Contessa Responds to Worries About LCC

You can read his post here.

“About a week ago I wrote a post in which I proposed a Languaged Conference Campaign to highlight the underrepresentation of non-native English speakers in the line-ups of philosophy conferences and volumes. I was expecting this to be a relatively uncontroversial move, since many support the Gendered Conference Campaign, whose aims and methods the LCC was supposed to co-opt. Boy, was I wrong!”

32 thoughts on “Contessa Responds to Worries About LCC

  1. Let me note (1) there were some very, very negative initial reactions to the GCC. E.g., we were abandoning standards of philosophical excellence. (2) I do think many are exhausted with issues in the profession.

  2. Agree with Anne’s comment. I regained some energy to think about this issue when I read this point from Contessa (from an earlier post), which I thought was on point:

    “What I find most discouraging, though, is the silence from feminist philosophers who happen to be NES. I tend to see philosophy’s diversity issues as interrelated—to my mind, the more diverse and inclusive analytic philosophy, the better and you cannot make philosophy truly more inclusive in one dimension without also making it more inclusive in other dimensions as well.”

  3. Thanks for the link, Stacey! And, yes, Anne—I did not mean to imply that it was easy for the GCC to become pretty much a mainstream cause in the profession! In fact, I think it’s a testimony to all the hard work feminist philosophers put into slowly changing the profession and I admire y’all for your patience, your dedication, and your energy! What surprised me is that after all that work the profession seems still is where it is on issues of diversity and inclusiveness, as if there is some inclusiveness fatigue. :-)

  4. Gabriele, I suppose I could have been suggesting inclusiveness fatigue, but I’d rather think of it as change fatigue, which we can overcome.

    There is a darker possibility, which is that the majority of the profession is not moved and not changing. On such a view, rhetoric has changed, but not much that’s deeper. I don’t think that’s true for the large number of people who have been participating in the changes. Time will tell about the rest of our folk, but I think it would be a mistake to think we can relax now.

    Thanks so much for your kind and welcome comments. I think the blog has kept me sane. I’d strongly suggest you not go through with the LCC on your own. Misery needs company!

  5. I think there are a number of issues here that get conflated. Sometimes it seems we are talking about the English-speaking world, sometimes about some sort of World at large. This matters since it changes the frame of reference drastically. How many ESL philosophers work or should work in the US is an entirely different question from how many ESL philosophers work or should work in the world and the relationship between the two questions is unclear (to me at least) as it is unclear whether that relationship should exhibit some correlation.

    Things get even murkier, For example, conferences. It does not mean that when a conference is international that it needs to or must have ESL speakers. It can mean many things. In US, for example, it often means that there are people from outside of US. So you can organize a conference where you have, say, 3 ESL and 4 NES speakers, and it might not be international since they all work in the US. From this point of view, international conferences are a pretty financially demanding thing since you have to fly in people from afar (flying people from the opposite coast is already pretty taxing). So unless you are at a very rich university or have access to some deep funds, international conferences are pretty difficult and often will feature one or two international speakers only. Comparatively, it is easier to organize these things in Europe, since the distances are much smaller – easy to take a train from Paris to Brussels, or fly Ryanair to Dublin. IF we are to define international conferences as having ESL speakers, it will become tricky since in some regions of US, for example, there are probably more than in others and the distribution is somewhat random.

    This randomness effects a lot of things when we speak about a job market within a particular region or countries. There is no expected ratio of Germans from Germany in US, far less so of Germans from Germany in academia or in a specific field. Some fields have more nationality X than other fields and that can be for a variety of reasons. For example, in Eastern Europe – esp. pre-90’s largely communist Eastern Europe, the humanities were severely “screwed” by the communist governments, whereas exact sciences were heavily supported and preferred. This still shows up in the amount and quality of science vis-a-vis humanities researchers these countries “produce” both domestically and internationally. It also tends to correlate with the economic and political situation there, and so on.

    Journals: well, most of the journals GC has in mind, though perhaps not all, are published in English-speaking countries. No wonder they are the prime target for people working in those countries to publish in. Perhaps then we should take all journals into account? In my country, most people have only nebulous idea of these journals – or the traditional big names (so nobody heard of Philosopher’s Imprint or the Southern Journal of Philosophy but they know Mind and Synthese since these are old) and often very nebulous idea of what it takes to publish in them (I get to read some of the stuff being asked for advice and often I have to discourage them since I know it won’t be published – both because of language and content issues). In any case, even then, things are not so clear – tradition and funding contribute a lot to success – there are disproportionately many Dutch people in skating and Canadians and Swedes in ice-hockey. There are historical and financial reasons for it. The talent pool in Indonesia is probably larger than in Canada, but the interest pool probably less so and the availability of training and opportunity to play at the world-class level even less so. So studying analytic philosophy in Italy or Spain might not be on a par of studying it at Oxford and that shows in something like journal presence too.

    Specific fields: take “analytic” style history of philosophy, say, Ancient philosophy. I bet you that the ratio of ESL people (esp. German, Italian, and French – look at the top programs), there is much higher than in other fields. Again, there are historical reasons for this.

    Finally, GC (here and on his blog) seems to shift a lot. In terms of the groups involved: from ESL as opposed to NES to people of Northern-European (WASP) descent as opposed to Southern Europeans, from White as opposed to non-white (I am not sure where he puts Jewish people in this – given their strong presence in academia it seems like they are on his of Northern-European descent?). In terms of the “bias”: from citations to journal presence to conferences to hiring. These are not the same things for this kind of debate. Say – ESL speakers do not get not heard in the departmental meeting in the same way as women do not. Hiring – there is the issue of philosophical ability, but there is also the issue of it being a job at a university – being a woman not relevant factor for the qualification for latter, being able to speak articulate and intelligible English to students quite a relevant one. And so on.

    This is not to say that some of the issues GC raised are not real, but I think couching them in the same terms of systematic bias, discrimination and harrassment of people on the basis of gender, race, or even disabilities is just not the right way to go about this.

  6. to p:

    you write “Hiring – there is the issue of philosophical ability, but there is also the issue of it being a job at a university – being a woman not relevant factor for the qualification for latter, being able to speak articulate and intelligible English to students quite a relevant one. And so on.” There are a lot of non-native English speakers who speak in a very articulate and intelligible English to students. Once again, here we are not speaking about “people with a poor English”. We are speaking about “non-native English speakers” (but who are “English speakers” nevertheless).

    The problem has not so much to do with whether ESL are harassed or don’t get a job, but with the “face” of international analytic philosophy. In a sense, French philosophy is French philosophy, German philosophy is German philosophy and analytic philosophy… well, we could just call it “English philosophy” (which is to say that analytic philosophy may not be the objective, logical and culture-free pursuit of truth that analytic philosophers describe).

  7. I don’t mean to prolong this debate but yes – analytic philosophy is currently very much Anglophone philosophy (even BL does not pretend to rank departments in the world overall, just anglophone ones) although it was not always so, and it might not be so in the future either. I would not want to call it “English” since “French philosophy” (when it is used to mean specifically certain – but by no means all – strands in recent and contemporary French philosophy – which is a funny use) is tied to both language and country (and perhaps culture) in a way that analytic philosophy is not (unless one thinks, not very plausibly, that somehow US, UK, AUS, CAN, NZ, and so on are one and the same and conveniently forgets all the past and present ESL contributors). In any case, that is not to say anything – I do not see the connection in the last sentence. I find it odd to talk of philosophy as the pursuit of truth – science is more in that kind of a game (and has historically always proven itself wrong – which is completely all right) – philosophy is perhaps more in the game of thinking about what truth is…or could or cannot be.

    One last thing – and then I will check out too – the last sentence looks like one of the arguments GC mentioned that operates with the assumption that languages somehow differ in such a way that they fundamentally change or influence the way we cognitively engage in the world to the extent that one cannot pursue certain topics in only one language or that if one does one cannot arrive at “objective truth”. There is a lot to say for, and perhaps much more against this argument (as some linguists tell me), but one thing that impresses me about languages (having more than 5) is not the way in which they are untranslatable from to the other, but the opposite – the way in which we can in fact express the same things and same ideas in all languages (excluding poetic language which by definition – since it trades in the actual sounds – cannot be so translated). It often takes a lot of time and patience – but that is the amazing thing about them. It might be that we do not have a word for word correspondance – but we can express the difference and we can, ultimately, translate. But I won’t say more.

  8. To p:

    First of all, I completely agree with you when you say that philosophy is not the pursuit of truth, but rather a reflection of what “truth” is supposed to be (and how it can be used, or whether there are other valuable things apart from “truth”, and so on). Curiously, I have this sort of conversation with self-proclaimed hard-core analytic philosophers, who insist that philosophy is indeed the pursuit of truth and become almost scandalised when I say that it may not be so. (Please notice that in my previous comment I did not say that I hold the idea that philosophy is the pursuit of truth; in fact, I said it is describe as such by analytic philosophers, although I should have specified that I was talking only about some analytic philosophers and not all of them.)

    Furthermore, I totally agree with what you say about the translatability of language. In fact, I do not think that languages represent such a big barrier. To repeat it once again: no one is saying that analytic philosophy should not be expressed in the English language, both by native and non-native speakers. We are all more than happy with using English as the lingua franca for doing philosophy. To be entirely honest, if you spend lot of time doing philosophy in English, it will become more difficult to write and speak about philosophy in our native language: I am sure that many ESL philosophers have experienced this and if you read Gabriele Contessa’s blog you will notice that he speaks about this somehow amusing experience and he also says how happy he is with the English language as the international language for philosophy.

    None of these is the problem raised by Gabriele Contessa. The problem is this: there are native and non-native English speaking philosophers. The latter speak a very fluent and articulate English and they are very happy with English as the international language of philosophy. Both the previous and the latter publish for pretty much the same international journals. So, why do we tend to read and cite the works of the native English speakers? Why do we tend to invite native English speakers more often?

    Personally, I also think that there is a further problem. We tend to read and cite and invite native English speaking philosophers. We tend to read and cite and invite some non-native English speaking philosophers. However, mostly of the non-native English speaking philosophers we tend to read, cite and invite live and work in Anglophone countries. Do we know any non-native English speaking analytic philosopher who publishes in international journals but who work in a non-Anglophone country? Is being associated with an Anglophone institution a prerequisite to be a good analytic philosopher? (If this problem is not clear yet, I just invite you to consider that there are a lot of analytic philosophers who work in France, Germany, South America, and so on, who write and speak English and who publish in international journals… and yet they are not as read/cited/invited or even known as their colleagues operating in Anglophone countries.)

    Finally, I find myself writing in a feminist blog. I assume that feminists, or anyway people sympathetic with feminist philosophy, would appreciate and even treasure subjective experiences. Here I am reading a lot of “conceptual analysis” on the arguments for or against LCC and related issues, but not many people actually seem interested to listen to the actual experience of ESL, who study and work both in Anglophone and non-Anglophone countries. Not many people are even wondering why some people may want to speak about these issues. It seems that some people do not even want to listen about these issues and, I must say, the impossibility of even communicating frustration or a feeling of exclusion increases the overall frustration and feeling of exclusion.

  9. “Do we know any non-native English speaking analytic philosopher who publishes in international journals but who work in a non-Anglophone country?”

    In my field, I know plenty (e.g., Michael Esfeld, Vincent Lam, Mauro Dorato, Charlotte Werndl, Stephan Hartmann), but I agree that the best known and most highly cited *tend* to be in Anglophone departments. But that’s exactly what we would expect if the best-funded universities are mostly in Anglophone countries (which they fairly clearly are). Put bluntly, if you are a well-known and highly-cited philosopher outside the United States, someone in the US is likely to make you an offer, and – since that offer probably means more money, more research time, and (through positive-feedback effects) better colleagues – you’re reasonably likely to take the offer. Not everyone will – I know several continental-European philosophers of physics who wouldn’t want to live in the US, and several more who moved in pursuit of a job and are now trying to move back – but many will. So (to repeat comments made elsewhere) while there may in addition be biases of various kinds, and while I’m happy to hear either evidence of those biases, or first-hand testimony, I still think the data itself does not robustly support what is being claimed. (This is an empirical rather than a conceptual objection, for what it’s worth.)

    (If this sounds like a elitist way of describing things, not reflective of the typical experience, then fair enough – it is. But we’re talking about citation levels, which are fairly elite-dominated – or at least, the only substantive bit of data I’ve seen concerns the top 500 cited papers, authorship of which pretty much automatically puts you in that elite!)

    Also, on the matter of conference invitations to people in non-Anglophone departments, the width of the Atlantic is a fairly non-trivial factor. In the UK, we’re often more likely to invite a continental-European speaker over for a seminar or workshop than a US speaker, for no deeper reason than: it’s way cheaper. Presumably the converse applies for US conferences.

  10. I agree with David that philosophy of physics (and other more technical areas in philosophy) are more hospitable to non-native English speakers than less technical areas but this only seems to support the hypothesis that language plays a crucial role in less technical subfields. I disagree with his analysis of the job market. (Also, while I disagree with some of the details of the David’s description of the job market dynamics, they seem by and large correct to me (although clearly there are non-economic factors that tend to drive EFL philosophers away from Anglophone countries, as he notes (two of the five philosophers of physics he mentions used to work in the UK and now work in continental Europe)).

  11. To David Wallace:

    I am sorry to disagree with what you say. You claim to make an “empirical point” when you say that the majority of the well-known ESP happen to be in anglophone institutions because, these institutions being the richest, they have been attracted there through some “offer they could not refuse”. Is it always the case? Look at the biographies of some of the very people you mention: Mauro Dorato is Italian but received his PhD from John Hopkins University and his first appointments were in the US; Charlotte Werndl got her PhD at the University of Cambridge and then spent many in years between Oxford and the LSE before going to Salzburg; Stephan Hartmann got his PhD in Germany, ok, but he managed to become a “big name” in philosophy of physics after working for many years in the US and in England. It seems to me that the majority of ESL *must* spend many years in Anglophone institutions before being considered *good philosophers*. Of course there are some ESL who get international recognition without having to spend decades in the Anglophone institutions, but the fact that there are some ESL like that does not mean that ESL are unrepresented (unless they take their luggage and go to spend decades in Anglophone institutions, the only places where they can get the knowledge and become good philosophers). In short, it doesn’t seem to me that “if you are a well-known and highly-cited philosopher outside the United States, someone in the US is likely to make you an offer”. It seems to me that you are a well-known and highly-cited philosopher because you haven’t been too much outside the States to begin with.

    There are, naturally, very different stories. For example, Miklos Redei joined the LSE from Hungary, where he had studied and worked. Again, the fact that *some* individual ESL manage to get international recognition even when they do not work in Anglophone institutions does not mean that, as a category, ESL tend to be marginalised (unless they pay service to the majesty of the Anglophone academia).

    “Also, on the matter of conference invitations to people in non-Anglophone departments, the width of the Atlantic is a fairly non-trivial factor. In the UK, we’re often more likely to invite a continental-European speaker over for a seminar or workshop than a US speaker, for no deeper reason than: it’s way cheaper. Presumably the converse applies for US conferences.”

    Here you are betraying a sort of WASPism. Yes, it is much easier to invite ESL in the UK because Continental Europe, after all, is just one swim away (although I still think that Europeans tend to invite people from UK more often than the other way round, but this is a personal impression and should be a matter of empirical research really). Europe is too far from US and flights are expensive: you are right on this point. But there is more to philosophy than US, the Uk and the rest of Europe. South America is not terribly far from the US. And what about Mexico? A big chunk of history of science – namely, the history of South-American and Mexican science – is systematically disregarded by “international” papers and books on the subject. Does anybody actually care, in the US, whether South American philosophers have something interesting to say?

  12. To finish with one of my favourite examples: in two decades, only one ESL working in a non-Anglophone institution was awarded with the prestigious Lakatos Award (Wolfgang Spohn, in 2012). Of course, in the history of the Lakatos Award there were few other ESL, like Van Fraassen and Hasok Chang (who, however, basically spent all their academic life in Anglophone institutions).

    The last four Patrick Suppes Awards for the philosophy of science have been awarded to 3 American philosophers and 1 ESL working in a nom-anglophone institution.

    Compare these data with the very “young” Fernando Gil International Prize, which is also an “international” award organised by the Fernando Gil foundation in Lisbona (Portugal). So far, the prize has been awarded 3 times, namely to:

    – 2010: Ladislav Kvaz (ESL working in a non-Anglophone institution)
    – 2011: Niccolò Guicciardini (ESL working in a non-Anglophone institution)
    – 2013: Hasok Chang (ESL working in an Anglophone institution)

    If you check the website of the Fernando Gil International Prize, you can also read the lists of the shortlisted titles. You can clearly see that the committee of the Fernando Gil always consider native and non-native English speaking philosophers, working in Anglophone and non-Anglophone institutions. My suspicion is that perhaps the organisers of “international prizes” awarded by Anglo-American foundations may tend to prefer either Anglophone philosophers or ESL who are “Anglicised” (i.e., have been working for ages in Anglophone institutions). I may be totally wrong here, but allow me at least the right of having this sort of suspicions.

  13. To Vincenzo (picking up on your first comment only; it would be invidious of me to engage with who gets the Lakatos award!)

    If you ask the people you list, I think you’ll find (I don’t know all of them personally) that in most or all cases they spent time in Anglosphere departments because they were offering jobs, or offering better jobs. It’s not just that US institutions make the strongest senior hires; they’re often better prospects for junior hires too. (This is also true in the sciences; in physics, in my experience US universities are full of ESL postdoc who come to the US to study and work because there is much more funding there.)

    As for why I didn’t mention South America: (1) its higher education spend is less than a fifth of Europe’s and less than a tenth of the USA’s; (2) contra your claim, South America *is* “terribly far from the US”. Rio to New York (for instance) is over five thousand miles, compared to about three and a half from Paris to New York.

    Beyond that I think we’re going around in circles. For the Nth (and probably last) time: I am quite prepared to believe that there are bias and discrimination factors facing ESL speakers – but we can’t have a sensible discussion of this that doesn’t recognise the massive economic and education-policy reasons why Anglophone institutions, and thus NES, are likely to predominate at the top of academic research even without any bias at all.

  14. For a number of reasons I don’t want to be dragged into this debate, but there is something David has said – in the other blog entry – that really needs to be objected to. The reason for the disparity in higher education funding in continental European vs. Anglophone institutions can not be put down to any ‘democratic choice’ of their citizens. It is rather the other way round: It has to do with the international world order inherited from colonialism and World War II, and it formidably conditions their choices. It simply makes no sense for a country like Italy to invest in their higher education systems like the US or UK do. And if it did, it would not change a iota the English language domination of academia (in fact the elite institutions there already operate in English and provide additional employment opportunities for NES). What this shows, I think, is that David’s economic analysis, while undoubtedly true, ultimately provides very strong grounds for the inherent injustice of the linguistic discrimination that Gabriele has raised. In other words it shows that, exactly like sexism and racism, this form of discrimination is grounded in historically contingent facts, and not in any inherent abilities or capacities of any particular kind or class of human beings.

    I’m sorry that I won’t be able to follow the debate, but this really needed to be pointed out.

  15. Thanks, Mauricio. I was going to make pretty much the same point on the other thread but, unfortunately, it got shut down before I could do so. Anyway, to put things in perspective, I think that David has made it quite clear that he doesn’t mean to deny the existence of linguistic biases or their unfairness. He’s only questioning the suggestion that overrepresentation can be fully explained in terms of them. I suggested that the greater linguistic diversity in the hard sciences suggests otherwise, but I agree that we would need more data to establish a strong correlation. I think we still have sufficient overall evidence for the existence of linguistic biases and I don’t think David is discounting that..

  16. To David Wallace:

    – “If you ask the people you list, I think you’ll find (I don’t know all of them personally) that in most or all cases they spent time in Anglosphere departments because they were offering jobs, or offering better jobs.”
    Well… of course! I did not say that those people left their countries on a whim, without first securing a job in the Anglophone countries they were moving too. If they went to Anglophone countries is because they had a job there, not just for tourism. But this has little or nothing to do with my argument. You said that it is an “empirical fact” that there are a lot of famous and widely cited ESL working in non-Anglophone institutions. I said that the overwhelming majority of the famous and widely cited ESL working in non-Anglophone institutions became famous and widely cited right because they spent a long time in Anglophone institutions.
    Basically, to oversimplify the argument, the necessary condition for an ESL to become internationally recognised is to be “Anglicised”, by spending years if not decades in Anglophone institutions. It is very rare that “international philosophy” gets interested in, or even care about, the work of philosophers from non-Anglophone institutions.

    – Mexico City is closer to New York than Paris AND as close as Los Angeles. Again, this would be a matter of empirical research: don’t universities on the East Coast invite people from the East Coast (and from Mexico) because they are too far?

    – I am sure that you are able to be emotionally detached enough if you want to discuss and assess the data about the Lakatos Award – and about the other awards I mentioned.

  17. I can’t really reply to Mauricio because I’ve no idea why continental Europe has the higher education spending pattern it has and Mauricio doesn’t explain his reasons for thinking that it’s not a free choice. But on one factual point: UK higher education expenditure (as a fraction of GDP) is about the same as continental Europe’s – i.e around 1.5% of GDP or a little less.* I’ve been careful to note that it’s the US specifically, not the Anglosphere in general, that radically outspends continental Europe.

    Mauricio also claims that if Italy matched the US’s funding levels, “it would not change a iota the English language domination of academia”. Again, I can’t engage with that, because there’s no evidence provided. I’m a little sceptical, though: it’s interesting to note that Scandinavia spends way more of its GDP on HE than Europe does in general, and that Scandinavian universities show up rather disproportionately in the Shanghai top 100.

    * It’s quite an interesting question as to why the UK does so well academically given it doesn’t spend at US levels. I think it’s partly that Oxbridge is sui generis, partly that UK funding strategy follows the US pattern of building strength in a small number of institutions, and partly that it’s much easier culturally for UK citizens to move to the US and vice versa (partly but not entirely because of language). There may also – I say yet again – be genuine discrimination in favour of NES playing some role.

  18. Sorry, David, you are quite right, I don’t mean to be dismissive or irresponsive. The debate is a good one to have and thank you for taking part. However, for me personally the issues of bias are a thing of the past and I have no great axe to grind (and I’m really struggling to get on with some hard statistics classes at the moment (:-).) But just to quickly respond to your message above: i) The productivity of investment into an educational system very much depends on the state of the rest of the economy, and in particular whether the industrial and technological sectors are reliant upon a knowledge-based economy. In the case of Southern European countries that link is not sufficiently robust for the investment to pay off. (In fact, I believe Spain, Italy, etc may be overspending on their higher education system, for no real payoff). ii) The reason why this link is not sufficiently robust has much to do with historical legacies of both colonialism and the international order after WWII. I can’t go into details but there is some literature on this. iii) Reversing those legacies would not enpower native languages, but would further entrench English as the dominant language in both academia and industry. iv) Scandinavia is a good example of this – even when you have the very best conditions for productive investment, and the right political decisions being made vis a vis that investment, English continues to be entrenched as the dominant language.

    The interesting questions, I think, rather concern the implications for global justice of this de facto dominance of English. Academics in particular should worry about how genuine diversity is to flourish in such a monolinguistic environment. I believe the arguments for distributive reparative justice for non-native English speakers are on the whole sound, and that there may be additional issues of concern for analytical philosophy, which has been so traditionally dominated by the philosophy of the English language.

    Oh, and lest I forget, v) more evidence and data on all these issues would be good, I think we all agree on this!

  19. I think this discussion has mostly run its course, but quickly to Vincenzo: I don’t know how often Mexican philosophers are invited to East Coast meetings (I’m not in the US) but I’d bet heavily that you’re right that it’s much less often than West Coast philosophers. But Mexico has one university that makes the Shanghai Rankings top-500 (it’s in the 200-300 band) and the West Coast has six universities just in the top 20. So while linguistic bias may be a reason, it isn’t needed: much higher West Coast than Mexican representation at East Coast academic conferences would be predicted even in the absence of any bias.

  20. Actually, Mexico has the leading institution in philosophical research in the spanish speaking world (the Instituto de Investigaciones Filosóficas at UNAM), on my reckoning one of the 20 or so best places for philosophical research in the world, with plenty of North American visitors, etc, and I guess the reason Vincenzo was raising the comparison. The fact that David did not mention it is, I suppose, already some evidence for Gabriele’s claims of invisibility (the best people at IIF publish mainly or only in Spanish).

  21. And once again, this year, the Lakatos Award in Philosophy of Science has been awarded to two native English speakers who have studied in English speaking institutions and have always been affiliated to English speaking universities – namely, Gordon Belot and David Malament. The fact that, in its whole history (i.e., the past 29 years), the Lakatos Award was given only ONCE to a non-native English speaking professor affiliated to a non-English speaking institution (2011, prof. Wolfgang Spohn, University of Konstanz), is not a problem, I suppose. Perhaps it is only “normal” that people coming for an AngloAmerican philosophical culture are just “better” than all the other philosophers in the rest of the world – so that, even the philosophy books written and published (even in English!) by non-AngloAmerican(ized) philosophers do not even deserve to read.

  22. The Lakatos award is for books in English. It doesn’t seem all that problematic that the prize almost always goes to authors affiliated with English language institutions; it certainly doesn’t imply that books written by philosophers in the rest of the world do not deserve to be read. All winners of the Cervantes Prize have been native speakers of Spanish. That does not seem surprising, or problematic. Has the Strega prize ever been awarded to an author whose first language was not Italian?

  23. Feminist Logician makes a very common mistake. There are lots of non-native English speakers who are not affiliated with English language institutions and who regularly publish in international journals and have written books in English. In fact, Wolfgang Spohn (who is German and works in Germany) won the Lakatos Award in 2011 for his book “The Laws of Belief”, which was written in English and published with the Oxford University Press (even if professor Spohn, to repeat, is German, speaks German as a first language and works in Germany). I put it in another way: logically, “the award is for books in English” does not imply “the award should go to authors affiliated with English language institutions”. In fact, there may be, and there are, plenty of people who are not affiliated with English speaking institutions and who nevertheless write books in English and they publish them with OUP, CUP and the “usual” international presses. Is it clear? I thought a logician would have understood this point.

    The examples of the Cervantes Price and the Strega Price could not be more inappropriate and, to be honest, I find them very silly: those are awards for works of Spanish and Italian literature respectively. The Lakatos Award instead is supposed to be “international”; this means that the prise is for books written in English, not only for books written in English AND by people affiliated to English speaking institutions; this means, in yet other words, that while we can accept the English language as the official international language, the affiliations of the recipients of the price, or their nationalities, or their first language should have little importance. To repeat, and I hope it is clear this time: “non-native English speakers” does NOT mean “non-English speakers”. Is it really that difficult? A logician should be aware of these differences. Too subtle, perhaps?

  24. To make an opposite example: the Fernando Gil Prize is also a prize for books written in English, yet so far the award was given to an Italian working in Italy (2010, Niccolò Guicciardini), to a Slovakian working in Slovakia (2011, Ladislav Kvasz) and to Hasok Chang (2013) who is from South Korea but basically has always been associated to English speaking institutions, both in Us and in the UK – since he was an undergraduate!

    It seems to me that the “international prices” awarded by non-English speaking institutions are really international, those awarded by the English speaking institutions have a different conception of what “international” means. (The irony of all this, of course, is that the Lakatos Award bears the name of a Hungarian philosopher who worked in a department funded by an Austrian – and yet the 99% of the recipients of the price are either AngloAmerican philosophers or philosophers who basically have spent their whole academic life in AngloAmerican institutions.)

  25. Prof. Politi, I don’t understand why you have responded in such a nasty and sarcastic way. You repeatedly accuse me of things I certainly did not do.

    There are lots of non-native English speakers who are not affiliated with English language institutions and who regularly publish in international journals and have written books in English.

    Of course there are. I never said nor implied otherwise.

    logically, “the award is for books in English” does not imply “the award should go to authors affiliated with English language institutions”.

    Of course it doesn’t.
    I never said anything that implies otherwise.

    To repeat, and I hope it is clear this time: “non-native English speakers” does NOT mean “non-English speakers”. Is it really that difficult? A logician should be aware of these differences. Too subtle, perhaps?

    No, that is not too subtle. I understood the first time, and I never said anything that implies otherwise.

    I will now stop replying to your nasty accusations until you back them up. Show me where I said or implied the “mistakes”, as you call them, that you accuse me of.

    Along similar lines,

    The examples of the Cervantes Price and the Strega Price could not be more inappropriate and, to be honest, I find them very silly: those are awards for works of Spanish and Italian literature respectively. The Lakatos Award instead is supposed to be “international”

    I understand the point about the Strega prize, which is not supposed to be international and so is not an appropriate analogy. But you cannot be claiming that the Cervantes prize isn’t supposed to be “international”. Are you? I hope not. Would you really call my examples “quite silly” and then in the same sentence assert that the Cervantes prize is not supposed to be international?

    Finally,

    To make an opposite example: the Fernando Gil Prize is also a prize for books written in English

    I cannot figure out why you would say this. It is obviously false.
    The Gil prize has no restriction on the language of the book. Please look at the list of nominated books.

  26. Apologies all– I seem to have let through some nastier comments than I should have. Can everyone please go out of their way to be nice from here on out?

  27. Dear feminist logician,

    you wrote “The Lakatos award is for books in English. It doesn’t seem all that problematic that the prize almost always goes to authors affiliated with English language institutions”. (I copied-and-pasted.) Why do you think it is not “problematic” that the Lakatos Award has always (apart from once) gone to authors associated with English language associations? For me this very fact is indeed extremely problematic, since there are lots of people who are not associated with English speaking institutions and who write books in English. Why is a book written in English by an author associated with an English speaking institution far more likely to get the Lakatos Award over any other book written in English by authors not associated with English speaking institutions? What is that extra-value that the association to an English speaking institutions gives to a book over the other books written in English? Please explain.

    Re: the Cervantes prize. That prize is exclusively for works written in Spanish. It is an international prize for the reason that Spanish is used in many different countries. You wrote: “All winners of the Cervantes Prize have been native speakers of Spanish. That does not seem surprising, or problematic.” Indeed, that’s not surprising or problematic because the Cervantes Prize is for works in Spanish language literature and there are not so many non-native Spanish speakers who write their novels in Spanish. Prizes like the Lakatos Awards are for academic books written in English, and there are a lot of non-native English speakers who write in English for academic purposes. You also asked (very sarcastically, in my opinion): “Has the Strega prize ever been awarded to an author whose first language was not Italian?” But another question would be: how many authors whose first language was not Italian write in Italian? There are simply not so many non-native Italian writers who write their novels in Italian, whereas there are a lot of non-native English speakers who write in English for academic purposes. Therefore yes, you example is silly, because while it is extremely likely that those who write in Spanish or Italian are from Spanish speaking countries or Italy, it is not extremely likely that academic books in English have been written by someone associated to an English speaking institution. So, again, why is a book written in English by an author associated with an English speaking institution far more likely to get the Lakatos Award over any other book written in English by authors not associated with English speaking institutions? What is that extra-value that the association to an English speaking institutions gives to a book over the other books written in English? Please explain.

    You are right on the Fernando Gil Prize. It is not only for books written in English. Good for the committee of the Ferando Gil Prize, then!

    I want to conclude by saying that the thing about the Lakatos Award is only one small example of how the standards of philosophy are set by the AngloAmerican culture. Ian Hacking speaks of “linguistic imperialism”, though the language is not the whole story. (Even if you speak and write English, if you are not associated to AngloAmerican institutions it would be very difficult for your work to be noticed.) For some people, this is a little problem or is not even a problem. It is amazing how much resistance, sarcasm and dismissive attitude is encountered whenever someone tries to speak about all this!

  28. Why do you think it is not “problematic” that the Lakatos Award has always (apart from once) gone to authors associated with English language associations?

    Largely for the reasons David Wallace notes.
    There are far more philosophers writing books in English on philosophy of science affiliated with English-speaking institutions. Add the fact that in general those institutions aggressively pursue the most active and most promising writers and have the resources to succeed, and one should expect that most of the notable books written in philosophy of science in English are by philosophers affiliated with those institutions.
    For the same reason, I am not at all troubled by the fact that all (not most) of the Cervantes awards have gone to writers whose native language is Spanish and who work in Spanish-speaking countries.

    What is that extra-value that the association to an English speaking institutions gives to a book over the other books written in English? Please explain.
    I have not said that there is any extra value. Please give some argument, some reason to think that the association is being treated as if it bestowed an extra value.

    Re: the Cervantes prize. That prize is exclusively for works written in Spanish. It is an international prize for the reason that Spanish is used in many different countries.

    The Lakatos prize in exclusively for works written in English. It is an international prize for the reason that English is used by people in many different countries.
    To show that my example is “silly” you should be pointing to *differences* between it and the case at hand, not to *similarities*. You have pointed to a similarity, so you are actually supporting the usefulness of my example.

    You wrote: “All winners of the Cervantes Prize have been native speakers of Spanish. That does not seem surprising, or problematic.”
    Indeed, that’s not surprising or problematic because the Cervantes Prize is for works in Spanish language literature and there are not so many non-native Spanish speakers who write their novels in Spanish.
    Prizes like the Lakatos Awards are for academic books written in English, and there are a lot of non-native English speakers who write in English for academic purposes.

    There are a lot of non-native Spanish speakers who write novels in Spanish. I cannot understand why you would say otherwise. If you have, in fact, done research into this question I will be glad to concede the point, of course, but if not I really would like to know why you say it.

    Therefore yes, you example is silly, because while it is extremely likely that those who write in Spanish or Italian are from Spanish speaking countries or Italy, it is not extremely likely that academic books in English have been written by someone associated to an English speaking institution.

    I would like to see evidence for this claim.

    For some people, this is a little problem or is not even a problem. It is amazing how much resistance, sarcasm and dismissive attitude is encountered whenever someone tries to speak about all this!



    I exhibited no dismissive attitude, I used no sarcasm. I simply disagreed with what you said, and I gave reasons. I respectfully ask that you please stop lying about my comments. It is a very ugly and unphilosophical thing to do, and most contrary to the prevailing spirit of the Feminist Philosophers blog.

  29. – To my knowledge, there are not so many non-native Spanish speaking writers who write their novels in Spanish (and I mean “directly” in Spanish; writing a novel in English and having it translated in Spanish would not qualify for Spanish language literature, which is what the Cervantes Prize awards). I have found only ONE non-native Spanish writer who writes in Spanish, namely Anna-Katzsumi Stahl, who has wrote two books – which is perhaps too little for the “lifetime achievements of an outstanding writer in the Spanish language” that the people of the Cervantes Prize are after. This is different from “There are a lot of non-native Spanish speakers who write novels in Spanish”, but perhaps I did not do enough research here. In that case, please let me know where I can find more on this.

    – “Re: the Cervantes prize. That prize is exclusively for works written in Spanish. It is an international prize for the reason that Spanish is used in many different countries.
    The Lakatos prize in exclusively for works written in English. It is an international prize for the reason that English is used by people in many different countries. Show that my example is “silly” you should be pointing to *differences* between it and the case at hand, not to *similarities*. You have pointed to a similarity, so you are actually supporting the usefulness of my example”. Au contraire: I pointed out to a dissimilarity. Spanish is the first language in many countries, so it is more likely that the vast majority of writers in the Spanish language are from one of those countries. The Lakatos Award is an international prize for the reason that English is used by people in many different countries – even by people in countries were English is NOT the first language. The English language, in fact, is used as the international lingua franca even by people coming from non-English speaking countries. And there are far many non-native English speaking philosophers who write and publish in English than, say, non-native Spanish speaking writers who write novels in Spanish, to my knowledge at least.

    – You seem to agree with the sociological explanation given by David Wallace. But while it is true that some English-spaeaking institutions may have the resources to attract the best people in the field, surely they cannot hire ALL the best people in the field. While it is very likely that someone working in an English speaking institutions is one of the best people in the field, it is not so straightforward that someone who is not working in an English speaking institution is not also one of the best. Also, this type of explanations (based on the “attractive power” of some institutions) does not explain why so many people in non-English speaking institutions publish articles in prestigious peer-reviewed journals and books with the Oxford University Press, the Cambridge University Press, and so on. Unless we say something like: “they are good enough to publish with these journals and those presses, but not as good as the people working in some institutions, otherwise, if they had been that good, that would have worked in those institutions too”. I don’t know, for you this argument may be unproblematic, for me is just unconvincing. Many remarkable people may even *choose* not to work in some institutions, but continue to write and publish in English nevertheless.

    – “Therefore yes, you example is silly, because while it is extremely likely that those who write in Spanish or Italian are from Spanish speaking countries or Italy, it is not extremely likely that academic books in English have been written by someone associated to an English speaking institution. — I would like to see evidence for this claim”.

    Perhaps my phrasing was a bit misleading here (sorry! English is not my first language!). Let me rephrase: “while it is extremely likely that those who write in Spanish or Italian are from Spanish or Italian speaking countries [see the points above re: writers in Spanish], it is not as likely that academic books in English have been written by someone associated to an English speaking institution”. If you want to see evidence of this claim, just check all the catalogues of philosophy of science. Non-native English speakers philosophers of science who are not associated with English-speaking institutions – like Erik Olsson, Martin Kusch, Theodore Arabatzis, Hanne Andersen, Paul Hoyningen-Huene, Bernard d’Espagnat, Ilkka Niiniluoto, Richard Dawid, Carlo Cellucci, and many others – have not infrequently published remarkable books in the philosophy of science in English. That’s the reason why whenever I see the title of a book in philosophy of science written in English I don’t feel to infer that the book has been written by someone associated with English-spaeaking institutions.

    – “I exhibited no dismissive attitude, I used no sarcasm. I simply disagreed with what you said, and I gave reasons”. I perceived otherwise, but you may understand how sensible I am about this topic.

    – “I respectfully ask that you please stop lying about my comments”. I really did not get this though.

  30. … another problem with the sort of sociological explanations given so far on this thread is that they may risk to put the horse before the cart. For example, one can say “Add the fact that in general those institutions aggressively pursue the most active and most promising writers and have the resources to succeed, and one should expect that most of the notable books written in philosophy of science in English are by philosophers affiliated with those institutions”. In the spirit of this blog and of feminist philosophy in general, I should question, or at least wonder, whether concepts such as “active”, “promising” and “notable” are actually value- and culture-free. In one of my previous comments, I mentioned my fear that the standards for good philosophy are set from within a specific culture. AngloAmerican institutions aggressively pursue the most active and promising writers for their standards. But are such standards absolute and objective? Do “good philosophers” go to work for some institutions or is it the case that some institutions (which happen to be English-speaking institutions) tell us what “good philosopher” is supposed to mean to begin with? I don’t think this is a trivial problem.

  31. For the purposes of this particular discussion, it doesn’t matter whether these concepts are value- and culture-free; it just matters whether institutions’ hiring committees and the Lakatos Award Committee are using broadly the same standards for assessing work. There’s a separate conversation that could be had as to whether those standards are problematic in any number of ways, but that’s orthogonal to the question of whether there’s bias against people at non-Anglosphere institutions qua people at those institutions, rather than qua pursuers of different styles of philosophy of science.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s