Support the APA!

Here’s an important message from Sally Haslanger:

As you may know, the APA has been going through some important and positive changes. I have just returned from the November Board of Officers meeting and believe there is tremendous good will for improving the situation for women, minorities, and other underrepresented groups in the profession.

However, one major roadblock is that the APA is still barely breaking even financially (which is better than it was before!). We need a strong National Office in order to make positive change, but a strong National Office that is positioned to take action costs money.

I realize that in the recent past many have stopped renewing their membership to the APA (or have never become members at all). This is totally understandable. I urge you, however, to become a member (or renew) at this crucial time. Your membership may be tax deductible, and in some schools you can be reimbursed for the cost. Here is the membership link:

Even more to the point, the new APA website has an option that allows you to make donations to a fund for diversity and inclusiveness.
So far, very few have taken advantage of this opportunity. But this is where we can really make a difference. Small (and large!) contributions add up. Donations will go to supporting proposals that the APA is not currently in a position to fund. If you are an APA member, you will also soon be notified of a Request for Proposals from the APA to support substantial efforts to address these issues.

Please consider making a donation and, through your networks, urge others to do so as well. You may not be positioned to organize a program that increases diversity and inclusiveness – few of us are! – but let us together support those who can make a difference to our profession.

Thanks, in advance,
President, Eastern APA

Some good advice

The wonderful Math Babe has some really great advice for a student who’s worried she isn’t ‘good at math’ because she isn’t fast at math. Replace talk of math with talk of philosophy and this makes some damn good advice for philosophy as well.

Ignore your surroundings, ignore the math competitions, and especially ignore the annoying kids who care about doing fast math. They will slowly recede as you go to college and as high school algebra gives way to college algebra and then Galois Theory. As the math gets awesomer, the speed gets slower.

And in terms of your identity, let yourself fancy yourself a mathematician, or an astronaut, or an engineer, or whatever, because you don’t have to know exactly what it’ll be yet. But promise me you’ll take some math major courses, some real ones like Galois Theory (take Galois Theory!) and for goodness sakes don’t close off any options because of some false definition of “good at math” or because some dude (or possibly dudette) needs to care about knowing everything quickly. Believe me, as you know more you will realize more and more how little you know.

One last thing. Math is not a competitive sport. It’s one of the only existing truly crowd-sourced projects of society, and that makes it highly collaborative and community-oriented, even if the awards and prizes and media narratives about “precocious geniuses” would have you believing the opposite. And once again, it’s been around a long time and is patient to be added to by you when you have the love and time and will to do so.


I know a lot of great philosophers who are fast philosophers. I know a lot of great philosophers who are slow philosophers. And I know a whole spectrum in between. But it frustrates the hell out of me when I hear it said of a philosopher that he – almost invariably he – is ‘just so fast!’ like it’s some intellectual virtue I should care about.

Work, Favors, Gratitude, and Reciprocity

Gratitude isn’t just good manners, it may be key to registering the work of others and the favors they do for us. A new study from the Columbia Business School suggests women’s work activities and the informal favors that sustain effective networking are not as often registered as work or as favors for which reciprocal responses, much less gratitude, should be expected. See here:

Gender segregation for Turkish students.

The Turkish PM Erdogan is in touch with what his people want. Worried about mothers and fathers’ feeling, and what the neighbours might think, he is pushing for separate dorms for male and female university students.

But what about male and female students who live together in private housing without being married? If neighbours complain, then the police should look into it.

Answering a journalist’s complaint that this wouldn’t be legal, especially if the students in question are over 18, the PM replied that

his government would, if necessary, push for legal changes to allow the inspection of houses where male and female students live together.

Read the rest of this debacle here.

Campaigning for gender balance in textbooks

If like me, you teach first year intro courses in a department that makes a big deal out of being analytic, you know that it’s not very easy to find a textbook that works from the point of view of gender balance. Two that were recently advertised here and here didn’t quite make the cut as far as mainstream analytic philosophy was concerned for us.  So what can we do ? Well, textbooks that sell tend to be revised regularly. This is the case with the one I’m using : Perry, Bratman and Fischer’s Introduction to Philosophy. Although they have been adding work by women over the last few editions, there is still a great imbalance. So I wrote to the authors, directing them to this report.

They all three responded very positively, saying they agreed that this was an important matter and that they would strive to include more women in future editions. Let’s see how that works out (watch this space !)

But here’s a thought : ‘mainstream’ textbooks do tend to be edited regularly. So why not get in touch whenever we’re not happy with the gender balance ? Sounds like campaign to me.

Shakuntala Devi, the Human Calculator (1929-2013)

If you’re wondering who Google was honoring today on their search page, it was Shakuntala Devi, also known as India’s human calculator. In addition to being famous for her stunning mathematical ability, she also authored The World of Homosexuals, in which she wrote,

When we have arrived at a concept of morality and ethics in interpersonal relationships according to which the dignity of the human condition is respected, we would have ascended to a higher plane of morality in which only hatred is condemned, never love. Then we will have a saner and more healthy society and also a more enlightened sexual morality.

Stop saying sorry

“Over-apologising among women is so prevalent that there is even a drama group dedicated to helping women become more assertive and stop saying sorry. At a Feminism in London 2013 conference at the weekend, a workshop aimed to “explore how we women can find ourselves and our voices to enjoy a place in the world, rather than play under it”.”

From “The nine things women can’t stop saying sorry for” in the Independent. Read the rest of the article and the list of things women should stop apologizing for here.


Those French bastards

Not my choice of words, but the (accurate) Independent’s translation for the Manifesto signed last week by 343 ‘Salauds’ demanding the right to have sex with prostitutes.

It’s bad enough that they should claim this right, in the light of a proposed revision of the law which would punish the client, not the provider, but their appellation is drawn from the  1971 group who fought for the right to abortion. The 343 ‘salopes’ including Simone de Beauvoir, Catherine Deneuve, Francoise Sagan, Agnes Varda and many more, not only argued for the right to abortion, but came out as having had an abortion themselves , thus risking trouble with the law. (The men who signed the petition didn’t all admit to having sex with prostitutes – they wouldn’t want to sully their image. )

This is horribly shameful, and the surviving original salopes have made it clear that they think so.

Oh, and one of the signatories was DSK’s lawyer.