Diversity in Philosophy initiatives

Jessica Moss (NYU) and Edouard Machery (Pitt, HPS) sent us the following note, which will be of interest to many of our readers:

There are now several well-established initiatives aimed at addressing the lack of diversity of philosophy (http://www.apaonline.org/page/diversityinstitutes). To support these efforts, NYU and Pitt have recently decided to waive application fees related to their PhD programs in Philosophy (NYU and Pitt) and in History and Philosophy of Science (Pitt) for students who participated to these initiatives. We suspect other schools have similarly waved their application fees and we invite them to advertise their efforts in the comments thread.

Lisa Lloyd’s experiences at Princeton

Lisa Lloyd has shared a very depressing account of what her experiences were like at Princeton in the 1980s, including both recurring sexual harassment from Paul Benacerraf and manifestly unjustified dismissal of the quality of her work.  You can read the relevant bits of her account over at the Daily Nous here.  Or you can listen to her full story on the SciPhi podcast here.


Thanks for sharing this, Lisa.  I know it’s not easy to do.

CFP: Decolonial Feminisms, Nov.15 deadline

Scholars of Maria Lugones’s work or work related to it, here is a reminder that the deadline for submissions for the Toward Decolonial Feminisms conference is November 15, and individual paper and panel proposals are welcome.

This conference is an invitation to think with the work of philosopher, activist, and popular educator, María Lugones. Lugones’s work has been instrumental in calling attention to multiple worlds of sense, to the importance of coalitional emancipatory engagements, and to practice-based theorizing. Through her analysis of what she labels “the coloniality of gender” she has underscored the importance of the mutual engagement of feminist and decolonial theorizing in order to understand systems of oppression as complex interactions of economic, racializing, and gendering systems.
Speakers include: Linda Martín Alcoff, Michael Hames Garcia, Kathryn Gines, Sarah Hoagland, María Lugones, Nelson Maldonado-Torres, José Medina, Eduardo Mendieta, Mariana Ortega, Pedro di Pietro, Omar Rivera, Shireen Roshanravan, Alejandro Vallega
We welcome diverse disciplinary and interdisciplinary engagements with the work of María Lugones and are particularly interested in catalyzing dialogues between work in feminist theory and in decolonial theory. We encourage you to submit a paper for the conference. More information can be found on our proposal submission page.

Summer program: PhilSci for Undergrads

The Center for Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh will be hosting a summer program in philosophy of science for undergraduate students from underrepresented groups this coming July (July 16-20, 2018).

The Pittsburgh Summer Program (PSP2) will feature two daily seminars about core issues and cutting-edge topics in general philosophy of science and philosophy of the special sciences (e.g., physics, biology, cognitive science and neuroscience, social sciences). Housing, meals, and transportation costs are covered by the program.

The organizers write:

We invite applications from North American female undergraduates, LGBT undergraduates, disabled undergraduates, undergraduates from racial and ethnic backgrounds, first generation undergraduates, and other undergraduates from groups underrepresented in philosophy of science. Exceptions may be granted to undergraduates not in these groups on a case-by-case basis (please explain your situation in your cover letter). Past coursework in philosophy of science is not a prerequisite for application to the Summer Program.

Applications are due March 1, 2018. For more information see the program’s website (www.pitt.edu/~pittcntr/Events/All/psp2/psp2.html).

Victoria Davion, 1960-2017

We are sad to report the death of Prof. Victoria Davion on November 5, 2017, at the age of 57. Vicky Davion was the founder and editor in chief of Ethics & the Environment. She was a member of the faculty of Philosophy at University of Georgia, the first woman in the department to attain the rank of Full Professor, and the first woman to chair the department, which she did for twelve years. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and specialized in feminist and environmental ethics.

I can’t do justice to Vicky’s dynamism here. She was the daughter of actors and had a flair for reciting a poem, presenting a paper, or relaying a joke. She was a regular by Claudia Card’s bedside in hospice when Claudia was dying of cancer, and I’ve never laughed so much in hospice as I did when my visit coincided with one of Vicky’s. She was also a keen philosopher of feminism and in some ways, my role model for a variety of healthy competition, which she would love, as one of her earliest articles was the Hypatia article, “Competition, Recognition, and Approval-Seeking.” I was barely cognizant of the professional world when I started graduate school in the mid-1990s, and met Vicky at a time when she was already tenure-track at UGA. She observed with a laugh that she was told to publish articles in journals that weren’t Hypatia, and she responded with alacrity, publishing on action-guides and moral intentions (Public Affairs Quarterly), self-corruption and feminist jurisprudence (Journal of Social Philosophy), integrity and care ethics (Social Theory and Practice), then demanded tenure early (and succeeded). She set, for me, a bar for achievement, at a time when it wouldn’t have occurred to me to demand anything.

It is a tradition at FP to share a bit of the scholarship of the author whose loss we are noting. I have a wealth of choices, and debated sharing Vicky’s gutsy form of feminism in her account of her own experience with violence, or her most formative influence on me, the “How Feminist is Ecofeminism” contribution to an environmental ethics textbook I used early on, in which she first raised my awareness of the need to critically examine femininity and masculinity. But as the USA faces the persistent efforts to repeal even a semblance of an attempt at wide access to health care, I thought I’d go with Vicky’s pugnacious article, “Health Care in the United States: Evil Intentions and Collective Responsibility” (Midwest Studies in Philosophy, 2006). It’s the sort of article she would write, to have subheads like, THE LACK OF UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE IN AMERICA AS EVIL. But this is from a later section of the paper:

If it is true that America’s failure to provide adequate health care to everyone is evil, is even arguably an atrocity given its scale, the obvious question is that of why fixing the problem is not high on America’s political agenda. I shall argue that part of the problem may be a flip side to the sexist socialization into femininity that harms many women caregivers. Socialization into the masculine identity of “autonomous agent,” concretely understood in neoliberal terms, allows many privileged Americans, especially white men, to blame those lacking adequate health care. The idea that those lacking health care are blameworthy allows the privileged to regard the redistribution of resources that would make national health care possible as unfair. I shall argue that this conception of autonomy is a myth that results in evil, and that it is the collective responsibility of American citizens to attempt to undermine it.

Always with the feminism. Thanks, Vicky.



Kevin Spacey: How dare you!

From the Guardien’s Owen Jones:

How dare you, Kevin Spacey. One of the age-old tropes deployed against gay and bisexual men is that they pose a threat to children, that they are synonymous with paedophiles and pederasts. This vicious lie has long proved useful in justifying the systematic persecution of gay and bisexual men. And that is why Spacey’s statement is so utterly contemptible. He has been accused of attempted sexual assault against actor Anthony Rapp, who was a 14-year-old child at the time. The Oscar winner denied any recollection of the incident – and then chose to take the opportunity to come out.

The rest is here.

“Everyone fucking knew”

A Hollywood screenwriter has written a powerful post, describing the way that everyone knew Weinstein was up to something bad, even if they didn’t know the details– and the reasons they went along with it.  And apologising.  He also notes the shock so many in Hollywood are expressing and calls bullshit on that.

Unsurprisingly, this has me thinking about the world of philosophy. I’m a pretty well-informed person when it comes to harassment in philosophy, and yet I am still sometimes shocked when a big story breaks.  So it’s not the case that *everyone* knows.  However– without fail– within days I discover that in a particular department, or a particular sub-discipline, it really was true that everyone knew– or at least strongly suspected.  And this is morally important, as these people are letting it continue, and not blowing the whistle.  (Well, some of them are trying to stop it, but not enough, or not the powerful enough people.)  And you know what else?  I often discover that some of the people expressing shock and horror on fb are actually within the circle of the “everyone” who knew that things were happening which shouldn’t have been– they were at the parties in professional settings at which sex workers were hired; they were at the department events held in strip clubs; they saw the moves being made by the professionally powerful older man on the professionally powerless younger woman.  And they just let it go on, expressing shock and horror only when it hit the headlines.

Sometimes I feel like there’s something to this adapted quote:

“if [disgraced philosopher]’s behavior is the most reprehensible thing one can imagine, a not-so-distant second is the current flood of sanctimonious denial and condemnation that now crashes upon these shores of rectitude in gloppy tides of bullshit righteousness.”

After all, some people are in a position to declare “no more department events at the strip club”, and to make that happen– it’s clear what these people should do.  It’s an important and baffling failure when they fail to do this.  What’s needed is not even difficult.

But individuals are not the whole of the problem.  We also need to think about institutions.  We desperately need to reform the way that departments and universities deal with sexual harassment.  Currently the university’s main interest is almost always adverse publicity– which means that victims and witnesses are silenced, and perpetrators are all too often quietly handed packets of money to go away.  There’s a nice discussion here of ways that institutions could be reformed.

And on an individual level we also need to think about the more complex cases in which people feel they don’t know how to intervene: e.g. the older man isn’t from the same department as the younger woman, and they can’t really tell whether what they’re seeing is mutually desired, or they have less institutional power (they themselves are just a student, and fear the consequences of objecting).  However, even in these cases, there *are* things to be done.  One could sit down next to the younger woman, join the conversation, offer her a way out in case she wants it (“some of us are going for pizza– want to come?”).  A colleague from another department could talk to the older man, remind of him of his professional power, and the potential problems that brings with it.    A student may not be able to safely intervene, but they may be able to check in with a fellow student, and see if they’re OK.  And they may be able to to raise issues with a sympathetic faculty member (though identifying these can sometimes be hard).

So did everyone fucking know, in all the philosophy cases?  In lots of cases, with appropriate domain restrictions in place, YES.  And we need to do something about all the reasons that this isn’t stopping the harassment.  I’d really love to see a widespread effort on the part of philosophers to think through ways that we can reform our profession– from individual actions to institutional change.  I hereby invite a discussion of this topic in the comments.  But please no identifiable discussion of individual cases or departments.

Kara Walker has not lost her nerve

Of this image Darrel Pinckney observes in the forthcoming NY Review of Books

Walker’s titles set the mood, but they also set you up, and the texts of her catalogs can be intimidating in their pretended didacticism. A medium-size work done in ink and collage, Scraps, is one of the images that linger in the mind long after you have seen it. Walker shows a naked young black girl in a bonnet, with a small ax raised in her left hand. She is making off with the large head of a white man. She might even be skipping. This isn’t Judith; it’s a demented Topsy in her festival of gore. Slavery drove both the slaver and the enslaved mad and itself was a form of madness. It’s the look Walker puts in the little girl’s visible eye. Racial history has broken free and is running amuck. But even this work has a strange elegance. She is not an exorcist, is not trying to be therapeutic. It is the way she fills up her spaces. With Walker you feel that everything is placed with delicacy and each gesture conveys so much.

When Kara Walker’s art first appeared, many critics – particularly critics of color – expressed great concern that she uncritically displayed some of the worst racist clichés about black people. One would expect such voices today to be at least very mute. Rather, critics now see that she is using such images to her own ends. To say this should not merely to say tha she has appropriated these tropes. Rather, as the NY Review of books maintains:

Kara Walker’s images comprise an army of the unlikely, those grotesques and comics that white people invented in the effort to persuade themselves—and black people as well—that black people were only fit for servitude, and that they were incapable of and uninterested in revolt. Walker turns against whiteness what white people invented.

Pinckney is discussing a new show of Walker’s art and the accompanying catalogue: Kara Walker: Sikkema Jenkins and Co. is Compelled to present The most Astounding and Important Painting show of the fall Art Show viewing season.

Black Lives Matter Is the title of Pinckney’s review. His piece gives us an eloquent account of how it could seem otherwise. Do read it.