CFP: SAF at Eastern APA 2018

Society for Analytical Feminism

Feminist Philosophy in the Analytic Tradition

CALL FOR PAPERS

SAF Session at the Eastern Division APA

Savannah, GA, January 3-6, 2018

Deadline: JULY 10, 2017

The Society for Analytical Feminism invites submissions for a session at the 2018 Eastern Division APA meetings in Savannah, Georgia.

The Society seeks papers that examine feminist issues by methods broadly construed as analytic, or discuss the use of analytic philosophical methods as applied to feminist issues. Authors should submit full papers of a length appropriate to a 20-minute presentation time. Please delete all self-identifying references from your submission to ensure anonymity.

Send submissions as a word attachment to Kathryn Norlock

(kathrynnorlock at gmail dot com).

Deadline for submissions: Monday, July 10, 2017.

 Graduate students or underfunded professionals whose papers are accepted will be eligible for the Society’s $350 Travel Stipend. Please indicate in your email if you fall into one of these categories and wish to be considered for the stipend.

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On Westminster Bridge

From Ricard Menary on Facebook.

Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning: silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!

Wordsworth – Composed upon Westminster bridge.
——–

We will still have the wit to see beauty like this.

New St Mary’s petition– for international support

As many of you noted, the petition to keep St Mary’s Philosophy open was only accepting UK signatures.  That one couldn’t be changed, so I’ve made a new one, here.  Please sign and share widely– this is a gem of a philosophy department.  I was so impressed on my visit to have so many undergraduates not just show up for my talk, but ask really great questions.  And I was also impressed by the sadly unusual fact that this was such a diverse audience.  This department is doing great things, that the rest of the profession could learn from.  Let’s help keep it going!

 

 

Evolution: survival of the fittest? Maybe not, acording to female birds.

I’ve been watching ducks recently.  Mallard ducks show the remarkable difference beteen the fairly drab female and the quite glamorous male.  Is this just another case of an unfair asymmetry in nature?

Maybe not. An opposing proposal is that what we are seeing is the effect of female avian aesthetics.  Females are generally those who select the partner in a pair.  What we see is the effect of their taste, shared to some extent by females of at least one other species. Namely, human beings.

Another interesting fact is that female aesthetic preference does not always pick out the fitter male bird, fitter, that is, in birdly things like flight.  In fact, it very much looks as though the song of one species is improved by wing configurations that, when increased, create a bird less capable of good flying.

Yale Professor Richard O. Prum argues, as it is put, that sexual selection, unlike natural selection, is not always selection of the fittest. In fact, he thinks it is based on female avian sexual aesthetics.

To grasp his view, a little bit of history is in order. Darwin famously proposed the idea of evolution by natural selection, what is often called survival of the fittest. To put it simply, living things vary in their inherited traits, from speed to color to sense of smell. The traits of the individuals who survive longer and have the most offspring become more common. So, over time, the faster antelope have more young, the fastest of them have more offspring, and antelope end up very speedy.

But reproduction isn’t just about surviving and staying healthy long enough to mate. You have to find a mate. And in many species, your mate must choose you. This process is sexual selection. Female birds are often the ones choosing. And their choices can produce male birds that are incredibly colorful, and some that are elaborate dancers or designers of striking boudoirs — like the bower birds. If, for example, females like males with long tails, then long-tailed males have more offspring, and the longest-tailed of those offspring reproduce more. In the end, that species becomes known for its long tails.

Whether he is generally right, there do seem to be cases of sexual selection that can degrade the species. What does this say about the survival of the fittest?

Crudely natural selection is supposed to select for those who meet the challenges in their environment in a way that enhances reproductive success. But if we include getting selected as a mate, then overall fitness need not be enhanced in the species. Or so two articles in the NY Times seem to suggest. See here and here. To be accurate, though, I don’t think anyone writing sees any problem in distinguishing natural from sexual selection. Justifying the distinction is another matter, or so Professor Prum’s reference to free will for female birds could indicate. See the end of the second article:

 

Once organisms evolve the capacity for subjective evaluation, and the freedom of choice, then animals become agents in their own evolution. One of the hallmarks of autonomy, of course, is the freedom to mess up

 

 

 

Help keep St Mary’s Philosophy open

From the BPA:
The BPA understand that St Mary’s University is consulting on the closure of its Philosophy BA programme.  A group of students at St Mary’s have put together an online petition to generate a public of show of support for philosophy at St Mary’s, and I would like to encourage you all to sign it. You can find it here:
Philosophy at St Mary’s has an outstanding reputation for Widening Participation, and for being able to address challenging but foundational questions in the academically rich context of a Catholic university. This makes St Mary’s a very important provider – and an increasingly important one as UKHE continues to change – of a degree-level education in philosophy for students who for various reasons approach higher education with different ideas and backgrounds than they do in many other institutions.

We are not sure how far along in the process of making this decision they are, or what the timeframe for this decision is looking like, but we want to help the students and staff at St Mary’s to feel supported by the wider philosophical community, and to encourage the management to explore all of the options for keeping this programme alive.

Do consider signing the petition!  All signatories welcome, including international ones.

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.

 

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.