The Trenches

Three girls, ages 14-16, in Norman, Oklahoma, are out of school following their having allegedly been raped by another student. He too is out of school, having been suspended for the remainder of the year. (No criminal charges have yet been filed, though there is audio of the student bragging to peers about one of the rapes.) The girls, on the other hand, are absent for reasons that are regrettably too familiar. One was apparently herself suspended when she swung her backpack at a student who was taunting her about having been raped. Another was apparently suspended for appearing at school under the influence the day following her alleged rape. The last has simply been unable to bear attending owing to the taunting and has “chosen” to stay home.

What is most striking in all this is the result: three students allegedly raped are out of school but, to my knowledge, the students who have bullied them and all who have passed along video of one of the rapes on social media are still attending. Whatever the efforts of the school, this is exactly the wrong result. Every girl in this school is now effectively on notice that it does not pay to report a rape, that silence is the prudent course.

There are so many agonizing things about this, one hardly knows where to begin. But two questions I have are these:

1. What are the conditions under which high school students learn to bully rape victims? I realize I may sound naïve in asking this, but in an environment in which younger people often evince attitudes often far more progressive than their elders, how does it come about that taunting rape victims is acceptable?

2. Related to the above, what are the effective ways a school can push back against this? It seems to me that generic anti-bullying strategies are likely to be insufficient but does anyone know of resources for “best practices” in education for addressing such problems? That is, what would one tell a school in this situation to do?

Refuge’s Christmas present list for women and children in safe houses

I generally struggle to come up with genuine answers to the question, “what would you like for Christmas?” This year, no problem: if anyone asks, I’m going to say I’d like something bought on my behalf from Refuge’s Christmas list (and maybe also a chocolate bar).

Refuge is a UK charity that (among other things) provides safe havens for woman and children escaping domestic violence. Their appeal aims to ensure that everyone in their shelters at Christmas has a present to unwrap. It’s simple enough to contribute: you go to John Lewis’s gift list page, enter the gift list number 609505, and select and buy a present or two. They range in price from £4.50 to £25.

Is philosophy more lucrative or just more male?

Lots of philosophers, me included, have been sharing on social media this good news story from Forbes about the financial benefits of a humanities degree.

I pulled out information on bachelor’s degrees in art, drama, English, French, history, philosophy, and political science. Overall, this is a group that many would predict is destined to produce underemployed graduates, struggling to pay off their student loans, and perhaps happy to work as Starbucks baristas. However, conventional wisdom is wrong. In reality these degrees all produce expected lifetime earning increments far in excess of the cost of college tuition, even at expensive private colleges.

And being philosophers, we’re also busy noting that the best financial results from humanities degrees comes from philosophy. As with GRE scores, among the humanities, we’re number 1.

But not so fast.

It occurred to me that philosophy is also the most male of these disciplines. There are lots more women than men in English and lots more men than women in philosophy. Philosophy’s greater financial benefit may just be a secondary effect of being the discipline with the fewest women in a world in which women are paid less than men. Just a thought.

CFA: Analyzing Social Wrongs

Call for Abstracts

Analyzing Social Wrongs
Social Criticism in Analytic Philosophy

14–16th May 2015, Vienna
Deadline for Submissions: January 14, 2015

How can we use philosophical analysis to criticize society or its structures? At first sight, it may not be clear whether the family of philosophical traditions commonly referred to as “analytic” philosophy is up to that task, given that, for example, the method of cases is supposed to achieve a reflective equilibrium of our theoretical commitments and our intuitions, whether of ‘the’ folk or experts. However, the very task of critical theory, as coined by Max Horkheimer, is to question what we accept as ‘given’, and our intuitions about the social world would seem to be a case in point. Yet, Horkheimer also argues that critical theory must live up to the academic standards of its time, which are—for better or worse—currently set by analytic philosophy, given its current hegemony within professional philosophy in the Western world. With these tentative observations in mind, it remains yet an open question how exactly to relate the methodological canon handed down by the different strands within analytic philosophy to the project of social critique.

In the last thirty years however, an increasing number of philosophers associated with different traditions of analytic philosophy—be it amongst analytic Marxists, feminists or philosophers of race—has devoted their work to addressing issues more commonly associated with “critical” theory, broadly speaking. Among such issues are the nature of oppression, the impact and relevance of social structures, the explanation of ideology and its critique, to name a few. These developments present a challenge of the widely held assumption that philosophical analysis and social criticism are, if at all, merely accidentally related to each other. What is more, in claiming that some members of the Vienna Circle, out of whose work much of contemporary analytic philosophy developed, took their way of doing philosophy to be a means for bringing about social change, some scholars of the history of analytic philosophy have suggested that this philosophical tradition was in fact first devised as a “critical” project. We are sympathetic towards this view and, in this workshop, wish to explore the ways in which philosophical analysis could—and should—be used to this very end.

Keynote Speakers

Sally Haslanger (MIT)
Kristie Dotson (Michigan State/Columbia)


We invite abstracts of not more than 3,300 characters (about 500 words), in English, for each panel. Abstracts may address one (or more) of the questions above as well as further ideas. Please prepare your abstract for anonymous review and submit it by the 14th of January, 2015, via EasyChair at:

If you do not have one already, you will need to create an EasyChair account (which is free).

We are happy to receive submissions by researchers in all career stages as well as colleagues working in the social sciences.

Accommodation and Travel Expenses

We will help you to arrange for affordable accommodation in Vienna and will try to cover or contribute to the payment of expenses incurred by accepted speakers. However, we cannot guarantee any coverage or contribution at this time and reserve full discretion in awarding these payments. If our funds do not suffice to cover all expenses for everybody, we will prioritise early career researchers and researchers with no institutional affiliation. We will not be able to fully cover overseas flights.

Further Information and Contact

You can find further information about our workshop online here.