A Mother’s Day video, harassment, and an Open Letter of Support

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.

Review of Kipnis

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.

 

CFA: John Dewey and Critical Philosophies for Critical Political Times

John Dewey and Critical Philosophies for Critical Political Times

University College Dublin

19th-20th October 2017

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:

  • What is new about contemporary political practice and thought? What is merely echoing the thinking and affective investments of previous political moments? What is critical about this moment in time?
  • How can we draw on the philosophy of John Dewey to make sense of contemporary political contexts?
  • How can we bring together Dewey’s critical, philosophical project, with theorists working in a variety of critical areas, such as feminism, queer theory, critical race theory, and disability studies?
  • How might theorisations drawing on Dewey inform contemporary political contexts and policy approaches (to, for instance, immigration, globalisation, global governance structures, or democratic institutions)? What promise do they hold for political change?
  • How can we motivate a case for pragmatist views on hope and meliorism?
  • Can the idea of a critical philosophy shed light on the idea of political crises and responses to crises?

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):

  • Trump, Brexit, and the rise of the far-right
  • The state of leftist politics and potential rehabilitations
  • The economic crisis, economic inequality, and class
  • Gender inequality and sexual violence
  • Militarisation and securitisation
  • Global warming and threats to the environment
  • Democracies and elections
  • Freedoms and limits on freedom
  • Nationalism, patriotism, and identities
  • White supremacy and imperialism

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 clara.fischer@ucd.ie. 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.

Conference organisers:

Clara Fischer (University College Dublin)
Conor Morris (University College Dublin)

Lawsuit against Laura Kipnis

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.

 

Descartes’ most important influence

The 17th century thinker René Descartes is seen as the father of modern philosophy: A man who was entirely original, whose work marked a clear divide from earlier thinkers, and who laid the foundation for modern thought with his focus on self-knowledge of the individual mind.

But that narrative is “unquestionably false,” says Christia Mercer, a philosophy professor at Columbia University. Indeed, “people in his period did not think Descartes was the father of anything,” she adds. Though the philosopher was renowned in his day for his work on physics and natural philosophy, it wasn’t until the 19th century that historians portrayed Descartes as a major break with the past. This idea has endured in part because, while historians searched for the great male thinkers who might have influenced Descartes’ ideas, they missed the female philosopher who came before him: Teresa of Ávila.

Read on.

Support Tommy Curry

Do consider signing this letter in support of philosopher Tommy Curry. His claim– that it would be good to *study* the history of black advocacy of anti-white violence– has been grotesquely misrepresented. As a result he is getting death threats and the head of his university has spoken against him.

[Although the letter was initially written for members of his University to sign, they are welcoming signatures from others.]

The letter is here.

QR codes and conference accessibility

Image description: QR code for English language Wikipedia
Image description: QR code for English language Wikipedia

As lots of you know I’m a philosopher with a visual impairment. When you try to ban laptop use by conference participants (this happened to me last year) I’m the person who writes in to say that actually I need my laptop (and the conference organizers were happy to accommodate). I often can’t read your handouts and your powerpoint slides. Large print handouts work but my laptop is better because I can control font size depending on how I’m doing that day.

That’s why I was happy to see this suggestion by Adam Cureton to use QR codes.

Cureton writes, “The idea is to insert QR codes (of the sort that are on airplane tickets) on presentation materials, which can easily direct a disabled audience member to an electronic version of the presentation materials, which can still be edited up to the time of the talk. After the talk, the presenter can cancel the code so that it doesn’t work anymore. This would really help, I think, to make presentations of most any kind more accessible for disabled people.”

The full explanation of using QR codes to make your presentations more accessible is here, http://societyforphilosophyanddisability.org/2017/05/using-qr-codes-to-make-presentation-materials-more-accessible/.

Thanks Adam.

On Ageing: Nussbaum now online

(See comment 3 for URL.)

Martha Nussbaum will give a Kyoto Prize lecture tomorrow (May 10) in Oxford on ageing.  Here’s the impotant abstract:

The category of age is the only category of discrimination that includes all human beings – if they live long enough. With other categories – racial, caste-based, ethno-religious, gender-based, sexual, and disability-based, the dominant group can view itself as immune from the traits it imputes to the group targeted for discrimination. Because age and its signs are associated with death, this condition is regarded with particular fear and with a disgust closely linked to fear. It is thus no surprise that one of the most tenacious types of prejudice in all societies is prejudice against people who are aging. They are stigmatized in popular culture and discourse, and very often law gives sanction to those forms of stigma.

The bodies of aging people remind younger people of their own frailty and mortality, and popular discourse portrays those bodies as incompetent, unattractive, even revolting. Moreover, even aging people themselves often come to feel disgust with their own bodies, as new research proposes. This stigma is itself a social problem, producing much unhappiness, and it leads to various forms of injustice, such as discrimination against aging people in employment and in informal social interactions, not to mention the huge social evil of compulsory retirement. Age may well be the new issue for our time, since discrimination on the basis of age deprives all societies of valuable human capital. After situating this case in the context of her theory of disgust and stigma, Dr Nussbaum will focus on the special aspects of this case.

I wonder about her idea that the bodies of ageing people remind the young of their own fragility.  I am a bit embarrassed to recall my much earlier conviction that the ageing bodies showed these people could not have lived good lives.