How can we as philosophers improve our thought and the way we practice philosophy, both individually and within the profession?
As his Meditations reveal, Descartes thought that he could avoid fundamental error by subjecting his thought to rigorous scrutiny – an activity he could undertake from his own armchair. Philosophers have found this idea very attractive. But recent work in psychology and cognitive neuroscience suggests there are problems with his method. Theorists working in these fields have a lot to tell us about how we think and the ways in which we are very easily inclined to cognitive error.
As feminists we are concerned with the mistakes and biases that affect equality of opportunity within the profession. However, we are not focused exclusively on women; there are too many people who experience obstacles in philosophy for us to be happy with so narrow a vision. (It’s also worth noting that recent work in happiness studies that suggests people in a just social group are happier.)
We’d like to start a list of readings that identify and analyse the unconscious psychological processes that can lead to cognitive error. Many of them are concerned with ways in which there are unjust barriers to full participation in philosophy, but not all are directly related to discrimination. We welcome new additions to this list.
Implicit Bias: Jenny Saul’s paper.
Conceptions of talent and their influence on performance: a paper by Carol Dweck’s paper.
Stereotype threat: A popular article by Claude Steele.
Ways one might reduce bias (about racism, but can apply to sexism), a paper from Dovidio’s group.
Bystander training: sometimes people witness discriminatory behaviour that shocks them, but they don’t know how to react. This website has some useful resources to help people act in these situations.
Stress and creativity: How stress can put you in a rut.
Please add references to any relevant work in the comments.