Is diversity just too hard? A hypothesis

Preamble: Below you see a hypothesis presented. I don’t think “hypothesis” carries with it any suggestion of truth or really even plausibility. If a question has been bothering you, sometimes it is a help to form hypotheses as possible answers. It may be that what occurs to one in such a process is something that’s been worked over below consciousness and is on an interesting – or even right – track. But also maybe not. The thought that maybe the missing butter is in the bathroom might be right, or it might be the product of an association based on the first letter of each word.

Nothing below should be read as asserting the hypothesis I describe. This is purely trying something out. What I am most interested in now is what others think.

The question: Why isn’t philosophy making a lot more progress on diversity? Quite often someone announces a fact about the discipline’s failure in diversity. Many of us think, “Something must be done,” but the statistics don’t change much. Why not?

The hypothesis: Diversity is just too hard, or at least harder than most participants in the field realize.

Some evidence:  I started to take thinking about the hypothesis to be more promising when I read some of John Dovidio’s latest work.** (He’s psychology, Yale.)

Suppose we have two groups: Group A, socially the higher status group, and B, the lower status group. It may seem that all we need is to get them together into one group with which each can identify. Then we will have shared knowledge, goals and even friendships. We will even break down some of the regularities that have give rise to implicit biases. As Joe Biden so memorably stated, he came to see Barak Obama as, among other great things, “clean”.

So what’s wrong with this picture? Here I’m going to summarize and probably simplify Dovidio’s work: We cam think of the resulting group as a melting pot or more as an interdisciplinary cluster. If we suppose that in, e.g., hiring, inviting speakers and refereeing, we want a melting pot, then there are going to be big problems. The problems come from the fact that members of the dominant group have a very vested interest in continuing in their dominant ways, and they tend not to be interested in changing and absorbing the others’ ways of doing things. In effect, the subordination and isolation from power of the subordinate group will continue. As it will if we go for the interdisciplinary model unless members of the dominant group are willing to open their ranks to people who are different from them.

Is there any evidence that philosophy has this problem? That is, do we need for the dominant group to accept, to put it very briefly, some changes in their standards, topics, etc. And has that proved unworkable? I can only think of one piece of evidence. I think it is telling, but others may not. Here it is: when people are assigned to a disadvantaged position for reasons irrelevant to their quality as thinkers, they often acquire interests in topics surrounding ideology, justice, discrimination, etc. Such topics may in fact affect their research and teaching interests. But, I hear time and again, these topics are not really philosophical topics, or at least not very important philosophical topics. They are, rather, political, and one definitely doesn’t need them represented in a philosophy department.

Do note the idea that members of the groups are different is said merely to be a difference between occupying dominant and occupying subordinate social positions.

Do also note that this whole post is merely about a hypothesis that has some grounding in empirical research. Is it right or even worth more thought? What do you think?

**Included but Invisible? Subtle Bias, Common Identity, and the Darker Side of “We”
JF Dovidio, SL Gaertner, EG Ufkes, T Saguy, AR Pearson
Social issues and policy review 10 (1), 6-46, 2016

CFP: American Society for Aesthetics (by March 1)

Short proposals welcome, and as the member who sent me the CFP says, it’s a great group and a constructive gathering, eclectic and welcoming to graduate students and folks at teaching intensive universities. Submission deadline: March 1, 2016. See the whole CFP here.

The Thirty-Third Annual Meeting of the Rocky Mountain Division of the American Society for Aesthetics will take place at the Drury Plaza Hotel in Santa Fe, New Mexico, July 8-10, 2016.

Manuel Davenport Keynote Address:  Jeanette Bicknell

Jeanette Bicknell is the author of  Why Music Moves Us (Palgrave, 2009) and Philosophy of Song & Singing: An Introduction (Routledge, 2015).  She writes about music and other topics in philosophical aesthetics, including architecture, film, jokes, and ethical issues raised by art.  She is based in Toronto, Canada.

Michael Manson Artist Keynote Address:   Claudia Mills

Claudia Mills is Associate Professor Emerita of Philosophy at the University of Colorado at Boulder and has spent several years as the Robert and Carolyn Frederick Visiting Distinguished Professor of Ethics at the Prindle Institute for Ethics at DePauw University in Indiana. She is the editor of Ethics and Children’s Literature (Ashgate, 2014), as well as the author of over fifty books for young readers, including most recently Zero Tolerance(Farrar), The Trouble with Ants (Knopf), and the Franklin School Friends chapter book series (Farrar).

We welcome critical papers in all fields and disciplines pertaining to the history, application, and appreciation of aesthetic understanding.  We are always particularly interested in research involving interdisciplinary and intercultural approaches emphasizing the natural character of the American Southwest.

The ASARMD Division’s long-standing practice has been to invite proposals, in the form of abstracts, for papers that you wish to present. Proposals should be no more than 250 words in length and follow the format of a typical abstract, which is to say, offer a formal, albeit succinct, summary of the work to be presented, including conclusion(s) to be drawn. Papers should be suitable for 20-minute presentations and not exceed 3000 words (excluding footnotes).

Editors of Synthese respond

Synthese received a volley of objections to part of a special issue. See here to view a description of the problem. Below is a response from the editors. This response is largely about preventitive practical and procedural issues. As readers will see, there will be a more explanatory response later, when more is known.

I think we should heartily welcome what seems to be a significant move toward transparency regarding what happened and what will be done.

———- Forwarded message ———-

Date: 27 January 2016 at 18:34

Name: Gila Sher
Message: We would like to reiterate our apology for any offense caused by the special issue article published in Synthese and also our strong commitment to feminist and LGBT values. We would also like to reassert our commitment to high-quality publications and assure the community of our dedication to high professional and humanistic standards.

We have considered complex ethical issues related to the published article. We take full responsibility for all the articles published by Synthese and we do not want to change the status of any accepted article. We believe that (except for extreme circumstances like plagiarism) all accepted articles should remain part of the scholarly record and a possible point of further discussion in the academic debate.

The events around this paper have led us once again to revisit our procedures regarding special issues. Shortly after beginning our appointment as editors in chief in 2012 our team installed new guidelines and rules for special issues (see the Synthese website), which include doubly anonymous reviews and oversight by the editors in chief. We carefully checked our records concerning the article in question and the special issue to which it belongs and contacted the guest editor and Springer, our publisher. Our procedure for special issues says that, after a guest editor has made an acceptance recommendation regarding a paper, the final decision is made by the editors in chief. Regrettably, due to an unfortunate human error, this particular paper was not sent to the editors in chief after the guest editor had entered his recommendation into the editorial management system. We are working with Springer to fully understand the problem and make sure that it does not recur.

To provide some more context, 27 articles were submitted to the special issue. Each was sent to two anonymous reviewers. 8 articles were rejected by the guest editor based on the reviews, and 19 articles were accepted after 1-4 cycles of revisions. Of these, 18 were sent to the editors in chief following the guest editor’s recommendation to accept the papers, and after an inspection by the editors in chief they were accepted for publication.

In light of the problem and the resulting concerns about special issues we have decided to put a moratorium on new special issues. During the moratorium period we will reexamine our policies with regard to them, including quality control and other aspects of special issues. We will strive to conclude the review process in two to three months.

Of course, we will remain open to submission of articles to regular Synthese issues during this time. We will also respect our obligations to the guest editors and authors of special issues in various stages of preparation at Synthese at the present time. We will, however, make sure there is an adequate level of oversight on these issues while we are conducting our review.

Once we complete our investigations and review process we will issue an additional statement about our findings, the decisions we made concerning special issues, and the practical steps we have taken to prevent recurrence of the present problem to the best of our ability.

Thank you very much for your understanding, patience, and the support we have received.

Gila (Sher), Otávio (Bueno), and Wiebe (van der Hoek)
Editors in Chief

Meet the new Fuck Off Fund story, same as…

I read “A Story of a Fuck Off Fund” as a diversion, a pragmatic story of self-rescue. I thought, how classic, it’s like a really spare, sad and yet kickass 2016 version of a story that one would have found in any issue of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Forerunner magazine, or a sort of short-story version of her Women and Economics, the like of which she would have strongly approved. It’s evocative of particular forms of feminism that progressive-era Americans articulated.

I thought that right up until the second-to-last line, “It’s a story no one ever told me.” That weighs on my heart a bit. Gilman would understand, but I imagine she’d be incredibly sad to read that the FOF is a story that isn’t told. Recommended if only because the not-told note is one I wish to resist.

The story is not a comprehensive take-down of structural systems of injustice, I realize. It’s just a story. But I’m moved to share it by the comments of women who connected so strongly with it; see the reactions below the story.

Planned Parenthood: a case of an indicted messenger

Could you bear to watch the horrible video seeming to show Planned Parenthood evilly selling baby parts? You could have saved yourself the angst, it turns out.

From the NY Times:

HOUSTON — A grand jury here that was investigating accusations of misconduct against Planned Parenthood has instead indicted two abortion opponents who made undercover videos of the organization.

Prosecutors in Harris County said one of the leaders of the Center for Medical Progress — an anti-abortion group that made secretly recorded videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood officials trying to illegally profit from the sale of fetal tissue — had been indicted on a charge of tampering with a governmental record, a felony, and on a misdemeanor charge related to purchasing human organs….
On Monday, the Harris County district attorney, Devon Anderson, said in a statement that grand jurors had cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing.

We’re talking a texas grand jury!
Sometimes really good things happen in Houston.

‘Submissive’ Muslim Women

Worried about radicalisation of British Muslims and how to tackle it? Don’t worry, folks, Team Cameron have got an excellent plan: teach English to all those traditional, submissive, uneducated Muslim women who are creeping around at home doing what their husbands tell them!

Like these ladies on Twitter, for example:

See more from Mashable here.

OED accused of sexism

After Michael Oman-Reagan, an anthropologist and Ph.D. candidate, tweeted the Oxford University Press that their dictionary included sexist language in some of their example sentences, the publishers of the Oxford English Dictionary agreed to review them.

Oman-Reagan pointed to “rabid feminist” under the word “rabid,” as well as several others…

The word “shrill” uses “the rising shrill of women’s voices” as an example…

Under the word “psyche,” the example sentence is “I will never really fathom the female psyche.”

For more, go here.  (Thanks, C!)