Monday, August 8, 2011

Worth Repeating (Pluralist's Guide)

Although there is a clear sense in which this is old news, I bring it up because I don't want this discussion to die. It seems to me that it is very important to have good information about departments available for prospective graduate students. It also seems to me that the people who put up websites claiming to provide this information have a responsibility to do a good job, to explain how they came up with the information, and to be willing to respond to criticism and to act on suggestions for improvement. And it seems to me that the editors of the "Pluralist's" Guide are not living up to these responsibilities.

In comments in the Gender, Race and Philosophy post in which Linda Alcoff presented some information concerning and momentariliy defended the methodology behind the Climate Guide, anonymous graduate student writes:

Dear Professors Alcoff, Taylor, and Wilkerson [editors of the Pluralist's Guide]:

The sarcastic last comment here [this one] does not, in my view, dispense you, the authors of the "climate for women" section, from addressing in detail the several very serious questions and worries that were brought to the table by the previous commenters. I am sure that I am not the only one to find it very troublesome that there is neither any attempt on your part to defend the "climate for women" section its current form - which, as the many thoughtful comments above have shown, would be a difficult feat - nor the slightest admisssion of the insufficiency and indeed indefensibility of the section as it stands at this time.

The only conclusion I (and, I imagine, many others) am able to draw from the exasperating refusal by you, the authors of the "pluralist's guide", to engage even in the most rudimentary way with serious criticism is that despite the title of your "report" you are not in fact guided by the concern that informs the comments in this thread - the climate for women in philosophy - but rather by an undisclosed private agenda that abuses this concern as a cover.


I guess I'm not willing to draw any specific conclusions about why the authors of the Climate Guide haven't withdrawn it, or edited it in such a way as to acknowledge its many methodological and factual problems, or explained how it was compiled, or even evinced comprehension of these problems. But I will say that it gets sadder and sadder with each passing day.

--Mr. Zero

54 comments:

CTS said...

I'm beginning to think there is no defense forthcoming because, really, there is no plausible defense.

I do not have good reason to assume any ill-motivation on the part of Prof. Alcoff and others, but I think they were sloppy. Now that this has become something of a firestorm, I imagine they are wondering what to do - and how to do it without lending succor to those they regard as hostile to their concerns.

Leiter's role in this (both his own agency and how he is perceived) muddies the waters further. It's a shame and I wish they would just take the thing down, acknowledge concerns about its generation and effects, and move on.

Anonymous said...

I'm beginning to think there is no defense forthcoming because, really, there is no plausible defense.

I'm inclined to agree. What the situation does require, however, is intellectual honesty, and sometimes that comes in the form of acknowledging one's error. That the editors of the "Pluralist's Guide" haven't issued a defense is one thing; that they haven't acknowledged error is another.

Leiter's role in this (both his own agency and how he is perceived) muddies the waters further.

I get that SPEP people don't like Leiter, and that others may find his rhetorical style off-putting. But I don't see how Leiter is relevant to the editors' obligation to acknowledge they screwed up.

Anonymous said...

I must say that I am completely saddened by this whole thing. Here's my thinking:

1. There certainly are some philosophy departments out there that need to be more inclusive of females.

2. A resource that informs females in these matters can greatly help them decide what department is the right for them. It is but one piece of the decision making process, but it could be a big piece given the sentiments of the particular female.

3. However, this "climate study" is so methodologically flawed that to publish it publicly is disgraceful.

4. And the posted comments by Alcoff are so uncharacteristic of her that I am truly baffled. Linda Alcoff is a first-rate philosopher of the highest marks, which is why leaving quite a few awesome criticisms dangling without due response is puzzling. I seriously don't know why she is handling this the way she is...so unlike her.

5. This whole affair could then serve to counteract the impression of female philosophers. It could fan the flame of the exact fire they want to put out, that is sexism in philosophy.

Eh, I just wanted to get that off my chest even though much of what I said has been said already here and elsewhere.

CTS said...

@Anon:4:51

I do not think that Leiter's actions or others' perceptions of them (now and previously) excuse the non-response of whomever is in charge of the Climate for Women 'rankings.'

I simply meant that this is another element in the ... mess .. and, I suspect, an ingredient in the recalcitrance of Prof. Alcoff, et al.

CTS said...

Anon:

I did not mean to suggest that Leiter or his influence excuse the unresponsiveness of Prof Alcoff (et alia).

I do think it complicates the whole mess and their willingness to respond.

CTS said...

@Anon 8:36:

I completely agree.

(Also: sorry if I have posted in multiples.)

Rebecca said...

I agree with the original post and the comments. This whole affair makes me very sad indeed, and I fear it has set back the image of 'feminist philosophy' and has made things worse rather than better for female philosophers.

Please see Naomi Zack's new post on Leiter. Bonnie Mann and Linda Alcoff should not get away with positioning themselves as speaking for all feminist or female philosophers.

Anonymous said...

Re: "And the posted comments by Alcoff are so uncharacteristic of her that I am truly baffled. Linda Alcoff is a first-rate philosopher of the highest marks ... I seriously don't know why she is handling this the way she is...so unlike her."

Unfortunately, being a first-rate philosopher is compatible with having serious character flaws. I wish I could say I was surprised by Alcoff's behavior. But I'm not.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the SPEP people do not like Leiter. But this is because Leiter has gone on record many times that he basically thinks SPEP/Party-line Continental philosophers are stupid. You would be kidding yourself if the acrimonious atmosphere that forms the background of this debate did not significantly condition the way people made efforts (weak efforts) to understand one another. And it's a damn shame, because the 'Climate Report' is deeply flawed and because the issue is important and deserves to not get dragged down into the lame Continental vs. Analytic or, more specifically, Continental-Anglo-American style philosophy vs. Continental Euro-style debates that as far as I can tell only Brian Leiter and Babbette Babich care about.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:04, that's awefully mean and unjustified to claim "serious character flaws." To be clear, though the climate report has serious methodological problems, there is no necessary connection between those problems and the characters of the report's author. My god, I can't believe I had to actually make that point to a philosopher (presumably).

Now if by chance you are basing your comment upon some other interaction with Alcoff. Save it. This is no place to engage in libel.

Anonymous said...

good point 7:24. Leiter's Republican-style harping on marginal points is really unhelpful for a rational debate. While Leiter often champions worthy causes, his preferred style of criticism is unlikely to foster constructive change

Anonymous said...

Re 8:45: "To be clear, though the climate report has serious methodological problems, there is no necessary connection between those problems and the characters of the report's author."

But there is a connection between the *response* to those problems, and the character of the authors. Its not mean or unjustified to point this out. Please try to be more charitable in your interpretations. I assure you I'm doing so as well.

Anonymous said...

I suspect that this issue and the Synthese affair shows that the Leiter-style aggression in dealing with such controversies does not lead to good results.

Bobcat said...

After following this situation since its inception, I think this is the best that Alcoff, et al, can come up with as a defense:

"Yes, the guide is deeply methodologically flawed. But there were no other guides forthcoming. Moreover, were it not for our guide, we wouldn't be having this discussion about how to make a methodologically sound guide. The reason having the discussion is extremely important is that now we've raised the likelihood that people will actually try to produce a better version of this guide, as opposed to nothing at all."

That said, I think the cost of producing a good guide, as well as the time-lag between gathering the data for such a guide and putting it up makes it extremely unlikely that a good guide will be produced in the near future, even with the Pluralist's Guide as a prompt.

I might be unimaginative, but I think the best thing we can do in the near term is put up a guide that lists specific, documented measures departments have taken to improve the climate for women, whether it's encouraging female students to major in the discipline or making sure to have female speakers every year, or similar such measures.

Anonymous said...

Here's one more datum to mull over, a statement from some eminent feminist philosophers:

https://feministphilosophers.wordpress.com/2011/08/10/statement-about-the-pluralists-guide/

emotivist said...

YAY! to Naomi Zack's statement posted by Leiter.

BOOO! to the statement by a group of feminist philosophers at Feminist Philosophers (but NB, the statement is not by the bloggers).

But DOUBLE YAY!!!!! to Rebecca Kukla's comment there.

I bet Rebecca's participation in a variety of forums in this general debate will attract more excellent graduate students to Georgetown. I know I would advise any of my undergraduates at all interested in feminist philosophy to apply there. (And other areas of philosophy, of course!)

Anonymous said...

Bobcat's "best guess" seems a plausible candidate for the best defense available.

Here's the reply: It's not ethical to use the needs of prospective graduate students for political ends.

A methodologically compromised guide may be valuable toward political goals like facilitating public discussion, and such a guide may be valuable as a means of paving the way toward better future guides. However, when it comes to its expressed purpose (providing guidance) a guide that cannot be trusted is worse than no guide at all.

Rebecca Kukla said...

Emotivist, whoever you are: Please do! I think we have a spectacularly supportive and intellectually rich department at Georgetown, with lots of feminist and feminist-friendly faculty and just plenty of interesting, involved, smart, productive folks all around. Our grad students are a happy and stimulated bunch!

(And thanks, of course, for your kind comments.)

Anonymous said...

I suspect that this issue and the Synthese affair shows that the Leiter-style aggression in dealing with such controversies does not lead to good results.
++, Anon 11:51 AM.

Bonnie Mann said...

For those posters on this blog who have some interest in the actual situation at Oregon, and not the garbage posted by Leiter and others, I recommend you read the statement by 7 of the 10 UO faculty here: http://www.newappsblog.com/2011/08/open-letter-from-several-members-of-the-oregon-philosophy-department.html. For those who want more, our local newspaper just did a story on the so-called "scandal" when the same folks who pulled Leiter's chain tried to pull theirs, they actually checked out the story before they published the supposed "facts". Look first under "newsbriefs" and then under "slant" http://eugeneweekly.com/2011/08/11/news.html#slant

Anonymous said...

And be sure to read the comments on the UO's faculty letter over at the new APPS blog. It doesn't paint a pretty picture.

Anonymous said...

Right, and also the follow-up to the letter posted by a UO grad student, on the same link Bonnie sent.

Anonymous said...

As 2:15 and 5:05 note, the comments on the OU seven's open letter leave one with quite a different impression of who has been (busily, too) posting garbage.

I'll admit, though, that I love the strategy of linking to an article in a local newspaper that by and large only quotes one's own take on an issue and claiming that this somehow constitutes independent corroboration of that take.

Anonymous said...

This is a genuine question - does anyone have any reason to believe that the anonymous UO grad student is telling the truth, or is in fact a grad student at UO?

I'm sincere in asking this. Obviously it would be outrageous to demand a student to write that comment under his or her own name. The situation is such that such allegations can only be made anonymously. But we're left in a situation where anyone can make allegations anonymously, that can be severely damaging to named individuals, without verification. I recall that in some thread or other (I think on FP), an anonymous grad student applauded Rutgers, NYU, and Princeton being on the needs improvement list of the PG, as she claimed to have experienced a chilly climate at 2 of these depts, but no-one commented on or linked to that testimony.

I feel that in this whole Oregon business a line has been crossed, one that before had been respected (for better or worse): that one not mention such allegations about individual departments on public blogs. Previously Leiter, the Smoker, NewApps, Feminists Philosopher, Philosophers Anon, Being a Woman in Philosopher, etc, all refused to ever name names, *despite* many of the authors/moderators of these blogs claiming to have wide and substantial information about *many* departments in which sexual harassment regularly occurs.

Which makes me think that the current affair with Oregon is not about "keeping women out of harm's way" - if one were really concerned with this one might well decide that many departments should be named, especially those lauded in the profession (see the number of entries on Being a Woman that speak about ramked or highly ranked Leiter Departments). Of course one might not, but I don't think that's a given.

I suspect many will not agree with my last point, but in any case, it's going to be very interesting to see what happens in the future now a new standard has been set. Dozens of departments are dysfunctional, and dozens contain harassers. Dozens are thus dangerous to women by the new standards being set. Why shouldn't they be named, given that so many people claim to have solid knowledge of this being the case (much more solid knowledge than was the case with Oregon)? allegations?

Anonymous said...

5:30, what exactly do you think is the motivation for someone to pretend to be a UO grad student posting that comment? I don't get it. You think there's someone who has a particular interest in scuttling the reputation of Oregon's philosophy department? That strains credibility.

And if it's just an invention, why has nobody contested it??

Anonymous said...

Well, the letter from the faculty contests it. And I can think of plenty of reasons one might want to smear a dept - you've failed out of a program, you have a grudge against a professor, you want to make sure the pluralist guide remains smeared, you're a troll.

I have sympathy for Oregon's faculty in all this - they're being screwed because of other people's fights. You might think they're to blame, but again, dozens of depts have sexual harassers, so there are other reasons for why they've been singled out.

I honestly am interested in what's guiding people to accept some anonymous testimony and not others, since, again, now this has occurred, and no one authoring or moderating these blogs seems to think it was a mistake to name Oregon, its going to occur more and more

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:30 - you realize you are seeking a kind of evidence that's just impossible for you to have. I know for a fact that the UO grad student is real because I am in a great deal of communication with that person. But I have to remain anonymous in posting this too, for obvious reasons. So you can perfectly well write me off as another (or even the same) troll. And even if I put my name, what would that prove? I could be a sock puppet. Not sure what to do about your epistemic quandary or how, plausibly, you think it can be solved. If it can't, should people just keep their mouths shut? That seems a troubling conclusion.

Anonymous said...

@Anon 5:30 & 7:48 - while the OU grad student commenting on NewAPPS is anonymous to us, Leiter presumably knows both the identity of the student who initially wrote him with the very same charge of a cover-up, and also the identity of the OU professor who confirmed the student's account to him (you will recall that he did not name the department before receiving such a confirmation). Furthermore, Bonnie Mann has herself, and without a trace of shame, admitted the very thing she (and the other six) now denies - namely, that she urged students to stay quiet about the existence of a sexual harassment investigation for fear of losing the SWIP-UK award. All these strands of evidence make the anonymous account NewAPPS seem very credible.

As for why OU is being singled out for criticism, even though this should be painfully obvious: while there are many, many departments with a poor climate for women (though I wouldn't go as far as Bonnie Mann to say that I cannot imagine a single department in which the director of undergraduate studies doesn't sexually assault undergraduate women in his office), UO has been singled out for praise by the PG climate guide and SWIP-UK. There is now good reason to believe that this praise is undeserved, and possibly even dishonestly obtained.

Anonymous said...

I guess I don't see that the letter from the faculty disputes what the anonymous grad student (or pretender) says. Could you be more specific?

And I don't see any examples of "accept[ing] some anonymous testimony and not others."

Anonymous said...

"... but again, dozens of depts have sexual harassers ..."

Odd that philosophers will commit the most basic fallacies if it helps in defending themselves and/or their cronies!

Anonymous said...

FYI: Linda Alcoff has posted another response to the issues surrounding the Pluralists Guide to Philosophy.

http://sgrp.typepad.com/sgrp/2011/08/another-try-on-the-pluralists-guide-to-philosophy.html

I'm still trying to figure out if anything significantly new was said...

I was kind of hoping explanations as to why UO was left as "strongly recommended," why Univ of Ok was taken off the "needed change" category, and why talking about methodology now seems to make one a bad guy with ulterior motives. I do understand her point about methodology. But if there really are methodological problems, there needs to be space for serious inquiry on that front.

Anonymous said...

Apparently Linda Alcoff doesn't know when to stop digging. Her latest disgusting, self-serving contribution has been posted by Sally Haslanger at the GR&P blog.

http://sgrp.typepad.com/sgrp/2011/08/another-try-on-the-pluralists-guide-to-philosophy.html

Alcoff writes: "I will restate some of our responses to criticisms below; it has been dismaying to see repeated claims that we have not responded to criticisms when in fact most of the information some are demanding is on the Pluralist Guide site itself and other responses have been posted on this site."

This latter claim is a barefaced lie.

Anonymous said...

Re: "This latter claim is a barefaced lie."

It could be a barefaced lie. The claims isn't true, that's for certain. But isn't it more likely that she believes what she's saying is true and simply isn't hearing the legitimate criticisms?

Mr. Zero said...

I haven't had time to develop and articulate a considered opinion about this latest thing from Alcoff. But I will say that it sucks. And I'm not in love with Sally Haslanger's response to the anonymous first comment. But I am in love with Liz Harman's comment. First rate.

Anonymous said...

Maybe she really believes she's responded to criticism. But it's pretty implausible that she could really believe that most of the information people have asked for has been provided, given how many times various commenters have asked her for very specific things, such as an explanation of how the data was processed into rankings, an explanation of the mysterious disappearance of Oklahoma from the list, etc. In a way, it's almost less of a criticism to call her a liar than to assume she's so epistemically benighted she doesn't even know her statement is false.

Anonymous said...

Re: "In a way, it's almost less of a criticism to call her a liar than to assume she's so epistemically benighted she doesn't even know her statement is false."

Agreed. The suggestion is that perhaps she's so deep in the grip of her own understanding of who she is and what she's doing that she's genuinely unable to hear (i.e., to actually listen) to what other people are saying in response.

Anonymous said...

I'm intrigued by the claims regarding the 'brain drain' in philosophy. I'm inclined to doubt the claim, but don't have any rationale to defend my doubt besides not wanting it to be true.

Anyone have any more substantiated thoughts on her claims on this front?

slave boy said...

6:30, yeah, I was wondering about that. I assume she just means that some people doing some interesting work in those areas are doing it in some other departments than philosophy departments, because philosophy departments tend to be less hospitable to that kind of work. If this is true, it's not clear to me what's so bad about it. Who cares whether this interesting work is done by someone whose job title includes the word 'philosophy'? Are we philosophers in competition with academics in other departments, so that it's important that Our Side gets credit for the best stuff? Or what's the point?


Also: Three cheers for Liz Harman!

Anonymous said...

I don't think Alcoff was arguing that there is something wrong with the division of intellectual labor in academics such that it is unfair some other dept. gets to claim something that 'philosophers' actually have a right to claim as uniquely their own. I thought she was saying that most people--all things considered--simply no longer want to deal with all the bullshit one has to put up with in philosophy departments and so they go to other departments. She also named a bunch of areas of specialty that are often not given the attention they deserve in philosophy or else given merely token status in a department's vision of what philosophy should look like. I don't know if any of this is true but I don't think any of it had anything to do with what philosophy can or should claim as the proper domain of its attention.

Anonymous said...

I thought she was saying that most people--all things considered--simply no longer want to deal with all the bullshit one has to put up with in philosophy departments and so they go to other departments.

I thought that was what she was saying, too.

(That said, three cheers for Liz Harman!)

Anonymous said...

It's interesting how many people are concerned about how terrible it is that the Guide might send an unsuspecting woman to a dept. that really has a negative climate (it's been called "harmful", "terrible", and "completely irresponsible"), yet very few people have mentioned the negative climate of philosophy in general towards women. I haven't heard many people talk about how harmful and terrible that is.

There are valid criticisms to be made of the guide, but focusing on the Pluralist's Guide and declaring over and over how terrible it is is spitting in the face of the bigger problem of the structural and systematic sexism in philosophy.

Again, there are valid criticisms to be made of the guide, but all this outrage and disappointment towards the guide should be taken with a huge grain of salt.

The failure of the guide in NO WAY eclipses the current failure of philosophy to be be open and friendly towards women (among other marginalized groups.)

Mr. Zero said...

It's interesting how many people are concerned about how terrible it is that the Guide might send an unsuspecting woman to a dept. that really has a negative climate (it's been called "harmful", "terrible", and "completely irresponsible"), yet very few people have mentioned the negative climate of philosophy in general towards women. I haven't heard many people talk about how harmful and terrible that is.

Speaking only for myself, I guess I thought that the generally poor climate for women in philosophy was looming large in the background for this entire discussion. I've seen lots of people point out the pressing need for this sort of thing--if not a literal "climate guide" some source for information about women-friendliness and some way of goading recalcitrantly women-unfriendly departments to change their ways. I've seen lots of people mention the "what it's like" and "what we're doing" blogs. And one of the earliest criticisms I made of the guide is that it paints a picture of the overall climate for women in this profession that is completely false: 21 departments fall under the "strongly recommended" heading and just 3 "need improvement."

I can speak most authoritatively about my own views, but I would be shocked if any of the most outspoken critics of the guide--people like Liz Harman, Rebecca Kukla, Helen Yetter Chapelle, etc--were approaching this from a perspective that is blind to the general problems in this profession. I think it's much more likely that an awareness of these problems is informing and driving much of the criticism of the guide.

Anonymous said...

Sorta in keeping with Anon at 1:06 here- I absolutely think that the vitriolic turn of this whole affair contributes to a crappy climate in philosophy, both for women and in general. There are lots of very serious problems with the Pluralist's Guide, and Alcoff has not done a good job responding to them. But here's a novel concept: maybe at this point the decent and smart move is to lay off. Now that the problems with the guide are exposed, and anyone who looks at that guide for advice can very easily find reservations about it, just drop it. I've been to more conferences/job talks/classes than I can count where even after someone's argument has been sufficiently dismantled, people just keep at the destruction. We're at that stage now- the Pluralist Guide has been (rightly) put in its place, the "needs improvement" schools have made an incredibly convincing case that they do not deserve their place on that list, and everyone knows to treat with deep skepticism the supposedly women-friendly list. If the people in the blogosphere who just won't let it die keep at it, then the serious climate issues that contribute to philosophy's lack of women just become all the more entrenched. So yeah, to return to Anon 1:06- let's drop this harping on about Alcoff and get back to (or rather *start*) doing constructive things to help philosophy be a good place for women.

Anonymous said...

Interesting, 7:36. But the fact is, Alcoff and the rest of the 'gang of idiots' have done something very bad and persist in doing it every day they refuse to recant.

I appreciate your point that it would be bad to keep at those doofuses if it meant that the climate for women (and other philosophical minorities) became worse as a result.

However, I think it's now become clear -- as was discussed early on by commenters here on the Smoker, and is now clearly put by Leiter, Steven Hales, etc. -- that there is no important connection whatsoever between self-described 'feminist philosophers' like Alcoff and the status of women in philosophy.

If anything (as many have pointed out), those of us philosophers who are women are ghettoized and marginalized by Alcoff and others who claim to speak for us but are really just speaking for bad philosophy, bad surveying methodology, and poor integrity.

So no, I don't think the continued discussion of Alcoff's vices hurts the climate for women at all. Far from it.

Anonymous said...

I know. All of this nonsense is obviously a deliberate attempt to distract us serious people from the real problems in the discipline. Also, from Darfur and Somalia and global warming. The problems with the Pluralists Guide are trivial by comparison. What's wrong with you people?

Now please stop harping on this stuff and go invent a 0-carbon airplane.

paralymatic said...

Some time ago on this blog, a commentator made the point that it's important not to conflate an environment that's hospitable for women with an environment that's hospitable for feminist philosophers. Similarly, it's important not to conflate women philosophers with feminist philosophers. It was further claimed that this conflation was (often?) made by feminist philosophers, and that it was harmful. This comment was met with some incredulity and hostility by Mr. Zero (and perhaps a few others), who insisted that, e.g., Sally Haslanger was not guilty of the conflation.

In my view, this conflation is both common and harmful. Once you're aware of it, you start to see it everywhere. I just noticed another instance of it on Linda Alcoff's website: http://alcoff.com/articles/call-climate-change-women-philosophy

Alcoff writes: "But the principal issue that comes out in sharp relief from the blog “What is it like to be a woman in philosophy?” is not about harassment or come-on’s but the thousand daily cuts that collectively dissuade women from staying in: the aggressive and peremptory dismissals in seminar, the a priori rejections and derision of feminist philosophy..."

Take a look at that last phrase. It seems to me to clearly presuppose certain close connections between the hospitality of an environment for women and the hospitality of an environment for feminists. This is just the sort of conflation that the commentators have been talking about. And make no mistake; it's not a harmless conflation. Not all women philosophers look favorably on feminist philosophy, and not all of us wish to see, say, feminist metaphysics or epistemology be well-received in our home departments. I am one such woman; I think most feminist philosophy is poor, and on that count alone I do not want to see these two projects linked in the way that Alcoff (and others too) seem to advocate. I do not want to see the cause of women in philosophy linked to the cause of feminist philosophy.

Mr. Zero said...

It was further claimed that this conflation was (often?) made by feminist philosophers, and that it was harmful. This comment was met with some incredulity and hostility by Mr. Zero (and perhaps a few others), who insisted that, e.g., Sally Haslanger was not guilty of the conflation.

For the sake of accuracy, I will point our that the point I disputed, perhaps with some hostility, was that particular quotations from Haslanger and the UK SWIP were instances of the mistake. I don't think I disputed that it would be bad if it were to be made, or committed myself to the view that the mistake had never been made. (Although if I'm wrong I hope you'll let me know.)

However, I would also like to say that I strongly agree with the substance of your post: that (a) this mistake has been made by certain people; (b) this mistake is harmful women philosophers, the cause of feminism, and the profession at large; (c) Alcoff et al. have made and continue to make it. I would also add that (d) it is an incredibly elementary and horribly stupid mistake.

Anonymous said...

Obviously feminist philosophy and female philosophers are conceptually distinct. It is, though important to notice that in practice this distinction becomes a bit blurred.

First, if a kind of philosophy (i.e. feminist philosophy) that is done overwhelmingly and disproportionately by women gets dismissed, then an anti-feminist theory climate becomes an anti-women climate.

Second, since women who do feminist philosophy are often the same women who have fought to make this field better for all women regardless of their specialty (think, e.g., of Haslanger here), then to dismiss feminist theory is to marginalize the specific, real women who have made this field more tolerable for all of us.

Third, since the substance of much feminist theory gives us resources to help make sense of why it's been tough to fight for a better climate for women philosophers (think of Marilyn Frye's comparison of oppression to a cage, or work by Carol Gould on the exclusion of women from the history of philosophy), then to dismiss feminist theory is to dismiss one of our best tools for making philosophy better for women.

I am sure there are even more connections between hospitality toward feminist philosophy and women.

So paralymatic, even if you think feminist philosophy is "poor," feminist philosophers and feminist theory probably still deserve your respect. (And as a side note, I have no idea what to make of your "poor" claim. I don't know what arguments you would give. But maybe it's "poor" because the subject matter is just that goddamn tough.)

Anonymous said...

I strongly agree with the sentiment in some of the comments above questioning the usefulness of continued aggression towards the climate ranking in the blogosphere. Are the rankings horribly flawed? Yes. Have the responses to criticism by Alcoff been incredibly disappointing and frustrating? Yes. But does anyone really think that continuing to rake the project over the coals is going get the authors to take it down or produce answers to the excellent and clearly articulated questions that many have raised regarding it? I doubt it, and suspect that many would agree with me on this. If the guide really is harmful to prospective female graduate students then that is a bad thing. But I'm not entirely convinced by the arguments that it is harmful. It may well be, but as others have pointed out I find it hard to believe that bright, informed prospective students would take the guide at face value and somehow overlook all of the controversy that's already out there surrounding it. And interestingly enough NYU and Princeton have yet to receive the kind of rigorous defense from current students that Rutgers did, so perhaps there is some real cause for concern about those departments. If their continued presence on the list spurs prospective students to do some further research of the climate at these places on their own then that might not be a bad thing.

The main point I want to make though is this: the tone of this entire debate has been awful, on both sides. It seems to have gone a long way towards promoting the same sort of aggressive, us vs. them attitude that the recent attention to the climate for women in the profession had previously been making strides to diffuse. Providing some sort of specific, centrally located data on the climate for women in different departments would be invaluable for prospective female graduate students. Perhaps, as Leiter and others have suggested, compiling such data is impossible. But perhaps it's just incredibly difficult, time consuming, and potentially controversial. And as this discussion continues, and the hostility becomes more and more entrenched and accepted, it looks like one negative consequence of this whole thing that no one has thus far drawn much attention to is that any well intentioned individual or group willing to devote the time and energy to pursuing this kind of project is likely now terrified to do so. They may think that the potential blowback is just not worth the trouble. There is a serious concern here that this whole conversation has made it acceptable to resort to name calling and insults when we don't like the results of such a project. Wouldn't it be far more productive, when it comes to the guide in question, to just call a spade a spade? The methodology is awful. The responses to criticism have been awful. But continuing to spend all this time and energy attacking those who produced it seems counterproductive, especially going forward and looking towards promoting BETTER work on projects like this in the future.

Anonymous said...

7:46. well said.

Anonymous said...

And interestingly enough NYU and Princeton have yet to receive the kind of rigorous defense from current students that Rutgers did, so perhaps there is some real cause for concern about those departments.

Ugh.
Perhaps some people think it's better not to respond to slanderous gossip. You, on the other hand, seem to be inclined to perpetuate it.

Anonymous said...

The tone of the discussion has been awful, but only on the side of those who want to let Alcoff and allies off the hook. These professional philosophers have slandered colleagues elsewhere in the most irresponsible way possible. They should be pilloried for it, or until they apologize.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:26 writes:

First, if a kind of philosophy (i.e. feminist philosophy) that is done overwhelmingly and disproportionately by women gets dismissed, then an anti-feminist theory climate becomes an anti-women climate.

This simply doesn't follow. The needed premise is not that a high percentage of those engaged in feminist philosophy are women (obviously true), but rather that a high percentage of female philosophers are engaged in feminist philosophy.

Anonymous said...

FWIW, Leiter is running a poll concerning whether all this should affect Alcoff's standing as president-elect of the Eastern APA.