Open Courseware

This isn’t news, but a lot of folks don’t know about this wonderful resource yet: Course lessons from a number of universities are free and open to the public online. For example, open courseware materials from the MIT Department of Linguistics and Philosophy can be found here.  Philosophy courses from Notre Dame are available here.  A list of institutional sites for OCW material is here, via the Open Courseware Consortium. And, of course, this is not just limited to philosophy courses. If you want to, e.g., watch a series of lectures on physics, you can do that too.

The Burka Avenger

Pakistani heroine Burka Avenger is a mild-mannered teacher with secret martial arts skills.
She uses a flowing black burka to hide her identity as she fights local thugs seeking to shut down the girls’ school where she works.


Thanks, S!

Reader query: pronouns and historical texts

I had a question which I thought might be of interest to discuss on the blog.

Normally I work on contemporary political philosophy and I standardly use “she” or “her” whenever I can. But I am now trying to write a historical piece that deals with a political philosopher who uses “man” to refer to “people” and only uses the male pronouns “he”, “him”, etc.

Looking around the literature the standard thing to do seems to be to follow the practice of the original philosopher, because they don’t want to appear anachronistic. But this seems unsatisfactory to me, since it just reproduces the sexism of the original. But I’m not sure sticking to the language I would use for contemporary philosophy is a perfect option either.

Are there any thoughts on how to get around this, or what is a good compromise?

Pregnant protesters in Ankara and Istanbul.

Wednesday night, a lawyer and Sufi intellectual spoke out on Turkish national tv against the presence of seven and eight months’ pregnant women in public places. He found that their ‘flaunting’ of their big bellies was immoral, lacking in respect and aesthetically unpleasant. If pregnant women must go out in their third trimester, let their husbands take them out for evening drives.

Turkish women immediately responded by staging protests in Istanbul and Ankara last night, showing off pregnant bellies, or – if they didn’t have them – bellies strapped with pillows. Their hashtag is #direnhamile (#resistpregnant).

Let’s hope the police doesn’t decide to spray them with tear gas!

More appalling news from Russia


So, the crusade against LGBT folks continues in Russia. The Gaily Grind reports that Russian Neo Nazis have been creating fake profiles on dating sites to lure in gay teenagers. When the young men turn up for a date, they are tortured and humiliated. Their treatment is videoed and publicised, outing them to family, friends, and the wider community. Unsurprisingly, the victims are deeply traumatized and many have committed suicide.

Infamous Russian ultra-nationalist and former skin head, Maxim Martsinkevich, known under the nickname “Cleaver” (or “Tesak” in Russian) spearheaded a country wide campaign against LGBT teens using a popular social network to lure unsuspected victims through personal ads. Mr. Martsinkevich’s numerous and enthusiastic followers started two projects: “Occupy Pedophilyaj” and “Occupy Gerontilyaj”. Allegedly they are trying to identify and report pedophiles using these “movements”. In reality, over 500 online groups have been created inside social network in order to organize illegal militant groups in every Russian city. Oddly enough their idea of fighting pedophiles targets exclusively male teenagers who respond to the same-sex personal ads and show up for a date. Captured victims are bullied and often tortured while being recorded on video.

You can read more here.

This week’s Monkey Medal goes to…

…the major of Reykjavik, Jón Gnarr, who has decided to cut ties with Moscow over Russia’s treatment of LGBT people. Moscow and Reykjavik had agreed to co-operate on family issues, according to a contract drawn up in 2007. But Reykjavik city council have now issued the following statement:

In light of the developments concerning the affairs of gay, bisexual and transsexual people that have taken place in Russia over the last few months, the district attorney, Human Rights Office, Office of the Mayor of Reykjavík, and City of Reykjavík chief administrative officer propose amendments or the termination of the collaboration agreement between Reykjavík and Moscow, in cooperation with the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

What can I say except, Bravo!

Here is Mr. Gnarr addressing the crowds at gay pride:
Photo from the Guardian.

And here he is riding a truck bearing a Free Pussy Riot banner:

Photo from Twister Sifter.

You can read more from Gay Star News.

Gender Composition of Scholarly Publications by Field

This is a wonderful resource. Looking up philosophy on the linked page, I found that women were only 9.4% of authors of scholarly publications in philosophy. But then I realised that the date range was 1665-2011. Surely the earlier centuries explained that low percentage. So I clicked on 1990-2011, expecting much higher. And, well it was higher. By 3%. Yup. We’re still only at 12%. (UDPATE: Sorry, did I see 3% increase? It’s only 2.6.)

BGND Philosophy of Religion Conference 2013

I wanted to draw attention to the Baylor-Georgetown-Notre Dame Philosophy of Religion Conference, this year, taking place October 3-5 at Notre Dame. It’s got a fabulous line-up and lots of women on the program.

Here’s the conference program:


Thursday, Oct. 3

    • 2:30 p.m. – 2:40 p.m.: Welcome
    • 2:40 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.: Pamela Anderson (Oxford) – “Making Sense of Things: Why Metaphysics Matters to Analytic Theology”
    • 4:10 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.: Jon Kvanvig (Baylor) – “Affective Faith and Its Cognitive Dimension”
    • Dinner

Friday, Oct. 4

    • Breakfast (starting at 8:30 a.m. outside the conference room)
    • 10:30 a.m. – 11:50 a.m.: Pat Kain (Purdue) – “God, Good, and Kant”
    • 11:50 – 1:20 p.m.: Lunch
    • 1:20 p.m. – 2:40 p.m.: Jeff Speaks (Notre Dame) – “The Greatest Possible Being”
    • Free time* and Dinner

Saturday, Oct. 5

    • Breakfast (starting at 9:30 a.m. outside the conference room)
    • 10:00 a.m. – 11:20 a.m.: Roger White (MIT) – “Teleological Explanations and Arguments”
      • Commentator: Elizabeth Miller (Harvard)
    • 11:30 a.m. – 12:50 a.m.: Shieva Kleinschmidt (USC) – “Reasoning without the Principle of Sufficient Reason”
    • 12:50 a.m. – 2:20 p.m.: Lunch
    • 2:20 p.m. – 3:40 p.m.: Charity Anderson (Oxford) – “Pragmatic Encroachment, Stakes, and Religious Knowledge
    • ​3:50 p.m. – 5:10 p.m.: Jennifer Lackey (Northwestern) – “Religious Belief and the Epistemology of Testimony”
    • Free time and Dinner

*All conference participants are welcome and encouraged to attend Susanna Schellenberg‘s colloquium on Fri., Oct 4 from 3:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. in 220 Malloy Hall.

Aesthetics for Birds to offer diverse lineup of guests this fall

Philosophers of science have argued that having a diverse community of researchers can help promote the objectivity of scientific communities and minimize the negative influences of explicit and implicit biases in scientific reasoning. Much of this is grounded in work on cases in the history of science where well-intentioned but homogeneous communities of scientists made problematic context-based assumptions, adopted unwarranted stereotypes, or reasoned in ways that were limited by their own experiences, values, and interests.

But is there any reason that this epistemic justification for diversity should be limited to the sciences?

Wouldn’t a group of researchers working in, say, aesthetics and philosophy of art, benefit just as much from the sorts of diversity that are likely to minimize context-based assumptions and unwarranted stereotypes?

The line-up of guest bloggers and philosophers/artists to be interviewed on the Aesthetics for Birds blog this fall provides a good example of a relatively diverse community of researchers, including both academics and non-academics and both junior and senior philosophers from a broad range of private and public universities. It will be interesting to see what new ideas emerge from the mix!