Critical Self-Reflection and Opening Up Philosophy

As we announced April 23, Feminist Philosophers is shutting down. This is one of a series of posts by FP bloggers looking back on the blog and bidding it farewell.

I started blogging here in the summer of 2012, four years into my Ph.D. program. When I began that program in the fall of 2008, I didn’t know much of anything about feminist philosophy, and I didn’t care to know anything about it. I thought gender was a shallow and inconsequential human category, so there was surely nothing interesting for philosophers to say about it. Furthermore, since it seemed like there weren’t many women in philosophy, I had a suspicion that any sub-field dominated by them (applied ethics, feminist philosophy) was probably not that good.

By the time this blog invited me to join, I had had some major shifts in my epistemic and ethical worldviews, and had switched from specializing in philosophy of physics to philosophy of psychology, with plans to write a dissertation on gender & race stereotypes and self-identity. I had discovered, in large part through blogs and connecting with philosophers over social media, that there was, in fact, a lot of interesting things for philosophers to say about gender (and other socially hierarchical categories.) I had also discovered that the demographics of the field were not such an obvious case of how the meritocratic chips had fallen.

Another half a decade later, I view social & feminist epistemology as my intellectual home base. One of my current interests is how phenomena like epistemic injustice and active ignorance may be playing out inside the philosophy profession, especially in terms of boundary policing and teaching practices. While there is so much work left to do, it is also striking to me what has changed since 2008. Many critiques of the profession that would have been laughed at (that I remember being laughed at about) are now taken up seriously in many places. You can even get published (in philosophy journals!) talking about them.

There is still so much work left to do, so much critical self-reflection the discipline needs to undertake. But there are people doing this work, opening up philosophy to new subfields, new methodologies, new conceptions of itself. I would like to highlight some of the work being done to help us let go of these unnecessarily rigid and hierarchical boundaries…though in some cases a more apt analogy may be that people are taking up sledgehammers to those walls and gates.

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On being reinvigorated by Mary Astell but worn out by the discipline

Regan Penaluna started by loving philosophy. Over time, though, the climate for women in the discipline ground her down. Her self-confidence flagged, and she became one of the quiet students rather than one of the vocal, passionate ones. And then she discovered 17th century rationalist and feminist philosopher, Mary Astell.

Penaluna, now a journalist, has just published a popular account of her ups and downs in philosophy, her love affair with Astell, and her eventual departure from the discipline.

Penaluna’s account of Astell is a great primer on an original thinker who deserves more attention than she gets. But just as illuminating is Penaluna’s account of the slow grind of being a woman in philosophy. Her article offers a glimpse into some of the reasons women leave the profession.

You can read Penaluna’s account here.

Call for Papers: Human:Race, Reconceptualizing the Human in Difficult Times

Strategies of Critique, the graduate student conference of Social and Political Thought at York University (territory of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, Wendat Nation, Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, and the Métis Nation of Ontario: Toronto, Ontario, Canada).

April 21-23 2016

When the Social and Political Thought program was founded, there were few places to do interdisciplinary scholarship that was deeply engaged in theory. Throughout the years, various disciplinary misfits have come through our doors to create work that challenged the limits of their times.  As we mark the 30th anniversary of our graduate student conference, we wish to draw from our histories of critique, while also challenging the theoretical and disciplinary limits of our time to map questions for our shared futures. Strategies of Critique has thought through the question of the human in myriad ways at multiple times in its history and we continue to do so with this year’s conference theme, “Human:Race | Reconceptualizing the Human in Difficult Times”.

See here for the full CFP.

You known who will be hot on the market, but you don’t know why?

Could it really just be a matter of slash and dash? Well, maybe.
Before you read the quote below, remember that practice can make you faster. Don’t let the unfamiliar derail you. If you haven’t used SKYPE before, get a friend or mentor to take you through some sessions.

A behaviour that’s linked to higher perceptions of charisma.

People who are mentally quick on their feet are seen as more charismatic by friends, a new study finds. Speed is of the essence, though, the researchers found, while IQ and mental agility were not as vital as they expected.

Professor William von Hippel, who led the research, said:
“Our findings show that social intelligence is more than just knowing the right thing to do.
Social intelligence also requires an ability to execute, and the quickness of our mind is an important component of that ability.”

Professor Hippel was fascinated by why some people exude more charisma than others.
He said:
“… When we looked at charismatic leaders, musicians, and other public figures, one thing that stood out is that they are quick on their feet.”
The study included 417 people who were rated on their charisma by friends.
They also took tests of personality and intelligence.
Each was then asked 30 questions which are common knowledge, such as: “Name a precious gem.”
People who were quicker to come up with easy answers like this were perceived as more charismatic by their friends, the results showed.
This was even true when people’s personality and intelligence was taken into account.

Professor Hippel said:

“Although we expected mental speed to predict charisma, we thought that it would be less important than IQ.

Instead, we found that how smart people were was less important than how quick they were. So knowing the right answer to a tough question appears to be less important than being able to consider a large number of social responses in a brief window of time.”

Being mentally agile also allows people to consider different social responses on the spot.
This enables charismatic people to rule out inappropriate actions as well as pick out potentially witty responses.

The study was published in the journal Psychological Science (von Hippel et al., 2015).

See also our post here, and particularly the work of the 2 Eric’s.

From the Ivory Tower to the Abyss

I just learned about this blog about doing graduate study with a disability. I haven’t had much time to poke around on it yet, but it looks promising. The latest post offers a rich discussion of depression within academic philosophy. Check it out:

I think it should be the job for philosophy to demand that society’s discourse regarding mental health gets less awful. Good philosophy should offer alternatives for social problems, or at the very least scold the often careless ideologies that cause social problems.

But first, academic philosophy itself needs to turn its gaze to depression and how it is treated within its own ranks. We treat it with silence. No one finds it polite to speak on it, unless talking about the personal lives of the dead or as a dry systematic theory. We philosophers prefer to hold depression at arm’s length, even though it often lives so close within our chests as a tightening knot limiting our actions.

Disability and Graduate School Considerations

Helen de Cruz has a great post up at NewAPPS that discusses, among other things, why graduate students might opt to attend unranked programs.

 

Another, often overlooked, consideration in play for some graduate students is disability. Some campuses are more friendly and accommodating to students with particular kinds of disabilities, some local communities have more resources than others, some states have policies that make it easier to be funded by vocational rehabilitation than others, some states (in the U.S.) provide tuition waivers to students with certain disabilities, and so on.

 

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