Monday, December 3, 2012

That's racist

Do you want to feel angry (-ier) at academia today? If yes, then read the comments section to this article  in the Chronicle: "Black Dandies Fashion New Academic Identities."

Now, it might be the case that the commenters on the article aren't all academics, but, good god, holy fuck. Why the hell would any underrepresented minority want to enter a field into which their desire to dress REALLY FUCKING SHARP is taken to indicate that they have fallen under:
the spell of "the bling" over "the books" [and that this] has captured [sic] may of our "colleagues" in the hypnotic rapture of their closets[?]
How can someone's immediate reaction to this article be to rush to the comments to remark:
"clothes horse" is not an intellectual compliment. And I suppose this is black male sexuality, assuming your role model is a pimp[,]
rather than to want to step up your sartorial game and stop shopping at the GAP outlet?

In light of these comments, is it any wonder that the number of minority faculty members are so terrible? Look:
Humanities faculty: 82.3% White, 5% Black, 5.8% Asian Pacific Islander, .8% Native American, and 5.1% Hispanic. Philosophy faculty: 88.9 % white (around 16.6% of whom are women; compared to about 35% in the Humanities at large), 4.6% Asian Pacific Islander (.6% women), 3% Native American (1% women), 2.4% Blacks (.1 % women), and 1.1% Hispanics (.1 % women) (Table 245 in Snyder, T.D., Dillow, S.A., and Hoffman, C.M. (2008). Digest of Education Statistics 2007 (NCES 2008-022)).
And, to those other commenters on the article wondering why this deserves mention in the Chronicle at all, pull your head out of your ass and think about some work Paul D. Umbach (2006) summarizes:
[F]aculty of color create a comfortable environment and provide support and mentoring for students of color (Cole and Barber, 2003; Smith, 1989). Students of color look to faculty who they believe will be able to understand them. Faculty of color are best able to understand their special problems and provide them with the encouragement they need to succeed (Cole and Barber, 2003). Academic performance and career aspirations are enhanced when students of color have minority faculty who serve as role models for them (Cole and Barber, 2003; Hurtado et al., 1999; Smith, 1989).
We don't talk much about race, ethnicity, or class on this blog. We should.

Update: I JUST WANT TO PUNCH SO MUCH STUFF RIGHT NOW.

Update 2: That purple sweater and those shoes? Yeah.

Click to embiggen.
Update 3: I included more numbers from the table I mentioned. And here's a screen grab (there might be more recent reports out there): 

 -- Jaded, Ph.D.

69 comments:

Anonymous said...

I noticed that there is no statistic for the percentage of Asians in philosophy in what you stated, even though there is a percentage of Asians in the humanities at large. Why is that? Is the percentage of Asians in philosophy so small as to round down to 0%? (I would think you'd just say "0%" in that case, as it only bolsters your point.) Or is it that none was listed in the source from which you were quoting? Just curious.

Jaded, Ph.D. said...

I forgot to include them. But, they are up now. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Add to this the numerous times I have been told that philosophy of race is not real philosophy, because it's not sufficiently analytical, and we stop wondering why minorities are not interested in pursuing graduate work in philosophy.

Anonymous said...

I think the title of this post should be "Das Racist."

CTS said...

@1:51:

Same for feminist philosophy (which I do not do but much of which I respect).

Anonymous said...

"Add to this the numerous times I have been told that philosophy of race is not real philosophy, because it's not sufficiently analytical, and we stop wondering why minorities are not interested in pursuing graduate work in philosophy."

Oh, right. Because not liking phil. of race = not liking ethnic minorities in philosophy.

And because ethnic minorities in philosophy = people who like phil. of race.

Just like feminist philosophy = philosophy that women like to do.

And not liking feminist philosophy = not liking women in philosophy.

Oh God oh god oh god oh god oh god... For the last motherfucking time...!

Anonymous said...

Most academics at my university dress poorly and often unprofessionally. I would like to see faculty dress more professionally.

These black professors work at nice colleges and universities: OSU, Duke, and Rhodes.

I have been to Rhodes College. It is a dream of a place in Memphis. I ate at the student union. They had a huge bowl of quinoa. That place make you feel like you need to dress up.

More power to these faculty dandies!

Anonymous said...

"Oh, right. Because not liking phil. of race = not liking ethnic minorities in philosophy."

No, but it does often translate to telling (many) minority students that their interests aren't approved of by Real Philosophy. For many students, it translates to "I like you personally, just please stop talking about race in my Philosophy department," or "why do you have to sully my philosophy with your pet concerns."

These may not be what is meant, but this is how many minority students hear claims that philosophy of race isn't "real" philosophy.

Jaded, Ph.D. said...

Anon. 3:41:

I toyed with that, but, I was too sad that they had broken up already.

I also like the variant: "Thass Raycess." Perhaps originating from this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=AdSYhwLENvM

Anonymous said...

I'm not black, but some of those closet pictures made me feel a lot better about being an academic woman of color who really prizes her personal sense of style.

Also, I have at least as many shoes and purses as that guy has ties.

LOVE IT. Will ignore the comment section and continue loving the article.

Anonymous said...

7:04,

A discipline can be welcoming to ethnic minorities or women without having '[THIS DISCIPLINE] of [THAT GROUP OF PEOPLE]' subdisciplines. There is no essential connection between the two.

More importantly, if such a subdiscipline exists, a member of the overall discipline should be able to express doubts about the legitimacy of that subdiscipline without raising moral questions about him/herself (just imagine, for instance, if it became morally taboo to express doubts about X-Phi, linguistic philosophy, or existentialism).

Finally, those critical of phil. of race/feminist phil. typically hold discussions of race and women's issues to be legitimate philosophical subject-matter.

Perhaps it's true that students overhearing philosophers saying "I don't think much of feminist philosophy/philosophy of race" might take them to be saying something neither intended nor implied. All the more reason not to allow the confusion to develop by using the name of a positive political affiliation ('feminist') in a subdiscipline!

Anonymous said...

"A discipline can be welcoming to ethnic minorities or women without having '[THIS DISCIPLINE] of [THAT GROUP OF PEOPLE]' subdisciplines. There is no essential connection between the two"

Yes, there is a connection, "essential" or not. When people don't see issues that are important to them reflected in a discipline, they are less likely to find that discipline "welcoming". And women and people of color are more likely to find issues in the phil. of race and feminist phil pressing an interesting (please notice that this is not the same as saying that all people of color are or should be interested in phil of race, or that all women are or should be interested
in feminist phil).

"those critical of phil. of race/feminist phil. typically hold discussions of race and women's issues to be legitimate philosophical subject-matter."

No, they don't. That's the point behind the criticism of the idea that Phil of Race/Feminism isn't "real philosophy."

Mr. Zero said...

A discipline can be welcoming to ethnic minorities or women without having '[THIS DISCIPLINE] of [THAT GROUP OF PEOPLE]' subdisciplines. There is no essential connection between the two.

But the question at this point is not whether to have such subdisciplines. There already are subdisciplines like that. They exist. So the question before us now is whether those extant subdisciplines are worth having or pursuing (or something--IDK).

It seems to me that it's clearly at least metaphysically possible that these subdisciplines are not worthwhile. That, as a group, these subdisciplines do not advance knowledge or contribute meaningfully to recognizably philosophical projects. And, although I could be wrong, of course, it seems to me that the practitioners of these approaches basically know this, inasmuch as philosophers are generally aware of their own fallibility and the likelihood that they're barking up the wrong tree. That's why Kripke's little joke in N&N about why he doesn't want to go so far as to offer a theory has bite.

But in order to make that case, you'd have to do some work. You'd have to be able to articulate what is distinctive about method or subject matter of the subdiscipline (other than just that it deals with race or gender or whatever), and then be able to articulate why this method or subject matter is unworthy of philosophical discussion, or is not well-suited to generate interesting philosophical results, or to advance philosophical knowledge.

So, for starters, I'm pretty sure I've never seen anyone do this. I could be wrong, and if someone has done this I hope somebody will post a link. But I've read a lot of complaints about e.g. feminist philosophy, and I've never seen one that did those two things.

For another thing, doing this with one's undergraduates would require an extreme level of care. The (obvious) fact of it is that issues surrounding race and gender are pretty sensitive. They are sensitive in a way that issues surrounding X-phi and even existentialism are not. Because of this sensitivity, it's pretty easy to come off like a giant asshole when discussing these issues, even for people who are not overtly prejudiced and who have the best of intentions and who are not assholes. It's particularly easy to do when advancing the opinion that philosophical subdisciplines dealing with these issues are not worthwhile or are not real philosophy. And especially easy if the other person is a fledgling philosopher who is also member of the relevant minority group and who antecedently suspects that the subdiscipline might be of genuine interest. And it's incredibly easy if the dismissal is quick and breezy, and based on a superficial understanding of the subdiscipline.

And so, if you had a black student who approached you with an interest in or curiosity about philosophy of race, and you said stuff relevantly like what's in the comment at 10:44, or you adopted the tone of comment 10:27, it would be very easy for that student to come away from the interaction with some troubling and unfortunate ideas about philosophy and whether she had a place in it. Whether issues that mattered to her were likely to be taken seriously. Whether you took them seriously yourself. If she was undecided about whether to declare a major in your department, she might not feel too encouraged.

I'm not saying it's impossible to express the view that e.g. philosophy of race isn't worthwhile to such a student; I'm saying that it would require a level of detail and care that I've never seen anyone who is saying that e.g. philosophy of race isn't worthwhile actually display. And so I am inclined to think that the connection you mention is there, even if it isn't essential.

Anonymous said...

Here's something I hope we can all agree would be a very bad thing:

A subdiscipline of philosophy is created. It takes as its name a word referring to a social movement whose merits it would be morally and socially unacceptable to reject (like 'feminist' or 'anti-fascist' or something). Owing to this self-titling, students and members of the lay public are liable to confuse criticism of the subdiscipline with criticism of the social movement whose name it shares. Hence, it becomes socially taboo for philosophers to subject the new subdiscipline to scrutiny.

That would be extremely objectionable because it commits a variant of the 'poisoning the well' fallacy by suggesting through its very name that anyone who criticizes the subdiscipline is morally bankrupt.

Zero, you say that the disciplines are already here and are already called those things. So I guess the only thing to do is to change the names (e.g. 'feminist philosophy') to something more fair and/or to promote a philosophical culture in which it is OK to speak critically about these subdisciplines in exactly the way one can speak critically about any other subdiscipline (e.g. metaphysics).

Anonymous said...

I wonder if anyone in this discussion has considered how they might frame this discussion to undergrads, particularly to freshmen and sophomores who might be interested in the study of philosophy as it pertains to issues of race, gender, class, etc.

From what I can tell here, we have professionals and/or advanced graduate students commenting to other professionals and/or advanced graduate students. It seems to me that one of the issues at play here is the small numbers ethnic minorities and women in the field. Well, this disparity often can be traced back to undergraduate education and recruiting for the major. (Fewer women and minorities majoring in philosophy translates to fewer women and minorities pursuing graduate studies in philosophy, and eventually getting jobs in philosophy.)

Too often, I have met faculty who assume that philosophy as a discipline has nothing to do with issues like race or gender (issues many students of color and young women find important and want to engage). Part of this goes to the notion that there's a difference between "real philosophy" and "that continental stuff, which allows for things like race and gender." Part of this, however, also appears to be a somewhat uncritical assessment of the history of philosophy, a history dominated by white men. That many philosophers simply accept that "real philosophy" is something that has been practiced historically by a largely white, male population *and that race and gender aren't valuable aspects of the discussion* is a serious problem. "Oh, well, yes, most everyone on this syllabus is a white man. But trust me, race and gender have nothing to do with that fact."

Oh, yes, I know, it's all about the arguments. "Real philosophers" never spent much time talking about race and gender. Of course, most white men rarely have to, so it's just not an issue, right? But as a field, if we want to broaden our appeal to more women and ethnic minorities, we will want to start learning how to talk to talk to the young, impressionable students who have no idea about the larger dimensions of the field when they take our Intro classes and wonder if this field might be for them.

But then again, maybe we don't want to widen the appeal of our field. Shrinking departments, loss of tenure lines, and the gradual disappearance of departments really shouldn't concern anyone whose interest is in the purity of the field. The real world is such a messy, irrelevant intrusion on our Ivory tower.

Anonymous said...

I honestly don't get the point of criticizing the existence of subdisciplines. If you don't think an area is interesting or fertile or whatever, don't work in it. But what is to be gained from expending energy saying "philosophy of X is not real philosophy"? I think one reason hackles go up when people make such claims about feminist philosophy and philosophy of race is precisely that the only point people can see to making the claims is to diminish the groups that are central to those subdisciplines. It would be one thing if they were somehow dominant and one felt that their dominance threatened other work that was more "worthy." But for crying out loud, why can't you just put your energy into doing whatever work it is that DOES interest you, instead of carping on other people's choices when those choices have no effect on you at all?

Mr. Zero said...

Owing to this self-titling, students and members of the lay public are liable to confuse criticism of the subdiscipline with criticism of the social movement whose name it shares. Hence, it becomes socially taboo for philosophers to subject the new subdiscipline to scrutiny.

Well, as I tried to say before, I'm not sure that it isn't possible to subject these subdisciplines to scrutiny. This idea has been floated at various times on this blog over the past several years--that, for example, it's not possible to criticize feminist philosophy without seeming to thereby criticize feminism or women or something. But what I was trying to say in my comment up there is, it's not at all clear that you can't do that because the actual criticisms never materialize. People object to feminist philosophy; they say they don't like it; but what they don't do is characterize the subdiscipline in a fair way that its practitioners and proponents would accept, and explain what they think is really wrong with it. (Again, as far as I know. If someone knows where someone did that, I'd love to see it.)

Of course. as I indicated, people who "criticize" these subdisciplines must exercise extreme caution, due to the sensitivity of the issues involved. And that's not your fault, and maybe it's not fair. But it's not entirely not fair. It's more than obvious at this point that this profession has widespread and intensely serious problems with e.g. sexism. Women in this profession really do have to put up with a bunch of shit that men don't. It's not that the women need to lighten up; it's that the sexists need to cut it out. This reality means that you have to exercise more caution than would otherwise be necessary when criticizing the subdiscipline of feminist philosophy, so as to distinguish yourself from the genuine sexists who also don't like feminist philosophy. And I guess that's unfortunate for you. But it's not as though it's the end of the world.

(Also, who do you think will get the wrong idea? You don't imagine that the "lay public," as you say, has any idea that there are philosophical subdisciplines involving race and gender, let alone that they confuse critics of these subdisciplines with genuine racism and sexism, do you?)

I guess the only thing to do is to change the names (e.g. 'feminist philosophy') to something more fair...

I guess I'm not so sure. It's not as though the names you're complaining about are completely out of left field and are totally unrelated to the philosophical subject matter or methodological approach to which they refer. It's not as though it's called "feminist philosophy" when it should be called "the mind/body problem," or something. It's called "feminist philosophy" because it involves the philosophical study of issues relating to gender, and stuff like that.

What do you think would be a better name?

Anonymous said...

Humor? Humor! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L01LpyRoY3M

Anonymous said...

Mr Zero,

It's not that the women need to lighten up; it's that the sexists need to cut it out.

Why do you rule out the possibility that it's both?

I think there are cases (in significant numbers) in which accusations of sexism are, if not completely unfounded, then greatly overblown. I've been a witness to some such cases, I believe. And I think I can say this without implying that there aren't also many cases in which sexists need to cut it out, as you put it.

We all have different experiences and different impressions, of course, so maybe yours are that the latter cases greatly outnumber the former. That is not my impression. But we should each admit that we are not in a very good position to know.

Anonymous said...

@10:44/2:34. You're singing an old song. You might consider a couple of things.

1st, the fact that you can't do something doesn't mean it can't be done.

2nd, if you really find yourself unable to criticize the subdiscipline of feminist philosophy - to other philosophers, to your students, and to the lay public - without causing the other people to have moral doubts about you, and there is a real pattern that has repeated itself more than a few times, you might want to consider the possibility that the problem is not the other people.

Anonymous said...

Zero, my recollection is that on this blog we haven't yet discussed the merits or otherwise of feminist philosophy. What we've discussed has instead been on the meta-level: whether it should be _permissible_ to raise criticisms of feminist philosophy, what is and isn't _implied_ by doing so, and so on.

We've never got beyond that because two contradictory things are said, often by the same people:
1) For all practical purposes, criticizing feminist philosophy amounts to criticizing women in philosophy; and
2) Nobody, and particularly not Sally Haslanger, _ever_ claims that 1) is the case.

Perhaps once we've sorted that out we can discuss the merits of feminist philosophy. If we want to, that is.

6:10, you misunderstand. I'm not saying that I've ever been criticized for the way I approach this question. I never have, actually. I wasn't asking for advice about a personal problem: I was pointing out a difficulty surrounding the free discussion of various subdisciplines.

Incidentally, I am also no champion of the 'dead white males' approach to philosophy. I'm just making the point that if we can't say critical things about areas of philosophy, we've taken a wrong turn. This is philosophy, folks. It's what we do. And yes, this should be (and is) possible for all other areas of philosophy: metaphysics, aesthetics, semantics, ethics, you name it. If you haven't noticed that yet, Im afraid you don't understand the game that's being played.

Anonymous said...

3:46 asks "But what is to be gained from expending energy saying "philosophy of X is not real philosophy"?

3:42 provides a potential answer: "maybe we don't want to widen the appeal of our field."

I'd go further. Maybe "we" (the white men who dominate the field) are actively protecting a resource that we've secured from "outsiders" who would challenge "our" hegemony. There is a concept in social science called "opportunity hoarding." Basically when a group secures some advantage, they fight like hell to retain it. Explaining away the injustice of the status quo would be one way of doing that.

We need to consider the very real possibility that white/male resistance to feminism and phil. of race may not be just a matter of innocent misunderstanding, or genuine philosophical disagreement, but an attempt to retain group advantage, just like white resistance to integration, or male resistance to women infiltrating the Old Boys network. Philosophers are not immune to such phenomena, sadly.

Mr. Zero said...

Hi 10:31,

This whole business is starting to ring hollow. You're super confident that the feminist philosophers have created an environment in which it is impossible to criticize their subdiscipline without seeming to also criticize feminism or women or whatever. But not because of personal experience; you claim that this has never happened to you. And not because you saw it happen here; you say that the discussion on this blog has always been confined to the meta-level, and no object-level criticisms have been raised here. And if you saw this happen somewhere else, you don't say so.

So I think it's time to either shit or get off the pot. If you've got a criticism of feminist philosophy, air it. You can even air it anonymously--you're really not risking very much. (But, of course, 6:10 is basically right: if you can't air this criticism without being accused of sexism or whatever, that wouldn't entail that it can't be done; and the possibility exists that they wouldn't be wrong.)

If you don't have a criticism to air, or won't air it, I think it's time for you to let this meta-criticism go.

And if your criticism just is the meta-criticism that the subdiscipline has been unfairly named in such a way that it's not possible to make an object-level criticism without one's moral character being called into question, I think it's more than clear that you have not come close to making your case.

Anonymous said...

I've not yet posted in this discussion, but I want to respond to Mr. Zero's line. Having read Newapps and Feminist Philosophers closely over the last couple of years, I have found that criticsm of feminist practice and ideology is very often quickly suppressed by a handful of techniques.

Generally, the trend on Newapps is for the local fellows to pillory the one raising the criticism by insulting their intelligence and questioning their sincerity. Over at FP, by contrast, one is far more likely to see the "let's be nice" rule raised, and it is not uncommon to find threads locked and discussions deleted. This is often accompanied by protestations that those engaging in the conversation are 'trolls' (no doubt some of them are) and as at Newapps the sincerity of the interlocutor is often questioned. In both cases, the practical effect of this sort of behavior is to suppress criticism.

Personally, I can't imagine anyone who reads those blogs closely will not have noticed these tendencies, unless they were already largely convinced of feminist views. And as someone not convinced by feminism (generally--some of the specifics are beyond a doubt correct), I've found the same sort of problem when trying to talk to some feminists over a point of disagreement. Insulated as they are by academic circles, many feminist philosophers can go their whole professional lives thinking they've got the lock-down on the proper relation between moral sentiment and judgment, convinced that so much of the rest of the world is infected by one or another bugaboo.

But plenty of people reject aspects of feminist ideology, its practices, the narratives it uses to promulgate its views, and the institutions it sets up. It is difficult to air these criticisms to feminists, however, because they have a variety of mechanisms for suppressing that criticism. Through judicious use of such terms as 'mansplanation' and 'victim-blaming,' together with a carefully crafted rhetorical frame, the persecution narrative that underwrites it, and the speech acts of condemnation, accusation, implicit accusation, and the indignant exhortation they wield so readily, contemporary feminism has cultivated all manner of practical methods for suppressing dissent against its methods and views.

Meanwhile, those of us who do not share feminist sentiments, and who have doubts about the value of its institutions and the intellectual integrity of some of its views, find ourselves pushed outside the bounds of conversation.

I do not think I am alone in having had this perception of things, but nor do I think my perception is dispositive of the problems. For our problems are legion, and I sure as hell don't think I have all the answers. But I am personally of the mind that the sort of mindset that some practicing feminists foster ought to be subject to far more withering criticism than its advocates seem willing to permit.

And I am aware that, when we find ourselves in conflict rather than conversation, we must consider that we are ourselves the problem. But having seen how easily the feminist slips into a conflict mode I am instead convinced that a substantial part of the problem is feminst sentiment. Ironically, this is the sort of thing that gets labled 'masculinist' in some circles.

Anonymous said...

"But having seen how easily the feminist slips into a conflict mode"

That only shows how well-trained they are as philosophers, given how easily most philosophical discussions seem to slip into conflict mode.

Anonymous said...

4:35,

Conflict mode can be productive when it generates sincere arguments in an open forum of inquiry. What 4:06 describes is not that, but rather anti-intellectual, bullying tendencies.

Zero, your "shit or get off the pot line" may help you impress yourself, but it makes no sense in the context. I didn't sit down on the pot: I argued that people should be permitted to do so without hindrance. If you can't tell the difference, then you're in the wrong profession.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I can't imagine anyone who reads those blogs closely will not have noticed these tendencies, unless they were already largely convinced of feminist views.

Hang on, I think you're conflating two things. I am pretty convinced of feminist views. But I definitely notice the trend you're talking about, in particular at the FP blog. I never comment there, precisely because of the tendency you've (quite accurately) stated. I might add that FP no longer uses the "be nice" rule, which at least had some potential to be applied equally to different ideologies; the new rule is that comments will be deleted if the detract from the "safety" of the blog, since feminists need a safe place to talk. This rule has been used many times to remove critical comments, irrespective of tone, but argumentative and downright nasty comments are left in as long as their ideology is right. Because they don't detract from safety.

Anyway, I've gotten off on a side track. My real point is that it's perfectly possible for a feminist like me to find the silencing techniques reprehensible. (I also agree with you about the blatant and ugly technique of labeling critics "trolls" or critical comments "mansplaining".)

Anonymous said...

Seems like there's a whole lot of derailing, or distraction, going on in this thread--given that the post is about racial minorities (barely) in philosophy. But maybe distraction is better than likely alternatives.

Mr. Zero said...

Hi anon 4:06,

Having read Newapps and Feminist Philosophers closely over the last couple of years, I have found that criticsm of feminist practice and ideology is very often quickly suppressed

I don't regularly read the comment threads at those blogs, but based on what little bit I've seen, I don't dispute this. It seems basically right. I'm more familiar with the comments and NewAPPS, and I think some of the stuff that happens there is pretty uncool.

However, as you continue, it seems fairly clear that some largish portion of your disagreements with feminist philosophers are political and/or moral in nature--you are "not convinced by feminism"; you "reject aspects of feminist ideology"; you "do not share feminist sentiments". And that's fine--I don't care. But, of course, it should not be surprising when moral and political disagreements become heated, or when people's moral priorities are called into question.

But it seemed to me that 10:44/2:34/10:31 was talking about a different problem. It seemed to me that he (I presume, weakly, that he is a man. If not, sorry) wanted to raise a philosophical or methodological criticism of the relevant subdisciplines, and was concerned to avoid the appearance of making moral and political criticisms. I took it that this was the import of the complaint that someone raising his criticism might be taken "to be saying something neither intended nor implied"; that such a subdiscipline suggests "through its very name that anyone who criticizes the subdiscipline is morally bankrupt"; and that we should "change the names (e.g. 'feminist philosophy') to something more fair". He's worried that the names of the subdisciplines falsely suggest that anyone who criticizes them must have certain moral views or motives.

And I think that we can all agree that it's a bad idea to draw conclusions about the fruitfulness of such subdisciplines as philosophy of race or feminist philosophy from the way that a couple of blogs manage their comment threads. If there's something wrong with feminist philosophy as a philosophical subdiscipline, this isn't it.

Hi anon 5:34,

I didn't sit down on the pot: I argued that people should be permitted to do so without hindrance.

Who was hindered? Who did the hindering? When and where did this hindering happen? If you don't know of anyone who was hindered by anybody, what are you talking about?

I think this is perfectly sensible. Is there hinderance? Prove it. Do you have a criticism? Let's hear it already. Otherwise, give it a rest.

Anonymous said...

"Seems like there's a whole lot of derailing, or distraction, going on in this thread--given that the post is about racial minorities (barely) in philosophy."

Funny how often this tends to happen in discussions about race and philosophy.

Anonymous said...

Zero,

You're still missing the point -- or rather, several points. Or are you doing this on purpose?

My aim -- as I've clarified many times now -- was to argue that one should be permitted to criticize a subdiscipline legitimately without having people doubt one's moral standing for doing so.

I did _not_ intend to criticize any particular subdiscipline. Once again -- let me make this perfectly clear -- I did _not_ intend to do that. Nor did I.

Just to make absolutely sure you understand this time, please consider the following two things.

First thing: the view that X is bad.

Second thing: the view that one should be able to assert, without censure, the view that X is bad.

Got the difference now? I sure hope so. It's really not that difficult when you think about it.

If not, just keep looking at those two things until you see it. It'll come to you.

I did, in the process, say that there was something fallacious about the _name_ chosen by so-called 'feminist philosophy', in that it precluded criticisms of its content and methodologies for illegitimate reasons.

I hope you can see that my criticism of its name and the implications people draw from it is not the same thing as a criticism of its content and methodologies. It is -- once again -- not my aim here to criticize those things.

You round off your comment by asking who is hindered from raising such criticisms and who is doing the hindering.

Well, Zero, that was already made clear in this thread. Large numbers of people on NewAPPs and Feminist Philosophers are examples of people who are doing the hindering. Those who try to raise criticisms there are examples of people who are hindered. You actually agree with that at the start of your post. But then you forget, or pretend to forget, all about that by the end.

Sorry to have to rub it in so much. If you would just stop and think before you comment, and admit when you've made an obvious mistake so that we can all move on, it wouldn't be necesssary.

Mr. Zero said...

My aim -- as I've clarified many times now -- was to argue that one should be permitted to criticize a subdiscipline legitimately without having people doubt one's moral standing for doing so.

I realize that. I was trying to ask why you don't think these criticisms are permitted. I acknowledged that it's not generally possible to do this in comments at NewAPPS or FP, but I don't see why you think you can't do it at all. Furthermore, I tried to indicate that I suspect that the trouble at these blogs tends to surround substantive moral and political issues, not issues of philosophical methodology and the potential for fruitfulness of various philosophical approaches. That's the way it seems to me, in my admittedly limited experience with those comment threads.

Just to make absolutely sure you understand this time, please consider the following two things. First thing: the view that X is bad. Second thing: the view that one should be able to assert, without censure, the view that X is bad.

I'm not sure why you think I can't see the difference.

Got the difference now? I sure hope so. It's really not that difficult when you think about it. If not, just keep looking at those two things until you see it. It'll come to you.

I'm not sure why you're being such an insulting asshole.

You round off your comment by asking who is hindered from raising such criticisms and who is doing the hindering. ... Large numbers of people on NewAPPs and Feminist Philosophers are examples of people who are doing the hindering... You actually agree with that at the start of your post. But then you forget, or pretend to forget, all about that by the end.

I didn't forget. If you'd read my whole comment, you'd have seen the part where I said, "And I think that we can all agree that it's a bad idea to draw conclusions about the potential for fruitfulness of such subdisciplines as philosophy of race or feminist philosophy from the way that a couple of blogs manage their comment threads." The fact that there are these two blogs whose comment policies are uncool falls somewhat short of entailing that it is impossible to raise questions about various philosophical subdisciplines without raising moral questions about yourself.

Anonymous said...

"Funny how often this tends to happen in discussions about race and philosophy."

Too true. But sad that one of the blog hosts is determined to enable the derailing--especially since this post isn't his, and the instigation for the derailment was patently beside the point early on.

Anonymous said...

Taking stock:

We now both agree, as does more or less everyone else it seems, that there are sizable groups of people who will actively attempt to smear one's character if one calls the legitimacy of those subdisciplines into question.

Also, many other people take it as quite a serious thing if one's character has been called into question by such people in those ways.

Even in this very thread, many other people pointed out that making negative comments about phil. of race or feminist philosophy are liable to alienate students of color or female students, and that that is a bad thing to do.

Since all these things are the case, it follows that making such criticisms of those subdisciplines leaves one's character liable to criticism in ways that would not result from one's criticizing metaphysics, semantics, normative ethics, etc.

There you go.

Anonymous said...

Come on Jaded, you know that "the hypnotic rapture of their closets" is a perfectly cromulent expression.

emma said...

I think "derailing" is an authoritarian concept.

The OP was race, but some of the comments drifted off to gender. That's not "funny" in either sense. It happens in blog comments no matter what the topic is.

This blog is anti-authoritarian (pace some occasional low-cred claims to the contrary). People who want more control over the direction of comments should start their own blog. Then you'll get the comments you deserve.

Anonymous said...

To those inclined to complain about 'derailing' (those are scare quotes): either contribute to the conversation in some substantive way, in whatever manner you see fit, or stop whining. No one wants to hear you kvetch.

Also, lol at the thought that the practices of feminist philosophy are "patently beside the point" (those are just ordinary quotes) when it comes to a discussion about race in philosophy. Just lol.

PJK said...

OK, I'll bite.

Philosophy of race and philosophy of gender are, at their best, just as legitimate as other subdisciplines of philosophy.

It's not as obvious that feminist philosophy is.

Taking phil. of race first: there are clearly some genuinely philosophical questions that one can address impartially here, so this is (at best, and also in much of the practice I have seen) not a case of ideology masquerading as _free_ inquiry.

For instance: what is the ontological status of races? Do they really exist as biological kinds? That is, as is now fairly well known, far from a simple empirical matter. There are also interesting semantic questions: is the concept 'black' (in the racial sense) legitimate, given e.g. its remarkable variability of its extension across cultures and contexts (if Obama is the first half-black president because his father is black, is he also the 44th white president because he is half-white? This issue doesn't come up in many other cultures' classifications). Then there are several ethical questions to be considered, and so on.

Philosophy of gender is similar, though here there is something undoubtedly biologically important (one's sex) and the questions begin with how much, and why, one's gender is determined by factors other than one's sex, etc.

In either phil. of gender or phil. of race, one can expect to see rational arguments marshalled on either side of a _free inquiry_ on several philosophically puzzling issues. Moreover, one can be a philosopher of race or gender _regardless of one's stance on those issues_. For those reasons, phil. of race and phil. of gender should be thought of no differently than phil. of color, phil. of mind, etc.

* Continued below *

PJK said...

* Continuing *

But feminist philosophy seems to be a different thing entirely. First, as was noted, the very name of this supposed subdiscipline entails an ideological commitment that limits free inquiry, which is one of the very things a true philosophical subdiscipline must, by its nature, never do.

To think of it another way: anyone would have to acknowledge that an admittedly racist, sexist person could pursue phil. of race and phil. of gender, whatever one might think of his/her views or arguments. But it seems to be generally doubted _even by the practitioners of 'feminist phil.'_ that an admittedly sexist and extremely antifeminist person cannot do feminist philosophy.

To think of it yet another way: one can do political philosophy while thinking that the state and its concerns are entirely illegitimate. If feminist philosophy were the same sort of thing, it should be possible to do it while holding that women and their concerns are entirely illegitimate (of course, this would be a horrible view; but it should be on the table). But it isn't. The '-ist' ending says it all: if you don't accept some version of the ideology, you aren't working in the subdiscipline. I'm not _criticizing_ the ideology, mind you: I'm just pointing out that any putative subdiscipline that demands that one follow an ideology is a questionable one.

Rather than a range of topics on which one can hold and argue freely for various positions (as with phil. of race, gender), feminist philosophy offers such things as 'feminist epistemology' and 'feminist ethics.' At best, those are legitimate positions or methods that can be used in legitimate subdisciplines. But the name, as has been pointed out, is a poisoning the well fallacy which, together with the attitudes of mainstream feminist philosophers (as evidenced e.g. on NewAPPS and FP) runs counter to the most basic principles of philosophical inquiry.

Those practices and views that make genuine contributions to epistemology, ethics, etc. should ideally be renamed non-ideologically and considered without poisoning the well as a part of epistemology, ethics, etc.

The rule that no subdiscipline may be legitimately ideologically driven should be, and otherwise is, common philosophical practice. While there are some other apparent subdisciplines with '-ist' in the title (such as 'British empiricist philosophy'), it is clear that the same thing is not going on there. Someone who _works_ on that is really working on a range of different subdisciplines (epistemology, etc.) but focusing on the issues raised by the so-called British empiricists.

The crucial point is that one can work on British empiricism even if one seeks to invalidate all the conclusions and methods of the empiricists. By contrast, one can't be a feminist philosopher if the main, overt goal of one's work is to undermine feminism entirely. That's what makes 'feminist philosophy' a dubious subdiscipline.

Anonymous said...

is there an actual *philosophical* objection to the existence of philosophy of race or feminist philosophy? because despite all the claims to the contrary, philosophers who think they shouldn't exist don't seem too concerned about voicing that opinion and i have yet to hear an actually philosophical case against it. instead all we get is this, i would tell you but Teh Feminists are silencing me bullshit. i mean, i don't much like philosophy of mind, but i don't go around telling them they're not philosophers and trying to figure out how we can get rid of it. what the fuck.

Anonymous said...

8:45 must not be paying attention. Plenty of voices have pointed out in this thread that feminist philosophy is often practiced as a political creed that suppresses criticism of its methods by hiding behind a persecution complex, supposing that those who critique it are morally defective. Feminism practiced in that mode is no philosophy at all; it's a socially pernicious pseudo-ideology masquerading as a defense of 'victims'.

Anonymous said...

Bryan Magee does a good job of making a similar point against continental philosophy:

"Very noticeably, many of the individuals to whom Continental philosophy appeals are among those to whom Marxism once appealed. Its factions often possess the same sort of gang mentality, and behave in the same unlovely ways—in dead jargon rather than living language, portentously rather than simply, obscurely rather than clearly—and to abandon rational argument for rhetoric. It actively trains them not to think, and to be bogus; and in doing these things it debauches their minds."

(from _Confessions of a Philosopher_, 1997)

I'm glad this is finally being discussed somewhere. Thanks, everyone!

CTS said...

Ok, let me try this:
1) Most of us agree that blogs are a mixed bag and have varied comment policies. Most of us have a general antipathy to blogs that silence people who are being non-asshatish critics on substantive grounds. Fine.
2) There are a variety of subdisciplines. One might criticize any specific argument or theory presented within any subdiscipline. Presumably, one typically does this without rejecting the entire subdiscipline – or, if one does the latter, one does so from the basis of a thorough understanding of said subdiscipline. These are requirements of intellectual honesty and rigor.
3) There seem to be some subdisciplines that are regularly dismissed, on the basis of very little rigorous exploration on the part of the dismissers. Philosophy of race and of feminism/gender are among these. Something vaguely termed Continental PHL is another (‘vaguely’ because I doubt anyone dismisses the work of all French and German theorists across history).
4) Some folks think that if the dare to criticize these subdisciplines, as such, that they will be labeled as racists, misogynists, etc. I gather they know that there are disputes within the subdisciplines ad that those engaged in them do not label one another in similar ways. Rather, it is the dismissal of the entire area of inquiry that seems to elicit the labeling responses.
5) I take it that labeling responses follow from the sense that one’s entire enterprise is being dismissed as ‘not real philosophy,’ and that this is objectionable in a way that a criticism of one’s specific views within the subdiscipline. I don’t find this surprising or intellectually dishonest. The fact is, as far as I can tell, is that the dismissal of an entire subdiscipline is usually not grounded in real familiarity with the subdiscipline. Rather, this comes form those least versed I the subdisciplines, as well as from those who have political or other theoretical objections to certain kinds of questions being raised or matters explored. Someone above suggested an example in which metaphysics might be so dismissed, but that is something we all recognize as silly. There have been rejections of ‘metaphysics’ done in a certain way, but no one rejects the very exploration of questions of Being.
6) Someone argues that feminist philosophy, in particular, is loaded with certain prescriptive assumptions that phil of gender or race are not. I think some real investigation of the disputes within feminist philosophy might reveal a greater diversity of views than that commenter expects. Of course, there are some unifying tenets of anything one would call feminist philosophy: for example, he conviction that women should be afforded equal treatment, that women have somewhat distinctive experiences worthy of investigation, and that women (and children) are not adequately treated as subjects of philosophical inquiry. But, very similar unifying tenets are to be found in philosophy of race. Someone who wanted to argue for the intellectual superiority of certain races would undoubtedly not be welcomed by race theorists. On the other hand, someone who purported to reject any inquiry into ontological matters would not be welcome among metaphysicians.

I don’t want to claim that there are no dominant political/moral perspectives in PHL of race and feminism. I’m sure there are. But that does not validate a rejection of an entire area of inquiry.

Anonymous said...

To all those (including Mr. Zero) who represent white, male, mainstream philosophers as never tiring of calling feminist philosophy pseudophilosophy:

I've seen that suggested obliquely (on a meta-level, as someone said) on this blog, which I found interesting and refreshing.

However, I have never once heard anyone else in the discipline suggest such a thing anywhere else.

If the charge that feminist philosophy is not real philosophy is as common as you say, could you please post links or references to some of the articles where that's been done? I'm sure it shouldn't be difficult for you to find five such articles within the space of as many minutes, if what you say is true.

Thanks! I'd really like to know whether such things are going on or whether people just assume they're going on because of their ideological presuppositions about mainstream philosophers, etc.

Anonymous said...

"Oh, right. Because not liking phil. of race = not liking ethnic minorities in philosophy. And because ethnic minorities in philosophy = people who like phil. of race."

Anon @ 6:49 here. Actually--diversions and straw men aside--being "told that philosophy of race is not real philosophy" functions as a dog whistle. It signals outright dismissiveness about the subject matter; skepticism about the place and ability of people presumed to have an interest in such issues; and dominance of mainstream philosophy and its practitioners.

I hope those claims are "substantive" enough. I won't bother arguing for them in this forum. The evidence and arguments aren't very hard to come by.

Anonymous said...

god this thread. wtf.

PJK said...

CTS wrote: "Of course, there are some unifying tenets of anything one would call feminist philosophy: for example, he conviction that women should be afforded equal treatment, that women have somewhat distinctive experiences worthy of investigation, and that women (and children) are not adequately treated as subjects of philosophical inquiry. But, very similar unifying tenets are to be found in philosophy of race. Someone who wanted to argue for the intellectual superiority of certain races would undoubtedly not be welcomed by race theorists. On the other hand, someone who purported to reject any inquiry into ontological matters would not be welcome among metaphysicians."

This is a straw man/ fallacious argument by analogy.

You represent me as claiming that a legitimate subdiscipline should have no background assumptions at all, not even the assumption that it is worthwhile to pursue the inquiry with which it engages itself.

That is not what I said. What I did say is that no legitimate subdiscipline can make the adoption of substantive assumptions _within_ the questions the discipline grapples with a prerequisite for engaging with the material as part of the subdiscipline.

For instance, if believing in the coherence theory of truth conceptually entailed that one is not doing metaphysics, then there would be something very wrong with metaphysics and it should not be counted as a legitimate subdiscipline (even though there are obviously huge problems with the coherence theory).

You point out that someone who believed in the superiority of one race over others would not be welcomed by race theorists. That may be so, but it doesn't address my point (unless such a conviction conceptually entailed that the person was not a philosopher of race, in which case phil. of race would be an illegitimate subdiscipline).

Anonymous said...

Thanks, 10:24.

That confirms the point Zero had doubts about: that one cannot raise doubts (or even meta-doubts) about the legitimacy of these subdisciplines without being accused of "signal[ling]... skepticism about the place and ability of people presumed to have an interest in such issues;" or to put it more plainly, being accused of racism or sexism.

Thanks again for proving the point!

Anonymous said...

I don't know if this is the kind of thing that 10:18 is asking about, but Susan Haack (a "mainstream philosophers", though obviously not male) says things such as:

"The vast recent literature of feminist approaches to ethics, epistemology, philosophy of science, philosophy of language and lately even logic is a striking manifestation of some consequences of preposterism. Reading this vast literature, you can hardly fail to notice how endlessly it is repeated that feminism has radical consequences for this or that area of philosophy, and how frequently those areas turn out to be trivial,.. or false."

"Preposterism and its consequences" Susan Haack, p. 203.

She uses feminism as an example of what she calls sham reasoning. Of course she thinks many other areas of inquiry (and in philosophy) suffer from this as well. But it is my impression that her view is representative of what many philosophers think.

Anonymous said...

No problem, 2:02. I'm proud to so "accuse" persons who raise wholesale, ignorant "doubts (or even meta-doubts) about the legitimacy" of philosophical study of race and racialized phenomena.

But I'm sure you didn't need my remarks to "confirm" and "prove" whatever point is going on in your mind. Indeed, in the philosophy profession, you've got tradition and sheer numbers on your side.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, 3:59. Well spotted!

Still, I wonder whether Haack felt more comfortable making that claim than significant _male_ philosophers would be (since she's less likely to be smeared as a sexist for having doubts about feminist philosophy).

Do you know of (m)any examples of male philosophers of Haack's prominence or greater (hell, even lesser) who are openly critical of feminist philosophy?

Anonymous said...

4:40,

I didn't need your remarks to prove it. But Mr. Zero did. He was the one who doubted that people like you exist.

The rest of your comment makes no sense.

Mr. Zero said...

Hi PJK,

Thanks for this. This is exactly the sort of thing I was interested in seeing. I want to raise a couple of clarifying points, and then I'm happy to let the matter rest.

1. I understand what it would mean, in political philosophy, to think that the state and its concerns were illegitimate, and I understand why someone who held that view would have a view in political philosophy. I know of philosophical arguments for such a position that are worth taking seriously, even if I think they're ultimately mistaken.

But I'm having trouble understanding what it would mean to think that women were illegitimate. Would that mean that women are not moral persons? Or something else? Are there arguments for this conclusion that would be worth taking seriously in a contemporary moral and political environment? Is there an argument for this position that wouldn't raise moral questions about the philosopher who took it to be sound?

2. I see your point about empiricism--that it's possible to study empiricism even if you think that all the central tenets of empiricism are deeply and importantly misguided and wrong. But it seems to me that the subdiscipline that goes by the name 'feminist philosophy' is just as often described as "feminist approaches to philosophy." (Maybe those are two different things, though. Not sure.) But if "feminist philosophy" is not really a set of substantive theses or principles, or a proposed answer to a philosophical question, or a philosophical theory of some sort, as empiricism is, but was instead a way of approaching substantive philosophical problems, it would provide a sort of benign explanation for this phenomenon. So understood, feminist philosophy applies a body of substantive moral and political theses (i.e. "feminism") to various philosophical questions & problems. Philosophers who don't accept these moral and political theses are unlikely to have an interest in applying them to the various questions & problems.

And I think it's easy to see why people might be pretty touchy when it came to criticisms of this approach to philosophy, inasmuch as they're touchy about a set of moral and political beliefs they feel strongly about, and which affect them on a personal level. Not that I'm defending it, exactly, but I think I understand it. And it's easy to see why criticisms of this approach would require a certain level of delicacy, given the delicacy of the moral and political issues involved.

And so, although you can work on empiricism without being an empiricist, it's not clear why someone would adopt an empiricist approach to philosophy without being an empiricist. And you can see why the empiricists don't tend to take criticisms of empiricism especially personally, particularly since criticisms of empiricism don't often go so far as to question its very legitimacy as a philosophical approach. And you can see why criticisms of empiricism don't require quite the same level of delicacy.

Anonymous said...

Hi Zero,

I have only one thing to add. I think that re: #1, the skeptic would say not that women were illegitimate or not moral persons but would instead reject the claim that there is such a thing as a feminine or female essence/perspective from which one can derive a philosophy.

*That* seems like an entirely defensible (even if ultimately false) position one can take within feminist philosophy is it not?

PJK said...

Thanks, Mr. Zero. This seems to be getting somewhere.

First, the thing about 'women being legitimate' was a grammatical error on my part. What I meant to say was that, if 'feminist philosophy' were a legitimate subdiscipline along the lines of philosophy of gender (which, again, I'm saying is surely legitimate), there should be no problem in theory with a practicioner of that subdiscipline denying "that women should be afforded equal treatment, that women have somewhat distinctive experiences worthy of investigation, and that women (and children) are not adequately treated as subjects of philosophical inquiry."

Would it be _objectionable_ for someone to deny these things? Defenitely in the first case, perhaps in one or both of the other cases. But that's beside the point I was making. My point was that, if being a 'feminist philosopher' constitutively depends on holding those substantive views, then there's something illegitimate about the subdiscipline. Any area of philosophy _must_ take a 'nothing sacred' approach to its subject matter and allow and even encourage the utmost in free inquiry.

I'm glad that you agree with me that one could have 'empiricist philosophy' as an AOS even if one utterly rejected all the substantive views of empiricism.

You go on to talk about empiricists and whether they would be touchy about things. But just as there's a huge difference between being a feminist (which entails commitments) and working on 'feminist philosophy' (which must not), so there is the same difference between being an empiricist and working on empiricism.

To be clear: I have nothing at all against philosophers being feminists, any more than I do against philosophers being empiricists. I am only opposed to putative subdisciplines that subtly require substantive ideological commitments as presuppositions.

You also stress that I should see why people might be much more touchy about critiques of feminist philosophy than anyone would about empiricist philosophy. Well, I agree with that completely -- and that's exactly the basis of my discomfort with the whole thing. If 'feminist philosophers' are contributing, as you say, approaches and methodologies to areas of inquiry, then those approaches and methodologies need to be evaluated on their own merits. There is no reason why we couldn't do that if we were to call them by other names.

But since -- as we both agree and has otherwise become evident in this thread -- one can't criticize the approach(es?) to epistemology that has been conveniently titled 'feminist epistemology' without putting one's credibility in jeapordy, something akin to a cheat is going on here.

Since the term 'feminism' has that strong emotional connotation, it should be reserved for cases of feminist ideology. As for the _approaches_ that call themselves feminist, they may be good; but with apologies to Samuel Johnson, "The good parts are not feminist and the feminist parts are not good."

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:06 here.

I'm very glad this conversation was had. I hope we can see more of it. And I hope some of the folks who frequent Newapps and Feminist Philosophers have been paying attention. (A new thread on this would be GREAT).

Mr Zero--I agree that my criticism was raised from a social or political frame. But I did not mean that to exclude substantive criticism of the philosophical positions within feminism. After all, as feminist philosophy is so wrapped up in its own social narrative, I think it is essential that we include a critique of the rhetorical practices of feminism at the same time that we examine the merits of its philosophical views. As has become common ground in this conversation, feminist rhetorical practice is beset by the problem, surely disastrous for any philosophical position, that there is a tendency to suppress dissent by charging that those who raise it are morally defective. That is a deeply flawed social practice, and it infects feminism's philosophical views by suppressing the very criticism that would establish or revise those views as needed.

In response to 5:03, who writes:

"Hang on, I think you're conflating two things. I am pretty convinced of feminist views. But I definitely notice the trend you're talking about, in particular at the FP blog. I never comment there, precisely because of the tendency you've (quite accurately) stated"

I asserted that if one doesn't recognize the vitriol on Newapps and FP for what it is then one must already be convinced of the feminist rhetorical frame. I did not say that if one is convinced of the feminist rhetorical frame one will not recognize the vitriol for what it is. I happen to respect a number of people who self-identify as feminists; I wouldn't want to impugn the whole discipline. Just those aspects of it--particularly the ideology, rhetorical practices, and the people who endorse and undertake them--that illicitly conflate sentiment about a situation with entitlement for one's position.

I will say I disagree that the 'safety' rule has been enforced at FP as you describe it. Instead, I have found that some conversations are shut down precisely at the point where feminist practice comes under question--e.g., regarding what we should think about mimicing an artist's eyebrows, or a judge who admonishes a woman that she should have known better. The blog suppresses the airing of disagreement over its views by appeal to 'safety' and the 'intent of the OP.'

Of course there are times when safety ought to be invoked to end a conversation. The problem with Feminist Philosophers is that they
are so quick to equate their sentiment with a judgment regarding what ought to be done. And so instead of subjecting their views to honest, open criticism, they build a little cocoon of 'safety' so as to insulate themselves from that criticism.

Meanwhile, those who raise such criticism are quite often castigated as being 'hostile' to women--it's fucking nuts, but because feminism has been institutionalized in this way, there's very little that can be done about it. That's why it's so nice to see the ugliness of these methods and views up for discussion here.

And I hope it would be obvious, but having seen that many people draw this inference I know it will be missed by many, that to say all of that is not to say that there aren't real problems with how women are treated that feminism has helped us address.

But there are deep instabilities in the practice of feminism today. If feminists cannot internally address those instabilities from within their narrative, that narrative, and the institutions it underwrites, will be torn apart from the outside in, as more and more 'hostile' criticisms of feminist nonsense are raised, and fewer and fewer well-meaning people will be able to endorse the view or its methods (it is telling that a number of prominent women have publicly rejected feminism recently).

Milwaukee said...

The field of philosophy at a given time is an assemblage of institutions, personages, universities, journals, and funding agencies. The question of whether an aspiring young philosopher rises or languishes is a social and institutional one, depending on the nature of his/her graduate program, the eminence of the mentors, the reception of early publications and conference presentations, and the like. Indicators and causes of rising status depend on answers to questions like these: Are the publications included in the elite journals? Are the right people praising the work? Is the candidate pursuing the right kinds of topics given the tastes of the current generation of "cool finders" in the profession? This approach postulates that status in a given profession depends crucially on situational and institutional facts -- not simply "talent" and "brilliance". And in many instances, the reality of these parameters reflexively influence the thinker himself: the young philosopher adapts, consciously or unconsciously, to the signposts of status.

Neil Gross's biography of Richard Rorty (Richard Rorty: The Making of an American Philosopher) provides a great example of careful analysis of a philosopher's career in these terms (link). Gross provides a convincing account of how the influence of the field's definition of the "important" problems affected Rorty's development, and how the particular circumstances of the Princeton department affected his later development in an anti-analytic direction. Camic, Gross, and Lamont provide similar examples in Social Knowledge in the Making, including especially Neil Gross and Crystal Fleming's study of the evolution of a conference paper.


Taken from "Marketing Wittgenstein":
http://understandingsociety.blogspot.in/2012/11/marketing-wittgenstein.html

Anonymous said...

Milwaulkee: I don't know what that's supposed to prove, but presumably all these things also apply, to some degree, to trendy ideas in sociology and the sociology of knowledge in particulr, no?

Anonymous said...

Dang. I'm getting trounced on the wiki...

Milwaukee said...

@Anonymous Dec 10 11.29am.

Milwaulkee: I don't know what that's supposed to prove, but presumably all these things also apply, to some degree, to trendy ideas in sociology and the sociology of knowledge in particulr, no?

Yes. It's applicable because it puts forth the idea that areas of philosophy (like philosophy of race) are products of the academic interests of humans that exist in time and space, and those interests vary by time and place. This may sound obvious, but if you apply the idea to the revered genius of Wittgenstein, and analyze what conditions allowed him to set the rules that most others instinctively followed, it makes me wonder if philosophy of race is too early for it's time. A case can be made that PofR is certainly appropos of the globalized times, now that 97% of countries allow for immigration. But are the ruling elite (tenured) allowing it to blossom. Or is language like "allowing it to blossom" just a means that the sub groups use to challenge the entrenched elite groups in an effort to become an expert, regardless of what that expertise is.

Anonymous said...

Right, because it wasn't as though Wittgenstein himself was interested in analyzing the "rules that most others instinctively followed" and had lots of worthwhile things to say about them. Instead, we're to think his influence ought to be understood through the lenses of those who suppose they are members of a disaffected set not getting what they're entitled to.

So many of these reductive power-structure narratives are not even fit for hogwash.

Anonymous said...

8:10 is right. Academic philosophy is a true meritocracy!

Milwaukee said...

Right, because it wasn't as though Russell and Whitehead weren't interested in analyzing the "rules that most others instinctively followed" and had lots of worthwhile things to say about them. Because like you're saying, Principia Mathematica had zero influence on the ideas of 1915 Cambridge, and W was his own causa sui, and revealed all truth to delusional children with the "interesting things" he said.

So many who refuse to consider the ideas of another because they lazily project a recycled opinion on them, end up spewing their hogwash in an embarrassing display of ignorance.

Anonymous said...

No one denied that Great Minds influence their communities. Indeed, they ought to. Nor is there any idolatry in noting how stilted are the views some have of others. What I was disputing was the suggestion that the labor of working through the Great Ideas of others could be reduced to talk of 'lazy projects' recycling old opinions.

The rest of what you say makes no sense.

Anonymous said...

"A case can be made that PofR is certainly appropos of the globalized times, now that 97% of countries allow for immigration. But are the ruling elite (tenured) allowing it to blossom. Or is language like "allowing it to blossom" just a means that the sub groups use to challenge the entrenched elite groups in an effort to become an expert, regardless of what that expertise is."

Why the emphasis on the passivity of philosophers of race? I would think that whatever the "blossoming" that philosophy of race would involve, it would be one that expressed itself in concrete proposals about what to do. But the narrative you're using seems to be one on which PoR is a beleagured victim. Even though there are systemic inequalities in the institutional structures that underpin academic philosophy, I don't think talk about a "ruling elite (tenured) allowing it to blossom" is a helpful way of framing the problem.

Anonymous said...

Milwaukee, I can't make head nor tail of what you're saying.

It isn't really clear what your point is or what you have to say in its support.

I wonder whether that's a function of the sort of thing you call philosophy.

Milwaukee said...

What I was disputing was the suggestion that the labor of working through the Great Ideas of others could be reduced to talk of 'lazy projects' recycling old opinions.

Really? That's what you were saying? Because (1) i wasn't proposing that working through Great Ideas was a bad thing and (2) I didn't say 'lazy projects' (PRAH` jects), i said 'lazily project' (proh JECT`). You know, the psychological idea of prohJECTing an interpretation onto something, rather than discovering the thing-in-itself.

Let's just end this. Trying to communicate these ideas by typing thoughts into web site comments is distorting the concepts. I'm sure you're a top-notch thinker, and i wish you happy holidays and a tenured platform from which to communicate to a thirsty audience.
with every good wish, adieu.

Anonymous said...


That is gracious of you Milwaukee. Thanks.

And as a gesture of good will, let me say that your point about 'project' versus 'projecting' is taken, though to be fair I think the underlying difference between us remains. I do not suppose, as you suggest, that a focus on the institutions that Wittgenstein (to pick a figure) helped set up is a particularly helpful way to frame an understanding concerning why philosophy of race isn't currently well-regarded in the cliques some folk want to be members of. But maybe that's just me. When I am told something about the philosophy of race I don't want one-sided diatribes dripping with the contingent partiality of their author. Instead, I want to be met with a thoughtful, productive, suggestion about what to think and how to proceed. And above all I want to be treated with a dignity that permits me to decide the issue on my own, without having to filter out the rhetorical stain of some jackoff's pet peeves.

There are deep, complex, and important questions about just how to proceed here--the kind of view you seemed to be promulgating (at 7:58) strikes me as poisonous for an understanding of race relations, the institutions and habits that underwrite those relations, and for any hope to really come to terms with Wittgenstein (e.g.). But I'm just one view, and I have no doubt I was misreading you in some ways.

For what it's worth, I think the issues that we are concerning ourselves with are much more complex than the narratives most people turn to for interpreting them. While there is no doubt merit in having a critique of conventionalism ever in the offing, I just don't see that the kind of heckling expressed in your comment is all that helpful.

But as you say, the medium isn't much for communication, and I have no doubt you are an intelligent, earnest individual. All best wishes in the new year. And Merry Chrismahannukwanzika, if that's your thing. Or whatever it is you atheists go in for. Godless bastards.

Above all, rejoice in the solstice. A new year is upon us.

Anonymous said...

Quoth anon 4:06 "it is telling that a number of prominent women have publicly rejected feminism recently"

Are these women prominent in an intellectual sense or merely in the public eye (eg. Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, etc.)? The former case is interesting, the latter case not so much.