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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Black scholarship matters (UPDATED)

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.

 

Minicourse on Metaphilosophy and Sex Equality

The School of Philosophy and Art History at the University of Essex are very pleased to announce that Professor Michèle Le Doeuff will be giving a minicourse on ‘Metaphilosophy and sex equality’ at Essex on 11th – 13th May 2016. The abstract for the minicourse is as follows:

Metaphilosophy, in the sense of discussing what form of philosophy is valuable and what form is hopeless, is everywhere in our lives. It takes place within highly classical works and in the most informal conversations we have down the pub.

Sex equality happens not to be a major beacon for these discussions, to put it mildly. Who lays down the law to whom? On the other hand, if you consider that sex equality should indeed be among the non-negotiable landmarks of any discussion about philosophy, you might have the feeling that you are stating the obvious, and then discover that it never registers.

Now, if metaphilosophy is about defining what philosophy is (how it works, how it occasionally dysfunctions), it does appear as a most eligible level of discussion for feminists. A sphere in which you could at last appeal to justice is more than appealing. All the same, the question «what is philosophy?» sometimes proves slippery.

​In classes, pupils tend surreptitiously to start discussing the character of the philosopher, certainly male, old, bearded and endowed with encyclopaedic knowledge. A woman engaged in philosophy may find it wise not to discuss the question at all and simply prove her existence by doing her job, just as you can prove the possibility of movement by duly taking a stroll. But is this the end of the story?

The minicourse is made up of three lectures:

Wednesday 11 May, 3-5pm: Lecture – The Price to pay (and for becoming what?)
Thursday 12 May, 3-5pm: Lecture – You said ‘progress’?
Friday 13 May, 3-5pm: Lecture – In Praise of autodidacticism

Further information on the course can be found on the Essex website: https://www.essex.ac.uk/philosophy/news_and_seminars/minicourses/default.aspx

Book a place
Booking is required to attend the minicourse. To book your place please email Katherine Bialey at kbailey@essex.ac.uk.

Please send any queries or questions about the minicourse to Rosie Worsdale: rworsd@essex.ac.uk