Meat-Eating and Male Critics

As many of you know, the Sunday Times has had a contest to write the best essay defending meet eating. It came to a conclusion this weekend, and the winners are announced.

We mentioned before its all-male panel of judges. And in fact the ethicist recognizes concerns about diversity, in a rather odd context:

Reader Responses

The contest is sexist and racist

The panel [of judges] consists of all white men. . . . And so the cycle of prejudice continues in which white male elite perspectives dominate the production of social facts. LORI GRUEN, A. BREEZE HARPER, CAROL J. ADAMS

The contest is harmless

This is a panel of five, for heaven’s sake, for a meaningless contest. How diverse can it be? Why should anyone care how diverse it is? ETHICSALARMS.COM

So we decided to go to the Gruen, Harper and Adams piece to see why they thought diversity would be an improvement.

One fact is that one is starting out from a biased position with all-men panel, since our culture identifies men with meat-eating. Secondly, A group of white western men are going to bring partial and fairly shared perspective to what is in fact a global problem. Third, when one picks for fame – as the ethicist said she was doing – one tend to create a circle which the men close.

Interesting reasons, hardly meant to be inclusiveexhaustive (thanks, SH). What do you think?

“Sh*t white girls say to black girls.”

Don’t worry, white viewers.  If you’re at this blog and not a troll, you probably haven’t said these.  But we might have thought some.  I certainly have heard a lot on, e.g., calls-in to radio programs.


The actress and author of this film, the wonderful Franchesa Ramsey, suggests the following sites for those who think this video is racist:




Huffington Post


Village Voice article

Here we go again: Should toys be gendered?

In the NY Times, Peggy Orenstein asks, “Should the World of Toys Be Gender-Free?”After at least one non-sequitur:

Hamleys, which is London’s 251-year-old version of F.A.O. Schwarz, recently dismantled its pink “girls” and blue “boys” sections in favor of a gender-neutral store with red-and-white signage. Rather than floors dedicated to Barbie dolls and action figures, merchandise is now organized by types (Soft Toys) and interests (Outdoor).

That free-to-be gesture was offset by Lego, whose Friends collection, aimed at girls, will hit stores this month with the goal of becoming a holiday must-have by the fall. … the line features new, pastel-colored, blocks that allow a budding Kardashian, among other things, to build herself a cafe or a beauty salon. ….

So who has it right? Should gender be systematically expunged from playthings? Or is Lego merely being realistic, earnestly meeting girls halfway in an attempt to stoke their interest in engineering?

And at least one citation of very questionable science as fact (see our post here):

Toy choice among young children is the Big Kahuna of sex differences, one of the largest across the life span. It transcends not only culture but species: in two separate studies of primates, in 2002 and 2008, researchers found that males gravitated toward stereotypically masculine toys (like cars and balls) while females went ape for dolls.

She makes some interesting points:

Preschoolers may be the self-appointed chiefs of the gender police, eager to enforce and embrace the most rigid views… [And]Traditionally, toys were intended to communicate parental values and expectations, to train children for their future adult roles. Today’s boys and girls will eventually be one another’s professional peers, employers, employees, romantic partners, co-parents. How can they develop skills for such collaborations from toys that increasingly emphasize, reinforce, or even create, gender differences? What do girls learn about who they should be from Lego kits with beauty parlors or the flood of “girl friendly” science kits that run the gamut from “beauty spa lab” to “perfume factory”?

So: children’s adherence to certain types of toys may be a product of policing done by children, presumably children keen on adult approval, and the traditional gendered toys can be seen as tools for training children for traditional roles, which is of questionable benefit.

“First come to grips with your own mediocrity”

If you really want to understand slaves, slave masters, poor black kids, poor white kids, rich people of colors, whoever, it is essential that you first come to grips with the disturbing facts of your own mediocrity. The first rule is this–You are not extraordinary. It’s all fine and good to declare that you would have freed your slaves. But it’s much more interesting to assume that you wouldn’t and then ask “Why?”

An excellent article from Ta-Nehisi Coates. One that reminds me of one of my first teaching experience, teaching political philosophy at an Ivy League school. To a man (and they were all men), my 20 students insisted that Nozick was right about everything. I asked what they would do if born into Nozick’s perfect society, to a family with no food on the table in a society with no state schools, etc etc. “I could do it” was the reply. I followed up, “Ok, you also have no arms and no legs and there is no health care for you.” No change: “I could do it”.

Critical Thinking, as long as it doesn’t disrupt identity

From a reader, to whom I’d like respond: Yes, feminist philosophers teach critical thinking! And I’ve long been frustrated by the ‘selection’ of texts in critical thinking and informal logic.  I appreciate Wanda Teays’ work, but I’d prefer to have multiple choices of texts connecting critical thinking with these urgent sociopolitical questions, rather than having to choose either Teays’ work or something so broadly written that we’re primarily batting around the probability that you picked a white block from a box with white and black blocks. I loved stats, I still do, but surely we can do other crucial sorts of work in the same texts? Request for readings and company follows

I just wondered if people are as frustrated as I am at the selection of texts in critical thinking and informal logic?  I keep getting new titles from publishers that encourage students to “think about weird things” and find “The two errors in the title of this book” — there is almost nothing about social identity, intersectionality, white privilege, or residual and implicit bias.  I proposed such a book to a major publisher but the response was “that would really just suit a niche market in ‘urban’ schools!!”  Aside from Wanda Teays “Critical Thinking from a Multicultural Perspective” there is little out there.  Are many feminist philosophers teaching Critical Thinking or Informal Logic?


The NYPD continues its efforts to garner public sympathy for OWS

This time they arrested Naomi Wolf for discussing walking up and down a side walk. 

From the Guardian:

The feminist author Naomi Wolf has criticised the erosion of the right to public protest in the United States after she was arrested alongside Occupy Wall Street demonstrators in New York.

Wolf was led away in handcuffs after addressing protesters outside an awards ceremony held to honour New York’s governor, at which she was a guest.

She told the Guardian on Wednesday: “When I came out, the protesters had been pushed across the street. This happens in Britain, too, with kettling. Police keep inventing this right to barricade people in and tell people where to protest, but in the United States this is wrong: it’s against the first amendment rights of freedom of assembly.

“So I walked over to where they were – they were backed up against the wall. Police said there was a permit saying they couldn’t walk on the sidewalk. There was this giant phalanx of police.”

After discussing the issue with officers, Wolf said she established that the event’s permit did not prevent people from walking on the sidewalk outside the venue. Along with a small number of other protesters, she started to pace up and down the sidewalk.

“Then, a huge group of men in white shirts, who seem to be affiliated to the New York police department, but who are not self-evidently so – bigger and fitter than the rank-and-file blue-shirted officers – came in droves. About 30 or 40 of these men appeared.

“They got a megaphone – which the protesters are told is illegal – and they started shouting that we were illegally disrupting an event and we should disperse.”

Wolf said she “calmly” disputed the order with one of the officers in white shirts, who are more senior than those in blue shirts. “By this time I was surrounded by them. One of them asked me if I was going to get out of his way. I didn’t think consciously that I couldn’t step away, but I froze. My conscience froze me.”

Officers then detained Wolf, and took her to a precinct where she said she spent about half an hour in a cell. Her partner, the film producer Avram Ludwig, was also arrested. Both were later released with a summons for “refusing a lawful order”.

To be more serious for a moment, the clip seems scary to me.  It turns out that one cannot conduct a calm argument with the police.  If you are wrong, you can get arrested. 

Far worse than being an undergraduate in a logic course.

What would you have said?

When we are in Galveston, we stay in an apartment on the twentieth-floor; living below us are two people, husband and wife, who left Russia in 1980 and, after 17 years of hard work, built a successful engineering company.  Now in fact about two years ago one of our cats leapt off our balcony and onto theirs.  This caused great consternation on our floor, as we hunted and hunted for him, and great puzzlement on theirs, as they tried to figure out why a hitherto unknown cat was hiding in one of their bathrooms.

The story is jolly enough that I think every time I’ve seen him, we’ve discussed the great cat adventure.  It is wearing very thin.  So knowing I would see him and his wife at a dinner, I was determined to discuss something else.  And the obvious topic was Russia.  In response to my queries,  he was talking about how desperate they were to leave, and how they never wanted to go back.  But, he said, “what I never thought I’d see is that this country is becoming more and more like Russia was.”

So, after some thought, I’ve come to see that there were two very different ways I could have taken this remark.  In fact, either of the responses below would have fit conversationally, but they make very different suppositions about political beliefs.  And obviously, there are lots of substitutes for the two that retain their political position, if not the same content.

1.  I know just what you mean.  When I saw those nearly skin headed police marching around in Boston last week and dragging people off, I could have felt the scene was in Eastern Europe in the 1970″s.

2.  I know just what you mean.  Obama has read his Karl Marx and has learned the main lesson well:  turn the poor against the rich.  With that message, he can stay in power a long, long time.

The group of people at dinner are connected to the lovely women who acceded to a friend’s request and so do not swear around her for fear of lowering her spirits.   This is Texas, darlin’!

  So you would have said (1)?  Would anyone have foreseen (2) is what he had in mind?  He shared (2) with me just before he got up and walked away.  O dear.

How do you think?

A friend sent me an off-print of his which referred to Eugene Gendlin as someone who has explored implicit understanding a great deal.  At the same time I was reading Alexis Shotwell’s intriguing Knowing Otherwise, which also explores how we have an implicit, bodily-based grasp of things that forms a great deal of our take on ourselves and others.  Nearly the same day, was recommending that I pre-order Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow, of which Publisher’s Weekly says:

“The mind is a hilariously muddled compromise between incompatible modes of thought in this fascinating treatise by a giant in the field of decision research. Nobel-winning psychologist Kahneman (Attention and Effort) posits a brain governed by two clashing decision-making processes. The largely unconscious System 1, he contends, makes intuitive snap judgments based on emotion, memory, and hard-wired rules of thumb; the painfully conscious System 2 laboriously checks the facts and does the math, but is so “lazy” and distractible that it usually defers to System 1.

Kahneman’s unconscious System 1 is at least aimed at implicit understanding.  And then Read Montague’s work has recently turned to what seems to me to be a fascinating example of implicit bias, first described by Ann Harvey, who is in his lab.

So on reading Gendlin on accessing this level, I wondered what sort of role employing the unconscious/implicit understanding has for philosophers today.  Here in fact is a description from Gendlin of what such accessing is like.  I suspect that if it plays a significant role in your cognition as a philosopher, then you’ll recognize it, even if the description definitely does not come from an analytically trained philosopher:

You have a bodily orienting sense. You know who you are and how you come to be reading this page. To know this you don’t need to think. The knowing is physically sensed in your body and can easily be found. But this bodily knowing can extend much more deeply. You can learn how to let a deeper bodily felt sense come in relation to any problem or situation. Your body “knows” the whole of each context, vastly more aspects of it than you can enumerate separately.

You can sense your living body directly under your thoughts and memories and under your familiar feelings. Focusing happens at a deeper level than your feelings. Under them you can discover a physically sensed “murky zone” which is concretely there. This is a source from which new steps emerge.

At first, this murky “something” may seem opaque. Although concretely there, it may not seem promising. With certain teachable steps of bodily attention it opens. How you sense the situation shifts. New possibilities for fresh thinking and action arise beyond the already-given alternatives. The whole scene changes. An intricate territory of factors, events, conditions, and new questions emerges where there was only a slight bodily sense at the start.

If you’ve followed so far, and you work as a professional philosopher in the sense of producing work you have or would like to see published as academic philosophy, it would be wonderful if you would take the poll: