UNC Compass

UNC Compass is a workshop for students who are underrepresented in philosophy (with respect to race, gender, sexuality, ability, income, etc) and interested in pursuing graduate studies in philosophy. Selected students will attend reading group-style seminars, attend faculty panel lunches, and have the chance to connect with other undergraduate/MA level philosophers. Food, travel, and hotel will be provided.

The next workshop will take place on February 11-12, 2017. Completed applications are due ASAP—Deadline extended!

Here is the application for the 2017 workshop. Visit our website http://compass.web.unc.edu/ for more details! For questions, please email compassunc@gmail.com.

CFP: The Profession We Want: Practical Efforts to Improve Philosophy

Call for Papers: The Profession We Want: Practical Ways to Improve Philosophy

A conference organised by the Society for Women in Philosophy UK and the British Philosophical Association

Monday 15th and Tuesday 16th May

Arthur Lewis Building, Bridgeford Street, Manchester, M13 9PL.

The discipline of philosophy has for a long time been a needlessly difficult environment for women and the members of other marginalised and/or minoritised groups (including, but not limited to, groups marginalised/minoritised on the basis of race, class, disability status, and sexual orientation). Some progress has been made, especially over the last few years, in understanding and responding to the causes and consequences of this fact. In the UK, this includes the success of the BPA-SWIP Good Practice Scheme, the expansion of Athena Swan scheme to philosophy and other humanistic disciplines in the UK, and the forthcoming introduction of the Race Equality Charter. Other encouraging signs include initiatives made by some departments, student groups, journals, and learned societies. In this context of understanding and change, SWIP is seeking to lay further foundations for progress by identifying effective ways to practically respond to these problems at a departmental, national and disciplinary level. This crucially involves identifying effective strategies, implementing urgent actions, and allocating specific tasks to organizations, groups or individuals who are in a position to monitor and develop them. This conference is devoted to these aims. As well as offering theoretical resources, we are interested in talks and sessions with a more practical character. Accordingly, the second afternoon of the conference will be devoted to a two-part collaborative planning session. The first half of this session will aim to identify actions of immediate priority and strategies for implementing these, and the second half will aim to establish which organizations, groups or individuals are best able to take these on and how they can be supported to carry them out.

Keynote Speaker: Sherri Irvin (University of Oklahoma)



Submission Deadline: Wednesday the 1st of February

We invite submissions that address one or both of the following aims:

  • To promote the improvement of the profession, for example by assessing strategies and techniques; identifying, pooling and disseminating resources; and fostering the development of relevant skills.
  • To provide practical support for those who have been or who may be negatively impacted by the problems affecting the profession, including mentoring, advising, and skill-sharing.

Submissions could take a variety of forms. We welcome each of the following:

  • Traditional philosophical papers on relevant topics. These might include implicit bias, stereotype threat, syllabus diversification, alternative histories, structural injustice, and norms of philosophical practice. We welcome papers with an empirical component, papers that take an intersectional approach, and papers that focus on the specific issues raised by a particular axis of marginalisation/minoritisation. Papers should be suitable for presentation in 20 minutes.
  • Symposia and roundtable discussions. These could feature any number of participants. They should be no longer than an hour and a half.
  • Practical workshops and participatory sessions. These could take a variety of forms, and could be directed towards either or both of the workshop aims. Examples of the sorts of proposals we welcome include sessions aimed at skills building and sharing, sessions aimed at collaborative assessment of proposals for action, sessions aimed at disseminating information about resources and organizations, problem based sessions, and facilitated discussions. They should be no longer and an hour and a half.

Submissions for individual papers should take the form of an abstract and should be no more than 750 words long. Submissions for symposia, roundtables, practical workshops, and participatory sessions should be no more than 1000 words, and should explain the aims and content of the session and the desired length of the session (up to a maximum of an hour and a half).

We welcome submissions for individuals, groups, and organizations. Individual and group submissions should be suitable for anonymous review; submissions from organizations can be anonymised or not at the preference of the organization and based on practicality.

Submissions should be emailed to tpww2017@gmail.com by Wednesday the 1st of February. We aim to complete the review process by the end of February. (Note: Please use this email address for submissions only; for other enquiries, please contact the organisers directly.)



  • Full accessibility information about the venue (Arthur Lewis Building) is available from the DisabledGo website. All of the conference rooms and the quiet room are fully wheelchair-accessible, and there is disabled parking about 50m from the building entrance (Also wheelchair accessible).
  • Please let us know when you register if you require a hearing loop so that we can ensure that we have enough to cover the break-out sessions.
  • The nearest hotel is the Ibis Hotel on Princess Street, which has rooms suitable for those with limited mobility; please call or email the hotel to discuss your requirements with them. It is about 1200m away from the ALB; however the 147 bus is wheelchair-accessible and stops about 20m from the hotel, and maybe 100m from the ALB. If this is unsuitable, you can book a wheelchair-accessible taxi from the hotel reception desk.
  • All mantax taxis are wheelchair accessible. They are the largest taxi company in Manchester so you’re pretty likely to be able to pick one up from the taxi rank at Piccadilly or Oxford Road station; you can also book one by phone or online. The 147 bus also goes from Piccadilly (across the street, under the railway bridge) to the hotel (and from there to the University).
  • There will be a dedicated quiet room available throughout the event.
  • Attendees with any specific access needs are invited to contact the organisers directly with any queries. If you have needs that have cost implications (e.g. BSL interpreter), please get in touch; we may be able to fund this.

The registration fee will be kept as low as possible (current projection: £30 Non-SWIP members, £25 SWIP members and supporters, £10 student/unemployed/under-employed [note: this will be a self-designating category]). The organisers are committed to ensuring that financial considerations do not present a barrier to participation. Where necessary, we will work with participants to try to secure funding to cover travel and accommodation.

For more information, see our web page.


Helen Beebee (University of Manchester)

Katharine Jenkins (University of Nottingham)

Ian James Kidd (University of Nottingham)

Jennifer Saul (University of Sheffield)

Charity and Anonymity

Brian Leiter has recently posted a complaint about the APA Code of Conduct’s recommendations urging caution regarding online anonymity. He targets this blog in particular for criticism (in addition to another blog I have not seen and thus leave aside here in all that follows). He writes:

‘In what possible sense is anonymity “sometimes unavoidable”?  One can either post using one’s name or not.  And what constitutes “judicious” usage of anonymity?   Surely, for example, a blog like Feminist Philosophers with many pseudonymous posters operating for years under their pseudonyms–e.g., “Philodaria,” “Monkey,” “Magical Ersatz,” “Lady Day,” “Prof Manners”–are not using anonymity “judiciously”:  they are using it to shield themselves from being accountable for what they write.  And such anonymity is clearly avoidable, as others (for example, the philosophers Anne Jacobson and Jennifer Saul) post under their own names at the very same blog…. And for those who take the APA Code of Conduct seriously–maybe at least its drafters (about whom more soon) if no one else–do they not have an obligation now to “out” these philosophers using anonymity unjudiciously, and thus in “violation” of the Code?’

I want to take this opportunity to address a few issues attached to the use of anonymity in both blogging and in comments, speaking only for myself and not for the bloggers here as a whole of course.

Read More »

“Thinking Outside a Less Intact Box”: A problem for professional philosophy?

Here are some relevant claims which track a line of thought from cancer to a problem for professional philosophy.

(1) Aromatase inhibitors, very commonly used in post-op treatment for breast cancer patients, lower available estrogen.

(2) Lower estrogen means less available dopamine.

(3) Less available dopamine creates some cognitive problems.

You can find these three discussed on this blog here  One thing I had discovered before learning about aromatase inhibitors is that dopamine gives you your get-up-and-go.  Losing dopamine can bring you to a halt, at least in some ways.  I give an example in the earlier post.  I also note that a recent long  list of side-effects of aromatase inhibitors does not list any cognitive deficits, unless one counts depression and mood swings.

Another cognitive role dopamine has is giving one focus.  Less dopamine means less focus and filtering; more signals reach the frontal lobes where ‘executive functioning’ is located.  There’s more to think about, more to consider possibly relevant.  More technically, having fewer dopamine receptors in the thalamus means less filtering.  And that appears to be a central grounding for divergent thinking and creativity.

This grounding for creativity is not unproblematic, since in this respect schizophrenia appears to be caused in much the same way.  As a comment on recent work has it:

Now research from the Karolinska Institute has shed light on a possible connection to dopamine. Looking at the dopamine receptors (D2 receptors) of ‘highly creative’ people, they found that the dopamine systems were similar to those observed in people suffering with schizophrenia in particular. The researchers postulate that dopamine receptor genes may be linked to the capacity for ‘divergent thought’.

The study, which was led by one Dr Ullen and used psychological tests to measure divergent thinking, found specifically that ‘highly creative’ types, as with schizophrenics, demonstrated a low density of D2 receptors in the thalamus. The role of the thalamus, among other things, is as a ‘filter’ which decides which thoughts and which information should make it to the cortex for reasoning to take place.

Having fewer D2 receptors then might cause less signal ‘filtering’ meaning that you have more information available to the cortex and are better able to come up with ‘novel’ solutions as a result and to ‘think outside the box’. On the negative side however, these sometimes illogical associations and connections could also be partly responsible for the kind of thinking seen in schizophrenic patients.

As the original research paper has it, highly creative types think outside a less intact box.  And I think we should ask what will be the fate of  such types in today’s academic philosophy.  One part of the question concerns what journal referees will think of a paper with a number of original ideas commending different ways of looking at what the writer may think of as one topic, but the referees may not.  One might find the reports say things like “I just don’t get this,” or “Too implausible to publish.”  It may be very difficult for such a person to amass enough for a tenure case, given today’s stress on quantity of peer-reviewed items.  As someone remarked to me very recently in discussing this sort of situation, there may not be any peers for the work in question.

Hopefully the person in question will get help from grad school mentors.  In a more extreme case, if one or more powerful figures, recognising the creativity, get the person tenure despite a thin record, then the problem will be the lesser one of the resentment felt by others who cannot understand the work and don’t see why tenure was possible.  I know of one case like this.

One might want to say to the floundering scholar, picking up a paper with five significant new ideas, “Just pick one and developed complete arguments for it”.  That’s just what may be outside the person’s ability.  To use a vivid but regrettably unflattering analogy:  A very creative landscape artist might continually mess up colouring books.

Here’s the bottom line:  Some valuable philosophers may find our current standards of number of peer reviewed publications excessively difficult to meet.  One can now be almost too creative to be a professional philosopher.

Concluding comment:  I’ve sat in a number of discussions of why “Two Dogmas of Empiricism” doesn’t have any good arguments in it.  What would its fate be today?  Probably it would be foolish to try to answer this question, but we are fortunate to have it in the canon, since it’s got a number of great ideas in it.

From Alison Jaggar: on the new campus watchlist

“A few days ago, I was told that my name had been included on a new Campus Watchlist, whose advertised mission is to “expose and document college professors who discriminate against conservative students, promote anti-American values, and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.” The entry under my name seemed to have been taken directly from David Horowitz’s 2006 book, The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America, because it contained the same errors of fact and the same emphasis on a few sensationalized words pulled out of context from a 400 page book that I published in 1983. Today I cannot find my name, so I wonder if someone noticed that, in nearly fifty years of teaching, no student has complained of leftist propaganda or political discrimination in any of my classes.

Regardless of whether or not my name is listed, my response is the same. No one belongs on the Campus Watchlist because no such list should exist. The Watchlist’s claim “to fight for free speech and the right for professors to say whatever they wish,” while simultaneously aiming to chill any speech that it deems “un-American,” is a prime example of Orwellian newspeak. We remember how the term “un-American” was used for repression in the mid-twentieth century and must resolve never to return to practices of surveillance and witch-hunting that undermine our commitment to the core values of free thought and speech, not only in academia but everywhere in the United States.”


Runciman on Trump and Brexit

David Runciman, head of Cambridge University’s Department of Politics and International Studies, has an article in the latest London Review of Books that has some new (to me at least) and interesting ideas.  It also has some flaws: at some stages he attributes something like reasoning to Trump supporters.  The attributions are perhaps plausible if they are qualified by something like ‘it’s as though they reasoned’, but otherwise not.

The full article is here:


But Trump is not a disruptor: he is a spiteful mischief-maker. The people who voted for him did not believe they were taking a huge gamble; they simply wished to rebuke a system on which they still rely for their basic security. That is what the vote for Trump has in common with Brexit. By choosing to quit the European Union, the majority of British voters may have looked as if they were behaving with extraordinary recklessness. But in reality their behaviour too reflected their basic trust in the political system with which they were ostensibly so disgusted, because they believed that it was still capable of protecting them from the consequences of their choice. It is sometimes said that Trump appeals to his supporters because he represents the authoritarian father figure who they want to shield them from all the bad people out there making their lives hell. That can’t be right: Trump is a child, the most childish politician I have encountered in my lifetime.  The parent in this relationship is the American state itself, which allows the voters to throw a tantrum and join forces with the worst behaved kid in the class, safe in the knowledge that the grown-ups will always be there to pick up the pieces.

The above at least offers an explanation of possible catastrophic foolishness in these two instances. The only other explanation I have seen of both together appeals to a lack of education. If Runciman is right, it may well be that the lack of education explains a faith in the state-father, as opposed to an ignorance of the consequences the state will protect one from.

If you can get access, the rest of the article is well worth reading. One nice point he makes is that Trump so misdescribed America’s actual problems that they are not there to be fixed.