In the Guardian.
It seemed to me to give a perspective on why so many paintings of nudes are of females.
In the Guardian.
It seemed to me to give a perspective on why so many paintings of nudes are of females.
I’ve been watching ducks recently. Mallard ducks show the remarkable difference beteen the fairly drab female and the quite glamorous male. Is this just another case of an unfair asymmetry in nature?
Maybe not. An opposing proposal is that what we are seeing is the effect of female avian aesthetics. Females are generally those who select the partner in a pair. What we see is the effect of their taste, shared to some extent by females of at least one other species. Namely, human beings.
Another interesting fact is that female aesthetic preference does not always pick out the fitter male bird, fitter, that is, in birdly things like flight. In fact, it very much looks as though the song of one species is improved by wing configurations that, when increased, create a bird less capable of good flying.
Yale Professor Richard O. Prum argues, as it is put, that sexual selection, unlike natural selection, is not always selection of the fittest. In fact, he thinks it is based on female avian sexual aesthetics.
To grasp his view, a little bit of history is in order. Darwin famously proposed the idea of evolution by natural selection, what is often called survival of the fittest. To put it simply, living things vary in their inherited traits, from speed to color to sense of smell. The traits of the individuals who survive longer and have the most offspring become more common. So, over time, the faster antelope have more young, the fastest of them have more offspring, and antelope end up very speedy.
But reproduction isn’t just about surviving and staying healthy long enough to mate. You have to find a mate. And in many species, your mate must choose you. This process is sexual selection. Female birds are often the ones choosing. And their choices can produce male birds that are incredibly colorful, and some that are elaborate dancers or designers of striking boudoirs — like the bower birds. If, for example, females like males with long tails, then long-tailed males have more offspring, and the longest-tailed of those offspring reproduce more. In the end, that species becomes known for its long tails.
Whether he is generally right, there do seem to be cases of sexual selection that can degrade the species. What does this say about the survival of the fittest?
Crudely natural selection is supposed to select for those who meet the challenges in their environment in a way that enhances reproductive success. But if we include getting selected as a mate, then overall fitness need not be enhanced in the species. Or so two articles in the NY Times seem to suggest. See here and here. To be accurate, though, I don’t think anyone writing sees any problem in distinguishing natural from sexual selection. Justifying the distinction is another matter, or so Professor Prum’s reference to free will for female birds could indicate. See the end of the second article:
Once organisms evolve the capacity for subjective evaluation, and the freedom of choice, then animals become agents in their own evolution. One of the hallmarks of autonomy, of course, is the freedom to mess up
The BPA understand that St Mary’s University is consulting on the closure of its Philosophy BA programme. A group of students at St Mary’s have put together an online petition to generate a public of show of support for philosophy at St Mary’s, and I would like to encourage you all to sign it. You can find it here:https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/do-not-close-the-philosophy-programme-at-st-mary-s-university-twickenhamPhilosophy at St Mary’s has an outstanding reputation for Widening Participation, and for being able to address challenging but foundational questions in the academically rich context of a Catholic university. This makes St Mary’s a very important provider – and an increasingly important one as UKHE continues to change – of a degree-level education in philosophy for students who for various reasons approach higher education with different ideas and backgrounds than they do in many other institutions.
We are not sure how far along in the process of making this decision they are, or what the timeframe for this decision is looking like, but we want to help the students and staff at St Mary’s to feel supported by the wider philosophical community, and to encourage the management to explore all of the options for keeping this programme alive.
Do consider signing the petition! All signatories welcome, including international ones.
The Journal of Political Philosophy just published a symposium on Black Lives Matter, which initially sounds like a great idea. However, Chris Lebron writes (in an open letter to the journal):
So, if you might – please do – try to imagine my distaste when it was brought to my attention that your journal published a philosophical symposium on ‘black lives matter’ with not one philosopher of color represented, without one philosopher of color to convey her or his contextualized sense of a movement that is urgently and justifiably about context.
Melvin Rogers has also written to the journal:
I do not typically claim that persons of color have an intellectual monopoly on issues affecting their life chances, but given the meaning and purpose of the movement it seems especially egregious that a person of color was not included.
So I write to find out how it is that these group of papers, only one of which mentions Black Lives Matter, came to be classified under a heading titled Symposium on “Black Lives Matter”? This question is especially important since I have now come to understand that the authors did not know they would be classified as such.
I very much urge you to read the whole of both open letters, linked to above. They lay out with beautiful clarity just why the composition of the symposium is a problem, and correct some widespread misunderstandings of this kind of criticism.
The journal has replied in an open letter. Here’s the start of it:
We, the Editors, sincerely apologise for the oversight in not
including a Black author in a Symposium explicitly entitled ‘Black
Lives Matter’. We accept the point eloquently and forcefully made by
our colleagues that this is an especially grave oversight in light of
the specific focus of Black Lives Matter on the extent to which
African-Americans have been erased and marginalised from public life.
Part of the mission of the JPP is to raise awareness of ongoing
injustices in our societies. We appreciate and encourage having an
engaged and politically active scholarly community willing to hold
everyone working in the profession to account.
Stacey Goguen has compiled an incredibly useful resource: A literature review on the underrepresentation of women in philosophy. (And she has more coming on several closely related topics!)
For Mother’s Day, Prof. Rachel McKinnon (College of Charleston) offered a video in her Making Gender Make Sense series both, as she said in a previous introduction to it, to thank the mothers of trans people (including her own mother), and also to talk a bit about trans women as parents and how or why one might celebrate Mother’s Day. Since that video, she has been the target of harassment and hate speech. An Open Letter in Support of Professor Rachel McKinnon has now been put together by Prof. R.A. Briggs (Stanford University) and can be signed online here.
A review that takes into account the recent lawsuit.
Initially, I came away from Unwanted Advancespersuaded, as Kipnis clearly is, that the charges against Ludlow fall apart under scrutiny. Yet Kipnis is so sympathetic to Ludlow, and so contemptuous of his accusers, that even before the lawsuit, I wasn’t always sure I could trust her. There are holes in the story of the woman who says Ludlow forced alcohol on her. But Kipnis is skeptical of the whole idea that an older man might deliberately get a younger woman trashed so he can take advantage of her. “Let me interject a brief reality check: single non-hideous men with good jobs (or, in this case, an international reputation and not without charm) don’t have to work that hard to get women to go to bed with them in our century,” she writes. Well, let me interject a brief reality check: Bill Cosby.
There’s a wonderful new teaching resource out– The Deviant Philosopher!
We at The Deviant Philosopher decided that it was time to do something to about the difficulties associated with diversifying our curriculum, recognizing that there is great value in the end goal. We think we can make it a little bit easier and a little bit less hazardous by collecting and sharing some new teaching resources. And so, we created The Deviant Philosopher. Our mission is:
- To create quality teaching resources on diverse non-canonical philosophical traditions and perspectives
- To promote meaningful engagement with the philosophical traditions and perspectives we’re representing
The Deviant Philosopher provides users with four kinds of materials: area primers, unit plans, lesson plans, and class activities. Primers are toolkits designed to help an instructor who is new to a subject area get acquainted with it. Unit plans, lesson plans, and class activities are teaching plans suitable for various time periods within a course, ranging from a single discussion to full units of study. Instructors can draw from these to suit their own time constraints and emphases. Each item contains suggestions about how to integrate the material into a variety of philosophy courses.
The Deviant Philosopher development team is Wayne Riggs, Amy Olberding, Kelly Epley, and Seth Robinson.
Check it out and get deviating!
Recent events have occasioned the need for theorists working on critical projects to grapple with unprecedented political phenomena in Western societies – phenomena such as Brexit and the rise of the extreme right-wing. Although reminiscent of previous generations’ political practice and thought, there appears to be a unique inflection in the present moment that renders simple appeals to ‘history repeating itself’ unconvincing. At the same time, critical theorists working in a variety of fields have increasingly turned to pragmatism as a framework for theorising contemporary political problems and ideas, as evinced by pragmatism’s proliferation across the European continent. Given this contemporary concern with pragmatism as a resource for critical philosophical and critical political endeavours, and given the need for theorising that makes sense of the sometimes bewildering current political context, we now invite contributions on the work of one of the most explicitly political pragmatists, John Dewey. Dewey’s thought has long constituted a philosophical resource, and his political engagement a fountain of inspiration, for critical theorists, activists, and policymakers. By bringing together scholars working on critical philosophies and John Dewey, we wish to shed light on the following:
While engaging the conference theme of ‘John Dewey and Critical Philosophies for Critical Political Times’, we therefore encourage authors to address these questions by submitting abstracts on the following topics (without being limited to these):
Given the interdisciplinary interest in John Dewey’s thought and critical philosophies, papers from a variety of disciplines, including gender studies, philosophy, politics, sociology, cultural studies, and history, are welcome.
Confirmed keynote speakers:
Prof. Charlene Seigfried (Purdue University)
Prof. Matthew Festenstein (University of York)
Please submit abstracts of not more than 500 words by July 7th 2017 to firstname.lastname@example.org. Successful applicants will be contacted by 17th July.
This conference is supported by the Mind Association, the Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy, and UCD School of Philosophy.
Clara Fischer (University College Dublin)
Conor Morris (University College Dublin)
Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa, who has consistently been a wonderful source of insightful reflection on Laura Kipnis’s book, as posted today that she is being sued. He writes:
I have just learned that the graduate student Laura Kipnis discusses at length in Unwanted Advances has sued both Kipnis and the book’s publisher, Harper Collins. She’s suing for public disclosure of private facts, false light invasion of privacy, defamation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
As I mentioned in a comment in a recent post here, I do believe that Kipnis dramatically misrepresented the student in dishonest and harmful ways. I am not surprised that there is a lawsuit alleging this. All of my blogging so far has bracketed those issues, since getting into the details of the misrepresentations would involve further violations of privacy. I have been trying to make the case that even if the specific evidence she cites is correct, her case is both uncompeling and harmful. But since Jane Doe vs. Harper Collins and Laura Kipnis is now public, some of Doe’s specific complaints can now be discussed. (Many commenters have expressed frustration with people saying that the book is inaccurate without saying how. They may now be in a position to relieve some of their curiosity.)
You can read the whole thing here. Jonathan writes on Facebook:
I have the utmost respect for Jane Doe, a brave Northwestern Philosophy PhD student who has, I am convinced, been seriously wronged and harmed by Laura Kipnis’s book, Unwanted Advances.
Doe is suing both author and publisher. Lawsuits are ugly things and tough times are certainly ahead. In my opinion, she deserves our full support. Having read the lawsuit and the book (and also having some relevant nonpublic knowledge), it is my opinion that she deserves to win.