. Made it through grad school, got a tt job, and got tenure at a Leiter ranked place– so on the scale of luck in those ways, *incredibly* lucky.
    But economically, I am in a *radically* different situation than my peers. E.g. everyone but me and one junior person here (but only one of the junior people) owns their own home. A good number of them don’t even have mortgages anymore. A good number of them have two or more homes, one here and one somewhere else. Many of them have family money that has come in, and/or is still coming in (b/c the family gave them downpayments for their homes, sends them large checks, or for slightly older folks, because one or more family member with money has passed away and left it to them). I am not, and will never be, in anything like that position. I rent. I make the bills. (and yes, I still feel lucky to get to do philosophy for a living). If I’m able to buy a home, it will be either because I slowly manage to save up enough money over the next five or six years for a downpayment , or because some leftwing version of the Templeton Foundation suddenly comes on the scene & decides to give massive funds to peculiar Humeans.
    Concretely and professionally, this means things like this: even in my very very very lucky position, even with research funds (which quickly run out if one is professionally active) my ability to go to the conferences and give the talks I’ve been invited to give this very summer is going to rely on some serious financial scrambling, in lots of ways (applying for funds & hoping they come through, if they don’t, maybe taking out short-term loans). And yeah, in some ways, it’s *totally* a ‘world’s smallest violin’ situation– I *am* incredibly lucky to have the opportunities, to be now in middle age scrambling financially to do this, rather than to buy food. Nevertheless, it’s also true that my colleagues are in a completely different position–most of them don’t have to think more than a few seconds about whether they can afford to go to conferences or talks to which they’ve been invited. Or if they are thinking about “affording” to do so, they’re balancing doing that against buying fancy new furniture, or vacations, not against whether they’ll be able to make the rent and student loan payments come August. So, here I am, in almost all ways in one of the world’s *luckiest* positions, having in many ways ‘escaped’ my class background, and still, every day, that class background makes a difference, and makes a professionally relevant difference.

  53. Katy’s description could have been written by me just as well. I rent, I have no retirement savings, I will *never* inherit a cent from anyone and never had any family help of any kind no matter how tiny, I stress seriously over how I will send my son to college even with the tuition help Georgetown gives (and private colleges are out of the question), I never EVER travel except for work, etc. Like Katy I feel incredibly lucky, but will never, ever, ever be in the financial situation of the overwhelming number of my peers.

    And that goes along with a whole host of harder to pin down but equally real identity and social culture issues and disconnects of all sorts, too.

  54. Two things: first, in addition to the sorts of things that Matt, Katy, and Rebecca point out, I think it’s important to note that there is still a hell of a lot of overt classism going on in philosophy. I notice it all the time, though it is often hard to tangibly describe, since much of it comes in a similar package to the sort of sexism and racism that is hard to tangibly describe. But a few tangible cases: one, the graduate students in my former department had a “white trash” party one year where everyone had to come dressed as “white trash”. As I hope anyone can imagine, what ensued was incredibly offensive and some of us were completely disgusted. But trying to explain why it was offensive was met with a brick wall. Two, an extremely distinguished feminist philosopher gave a talk in my department last year, at which, in the midst of talking about slurs and their harmfulness, she used “redneck” as a derogatory term to pick out someone she had seen on the subway in New York behaving in a racist manner (almost no philosopher I have ever spoken to understands that the term is incredibly offensive when used in such a manner, *even if* people self-identify as rednecks–which is what they always point to when I try to explain this to them). This philosopher at least caught herself using the slur, and saw the irony, but I personally completely shut off at that point in the talk. Point is, even amongst people who would never be caught dead saying something really overtly racist or sexist, saying something overtly classist is still normal in many cases (I witness it all the time).

    Second thing: cultural capital is a real thing. Those of us from different kinds of class backgrounds *really do*, at least in my experience, have to work harder to understand and implement the kinds of social behaviors that are expected, and to be able to discuss such topics, which I frequently end up in discussions of, as: wine, “foodie” stuff (expensive restaurants, expensive food products, etc.), classical music, architecture, painting, etc. Those of us who aren’t used to talking about such things, didn’t grow up learning about them and having them a part of our cultural experience, are seriously *socially* disadvantaged in such conversations–and we all know that those conversations can often be what matters in terms of getting opportunities/being liked by senior people/getting jobs. (At least some people probably saw the Smoker post last year or so where a faculty member wrote in the comments that she voted against extending a job offer to someone because he or she didn’t know which fork to use at the dinner table, or something like that… it’s hazy.)

  55. One other thing somewhat related to my second point: life is easier, psychologically, the more people you have around you who have had similar experiences, childhoods, etc. Making friends is easier if those friends have similar backgrounds/experiences to you. Having friends, and a support system, is incredibly important in academia. If you are in a position where no one, or almost no one, in your grad program, or on the faculty you are a member of, has had remotely similar life experiences to you outside of academia, then you are going to feel more alienated/alone/unable to develop the sorts of relationships that are much easier for others to develop, simply because you have nothing in common with those people outside of academia. Of course this is a problem on many fronts, not just the class one (I’ve heard a number of students who come to grad programs from other, non-well-represented countries voice it, for example), but it is another stumbling block that people who come from backgrounds outside the middle and upper class face in academia.

  56. I think all this is very well-said, AGS, and exactly right. On a similar note, there are skills at talking to deans and donors and the like that I will simply never have.

  57. also, in response to ajkreider at 46 “Further, one does not typically wear one’s “class” in the way one does with race and gender…”: in the UK, I’d say class is performed audibly and visibly in ways which are pretty similar to race and gender, and for the most part just as unavoidably. It’s true that in the US I couldn’t guess people’s class as reliably, but presumably that’s partly lack of familiarity. (Though you pretty quickly learn that the whiteness and straightness of someone’s teeth are a significant marker of class.)

  58. Ah, yes. The teeth. Was just thinking that. The costs of looking middle-class for a woman can be quite prohibitive to completely out of reach. The fact that that a high maintenance life-style is so often framed as “taking care of oneself” and treated as something that merely requires the time, effort, and care speaks volumes about how much the middle and upper class take money and disposable income for granted.

    In my college years I asked a coworker how it was that so many people we knew had money to travel. I lived like a monk, worked for the some wages that these people worked for, yet I could not for the life me see how they did it. His answer was, “Trust funds.” When I realized that so many of my “working class” acquaintances were actually wealthy a lot fell in to place. I felt betrayed and like I had been a working class “pet” —- the “real deal.”

  59. @62 and those who agreed:

    Some of these generalizations (#62) seem a bit much, right? Many from the “middle and upper class” (#62) have radically unusual life experiences, are so-called ‘fat and ugly,’ are transgender, or have other impediments (below) to talking to Deans, wine tasting, making friends, gaining acceptance, etc.

    I guess, having been bulimic and alienated and teased my whole life (boo hoo, I know), it is so awkward to see “redneck” or architecture and classical music listed as true grievances (relevant to alienation), listed in the same posts/paragraphs as racist hatespeech! Another way of saying it is: I see such great reasons R.Kukla’s son should grow up without financial worries, and such great reasons some struggling kid should be able to go into philosophy. I am willing to put aside my own fears and insecurities and fight for those things, even in this competitive, stressful world, and those reasons make reading this blog valuable and redemptive.

    I can’t say I feel the same way about some of the grievances you listed. I think hearing them listed as grievances, under the assumption they count as peculiar alienation, or that they count as some radically different life experience and discomfort above that which any human would know (humans who you take to all the same (apparently) in their life experiences)…hearing this does not compel people to step outside of themselves, particularly if they perceive their own alienation as having been very difficult as well.

    Apologies for the anonymous post (bulimia embarassing.) Thanks all for the discussion, and I am ashamed of myself when seeing how thoughtful and considerate all of you are about these issues.

  60. I’m not sure at what point I suggested that the “grievances” I listed were supporting some claim that no one else in philosophy had any grievances or experienced any alienation. That’s because I didn’t suggest that. I was pointing out, in the second post, ways in which class contributes to alienation in philosophy, and in the first post, examples of overt classist things that I witnessed. I think I successfully did that. I made no claims about the relative harms of such overt classism vs. overt racism, sexism, etc.

    But, in addition, it’s not my job to “compel people to step outside of themselves, particularly if they perceive their own alienation as having been very difficult as well”, and I’m tired of being told that it is. I feel this way also about gender and race stuff. If I directly and clearly state exactly what sort of behaviour someone is engaging in that is racist, or sexist, or classist, I often get told (both by allies and non-allies) that I am not “helping” nor “doing what’s most likely to create change in these people” because I am making people uncomfortable/defensive. If you are unhappy with my very clear statement of some of the barriers people not from middle/upper class backgrounds face, and if you want to minimize the things I said by trying to compare them to things that you think actually matter (bulimia, racism (both of which, by the way, I think matter, a lot)), then go ahead. I’m not here to convince you that there’s a problem if you are already convinced that people from the working class are just whining about their problems, which can’t possibly be as bad as your own problems. I’m not here to get in a war about whose personal life problems are worse, mine or yours. That was not the point of my post. Everyone feels alienated for some reason or other. Everyone has had difficult life experiences. It’s not always the job of the person who is pointing out systematic injustice (which I think there is in the case of class issues, both in philosophy and in academia as a whole) to helpfully relate it to her interlocutor’s experience and make sure that she emphasizes that it’s probably not as bad as what her interlocutor has been through.

    Finally, the “it’s not as bad as racism” card has been played A LOT by people who were trying to reinforce sexist norms, both in our profession and in more general social discourse. I hope that we can all see what is wrong with playing that card when we are dealing with a systematic injustice, and try to not play it in other cases (e.g. ablism, classism).

  61. “if you are already convinced that people from the working class are just whining about their problems, which can’t possibly be as bad as your own problem”

    I made no general statement about the working class (I was clearly talking about YOU, and to a much lesser extent #63), and your modal operator’s completely inappropriate (of course they could “possibly” be as bad, and I made EXTREMELY clear the problems that are, and I am even today helping to fix them.) This quote of yours was, to put it nicely, not completely fair to my original post.

    That aside, after reading your post I want to apologize to you, or anyone who was offended (I am not just apologizing that you were offended. I am apologizing for my words.) I agree totally with your last sentence and will try to do better. My ENTIRE ISSUE was that you blithely assumed only certain people would have trouble making friends or fitting in (which, face it, you did…and you have now in this new post retracted that claim and made a more amiable and plausible sounding claim. Thank you.)

    Per Dr. Jacobson’s usual suggestion, I will not post anymore in the interest of the comments’ integrity. Best of luck to you, Anon.

  62. “Finally, the “it’s not as bad as racism” card has been played A LOT by people who were trying to reinforce sexist norms, both in our profession and in more general social discourse. I hope that we can all see what is wrong with playing that card when we are dealing with a systematic injustice, and try to not play it in other cases (e.g. ablism, classism).”

    So it is clear this is to what I was referring. Very well said and I will try to do better.

  63. “My ENTIRE ISSUE was that you blithely assumed only certain people would have trouble making friends or fitting in (which, face it, you did…and you have now in this new post retracted that claim and made a more amiable and plausible sounding claim. Thank you.)”

    Please read my comment #62 and point to where I assumed that. I explicitly stated that this was a problem on many different fronts, and not exclusively a class issue. I am not retracting a single thing that I said in either comment.

  64. Philosopher, you write:

    “this (demonstrative with which you refer to “alienated/alone/unable”) is…another stumbling block that people who come from backgrounds (some of which you list) outside the middle and upper class face in academia.”

    So the form of the claim is “X is a stumbling block that people who come from Y outside Z face.” So the assumption (for which you ask) is that people from within Z do not face X (this must be the assumption, or the assertion loses meaning.) This claim is trivially false when X is alienation (unless you mean only a certain kind of alienation faced by those from Y, but that was the whole issue! Alienation of any kind is incompatible with the claim.) And you cannot wiggle out of this by, as you did in your last post, substituting anything in for X (look at your HORRIBLY unfair quote from 69) and accusing me of that which I quoted in 69 (which you apparently will not retract, unfair though it was. Comment?)

    Now to your new post:

    “Everyone feels alienated for one reason or another,” using the operators and their meanings above, means roughly “Everyone feels X.” Thus, it is a “retraction” in the familiar sense of the word. QED, and the “pointing to” for which you asked. It was just this small quote of yours which made me feel better, and you should feel good that we have reconciled over the matter. I am truly sorry for the other things I said and I hope we can get along in the future on this board. You are clearly a very thoughtful person and I appreciate you helping me to think about these issues. But if you persist in saying every sentence you’ve made is fair (69) and coherent (above), I don’t know what else to say. Let’s agree to stop, OK?

  65. It’s clear that what is important to you is to “win” this exchange. That’s not what I’m here for. I almost never post on blogs, and I did here because this issue is important to me and because I feel like it is completely invisible to most philosophers. I hope everyone reads my earlier posts, takes them seriously, and, more importantly, takes seriously what others (especially Rebecca, Katy, Matt) have been saying here. Thanks a bunch, Rebecca, for sparking this discussion!

  66. The reasoning above seems pretty weird to me. If I say “x is a problem for group y (where z is the more typical non-y group)” then your thought is that this implies that x isn’t also a problem for those in group z, or other subgroups in z. But that seems false. For example, “diabetes is a problem for those who are obese” seems true, even though it’s just that we see elivated levels of diabetes among the obese rather than no diabetes among the non-obese. Similarly “cold weather is a problem for those with Reynaud’s syndrome” seems true even though it just that people with Reynaud’s syndrome face a more extreme problem when it’s cold than those without the syndrome (even if everyone finds cold weather problematic in some less extreme form). These assertions certainly don’t seem to lose meaning, and class-based problems certainly seem like they could be analogous to the “x is a problem more often/to a greater extent for group y” structure.

  67. Agreed with A, on the reasoning, and agreed with Anonymous grad student that this exchange has developed into a contest, whether intentionally or no, and agree with NonPhilosophy Grad that agreeing to stop is very much okay. So let’s move along here. I want to add, though, that whether the exchanges between commenters have always been kind, they have at least aimed for serious consideration of important issues.

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