Letter of Support from Greco, Howard, Kvanvig, Murphy, and Rea

An open letter of support has been published at Daily Nous, from five senior male philosophers, to victims of harassment in philosophy and their supporters. A quote:

As things currently stand, there are very substantial professional and personal risks associated with addressing sexual misconduct either informally or through formal university channels—including, as we have now seen, the risk of being sued for defamation. Moreover, these risks accrue not only to victims but to those who try to support them in seeking to have their grievances addressed. Unsurprisingly, many victims have felt as if they have no recourse, many who might otherwise have supported them have remained silent; and the culture of silence understandably contributes to the impression that there are really very few within our profession who are much concerned either about the prevalence of sexual misconduct within our discipline or about the risks associated with seeking to have it addressed.

We write, therefore, to say publicly that these developments are lamentable, to voice our support of rights to report concerns of misconduct, and to ask the philosophical community to join with us in supporting both the victims of sexual misconduct who have the courage to file a formal report, and the faculty who provide them with support.

Commenting is open at Daily Nous, and other philosophers are adding their public support for the contents of the letter in the comments thread.

Howard University is “not considering” closing the philosophy department.

The phrase comes from a letter linked to from the APA main site.  The letter was written by the President of Howard to Anthony Appiah.  And that sounds good, I guess, until one asks what is left open.  For example, can the department be “not closed” if it is merged with one or more others, with perhaps just one or two tenured philosophy faculty members?

We’ve written about the threat to the department before, and there are interesting links in previous posts.  As far as I can see, there isn’t any rejoicing over the end of a battle.

Save Philosophy at Howard

There’s now a petition to save Philosophy at Howard University:

The Department of Philosophy at Howard University is in danger of being shut down. The administration is poised to fold this BA and MA degree granting department into an interdisciplinary program offering only core and service courses.

This will mark the end of the only graduate degree program in philosophy at an HBCU; it will weaken the university’s commitment to the kind of humanistic self-examination that underwrote the US black freedom movement; and it will repudiate the legacy of philosophy at Howard, a legacy forged by the likes of Alain Locke, one of the central figures in the Harlem Renaissance.

Please help us encourage Howard’s president to strengthen philosophy rather than abolish it.

Go sign it!

philosophy at Howard University: under threat & addition 2

This would be tragic, and a sad comment on what philosophy stands for among the administrators at universities.  Those guys (n.b.) go to conferences and discussion groups and come up with plans of action together.  Given recent events, it seems languages and philosophy are targeted.

Howard University–Philosophy Department risking elimination.  Request for letters to the university President.

Dr. Sidney Ribeau, president of Howard University, is recommending that Howard University’s Philosophy Department be eliminated.  Would you be kind enough to help support those of us who see this as a strategic mistake in the struggle for Black equality.  In showing support would you write a letter to Dr. Ribeau giving your opinions on the historic centrality of the Philosophy Department at Howard University and the reasons why you believe it should be continued.  This will we a tough fight and Dr. Ribeau will make this decision final December 1, 2010. Please write to:

                               Dr. Sidney Ribeau, President
                               Howard University
                               2400 6th Street NW
                               Washington, DC 20059

In solidarity,

Richard A. Jones
Howard University
Department of Philosophy

thanks to swip-l


2.  Check out this special site:  http://savehowardphilosophy.wordpress.com/
1.  Wondering how likely it is that many people would snail mail a letter to Howard, I went to their site and found a whole bouquet of telephone numbers and email addresses; see below.  And since so many of us have educational addresses, email can add to the credibility.  I think the next step is for us to compose some letters, so people can just copy a letter and email it.  How about seeing some letters showing up in the comments? 

University Officers

**President Sidney A. Ribeau, Ph.D.


**Provost and Chief Academic Officer James H. Wyche, Ph.D.

Executive Vice President and
Chief Operating Officer
Troy A. Stovall

Senior Vice President
Strategic Planning, Operations & External Affairs & Chief Technology Officer
Hassan Minor, Ph.D.

**Senior Vice President &
Secretary of the Board of Trustees
Artis Hampshire-Cowan, J.D.
More Contacts…

Senior Vice President and
Chief Financial Officer – Treasurer
Robert Tarola
More Contacts…

Senior Vice President and
Executive Dean for Health Sciences
Eve J. Higginbotham, M.D.

General Counsel Norma Leftwich, J.D.

Interim Vice President for
Development and Alumni Relations
Nesta Bernard
More Contacts…

Vice President of Research & ComplianceFlorence Bonner, Ph.D.

<!–Vice President for
Human Capital Management
Elizabeth Stroud
More Contacts…

–>**Vice President for Student Affairs Barbara L.J. Griffin, Ph.D.
Johnson Administration Building, Suite 201

APA talks of interest to feminists!

Susanne Sreedhar has asked us to post this:

The 2018 Eastern APA is rapidly approaching in January. This year’s conference promises to stand out in its focus on philosophical topics and questions of interest to feminists and critical race theorists, as well as philosophers of gender, sexuality, identity, and political vulnerability. There are sessions on topics from “Black Feminism After Trump” to “Continental Feminism and Trans Studies: Queer Curiosity” to “The Philosophical Significance of James Baldwin” to “Refugees, International Law, and the Obligations of States” to “Masculinity” to “Philosophy and Activism.” Virginia Held is giving the Dewey Lectures. Nancy Frasier is giving the presidential address. Come hear Charles Mills and Cornell West on capitalism, Steve Darwall and Howard McGary on reparations, George Yancy, Tommy Curry, and Naomi Zack on the status of Blacks in philosophy, Danielle Allen on education and equality, and Elizabeth Brake on marriage.

For all of this and more, I would like to draw your attention to the list below. Because there so much, I’ve only included the session titles. Please check the program for full information. While this isn’t an exhaustive list of all the exciting philosophical work being done in new areas and by new scholars – and my sincere apologies to those I’ve inadvertently left out! – I take it to be representative of the fresh voices, topics, and ideas currently invigorating the APA. Of course, diversity and inclusivity are always a work in progress, and there is still so much to be done on several fronts, but I take this to be a promising development in the character of our professional organization.

As you can see, these sessions feature an amazing array of exciting philosophical scholars, both established and emerging. Those of you familiar with past programs will recognize that this is an exciting and welcome new direction for the Eastern APA. I hope you will join me in Savannah in January for what promises to be a stimulating and provocative philosophical conversation.

I would be grateful if you could circulate this list to your networks, forwarding it to individuals, groups, and listservs to whom it may be of interest.

Read More »

Yale’s Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore on the decision to maintain the name ‘Calhoun College’

From the New York Times:

The decision to keep Calhoun’s name overestimates his value for Yale students. Yale’s president, Peter Salovey, argues that “removing Calhoun’s name obscures the legacy of slavery rather than addressing it,” and living in Calhoun’s shadow will make students “better prepared to rise to the challenges of the present and the future.”

But Pauli Murray has more to teach Yale students, 55 percent of whom wanted to change the name of Calhoun College and who will demonstrate on campus once again.

In 1938, she applied to graduate school at the University of North Carolina, in her home state, only to be rejected because “members of your race are not admitted to the university.” In 1940, she went to jail in Virginia after she refused to move to the back of a Greyhound bus. During World War II, she served as head of the nonviolent protest committee in A. Philip Randolph’s March on Washington Movement. In 1943, she organized sit-ins to desegregate restaurants in Washington. A year later, as valedictorian of Howard Law School, she applied to Harvard Law School to do graduate work. It was customary for Harvard to accept the Howard valedictorian, but Harvard told Murray, “You are not of the sex entitled to be admitted to Harvard Law School.”

Instead, after three decades of civil rights leadership, Anna Pauline Murray earned the degree of doctor of juridical science from Yale Law School in 1965. While at Yale, Murray was an author of the pioneering article “Jane Crow and the Law: Sex Discrimination and Title VII,” which argued that sex discrimination resembled race discrimination and may be prohibited by the 14th Amendment.

Murray never gave up her fight for the values that sprang from her lifelong Episcopalian faith. In a moment of despair after her 1940 arrest, she wrote in her diary that it was “dangerous” to dwell on her “weaknesses.” “The great secret,” she told herself, “is not to think of yourself, of your courage, or of your despair” but of “Him for whom you journey.”

In 1973, she entered New York’s General Theological Seminary to prepare for the priesthood, a job from which she knew she would be excluded because of her gender. But in 1976, the Episcopal Church conference voted that “no one shall be denied access” to the priesthood on account of sex. In 1977, Murray became the first black woman ordained as an Episcopal priest. The Episcopal Church made her a saint in 2012.

As Murray looked back on her activism in a 1976 interview, she recalled: “In not a single one of these little campaigns was I victorious. In other words, in each case, I personally failed, but I have lived to see the thesis upon which I was operating vindicated. And what I very often say is that I’ve lived to see my lost causes found.”

Some may argue that it is impossible to bind all of slavery’s wounds; after all, there are other residential colleges at Yale named for slaveholders such as George Berkeley, Timothy Dwight and Ezra Stiles. But John C. Calhoun is the only one whose fame came from his guiding role in a racial regime that enslaved people, inspired secession and formed the specious legal foundation for a century of discrimination.

Yale students of color, especially those who live in Calhoun College, and the thousands who protested last fall do not need any more teachable moments on the injustices he wrought. They feel the legacy of those injustices every day.

So did Murray.

There’s another article on this at CNN by John McWhorter, and coverage of student protests at Yale Daily News.

On Why Cross-Cultural Conversations are Difficult for Philosophers

This paper, “The History That We Are: Philosophy as Discipline and the Multiculturalism Debate,” from Don Howard has been published for some time, but it was only recently put up on academia.edu — I thought it would be of interest to many of our readers. Here’s an excerpt from the introduction:

African and Native American thought may have something in common with Greek and Egyptian mythology, with the creation stories like those found in the Gilgamesh or the Book of Genesis. But as we were all taught in our own introductory courses, and as we all now teach our beginning students, philosophy is different in kind from poetry and myth. Born in the Greek settlements of Ionia in the sixth century B.C., philosophy seeks to understand nature, both human and nonhuman, not in terms of the actions of the gods and the giants, but in terms of abstract metaphysical principles . . . and abstract moral principles, like justice and the form of the good. Moreover, philosophy is unlike religion in the antidogmatic, critical posture that Socrates taught us to adopt with respect to all received opinion. And, perhaps most importantly, the philosopher’s characteristic concern with the critical distinction between true knowledge and mere opinion is not to be found in “traditional” or “primitive” systems of thought. Neither poet, nor sophist, nor carping moralist, the philosopher is a lover of wisdom. There may have been a Hesiod among the Tlingit or a Homer among the Hausa, but there has been no African Aristotle and no Plato of the Pueblo, just as there has also been no Zulu Shakespeare, as Saul Bellow is reported to have said.

“African philosophy.”— Not all such appositions strike us as being quite so oxymoronic. For while I speak here—need it be said?—the language of prejudice and stereotype, it is not simply a white, Western prejudice, which would be too easy a target. We do not stumble at the thought of there being an “Indian philosophy” (in the sense of the Indian subcontinent); nor does the expression “Jewish philosophy” give us much pause. The more generous souls among us will permit, as well, the expression, “Chinese philosophy,” though the more anthropological term “Chinese thought” is clearly preferable; and in some quarters one may even be allowed to speak of “Arabic philosophy,” especially if one agrees to confine one’s attention to long and safely dead thinkers like Ibn-Sina and Ibn-Rushd.

Why is this so? Why do the authors of the Vedanta, domesticated by Schopenhauer and Deussen, already have a reservation at the philosophers’ Stammtisch? Why do we so easily imagine ourselves in the heaven for which Socrates yearns in the Phaedo, conversing with Maimonides … as easily as we might converse with Descartes about the soul or with Kant about the categories, whereas it has long been much harder to imagine a properly philosophical conversation with Chuang-tzu about Tao (even before the Tao-te-ching became the New Age bible), much less a conversation with a Navajo hataali about hozro and “walking in beauty”?

That this is so should give us pause when we pretend, as philosophers, to engage in cross-cultural conversations. For the measure of our aversion to expressions like “Native American philosophy” is the measure of our inability, as philosophers, to engage in such conversations, the point being that the felt sense of aversion reflects our having defined ourselves, as philosophers, in such a way as to beg many of the most important questions that should be at issue in those conversations, leaving us, as philosophers, no stance but that of condescension toward those cultures that have failed to evolve a properly philosophical culture.

From another point of view, what is going on here is that cultural boundaries have been inscribed as disciplinary boundaries. Looking out from within a department of philosophy, it is impossible for me, as a philosopher, to talk with the Ibo about their creation stories. That is a job for the anthropologist or the student of comparative religion. We can have a properly philosophical conversation only if we first persuade ourselves, as we succeed in doing in the case of the Vedanta in India, that the culture in question incorporates a genuinely philosophical tradition. But we may well be suspicious—surely it is a clue of sorts—when we find, for example, Louis Renou writing in the Encyclopædia Britannica: “The Vedic religion was brought to India by the Aryan invaders when they invaded the upper Indus basin sometime around 1500 B.C.”

United Families and Friends Campaign 2013 Procession


The United Families and Friends Campaign (UFFC) is a coalition of families and friends of those that have died in the custody of police and prison officers as well as those who are killed in immigration detention and secure psychiatric hospitals. It includes the families of Roger Sylvester, Leon Patterson, Rocky Bennett, Alton Manning, Christopher Alder, Brian Douglas, Joy Gardner, Aseta Simms, Ricky Bishop, Paul Jemmott, Harry Stanley, Glenn Howard, Mikey Powell, Jason McPherson, Lloyd Butler, Azelle Rodney, Sean Rigg, Habib Ullah, Olaseni Lewis, David Emmanuel (aka Smiley Culture), Kingsley Burrell, Demetre Fraser, Mark Duggan and Anthony Grainger to name but a few. Together we have built a network for collective action to end deaths in custody.

During the late nineties the families of the most controversial deaths in police custody victims came together to form UFFC. Since then we have campaigned for justice for our loved ones and our efforts have yielded some results. The police self-investigation of deaths in custody, previously overseen by the Police Complaints Authority, was replaced by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. The Attorney General was forced to undergo a review of the role of the Crown Prosecution Service. We continue to monitor these developments. Since last year, and in particular through the case of Sean Rigg, the IPCC has been found not fit for purpose.

No reforms or reviews have ever addressed the lack of justice in outstanding cases such as Joy Gardner, Brian Douglas and Shiji Lapite, to name a few. These are human rights abuses and must be dealt with accordingly. Nothing can replace due process of law and with so much overwhelming evidence against police officers accused of murder or manslaughter, the question remains why have they not been convicted? UFFC has supported cases such as Ricky Bishop, Roger Sylvester, Mikey Powell and Harry Stanley. In recent years other high profile cases such as those of Ian Tomlinson, Jean Charles De Menezes and Sean Rigg show how the IPCC and the CPS have continued to fail us. In the last two years alone we have had the deaths of David Emanuel (aka Smiley Culture), Kingsley Burrell, Demetre Fraser, Lloyd Butler, Mark Duggan and Anthony Grainger. The deaths have not stopped and nor shall we. Our Annual Remembrance Procession will take place on 26th October 2013.

UFFC is supported by Migrant Media, Newham Monitoring Project, Pan African Society Community Forum, 4wardEver UK, Garden Court Chambers, Institute of Race Relations, INQUEST and Defend the Right to Protest.

The UUFC facebook page with more information is here.

BGND Philosophy of Religion Conference 2013

I wanted to draw attention to the Baylor-Georgetown-Notre Dame Philosophy of Religion Conference, this year, taking place October 3-5 at Notre Dame. It’s got a fabulous line-up and lots of women on the program.

Here’s the conference program:


Thursday, Oct. 3

    • 2:30 p.m. – 2:40 p.m.: Welcome
    • 2:40 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.: Pamela Anderson (Oxford) – “Making Sense of Things: Why Metaphysics Matters to Analytic Theology”
    • 4:10 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.: Jon Kvanvig (Baylor) – “Affective Faith and Its Cognitive Dimension”
    • Dinner

Friday, Oct. 4

    • Breakfast (starting at 8:30 a.m. outside the conference room)
    • 10:30 a.m. – 11:50 a.m.: Pat Kain (Purdue) – “God, Good, and Kant”
    • 11:50 – 1:20 p.m.: Lunch
    • 1:20 p.m. – 2:40 p.m.: Jeff Speaks (Notre Dame) – “The Greatest Possible Being”
    • Free time* and Dinner

Saturday, Oct. 5

    • Breakfast (starting at 9:30 a.m. outside the conference room)
    • 10:00 a.m. – 11:20 a.m.: Roger White (MIT) – “Teleological Explanations and Arguments”
      • Commentator: Elizabeth Miller (Harvard)
    • 11:30 a.m. – 12:50 a.m.: Shieva Kleinschmidt (USC) – “Reasoning without the Principle of Sufficient Reason”
    • 12:50 a.m. – 2:20 p.m.: Lunch
    • 2:20 p.m. – 3:40 p.m.: Charity Anderson (Oxford) – “Pragmatic Encroachment, Stakes, and Religious Knowledge
    • ​3:50 p.m. – 5:10 p.m.: Jennifer Lackey (Northwestern) – “Religious Belief and the Epistemology of Testimony”
    • Free time and Dinner

*All conference participants are welcome and encouraged to attend Susanna Schellenberg‘s colloquium on Fri., Oct 4 from 3:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. in 220 Malloy Hall.