Gendered Metaphysics Textbooks

Carrie Ichikawa Jenkins has sent us this guest post:

This year I had to stop using the metaphysics textbook I used in previous years (Crane and Farkas, Metaphysics: A Guide and Anthology, OUP 2004), as it features no papers or book extracts by women. Although there is introductory material written by the editors (one of whom is a woman), of its 54 selected readings zero are by women. I couldn’t in good conscience present this book to any more of my students as their introduction to metaphysics. I looked around when I was preparing my course this year for a more representative alternative, but I couldn’t find anything. So this year I’m using a selection of readings I’ve curated myself. I’m wondering what options I have for next year; I’ve been informed of the /Routledge Companion to Metaphysics/, which does include some articles by women (9 out of 53, I understand) but this collection doesn’t line up ideally with the topics I would like to teach in my course, and 9:44 is still not a great ratio. I also know that Elizabeth Barnes is currently editing /Current Controversies in Metaphysics/ for Routledge, and that Alyssa Ney is preparing a metaphysics text and accompanying anthology (also with Routledge). I’m looking forward to checking these out when they are published and I’m optimistic that one or both of these will help me in future years. Is there anything else I should know about?

I’m writing this post partly to get help for myself (and for others whom I know to be in a similar position), and also partly because I’d love it if academic presses could be encouraged to bear this sort of consideration in mind when commissioning and publishing textbooks in the future. The more we can raise to salience the fact that academics take this issue seriously when making textbook choices, the clearer it is that publishers have a reason to care about it as well.

17 thoughts on “Gendered Metaphysics Textbooks

  1. It would be helpful to have analogous threads on epistemology and philosophy of mind anthologies as well. I decided not to use Neta and Pritchard’s _Arguing about Knowledge_ for this very reason (1 woman out of 44), and Sosa, Kim, Fantl, and McGrath’s _Epistemology: An Anthology_ is better but not great (9 out of 60). As for philosophy of mind, I’ve used Chalmers’ _Philosophy of Mind: Classical and Contemporary Readings_ (2 out 63), and I haven’t had the time to investigate alternatives…

  2. Admittedly, I’m partly motivated by the fact that I teach at places where I’m concerned that the high prices of textbooks are an issue for the students, but these days I exclusively use readings which can be found on the web or at least online at the school’s library. It is true that for intro classes I would sometimes like to have essays specifically targeted at the introductory level, and those are the least likely to be available online, but it’s generally possible to find some writings that aren’t too horribly technical and I can of course write up some background myself and put it on handouts to set up the topics. There are things I like about textbooks, but I definitely don’t see them as worth the cost these days.

  3. Try finding a balanced anthology in the philosophy of science. One fairly recent one clocks in at over 650 pages and has not a single piece authored by a woman. I also make use of materials already available online and in our university library. I used to have trouble getting students to bring these readings to class, but now they just load them onto their phones or e-readers.

  4. Hi all,

    I can’t think of any with a very healthy ratio, but on the assumption anything’s infinitely better than 0%, you could consider:

    Contemporary Debates in Metaphysics (Sider, Hawthorne, Zimmerman): 2 women out of 18
    Reading Metaphysics: 2 women out of 12 authors, plus really substantive commentaries by editors Helen Beebee and Julian Dodds.

    Quickly browsing a number of the standard anthologies just now, it’s striking how many papers reappear again and again, which seems pretty boring even aside from the gender issue.


  5. Agreeing with RR — the standard Curd-Cover-Pincock anthology in philosophy of science has 4/52 women. I just assign PDFs without using a reader. The new Gillian Barker & Philip Kitcher intro text from OUP looks good though.

  6. My students access the vast majority, if not all, of the reading material for my courses on course websites in the form of PDF files of journal articles and books chapters (in accordance with my interpretation of copyright law). If certain readings are too difficult (perhaps leading other people in this comments thread to want a textbook or an “introduction” section of an anthology, then – in those cases what always works best for me – I just lecture on/discuss the material before those assigned readings – and, more generally, assign readings in carefully selected orders that build upon one another. If really necessary (though I do not find the need for this) and remembering not to violate your interpretation of copyright law, you can always put PDF copies of textbook or anthology introductory chapters on course websites (and get the rest of your reading material from other sources regarding copyright law). This saves trees, money, and allows me efficiently to use precisely the readings that I find most suitable – including considerations related to gender balance or just excellent work by women authors that often/usually does not appear in anthologies. Just my two cents…

    Actually, in 2004 I recycled about 20,000 photocopied journal articles/book chapters and now only read/access digital writings; I still have a thousand or two hard/paper copy books, though I will probably recycle most of them soon too. Most things post-1997 or so are available digitally one way or another (and most good pre-1997 material available at least as images within some digital format). The most frustrating thing (for me) about going all digital like this is the large number of new monographs each year that are not available/for sale in ebook format. I personally read everything published in PDF format (mostly with Adobe Acrobat/Reader or Adobe Digital Editions), finding ways to do so with or without the easy cooperation of Adobe Digital Editions (as opposed to a Nook or Kindle App, for instance). Only rarely nowadays do I buy a hard/paper copy of a book – when I cannot obtain a digital draft from the author or find the chapters in former journal article form, for instance. Just my two cents…

    Edit/addition – Oh, I just saw Trevor’s comment #6 about just assigning PDFs – agreement here.

  7. Add me to 6 and 7. Why use a textbook anthology when you can get the readings online, and put together a customized selection of all and only those you want? It can be done legally–and librarians and others can help with copyright issues if there are problems. The trick is to package the readings in such a way that’s convenient for students. You put up the readings at the class website with links to wherever, so that wherever they are the end-user just hits them and gets the pdf.

    It isn’t just that anthologies are, at best, light on women. The larger issue is that you can’t determine the selections. So because you need to justify having the students buy the book you’re pressed to use selections that you might not, ideally, choose. For both Analytic Phil and Metaphysics courses I just link the online articles and book selections to the class website. That’s the textbook. For history of philosophy there’s no reason to do anything else since all the stuff is in the public domain and all over the internet. And Jonathan Bennett’s early modern site is a suburb resource!

  8. I, too, have completely stopped using textbooks. All my readings are available online for free.

  9. I’ve stopped using textbooks for almost all of my courses for these and related reasons.

  10. Impressive list, Christy. I am very glad you didn’t go in for the hierarchical rank ordering.

  11. I know this isn’t metaphysics, but since this thread might become a repository for gender-balanced reading lists in general, I’m posting the syllabus I produced for a course called ‘Probability and Rationality’ at Bristol last year. As a couple of people have suggested, I decided to abandon the anthologies altogether and just use PDFs. This allowed me to set very very recent work (some draft manuscripts, even!) and it avoided the problem of trying to track down a gender-balanced anthology:

  12. Also worth bearing in mind Philosophy Compass. Many of the papers there can play a role similar to what you’d find in a textbook. And the metaphysics section has a pretty good gender balance, I’m happy to say. (Not to suggest that any other sections don’t: it’s just that metaphysics was what was being asked about, and it’s the section I know about!)

  13. Cynthia MacDonald has a single-authored textbook, Varieties of Things: Foundations of Contemporary Metaphysics (Blackwell: 2005).

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