More on Women in Philosophy

Kate Manne and Amia Srinivasan have written excellent letters in response to David Papineau’s article, which we discussed last week.  They’ve been published in the TLS (behind a paywall) and in the Daily Nous here.  Here’s a small taste of what Manne has to say:

Papineau opines that in philosophy, as in snooker, men will tend to “relish the competitive challenge and enjoy the game for its own sake”, whereas women will be drawn to pursuits with more instrumental value. False modesty about the worth of our discipline aside, Papineau ignores the fact that many women clearly want to play the game – or would do, were we not subject to hostile and punitive reactions in doing so. As a result, being a woman in philosophy is often stressful and unpleasant – as the experiences shared on the well-known blog “What is it like to be a woman in philosophy?” amply demonstrate.

Srinivasan notes:

David Papineau writes that “good practice in [politics, law and medicine] often demands familiarity with the problems of marginalized groups”, but that “this line of thought has no obvious application to philosophy”. This is news to me. I would have thought that theorizing well about, say, inequality, pornography or racial hate crimes – to take a few central topics of philosophical interest – might require one to know something about being poor, a woman, or non-white. Insofar as philosophy is in the business of getting the world right, it would seem useful to have more philosophers who are acquainted with some of its less savoury aspects.

In the Guardian today, Mary Warnock and Julian Baggini take up the topic for a brief debate.

Warnock’s view:

I think that academic philosophy has become an extraordinarily inward-looking subject, devoted not to exposing and examining the implications of the way we think about the world, but to exposing instead deficiencies in the arguments of other philosophers. If you pick up a professional journal now, you find little but nitpicking responses to previous articles. Women tend to get more easily bored with this than men.

Baggini references implicit bias, hostile climates, and an unwilingness to acknowledge the pervasiveness of bias.   He closes with a discussion of Haslanger.

Seven years ago, Haslanger, wrote: “In my experience it is very hard to find a place in philosophy that isn’t actively hostile towards women and minorities, or at least assumes that a successful philosopher should look and act like a (traditional, white) man.” Haslanger persevered, but if other talented women are either giving up or being overlooked, that is as much philosophy’s loss as it the sisterhood’s.

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