Men Explore Whether Life Is Getting More Complex

From the description of “Complexity and the Arrow of Time“, published by CUP:

There is a widespread assumption that the universe in general, and life in particular, is ‘getting more complex with time’. This book brings together a wide range of experts in science, philosophy and theology and unveils their joint effort in exploring this idea.

The wide range of editors and authors exploring this idea in this book includes only men.

Reader query: expanding’Women in philosophy’

I teach at a small liberal arts college. A few years ago I started a once-a-semester gathering for our female majors and minors, called Women in Philosophy, mostly to build community over a dinner, but sometimes we talked specifically about gender issues in the discipline and about classroom climate. This year a student asked that we change the name of the group to “Women and Allies in Philosophy” to include people whose relationship to identifying as a woman is more complicated. How can we be more inclusive of trans and gender queer students, which we very much want to do, without opening the doors to men who identify as “allies”? The concern is that doing the latter may recreate in the group the very dynamics that we feel are sometimes harmful to female students in other contexts. Any suggestions for a name change that indicates the direction we would like to go? We would be most appreciative. Thank you.


On knowing and doing nothing

A thoughtful rumination on knowledge, complicity and responsibility.

Some of your friends knew the accused parties. Some knew the aggrieved women. Not all of the stories were straightforward. Some friends felt torn about accounts being aired online, in public, destroying reputations—about whether to call certain incidents “rape.” Others had no such hesitations. Tempers flared.

What do you do, you thought then, about actions that make women feel unsafe, violated, but do not cross the line of criminality? About gray zones? About the creeps in your midst?

Now, you think: If something seems kind of wrong, it is all too possible that it is very wrong…

If things are fuzzy, the human default is often to do nothing. It’s genuinely difficult to conceive and accept that something extreme may be happening, unless you witness it firsthand. Unless it happens to you. And as some of the women’s accounts make clear, it can be hard to absorb even then.

The worst thing, you realize, is that you tended to look down on [his] conquests. As if anyone who fell for his come-ons was a fool, instead of merely lacking the advantage of inside knowledge.

No wonder the women didn’t hope to be taken seriously. No wonder most filed no grievances, and none of them laid charges, nor spoke out in public, until they learned they were not alone. They expected not to be believed, and worse, that they would be hounded and humiliated

It’s about Jian Ghomeshi, and journalism. But we all know it could just as well be about philosophy.

Which books influenced you?

The blog Demasiado Aire, in their post ‘Philosophical Youth ‘ conducted a survey of twenty famous philosophers asking them to list the three books that influenced them most as undergraduates. A commenter on the blog noted that only two of the 28 philosophers listed were women – and the writer of the post responded immediately (before the Trolls!) with a promise to add more women in the coming days.

Note also that the blog has recently put up a thoughtful post on why there are so few women in philosophy departments.

What I found equally, if not more disturbing than the scarcity of women polled is that none of the philosophers interviewed cited a book by a woman writer as one of the three books that most influenced them as an undergraduate. (Christine Korsgaard cites Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique as a fourth book) This despite the fact that many of them cite novels as well as philosophical texts.

It could simply be that those we regard as ‘important’ in the profession now were undergraduates at a time when texts by women less likely to be seen as influential (not quite sure that things have changed that much, but, hey, a bit of blind optimism now an then doesn’t hurt).

But another explanation is that we ‘forget’ our commitment to fighting bias in a context that is not strictly professional, such as having to answer a  quiz, and that as a result we rely more on stereotype ( for who remembers much about their undergraduate days?)

I was not an imaginative reader of philosophy as an undergraduate: I read what I was told (if that). But if I ask myself which books truly influenced me during that period, I’d have to cite all of Jane Austen’s novels, those of the Bronte sisters and Margaret Atwood. I’d also want to mention my re-reading of Beauvoir’s Memoirs. All these – Austen’s books in particular – are texts that have influenced the sort of things I write as a philosopher.

So what books influenced you as a fledgling philosopher?

Barnett moves to sue CU

The Daily Camera reports that David Barnett has filed a notice of claim against the University of Colorado, alleging, among other things, “that DiStefano and philosophy professor Alison Jaggar knowingly made false and disparaging statements about him, beginning last year.”

Only three tenured professors have been fired in the university’s 138-year history. All three — Ward Churchill, R. Igor Gamow and Mahinder Uberoi — took legal action against the university in connection with their firings.

“This is a normal procedural move by Barnett’s attorney,” CU’s O’Rourke said. “Whenever the university attempts to take disciplinary action against a tenured faculty member, we get accused of violating that faculty member’s rights, and it’s an effort to shift the attention away from what the faculty member did.”

To be dismissed, a tenured faculty member must demonstrate professional incompetence, neglect of duty, insubordination, conviction of a felony, sexual harassment or moral turpitude, a legal term often defined as an act that violates accepted moral standards.

At the core of CU’s attempt to fire Barnett is a 38-page report he sent to DiStefano and CU President Bruce Benson after learning that a male graduate student had been found responsible for sexually assaulting a female graduate student. . .

Barnett said he was acting as a whistleblower by reporting “willful misconduct” by the office that investigated the alleged assault. Barnett and CU have declined to provide the Camera with Barnett’s 38-page report.

The woman, however, claimed that Barnett began his own investigation into the sexual assault, and talked to other members of the philosophy department about the woman’s marital history and sexual behavior.

H/T DailyNous