Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Former Dick Speaks Out

In comments here, Former Dick writes,

A little relevant background: I'm a male analytic philosopher and an activist, even a "hard core" analytic philosopher. I'm now a few years post-PhD in a TT job. I have always thought of myself as very liberal and progressive, particularly with respect to gender and feminist causes.

But here's the thing: in my youth, particularly right at the beginning of grad school, I used to be kind of a dick about it. (I'm using that gendered insult on purpose.)

One thing I would do is uncharitably assume that everybody else was on the wrong course with their activism (perhaps because I had just learned about the problem, and the problem still existed despite some people having worked on it a long time already.). But many of these problems are very hard to solve, and there are no easy or silver bullet solutions. Also, as you learn more about the problem, you come to see greater complexity regarding the possible solutions.

Another thing I would do is start out as if (or perhaps genuinely) in sympathy with my interlocutor's cause, but I would be a total jerk in how I participated in discussions. I would get all "analytic philosopher" on people, but in the bad sense, not in the good (clear argumentation) sense. I would think that I was just trying to be clear, but what I was trying to do was win an argument, rather than have a discussion. So I would uncharitably construe what people were saying; I would trot out straw men; I would whine about how people hadn't actually *responded* to my pages long argument; I would use aggressive rhetoric (calling ideas "terrible" or "ridiculous" or "stupid" and starting sentences with "Look,..."); and I would spend a lot of time numbering premises and claims while missing the most important points, or while missing what people were really getting at (even if they hadn't said *precisely* that).

Another thing I would do is act as if I knew more than I did. (The discussion of how conferences come up with their non-keynote speakers--this fantastic world of pure blind review!--was particularly glaring in this regard.) Sometimes you have to hang out in a world for a while before you know how things work, and before you know how they might be changed.

The end result of all this: I was a "good guy" or so I thought, but I found that people would tire of talking to me about these things.

I wish I could go back and be less of a dick. One thing I've realized is that most people in this philosophy world are *very* smart. Maybe in high school and college you could assume that you were right and they were wrong (you were thinking clearly and they were muddled and misguided), but you can probably stop with that implicit assumption. Or at least assume that the other person is more of a peer than (just) a person who can learn from your brilliance.

I know, I know, you'll deny that you've done anything wrong. PB will say things like "I was interested in thinking through new, creative, and sometimes subtle ways of making professional philosophy more hospitable for women." But were you really? Why did you assume that others weren't? Even when they have spent years--real years!--of their lives doing exactly that?

Just FYI, calling out someone like Sally Haslanger in this context, in the way you did, just highlights all of the obvious dickishness. I don't think anyone is into hero worship here, but she's someone who has *obviously* done a ton for women in philosophy, so even if you think another direction is the way forward, have some respect!


It seems to me that this sort of thing happens a lot. I see some of this in myself. Worth thinking about.

--Mr. Zero

100 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm not gonna lie, it's the debate in philosophy that attracts me to it as much as the discussion (and insofar as we're not dealing with a false dichotomy). It's the willingness of philosophers, especially analytic ones, to call out muddled or inflated claims that makes our discipline appealing to many, myself included. I am not saying philosophers have a monopoly on the virtue of clarity compared to the rest of the humanities, but I am saying as a matter of empirical fact that we tend to enforce it with more... rigor.

So I applaud everything Former Dick has to say, but in doing so let's not confuse the distinction between hostile and constructive debate for the distinction between debate and discussion.

Furhter, I would like to draw the unfortunate implication that if Dickishness is male, as FD implies, that opens the door to hysteria being female. We should strive to distance ourselves from both associations, even if the female associations are more obviously sexist than the male ones.

Tomatoe said...

Former Dick's comment is superbly illuminating. I (a woman) painfully, shamefully recognize my first-year grad school self in this description.

Anonymous said...

Given the context in which Former Dick made that comment, I think his case is pretty weak.

If you look at the thread, the person FD is accusing of being a 'Dick' really doesn't stand out as the one who's being uncharitable or missing the forest for the trees.

When all's said and done, the greatest two things philosophy has to teach us are the importance of careful reasoning and the fact that most of the things we feel passionately self-righteous about aren't adequately justified.

Criticizing philosophers for 'being too analytical' is sometimes warranted, perhaps. But all too often, the effect of that criticism is to stop philosophy from giving us its greatest gifts, and to make us feel justified in continuing our crusades without worrying about the dotted 'i's and crossed 't's that the whole thing lives or dies on.

So yeah, sometimes that advice can be useful. But in most cases, it's probably harmful.

Anonymous said...

10:39

"Criticizing philosophers for 'being too analytical' is sometimes warranted, perhaps. But all too often, the effect of that criticism is to stop philosophy from giving us its greatest gifts, and to make us feel justified in continuing our crusades without worrying about the dotted 'i's and crossed 't's that the whole thing lives or dies on."

This is a better version of what I wanted to say.

Anonymous said...

Oh no, party crashers are here again.

Anonymous said...

"Oh no, party crashers are here again."

Wait, what? Where...

I assume you're referring to this comment from a previous post?

"Looks like the party has been crashed by people who don't know what the topic of discussion is, and have only heard that someone at some time (mis?)attributed something negative about feminist philosophy to someone else as a tangential aside. And it looks like they came from here: http://whatweredoingaboutwhatitslike.wordpress.com/"

Anonymous said...

11:02

Thanks, 10:39.

I'd like to go even further, actually. This issue has been on my mind for some time, and my feelings on it have intensified after watching the exchanges yesterday.

The way I see it, most of what we're doing in philosophy is practice for something bigger and more important. We may focus intensely on problems that seem extraordinarily minute to the general public. But in doing so, and in teaching our students to do so, we're cultivating a set of remarkable skills to do what it is against all of our natures to do: to critically and self-critically examine the views we hold most dear, and to use our transpiercing vision to see far in advance the ways in which the great machines we want to construct are apt to wobble off kilter with disastrous results.

So for me, the greatest moment for philosophy is when I or those around me get swept up in a righteous crusade. That's when we pay the debt we owe to society for supporting us the rest of the time: by using our powers of analysis, criticism, self-criticism and clear argumentation to turn ourselves and others back from the brink.

But I often see other philosophers who would rather keep quiet in the face of any crowd that can't be kept at a safe distance. And most upsetting of all, I sometimes see philosophers who take it as a virtue to stop doing careful philosophy exactly when it is most important to do it. In the case of Former Dick, this is a self-conscious move. But most of them do it without thinking. They see someone they think offhand must be an asshole or an obstacle to their crusade, and they stop philosophizing and look for ways of rhetorically supporting their pre-philosophical views on the matter.

I see this happening over and over. Just last week, I spoke with two very capable philosophers about their support of Israel. You should have heard the crudity of their arguments and the veneer of rigor and self-righteousness they coated them with. And when I pointed this out, they said, in step with Former Dick, that I was being "too analytical" and that I should learn to grow up.

Sigh...

Mr. Zero said...

Particularly in informal discussions, I often feel that a lot of effort is put into refuting particular formulations of views or principles, and not as much into deeper engagement with the views or principles themselves.

And so, although I could be wrong, it seemed to me that Former Dick is not calling for us to cease being analytical or rigorous, but is bemoaning a tendency to use these tools in a shallow manner.

Anonymous said...

As someone whose life used to be essentially dominated by competitive debate, the "debate" aspect of philosophy is definitely something that attracted me to it, and I recognize myself in the OP's description, especially during my undergrad years. I would be lying if I said I still don't love debating philosophical positions, and I certainly don't want to give up calling out arguments that aren't strong, but I've learned that you can do this in a way where it's not about winning or being right, but cooperating to make the discussion better. In other words, the reason why it's important to call out weak arguments isn't because that gives mine a better chance, but because, if the goal is to seek truth (as I think it ought to be), then we need the best arguments--whether it's mine or something else.

Anonymous said...

Why didn't Former Dick or anyone else on that thread have anything to say about the rant at June 24, 2011 7:48 PM? Doesn't that clearly show that there are far worse ways of missing the forest and being needlessly combative than by being carefully analytical?

Former Dick said...

This is to 11:02...

Again with the strawmen!

The charge was not of being *too analytical* but of being *too much of a dick.*

PB's problem is that he isn't being adequately analytical, in the deep (thinking clearly about a hard problem) rather than the shallow (numbering my premises) sense of "analytical."

PB gives a hopelessly unrealistic solution (one might even call it terrible) to a hard problem. (See the recent post in the original thread which I authored--forgot the monniker!) PB writes 20 paragraphs explaining why the Gendered Conference Campaign is a terrible idea--all based on the false beliefs that the campaign is intended to shame people into better behavior and that only keynote speakers are chosen with identity in view. And PB is shocked, shocked when people are put off by his calling the GCC (which appears to be making a real difference) a "terrible" idea based on this multi-post misguided rant. Worst, PB (and his possibly identical defenders) claims to stand up for right, and reason, and truth unvarnished. As if that is what pissed everyone off.

Anonymous said...

10:39

"And so, although I could be wrong, it seemed to me that Former Dick is not calling for us to cease being analytical or rigorous, but is bemoaning a tendency to use these tools in a shallow manner."

Truly. The point of your post is to warn us that we ought not to mistake rigor for dickishness (or its correlate, bitchiness). The point of my post is to warn us that we ought not to mistake dickishness/bitchiness for rigor, as do some opponents of (analytic) philosophy.

Anonymous said...

PB (Anon11:31), your enthusiasm, sincere aspiration to good reasoning skills and love for philosophy are truly wonderful. What rubs the wrong way is your obvious arrogance: a lot of philosophers, esp those commenting here, do not reason carefully or respect the truth, the feminists are poor activists (not Ghandi enough) and GCC is a terribly misguided idea.

The Former Dick makes such excellent points!

Anonymous said...

More on where the mob is coming from and how little of the context they know:

This was the post on Feminist Philosophers yesterday.

"The recent back-and-forth on the Smoker included a comment by a visitor reporting someone else’s perception that feminist philosophy is pseudophilosophy.

"I’m disabling comments here since the call is over there. But do feel free to affirm the contributions of a philosopher or two!"

Mr. Zero said...

More on where the mob is coming from and how little of the context they know

You have misunderstood that post on Feminist Philosophers. There was a call on the What We're Doing blog, in response to Philosophical Boyfriend's suggestion that feminist philosophy is pseudophilosophy, to identify one's favorite "pseudophilosopher." That is the call referred to in the FP post. It was not a call to come over here and raise hell. The feminist philosophers did not send a mob to us. There's no mob.

Mr. Zero said...

To the person who has responded to the post on the other thread at 11:12 that you attribute to Former Dick. I'm not saying you can't post a comment with content like that, but I wish you were more specific. Which claims do you find to be hair-splitting, or superficial, or straw-man attacks? Because when I read the comment, I'm not sure I see how it contains these things. So instead of asking FD to explain how he's not doing that, I would be more willing to post the comment if you would explain why you think he is doing that.

I hope that this seems fair.

And if Former Dick could confirm or deny authorship of the 11:12 comment, that would also be helpful.

Former Dick said...

Yes, I posted the 11:12 comment.

MIT_grad said...

Three cheers for former dick! Very well put.

My intention, in sardonically calling PB a 'prize,' was likewise to call him out as an asshole/dick. I should have been more direct - sorry Mr. Zero.

Why was the guy being an asshole? Again, because he has spilled vast amounts of ink airing groundless yet entrenched suspicions about current feminist undertakings that came from a place of ignorance and unwillingness to listen. It would be a waste and a pity if folks were misled by his myriad misleading claims - especially since he presented himself as the voice of reason.

For those who missed it, this was the original context - PB commented, in an earlier thread (http://philosophysmoker.blogspot.com/2011/06/this-is-what-im-talking-about.html): "My girlfriend is now entering a PhD program at a top school. And due to recent posts and comments she's seen on philosophy blogs, she's worried about her prospects for the first time. What posts, you might wonder? Are they from sexist (or allegedly sexist) men? No. They're comments and posts by feminist philosophers on feminist philosophy blogs, and increasingly on this one. So if the justification for not entertaining supposed 'asshole' comments is the harm it does to the confidence of women philosophers, then many other comments and topics should be cut as well. Seriously."

He goes on to say that there is "nothing there but a seemingly endless source of negativity and hopelessness. Nobody was really trying to solve the problems, she said: the aim simply seemed to be to wallow in misery and present as many negative stories as possible. For another, she felt that the way the issue was dealt with was sure to be ineffective. It relied on an 'us vs. them' mentality: there are feminists and sexists, with no middle ground, and no ability or interest in effecting actual change in attitudes (at least, not in a way that seemed practical). Rather than discussing the matters critically and constructively with people whose attitudes and actions were problematic, the emphasis was on pointing fingers at them and calling them sexist. The upshot, my girlfriend worries, is that the people branded as sexist will be most likely to respond by reinforcing the status quo: their views will not improve, but just be hidden in polite company. Finally, she noted that many feminists who are also philosophers have come to conflate being a feminist and a philosopher with 'doing feminist philosophy'. Sally Haslanger is a good example of someone who makes that error. My girlfriend, who considers 'feminist philosophy' to be pseudophilosophy, resents the fact that others might come to view her as a 'feminist philosopher' just because she is a woman in philosophy. Anyway, she came to feel better about it once she realized that what she really wanted were constructive ways of dealing with the problems that women seem to face."

These complaints are unfair, and PB's unwillingness to back off in light of the evidence and arguments adduced to that effect got progressively more annoying as the thread wore on.

The irony is that the way that this has unfolded is an object lesson in why calling people out for being sexist or at least oblivious to gender issues often won't work. They'll get defensive and eventually stalk off, perhaps hurling cheap and frankly ludicrous insults about the complainant's powers of deduction, and feel sorely victimized. The way they have been treated becomes the crucial moral issue for them. But it is not. Although there are admittedly constraints on how it should be expressed, those calling them out as intellectually and politically irresponsible may have every right to be highly annoyed and to say so - although it's unlikely to do much good. I submit that this is a case in point.

Anonymous said...

I'm the person who posted the comment about 'Former Dick'.

FD says he formerly misused his analytic training by arguing in a needlessly hostile manner, in which 'winning' the argument and not having a discussion was the goal. But today, in the comment I was referring to (11:12 in the other thread), he says "No one has responded to PB's "solutions" because they aren't worth responding to."

He says he used to use "agressive rhetoric", calling ideas he disliked 'terrible' or 'stupid'. But look at him today, from the same comment: "These are reasons to suspect that PB had thought about this issue for about as long as it took him to write his long-winded posts."

He says that, back when he was a dick, he used to attack straw man arguments, and that he concealed this from himself and others by numbering his premises carefully while making no effort to understand the opposing view. But in his comment at 11:12 today, he carefully numbers three objections to the proposal, and at least one of them (1 and maybe 3) is definitely a straw man, since it ignores a lengthy clarification in the original proposal.

He says that he used to engage in needless hair-splitting that was unlikely to help advance the issue in question. But look at his second objection at 11:12: "how do you determine who counts as a professor's student for these purposes? Just their dissertation advisees? What if they are sexist in agreeing to supervise? Do they have to take all comers? Will there be a random process?" Someone actually challenged him politely to help the proposal constructively. Needless to say, he has added nothing.

Finally, he says in the post that starts this thread that it is "obviously dickish" to allege, let alone demonstrate, that Sally Haslanger has committed (Allah preserve us!) a fallacy in a piece of reasoning. But he's not a hero worshipper or being needlessly combative, he wants us to know.

So, I'm not sure why he thinks he's not a dick any longer. Is it because he's got a new high horse that more people like? I wish he'd get off it. And I think the rest of us can help by not adding to the dick-worship already saturating this thread.

Tomatoe said...

3:25, your insults are getting so boring....

Anonymous said...

Hi everyone,

Is it just me, or do the rest of you remember that being fair and equitable in your criticisms is, y'know, pretty damn important?

Having an intelligent debate isn't about just cheering for your team and calling foul on the other's team. You've got to call foul on your own side's shenannigans, too.

I love philosophy and took a few courses in uni. I used to respect philosophy students and profs for having some integrity. After this, I don't know anymore. This is bullshit. I don't care how important you think your cause is. Learn some perspective and objectivity, folks. Case in point: Tomatoe's last comment.

Mr. Zero said...

Yeah. Dropped the ball there. Sorry.

philosophnic said...

… they misuse it by treating it as a kind of game of contradiction. They imitate those who have refuted them by refuting others themselves, and, like puppies, they enjoy dragging and tearing those around them with their arguments.

(Republic 539a-e)

She who would not be named said...

MIT Grad,

I'm puzzled by your reaction to PB. Yesterday, he claimed that Sally Haslanger had committed a fallacy. You objected that she hadn't and asked him to support the charge. He did. Then you claimed that he had failed. He painstakingly demonstrated that he hadn't (at least, he persuaded me that Haslanger had committed a fallacy). And, mind you, HE TOOK THE TIME TO SAY THAT HE RESPECTED HASLANGER'S WORK OVERALL, regardless of a fallacy he felt she repeatedly made in this area.

You then got more abusive and insited that the fallacy wasn't a fallacy. I wasn't convinced by your demonstration, but that's not the point. I could be wrong.

The point is this. PB decided not to fight it out with you anymore. He gave you the last word. You took it. That should have been the end.

But now, here you are a day later, rehashing the whole incident again in a new thread, heaping even more abuse and rancor on him. You even blame him for declining to fight you any further. I can only guess that, if he had kept it up, you would have blamed him even more for that.

How exactly do you figure that he deserves this much abuse for charging that someone's inference (even your hero's) is fallacious? Sure, Haslanger has done great things. Sure, we should all respect her. But you really need to take stock and get some perspective here. I'm not saying that woman-to-woman: I'm saying it person-to-person. Feminism is an important cause and it needs cool, collected people fighting for it. You've got some good ideas and great spirit, but you need to learn to pick your battles.

Former Dick (Still a Dick) said...

Just a few responses (although I am open to the possibility that I am being trolled):

Original comment from person I will call "Son of PB": "FD says he formerly misused his analytic training by arguing in a needlessly hostile manner... But today, in the comment I was referring to (11:12 in the other thread), he says "No one has responded to PB's "solutions" because they aren't worth responding to.""

That was me being nice to someone being pretty dickish. It is literally true that PB's half-baked solution isn't worth responding to.

Comment from Son of PB: "He says he used to use "agressive rhetoric", calling ideas he disliked 'terrible' or 'stupid'. But look at him today, from the same comment: "These are reasons to suspect that PB had thought about this issue for about as long as it took him to write his long-winded posts.""

Again, I've got nothing against being kind of a dick to those who are being kind of a dick. As has been discussed at length, PB went on and on, trashing someone's else's efforts, on a misguided basis, and then didn't really apologize, blamed others for his error, and continued to act affronted.

More Son of PB: "...he concealed this from himself and others by numbering his premises carefully while making no effort to understand the opposing view. But in his comment at 11:12 today, he carefully numbers three objections to the proposal, and at least one of them (1 and maybe 3) is definitely a straw man, since it ignores a lengthy clarification in the original proposal."

Just to be perfectly clear: I've got nothing against numbering premises. Or you can use letters. Or roman numerals. I'm not a monster.

And neither 1 nor 3 is a strawman. Those are real objections to the proposal offered. The lengthy clarification changes nothing.

Son of PB again: "He says that he used to engage in needless hair-splitting that was unlikely to help advance the issue in question."

I never said this. (Ok, that there was a bit of hairsplitting.)

More Son of PB: "But look at his second objection at 11:12: "how do you determine who counts as a professor's student for these purposes? Just their dissertation advisees? What if they are sexist in agreeing to supervise? Do they have to take all comers? Will there be a random process?""

This isn't hairsplitting. Talk to a lawyer: if you don't define your terms clearly in creating a rule, you can't enforce the rule. This question goes to the heart of the proposal.

Son of PB, yet again: "Someone actually challenged him politely to help the proposal constructively. Needless to say, he has added nothing."

Was this polite? It seemed annoying. There's no way to fix the proposal. Pick any definition of "student" you want. None of them will be enforceable, none of them will advance the cause of justice or feminism. Also, I'm already doing plenty. You don't know me.

Son of PB, finally: "So, I'm not sure why he thinks he's not a dick any longer. Is it because he's got a new high horse that more people like? I wish he'd get off it. And I think the rest of us can help by not adding to the dick-worship already saturating this thread."

Got a point here, Son of PB. I can still be a dick, when that is required. And I kind of was.

Also, maybe there is a weird dick-worship thing going on, a bit, in that MIT_Grad (who I take to be a woman from some of the content; could be wrong) said what I said, basically, but some in the thread acted as if she was being too insulting ("bitchy").

Stepping back, I think it's worth saying that I meant my comment in a friendly way to PB, even if it was kinda calling him out a bit. His heart seems like it's in the right place, and I hope he hears me in the dickish older brother spirit in which it was intended.

Former Dick said...

Also, one last thing on the Haslanger thing. This is PB's initial mention of her: "Finally, she [PBG] noted that many feminists who are also philosophers have come to conflate being a feminist and a philosopher with 'doing feminist philosophy'. Sally Haslanger is a good example of someone who makes that error."

So PB suggests that Haslanger really conflates being a feminist and a philosopher with "doing feminist philosophy." Really. So she wouldn't get that if, say, L.A. Paul is a feminist, writing on the metaphysics of causation and ontology, that Paul is not thereby "doing feminist philosophy." Come on. It's hardly hero worship to think that you're engaging in some pretty uncharitable interpretation if that's what you think Haslanger thinks, wherever you got that impression from.

Son of a B said...

Son of a B here, FD (I'm shortening your moniker for me).

First, the only two minor points I want to call attention to: you still don't seem to have got what I think was pretty clearly the point behind PB's proposal. It was a piece of advice that male (and maybe female) instructors could take on board if they wanted to find ways to help avoid creating problems like the one the unfortunate female student faced a couple of threads back. Legal challenges, enforcing a rule, and so on were not meant to enter into it. If others read PB's suggestion differently, I'll stand corrected. But it seemed pretty clear to me.

Minor point #2: you claimed in the quote that started this thread that you've stopped claiming to know things you don't. And yet, you assert right here that "none of [PB's suggestions] will advance the cause of justice or feminism." OK, and you know that? Pretty amazing.

Now for the more general point. It seems from your reply that you haven't renounced your former tactics and attitudes at all. You're even adding to what I originally said by going further: you're now blaming other people for not apologizing while you yourself won't apologize for anything.

What you've done instead of change your ways, you want us to believe now, is to apply them against _bad_ people. And who are these bad people? Well, people who are doing the very same things you do, except, you know, against _good_ people. Good people: you know, people who haven't been dicks to anyone, unless those people in turn have been dicks to people who haven't been dicks... and so on.

You say that you wanted to come off as a friendly(??) "dickish older brother" to PB. Maybe that worked. But to me, I have to say you just seemed like a dickish hypocrite, and even more so after your latest. There's my outside perspective, for what it's worth. Maybe you can read it as my dickish older brother advice to you, if that's your thing.

Mr. Zero said...

Let's take it a little easier, folks.

Anonymous said...

Former Dick,

The charge was that Haslanger committed a fallacy, in a particular argument (possibly reiterated), of equivocating between two senses of the term 'feminist'.

You say that it would be uncharitable to attribute to her the inability to distinguish between the two senses in some particular instances, like the one you mention. I agree with you.

However, to be fair, the charge was not that she is somehow never able to distinguish between the two senses. It's that she on at least one occasion did in fact fail so to distinguish.

MIT_grad said...

FD: agreeing with a point you made is dick worship now? Totally inappropriate thing to say, and my sex is relevant to this particular question how? Ick.

And nameless she, since swathes of loyal anonymous followers of PB have curiously emerged from the woodwork since his departure, sometimes bemoaning that his views have been misrepresented, or the original context has been forgotten, it seemed like a useful reminder. Cheers (woman-to-woman indeed).

P.S. I have great spirit? Double ick.

Former Dick said...

To MIT_Grad:

Very sorry. My point was that you had *already* said what I later said, but people complained about your tone while praising mine. This seemed, to me, like the thing that happens when a point a woman made is ignored until a man later makes the same point.

MIT_grad said...

FD: apology cheerfully accepted. And, hey, at least being told over the course of the discussion by PB and his, erm, friends to brush up on my logic, better my reasoning skills, keep my cool, and pick my battles made for an amusing illustration of what women in philosophy are actually up against.

MIT_grad said...

P.S. Oh re-reading now I see what you meant originally. Missed the second half of the sentence. Sorry, my bad. :)

to be fair said...

8:22,

However, to be fair, the charge was not that she is somehow never able to distinguish between the two senses. It's that she on at least one occasion did in fact fail so to distinguish.

No, that’s not right. Here’s what PhilBoy said:

“Sally Haslanger is a good example of someone who makes that error.”

That’s not what you say if you mean that she on one occasion failed to distinguish being a feminist philosopher from being a feminist and a philosopher. You don’t say that someone “has come to conflate” two things if you mean that she conflated them on one occasion.
I think all of us who have read SH’s work know perfectly well that she does not do that, and I presume FDick was merely pointing out that the ‘charge’ is pretty silly.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Tobefair.

8:22 here. What I'm thinking about is this: it is possible for someone to habitually run together two things in the context of a favorite argument or bit of reasoning, even though in other contexts that person can distinguish between them. It could be habitual because we don't usually reason things through from scratch every time we think about them. Instead, we rely on our past reasoning.

For instance, Moore in his famous 'open question' argument runs together the issue of property identity and the synonymy of property terms. Moore made that mistake over and over again in several discussions. As far as I know, pretty well everyone agrees on that now. Does that mean we're saying he's so dull that he didn't know the difference between a pair of properties and a pair of words? Of course not. He knew the difference most of the time, but he habitually got confused (and spread the confusion) in a series of related discussions.

The same goes for Haslanger (even though I haven't yet seen an instance of her actually making the equivocation, so I'm relying on what I've seen here). She does some 'feminist philosophy', and she also works to better the lot of women in philosophy. For that reason, she might falsely assume sometimes that one entails the other. She wouldn't be the first person to make that mistake in that context, and it isn't the end of the world to make it. Philosophers make those kinds of mistakes, habitually, all the time.

Aside to MIT_Grad:

I'm going to take a chance and assume from your name that you're not tenured or TT yet. If that's right, I've got some friendly advice that you're of course welcome to reject.

Throughout this discussion, people have suggested to you that you think things through more carefully and pick your battles. They've also criticized your reasoning in some places. I get that being told that, especially in a public forum, can be galling.

But in response, you said last night that those critiques are "an amusing illustration of what women in philosophy are actually up against."

I don't know if that was just something you said in the heat of the moment. But if it represents your true opinion, then I think there are a couple of problems. First of all, there really are some serious obstacles that women are up against and these are NOT them. I, for one, am not happy to see those serious obstacles trivialized. The things you mentioned are par for the course for anyone doing philosophy, male or female, old or young.

That's the second point. If you go on in philosophy, you're going to encounter criticism like this every time you submit or present a paper or speak up at a conference. Sometimes, the criticism will be off-target. But you, like the rest of us, need to swallow your pride and take it all seriously if you want to get good at this, and to make it in the discipline these days you have to be very, very good. I don't think that blowing off criticism by calling it sexism is doing you any favors.

Here endeth the lesson.

MIT-grad said...

Again with the obnoxious condescension, pb (*waves*). I do have a tt job at a leiterrific school, so I'm doing all right for myself, actually. But thanks all the same for continuing to illustrate my point.

Anonymous said...

I called you out on your attitude. That doesn't make me part of the PB waves any more than it makes you Sally Haslanger.

I don't see where this conversation is going anymore. Like someone said in another thread recently: we're at the rubble-bouncing stage. I'm outta here. Have fun.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:22/11:14 said to MIT grad:"Throughout this discussion, people have suggested to you that you think things through more carefully and pick your battles. They've also criticized your reasoning in some places. I get that being told that, especially in a public forum, can be galling.

But in response, you said last night that those critiques are "an amusing illustration of what women in philosophy are actually up against."

I don't know if that was just something you said in the heat of the moment. But if it represents your true opinion, then I think there are a couple of problems. First of all, there really are some serious obstacles that women are up against and these are NOT them. "

Whoa.

This seems to be EXACTLY what most women in philosophy are up against. This is the standard reaction against their philosophical contributions--they are patronized, belittled, underestimated, told not to be defensive when they are attacked on tiny points that miss the thrust of the argument, etc. Try giving a paper at a major venue and being treated that way, nearly every time. (Even when, say, the paper is has been accepted at a top journal by blind review, giving you independent confirmation that the idea is good.) Or making comments in a seminar or talk, and being treated that way, nearly every time, and having to fight just to be taken seriously.

No wonder why we can't keep women in the field.

There are other important issues too, of course, such as sexual harrassment. But the generalized, everyday treatment of womens' philosophical contributions is important.

MIT_grad said...

"You, like the rest of us, need to swallow your pride and take it all seriously if you want to get good at this, and to make it in the discipline these days you have to be very, very good."

First of all, don't make assumptions about my status and/or abilities - you don't know me, PB, so that's a real dick move. Second of all, none of the criticisms that I objected to had to do with the *content* of my claims. They were cheap insults regarding my overall ability to think logically/reason clearly and/or hot-headedness. These are gender-stereotypical ad hominems, and they are real dick moves as well. The less seriously they are taken, the better off women will be. This is part of why I've continued to object to them publicly. That, and they've really pissed me off.

I, too, am outta here now. So, long, PB. You've been called a dick by many. Please have a serious think about whether there might just be something in it.

Thinking Person said...

Thanks, Mr. Zero, for clarifying that Feminist Philosophers was just quoting the 'open call' over at What We're Doing.

I'm the Feminist Philosopher who approved the posting of the 'call,' and I thought this might be a good time to remind people that those of us who live in the blogosphere read each other's blogs. We're often very well informed of context because we read long comment threads like this. It's a way of keeping an ear to the Cloud, so to speak.

So, Principle of Charity, and all that.

Anonymous said...

MIT Grad,

This is not PB, just so you know (though I did post anonymously much earlier).
Whatever else happened, you were called out on harshly accusing PB of a straw man. He defended himself against your call by logically analyzing it, and suggested that you be more careful with your logic. Perhaps that was rude, but it wasn't irrelevant and some would say you had crossed the line way before that. Principle of charity, these more recent criticisms can be read as about that. Calling sexism is best left for clear calls and you do seem pretty flippant about it, though I get what Anon 3:07 is saying. But yeah, this is getting stale.

tobefair said...

8:22,
What I'm thinking about is this: it is possible for someone to habitually run together two things in the context of a favorite argument or bit of reasoning, even though in other contexts that person can distinguish between them.

Yes, that is possible, I agree. And I believe we also agree that there is no evidence for it whatsoever. So we are now on the same page. (I think you are wrong about Moore, by the way, and I am *sure* that not everyone agrees with your diagnosis… but that’s a different discussion!)

She does some 'feminist philosophy', and she also works to better the lot of women in philosophy. For that reason, she might falsely assume sometimes that one entails the other.

Yes. Well, this is about as likely as Peter Singer falsely assuming that working to help alleviate suffering entails being a utilitarian.

I kind of regret getting into this. The 'charge' isn't worth taking seriously, and SH certainly doesn't need my defense. It just makes my skin crawl to see charges like this one tossed around as if they were basically true and the only question were exactly which mistake Sally made. And then when a few people who actually know quite a bit about her and her work try to correct the record, they're accused of "hero worship". Ugh.

(Sorry, 8:22, I don't mean to direct my disgust at you at all; just happens that it's bubbling up in this response to you.)

Mr. Zero said...

I've been think about these "learn some logic," "choose your battles," and "attitude" comments. It seems to me that MIT Grad is right in saying that these comments do represent sexism--although it does not seem obvious to me that the commenter(s) meant them that way. I don't think MIT Grad is being hysterical or overreacting when she points this out. It is not typical of how male philosophers interact with other male philosophers, particularly in professional settings. At least not that I'm aware of. At least not if you're not dealing with a complete dick.

So I sort of regret letting them through. At the time I thought they were sort of borderline; I am inclined, with the benefit of hindsight, to regard them as over the line. But I also worry that excessive interference will halt the discussion, and I think this is an important discussion to have. Something like this happened a couple of days ago, too. I guess I'm still trying to find the sweet spot.

Anonymous said...

Here's a quote from SWIP UK. They _do_ seem to be running together the issue of having more 'feminist philosophy' with that of being women-friendly. So, at least some people are doing it, whether or not Haslanger is:

"SWIP UK: Women-Friendliness Recognition 2009

University of Liverpool’s Department of Philosophy
Website

Contains four women faculty out of 10 full-time faculty members, one of which is the Head of Department. Feminist philosophy is taught at undergraduate and postgraduate levels and the department has two faculty members who work on feminist philosophy. The department has hosted, and plans to host in the future, a number of large feminist conferences. It also hosts the new Palgrave series “Breaking Feminist Waves” and has set up the new Liverpool sex/ gender/ sexualities interdisciplinary forum. The department is supportive of staff with childcare responsibilities.
"

Mr. Zero said...

Why couldn't the SWIP report just be citing the presence of feminist philosophers and feminist philosophy conferences as a piece of evidence of women-friendliness? Why does it have to be running the two together? They also point out that the department is good with childcare, after all.

Anonymous said...

Why would they cite the presence of feminist philosophers and feminist philosophy conferences as evidence of woman-friendliness, unless they thought either a) that women would be more likely to participate in or enjoy feminist philosophy, or b) that feminist philosophy (including feminist epistemology, feminist phil. of mathematics, etc.) somehow entails the promotion of the status of women?

Anonymous said...

I just stumbled on an article of Haslangers in which she herself runs together 'feminist philosophy' and the status of women in philosoph. You can find it at http://www.mit.edu/~shaslang/papers/HaslangerCICP.pdf

The article is about the poor state of women and ethnic minorities in philosophy. Among the solutions Haslanger promotes are the following:

"4. Organize!
• Establish contexts where women philosophers and philosophers of color are in the
majority.
Establish contexts where feminist philosophy and philosophy of race is valued.
• Establish systems for accountability and support."

Why would she have included that middle item if she did not think that feminist philosophy is writing that promotes the status of women?

Even clearer is this passage from p.6:

"...it is appalling to me that there is so little feminist work published in the journals examined,
even in journals focused on ethics and political philosophy. Note that there has been more work on raceand racism published in these journals over the past five years (though very little of this), than work on feminism. Given the numbers of women philosophers working on feminism, this is striking. Jennifer Saul has told me that she sees a pronounced difference in the responses she gets from journals to her work in
philosophy of language compared to her feminist work. Her papers in philosophy of language are always
sent out to referees; her feminist submissions, however, are routinely sent back without having been considered by a reviewer. What is going on here?
"

Since Haslanger is clear that Jennifer Saul's work on philosophy of language does routinely make it to a referee, her point cannot be that editors are discriminating against women. It really is pretty obvious that she is complaining about discrimination against 'feminist philosophy', e.g. feminist epistemology and feminist philosophy of mathematics. Now, why would it be relevant to complain about some editors' aversion to those approaches to philosophy in a work on the status of women in academic philosophy? For only one plausible reason: Haslanger assumes that what's bad for feminist philosophy is bad for women in philosophy, and that discriminating against feminist philosophy is tantamount to harming the interests of women in philosophy.

Mr. Zero said...

Anon 7:12,

(a) strikes me as true, although I haven't looked it up. It also does not seem to me to involve a failure to distinguish between feminist approaches to philosophy and being women-friendly in general.

Anon 7:23 (same person?),

Everything you attribute to Haslanger is consistent with a belief that there is an important approach to philosophy that women tend to utilize more often than men, and that this approach is unfairly marginalized both in the journals and in the profession at large. There's nothing there that demands an interpretation according to which Haslanger believes that being a feminist philosopher is identical to doing feminist philosophy.

I am getting very tired of this "does Haslanger commit this fallacy or not" stuff.

The anti-equivocator said...

Hi Mr. Zero,

Yes, same person (6:23 and 7:34). I also wrote before to support the claim about Haslanger.

I get that you might be tired of the discussion whether Haslanger runs together two different things here. But consider the relevance: people have been shouted at and maligned in this thread for suggesting what we now see was the case all along.

So it is relevant to admit that she does run the two things together, to vindicate those of us who mentioned it.

Also: it is curious, sir, that you never said a single word of being tired of the topic while MIT Grad, tobefair, Thinking Person, etc. etc. etc. argued that Haslanger had never said any such thing and that it was preposterous and hateful to suggest it. It's only when clear evidence surfaces that she has said and done exactly that that you suddenly change course. Why?

Also, if I may add: you say at 5:15 that it was condescending and inappropriate for people to advise a feminist philosophy fan (MIT Grad) to 'pick her battles' and use the logic she had learned, and that you will now censor such comments. But when it comes to Former Dick advising Philosophical BF not to be a jerk and to stop missing the important points (which FD actually admitted were offered in a 'dickish older brother' sort of way), you see no condescention, say nothing, and will censor nothing.

Bottom line: I hate to say it, but you are showing a marked bias toward vocal, ideological, self-described 'feminists'. That's coming from someone who otherwise respects you. Not sure whether you noticed you were doing that.

Anonymous said...

It's a good thing so many of you pride yourselves on your analytic rigor and aspirations of clarity. Otherwise, how could we make out what is truly 'dickish'?

Mr. Zero said...

It's only when clear evidence surfaces that she has said and done exactly that that you suddenly change course.

I still don't see any clear evidence. Why couldn't she think that there is an important approach to philosophy that is most often utilized by women, and that this approach is unfairly marginalized both in the journals and in the profession at large?

Why?

It seemed like the Haslanger discussion was basically over yesterday evening.

you say at 5:15 that it was condescending and inappropriate for people to advise a feminist philosophy fan (MIT Grad) to 'pick her battles' and use the logic she had learned, and that you will now censor such comments. But when it comes to Former Dick advising Philosophical BF not to be a jerk and to stop missing the important points

I see a difference between telling someone not to be such a jerk and lecturing someone with an advanced degree in philosophy about logic. One is condescending; the other is very condescending and is typical of the way women are marginalized in this profession.

you see no condescention, say nothing, and will censor nothing.

I mostly allowed this thread develop on its own. I asked people to chill out once when I thought it was necessary, but I didn't start withholding comments.

One thing I didn't let through was a comment of yours that used a UK SWIP report as evidence of Sally Haslanger's views. But I published a revised version that didn't commit this error. I also published your subsequent comment on Haslanger.

I hate to say it, but you are showing a marked bias toward vocal, ideological, self-described 'feminists'

I have a side. I have advocated for my side. I have not unfairly suppressed comments arguing for the other side. If you look up and down this thread, you will see that there are plenty of comments I obviously don't agree with.

MIT_grad said...

You're right, Mr. Zero. Since this issue continues to rear its ugly head, let me spell out what I take the argument here to be.

For background, one of the main goals of the SH paper cited by AE(?!) is to "suggest that women are underrepresented in what are considered “top” journals, and we should investigate why the numbers are so low."

The paucity of feminist philosophy (noted in the passage AE cites) is one of six points raised in a discussion that seeks to lend weight to, and explain, the underrepresentation hypothesis. It is acknowledged, by the way, that this paucity need not reflect outright bias. ("The lack of feminist philosophy in the seven journals considered does not itself demonstrate a bias against feminist philosophy. It is plausible that little feminist work is submitted to these journals.")

But why does the paucity of *feminist philosophy* have anything to do with the underrepresentation of *women* in philosophy, AE asks? Well, amazingly enough, women are indeed disproportionately likely to do feminist philosophy. It is reasonable to form this suspicion on the basis of casual observation. Nor would this tendency be surprising, given that women are considerably more likely to be sensitized to and affected by the gender biases that feminist philosophers study. Women may also be disproportionately called upon to *teach* feminist philosophy, as Haslanger points out. (Note that none of these are 'natural' forces pushing women into feminist philosophy - or good ones, for that matter.)

The reasonable suspicion is no more than that, of course, but it has been bolstered by data that was simultaneously being collected by Haslanger et al. A summary may be found here, pp. 12-15: http://depts.washington.edu/hypatia/APA%20Newsletter%20Fall%202010_%20Feminism%20and%20Philosophy.pdf
Strikingly, the most common disciplinary area for female respondents was feminist philosophy. The least common disciplinary area for male respondents? Feminist philosophy. There was a 38 point difference in the percentage of women and men doing feminist philosophy (by far the largest disparity). Feminist philosophy was also one of the only areas (along with philosophy of race and social philosophy) where the actual number of women respondents exceeded the number of men.

While the data were acknowledged to be preliminary, they provide significant evidence that the paucity of feminist philosophy in top journals would be disproportionately disadvantageous to women philosophers as a group. To say that this disadvantage is *illicit* is a further claim, admittedly, but it's hardly a huge stretch. The alternative idea that feminist philosophy tends to be unusually bad and/or pseudophilosophy is typically founded on ignorance and/or stereotypes about its (diverse) aims and (minimal) commitments, I submit. And absent programmatic problems with feminist philosophy, it's hard to see why research in feminist philosophy would be lower in quality on average than work in other fields - except insofar as the discipline lacks exposure and support, perhaps, which is precisely what is at issue. Thus, the suspicion mounts that feminist philosophers are subject to an illicit professional disadvantage - which, in view of the data, very likely confers an illicit professional disadvantage on female philosophers as a group. (Are women disadvantaged qua women? Depending on the forces that you think funnel women into feminist philosophy, maybe yes, maybe no. But does it matter? Plausibly not, if we have any interest in fostering and retaining women in the profession over and above extending them fair treatment in the thin or formal sense.)

...continued below

MIT_grad said...

But is this business about journals the only reason to think that supporting feminist philosophy would enhance the position of women in philosophy generally? Hell no, and nobody ever said it was.

Feminist philosophy seeks, among other things, to highlight ways in which gender stereotypes and/or biases thwart out efforts to develop good answers to (good) philosophical questions. Perhaps a heightened awareness within the profession of the deleterious effects of gender biases in the abstract would help dampen them in the flesh. Perhaps. But, more importantly, feminist philosophers tend - just possibly because of what they spend a good deal of their time thinking about - to be particularly dedicated to and skillful at identifying and articulating the effects of gender bias in what has historically been a hyper-masculine profession. The aim being, of course, to work toward breaking down these gender barriers, bit by bit by bit - a process which is often costly, invariably slow, and all too easily derailed. Which is why I've been disinclined to shrug and just let this go. But, yeah, enough already. *whistles*

P.S. Thanks for getting all of this out in the open, Mr. Zero. It's a good discussion to have had.

historian said...

Wait, Mr. Zero explained, quite succinctly, why the stuff posted is not evidence for the charge of conflation. Why do you now call it "clear evidence" while ignoring Mr. Zero's points?

That honestly strikes me as bizarre. I mean, nobody would do that in a class on the interpretation of Metaphysics Z. Why do standards of argument go on holiday just because you have Haslanger, rather than Aristotle, as your target?

Anonymous said...

Zero,

I think it was right to publish the comments you did, even if they were pretty dickish, because it serves as a record of the problems in the field, and because it is important to be able to have these conversations.

Jenny Saul said...

SWIP UK doesn't conflate women-friendliness with feminism-friendliness. However, it recognises that feminism-friendliness can be one way of promoting women-friendliness. (Compare: we don't conflate family-friendliness with women friendliness, but we recognise that family-friendliness can be one way of promoting women-friendliness.) The women-friendliness awards are designed to recognise *many* sorts of actions that can be viewed as women-friendly. (The executive committee, which makes these decisions, doesn't even agree in all instances about what it takes to be women-friendly, but we strive to promote a plurality of reasonable approaches.)

As to Sally's paper: She is very explicitly discussing several different things in that paper. She is well aware that feminist philosophy is a different thing from philosophy written by women. She thinks they're both important things to discuss.

Mr. Zero said...

I've been thinking more about this Haslanger/bias stuff and the more I think about it the more ridiculous I think it is. The fact that I moderate comments here does not obligate me to be personally neutral. It does not obligate me to see all forms of condescension as morally equal. They're not. And fairness to the other side does not require me to pretend that they are.

Fairness to the other side does not require me to take this Haslanger shit seriously or to pretend that I think it's reasonable to do so. The charge is that Haslanger has failed to distinguish between two very obviously different things: the practice of feminist philosophy and the advancement of women in the profession of philosophy. The "evidence" in favor of this charge is a passage in which she sees the first thing as a sign of or otherwise related to the second.

But it's obvious that she distinguishes between them: even in the quoted passage, the practice of feminist philosophy is included in a list next to several other items that have the same status. It's not even the first thing on the list. There's no way she's separately conflating each of the things on the list with the advancement of women in the profession. There's no way she's specifically conflating the second thing on the list, but not the first or third, with the advancement of women in the profession.

And if that's the quality of the evidence, I really don't see why it is worth allowing the discussion to continue. Fairness to the other side does not require me to pretend otherwise.

And, frankly, it is hard for me to believe that the existence of this discussion is not just more evidence of the presence of sexism in the profession. Sally Haslanger is a really smart person; the distinction she is accused of being oblivious to is very basic. I think the default assumption ought to be that she understands it and discussion should proceed from that starting point. It is extremely hard for me to believe that if, say, Stephen Yablo had written that passage that there would be anyone wondering whether he understood the difference between feminist philosophy and the general advancement of women in the profession, let alone outright asserting that he has failed to understand it.

The 'Yay, Sally!' Anti-equivocator said...

OK, fine. I'll admit that it was too strong to call it an equivocation. I'll admit that it doesn't necessarily follow from what Haslanger said that she has committed any fallacy at all. Good points, everyone.

However, I still think there's an important basic idea in the original claim, way back when, that all this brouhaha was about.

PB claimed that his GF "resents the fact that others might come to view her as a 'feminist philosopher' just because she is a woman in philosophy." It was suggested by Duck that this undesired link could be broken by more people telling stories like "I do Kant, but they thought that since I'm a woman I could teach feminist philosophy."

Now, I can appreciate the fact that, as MIT_Grad supports, women are disproportionately more likely than men working on 'feminist philosophy' (MIT Grad also claims that 'feminist philosophers' tend to be particularly good "identifying and articulating the effects of gender bias in what has historically been a hyper-masculine profession.." I certainly have my doubts about the latter claim. But I must say I admire MIT_Grad's candor in pointing out that the pressures on women to do and be see as doing more 'feminist philosophy' (e.g. their being called on to do so just because they are women) are neither natural nor good.

And I think that touches on what was the main point from the beginning, as Duck realized but many others did not. If we acknowledge, as it now seems we all do, that 'doing feminist philosophy' is neither necessary nor sufficient for being a female philosopher or supporting female philosophers, then one should feel free to say or think about 'feminist philosophy' whatever one likes without fearing that that will make one be or seem to be standing in the way of women in philosophy. And that is something Haslanger doesn't seem to leave room for. Failure to acknowledge this leads to the kind of unnatural, un-good expectations of women to cover an area of philosophy they might greatly dislike or question, and lead to the necessity of the "I teach Kant" comments.

What if it turned out that culturally French people were unfairly marginalized in philosophy in all the ways that women are? Would it then be necessary for all of us to promote continental philosophy, to the point at which someone who said "I, personally, think that continental philosophy is drivel"? Suppose a philosopher of French ancestry named Yves who thought continental phil. was nonsense was sick of being expected to teach on Derrida and Foucault wherever he went. Should he feel the need to suppress his criticisms of deconstructionism, on pain of being a traitor to his kind? Or perhaps he should be able to criticize Derrida, but the rest of us should feel compelled to praise Of Grammatology to the skies or else hold our tongues?

That's the original issue, and I think it's been lost along the way.

To Mr. Zero:

Yes, if Stephen Yablo or some other male philosopher had written the paper instead of Haslanger, I would have said exactly the same thing. Show me any paper you like by a man that says similar things -- and I am confident that they do exist -- and watch me. What a preposterous and unsportsmanlike charge of sexism against me.

And yes, I certainly agree that your being the host of a blog does not compel you to withhold your opinions on the matters you discuss. My point was that you, personally, are employing a double standard in thinking things through. Your totally unfounded charge against me on the basis of your speculation regarding how I would treat a Stephen Yablo article is a case in point. The fact that you have printed my comments while maligning and marginalizing them in your editorializing does not entail your being unbiased.

Mr. Zero said...

I'll admit that it was too strong to call it an equivocation. I'll admit that it doesn't necessarily follow from what Haslanger said that she has committed any fallacy at all.

Cool.

If we acknowledge, as it now seems we all do, that 'doing feminist philosophy' is neither necessary nor sufficient for being a female philosopher or supporting female philosophers, then one should feel free to say or think about 'feminist philosophy' whatever one likes without fearing that that will make one be or seem to be standing in the way of women in philosophy.

I'm pretty sure that would be taking things a little too far. If one does not know anything about it, then it is highly premature to think anything at all about it, let alone whatever you want. And if, without knowing anything about it, what you think about it is that it is mere "pseudophilosophy," then it is premature at best, and at worst an instance of sexism.

And it seems to me that the reason everyone reacted so negatively to Philosophical Boyfriend was that he seemed to be doing this.

if Stephen Yablo or some other male philosopher had written the paper instead of Haslanger, I would have said exactly the same thing.

That's good, I guess, but it's also kind of too bad, because you already admitted you were wrong to have said it.

The fact that you have printed my comments while maligning and marginalizing them in your editorializing does not entail your being unbiased.

I didn't say I was unbiased. I said that I could have my point of view while simultaneously giving you a fair chance to make your case. I did this when I published the comments in which you made that case. I didn't "malign" or "marginalize" your comments with my editorializing; I pointed out that your evidence didn't support your claim. This was not unfair of me, and does not represent some inability on my part to be impartial.

The fact that, as you now admit, your case was weak is not my fault for being biased, it's your fault for presenting what was clearly bad evidence in favor of a false claim.

Yay Sally, etc. said...

Mr. Zero,

Look at the slant in your editorializing: 'I'm sick and tired of taking this Haslanger shit seriously', etc. Is that really called for merely because someone may have overstated the case for a fallacy of eqiuvocation? Had the context not been one that got your fur standing on end because it involves a feminist philosopher, would you have used that polemical tone? I think not, since I've seen you discuss other issues in which something so slight took place, and I have never seen you fly off the handle like this about it.

You wrote: "If one does not know anything about it, then it is highly premature to think anything at all about it, let alone whatever you want. And if, without knowing anything about it, what you think about it is that it is mere 'pseudophilosophy,' then it is premature at best, and at worst an instance of sexism.'"

This gives me a chance to show that I would call out a man at least as quickly as a woman for the kind of error in question. In this case, the man is you.

First, what I said was not that there's nothing wrong with anyone saying anything about 'feminist' (or any other school of) philosophy. What I said was, and I quote, that one should be free to say what one does WITHOUT FEARING THAT ONE WILL BE OR WILL BE SEEN TO BE STANDING IN THE WAY OF WOMEN IN PHILOSOPHY.

Not only have you failed to address that central problem -- which even S____ H________'s article might be seen to worsen -- but you yourself give living proof that certain people (e.g. you) cannot hear 'feminist philosophy' get criticized for grounds not made clear to you without thinking and saying that such criticism is "sexism at worst."

If you're not running together 'feminist philosophy' with issues to do with sexism, then there's no call for that charge. That's the whole point, Mr. Zero!

Anonymous said...

Just a small autobiographical aside that may or may not be relevant, I realize. I'm a female philosopher and consider myself an outspoken feminist (well, I submit feminist papers to conferences). At one point in my life, when I was an undergrad philosophy major, I was *really kin* to distance myself from women philosophers writing on the feminist topics. But then in my first year of grad school I read "The Second Sex" and had been suddenly, completely blown away by that brilliant book. My perspective shifted dramatically and quickly. Like I said, this may not be relevant at all...

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:43,

Did reading the book make you more of a feminist? Or did it make you more interested in feminist philosophy?

I can see the case for the first option more clearly. Not so sure about the second.

Mr. Zero said...

Hi Yay Sally,

Look at the slant in your editorializing: ... Is that really called for merely because someone may have overstated the case for a fallacy of eqiuvocation?


Here's what happened. You posted a comment that suggested that Sally Haslanger conflates doing feminist philosophy with advancing the interests of women in the profession, because of an excerpt from a UK SWIP report that as far as I can tell Sally Halsanger had literally absolutely nothing to do with, and which didn't support the charge even if she had. I didn't publish that comment, but I did publish one that didn't connect the text of the report to Prof. Haslanger. Then you posted another comment that accused Prof. Haslanger of making this error, but which marshaled her own words as evidence. This was a little better, but, as you later admitted, the text you cited doesn't support the charge.

It was at this point that I said I was getting a little tired of the Haslanger BS. I said this because it is bullshit and I am tired of it.

but you yourself give living proof that certain people (e.g. you) cannot hear 'feminist philosophy' get criticized for grounds not made clear to you without thinking and saying that such criticism is "sexism at worst."

The expression 'sexism at worst' means that the worst thing it could be is sexism. This is true: at worst, it is sexism. I didn't say it had to be sexism. I pointed out that it would be fine for one to say whatever one wanted if one knows what one was talking about. And I pointed out that one might be merely premature, not sexist, if one said that feminist philosophy was pseudo-philosophy without knowing anything about it.

And so none of that entails that all criticisms of feminist philosophy are sexist. A criticism might be premature, or it might be based on a reasonable understanding of what feminist philosophy is.

But now the complaint is that although you didn't present an informed criticism of feminist philosophy, you wouldn't have been taken seriously if you had. I don't know if that's true or not, but you're in no position to make that complaint. You're not there yet. You're not close. Your criticism has been based on careless readings of non-philosophical texts concerning the status of women in the profession.

Again, I'm not saying you have sexist attitudes or that your behavior in this instance has been sexist. Maybe you're just being careless and premature.



And so I don't understand these complaints that you're being treated unfairly. If you had been denied the opportunity to state and argue for your views, that would be something; but you have not been denied this opportunity, and in fact have availed yourself of it several times. It has, of course, been pointed out by me and others that your views seem to be false and your arguments are careless and unsound. If these criticisms had been untrue, that would be something; but you have admitted that they are true.

And while I agree that it would be inappropriate to accuse you, personally, of sexism on the basis of this exchange, it would be just as inappropriate not to point out that you are approaching sexism's neighborhood.

Yay Sally said...

Fergadsake, Mr. Zero. You're missing the point _again_.

The point is this: you yourself, like so many others in this thread, like even the blessed one, have set up the debate in such a way that one cannot question the legitimacy of feminist philosophy without being seen as somehow opposed either to the status of women in philosophy or to the proponents of the status of women in philosophy.

The situation is therefore -- again -- relevantly parallel to one in which people couldn't criticize continental philosophy without being deemed to be opposed to the inclusion of French people in philosophy, and in which it seems legitimate to predict that people with French ancestry and names will want to teach Derrida and Foucault courses.

That's it. That's the whole thing.

Mr. Zero said...

you yourself, like so many others in this thread, like even the blessed one, have set up the debate in such a way that one cannot question the legitimacy of feminist philosophy without being seen as somehow opposed either to the status of women in philosophy or to the proponents of the status of women in philosophy.

For the last time. You could question the legitimacy of feminist philosophy in a well-informed way, which you didn't do, or you could do it in a way that was under-informed and premature, which you might have done. I am explicitly agnostic about whether you are the ill-informed and premature type, or the ill-informed and sexist type.

Mr. Zero said...

Here's another way to look at it, YaySally. Maybe you're right. Maybe the current atmosphere is such that you can't criticize feminist philosophy under any circumstances without being accused of hindering the the advancement of women in the profession. Maybe it doesn't matter how well-informed and insightful the criticism is.

I don't know if that's true. But I know this: you don't know if it's true, either. Because you have completely failed to present a criticism of feminist philosophy that was informed by even a superficial attempt to understand what feminist philosophy is.

That Girl said...

I'm a female analytic philosopher, and I agree with some of the points recently made by Yay Sally.
YS's claims the following:
The situation is therefore -- again -- relevantly parallel to one in which people couldn't criticize continental philosophy without being deemed to be opposed to the inclusion of French people in philosophy, and in which it seems legitimate to predict that people with French ancestry and names will want to teach Derrida and Foucault courses.

And, in response, Mr. Zero says:

For the last time. You could question the legitimacy of feminist philosophy in a well-informed way, which you didn't do, or you could do it in a way that was under-informed and premature, which you might have done. I am explicitly agnostic about whether you are the ill-informed and premature type, or the ill-informed and sexist type.

But how informed does one have to be to disagree with the projects or content of feminist philosophy? Would reading a few SEP entries be sufficient? Or would one have to read numerous monographs and journal articles? It seems to me that one could reject feminist philosophy on some grounds without reading books and books on the subject. Shouldn't it be enough to understand the methods and goals of the philosophy? After all, we analytics do the same when criticizing continental philosophy. I doubt, and I assume most people here have misgivings about continental philosophy, critics have taken the time to seriously read Derrida, Foucalt, Heideggegger, and others. Nor do we fault critics who haven't read them when they criticize the goals, methods, content, etc. of continental work. So why such high standards here?

Also, as an aside, I have misgivings about feminist philosophy--and I'm a women--and I think for us women who do wish to distance ourselves from feminist philosophy, SH's proposal that high-ranking journals publish more feminist philosophy *could* have deleterious effects for women like myself. For example, it is possible that if more feminist philosophy is regularly published, women philosophers will be more likely to be identified among those who do feminist philosophers--similar to how women are already frequently assumed to primarily do ethics or history of philosophy. I see this as an unwanted consequence for someone like myself. So how does the publication of feminist philosophy really help someone like me? I don't see how it does--it certainly isn't going to help me get papers into conferences, or article accepted at top journals. And so, it looks to me like the suggestion to make feminist philosophy more visible, and more prevalent among the top journals and conferences, only really helps feminist philosophers--and thus the women who do feminist philosophy--even if it does increase the number of articles published by women. While one might say that by simply increasing the acceptance rate by feminist philosophers we thereby increase the publication rate of women in general, that surely isn't a good reason in itself to accept feminist work at the top journals. If it's sheer numbers that we're after, we could also suggest that journals accept more submissions from people named Jill, Susie, Sally, Betty, and so forth.

Mr. Zero said...

But how informed does one have to be to disagree with the projects or content of feminist philosophy?

I don't know. But YaySally's criticisms were not at all informed about those things. His criticisms were based on what he admits were misunderstandings of non-philosophical pieces of writing.

Yay Sally said...

I admitted no such thing, Mr. Zero. And you're missing the point yet again.

What I admitted was that Haslanger's claim did not necessarily amount to a fallacy of equivocation. She _did_ clearly imply that the promotion of 'feminist philosophy' was a part of the promotion of the status of women in philosophy, and that the tendency of certain editors not to value submissions in feminist philosophy were harming the cause of women in philosophy. Perhaps that wasn't necessarily an instance of the fallacy I named. But it either equivocates or poisons the well in just the way That Girl said.

I don't understand why you're having such a hard time getting past your wish to point out what an idiot or bastard I am and down to an understanding of the issue.

Just for one second, please leave your thoughts about me aside. Listen... really _listen_... for a second to what That Girl just said.
Her comment isn't really about me. It's not about you. It's about the way she and like-minded women continue to be misrepresented by the view that what's good for fem. phil. is good for women.

You've perpetuated that problem with every single comment you've made here. Why not address the problem just once, rather than shooting the messenger yet again? Here's hoping.

Anonymous said...

Uh... I've only skimmed all these posts, but what's wrong with someone giving objections to a view he/she doesn't know a lot about? Undergrads at my school do it all the time, often with good results. Are we sure Sally Haslanger’s critic is clueless about feminist phil? I think he knows more about it than I even if he overstates his points. I was hoping to learn something about it today by reading all this. I figured if he had no idea what he was talking about, there’d be posts clearing it up by explaining fem phil. to everyone. I haven’t found any. (Sorry fellow commenters, I know you’d like to direct me to stacks of great books on this, but I’m far too swamped for them right now.)

I’m also nervous when I hear the charge of sexism being tossed around in a context like this. I love heated debates about philosophy (and other subjects too ;) ), but I’m worried that because of people like MIT grad and Mr. Zero, men won’t challenge my views so much. If this means that at the next conference someone won’t call me on a logical error, or won’t include me in a heated discussion, then I’m annoyed that you guys think you’re standing up for women.

What Haslanger’s critic says about her is probably wrong, but what he says about the way his views have been treated seems fair. If someone challenges epistemic logic after a 30-minute presentation and with no background in non-classical logic, people won't be *indignant* about it. The objection might still be good! And if it's not, most people I know would sit the person down and teach some logic. Why is no one taking a gentler instructive line with the critic?

Some of the non-instructive and angry reactions here make me wonder. I usually only find them in debates with creationists and their ilk.

Mr. Zero said...

Hi YaySally,

I admitted no such thing, Mr. Zero.

Here's you at 6/26 @ 7:23 PM: "I just stumbled on an article of Haslangers in which she herself runs together 'feminist philosophy' and the status of women in philosoph. [sic]"

I take it that "runs together" means to fail to properly distinguish two legitimately different things.

Here's you at 6/27 @11:02 AM: "OK, fine. I'll admit that it was too strong to call it an equivocation. I'll admit that it doesn't necessarily follow from what Haslanger said that she has committed any fallacy at all."

That was the first time you mentioned any fallacy. I don't see what you could be referring to other than this accusation that Haslanger "runs together" feminist philosophy and the status of women in the profession. So, I don't see any way around it. You admitted that you got Haslanger wrong.

She _did_ clearly imply that the promotion of 'feminist philosophy' was a part of the promotion of the status of women in philosophy, and that the tendency of certain editors not to value submissions in feminist philosophy were harming the cause of women in philosophy.

But she did this without failing to distinguish between the two things. Which you have already admitted.

I don't understand why you're having such a hard time getting past your wish to point out what an idiot or bastard I am

I am absolutely positive that I haven't suggested that you are an idiot or a bastard. If I thought you were an idiot I would tell you straight out.

It's about the way she and like-minded women continue to be misrepresented by the view that what's good for fem. phil. is good for women.

I didn't realize that this was what we were talking about. I thought we were talking about whether Haslanger distinguished between those two things. Then I thought we were talking about whether I was being biased in my moderating and comment-leaving practices. Then I thought we were talking about whether I had treated you unfairly by maligning and marginalizing your comments by pointing out the claims they contained were not true. Then I thought we were talking about whether, in the current climate, it is possible to be critical of feminist philosophy without being seen as sexist. But now I see that we are talking about whether it is even true that establishing contexts in which feminist approaches to philosophy are taken seriously would be helpful to women in this profession. 

It seems to me that when you get trapped you change the subject.

MIT_grad said...

There seems to be a misunderstanding afoot that feminist philosophers share an ideology and methodology, as opposed to a practical commitment to justice for women and a theoretical interest in the ways in which gender norms skew our inquiry. This is why general critiques of feminist philosophy are unlikely to be fair (although I've yet to see one mounted in this space - the recent discussion has been strikingly abstract). There's simply not enough commonality, and what little commonality there is should (I submit) strike fair-minded folks as pretty unobjectionable, even if it's not their bag. Hence my suspicion that general criticisms are likely to stem from ignorance about the field - culpable ignorance, oftentimes.

Lest anyone leave with the impression that feminist philosophers don't criticize each other in some pretty staunch ways: http://www.akad.se/Nussbaum.pdf

I myself would be *delighted* to see more critical engagement with feminist philosophy. It sucks that work I do in - ahem - logic is typically much easier to get feedback on, and I suspect taken more seriously. So, by all means, criticize specific ideas or papers in feminist philosophy all you want to, as in any other area of philosophy. (Of course!) Just make it good, and make it fair. And don't make the mistake of thinking that the feminist philosopher you're criticizing speaks on behalf of a monolithic, angry, and/or untalented mob.

The only difference here is that the suspicion that feminist philosophers comprise a monolithic, angry, and/or untalented mob often stems from the very gender biases which we're trying to combat. Or at least, that's one plausible explanation as to why feminist philosophy gets much more flak than, say, Buddhist philosophy (an imperfect, but in some ways instructive, analogy).

YaySally said...

Mr. Zero...

I'm going to try this one last time.

WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THE PROBLEM RAISED BY 'THAT GIRL'?

_Not_ the fact that she endorses something I said. THE ACTUAL PROBLEM SHE RAISES ABOUT HOW SHE IS PERCEIVED, THANKS TO 'FEMINIST PHILOSOPHY', AND HER CHARGE THAT PROMOTING FEMINIST PHILOSOPHY FAILS TO PROMOTE HER INTERESTS.

Thanks.

MIT_grad said...

All right, I'll bite. "I’m worried that because of people like MIT grad and Mr. Zero, men won’t challenge my views so much. If this means that at the next conference someone won’t call me on a logical error, or won’t include me in a heated discussion, then I’m annoyed that you guys think you’re standing up for women."

For real? You think that Mr. Zero and I have argued that women should be shielded from fair criticisms and thereby further marginalized in philosophical discussions? Um, no. It's possible that someone will get the wrong end of the stick, I guess, although it would be a long freaking stick. But that's hardly a reason not to defend claims one takes to be true and important. Suppose feminists discovered (cue magic eight ball) that we could promote the interests of women in philosophy by not defending certain truths or defending certain falsehoods. Then... nothing. Feminist philosophers are as commited to the truth as any of us, or at least as all of us should be.

And I know, I know, I keep coming out from retirement. But it is *painful* to see how far off some people's perceptions of feminist philosophy are. Then again... how many people are there really in this discussion? I'm no linguist, and I don't want to be unfair to PB here, but the content and tone of some of the recent comments does seem eerily reminiscent of his style. Anyway, here's hoping I'm right, otherwise dear lord.

Mr. Zero said...

Okay, okay. Jesus. Chill the fuck out.

I have two suggestions:

1. I guess I think she should do whatever work she feels is important, and in so doing resist the stereotype that women work only in ethics and history and feminist philosophy. If she wants.

2. I guess she should also recognize that there is more to advancing the interests of women in the profession than just making feminist approaches more mainstream; and that there are lots of pieces to that puzzle; and that not all of these pieces are going to benefit her, personally.

Yay Sally said...

Thanks. That was all I wanted.

That Girl said...

Okay so there's no common methodology or shared ideology within feminist philosophy. Okay, so fine, let's start with that. In the broadest of strokes then, lets characterize feminist philosophy as (as MIT Grad says): a practical commitment to justice for women and a theoretical interest in the ways in which gender norms skew our inquiry.

So I guess we can apply that same idea to launch all sorts of veritable philosophies. We can have non-attractive person's philosophy, where we share a practical commitment to justice for non-attractive people and a theoretical interest in the ways in which attractiveness norms skew our inquiry. Or the athletically challenged philosophy, or the non-native english language speaker's philosophy, or the dyslexia people's philosophy, or, and honestly probably the most serious determiner of one's status and acceptance by others, the lower class person's philosophy.
For now, though, I'll start class philosophy, since in all honesty I probably come from a class lower than anyone else here--so I must be the most qualified--and any attempt to criticize the merits of my philosophical field will imply that you are a classist. I leave the other philosophies I mentioned to someone else. So who wants to take the non-attractive person's philosophy of biology?

Mr. Zero said...

For now, though, I'll start class philosophy, ... any attempt to criticize the merits of my philosophical field will imply that you are a classist.

If that's what you've taken away from this discussion, then I have to question whether you are making an honest attempt to engage in it.

That Girl said...

that was probably a bit too smarmy and unfair--sorry about that

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:22 here.

MIT_grad:

You think that Mr. Zero and I have argued that women should be shielded from fair criticisms and thereby further marginalized in philosophical discussions?

No. Thankfully you and Mr. Zero did not argue for this. But in saying things like that your debate with PB is “an object lesson in why calling people out for being sexist or at least oblivious to gender issues often won't work”, you are clearly implying that PB is sexist or oblivious to gender issues.

Other comments by you and Mr. Zero show that, even if you don’t think that PB is sexist himself, the way he deals with your comments is sexist:

at least being told over the course of the discussion by PB and his, erm, friends to brush up on my logic, better my reasoning skills, keep my cool, and pick my battles made for an amusing illustration of what women in philosophy are actually up against

and

I've been think about these "learn some logic," "choose your battles," and "attitude" comments. It seems to me that MIT Grad is right in saying that these comments do represent sexism--although it does not seem obvious to me that the commenter(s) meant them that way. I don't think MIT Grad is being hysterical or overreacting when she points this out.

I’m sure that you and Mr. Zero don’t want women to be ‘shielded from fair criticisms’. But it’s not clear to me that PB has been sexist, or even been acting in a sexist way. From the outside, it looks like you’ve both taken some cheap shots at each other, but since you’re the woman, you’re playing the sexism card.

This worries me because of the effect it might have. If I were a man, I wouldn’t want people to think that I’m sexist. And if it's no big deal for you guys to throw the accusation around in cases where you just don’t have the evidence, I'd be much more worried about saying the ‘wrong’ thing to a woman in the heat of discussion.

It's possible that someone will get the wrong end of the stick, I guess, although it would be a long freaking stick. But that's hardly a reason not to defend claims one takes to be true and important. Suppose feminists discovered (cue magic eight ball) that we could promote the interests of women in philosophy by not defending certain truths or defending certain falsehoods. Then... nothing. Feminist philosophers are as commited to the truth as any of us, or at least as all of us should be.

I’m glad that you think you’re defending something true and important. That means that you (and Mr. Zero, I’m sure), do not think you’re making accusations of sexism for the fun of it. But since I think these accusations are unfounded, and since I think that calling something sexist when it is not can be harmful to everyone, I have a problem with them.

YaySally said...

MIT_Grad,

I don't know why you assume that those of us who oppose this stuff are all the same person. Let me assure you, though: I'm not the same as ThatGirl or Anon 5:22. But I certainly wish there were some way to be in touch with them, since I find their comments refreshing.

So, yeah. Your sense of what is 'eerily reminiscent' of other people is not that reliable, unless you're just not used to people not buying your ideology. I'm not sure what else you want me to say.

MIT_grad said...

Your criticisms call for an explanation not because they are, in my estimation, erroneous - let alone because they are criticisms per se. Rather, they call for an explanation because they are global and, given the context or lack thereof, baseless ad hominems. Think I misrepresented a claim you made? Fine. Think one of my arguments sucks? Hit me. Think I'm an asshole for calling you an asshole? Again, fair game. I disagree, but only mildly.

But question my philosophical ability and/or diagnose me with emotionally-induced rational neglect syndrome (aka hysteria)? No. Uh uh. Not cool.

Here are the specific criticisms I objected to as out of line: "They teach logic at MIT. I’m sure you learned plenty. Why don’t you calm down and reason this stuff through instead of firing off more vitriol?"

"How exactly do you figure that he deserves this much abuse for charging that someone's inference (even your hero's) is fallacious? Sure, Haslanger has done great things. Sure, we should all respect her. But you really need to take stock and get some perspective here. I'm not saying that woman-to-woman: I'm saying it person-to-person. Feminism is an important cause and it needs cool, collected people fighting for it. You've got some good ideas and great spirit, but you need to learn to pick your battles."

"I'm going to take a chance and assume from your name that you're not tenured or TT yet. If that's right, I've got some friendly advice that you're of course welcome to reject...

If you go on in philosophy, you're going to encounter criticism like this every time you submit or present a paper or speak up at a conference. Sometimes, the criticism will be off-target. But you, like the rest of us, need to swallow your pride and take it all seriously if you want to get good at this, and to make it in the discipline these days you have to be very, very good..."

Listen to yourself. (Or, if there really is more than one of you, yourselves - some more than others.) You know next to nothing about me. Why then do you assume that I'm an irritable (as opposed to *irritated*) person? Or that I struggle with logic? Or that I'm likely not tenure-track? Or that I'm not yet good at what I do?

These criticisms are way too global to be warranted on the basis of this isolated discussion. And the fact that these hypotheses about my global characteristics align neatly with ubiquitous gender stereotypes does not strike me as likely to be a mere coincidence. Do I have a window into your mental state? No. Am I justified in my ongoing working hypothesis on the basis of the foregoing evidence? Yes, I think I am.

Note that this needn't imply anything about your intentions or even your own self-awareness. Sexist stereotypes can be, and often are, tacit. Denial and defensiveness are common. Furthermore, I never even went so far as to claim that you are a sexist *person*. How would I know? Hey, maybe you are having an off day. I only claimed that you have treated me in a sexist *manner*, over the course of this discussion. There's a difference - as well as a connection, to be sure.

Let's wrap this up now. We're not getting anywhere.

snubnose said...

So who wants to take the non-attractive person's philosophy of biology?

Whoa, what program are you talking about???

All of the philosophy I've ever taken has been non-attractive persons' philosophy. Now, if you could find me an attractive person's philosophy of biology, that would be something. (I know, I don't meet the pre-requisites, but maybe I could audit, or watch the podcast.)

Yay Sally said...

P.S. to MIT_Grad:

If you don't want people to assume that you're a grad student, then come up with a moniker that doesn't say you're a grad.

Fergadsake!

Mr. Zero said...

Hi Yay Sally,

Three things. 1. It is pretty obvious that you've been posting lots of things up and down this thread under a variety of names. I'm not saying you're anon 5:22 or That Girl, but your writing is extremely similar to that of Son of a B, for example.

2. MIT Grad apologized to Former Dick over a misunderstanding they had.

3. In a comment at x, an anonymous commenter says to MIT Grad, "I'm going to take a chance and assume from your name that you're not tenured or TT yet."

This is a completely unwarranted assumption. 'Grad' means "graduate." It does not mean "graduate student." If you say you're a grad of MIT, you mean you graduated from there. You don't say you're a grad of MIT if you're working on your dissertation.

The fact that she identifies herself as a graduate of MIT does not in the least bit suggest that she's not on the tenure track. If it suggests anything, it suggests that she has a nice TT job, because it suggests that she has a Ph.D. from MIT. Looking at MIT's placement record (which is not completely up-dot-date), it seems clear that their graduates do not hang around in VAPs for very long. So it's totally appropriate for her to say, why would you assume that about me?

***

I know you're upset because you feel that you've been unjustly accused of sexism. I know that I contributed to this feeling when I said that I doubted you'd have accused Yablo of making the same error you accused Haslanger of on the same evidence. Maybe that wasn't fair of me.

But I would like you to think about this. Haslanger says, "x, y, and z are signs of or ways to help accomplish F." You say, "see, Haslanger is running y and F together." I'm not saying you're doing this on purpose, but do you really think you'd have been so quick to claim that the person was committing a fallacy of equivocation on this evidence if it had been someone else talking about something else?

Nobody's saying you're a bad person. Nobody's saying you're being sexist, intentionally or otherwise. What people are saying is, you are, perhaps unintentionally, getting close. You have persisted for days now in making criticisms of female philosophers and entire research programs based on what are very obviously careless misreadings of non-scholarly writings. The texts you've cited do not support the charges.

I'd like to continue to give you chances to defend yourself and make your case. But your comments recently have been increasingly angry and hostile. I'm not going to publish your comments until you can be calm.

YaySally said...

Mr. Zero,

I clearly stated when I started using this Moniker that I had posted before. That does not make me identical with the other people MIT Grad mentions. And I am certainly not identical with them. I don't know what grounds MIT_Grad has for believing I am. But what can I say? We're different people. I'd like to say more, but you'd probably throw out my post again.

It's extremely frustrating to have contributions to this discussion rejected again and again. As I said just a few minutes ago, though your readers won't know that, it makes for a very unfair debate. I can only wonder at how many others on my side, including Anon 5:22 and That Girl, are being silenced at your discretion when they have important things to contribute. And yet your readers probablly believe they are watching a fair fight. Not cool.

I really, really want you to publish this, so I'm going to water down what I'm saying as much as possible and make as few points as I can. But here's one I think it incumbent upon your integrity to let through.

You just wrote to me, "your comments recently have been increasingly angry and hostile. I'm not going to publish your comments until you can be calm."

And here, from MIT_Grad's last post, is an example of alleged sexism that you yourself criticized as such in a previous post: "Why don’t you calm down and reason this stuff through instead of firing off more vitriol?"

Please, please, Mr. Zero. At the very least, publish this comment so that your readers can judge for themselves what the vast difference is between the two.

Thank you.

That Girl said...

I confess that I too thought that MIT Grad was either a grad student or undergrad--and not because I'm sexist or a self-hating woman. Rather it's because her tone and constant charges of sexism sound very childish. Yeah, some crappy things have been said to her, and she too has said some crappy things. But I doubt it's because she is a woman--I'm guessing it has more to do with the vibe she gives off and her annoying, childish tone. (And for the record, I don't think there's any particular gender discrimination directed at her in these comments--I've heard guys say similar things to other guys in heated discussions. I don't know why it is assumed otherwise. Also, if you don't want to sound like an undergrad or grad.student, then stop behaving so childish. One example: stop saying "not cool" over and over; I don't know about others, but it reminds of the smarmy, indie, hipster, I'm so cool and feminist because I took a class in the woman's department and learned there's this thing called feminism, undergrads that I've encountered.)
And, finally, as I hinted at in my previous post (and I don't want to give rise to a topic of discussion concerning the various societal disadvantages) there are numerous groups that people belong to which unfairly disadvantage them in some way--some more than others. So stop crying sexism all the time--my guess (and I may be unfairly generalizing on the basis of all the hipster, feminists that I encountered at the undergrad level) is that you've lived a very privileged life. I doubt you have any idea what it's like to grow up very poor for example--and my class has disadvantaged me far more than my sex. (Just to be clear, though, I don't mean to imply that the issue of fair treatment for women is unimportant.)
In any case, stop behaving, in a very childish manner, like you have such great cause for indignation or outrage over this thread--it's just silly. It's just a blog thread for chrissake. And it might just be that people find you annoying--but I guess that's not an explanation up for consideration here.

Also, I have never said anything on here other than what was said under the moniker That Girl--and I wish there were some way to prove that to you.

Anonymous said...

Here's what John Searle has to say on this topic. Worth thinking about.

"We have abandoned the idea that the university invites the student to become part of a universal community of scholars, part of a universal community of human civilization, where you achieve individual self-definition through participating in a universal human civilization. Now what we tell you is, what's your ethnicity? What's your race? What's your gender? That's who you are. You don't define yourself. You are defined by race, gender, class, ethnicity, and cultural background. And that isn't just stupid, that's evil. I'm fighting against that, but I think a lot of people now accept that. They think that's perfectly legitimate. And one way to put it is to say that traditionally in America, such things at that were regarded as accidental. It's like you're blue-eyed or you're left-handed. You don't build your life around being left-handed, and you don't build your life around your ethnicity or your race. These are just stupid accidents of your birth. The serious professional intellectual regards it as an accidental fact that he or she was born of a particular race or a particular gender. You create yourself as an individual intellect and that's what counts, and we will invite you into membership into a universal human community of advanced culture. And within that community you can create yourself as a serious individual. But now we're telling otherwise innocent children, "Look, you came from this background, that's who you really are." And I think to say that is to abandon one of the fundamental advantages of the university education, namely, before we told you, yes, okay, you came from this background, you can be proud of this background, we'll offer you something better. We'll let you redefine yourself, giving you the resources of the whole of human history to redefine yourself. Now we've even got this stupid Ethnic Studies requirement where we make people study American cultures where the idea is you're supposed to celebrate various forms of really quite ordinary phenomena. There's nothing intellectually special about having been born a certain race or a certain gender."

Anonymous said...

Yes, indeed: the last word should always go to a white guy--namely, one who insists that some people are making too much fuss about race and gender, which really haven't mattered much at all.

Universal, objective reality happens to have a well-known white male bias. Non-believers simply can't handle this truth.

Anonymous said...

Universal, objective reality happens to have a well-known white male bias. Non-believers simply can't handle this truth.

Please tell me that was intended as satire. Normally I'd appreciate the joke, but so many ridiculous things have been said that I'm not 100% sure.

Rex II said...

Relevant

Anonymous said...

Hi,

I'm the person who posted the Searle quote. Let's be a little charitable here, please. His point isn't that people are complaining too much about race and gender or that they haven't mattered. His point is that however much they matter, focusing on those details misses out on what makes many areas of inquiry what they are and robs them of what they have to teach us.

We all have our different backgrounds. Some of those may help us, and some may hurt us. But in the end, if we're studying mathematics, what matters is whether we know that 2+2=4 or whether we don't. Some people may have backgrounds that make it difficult or impossible for them to pursue disinterested inquiry, and others might have backgrounds that stop them from caring. That certainly does happen sometimes, and we should find ways to deal with that. But if we do that by changing what mathematics or whatever is, then we've just shot ourselves in the foot.

I don't really know what you mean when you say that objective reality has a "well-known" bias. Many philosophers have made clear that that appears to be nonsensical or problematic on any analysis. I'm not aware of any defense of your view against any of the main arguments, even though they go back to Plato.

For instance: do you think that it's an objective fact about reality that objective reality has a bias? If it is, then doesn't the fact that objective reality has a bias have a bias in turn? And does the fact that the fact that it has a bias has a bias have, in turn, another bias?

In that case, shouldn't we all just accept that everything is biased? But no, we shouldn't, because that also is biased, and things that have a bias are skewed and not to be trusted. So... you get the point, I hope.

Fx said...

I never cease to be amazed at the willingness of philosophers to believe that they are exempt from normal human weaknesses of reasoning because they study logic.

"I don't really know what you mean when you say that objective reality has a "well-known" bias."

Okay, here are some examples (from here (a PDF) (references at end).

[quoting]
Biases in Academic Contexts

• A study of postdoctoral fellowships awarded by the Medical Research Council in Sweden, found that women candidates needed substantially more publications (the equivalent of 3 more papers in Nature or Science, or 20 more papers in specialty journals such as Infection and Immunity or Neuroscience) to achieve the same
rating as men, unless they personally knew someone on the panel (Wenneras and Wold).

• A study of over 300 recommendation letters for medical faculty at a large American medical school in the 1990s found that letters for female applicants differed systematically from those for males. Letters written for women were shorter, provided “minimal assurance” rather than solid recommendation, raised
more doubts, and portrayed women as students and teachers while portraying men as researchers and
professionals. All letters studied were written for successful candidates only. (Trix and Psenka).

• In a national study, 238 academic psychologists (118 male, 120 female) evaluated a résumé randomly assigned a male or a female name. Both male and female participants gave the male applicant better evaluations for teaching, research, and service experience and both were more likely to hire the male than the female applicant. (Steinpreis, et.al.) Another study showed that the preference for males was greater when women represented a small proportion of the pool of candidates, as is typical in many
academic fields (Heilman).
[end quoting]

This kind of evidence is why I find it somewhat offensive that people in our field want to argue that "But in the end, if we're studying mathematics, what matters is whether we know that 2+2=4 or whether we don't." We have good reason that the entry qualifications for the field don't look simply at what one knows.

Just like other humans, we have implicit notions of what a philosopher "looks like." And that image is generally not female. So, even when people believe themselves not to be biased, they still need additional evidence from a woman to prove that she knows what she's doing to overcome not fitting that image.

If we aren't willing to consider the possibility that these implicit biases are playing a role in the profession, we're screwed. We aren't as logical and impartial as we'd like to think we are because we're still human beings.

Anonymous said...

" 'Grad' means "graduate." It does not mean "graduate student.""

Sometimes. Sometimes not. I get a lot of advertisements for "Graduate Conferences" and "Grad Conferences"---and in *these* contexts (and in many others), this means "Graduate student conference". There's a Grad Union on my campus (that means "Graduate Student Union"). There's a "Grad parking" lot (that means "Graduate student parking lot"), there's a "Grad lounge" in my department (that means "Graduate student lounge"), etc.

Basically, a mistake was made, but it's totally understandable.

Anonymous said...

Fx, how do any of the statistics you cite support the bizarre claim that objective reality itself has a bias (let alone a well-known one)?

Actually, what does it even mean to say that objective reality has a bias?

Please do tell.

Mr. Zero said...

I took anon 4:13's entire post to be ironic.

Fx is in a better position to explain what he/she was doing, but I don't think he/she was literally trying to show that objective reality is biased. I guess I thought the point was that gender and race shape how we experience and interact with the world; that they shape how we experience and interact with each other; that they shape what we know and how we know it; that it does this in ways that are not available to us via introspection; and so white guys are not to be trusted when they deny these effects.

Now, I'm really not sure I get what Searle is trying to say. But I think you can agree with him that "There's nothing intellectually special about having been born a certain race or a certain gender," while also believing that it is not at all trivial to live in this culture as a member of this race or that gender. Particularly when the culture is itself not neutral with respect to race and gender--when the gender or racial group you belong to (or seem to belong to) has a profound effect on what interests, virtues, vices, and skills you are seen as likely to possess. It's not how you're born; it's what life is like.

Anonymous said...

Fx,

Your comments give support to the need for people to advocate on behalf of women and minorities (i.e. in this context, feminism).

What Searle sometimes rails against is the ideological view that these and other ends can best be served by promoting things like, in this context, feminist philosophy.

And that, as I think we've all now agreed, is very different from feminism. One can promote the place of women in philosophy without doing or endorsing feminist philosophy.

Fx said...

Zero pretty much has my point right, although I'd be even more careful. I wouldn't say, "so white guys are not to be trusted when they deny these effects"--NONE of us are to be trusted. We have all internalized these things to some extent.

Re: Anonymous
And that, as I think we've all now agreed, is very different from feminism. One can promote the place of women in philosophy without doing or endorsing feminist philosophy.

Maybe, if all we were doing was pure formal logic. But we aren't. A *LOT* of what we do relies on intuition pumping and relying on "facts about humans" that comes from introspection. One of the things that feminist philosophy does, as I've come to understand it (I don't actually study it), is to point out places where this happens. Some of the arguments, at least, point out where the introspected 'facts' are specific to members of a particular gender, race, or class.

It doesn't seem crazy to me to argue that having a view that calls this status quo into question isn't beneficial for everyone, particularly the habitually disenfranchised within the field.

Again, I don't study feminist philosophy, but have become exposed more to it over the past few years and can see how it can be beneficial to the field. When people argue against taking it seriously or promoting it, it seems to usually be a matter of taking some quotes out of context and using them as an indictment of the entire field (much like we analytic philosophers tend to do with continental philosophy).

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Fx.

However, I think what you're talking about is experimental philosophy, which is more recent than and different from 'feminist philosophy'.

NChen said...

I am someone who thinks that philosophers often are not being dicks enough (using the non gendered and non derogatory connotation)