Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Colorado's Best Practices and Collegiality

This thread at Leiter, dealing with Spencer Case's criticism of the Colorado Best Practices document, contains a pretty interesting discussion of the question that always seems to come up in this context: whether it's ok to disparage the subfield of feminist philosophy as a whole, and if not, why not? The most interesting action starts at comment #33 and takes the form of an exchange between "thefinegameofnil" and "slacprof."

thefinegameofnil asks us to consider the hypothetical(?) case of a philosopher named Sally who
... arrives at the considered opinion that feminist philosophy isn't a fruitful research program, and that philosophy is better served by allocating its limited resources to other sub-disciplines. [...] On that basis, Sally speaks openly and dismissively of feminist philosophy's ability to advance philosophical understanding to her colleagues, she's generally against her department hiring philosophers working in feminist philosophy, she doesn't think that courses in it should be offered on a regular basis, the NEH should fund other work, etc. Sally clearly runs afoul of the APA Colorado Report's Orwellian suggestion that those who "have a problem with people doing...doing feminist philosophy...should gain more appreciation of and tolerance for the plurality of the discipline. Even if they are unable to achieve a level of appreciation for other approaches to the discipline, it is totally unacceptable for them to denigrate these approaches in front of faculty, graduate or undergraduate students in formal or informal settings on or off campus."
Whether I have any objection to what Sally is doing in this story depends substantially on what, exactly, I am supposed to take Sally to be doing in this story. Suppose she's in a faculty meeting the purpose of which is to settle on an AOS for an upcoming tenure-line hire, and she argues that the department should not advertise for a specialist in feminist philosophy because, in her informed opinion, that subdiscipline is not a fruitful research program and a specialist in it is less likely than specialists in other disciplines to advance philosophical understanding, and stuff like that.

If that's what she's doing, I can't see any problem with it. It seems to me that we philosophers ought to be free to decide for ourselves which philosophical projects and methodological approaches are interesting, worthy of attention, and/or potentially fruitful, and ought to be free to express those decisions to our colleagues. That seems right to me.

But if that's what she's doing, I'm not sure I see how Sally's behavior runs afoul of what thefinegameofnil calls the "Orwellian Suggestion." It's true that the Orwellian Suggestion tells Sally to gain more appreciation of the plurality of the discipline, and that Sally has not managed to do this in spite of what we are clearly meant to see as a good-faith effort do do so. That might indicate that Sally has violated the Orwellian Suggestion.

But the Orwellian Suggestion also gives advice for what to do in that case: she should refrain from denigrating it in front of colleagues or students. To me, this tells against reading the Orwellian Suggestion as a categorical and unconditional order to appreciate feminist approaches to philosophy, tout court. If that's what it was, it would just say, "do x," instead of, "do x, but if you can't do x, at least do y." So, Sally saying in a faculty meeting that she thinks that whatever subdiscipline or approach or whatever isn't super fruitful and that, since tenure lines are precious, we should spend it on someone who will engage in a more potentially fruitful research program strikes me as possibly consistent with the Orwellian Suggestion, depending on the specifics.

But if, on the other hand, she says all that stuff in a way that is literally openly dismissive, I find the intuition that she's not being at least a little bit of an A-hole harder to sustain. It seems to me that she should be willing to at least consider the idea, even if she ultimately thinks that the subfield is worthless and that hiring someone who works in it would be terrible. It seems to me that she shouldn't just dismiss it. She should be willing to engage with it, and to explain to her colleagues how she came to make the judgement she made and why she thinks they should share it. (In fact, it seems to me that the details of the story make it clear that Sally is not being dismissive, even if that word is used to describe her behavior.) If she's not willing to do anything other than be dismissive, then I think she's not living up to her obligations to her colleagues. There's some suggestion on the floor to hire in this or that AOS, and she doesn't think it's a good idea. She doesn't have to enter into the discussion at all if she doesn't want to, but if she does enter it, then I think she owes her colleagues more than just dismissiveness. She owes them a thoughtful explanation.

And it seems to me that this obligation is even more clear if Sally already has colleagues who work in feminist philosophy. If Sally is openly dismissive of a subfield in which her colleagues specialize, and she is dismissive in this way to those colleagues—rather than being, say, engaged in an informed way but ultimately skeptical, or neither engaged nor dismissive—then it seems to me that Sally's department has a real collegiality problem, and that Sally's behavior is a contributor. So, while I would not say that I endorse the Orwellian Suggestion unhesitatingly or in full, it seems to me that it definitely points in the right direction.

What's more, the language of the actual Best Practices document is somewhat softer than that of the Orwellian Suggestion:
2. Students and faculty should be open-minded and cultivate a wide interest in philosophical work, investigate and not disparage areas of philosophy or other disciplines with which they are not familiar. We encourage people to be respectful of those working mainly in other areas of philosophy. Constructive criticism is an important source of progress in philosophy, but it is generally better to focus criticisms on particular arguments and theories rather than whole areas of the discipline, which typically contain a wide variety of work. And we should always avoid raising criticisms that could be construed as an invidious personal attack by any reasonable person—especially in public contexts.
This doesn't say that one must actually develop an appreciation of the plurality of philosophical approaches; it just says that one should be open-minded and cultivate a wide interest in philosophy. That sounds exactly right to me, and it seems to me that Sally is described as having followed that advice. It says that one shouldn't disparage areas and disciplines without being familiar with them, but that's consistent with Sally, as she is described, "disparaging" feminist philosophy, since she is described as being highly familiar with it. What's more, the "non-disparagement clause" is accompanied by a caveat stressing the importance of constructive criticism. It admonishes us to remain respectful, but that's true. We should remain respectful. It counsels us to avoid raising criticisms that could be construed an invidious personal attack by a reasonable person (I'm not entirely sure how to parse the 'any' in that sentence), but that's true, too. If you have a criticism, you should try to avoid raising it in a way that could make a reasonable person see it as a personal attack designed to make them angry. To me, that seems like Personal Interaction 101. But it also says, fire away. To me, that seems right.

So even if the Orwellian Suggestion is unacceptable (and although I don't read it that way, I see how a reasonable person could), it seems to me that it has been superseded by what I would describe as a nice piece of concrete, sensible advice about how to get along with one's colleagues. It seems to me that departments where this advice is not followed—in which colleagues are openly dismissive of one another's work, and of the subfields into which that work can be situated, and in which they are open not only with one another but with one another's students—are likely to be unpleasant places to work (depending on the frequency and severity with which it occurs).

--Mr. Zero

296 comments:

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Anonymous said...

i would add two points: first, erin tarver's argument in the apa newsletter on feminist philosophy that, since feminist philosophy is the only subfield of philosophy in which the majority of specialists are women, disparagement of feminist philosophy is de facto disparaging the work of a lot of women in philosophy. second, as dhananjay jagannathan points out in the thread on daily nous [here: http://dailynous.com/2014/07/14/another-colorado-student-speaks-out/#comments], the exclusionary impulse in the denigration of feminist philosophy is precisely *political.* this tired performance of "my list [of white dude philosophers] is canonical; yours is political" is *itself* a political move - a dynamic that these asshats would better understand had they studied even a little feminist philosophy.

Anonymous said...

"disparagement of feminist philosophy is de facto disparaging the work of a lot of women in philosophy."

That's true, but could you explain why it's supposed to be important? Disparaging astrology is also de facto disparaging the work of a lot of women. I hope we all agree that this doesn't show it's sexist to disparage astrology.

Anonymous said...

Hi anon 2:46

I think the original text already answers your question:

"it is generally better to focus criticisms on particular arguments and theories rather than whole areas of the discipline, which typically contain a wide variety of work."

If you continue to insist on criticizing an entire area of philosophical inquiry then you better have good reasons. With astrology those reasons are obvious. With feminist philosophy (given its extremely wide-ranging sub-areas) I don't think you can.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Zero,

This is a nice post. You should just consider posting it over at Leiter's.

Anonymous said...

Hi 7:29,
I agree that anyone who disparages (or "continues to disparage", as you put it) a field should have good reasons (and although you may think there aren't any, it's obvious that many people disagree with you). I think the Orwellian Proposal would be less objectionable if it said "it is totally unacceptable for them to denigrate these approaches in front of faculty, graduate or undergraduate students unless they give good reasons."

But that's not what it says.

Anonymous said...

If you look up the definition of 'denigrate' you will find that it does not simply mean 'criticize.' I think this difference in meaning is essential to understanding the Best Practices document.

Here's my anecdote: I think that many areas of contemporary analytic philosophy are entirely off on the wrong foot. I think their methodological assumptions are flawed, they misunderstand the historical foundations of these philosophical discussions, their value is questionable, and they contribute absolutely nothing to the intellectual community. I very often openly criticize these areas of philosophy to people who work in them (both in person and in print).

However, I do not denigrate these subdisciplines. I approach colleagues who work in these areas with an open mind and a willingness to learn. I do not frame the conversation by making broad claims about how the entire sub-discipline (which I know relatively little about) is horrid. Instead, I attempt to articulate particular methodological assumptions, raise questions about those assumptions, and thereby engage in fruitful metaphilosophical debates. Sometimes these conversations end in stalemates, sometimes I realize I was misunderstanding some aspects of the conversation, and occasionally I even manage to convince my interlocutor of my viewpoint.

This kind of intellectual exchange is all but completely absent in most discussions of the 'value' of feminist philosophy. Most criticisms of femphil amount to accusations that FP is a political position (which is false) or that it's continental hogwash (which is laughable). Furthermore, most of these discussions reveal a complete misunderstanding of the nature of FP (which is avoidable) and often seem to boil down to thinly-veiled misogyny (which is repugnant). All of these regrettable mistakes can be avoided if we approach FP as we would any other sub-discipline and criticize it carefully and respectfully without denigrating it.

I understand the Best Practices document as suggesting that we should do exactly that. Who the hell could have a problem with this recommendation?

Anonymous said...

I think there are respectable parts of FP that are worth reading and make a useful contribution to the field. But part of the problem here is that FP has been associated with some wildly outlandish claims during its inception ("Newton's Principia is a kind of rape manual," "Anyone who criticizes FP is really a sexist at heart," "the Western canon is nothing more than patriarchal hegemony," etc.). I think these statements have been rather damaging because they are overstatements and, as everyone knows, making frequent overstatements on some topic decreases one's credibility pretty quickly. So I think part of the problem faced by FP is that they are having a hard time getting past some of these claims made by the founders of the field (some of which were "politicied" and used poorly developed "theory" in my view). I don't think all of FP is like this, as I said. But this aspect helps to explain why some of the critics have a hard time appreciating the other parts of the field. I think it would help if the FPers did a better job avoiding these sorts of associations and focused on more sensible issues to write about.

Anonymous said...

7:10,
Yeah, that's a good point.

So maybe a near-consensus position is this: if someone just gives a bunch of reasons to think that feminist philosophy is quite generally misguided, *and* those reasons aren't just the window-dressing people sometimes slap on top of their prejudices, then even if one thinks the reasons are not good one shouldn't get up in arms about the type of criticism. On the other hand, reason-free dismissal is just not proper. (I now see that my astrology analogy was in fact more revealing than I'd noticed when I made it.)
No doubt consensus could break down over particular cases, but I wonder if at least some of the disagreement over this point has come from misunderstanding.

-2:46/5:12

Anonymous said...

"FP has been associated with some wildly outlandish claims during its inception"

This is not a good point. Metaphysics has been associated with some wildly outlandish claims as well. Moreover, many "wildly outlandish claims" about FP have been made by folks who don't know anything about the field, who seek to discredit it out of hand. If you don't like metaphysics - either because you have studied it and come to that conclusion yourself, or because you heard somewhere some of its wackiest, craziest claims and thought, man that field is stupid, then cool whatever. But you probably aren't going to think metaphysics simply is not philosophy, and that its practitioners should be driven from the field - claims leveraged *all the time* about feminist philosophy, as well as philosophy of race.

If you care about equality in the field, then maybe you should think long and hard about why this is. If you don't, fine - continue to think that the only subfield of philosophy in which women are majority specialists is akin to astrology.

Anonymous said...

"if someone just gives a bunch of reasons to think that feminist philosophy is quite generally misguided, *and* those reasons aren't just the window-dressing people sometimes slap on top of their prejudices, then even if one thinks the reasons are not good one shouldn't get up in arms about the type of criticism."

I think there's reason to insist that any such criticisms be aimed at specific, published works rather than 'feminist philosophy' as a whole. We are imperfect creatures, and it is far too easy for us to be convinced by sweeping generalizations, especially when we come from a biased or privileged standpoint.

I'd love to see a critique of feminist philosophy that does not involve oversimplification, straw-manning,and charity. I'd also like to see one that includes a wide survey of the relevant literature. To date, I've never seen such a criticism. I have, however, seen and heard countless hand-wavy, angry, uncharitable, overgeneralizing, and borderline misogynistic attacks on the credibility of feminist philosophy and philosophers. It is ironic and unsettling that these attacks so frequently rely on a complete disregard for the epistemic virtues we philosophers are supposed to value so highly.

They need to stop, and the Best Practices documents are one step towards accomplishing this goal.

Anonymous said...

"I think there's reason to insist that any such criticisms be aimed at specific, published works rather than 'feminist philosophy' as a whole. We are imperfect creatures, and it is far too easy for us to be convinced by sweeping generalizations, especially when we come from a biased or privileged standpoint."

That is a really bad reason. Even if we are too easily convinced by sweeping generalizations (and I'm skeptical that this is true, even putting aside that is itself a sweeping generalization), that's a bad reason to forbid arguments whose conclusions are generalizations.

You should give some examples, maybe link to some blog postings with hand-wavy, angry, uncharitable, overgeneralizing, and borderline misogynistic attacks. That would be a lot more convincing.

Anonymous said...

9:00 here.

Re: 12:29. I'm not sure whom you're replying to. You say my comment is not a good point. Then continue by saying "If you don't like metaphysics...then cool. But you probably aren't going to think metaphysics simply is not philosophy..." and then go on to say some think FP is "akin to astrology." Is this supposed to be directed at me? As I said, I think there are respectable parts of FP that make a useful contribution, and haven't endorsed any of your other claims. So I hope you're not attributing the astrology view to me.

Anonymous said...

12:29,

continue to think that the only subfield of philosophy in which women are majority specialists is akin to astrology.

Nobody said that the only subfield of philosophy in which women are majority specialists is akin to astrology.

If you had a real argument you wouldn't have to resort to such a cheap, transparent lie. Disgusting.

Anonymous said...

One attack that feminist philosophy deals with regularly is when a feminist philosopher says/writes something stupid, and people reply by noting that feminist philosophy is to blame (it's not rigorous enough, it's political and not philosophical, etc.).

I have never seen any other area disparaged because of the work of a single philosopher. Remember when we all had fun jumping on McGinn, which inevitably led to disparaging his work? Yeah, that was fun. But at no point did anyone claim that McGinn's work is bad because philosophy of mind is a waste of time, not real philosophy, or inherently uncritical.

Often, feminist philosophers are seen as producing good work *despite* being feminist philosophers, while bad philosophers in other areas are never a reflection of their area's failure to the field.

Anonymous said...

2:19,
Did someone in these comments disparage feminist philosophy because of a single philosopher?
Or what example did you have in mind?

Anonymous said...

7:11,

I'm not 2:19, but I've seen this happen fairly often, both online and in person.

For example, I've had conversations with prominent philosophers who dismiss all of feminist philosophy and women's studies because Sarah Harding's analysis of Newton is 'crazy'. Online, I've seen many people accuse the Site Visit Committee of being brainwashed by feminist philosophy (for examples, look at the massive comment thread on this topic from a few months ago). I personally have been accused of being blinded by feminist commitments when trying to contribute to these and other online discussions on the topic.

It seems that feminist philosophy is one of the only sub-disciplines that incites these kinds of attacks. I believe this phenomenon is what 2:19 is referring to.

Anonymous said...

Hi 5:28,
The first would be a good example, and I guess it is a good example for you. It would be helpful to see a publicly available example like that.
I don't see how the other two examples are examples of a comment disparaging feminist philosophy because of a single philosopher. Were they supposed to be examples of that? The Site Committee example seems to be an example of something quite different, and I do think other sub-fields get similar treatment (for example, I think a prominent metaphysician often accuses other metaphysicians of being brainwashed by empiricism; I could give specifics but I think Philosophy Smoker prefers not to have specific philosophers accused of unseemly behavior here, and I respect that policy).

Anonymous said...

7:11 here,

I doubt many people are stupid enough to put such a ridiculous generalization in print, even if they implicitly find themselves convinced by it. Even the conversation I mentioned was quite a bit more subtle than I here suggested (also the philosopher in question backtracked when confronted with an explanation of why that one account was not representative of the entire discipline. Nonetheless, I think it is telling that such an explanation was necessary.)

My other examples were not meant to demonstrate specific instances of someone making that specific hasty generalization about feminist philosophy, but were rather trying to explain the context of comments like this one:

"But at no point did anyone claim that McGinn's work is bad because philosophy of mind is a waste of time, not real philosophy, or inherently uncritical."

In order to make my earlier comment more clear, imagine that someone said the following: "The site visit committee made horrible, unjust conclusions. Feminist philosophy is at fault because it promoted this uncritical, bullshit, political agenda."

Would this not be an example "of a comment disparaging feminist philosophy because of a single philosopher" ?

I think it would be a perfect example of this phenomenon. Further, this blog and others were rife with such comments just a few months ago. Once again, I'll refer you to that very long comment thread from several months ago. I won't go back to it myself, as I don't have time to wade through several hundred comments (I think it got to 500+) in order to find examples, and my blood pressure is high enough as it is.

7:11 said...

Okay, well, I don't know, people put all kinds of dumb and foul things in print, so I was hoping there was an example we could look at.

But no, I'm just not getting it. How is the site committee quote (which I agree is the kind of thing that people did say) an example of disparaging feminist philosophy because of a single philosopher? Is the Site Committee the single philosopher? (I won't insist on technicalities: a committee could in relevant respects be a single corporate philosopher.) It isn't an example of a hasty generalization.

As I said, I've definitely heard prominent philosophers allege that empiricism, e.g., is responsible for a particular bad argument made by a particular philosopher. Behaviorism and logical positivism are also favorite whipping boys, as are certain strands of Continental philosophy. I think *that* sort of disparagement happens all the time. So how is your Site Committee example supposed to be different?

And please do not boil your blood over this point. Definitely not worth it!

I'm also not exactly getting the point about McGinn. I actually do not remember the comments disparaging McGinn's work (I thought at least the bulk of his work was highly respected). I assume the reason nobody said such a thing is that almost nobody thinks philosophy of mind is a bankrupt sub-field. I think you suspect there is a different reason, but I'm not getting what it is.

Just one more thing: you started with "7:11 here". But I'm 7:11, so I know you aren't. I'll assume you're 5:28 unless you correct me.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, previous comment should read "5:28 here"

The comment is addressing 7:11

Anonymous said...

Ya, sorry about the 7:11 mistake. I tried to correct it but it took a while to appear. I am 5:28.

I took the general point of the comments above to be that feminist philosophy suffers from a disproportionate number of unfair attacks (emphasis on unfairness). I was simply trying to explain why my experiences seem to support this claim, which was put forward by others above. The experiences I recounted were simply meant to be anecdotal evidence in favor of this somewhat modest hypothesis.

Some of my examples were not clear-cut hasty gens, but they were examples of people using the actions of a few feminists as support for wide-sweeping judgments about the entire sub-discipline. I therefore thought that the example was germane to the conversation.

I think the McGinn comment is meant to suggest that while other fields of philosophy, like phil of mind or metaphysics, may come under criticism, they rarely come under unfair criticism like that directed at feminist philosophy. Maybe this is not true for all disciplines, but my experiences suggest that these problems are especially commonplace for feminists. (For example, while I've heard positivists or continentals disparaged, I've never heard of someone's behavior being dismissively attributed to her positivist/continental leanings).

This is just my understanding of the discussion thus far, and my evidence is purely anecdotal and obviously incomplete. Hope that clears things up.

Anonymous said...

The new comments about 'wheelchair philosophy' (starting at #77 on the thread at Leiter) seem to respond to Mr. Zero's argument here:

http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2014/07/colorado-and-the-site-visit-report-redux.html#comments

Mr. Zero said...

The new comments about 'wheelchair philosophy' (starting at #77 on the thread at Leiter) seem to respond to Mr. Zero's argument

I read that comment, but I couldn't see how it addressed my point. Maybe I'm missing something. Would you mind saying a bit more about why you think it does?

Anonymous said...

"With feminist philosophy (given its extremely wide-ranging sub-areas) I don't think you can."

Two reasons you might be able to (both of which stem from the fact that feminist philosophy is distinctive in that it isn't merely a set of topics but rather a set of topics covered from a particular ideological perspective):

(a) you disagree with the ideological perspective that's required for work to count as feminist;

(b) you deny that any legitimate sub-field of philosophy has ideological commitments built in in the way that feminist philosophy does.

I'm not sure about (a), but I personally find (b) compelling.

Anonymous said...

"(b) you deny that any legitimate sub-field of philosophy has ideological commitments built in in the way that feminist philosophy does."

I suspect what you mean here is "socio-political commitments." All areas of study have some form of ideological bent, taking "ideology" broadly.

"Ideology" doesn't simply mean "socio-political," though that is how it comes to be used. And this is one of the ways that feminist philosophy gets disparaged: it assumes a socio-political position, where many others in philosophy feel that their fields of study are non-socio-political, and exist in some abstracted state of pure reason.

Mr. Zero said...

(b) you deny that any legitimate sub-field of philosophy has ideological commitments built in in the way that feminist philosophy does.

For a variety of reasons, I'm not sure I see this. First, it seems to me that things like logical positivism and naturalized epistemology do carry philosophical or ideological commitments (I presume 'ideological' is used in an evaluatively neutral way). You can't be a logical positivist unless you're a pretty heavy-duty empiricist, and you can't do naturalized epistemology unless you're a naturalist.

Second, suppose you have a set of moral and/or political commitments, and that you think these commitments are true, and that you think these commitments yield insights into other philosophical problems and/or projects. Shouldn't philosophers be free to decide for themselves which commitments are likely to yield philosophical insights (subject to peer review and wider impact, of course). Why would that be illegitimate?

And if there were a group of people (doesn't have to be well organized) that shared that set of commitments (loosely speaking--doesn't have to be much cohesion) and shared the view that those commitments were philosophically useful, why would it be illegitimate to think of them as having a shared approach, or working within a shared subdiscipline or subfield? Why shouldn't philosophers (or groups of philosophers) be free to decide for themselves how their work fits into the larger philosophical landscape, and in particular whether it is connected with the work of others closely enough to constitute a shared approach or subfield? Why shouldn't philosophers be free to categorize their work with respect to whatever features they think are important or interesting or distinctive?

Anonymous said...

If we understand feminist philosophy as philosophy that aims to interpret and understand women's oppression with an eye to ending that oppression (and I think this is pretty accurate characterization), then it seems that the commitments of feminist philosophy are as follows:

1) the oppression of women is a phenomenon that can be talked about and interpreted.

This is not a very robust commitment. It may be more robust than the commitments of, say, philosophy of mind (which arguably is committed to the claim that the mind is a phenomenon that can be talked about and interpreted - unless we count eliminativists as philosophers of mind), but I don't think it's different in kind from the 'ideological' commitments in many other fields of philosophy.

It's also true that the core commitment of feminism is one that is denied by many (but obviously not all) conservatives and pretty much all misogynists. This fact may contribute to the perception that the commitments of feminist philosophy are different in kind from the commitments of other fields of philosophy.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Zero,

With respect, I think you're running together two different things:

a) areas of inquiry that require commitments (always inappropriate), and

b) areas of inquiry concerning commitments (normally appropriate).

Let's take the case of a logical positivist who works on aesthetics, and whose position is the positivistic one that the whole area is nonsensical. That person works in the field of aesthetics, which requires no commitments to any view.

Alternatively, let's suppose someone works on logical positivism itself. Doing so need not entail that one be a logical positivist. There are many people who list an AOS in logical positivism but devote their careers to showing that logical positivism, in toto, is poorly thought through and unsalvagable in all its forms.

Neither of these things is happening in feminist philosophy. There are no people who call themselves 'feminist philosophers' (as opposed to philosophers who happen to be feminists) who hold that feminist philosophy is wrong at its core. They cannot: it is false by defninition.

So feminist philosophy improperly entails commitments as a subdiscipline, whereas to be a logicial positivist is not thereby to have a subdiscipline, and to work on logical positivism as a historical subdiscipline does not entail having any commitments.

Jaded, Ph.D. said...

On the topic of Logical Positivism, if you take a look at their manifesto, some things Carnap says in "Overcoming Metaphysics," his intro to the Aufbau, Otto Neurath's writings and attempts to develop ISOTYPE, etc. you'll clearly see that they thought of Logical Positivism as a worldview and a political movement or ethical stance of sorts. (Though there was debate amongst themselves about how best to conceive this movement. Plenty of work exists about the left-wing of the Vienna Circle.)

So one of the founding movements of analytic philosophy was explicitly conceived of by some of its most important members as a political movement. Huh.

Anyway. Mr. Zero's right to express a Carnapian principle of tolerance when it comes to philosophical disciplines:

And if there were a group of people (doesn't have to be well organized) that shared that set of commitments (loosely speaking--doesn't have to be much cohesion) and shared the view that those commitments were philosophically useful, why would it be illegitimate to think of them as having a shared approach, or working within a shared subdiscipline or subfield? Why shouldn't philosophers (or groups of philosophers) be free to decide for themselves how their work fits into the larger philosophical landscape, and in particular whether it is connected with the work of others closely enough to constitute a shared approach or subfield? Why shouldn't philosophers be free to categorize their work with respect to whatever features they think are important or interesting or distinctive?

Mr. Zero said...

With respect, I think you're running together two different things: a) areas of inquiry that require commitments (always inappropriate)...

I didn't mean to be running that thing together with the other one; I meant to be asking why that thing, (a), would be inappropriate. That is, why shouldn't we as philosophers be free to decide for ourselves which areas of inquiry are interesting and worthwhile, or are likely to yield useful insights? Why would some areas of inquiry or approaches to philosophical inquiry be somehow inappropriate just because it presupposes some political or moral commitment? I'm having trouble seeing what that would even mean. Maybe it's my fault, and there's something I'm just not seeing. But I don't understand why that would be inappropriate or illegitimate. I don't get it.

let's suppose someone works on logical positivism itself. Doing so need not entail that one be a logical positivist. There are many people who list an AOS in logical positivism but devote their careers to showing that logical positivism, in toto, is poorly thought through and unsalvagable in all its forms.

But, as you point out, those people are not logical positivists. I think that just shows that there's an ambiguity in the expression 'AOS: Logical Positivism' that isn't present in the expression 'AOS: Feminist Philosophy.' Having an AOS in positivism means that either you are a positivist or you study the positivists; having an AOS in feminist philosophy doesn't have that second possible interpretation. But that doesn't mean you can be a positivist without accepting the ideological commitments native to positivism.

There are no people who call themselves 'feminist philosophers' (as opposed to philosophers who happen to be feminists) who hold that feminist philosophy is wrong at its core.

But there are people who don't share the ideological commitments of feminist philosophy, and who in areas that overlap with feminist philosophy, and who engage critically with feminist philosophers and their work. In one of his first posts at the Leiter thread, thefinegameofnil gave a bunch of examples of people like that who engaged with Rae Langton's work on pornography. Maybe some of these people think feminist philosophy is wrong at its core--i don't know. But it's clear that one does not have to share the ideological commitments of feminism in order to study feminist philosophy or engage with it.

Anonymous said...

This is 2.04pm again. Some brief responses:

(1) "First, it seems to me that things like logical positivism and naturalized epistemology do carry philosophical or ideological commitments"

Sure, but it makes for a terrible analogy. "Logical positivism" and "naturalized epistemology" are not generally classified as distinctive sub-disciplines of philosophy in the way that feminist philosophy tends to be. I don't know anyone with logical positivism as an AOS (perhaps with the exception of people who study it as a historical topic).

The really crucial difference is this: when naturalized epistemologists present their views in philosophical contexts, it tends to be classified as epistemology; but so too does work on similar topics that denies naturalism. When logical positivists present their views in philosophical contexts, it tends to be classified as philosophy of language or metaphysics or some other relevant sub-discipline; but so too does work on similar topics that denies empiricism (or whatever). By contrast, when feminists present their views in philosophical contexts, it tends to be classified as feminist philosophy; but, unlike the other examples, work on similar topics that denies feminism *does not*. That's the sense in which there's an ideological commitment built in: if you're not coming from a feminist perspective, then (even if you write on the very same issues as paradigmatic feminist philosophers, indeed, even if you engage them in debate) you're not doing feminist philosophy.

(2) "Shouldn't philosophers be free to decide for themselves which commitments are likely to yield philosophical insights (subject to peer review and wider impact, of course). Why would that be illegitimate? "

Well, the (weak) claim I was originally trying to make was that it's not illegitimate to criticize the whole of feminist philosophy. From the sounds of that quote, it sounds like you agree with me!

But since we're here, I would like to endorse the (stronger) claim that it's problematic for a field to build in ideological commitments in the way that feminist philosophy does. Obviously philosophers can categorize their work however they see fit. But classifying work on certain issue as belonging to a distinct sub-discipline *when and only when it is carried out from a certain ideological perspective* is pernicious for all sorts of reasons.

Anonymous said...

Jaded and Mr. Zero,

This is 3:58 again. You've both misunderstood, I'm afraid.

The point I was making before was *not* that being a logical positivist isn't taking on an ideological commitment. It was, rather, that there are no appropriate subdisciplines of philosophy that entail ideological commitments. If one is a logical positivist whose AOS is aesthetics, then one's AOS (aesthetics) does not entail having an ideological commitment. Conversely, if one's AOS is logical positivism, then one need not actually be a logical positivist (since having an AOS as a school of thought cannot appropriately entail that one belong to that school of thought: it can only entail objectively considering the merits of that school of thought).

So Jaded has missed the boat completely by thinking that I didn't know or recognize that logical positivism entailed commitments. I take it that's clear now.

As for Mr. Zero's question about why it's inappropriate for a subdiscipline to entail an ideological commitment: the reason is that it is the nature of philosophy to promote free inquiry on any subject of discussion. If all those who do the job of critically considering (i.e. working on) ideology X accept that ideology (ceteris paribus for range of ideologies), then the integrity of that philosophical inquiry is blatantly suspect, at best.

Both of you might insist for some reason that being a feminist philosopher or logical positivist is a way of having a subdiscipline. If that's what you hold, then clearly one can, and in fact should, be permitted to denigrate a subdiscipline. Ayn Rand's Objectivist philosophy is, on this view, a subdiscipline. It doesn't seem warranted to say we can't denigrate that.

Mr. Zero said...

the reason is that it is the nature of philosophy to promote free inquiry on any subject of discussion

I'm not sure I understand. How does the existence of a feminist set of approaches to philosophical work inhibit free inquiry?

If all those who do the job of critically considering (i.e. working on) ideology X accept that ideology (ceteris paribus for range of ideologies), then the integrity of that philosophical inquiry is blatantly suspect, at best.

But feminist philosophy is not identical with or a superset of philosophy of feminism, or of gender, or of anything else I'm aware of. To do feminist philosophy, as I understand it, is to adopt a feminist perspective or apply a feminist insight in the pursuit of some philosophical inquiry. You can work on philosophical issues concerning feminism without adopting that feminist perspective. Same with philosophical issues concerning gender.

Anonymous said...

"the reason is that it is the nature of philosophy to promote free inquiry on any subject of discussion."

You are certainly free to explore any avenue of inquiry you so desire. That includes exploring what you may see as flaws in the work of feminist philosophy.

Even reading the "Orwellian Suggestions" as uncharitably as possible, there's nothing preventing you from challenging the work produced by philosophers with whom you disagree. I hope you are not under the impression that all feminist philosophers uncritically accept each others' work in the sub-discipline they all work within.

However, if one is unconcerned with the development of feminist philosophy, I don't see why one would spend time developing such critiques. But in that regard, if one were to work with feminist philosophy, engaging with it critically, and exposing its flaws while suggesting revisions and developments, that person would indeed be working in the sub-discipline of feminist philosophy, regardless of that person's ideological positioning.

Anonymous said...

Hi, 3:58 again.

Look, I don't see why this is so difficult. Nobody's saying that "the existence of a feminist set of approaches to philosophical work inhibits free inquiry." What inhibits free inquiry is the underhanded trick of first calling feminist philosophy a subdiscipline and then saying that no subdiscipline can be denigrated. The reason is that when you combine those things together, logically what you're saying is that feminist philosophy cannot be denigrated. But feminist philosophy (yes, like logical positivism) entails some ideological commitments. So what follows from the whole thing is that you're saying that a particular set of ideological commitments cannot be denigrated within philosophy. And it's the simplest thing in the world to see that that's blatantly inconsistent with free inquiry in philosophy.

I'll do it again in standard form so there's no confusion this time.

1. Feminist philosophy entails ideological commitments.
2. You are calling feminist philosophy a subdiscipline.
3. And you are saying that no subdiscipline may be denigrated.
4. So (from 2 and 3) you are saying that feminist philosophy may not be denigrated by philosophers.
5. So (from 1 and 4) you are saying that there is something that entails ideological commitments and yet may not be denigrated by philosophers.
6. The principles of free inquiry that are the backbone of the integrity of the discipline require that anything that entails ideological commitment may be denigrated by philosophers if there are good reasons to do so.
7. Therefore (from 5 and 6), you are advocating something that goes against the principles of free inquiry that are the backbone of the integrity of the discipline.

Anonymous said...

"I'm not sure I understand. How does the existence of a feminist set of approaches to philosophical work inhibit free inquiry?"

Now you're just being deliberately obtuse. No-one is claiming that; what we're claiming (or, at least, what I'm claiming; I can't speak for 3.58, but my impression is that he/she'd agree) is that *the existence of feminist philosophy as a distinctive sub-discipline* is pernicious. I'll give a couple of reasons for thinking so in a second, but first please note that this claim is fully consistent with thinking that lots of feminist philosophy is good philosophy. It's a claim about the institutional configuration of the discipline, not the merit of the work.

Two obvious reasons for thinking the situation is pernicious (although these are focused on feminist philosophy, I think they would carry over to other cases in which some sub-discipline builds in ideological commitment):

(1) Feminist premises or presuppositions are unlikely to come under any serious intellectual scrunity. This sort of thing happens -- and is bad enough -- when the majority of practitioners of some sub-discipline just happen to share presuppositions. It is easy to see how it would be worse when sharing those presuppositions is constitutively required for participation in the field.

(2) Feminist philosophy crowds out what we might call more neutrally philosophy of gender. Have you ever seen someone with "philosophy of gender" or something similar as an AOS? I haven't. The net effect is that more or less all of the work on the philosophy of gender is done through a feminist lens -- not necessarily because feminist ideology has any intrinsic merit, but because it has been successful in eliminating competitors by savvy use of academic politics.

These two effects are especially bad when taken together. An analogy: imagine if "libertarian and conservative philosophy" constituted a sub-discipline that required all its practitioners to be libertarians or conservatives. And imagine further that there was no autonomous sub-discipline of political philosophy: anyone who was interested in political philosophy either published in libertarian and conservative philosophy or suppressed their interest altogether. The effect would be that all of the work on political philosophy would be done through a libertarian or conservative lens, and in particular libertarian or conservative ideological presuppositions would not receive serious philosophical scrunity. I think that would pretty clearly be a bad consequence of this fictional institutional set-up.

Anonymous said...

7:11, much earlier, asked for some examples from 2:19 to support her/his point. While I can't tell if 2:19 has responded, other(s) did.

Can I ask the same of 9:45?

Whenever discussions of the value of feminist philosophy come up on this blog, it seems that those who defend it are pressed to give specific examples of the kinds of abuse they witness in the field, the arguments made against it, etc., to justify their claims. However, it doesn't seem like its detractors are ever pressed for such examples.

For instance, I'd like to see evidence of the following:

From 9:45:
-"the majority of practitioners of some sub-discipline just happen to share presuppositions" - what are these presuppositions? where are they articulated? what of those outliers? how are they addressed by "the majority"? are they accepted as part of the field, despite not sharing those presuppositions?
-"more or less all of the work on the philosophy of gender is done through a feminist lens" - whose work do you have in mind? and what of the work on the philosophy of gender that is not done through this lens (which you suggest exists)?

It seems like "feminist philosophy" is always addressed as a unified field, all of which works from the same presuppositions, with the same methodologies, and for the same goals. And more importantly, as evidenced by 9:45, there seems to be an assumption that there is a majority view, but no articulation of the minority view and what, if anything, that minority approach means in terms of our understanding of the sub-discipline. Why acknowledge that the field is not homogenous, and then treat it as though it were?

Jaded, Ph.D. said...

I honestly feel like I'm taking crazy pills when I read some of these comments.

First, there's the conflation between "denigration" and criticism. Mr. Zero and others rightly point out that no one is out to shelter any philosophical discipline from criticism.

Second, I probably feel like I'm taking crazy pills because I don't there is any such a thing as value-neutral inquiry. Any sort of inquiry is an expression of a set of values, some of which are epistemic, but many of which aren't. The choice of methodology to employ in that inquiry also relies on certain sets of values, some of which are epistemic, but many of which aren't.

So really, I think that in order to convince me that feminist approaches in certain sub-fields are somehow illegitimate you either:

(1) Need to convince me that there's some form of inquiry that isn't already itself an expression of some set of antecedently accepted non-epistemic values (those, of course, might be argued for more or less persuasively) or

(2) Need to convince me that adopting a feminist perspective with regard to certain topics won't yield positive epistemic or social or practical benefits (demonstrations of which might overlap with some of the arguments in favor of those antecedently accepted non-epistemic values).

I'm pretty far down the rabbit hole in favor of (1), which I think there are good arguments for, none of which rely on feminist perspectives but some of which can be drawn from work in so-called feminist epistemology.

With regard to (2) I think certain case studies in the philosophy of science (Lloyd on the female orgasm, Heather Douglas on synthetic hormones and their use to prevent miscarriages, etc.) have already convinced me of the usefulness of adopting a feminist perspective when it comes to things like discovering truth and offering new and fruitful perspectives on issues in the sciences (see also Helen Longino).

But here's the thing, the arguments in favor of (2) that I'm aware of are philosophical arguments. They argue for the value of feminist perspectives through actual case studies and argue for the pernicious influence of other perspectives the same way.

So far, I haven't seen any arguments approach the rigor of arguments or use carefully researched case studies that I've seen in a field like feminist philosophy of science.

Anonymous said...

Jaded, you're still not even listening to the objections. The reason you feel like you're taking crazy pills is that you misunderstand what is being said.

Even if everything you just said were completely true, that wouldn't help (or even be relevant to helping) to get around the objection we keep raising.

You're claiming that "there's no such thing as value-neutral inquiry." I've got several doubts about this, but for the sake of argument let's imagine that you're completely right about that. And let's imagine, in perfect accord with what you just said, that anyone who inquires into the nature of political structures and rights *must* do so from one or another ideological commitment: liberal, conservative, libertarian, socialist, and on and on. OK?

Now, with all that granted, I'd like to hear how you react to the final paragraph of 9:45's post. Imagine, in other words, that university politics were such that the only people working on any political issues in university are libertarians and conservatives, and that they managed to secure this complete monopoly on political ideology by crowding out all other views. Even if it were true that every possible political thinker or inquiry were biased, this would be an extremely bad thing and inconsistent with fair inquiry. Do you see this?

If you do, then you should easily see that exactly the same thing follows for 'feminist philosophy'. There are a vast number of approaches to gender issues that are not feminist. Even if everyone shows up with an ideology and refuses to budge from it (which I doubt), and perhaps *especially* then, there is a very strong obligation to ensure that none of those ideologies are ruled out by naming the subdiscipline after an -ism and then shielding it from disparaging remarks as it monopolizes discourse.

And yes, the correct word for one thing that is needed is 'disparage'. The main Merriam-Webster definition of the term is "to describe (someone or something) as unimportant, weak, bad, etc." There should be no restriction on saying that a particular ideological approach is unimportant, or that it is weak, or that it is bad. Anyone who thinks that none of these three things should be permitted doesn't understand what a university is.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I missed this, but what, exactly, are the ideological commitments that *all* feminists are required to share?

Anonymous said...

That's not the main M-W definition of denigrate.

It's this:
den·i·grate verb \ˈde-ni-ˌgrāt\
: to say very critical and often unfair things about (someone)

: to make (something) seem less important or valuable

Jaded, Ph.D. said...

12:15 a.m., I think we might have different conceptions of what it means to take a feminist standpoint when doing philosophy.

I'm on-board with Mr. Zero's principle of tolerance when it comes to philosophical sub-disciplines. Let a thousand flowers bloom - any and all reasonable flowers adopted in an experimental spirit - and let it get sorted out through criticism.

With that in mind I think that it's fine to "disparage" approaches, but with arguments and criticisms. But I also think that it's probably better to disparage particular arguments rather than approaches. Then, if you want to use your criticisms of particular approaches to disparage approaches this way, you should also show how those arguments are representative of that wider approach.

As for the imagined scenario, I don't think feminists have achieved a monopoly on any sort of investigation into gender (just as I don't think philosophers of race have). After all, non-feminist approaches to gender or sex-differences still exist in the world and are engaged with in substantive ways by feminist philosophers.

Anyway. I think there are deep differences here; both at the substantive and methodological level when it comes to philosophy.

Jaded, Ph.D. said...

And what this person said:

Maybe I missed this, but what, exactly, are the ideological commitments that *all* feminists are required to share?

Anonymous said...

Oh, well done. 6:59 has managed to demonstrate conclusively that the definition of 'denigrate' is not identical to the definition of 'disparage'.

Tiny, incremental steps...

Mr. Zero said...

Hi 3:58 @ 9:19,

...and then saying that no subdiscipline can be denigrated.

As a preliminary, I'd like to reiterate the point that anon 7:10 made: 'denigrate' doesn't just mean "to criticize." It means "to unfairly criticize." I'm sorry, but I just can't see what the problem could be with a disciplinary norm that admonishes against unfair criticism of philosophical subdiscplines.

And the language of the Best Practices document is even weaker. It says that one should not disparage subfields with which one is unfamiliar. It also specifically points out that constructive criticism is vital to the advancement of the discipline. It says those criticisms are better when they're focused, but they are. It says you should avoid language that is likely to make reasonable people angry, but you should. I just don't see what the problem is.

So what follows from the whole thing is that you're saying that a particular set of ideological commitments cannot be denigrated within philosophy.

Even if we interpret 'denigrate' as "criticize" rather than "unfairly criticize," that doesn't follow at all. Even if sweeping, general criticisms of the entire subdiscipline are out of bounds, the Best Practices document explicitly permits specific, focused criticisms of particular arguments and views. If such and such an approach has such and such a commitment as a necessary condition, and you have an argument for the conclusion that this commitment is mistaken or problematic, I can't see any basis for objecting to your argument in either the Orwellian Suggestion or the Best Practices document. I just don't see where you're getting this.

Hi 12:15,

There should be no restriction on saying that a particular ideological approach is unimportant, or that it is weak, or that it is bad.

What if you are uninformed?

Anonymous said...

6:59 here.

Oops. The conversation above was mostly about the word denigration, even though disparagement was discussed in the document.

My bad.

megalogon said...

Yeah, the document says 'disparage', which I think has the implication of disrespectful rather than unfair.

Anyway, I think it's pretty obvious what the issue is, and a bit disingenuous to claim not to see it. Some view, theories, even subfields, might not deserve respect, so the general admonition not to disparage any of them is potentially chilling. My personal view is that no code drafted by the APA committee will have any significant effect whatsoever, so to my mind all of this is much ado about (almost) nothing.

Anonymous said...

"Some view, theories, even subfields, might not deserve respect..."

I think this is a terrible view to endorse so offhandedly. Don't all your colleagues and the work they do deserve respect at least on a prima facie basis? Why would you think it is okay to dismiss another academic's work simply because you identify it as being associated with a certain 'ism?' Why not try to seriously engage with and understand their work, and then criticize it respectfully and professionally?

I think it's very plausible to claim that this type of respectful criticism should be a norm of all academic philosophical discussions. Furthermore, everyone I've known who violated this norm was an arrogant ass who quickly betrayed his/her ignorance of the area being disparaged.

So no, I don't see the problem with the Best Practices guideline. If someone thinks that some kinds of work don't even deserve prima facie respect, they're absolutely wrong.

megalogon said...

I think this is a terrible view to endorse so offhandedly.

I think it’s true. If it’s true, then it isn’t terrible to endorse. It seems to me that you should be trying to argue that it isn’t true, but you don’t do that at all. (In what way was my comment “offhanded”?)

Don't all your colleagues and the work they do deserve respect at least on a prima facie basis?

By “all your colleagues” do you mean all philosophers? Then I do not think all of their work deserves respect, no. (I don’t have a strong view about what their work deserves on a prima facie basis – I’m not sure what that amounts to.)

Why would you think it is okay to dismiss another academic's work simply because you identify it as being associated with a certain 'ism?'

I think it’s okay to fail to show respect to work that doesn’t deserve respect. If you mean something else by ‘dismiss’ you’ll have to say what it is.

Why not try to seriously engage with and understand their work, and then criticize it respectfully and professionally?

Most of the time that’s called for. Some of the time the work might not deserve respect. Do you think it’s knowable a priori that all self-styled philosophy deserves respect?


I think it's very plausible to claim that this type of respectful criticism should be a norm of all academic philosophical discussions.

If that means that everyone is required to respect things that don’t deserve respect, then I disagree.

Furthermore, everyone I've known who violated this norm was an arrogant ass who quickly betrayed his/her ignorance of the area being disparaged.

I'm so glad you endorse a norm requiring you to treat other philosophers professionally and respectfully! I shudder to imagine what invective you would hurl at them if not for that norm.

If someone thinks that some kinds of work don't even deserve prima facie respect, they're absolutely wrong.

Wow, that is just stunningly arrogant.

Anonymous said...

When I suggest that there is a prima facie duty to be respectful towards another colleague's work, I mean there is a prime facie duty not to do any of the following: dismiss it outright, spread uninformed opinions about it, criticize it unfairly, or refuse to educate oneself on it before criticizing it in a professional context. Let's call this the weak version of respect.

I don't, however, think you have an obligation to admire or be defer to everyone else's philosophical work. Let's call this the strong version of respect.

I am using the weak version, and it seems likely that you are using the strong version. If that is true, we do not disagree.

But, now that that is cleared up, if you honestly think that the work done by all philosophers (including graduate students, instructors, and professors) don't deserve weak respect (regardless of your perceptions of the quality or value of that work) then I think you hold a repugnant view.

This, by the way, is an example of me criticizing you while maintaining weak respect, but not strong respect. Your comment was not.

Anonymous said...

Jaded, I didn't mean that feminist philosophers have managed to monopolize all discussion on gender issues anywhere in the world. What I meant was that they have monopolize those discussions in philosophy departments and in respected universities more broadly. There simply is no room for taking a non-feminist or anti-feminist approach.

This is what happens when people try to bring in an off-campus speaker who takes an alternative position:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iARHCxAMAO0

and

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nvYyGTmcP80

Anonymous said...

10:27,

I'd be interested to hear your views on this. I recently received some literature from the Dianetics institute or something of that nature, trying to encourage me to adopt the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard as texts for my courses. I know a little bit about Dianetics/Scientology from the popular media and from a story I read about the nasty tactics Scientologists use (such as suing the former Cult Awareness Network for telling callers that Scientology is a cult and then continuing to operate that network with Scientologist operators). But I have never in my life read more than one or two sentences written by L. Ron Hubbard or any other Scientologist. Before throwing the promotional literature away, I went down the hall to the office of a colleague I'm friends with and showed it to her. We had a good laugh about it. We were laughing at Scientologists, not with them.

Now, please tell me: do you think the two of us violated a professional norm by doing that?

- We both dismissed Scientology outright (which it seems you don't think we should have done even if we had been decently informed about Scientology).

- By laughing and commenting loudly with her door open, and mentioning it again in passing to another colleague, we spread uninformed opinions about it.

- Depending on what you mean by 'unfairly', we might have been criticizing Scientology unfairly.

- We both criticized it in a professional context (in the philosophy department and in front of colleagues) without first educating ourselves about it.

Please advise.

Anonymous said...

"I didn't mean that feminist philosophers have managed to monopolize all discussion on gender issues anywhere in the world. What I meant was that they have monopolize those discussions in philosophy departments and in respected universities more broadly. There simply is no room for taking a non-feminist or anti-feminist approach."

The videos you linked did not take place in a philosophy department, nor within the respected university setting. These were not academics who work on feminism throwing around their ill-gotten power. This was not a top-down decision to cancel an event. This was a few individuals engaging in a protest that was protected legally by section 2 of Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. If you don't agree with their political aims, that's fine. If you think that this small group of individuals proves anything about academic feminism, you're an idiot.

You can find extreme, angry, aggressive people in any movement. These videos do not prove anything, and the argument you just put forward is exactly the kind of shitty, idiotic, fallacious attack that feminists have had to put up with for far too long.

Jaded, pass the crazy pills please.

Anonymous said...

@11:26,

Nope. Not an analogous case.

Dianetics is not a field of study that is recognized by a significant portion of the people in your field. Feminist philosophy is.

If, in some relatively distant possible world, a large proportion of academic philosophers started accepting Dianetics and writing about it extensively, then I think we'd all have an obligation to try to figure out why the hell people are taking this to be a legitimate field of study. If, after educating ourselves, we are still confident that it is bullshit, then we may say so (in more professional, respectful terms), and present our case. Hopefully, if we are correct, that case would be sufficiently compelling that it would contribute to a greater social change away from the promotion of Dianetics.

But, in this imagined scenario, it may turn out that we were wrong all along about what Dianetics is. It may be the case that we trusted South Park uncritically, but were misled by it. If that were the case, then our earlier criticisms may have been entirely coming from a place of ignorance. What good does that do anyone?

But in our world, since we have decent evidence to think that Dianetics and Scientology are promoted by vicious, manipulative organizations, and we also have no reason to think of it as an academic discipline, mock away.

All hail Xenu!

Anonymous said...

Before you eat even more crazy pills, 12:36, could you please substantiate your position by providing any evidence of the following?

- a feminist philosophy conference that has included an equal number (or even any number at all) of people who question the dogma that philosophy has a climate problem for women.

- A single feminist philosopher, anywhere, who questions this.

- A proportionate-to-feminist-philosophy number of journal articles published in any respected journal, or even a sizeable but disproportionately small number of such articles, that question this and other feminist dogmas (like the dogma that women are worse off in society than men).

Some of these are hard to come by, but most do not exist at all. And yet there are reasonable people outside of academia who question these things. That is what I mean by monopolizing the discussion. And how on earth is that not obvious, considering that there is a sub discipline called 'feminist philosophy' that is meant to cover all the issues on which one could be a feminist or an antifeminist?

As for your angry rage that the videos I put up were not of philosophers, I don't understand. They were meant to illustrate some obstacles to free expression in the academy. Are you saying that that feminist philosophers would never give such a response to anything? Well, first of all, where were the feminist champions of free speech at this Toronto rally? And where were the academic feminists distancing themselves from the feminist hooligans after the fact? Nowhere. Whether or not some of the hooligans in the protest were feminist philosophers (and you haven't shown they weren't), we both know that feminist philosophers do these things. Think about the protests on the Northwestern and the Rutgers side of the Ludlow fiasco: his classes had to be cancelled because of the protests, and the student feminist contingent at Rutgers organized a spamming of the President's inbox to stop him from being hired. And if you look on the feminist philosophers blog, these sorts of events are often promoted. Do you deny these things? Or do you think the people at the feminist philosophers blog are not really feminist philosophers? I think I'm going crazy without taking your pills. Please tell me what's going on.

Anonymous said...

12:49,

Hang on a second: you're saying that whether or not it's permissible for philosophers to denigrate/disparage/diswhatever a category of philosophy is contingent on the number of philosophers who accept it?

In other words, you're doing a blatant ad populum fallacy here?

At best, this is a shockingly naive attitude about academic politics. Feminist sub disciplines notoriously arose from blatant political activism and protests. If instead of cross-campus feminist agitators there had been an equal number of Scientologist agitators, we would have had a Dianetics subdiscipline where we now have feminist philosophy. And yet, according to your moral norms, it would then have been wrong for anyone to dis Dianetics. That seems like a pretty strong reductio.

Incidentally, many people do think that feminist philosophy is "promoted by vicious, manipulative organizations, and [that] we also have no reason to think of it as an academic discipline." So that clause doesn't show a relevant disanalogy either.

Anonymous said...

@1:01 Women *are* worse off in society than men. That's not dogma. It's empirical fact.

Anonymous said...

You're just all over the place here. Here are some general responses to your rambling.

1) People have a right to engage in whatever political action they want. No one gives two shits what you think about it.

2) It is not incumbent upon feminists to distance themselves from the protesters or even mention them at all. Why would it be? Do all Libertarians have to actively distance themselves from fringe groups? And furthermore, why should individual feminist philosophers' choices about what political action to support reflect in any way on their scholarship? Should we judge Russell's work based on his political actions?

3) Maybe the articles/presentations you are looking for don't exist because everyone who has attempted such responses either relied on obvious fallacies or misunderstandings of what feminists are saying. This is my theory, at least.

4) You assert that feminism has a monopoly on a number of topics. I'm not convinced. Consider the following analogy: Group 1 sells a product. It is consumed widely, enjoyed by all, and thus Group 1's product becomes ubiquitous. Then, Group 2 comes along and tries to market a similar product. But Group 2's product smells kind of funny. It also crumbles very easily and when you look really closely at it, you can see that it's not very well-constructed. As a result of these defects, Group 2's product does not sell very well. The members of Group 2 set up websites and organizations claiming that Group 1 has an unjust monopoly on the market. They get mad when no one buys their product, and they all sit in their parents' basements, complaining on their websites that Group 1 is full of unfair, unjust hooligans. But really, Group 2's product is just a piece of shit. A decent product would easily compete with Group 1's product. But no such product has been offered, which gives the illusion of a monopoly when in fact there is no monopoly in place.

5) You seem to be claiming that feminism's 'monopoly' on the topic (although I do not concede that it has such a monopoly) is ill-gotten. You have not supported this claim (in fact, as far as I can tell you haven't offered a coherent support of any position). Until you have such support, go back to your r/theredpill echo chamber.

Anonymous said...

"many people do think that feminist philosophy is 'promoted by vicious, manipulative organizations, and [that] we also have no reason to think of it as an academic discipline.'"

Where is the evidence of this claim? Oh right, there isn't any.


Also, my view is about the appropriate way to treat your academic colleagues. So yes, whether or not such a topic is currently being addressed by academic colleagues is relevant to determining your obligations regarding how to approach that topic.

This view is not about popularity, but rather of charity. If someone is successful in the academic sphere, they have earned the (potentially defeasible) right to have their views studied or at least understood before they are critiqued. They also have the right to continue doing their jobs in an environment that is not hostile.

Anonymous said...

"Women *are* worse off in society than men. That's not dogma. It's empirical fact."

Even if the claim is true, that doesn't mean that it's not dogma, that it's an empirical fact ("worse off" sounds pretty normative to me), or that it can't reasonably be questioned.

Anonymous said...

"Feminist sub disciplines notoriously arose from blatant political activism and protests."

Yes, it involved letter-writing campaigns and consciousness-raising. These campaigns were reactions to academic analyses of the state of higher education - specifically the lack of women's perspectives in it. What's the problem with this history? Do all academic disciplines need to come to be organically because everyone in the world magically starts to understand their value at the same time?

And you're accusing someone else of being naive?

Anonymous said...

@2:14: Of course it can be questioned. But the evidence for the truth of the proposition is overwhelming. It’s roughly equivalent to the evidence that green exists, despite arguments to the contrary by the adamantly red-green color-blind.

If you genuinely can’t see the facts, the deficit is yours.

Anonymous said...

What pathetic responses (from the feminists). Do none of you care anymore how ridiculous you all look and are? Do you still think you're the underdogs here?

Here's how life works. Those in power lord it over those without power, and can afford to be quiet and polite in doing so. Those without power have to be reasonable and speak truth to power as loudly as they can, but they have the consolation of being right even when they don't get a fair shot at winning the debate because the powerful control the debate hall.

The people commenting here have neither the virtues of those in power (they're yelling and shrieking inanely as though they don't already own the mansion) nor the virtues of those on the right side of things (they don't want to bother listening to critics to strengthen their positions). The Smoker remains a pathetic spectacle indeed. Sorry I dropped in.

Anonymous said...

"If you genuinely can’t see the facts, the deficit is yours."

Perhaps it is. But I must admit, I'm not confident that I have enough of a grasp of the truth-conditions of generics to have a view either way, let alone to think it's obviously true. Maybe we can stick to well understood quantification devices and see what true claims there are in the vicinity.

Anonymous said...

3:40,

Are you really suggesting that the feminists are the ones in power?

If so, you must be looking at different evidence than the rest of us. As far as I can tell feminist philosophy does not enjoy the same canon status as other sub-disciplines, feminist philosophers are not hired to more positions than non-feminist philosophers, and the top journals are not flooded with articles on feminist philosophy. If feminist philosophy is indeed in power, then it does a pretty shitty job of exerting that power on the job market and in publishing.

Which mansion to they own, exactly?

Anonymous said...

"Are you really suggesting that the feminists are the ones in power?"

Yes!

"If so, you must be looking at different evidence than the rest of us. As far as I can tell feminist philosophy does not enjoy the same canon status as other sub-disciplines, ..."

Correct. Feminist philosophy is not generally considered to be all that good. However, feminist philosophers have a very high amount of institutional power.

"...feminist philosophers are not hired to more positions than non-feminist philosophers, and the top journals are not flooded with articles on feminist philosophy."

Right. It's commonly agreed that feminist philosophy is not the best kind of philosophy.

"If feminist philosophy is indeed in power, then it does a pretty shitty job of exerting that power on the job market and in publishing."

Thanks for the opportunity to clarify.

I'm not saying that feminist philosophy has a dominant position in philosophy journals or respected books or positions with that AOS (though in all these things, feminist philosophy almost surely has a higher influence than it would have had without political influence).

What I am saying, instead, is that feminist philosophers have a considerable political influence over philosophy departments. There are at least two main reasons for this. First, university administrators have come to realize the remarkable political advantages of allying themselves with university feminists. It allows them to give the impression that an informed group that speaks for all women approves of the administration's direction, and that the administration is cracking down on sexists who might discriminate against or otherwise harm the interests of female students, etc. This translates into vast amounts of revenue for the university, an increasing amount of which will be channeled toward the administrators themselves. On the other hand, an administration that is at odds with the feminist academics or students of its university will receive negative publicity in the paper. It's an administrator's nightmare to have it suggested that sexism or sexual harassment occurs at one's school. So it's a simple matter of cost-effectiveness: get cozy with the university's feminist scholars and groups and shovel money at them for special programs and centers to help them combat the scourge of sexism. And if those feminist scholars point the finger at anyone, show yourself to be ruthless in following their cue to destroy those people. It's just business sense.

The second reason is that people in general have, and always have had, a strong natural tendency to protect women (earlier feminists wisely pointed this rather patronizing tendency out, while today's academic feminists prefer to capitalize on it). Hence, if a group of women and their supporters call out that there's a damsel in distress somewhere, only the most churlish person will fail to heed the call, and the white knights rush out (as usual) to save the day and beat up on whoever's been named as a bully. We've seen this frequently this past year.

It's in these sorts of ways that feminists have power in academic life. But this new foray, beginning with the Colorado 'Best Practices' nonsense described here, is an attempt to translate this political power into an elevated status for feministphilosophy without making merit, rigour and soundness criteria.

Anonymous said...

"Which mansion do they own, exactly?"

The political mansion on which all our jobs and working conditions depend. While the numbers of feminist philosophers are small and the work they do tends to be far from prominent, they control the APA, the Site Visit Committee, the committee tasked with developing an APA code of conduct, and various pressure groups on individual campuses. The facts speak for themselves on these points.

They also, until recently, controlled the philosophical blogosphere, but in the end were not able to use their political power to monopolize the blogs. Still, they remain extremely effective at policing and prohibiting discourse wherever anonymous and pseudonymous comments are forbidden. There remains considerable pressure against calling feminism into question. I hardly think anyone would deny this.

Anonymous said...

Jesus. Put on your tinfoil hats everyone!

How about you respond to some of the arguments above, or answer the questions that were raised against you instead of shouting about ridiculous conspiracy theories?

You guys make misogynists look bad.

Anonymous said...

@8:07

The feminists have had zero influence on how my career has gone over the past decade. None. Chill the fuck out. You sound crazy. So do most of the feminist bashers here. This is beyond stupid. Go back to working on whatever it is you think is interesting and if you don't like what the feminists are saying, don't listen to them and don't read their blogs. Just do your thing and enjoy it. Seriously, don't you people have things to publish? Get back to work, jerks.

megalogon said...

But, now that that is cleared up, if you honestly think that the work done by all philosophers (including graduate students, instructors, and professors) don't deserve weak respect (regardless of your perceptions of the quality or value of that work) then I think you hold a repugnant view.

If there is a prima facie duty, I assume it can be defeated by some facts. But then nothing I’ve said is inconsistent with your notion of weak respect. All I’ve said is that some views do not deserve respect. That could be because we have a prima facie duty to treat all views with respect, but some of them have features that defeat that duty, so they do not in fact deserve respect.

This, by the way, is an example of me criticizing you while maintaining weak respect, but not strong respect. Your comment was not.

My comment did not dismiss yours outright, spread uninformed opinions about it, criticize it unfairly, or refuse to educate myself on it. You know that perfectly well, so there is no basis whatsoever to accuse me of failing to maintain weak respect. Are groundless accusations consistent with weak respect? You aren’t very good at adhering to your own rules.

Anonymous said...

"What I am saying, instead, is that feminist philosophers have a considerable political influence over philosophy departments."

Where is the evidence of this influence? This is a big claim, and you do not provide any statistics or facts to support it. I've seen many departments where feminists are denigrated, ignored, marginalized, or absent. In fact, I suspect that this is far more common than your scenario.

"First, university administrators have come to realize the remarkable political advantages of allying themselves with university feminists."

Once again, I'd like to see some evidence of this. This certainly seems like a plausible narrative coming from your worldview, but from where I stand it seems like nothing more than paranoid ramblings. Many admins may champion or support feminist causes, but you have not shown that this is merely because of the political positioning of feminists, rather than because feminists are correct. If they are correct, then the admins should be doing things that feminists would support. So, in order to be remotely persuaded by this argument, your reader needs to already be convinced of your worldview.

When you see people doing things that contradict your own ideology, it is easy to chalk their decisions up to irrationality or illegitimate influence. But unless you can provide some definitive reason to think that that is what is happening, you're giving us no reason to take you seriously. One good step forward might be to address the questions and arguments raised above (specifically - tell us what the supposed ideological commitments of feminism are, and tell us why those are wrong).

"The second reason is that people in general have, and always have had, a strong natural tendency to protect women."

Ok...so we've moved from armchair sociology to armchair psychology. You're suggesting that feminism is successful because people in general have a disposition to defend women, and thus are disposed to defend feminism as a proxy for women. How about this: people are prone to criticize women, to think of them as less intelligent, and to marginalize their voices (Note: unlike your psychological hypothesis, mine is actually based on empirical facts). Some people criticize feminism, think of it as less intelligent, and marginalize feminist voices only because these people treat feminism as a proxy for women. In other words, my hypothesis is that you only attack feminism because you hate women. Two can play at armchair psychology.

"is an attempt to translate this political power into an elevated status for feministphilosophy without making merit, rigour and soundness criteria."

Ridiculous. The document doesn't say we need to elevate the status of feminist philosophy. The document is saying that you must understand any philosophy that you publicly criticize, and you need to be respectful when you do it.

Are you actually persuaded by your own arguments? Are these actually the best arguments in favor of the anti-feminist movement? Because if so, it's not surprising that the feminists are winning. They're way better philosophers than any of you are.

Anonymous said...

"The political mansion on which all our jobs and working conditions depend. While the numbers of feminist philosophers are small and the work they do tends to be far from prominent, they control the APA, the Site Visit Committee, the committee tasked with developing an APA code of conduct, and various pressure groups on individual campuses. The facts speak for themselves on these points."

If feminist views on these issues are correct, then there's nothing pernicious about them having this kind of influence. If the programs they recommend are actually ethically required, then it's good that they've managed to persuade people. So what's wrong with their arguments in favor of these programs? What is feminism, on your view, and what's wrong with it? Until you've shown this, you haven't establish anything.

Consider the following analogous argument:

People who support democracy have a ridiculous amount of political power in the U.S.A. This means that 'democratic' (small D) politicians have an undue amount of control in politics. Therefore, we should condemn the proponents of democracy.

This is basically the structure of your argument at the moment. But this argument holds no sway until we add why democracy is wrong or bad. If democratic principles are the best way to govern the U.S., then the influence of small-D democrats isn't a problem.

"Still, they remain extremely effective at policing and prohibiting discourse wherever anonymous and pseudonymous comments are forbidden."

Maybe the problem isn't that you're being policed, but rather that your arguments are tired, old, weak, uncharitable, and stupid. It may be that people are treating your perspective badly because your perspective relies on really bad arguments that developed in misogynistic echo chambers rather than in free and open inquiry.

Anonymous said...

@ megalodon

"Wow, that is just stunningly arrogant."

Groundless accusations you say?

megalogon said...

Groundless accusations you say?

I do.

I notice that you didn't bother to copy the incredibly arrogant line I was responding to, which I think is dishonest of you.

I also notice that you decline to say which of your Weak Respect rules you claim my comment violates.

Anonymous said...

Amazing.
One commenter says that another's are tired, old, weak, uncharitable, and stupid. One commenter says their interlocutors are tinfoil-hat crazy. And the authors of these insults are the ones who are defending a code requiring that criticism be professional and respectful.

Aren't you worried that the comments section of PS will explode from the hypocrisy?

Anonymous said...

Oh, you feminist philosophers! I always learn so much from you. Here's what I've learned this time.

First, feminists have no political power at all. Anyone who thinks so must have developed his or her arguments 'in a misogynistic echo chamber' (because, you know, to think that feminist philosophers have political power entails hating women) and wear tin foil hats. Ha! How stupid! We all know, don't we, that the APA is not in fact run by a feminist, that the APA's Code of Conduct is not being crafted by a bunch of feminist philosophers (with a single non-feminist philosopher thrown in for 'balance'), that the APA Site Visit program has nothing to do with feminist philosophers (except that everyone on the Colorado committee happens to work on feminist philosophy), that Title IX has not been reworked by Russlyn Ali in a way that gives enormous power to feminists in academia, that there are no 'Climate Reports' or 'Climate Committees' (run by feminist philosophers) in any departments, that the feminist recommendations in Colorado were completely ignored by the administration who did nothing, that Peter Ludlow was not hounded out of two jobs by mere force of accusation (who cares about the evidence or due process?) by loud, vocal and powerful feminist contingents at both schools, and on and on and on. Nope, anyone who thinks that feminist philosophers have any political power in the academy has got to be a conspiracy theorist.

Second, I've learned from feminist philosophers here that feminists obviously have political power, and that that's just as it should be, and that the money-grubbing administrators cater to the whims of feminists (running Women's Studies departments when hardly anyone takes the major and any similar department would have lost its funding decades before, making hiring and firing decisions on the basis of the recommendations of campus feminist organizations, shoveling money at feminist kangaroo courts... oops, I mean Offices of Harassment and Discrimination, all this and more because they recognize deep in their souls that what the petty, trifling, self-righteous scum-of-the-earth, so-called 'feminists' in academia have to offer is really a set of glorious moral principles and not a ball of insular ideologies and piffling sneezebucketry.

Third, it's only thanks to modern feminists that anyone cares about women. Historically, nobody ever had a deep urge to protect women from harm: 'damsels in distress' came about as a trope only after the rise of feminist, before which everyone laughed at the thought of women coming to harm. Nobody in any previous historical area cared at all about rapists: it was never punished at all, but the rapist was just slapped on the back. Right, 'feminists'? And so when feminist philosophers and their little friends scream inanities through megaphones and self-importantly demand that this or that person or program be fucked up and administrators throw away considerations of justice and the purpose of the university to do their bidding (as happened with Ludlow, and Colorado, etc. etc.), all that is not a cheap pandering toward the very 'patriarchial' sentiment that any true feminist would rail against, but an important step forward for justice and moral propriety. Right, 'feminists'?

Anonymous said...

But why should I bother responding to this mindless pap? This can't last forever. Already the feminist philosophers have massively overplayed their hand (the 'damsel in distress' card can only go so far when it's played every round), and the whole movement has already jumped the shark. More and more people, even here in academia, are beginning to laugh and groan at the pathetic little hangers-on as they find nothing better to do with their time than weep crocodile tears over Weird Al videos.

Further conversation with these people is apt to be no more productive than trying to argue with born-agains. So please, take the last word. I'm much happier watching your sinking ship from the shore. Thank you again for using this and other blogs as instruments for the rest of us to watch the morality play run its course and for the insufferable, arrogant gits of yet another ideology going down for the count. I hope the end of your bankrupt ideology fest comes sooner than the rest of us expect.

Anonymous said...

Does any one else find anything Orwellian about referring to a suggestion to be more tolerant and accepting of a plurality of viewpoints and approaches as Orwellian?

zombie said...

I think some people don't exactly know what "Orwellian" means.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone else find it orwellian that the ministry of truth is being called censorious by Goldstein?

Anonymous said...

Just an observation from the sidelines. The anti-feminist stuff reads like it's written by some angry little trolls who probably suck as people and might also suck at philosophy. (I'm open to the possibility, though, that their misogyny is clouding their thought on this issue and that they could do decent work on bundles or functionalism.)

I didn't sign a niceness pledge and I think collegiality has its limits. I hope I never have to work with people like you.

Anonymous said...

Hm, is that what was described as 'Orwellian'? I thought it was the rule against articulating certain views of feminist philosophy. Maybe I should read that comment again.

Or maybe you should.

Anonymous said...

1:22,

Whenever I have a student who wants to pursue graduate study, I send them to this blog. I tell them the good news is that these people will be their competition on the job market, but the bad news is that these people will be their classmates.

SLAC-er said...

"The second reason is that people in general have, and always have had, a strong natural tendency to protect women..."

Love the opposition of people to women!

Anonymous said...

"From the sideline" means, no argument, just nasty insults, right?

This is my first comment in this thread, but I'd rather have the anti-feminists as colleagues than some smug 'sideline' troll. I mean, I'd rather have neither, but if I had to choose...

Anonymous said...

9:07, that's not opposition. Interesting that you read it that way.

Anonymous said...

When I read comments like 1:22 and 7:08, I understand better why we need a professional code against disparagement. Utterly unconstructive, just mean swipes for the sake of mean swipes.

Anonymous said...

@11:36 - Interesting take. When I read comments like 1:22 and 7:08 I just think they're understandably frustrated, and otherwise right.

Anonymous said...

What a mean swipe that was, 11:36. Surely, no good can come of your saying it and it should have been prohibited.

Anonymous said...

12:09, I'm sure they were frustrated, and maybe understandably so. That doesn't change the fact that all they contributed was unconstructive swipes at other commenters.

2:53, under the ideal regime I will not be allowed to post comments like that one, or this one. But, until then...

Anonymous said...

did you not read the headline for the blog - in which issues concerning the discipline of philosophy are bitched about? while dude upthread is going off the deep end, concocting wild conspiracy theories about how feminists philosophers now control universities, based largely on the fact that the feminist philosophers group blog moderates comments (i mean seriously, wtf), ya'll are really gonna gripe about *those* comments as mean? talk about a culture of victimhood. yeesh.

Anonymous said...

I am frustrated and I'm right. Thanks person above!

Don't troll the misogynists? Really? GMAFB. There's a reason I didn't sign the niceness pledge.

P.S. I'm sure there are critics of feminism and/or feminist philosophy in the thread above who think that they're not misogynists who think that I'm being unfair and owe them an apology. Alright, here goes: sorry you think that.

Anonymous said...

Excellent. Everyone critical of feminism is a troll, and we don't have to offer any reasons because this is a blog for bitching.

Don't worry, the Code has an exemption for snotty unsupported sniping: you just say your target is a misogynist and you're off the hook.

Anonymous said...

I am not a misogynist. I do believe that the vast majority of work that goes on in feminist circles is of low intellectual quality.

Anonymous said...

"I do believe that the vast majority of work that goes on in feminist circles is of low intellectual quality."

How much feminist scholarship have you read and discussed with scholars who actively work in that area?

Anonymous said...

"'I do believe that the vast majority of work that goes on in feminist circles is of low intellectual quality.'

How much feminist scholarship have you read and discussed with scholars who actively work in that area?"

Enough, in my judgment, to have an appreciation for the standards of the field and the diversity of the work that goes on there.

Anonymous said...

Hi 9:14pm

I'm willing to bet that MOST published work in ALL areas of philosophy is of relatively low quality (they will not advance the debate all that much or be much remembered or read).

If you want to say that feminist philosophy is different then I need more than your vague claims to not being a misogynist or to having 'surveyed enough of the literature.' Either feminist philosophy is just like all other subdisciplines (i.e., mostly forgettable work published in order to get jobs/tenure) or it is somehow especially bad. If it is especially bad, PROVE IT.

Anonymous said...

I'm the one who asked how much you had read. I'm sure you think you've read 'enough,' but I'm not convinced.

My reason for this is that I've seen many people dismiss feminist philosophy based on a very small sample of texts, or by relying on very uncharitable interpretations of a few talks they attended.

As another person noted, people may be prone to make these hasty generalizations about any area of philosophy, but I (and others) have found that people are especially prone to make this kind of mistake with respect to feminist philosophy.

One possible explanation of why this fallacy is so common when discussing feminism is that many people implicitly see women as less intelligent, less rigorous, and less intellectual than men (this is a well-established psychological thesis). Since most feminist philosophers are women, it seems likely that some people's judgments about feminism will be colored by these implicit biases.

So, in other words, maybe you are a misogynist, but just don't realize it. You can refute this accusation in exactly one way: do what many commentators above suggested and provide us with a substantive, charitable critique of feminist philosophy. If you think it is not as good as other areas of philosophy, please tell us why. Every anti-fem person in this thread has completely ignored these requests. I assume this is because they know they could not articulate such a critique.

Prove me wrong.

Anonymous said...

http://xkcd.com/385/

Anonymous said...

6:24 AM:

I'll just say that I agree with the posters above that the hasty generalizations being made about feminist philosophy and directed at feminist philosophy in particular is some evidence that the anti-feminist philosophy shit is rationalized, not rational. I never said every critic of feminism is a misogynist, but when I see uninformed, knee jerk dismissals of feminism (see above), I think I have a good reason to play the misogynist card. Don't take it personally, you're just an anonymous putz who likes to run his mouth and demand evidence when people tell you you're talking shit. Fool's errand, man. I'll just note that the stuff above about feminist philosophy reflects no actual engagement with the literature and reflects all sorts of informal fallacies. Maybe the experimental philosophers can do something with this and publish something about how philosophical training doesn't make you reasonable.

Speaking of which, can't we have a thread trashing experimental philosophy instead of feminist philosophy? C'mon, can't we all get behind hating this?

Anyway, we should all get back to work. If you don't have a referee report to write, you surely could use this time to send off a paper so that your rivals and enemies will have to referee it.

Anonymous said...

I've been following this thread since the beginning and I've drawn some generalizations based on how some people have responded.

If I summarize these generalizations and submit them to a journal, does that make me an experimental philosopher?

Oh wait, I didn't ask any loaded questions to 15 disinterested undergrads. Okay, I'll keep working on it.

Anonymous said...

Ah, I love the Internet. I believe that I am a reasonable, intelligent, considerate person. I happen to (1) not be a misogynist (I am, in fact, quite concerned with the unequal treatment of women, implicit bias, etc.) and (2) think that most feminist work is of low intellectual quality.

Now some person on the Internet tells me that there's no way I can maintain (1) and (2) at once. No True Non-Misogynist takes a dim view of feminist work. Just like, as the right-wingers tell us, No True Christian could ever think we we might want to love homosexuals rather than hate them, right?

In fact, things are worse for me: perhaps I am "a misogynist, but just don't realize it." So I need to discard my informed self-assessment and the work I've done, over the years, in the name of freedom and equality, and instead trust in an unfalsifiable claim lobbed at me by a stranger.

Not very compelling, in my opinion. In any case, I must get back to work.

Anonymous said...

1. The overwhelming majority of philosophers have two legs.

2. Smith is critical of philosophy.

3. Therefore Smith secretly hates people who have two legs.

There's logic for you (if by 'logic' you mean the well-known beginner's fallacy of psychological ad hominem).

Anonymous said...

Smith says all basketweaving is stupid. Others are confused by Smith's claim, asking for clarification since many others believe basketweaving has done a lot of good (even if some baskets are of low quality).

Smith maintains that basketweaving is stupid unlike hemming or, perhaps especially, hunting and skinning. Others wonder whether Smith has some kind of bias or personal grievance against basketweavers since hemming and hunting seem a lot more like bastweaving than Smith recognizes.

Smith, in his response, demonstrates the the answer is, indeed, yes.

Anonymous said...

@1:34


Look up 'Straw Man.'

Anonymous said...

I've seen some brave Sir Robin moves in my time but 1:27 is the best ever.

Anonymous said...

Want to know why the majority of philosophers think that feminist philosophy is generally low quality? Look at how feminist philosophers on the FeministPhilosophers blog deal with rational disagreement. Look at the fallacies they commit time and time again. Look at how often they close comments for clearly political reasons rather than pursue the truth where it leads. Look at the critiques on the metablog. Look at the way they try to settle things by political force rather than by reason (e.g. Colorado, speech codes, hunting down people's IP addresses, etc.). Look at how stupidly they trip over themselves about such trivia as the lyric of a Weird Al Yankovich song. Look how little they achieve of anything despite intense institutional support and the taboo against saying anything against them.

Then consider the inanity of the very idea of feminist philosophy. This has been explained many, many times.

But hey, you can just keep ignoring the evidence that feminist philosophy is horseshit. And I'm sure you will. That emperor of yours has beautiful clothes. Sorry for interrupting your dreamland.

Anonymous said...

Brave Sir Robin ran away.
("No!")
Bravely ran away away.
("I didn't!")
When danger reared it's ugly head,
He bravely turned his tail and fled.
("no!")
Yes, brave Sir Robin turned about
("I didn't!")
And gallantly he chickened out.

****Bravely**** taking ("I never did!") to his feet,
He beat a very brave retreat.
("all lies!")
Bravest of the braaaave, Sir Robin!
("I never!")

Anonymous said...

"Don't take it personally, you're just an anonymous putz who likes to run his mouth and demand evidence when people tell you you're talking shit."

Excellent. Yet another example.

The rule of respect and professionalism doesn't apply, as long as you accuse the interlocutor of misogyny.

We know what would happen if a commenter called another commenter "just an anonymous bitch." But no problem calling me an anonymous putz.
The rest is also false -- I don't like to run my mouth and demand evidence when people tell me I'm talking shit -- I just refuse to engage. But that's pretty much par for the course -- invective in place of argument.

I love it when the uglies expose themselves, but in this thread it's been much too easy.

Anonymous said...

Want to know why the majority of academics think that philosophy is generally low quality? Look at how philosophers on this blog deal with rational disagreement. Look at the fallacies they commit time and time again. Look at how often they get off topic for clearly idiotic reasons rather than pursue the truth where it leads. Look at the critiques on this thread. Look at the way they try to settle things by poor analogy rather than by reason. Look at how stupidly they trip over themselves about such trivia as straw men. Look how little they achieve of anything despite intense interest in dick-swinging.

Then consider the inanity of the very idea of most philosophy. This has been demonstrated many, many times.

But hey, you can just keep ignoring the evidence that most philosophy is horseshit. And I'm sure you will. That emperor of yours has beautiful clothes. Sorry for interrupting your dreamland.

Anonymous said...

"Then consider the inanity of the very idea of feminist philosophy. This has been explained many, many times."

Ya, people have said it a lot. People have sat on the internet and circlejerked over how stupid feminist philosophy is. People have patted themselves on the back over their prejudices against feminist philosophy. But where has the inanity of this discipline been "explained"? (I'm assuming that this explanation includes an articulation and defense of the claim that feminist philosophy is inane.) Surely if these explanations are so ubiquitous, it should not be especially taxing for someone of your obviously enormous intellect to quickly type out a summary, or link us to one of these comprehensive explanations that you have mentioned.

Seriously. This has been asked for a dozen times. Put up or shut up.

Anonymous said...

Seriously? Making some vague generalizations about activity on a blog? This is your evidence that feminist philosophy is bogus? No references to published works? No characterization of the central ideological commitments of feminist philosophy(which was promised)? No account of the methodological assumptions made by feminist philosophers?

Bro, do you even philosophy?

Anonymous said...

I admit that I have read no feminist philosophy from the 2000s on. Would someone mind recommending some of the best, agenda-setting articles from this time period?

Not trolling. I've just never been exposed to this stuff.

Anonymous said...

The methodology of any proper area of philosophical research is to reason carefully about a certain subject-matter and subject that reasoning to public scrutiny, taking criticisms and objections seriously by rationally and objectively considering them, rather than resorting to shaming tactics, censorship, etc. or assuming things that are at issue.

Therefore, no proper area of philosophical research can assume the correctness of an 'ism' in its very title.

But feminist philosophy does exactly that. Unlike work in the philosophy of mind, epistemology, normative theory, or logic, feminist philosophy demands (by its very nature) assumptions about its subject matter, so it cannot possibly be an objective and legitimate area of philosophical research.

By the same reasoning, any genuine area of philosophical research that involves an -ism (e.g. empiricism, positivism, rationalism) *must* include no bias whatsoever for or against the -ism under discussion. Those who work on logical positivism often think that the basic ideas and assumptions behind logical positivism are false, bankrupt, and ridiculous. But this essential commitment to objectivity is missing in feminist philosophy.

For those reasons alone (all of which have already been articulated), feminist philosophy can be ruled out as a legitimate area of philosophical research.

This does not mean, of course, that nothing written by feminists or in favor of feminism is legitimate in philosophy. Far from it! What it does mean is that such things are either good philosophy (in which case they are not 'feminist philosophy' but philosophy in some legitimate area of research) or else they are not good philosophy but perhaps good feminism.

I concur with the suggestion already made elsewhere that Nancy Koertge and Daphne Patai's book _Professing Feminism_ does a great job of exploring the ways in which academic feminism wrongfully substitutes indoctrination for the free and open exchange of ideas that characterizes genuine research and inquiry.

Anonymous said...

1035

"Bro, do you even philosophy?"

Glorious.

Anonymous said...

Serious(ly naive) question:

Why do feminist philosophers thought of as such, instead of being thought of as metaethicists?

Anonymous said...

12:16 claims that "no proper area of philosophical research can assume the correctness of an 'ism' in its very title."

Here are some apparent counterexamples to 12:16's claim:

Buddhist Philosophy
Thomist Philosophy
Daoist Philosophy

I take it that 12:16 would not consider these proper areas of philosophical research. But why?

Anonymous said...

I don't feel confident enough to authoritatively state what the most important recent feminist works are (I don't work in feminist philosophy), but some post-20th century feminist works I thought were pretty good are Cudd's 'Analyzing Oppression' and Fricker's 'Epistemic Injustice.' These books may not be game-changing, but they're certainly no worse than books in any other areas of philosophy (many of which are, honestly, pretty shitty). I'm sure if you want a more-informed list, you could ask the mods to start a thread over at FP.

"By the same reasoning, any genuine area of philosophical research that involves an -ism (e.g. empiricism, positivism, rationalism) *must* include no bias whatsoever for or against the -ism under discussion"

This was discussed above at length, and I still think it's a bad argument.

First, I'm not sure the comparison to other 'ism' disciplines is correct. If I describe myself as a 'logical positivist,' 'deontologist' or an 'empiricist' then I am certainly committing myself to those views. This is also true if I describe myself as a 'feminist.' However, this may not be true for "Those who work on logical positivism," as you suggest. But isn't it also possible to be one who works on feminism, but is not a feminist? If not, why not? Someone may be deeply interested in philosophical issues surrounding feminism, and thus say they work on feminist philosophy, yet still be deeply doubtful about some of the presuppositions of femphil.

In short, this argument relies on an equivocation. You equate being a feminist philosopher with being one who works on feminist philosophy. However, you differentiate these when discussing empiricism and logical positivism. Thus, they should be differentiated in the case of feminist philosophy as well. It may be the case that right now there are no people who self-describe as "one who works on feminist philosophy" yet are not feminists, but this should not damn feminism (after all, there was a time when only logical positivists worked on logical positivism). If you claim that such individuals do not exist due to repressive social forces, then fine, but even if this is true, it is merely a contingent fact, not an essential feature of feminist philosophy. In short, you have not shown that feminist philosophy can be ruled out as a legitimate field of philosophy.

Second, what exactly are the commitments of feminist philosophy that you find so objectionable? The claim made by Patai et al. is that feminism has problematically politicized the university administration. So what exactly are these problematic political commitments? I think the best characterization of what makes you a feminist is that you agree to the conjunction of the following two claims:

1) Women are oppressed (note the HUGE amount of disagreement in feminist literature over what this means).

2) This oppression is bad.

People who disagree with (1), in my experience, are usually either rejecting one fringe-version of (1), or are uncharitably reading something that was written by a prominent philosopher. Those who reject (2) are straight-up misogynists. How does acknowledging and acting upon the truth of these two claims undermine the integrity of the university (given that the justification for any educational institution is already politically motivated)?

Anonymous said...

"Why do feminist philosophers thought of as such, instead of being thought of as metaethicists?"

'Cuz feminist philosophy and metaethics aren't the same thing? Just throwing it out there...

Anonymous said...

"I take it that 12:16 would not consider these proper areas of philosophical research. But why?"

I'm not 12:16, but I think a close reading (or even just a reading) of his/her post will supply an answer. (Hint: you quoted it yourself).

Anonymous said...

@1:53 - I think the implicit question was 'does 12:16 accept the implications of his or her claim?'

Anonymous said...

Buddhist philosophy, Daoist philosophy, and Thomist philosophy are not counterexamples to the basic principle. One can work on Buddhist philosophy, Daoist philosophy, or Thomist philosophy without thinking that the central ideas there are any good.

If you have in mind some department, etc. in which these central doctrines are not permitted to be questioned, then that is not legitimate philosophy, by definition of legitimate philosophy.

I have never said, and I don't think anyone else here ever said, that a feminist can't be a good philosopher (any more than that a logical positivist can be a good philosopher). Far from it. What I'm stating is really just the obvious point that what we do when we do those things is work on some other area in which the commitments that we happen to have can be questioned by others.

Think about it. If I got to just claim that I'm taking a logical positivist approach to a philosophical question, and then (when my philosophical commitments were called into question by someone else) if I just replied that it wasn't fair for the other person to criticize logical positivism because it's my subdiscipline and no subdiscipline should be criticized, then I'd be acting not like a philosopher but by a crybaby who needs a good spanking. I can't arbitrarily adopt an -ism to work on a problem and then use some bogus right not to have my -ism criticized to maintain a view that I can't rationally defend. This is just common sense.

I don't know why this is, but several people here and elsewhere seem to think what's being said is that there are no good articles or arguments written by philosophical feminists in favour of philosophical positions on feminism. Once again, that is not the claim at all. The claim is that 'feminist philosophy' is a bullshit subdiscipline, because it's inherently biased. If some of the work that's now being called 'feminist philosophy' can stand on its own as part of political philosophy, ethics, epistemology, or whatever, then great.

12:58 says that the only two assumptions that 'feminist philosophers' (as opposed to philosophers who are feminist) need be committed to are so obvious that nobody would ever deny them. If you want it that way, fine: it would immediately follows from that that absolutely everything anyone writes is feminist philosophy. And then the term is so obviously pointless, and so obviously does not refer to a proper area of philosophical research, that it should be uncontroversial that we should stop using that term to refer to an AOS.

Anonymous said...

" If I describe myself as a 'logical positivist,' 'deontologist' or an 'empiricist' then I am certainly committing myself to those views."

Sure. But none of these are sub-disciplines.

"But isn't it also possible to be one who works on feminism, but is not a feminist? If not, why not? Someone may be deeply interested in philosophical issues surrounding feminism, and thus say they work on feminist philosophy, yet still be deeply doubtful about some of the presuppositions of femphil. "

Of course it's possible for someone to work on feminism, or on topics that have received feminist attention, without being a feminist. However, such a person is simply not a feminist philosopher as that term is used in current parlance. There simply is no equivocation: if you're not a feminist, even if you work on related topics and address the work of feminists, you aren't doing feminist philosophy. I don't know of a single counterexample.

" If you claim that such individuals do not exist due to repressive social forces, then fine, but even if this is true, it is merely a contingent fact, not an essential feature of feminist philosophy."

I'm not seeing what's contingent here. Could a non-feminist choose (as in fact none actually do) to self-ascribe the description "feminist philosopher"? Sure; but that wouldn't in itself make them a feminist philosopher. As that term is currently used, it's impossible to be a feminist philosopher and not a feminist.

Anonymous said...

12:16 - as mentioned in the comments above, one can study, and benefit from, and contribute to feminist philosophy without being a feminist philosopher. That is, without accepting the central claims of feminist philosophy. In this respect, feminist philosophy is no different from any other specialization that has an -ism in the title.

Anonymous said...

1:41pm: "'Cuz feminist philosophy and metaethics aren't the same thing? Just throwing it out there..."

If Feminist Philosophers start with the idea that women are oppressed and the idea that this oppression is bad (as someone above says they do), then someone who

attempts to explain in what the badness consists is doing metaphysics

attempts to explain how we manage to refer to such badness is doing philosophy of language

attempts to explain how we manage to think that it is bad that women are oppressed is doing philosophy of mind

attempts to explain how we know that it is bad that women are oppressed is doing epistemology

...sounds like they are doing (albeit an especially narrow brand of) metaethics to me, since metaethics is, well, asking metaphysical, phil language-y, mind-y, epistemological questions about value (like the badness of female oppression).

Or if you want to deny that they do any of that then some of the claims in this thread that feminist philosophy isn't philosophy start to sound pretty good.

But thanks for the insight, asshole.

Anonymous said...

"no subdiscipline should be criticized, then I'd be acting not like a philosopher but by a crybaby who needs a good spanking"

Whew, is it hot in here or is it just me? "Spanking," really? Have you considered some slash fanfic?

Anonymous said...

2:39, wouldn't this argument work for political philosophy, philosophy of law, and normative ethics as well? But none of those are identical to metaethics.

Anonymous said...

"Could a non-feminist choose (as in fact none actually do) to self-ascribe the description "feminist philosopher"?"

Maybe not, but we're asking about whether or not a non-feminist can be understood as working in feminist philosophy. The linguistic intuition you're relying on doesn't show anything relevant. A 'logical positivist philosopher' would be committed to positivism and an 'empiricist philosopher' would be committed to empiricism. The phrase 'Feminist Philosopher' is no different. But I never said it was. I said one can work in feminist philosophy without having to endorse the presuppositions shared by most feminist philosophers.

"Of course it's possible for someone to work on feminism, or on topics that have received feminist attention, without being a feminist. However, such a person is simply not a feminist philosopher as that term is used in current parlance."

Same response: "Of course it's possible for someone to work on empiricism, or on topics that have received empiricist attention, without being an empiricist. However, such a person is simply not an empiricist philosopher as that term is used in current parlance."

All you've shown is that our use of 'feminist philosophy' is consistent with how we use it with respect to other sub-disciplines.


"I can't arbitrarily adopt an -ism to work on a problem and then use some bogus right not to have my -ism criticized to maintain a view that I can't rationally defend."

No one said it is acceptable to do this. The Best Practices document sure doesn't condone this kind of behavior. I don't know any feminists that endorse this attitude. That being said, sometimes people are assholes about things they care deeply about. Maybe you've seen some feminists acting like assholes. I've had a group of logical positivists be assholes to me when I challenged their views. Does that license a rejection of their entire sub-field? I don't think so.

"The claim is that 'feminist philosophy' is a bullshit subdiscipline, because it's inherently biased."

This claim is supported by the 'ism' stuff, right? For reasons I've explained, I don't find that at all convincing. I also don't know what it means for feminist philosophers to be biased. Yes, people who endorse feminist philosophy (feminist philosophers) tend to think that they are right. But empiricist philosophers also tend to think that they are right. As do positivist philosophers. Utilitarian philosophers tend to think they're correct, as do Kantian philosophers. Hegelian philosophers all seem to share certain presuppositions, as do self-described Thomist philosophers (although I concede that people who work on Thomist philosophy do not need to ascribe to Thomism - the same is true for people who work on feminist philosophy). This argument in favor of the biased nature of feminist philosophy breaks down because you're trying to equate 'being a feminist philosopher' with 'working on feminist philosopher' even though you differentiate these phrases with respect to other areas of philosophy. That's unfair to feminism and an example of equivocation.

So it seems like the main criticisms of feminist philosophy offered in this thread fall apart.

Anonymous said...

5:31 --

This is getting pretty pointless.

I have literally no idea what the argument in your first main paragraph is supposed to be. You seem to be noting that

(1) Empiricist philosophers are committed to empiricism; so
(2) No non-empiricists are empiricist philosophers

and that

(3) Logical positivist philosophers are committed to logical positivism; so
(4) No non-logical-positivists are logical positivist philosophers.

And you seem to want to draw the analogy with feminist philosophy. But that means that you endorse:

(5) Feminist philosophers are committed to feminism; so
(6) No non-feminists are feminist philosophers.

But this is precisely what I (and the others on my side of the debate) are asserting, and what I took it you were denying.

You additionally seem to think that the analogy can be used in support of feminist philosophy, but the opposite is true. As has been pointed out ad nauseam upthread, no-one treats "empiricist philosophy" and "logical positivist philosophy" as genuine sub-disciplines: people treat them as what they are, namely substantive philosophical positions. I don't know whether it's genuine confusion or strategic ignorance, but you seem to be wanting to claim that they are all treated alike in being sub-disciplines; that's not the case.

Here are a bunch of pedestrian facts that I took it everyone in philosophy knows but unfortunately seem to need to be reiterated. No-one has an AOS or AOC in "empiricist philosophy", except perhaps those who study it as a historical period (and that in itself imposes no ideological conditions). No college advertises for jobs in "empiricist philosophy". No journals specialize in publishing only "empiricist philosophy". That is not to say that there are no philosophers committed to empiricism; far from it. But those philosophers tend to specialize in some legitimate sub-discipline of philosophy, and propound their views by publishing (from an empiricist perspective, of course) work within that sub-discipline.

I *agree* that the analogy between feminist philosophy and empiricist philosophy is strong; that's why I think it's distortionary and wrong to raise the former to the status of an autonomous sub-discipline, when really it is a substantive ideological/philosophical position (or set of positions) masquerading as one.

Anonymous said...

There's an obvious refinement of 12:51's question:

Why do feminist philosophers [prefer to be] thought of as such, instead of being thought of as philosophers of blah (where their work is categorizable as philosophy of blah)?

Anonymous said...

Holy crap, 5:31. Are you being serious? We've explained this so many times now. Here we go one more time. Please, do your best to pay attention so we don't need to go through it again.

"All you've shown is that our use of 'feminist philosophy' is consistent with how we use it with respect to other sub-disciplines."

False. I showed that it is *inconsistent* with any legitimate subdiscipline.

Keep this crucial, and simple, distinction well in mind:

1. A *position* taken in an area of philosophical research

2. An area of philosophical research itself.

Feminist philosophy operates according to a bait and switch. It claims to be an area of philosophical research (and hence, according to things like the Colorado Site Visit report, explicitly immune to certain criticisms), but it is obviously a position or ideology.

And *no* legitimate area of philosophical research can be an ideology. Absolutely none.

Logical positivists do * N O T * do work in the area of logical positivism. What they say is that they work in whatever area they work in (ethics, metaphysics, epistemology, logic, phil. of language, etc.) and they apply logical positivistic reasoning there. And, of course, philosophers from rival schools of thought (or no schools of thought) can *and must* attack the positivistic answer on those questions and, often, try to show that it is without value here.

But feminist philosophers to *NOT* do that. They inanely claim that their position/ideology is also their area of research. And that is never, ever, philosophically OK. There is no inconsistency there. And it is painfully obvious that trying to smuggle your ideology past critics in that way is illegitimate.

Get it now?

Once 'feminist philosophy' sneaks past its critics like this, it does some downright nasty stuff. That's the MO of feminist philosophy.

Anonymous said...

I was just responding to your camp's inane arguments that relied on linguistic intuitions about what it means to be a 'feminist philosopher.' If you think that line of argument is inane, you shouldn't have introduced it. My point was that your linguistic argument turned on a blatant fallacy. I was trying to engage with the substance of the arguments that you actually put forward.

Anyway, back to the substantive issue: I'm still not at all convinced that feminist philosophy amounts to a position, rather than a sub-discipline, in any robust sense. You've claimed this many times, but no one has explained what the alleged commitments of feminist philosophy are. Here's what I take to be the most plausible account of what makes some piece of work 'feminist philosophy': Feminist philosophers are unified by a commitment to the claim that (at least some) philosophical methodology ought to be informed by a recognition of women's oppression. They're also unified in thinking that a certain set of problems (those pertaining to women's oppression) are worth talking about. I'm not convinced that the outcomes of any philosophical debates are built into these commitments, and I'm not convinced that it's a robust position like logical positivism, Kantianism, or empiricism. The burden is still on your camp to show what the pernicious commitments of femphil are and how they are different in kind from the commitments of other sub-disciplines (I repeat: put up or shut up).

Metaphysicians, epistemologists, logicians, philosophers of mind, ethicists, philosophers of language and others all share certain commitments within their disciplines. When I announce myself as a metaphysician, I am declaring that I think certain approaches to philosophy are wrong (such as logical positivism).I have also declared my commitment to certain methodological presuppositions and a concern for certain topics. This doesn't seem all that different from the commitments of feminist philosophy.

Consider another relatively new sub-discipline: experimental philosophy (this is recognized as a sub-discipline - jobs are advertised with Xphi as an AOS, people list it as their primary area of research, etc.). But this sub-discipline carries substantive methodological commitments, much like the kinds of commitments feminist philosophers bring to the table. Are you convinced that it too is not a sub-discipline (but rather an approach within mind, language, ethics, and metaphysics)? If so, why aren't you expending all this energy attacking it?

My guess is that it's because you're not actually upset about a sub-discipline carrying certain substantive or methodological commitments, but rather that you're angry about how feminists have started to impact the world in ways you don't like. (This suggested by the comment that feminism does some "nasty stuff.") In which case, you're being incredibly biased and irrational. You're not just trying to engage in an intellectual critique of feminism, but rather you're trying to use the guise of philosophical argumentation to support your worldview. Ironically, this is exactly what you're accusing feminists of doing.

Anonymous said...

and hence, according to things like the Colorado Site Visit report, explicitly immune to certain criticisms

Which set of criticisms does the Site Visit Report express disapproval of?

Denigrations. Unfair criticisms, that is.

Does the SVR single out feminist philosophy in this regard?

No. It does not.

Where would I go to learn more about the rules surrounding philosophical subdisciplines? Apparently there's a fairly clear set of guidelines about which things are and are not subdiscliplines, and which behaviors philosophers may engage in and still fall into a certain subdiscipline. Is there a rulebook? Do they have it on Amazon?

Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Shorter 12:19:

"I don't like feminism, and you don't agree with me because you foolishly didn't understand what I was saying, so I will now re-explain it to you as condescendingly as possible. Get it now?"

How justinfromcanada of you.

Anonymous said...

What makes it an ideology?

Also, you sound like a total ass 12:19.

Anonymous said...

People keep favorably comparing feminist philosophy to experimental philosophy as if experimental philosophy isn't widely denigrated. Have you guys talked to a good chunk of philosophers, lately?

Anonymous said...

6:24 writes: "My point was that your linguistic argument turned on a blatant fallacy"

Really? Then you haven't made sufficiently clear what the fallacy was (unless you mean your straw man attack whose distortion I've now explained again). If you can point to a particular fallacy, I'd be glad to reply.

6:24 again: "no one has explained what the alleged commitments of feminist philosophy are. Here's what I take to be the most plausible account of what makes some piece of work 'feminist philosophy': Feminist philosophers are unified by a commitment to the claim that (at least some) philosophical methodology ought to be informed by a recognition of women's oppression."

OK, but that is prima facie an odd claim. What's the implication here? Is it that those whose philosophical methodologies aren't clearly influenced by a recognition of women's oppression are thereby in denial about women's oppression? That would be a pretty silly claim, then (and it would serve the illegitimate purpose of promoting an us vs. them mentality by portraying everyone else as openly hostile to women).

Or is the claim that one will be unable to do any philosophy properly whether it's logic, metaphysics, epistemology, or anything else if one's methodology is informed by women's oppression? If that's the claim, then it's obviously false.

Or is the claim that, when considering matters that involve women being oppressed, one should be aware of the fact that those women are oppressed, and that some other women are, too, and of how women come to be oppressed, and what follows from this, etc.? In that case, I can't imagine anyone not thinking that this is important, in which case the term 'feminist philosophy' becomes patently vacuous.

But even this hardly scratches the surface of how puzzling it is to claim that "at least some philosophical methodology ought to be informed by a recognition of women's oppression." We're talking about methodology here: the tools and procedures we employ in working through philosophical problems. Basically, these are: logical reasoning (Modus ponens, etc.); conceptual analysis; surveys of the extant literature; publication, and consequent refinement in the face of criticism; and (arguably) empirical observation and experimentation. These are all techniques or practices.

The oppression of women, to the extent that it exists, is not a practice or technique; it's a fact. And recognition of a fact is also not a technique or practice. So I have no idea what it could mean to incorporate that recognition into a philosophical methodology. Perhaps you might explain? This is very puzzling.

6:24: "The burden is still on your camp to show what the pernicious commitments of femphil are and how they are different in kind from the commitments of other sub-disciplines (I repeat: put up or shut up)."

We've been putting up: you just haven't listened. But look, you just stated yourself what one of the commitments is, and I've just shown why it seems to be either nonsense or else something everyone already accepts, and also why the main commitment you yourself mentioned is incoherent as a methodology. So please go ahead and clear up why it isn't, if you think it isn't.

But more generally, to repeat myself yet again, it's pernicious for any contentious claim to be incorporated into a subdiscipline unless it's fair game for anyone to criticize it as much as he or she likes without being put at risk of being called a sexist, etc.

Anonymous said...

6:24: "Are you convinced that [experimental philosophy] too is not a sub-discipline (but rather an approach within mind, language, ethics, and metaphysics)? If so, why aren't you expending all this energy attacking it?"

First off, how do you know that I'm not?

Second, there are several ways in which X-phi differs from 'feminist philosophy'. Here are a couple of relevant ones.

1) Behavior: Experimental philosophy is not a front for a political movement whose members qua members set themselves up as a moralistic police force for the profession, arrange for the sacking and marginalizing of colleagues, etc.

2) Legitimacy: Experimental philosophers are proposing clear methodologies for resolving philosophical issues (whether or not one thinks those methodologies are useful is another question). Feminist philosophers, for the reasons already mentioned and based on your own definition, have as their alleged methodology something that is not a methodology at all: the recognition of the truth of a claim. We know what's involved in exploring questions in epistemology experimentally: you design vignettes to test people's intuitions about knowledge, and then test them using psychological methods. But all we're getting about methodology in feminist philosophy is that you first consider the fact that women are oppressed (in whatever way that's meant) and then do epistemology while thinking about that. That's hardly a coherent methodology. The very term 'feminist philosophy' is a category mistake.

6:24: "My guess is that it's because you're not actually upset about a sub-discipline carrying certain substantive or methodological commitments, but rather that you're angry about how feminists have started to impact the world in ways you don't like."

As I've been saying, it's a bit of both. First, it's a bullshit subdiscipline. Second, it's a bullshit subdiscipline whose members spend a disproportionate amount of time uniting together to collude with administrators in ruining people's careers, destroying departments, telling us what we can and cannot say and do, and seeking out and exploiting opportunities to punish people who don't fall in line. The first of these makes it academically ridiculous, and the second makes it politically odious.

Anonymous said...

6:53 writes:

"Which set of criticisms does the Site Visit Report express disapproval of? Denigrations. Unfair criticisms, that is."

Uh...I just looked up 'denigrate' in the dictionary for you. Here's the definition.

"tr.v. den·i·grat·ed, den·i·grat·ing, den·i·grates
1. To attack the character or reputation of; speak ill of; defame.
2. To disparage; belittle: The critics have denigrated our efforts."

So no, 'denigrate' is a term for criticize, not just 'unfairly criticize'.

6:53 again: "Does the SVR single out feminist philosophy in this regard? No. It does not."

Actually, it does mention feminist philosophy specifically in this context. But regardless, it's wrong for any philosophical standpoint to be made immune from criticism. Really, no methodology in philosophy should be immune to criticism either, but a purported subdiscipline that claims to be a methodology while actually being an ideology or standpoint (like feminist philosophy) should be the last to be shielded from criticism. But more generally, nothing in philosophy should be shielded from criticism, and the writers of the Site Visit Report were very wrong to say otherwise.

"Where would I go to learn more about the rules surrounding philosophical subdisciplines? Apparently there's a fairly clear set of guidelines about which things are and are not subdiscliplines, and which behaviors philosophers may engage in and still fall into a certain subdiscipline. Is there a rulebook? Is it on Amazon?"

Yes. It's called a functioning brain, though Amazon does sell dictionaries and that might help you with the definition of 'subdiscipline'.

To save you the effort and expense, I'll break it down for you. A subdiscipline is an area of study. Recognition of the truth of a claim is something one might arrive at on the basis of undertaking work in that area of study. Hence, a subdiscipline cannot be identical with the recognition of the truth of a claim, which is what defenders of feminist philosophy like 6:42 fail to understand.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Your interpretations of the proposed feminist methodology reveals how little you know about feminist scholarship. Thanks for validating my suspicion that you have no idea what you're talking about!

No wonder you hate the best practices recommendations. They'd make you actually do some work before you could spew your thinly veiled conservative agenda.

Anonymous said...

Or is the claim that, when considering matters that involve women being oppressed, one should be aware of the fact that those women are oppressed, and that some other women are, too, and of how women come to be oppressed, and what follows from this, etc.? In that case, I can't imagine anyone not thinking that this is important, in which case the term 'feminist philosophy' becomes patently vacuous.

Really? You can't even imagine it? Are you sure that this doesn't just illustrate what a poor imaginer you are? Because it seems to me that a lot of the (non-feminist) work on the moral status of abortion suffers from exactly that defect, for example. slacprof made a pretty convincing case for this on the Leiter thread.

But more generally, to repeat myself yet again, it's pernicious for any contentious claim to be incorporated into a subdiscipline unless it's fair game for anyone to criticize it as much as he or she likes without being put at risk of being called a sexist, etc.

As has been pointed out numerous times by numerous people, including Mr Zero in the original post, neither the site visit report nor the best practices document contains anything close to that strong prohibition. Maybe that's what you think will happen, and maybe you're right--I don't know who you are, and I can't see the future. But that's not what the report or the best practices say should happen.

Anonymous said...

I just looked up 'denigrate' in the dictionary for you

I looked it up, too. Here's what I get:

"to say very critical and often unfair things about (someone)"

Also, did you look up 'defame,' which your definition gives as a synonym for 'denigrate'? According to M-W, the definition of 'defame' is "to hurt the reputation of (someone or something) especially by saying things that are false or unfair".

So, thanks for the very helpful suggestion to use the dictionary.

To sum up: not only are you gratuitously hostile and insulting, but you are also wrong. I bet yours is a delightful presence at faculty meetings.

Anonymous said...

Actually, it does mention feminist philosophy specifically in this context.

Here's the full text of the relevant passage:

If some department members have a problem with people doing non-feminist philosophy or doing
feminist philosophy (or being engaged in any other sort of intellectual or other type of pursuit)...


So, no, it does not single out feminist philosophy.

Anonymous said...

I wrote: "Or is the claim that, when considering matters that involve women being oppressed, one should be aware of the fact that those women are oppressed, and that some other women are, too, and of how women come to be oppressed, and what follows from this, etc.? In that case, I can't imagine anyone not thinking that this is important, in which case the term 'feminist philosophy' becomes patently vacuous."

11:52 replies: "Really? You can't even imagine it?"

Yes, really. I'm not pulling your leg.

11:52: "Are you sure that this doesn't just illustrate what a poor imaginer you are?"

Pretty sure, yes. Pay close attention to what I'm saying, please: I'm not saying that I can't imagine that anyone is not good at thinking about ways in which women are or could be oppressed or what follows from that (I'd imagine many people are not good at that). What I'm saying is that I can't imagine anyone thinking that considering the fact and extent of female oppression would not be important in thinking about the moral implications of cases that involve female oppression.

Maybe you know of people who don't realize this. Maybe you know people who think that thinking about the geography of Kenya is unimportant in planning a trip around Kenya. Maybe you know people who think that a knowledge of the fact that 2+2=4 is unimportant for people who want to add lots of columns of numbers together. If you do, then great; but please excuse the rest of us for treating that as an extraordinary claim.

11:52: "Because it seems to me that a lot of the (non-feminist) work on the moral status of abortion suffers from exactly that defect, for example. slacprof made a pretty convincing case for this on the Leiter thread."

You're saying that a lot of the non-feminist work (whatever you mean by that) on the status of abortion is worsened by the fact(?) that the writers are not only ignorant of some details or claims about women's oppression but actually believe that the details of women's oppression is irrelevant to what they understand to be issues on which the details of women's oppression is at issue?

Could you please clarify the case for that claim? It seems very dubious.

I wrote: "But more generally, to repeat myself yet again, it's pernicious for any contentious claim to be incorporated into a subdiscipline unless it's fair game for anyone to criticize it as much as he or she likes without being put at risk of being called a sexist, etc."

11:52: "As has been pointed out numerous times by numerous people, including Mr Zero in the original post, neither the site visit report nor the best practices document contains anything close to that strong prohibition. Maybe that's what you think will happen, and maybe you're right--I don't know who you are, and I can't see the future. But that's not what the report or the best practices say should happen."

The claim of mine you're discussing has four components: 1) Feminist philosophy essentially includes substantive commitments; 2) Feminist philosophy claims to be, and is accepted by many as being, an approach to philosophy;
3) The Site Visit Report limits the degree to which approaches to philosophy can be criticized; and
4) Those who criticize feminist philosophy thereby run the risk of being wrongly categorized as sexists by members of the profession who (stupidly) conflate being opposed to feminist philosophy with being a sexist.

Let's take these one at a time.

1) Does feminist philosophy entail substantive commitments? You've already conceded that it does. You've said that a tenet of feminist philosophy is that one has to include "a recognition of women's oppression." The claim 'women are oppressed' is substantive.

Anonymous said...

2) You yourself claim that feminist philosophy is an approach to philosophy. Combining this with 1), you hold that there is an approach to philosophy that entails a substantive commitment.

3) Does the Site Visit Report claim limit the extent to which approaches to philosophy can be criticized? Clearly, yes it does. You'll find it at the top of p.7 of the Site Visit Report. Combining this with 1) and 2), it follows that the Site Visit Report limits the extent to which an alleged philosophical approach (feminist philosophy in particular, and this is even named specifically in the document in the same paragraph) can be criticized, even when (as we have seen) that alleged approach entails a substantive claim.


4) Do those of us who criticise feminist philosophy run the risk of being called sexist? Again, the answer is a clear yes. In fact, in this very thread, it was suggested that the de facto higher concentration of women in feminist philosophy than in some other areas is sufficient to warrant the charge that critics of feminist philosophy are sexists.

So I'm not predicting the future here: I'm saying what's happening now. Do you deny any of these four points? If so, which one and why?

Anonymous said...

I too find the claim that feminist philosophy constitutes a methodology very puzzling. When I read feminist philosophy papers, the vast majority seem to me to be using ordinary philosophical methodology to argue for feminist conclusions; I don't see anything distinctive about the way in which they do so, or any distinctive methods that they employ, above and beyond the usual ones employed in philosophy.

More generally, there's a pretty clear distinction between methodological commitment and ideological/substantive commitment. It may be hard to pin down exactly (philosophical analysis is hard!), but it's pretty clear. I find the following "negation test" a useful heuristic: suppose it's possible to argue for p in some sub-discipline. Is it at least coherent to imagine someone arguing for not-p and still doing work in the same sub-discipline?

Anonymous said...

12:17, I'm glad you've started to use the dictionary. But you still have some things to learn about how to use it.

There are few perfect synonyms in the English language. Try looking up a word in a thesaurus and you'll find that few if any of the synonyms given are identical in scope or meaning.

'Denigrate' is in some contexts and respects a synonym for 'defame', but they do not mean the same thing. Trust me on this (or if you prefer, challenge me): if I follow your rules, I can ultimately get from any word to almost any other word (supposing the two are the same parts of speech). This is a familiar game.

But even if we leave that embarrassing detail aside, you seem not to have noticed the knockout blow against Zero's claim that the SVR only prohibits unfair criticism: in that case, the passage in the SVR just doesn't make sense.

The passage begins, "If some department members have a problem with people... being engaged in any... sort of intellectual or other type of pursuit, they should gain more appreciation of and tolerance for plurality in the discipline" (pp.6-7). This makes clear that the aim of the passage is to ensure that all approaches ("any... sort of intellectual or other type of pursuit") should be appreciated.

Now, suppose we read 'denigrate' in the way you and Mr. Zero now suggest. In that case, so long as I had a fair point to make against some approach, I could make it in front of anyone as often and as forcefully as I wanted to. But since the same passage just made clear that the aim is to ensure that *all* approaches are appreciated, this weaker reading of their injunction not to denigrate would make no sense.

So employing the principle of charity for the sake of the Site Visit Team, I think it's clear that we need to read 'denigrate' according to the dictionary definition that makes sense in the context: since "any" approach to philosophy ought to be appreciated (that "any" implies no exemption for those that cannot be rationally defended), then clearly all criticism, and not just unfair criticism, should be avoided in front of colleagues, undergrads, and grad students.

Anonymous said...

As for the semantics of "denigrate", I'm not sure. I think it's perfectly acceptable usage to claim that blah deserves to be denigrated, and I think that's substantial evidence that (dictionaries be damned) it doesn't -- at least semantically -- build in unfairness.

Anonymous said...

FYI you're talking to multiple people, not one person.

A number of people have argued that all sub disciplines are committed to substantive claims. I find this persuasive. You have not effectively refuted this argument. All you have done is tell us to use our brains (an injunction you may want to take seriously). This argument undermines your 1 and 2. Get it?

Regarding 3, as has been mentioned over and over, the recommendations do not prohibit substantive philosophical disagreement. They prohibit unprofessional behaviors. Get it?

Regarding 4, did someone hurt your feelings by calling you a sexist? Everyone hold up! A white man had his feelings hurt! Fire all the feminists! Restructure the discipline! We have to make sure we don't alienate the poor white man!

Anti-semite.

Anonymous said...

12:17, I'm glad you've started to use the dictionary. But you still have some things to learn about how to use it. There are few perfect synonyms in the English language.

I looked it up. The definition i found uses the word "unfair". Are you saying that if I were a better dictionary user, I'd have found a way to ignore the definition? The definition I found says 'unfair' and the definition you found uses a word whose own definition says 'unfair,' but you think that the word just means "criticize" and doesn't have anything to do with being unfair. Because you're so good at using the dictionary.

Now, suppose we read 'denigrate' in the way you and Mr. Zero now suggest. In that case, so long as I had a fair point to make against some approach, I could make it in front of anyone as often and as forcefully as I wanted to. But since the same passage just made clear that the aim is to ensure that *all* approaches are appreciated, this weaker reading of their injunction not to denigrate would make no sense.

That's not a knockout blow. The SVR says, you should be tolerant and appreciative of a variety of approaches and pursuits, but if you can't do that, you should at least refrain from leveling unfair criticisms in front of students. I don't see where it says anything about what you should do if you have a fair criticism, which, I think, suggests that you would be within your rights to make it as forcefully as you wish. (The Best Practices document explicitly permits fair, non-invidious criticisms.) I don't see what's weird about it.

Anonymous said...

What I'm saying is that I can't imagine anyone thinking that considering the fact and extent of female oppression would not be important in thinking about the moral implications of cases that involve female oppression.

Again, slacprof seems to have made a fairly convincing case that much work on abortion does exactly that.

You're saying that a lot of the non-feminist work (whatever you mean by that) on the status of abortion is worsened by the fact(?) that the writers are not only ignorant of some details or claims about women's oppression but actually believe that the details of women's oppression is irrelevant to what they understand to be issues on which the details of women's oppression is at issue?

If you look at the work on abortion by John Finnis or Don Marquis, neither of them so much as addresses these issues dealing with women's unequal standing in society, etc. I don't know whether that's because it didn't occur to them that it might matter, or because they thought about it and decided it didn't, but I don't think it's important. In fact, it seems to me that the importance of the role feminist philosophy played in emphasizing the point that women's unequal standing makes a potential difference in the abortion debate is especially underscored by the possibility that this point might not even have occurred to the authors of two widely-anthologized articles on the topic.

Does feminist philosophy entail substantive commitments? You've already conceded that it does.

I'm not going to dispute that FP entails commitments, but I didn't concede it. You should be aware that you're addressing more than one person.

Does the Site Visit Report claim limit the extent to which approaches to philosophy can be criticized? Clearly, yes it does. You'll find it at the top of p.7 of the Site Visit Report.

No, if you read the actual words in the report, it clearly doesn't. As 12:23 points out, it says "non-feminist philosophy or feminist philosophy".

it follows that the Site Visit Report limits the extent to which an alleged philosophical approach (feminist philosophy in particular, and this is even named specifically in the document in the same paragraph) can be criticized,

Yeah, sort of. It limits it to fair, non-denigrating criticisms. Big whoop.

But, no, not feminist philosophy in particular. Non-feminist or feminist philosophy. e.g. everything.

Anonymous said...

"There are few perfect synonyms in the English language."

Ok. But if the meaning of 'denigrate' is closer to that of 'criticize' than that of 'defame,' why did the authors of your dictionary list 'defame' instead of 'criticize' as the synonym? They could have, but they didn't. Why didn't they?

Anonymous said...

I wrote: "Or is the claim that, when considering matters that involve women being oppressed, one should be aware of the fact that those women are oppressed, and that some other women are, too, and of how women come to be oppressed, and what follows from this, etc.? In that case, I can't imagine anyone not thinking that this is important, in which case the term 'feminist philosophy' becomes patently vacuous."

I'm with 11:52. I think this just shows that you're not good at imagining things. Because I find it very easy to imagine someone doing that. Easy.

One thing I don't find very easy is to imagine someone doing that without being at least a little bit of a sexist. Not to say misogynist. But I find it extremely easy to imagine a sexist doing it.

But if that's the way it is, it would only lend credence to the oft-disputed claim that it's not possible to dismiss the whole of feminist philosophy without being a sexist. Maybe I misread you: that's not what you were trying to do, was it?

Anonymous said...

Well, aside from this thrilling reading of the dictionary we've got going on here, i just thought i'd mention, re: 12:30's claim that he/she
"can't imagine anyone considering the fact and extent of female oppression would not be important in thinking about the moral implications of cases that involve female oppression" -
It might surprise you to learn that a lot of feminist philosophy does just this. In fact, a lot of feminist philosophy is a long disagreement on what women *are*, anyway (another reason it differs from metaethics, or at least has implications beyond metaethics). This seems much in keeping with the practice of empiricism or whatever other "ism" we've learned is not philosophy (except, of course, when it is). It has been gathered into a thing called 'feminist philosophy' because, funnily enough, before feminist philosophers came around, no one much thought any of these questions about women (whatever that means) had any merit as philosophical questions. I know! Crazy. It's almost as if thinking and who is doing the thinking are related somehow. Weird.

Anonymous said...

And University of Denver wins for rejection letter so late and out of the blue I couldn't even tell you for sure rather or not I applied there. It's less than a month out from the start of class, why are you even bothering with an email this late?

Anonymous said...

3:12, I think you missed the 'not' in the quote.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you've started to use the dictionary. But you still have some things to learn about how to use it.

This is amazing. This guy is waving his dictionary around like King Arthur's sword, as though the idea to look up a word is this stroke of genius that would never have occurred to anyone else.

Then, when it is shown that the definition he chose substantially undermines his own point, he argues that it's because the other person hasn't mastered the fine art of looking shit up in the dictionary.

It's a really stunning display. This person's lack of regard for the intelligence and, like, basic literacy of his interlocutors is remarkable. But I'm sure that when he "denigrates" whichever subdiscipine, he'll always be sure to voice his criticisms with nothing but the utmost respect. On this, there can be no doubt.

Anonymous said...

6:00,

The whole dictionary thing came into the conversation because someone insisted that 'denigrate' had to mean what only one of its definitions means.

I never suggested that looking things up in the dictionary was a stroke of genius. Obviously not! It's something anyone with half a brain would do. But the feminist philosopher I was dealing with had not thought to do it before telling me what he or she thought the (unique) definition of the word was, sadly. So I had to point it out.

I know that it sounds patronizing of me to say it. I really wish it didn't come to this. Most of the time, my interactions with philosophers are nothing like this. I have the utmost respect for every single person I work with, and for my students. I never have to make things so obvious for anyone I regularly encounter. They get it.

The feminist philosophers and their cronies who show up here? Different story entirely. I can't believe these people have even been admitted to university, let alone that they're members of the profession. Quite possibly, they're all trolling me and I'm the one falling for it. If 1:17 hadn't kindly tipped his or her hat by calling me an anti-Semite for no good reason, I wouldn't have realized that he or she was a troll. Maybe that's what's going on.

But I swear, some of these people making the most embarrassingly stupid arguments in favor of feminist philosophy, consistently ignoring every single thing that is said to them, needing to have basic objections repeated to them five or more times before we can move on, aren't just getting my goat. I think that at least one or two of them are really that stupid.

I don't know how the rest of you deal with them. Or maybe they're not like this with you. Probably, they're just doing this because they've committed some time to something that was sold to them as a branch of philosophy that isn't, and they don't have any way of getting their time and money back. I genuinely feel bad for them in that case. Perhaps we're better off just dropping it. This is like trying to explain to members of the clergy why their religion is not the wonderful force for good they say it is, and why it's based on an incoherent idea. There's really no point if they won't face up to the reality that they bought the Brooklyn Bridge.

Someone else, please take over. I'm done with this.

Anonymous said...

"Someone else, please take over. I'm done with this."

As if.

Anonymous said...

Maybe, just maybe, if multiple people don't "get" your arguments, you should take a good hard look at those arguments and the way you express them. I just want to drive this home for you, because it is simply not the case that we feminists are putting our heads in the sand.

Your arguments are very bad. Surprisingly bad, given that everything you have said has been refuted several times in this thread. Specifically:

You are relying on arbitrary definitions of the distinction between disciplines and positions. When pressed on these definitions, you insultingly and condescendingly rely on unjustified linguistic intuitions or telling your interlocutors to use their brains, dictionaries, etc. Even when they honestly respond to your arguments, you deride your interlocutors and refuse to respond to serious, substantive criticisms. You simply have not shown that feminist philosophy should not be considered a subdiscipline.

Your criticism of feminist philosophy is very weak because you do not understand the first thing about feminist scholarship. When pushed to characterize feminist philosophy, you ignore the requests. When you try to interpret other people's characterizations, you do so uncharitably and (frankly) very stupidly.

Your charge that the site visit committee is trying to make feminist philosophy uncriticizable is bullshit. You are wildly misinterpreting what the documents say. Many other commentators have pointed this out, so I won't re-hash these here.

Finally, you claim that you can't criticize feminist philosophy without being called a sexist. If someone tried to silence you by calling you a sexist, there are three possibilities: 1) They were being an asshole. 2) You were being an asshole and they called you a sexist out of frustration. 3) You were being a sexist and they called you out on being a sexist.

Given the evidence I have about you and your philosophical proclivities, I'd put my money on some combination of (2) and (3). You've been an insufferable little shit for the bulk of this conversation, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if you act just like this in person (despite your claims to the contrary). Either way, this doesn't reveal anything about the nature of feminist scholarship or the discourse surrounding feminist philosophy. All it shows is that feminists don't want to put up with insufferable little shits.

In short: you appear to be very bad at philosophy. The reason no one's convinced by your claims is that your arguments are atrocious. The reason people call you sexist is because you sound like a sexist. And the reason people are rude to you is because you are extremely rude.

There is no feminist conspiracy. Now let's all go back to our lives until the next time these exact same arguments are rehearsed on this blog (I give it a month).

Anonymous said...

6:21 -- I am not your interlocutor. But since you're making statements like "no one's convinced by your claims", I think it's worth me reporting my view that he/she has the better side of the argument at least as far as the ideological commitments of feminist philosophy are concerned.

Anonymous said...

"Probably, they're just doing this because they've committed some time to something that was sold to them as a branch of philosophy that isn't, and they don't have any way of getting their time and money back. I genuinely feel bad for them in that case."

Dismissing your opponents by postulating unfounded psychological hypotheses about them? Isn't that exactly what you are accusing feminists of doing? Isn't this the exact same thing as someone dismissing your argument by postulating that you are misogynist?

FYI: I've been contributing above and I have no personal or professional commitment to feminist philosophy. I don't teach it, I don't publish in it, and it's not one of my AOSs or AOCs. In fact, I used to think a lot like you. I've defended the same positions as you. And then as I matured, I realized those arguments were based on misunderstandings of feminism and poorly articulated sweeping generalizations about the nature of philosophy. Hopefully you too will eventually be honest with yourself.

Anonymous said...

"I think it's worth me reporting my view that he/she has the better side of the argument at least as far as the ideological commitments of feminist philosophy are concerned."

Proponents of feminist philosophy certainly seem to be more involved in political activism than other philosophers, but I still haven't seen a good account of what the ideological commitments of feminism actually are supposed to be. People keep referring to them, but don't explain what they are.

The closest we've come is people saying stuff like "If you criticize feminist philosophy you're no longer doing feminist philosophy. Therefore it's a substantive position, not a discipline."

This strikes me as a very weak argument. If I criticize metaphysics (because I think the questions it pursues are pointless, the methods of conceptual analysis and intuition pumps it relies on are faulty and unreliable, etc.) am I still doing metaphysics? Should I expect metaphysicians to applaud me and invite me to their conferences? No. I'm doing metaphilosophy at this point, not metaphysics. And metaphysicians will be hostile towards me when I say these things. How are criticisms of feminist philosophy any different?

This strikes me as a legitimate, serious question that has been posed over and over again. The main contributor to the anti-fem side of this discussion has responded by insulting us and ignoring substantive questions. If this really is a stupid question, please, for the love of god - TELL ME WHAT THE SUBSTANTIVE IDEOLOGICAL COMMITMENTS OF FEMINIST PHILOSOPHY ARE! What exactly are these fabled presuppositions that 'cannot be questioned?' How are they different from the commitments endorsed by every other discipline?

Maybe the commentators above meant "If you criticize any position in feminist philosophy, you're no longer doing feminist philosophy. Therefore it's a position, not a discipline." But this is obviously wrong, as feminists disagree with each other all the time (about, for example, the nature of oppression, what it means to be a woman, the ethics of marriage, the ethics of contract pregnancy, the ethics of pornography etc.) These feminists are still doing feminist philosophy, even though they question and critique each other.

So, seriously - please tell me how feminist philosophy is different. Point me to a single ideological commitment that cannot be questioned within feminist philosophy. This has been asked over and over again (by at least one other Anon and by Jaded), but no one has provided one example.

Anonymous said...

If all we're doing now is voicing agreement then I'm 100% with 6:21

Anonymous said...

I never suggested that looking things up in the dictionary was a stroke of genius. Obviously not! It's something anyone with half a brain would do. But the feminist philosopher I was dealing with had not thought to do it...

This remark encapsulates what is so frustrating about dealing with this person. For starters, this isn't true, and he couldn't possibly have any reason to think it is. I'm one of the numerous people who opined on the meaning of the word 'denigrate.' I thought I had a sense of what it meant, but just to be safe, I double-check it in the dictionary. What I found confirmed my prior view. As this guy suggests, it's what anyone with half a brain would do, so my guess is that the many other people who touched on this issue did the same thing.

This guy doesn't think so, though. This guy thinks, on the basis of a definition that also confirms my view, that he's the only one who thought to do that and that everyone who disagrees with him is a fucking moron who doesn't understand what he's saying or how to use a dictionary.

As others have pointed out, this suggests that you are incapable of being civil with people you disagree with. It seems like either people agree with you, in which case they "get it", or they don't agree with you, in which case they are illiterate blockheads who are incapable of comprehending your very simple arguments and who are to be treated with contempt and derision. You are exactly the kind of person who should heed Colorado's Best Practices: "And we should always avoid raising criticisms that could be construed as an invidious personal attack by any reasonable person—especially in public contexts." It seems like this is a problem for you.

Anonymous said...

For whatever it's worth, 12:19pm, it seems to this disinterested observer that both sides of this debate have been uncivil.

Anonymous said...

10:43 --

I'm the one who registered agreement.

Your post doesn't address the actual arguments that have been raised. I haven't been exhaustively following the thread, but no-one (as far as I can tell) is making the (admittedly bad) arguments that you mention.

The argument in the vicinity that has been made, and which I think is decisive, is that there are claims such that if you argue for them you can be considered to be doing feminist philosophy, while if you deny them or argue against them you cannot. The same is not true of metaphysics, or indeed any other legitimate subdiscipline.

Anonymous said...

"TELL ME WHAT THE SUBSTANTIVE IDEOLOGICAL COMMITMENTS OF FEMINIST PHILOSOPHY ARE! What exactly are these fabled presuppositions that 'cannot be questioned?'"

Here's a first pass at an answer: feminism, and feminist commitments. I don't see why that was very difficult.

Anonymous said...

"there are claims such that if you argue for them you can be considered to be doing feminist philosophy, while if you deny them or argue against them you cannot."

What is an example of such a claim in feminist philosophy?

I'm also not convinced that this isn't sometimes true for metaphysics. I've seen people try to argue against metaphysical arguments for God's existence by appealing to Wittgensteinian or Carnapian considerations. Those same people also vehemently denied that they were doing metaphysics, and all listeners agreed.

So, some metaphysicians say P, and are 'doing metaphysics' when they say it. Then a Carnapian says 'not-P' but is not doing metaphysics when she says it. Since this is possible, metaphysics must not be a legitimate subdiscipline.

Anonymous said...

"feminism, and feminist commitments"

And metaphysics is committed to metaphysical commitments. Any more tautologies we want to put on the table?

Anonymous said...

1:13 here. After re-reading your comment, I just realized that my argument doesn't work as I wrote it. (While you can question P without doing metahpysics, you can also question while doing metaphysics).

But I'm still not convinced that there any claims made within feminist frameworks that cannot also be denied within feminist frameworks. I'm gonna need a non-tautological example to be convinced.

Anonymous said...

Simple question to settle these disputes:

Can a conservative Catholic Republican consistently and in good faith also be a feminist philosopher?

If the answer is No, then feminist philosophers have a serious problem.

Anonymous said...

welp, jean bethke elshtain was lutheran, so i guess not? :(

Anonymous said...

I think there's a major misundertanding going on here.

Question for the feminist philosophers: one of you recently said that "Feminist philosophers are... unified in thinking that a certain set of problems (those pertaining to women's oppression) are worth talking about."

Is the idea that those who do not work in feminist philosophy don't think that problems pertaining to women's oppression are worth talking about?

Really?

I'm seriously asking this.

If the answer is yes, then I understand why they're defending feminist philosophy. But then they're just straightforwardly wrong. It is really obviously not the case that non-femphilosophers don't care about the oppression of women and don't want to talk about it.

If the answer is no, then it would be useful to have a clearer explanation of what the criteria for being a feminist philosopher are. At present, it seems so nebulous and shifty that it's no wonder there's so much disagreement about it. I don't know if thinking that makes me one of the critics, but that's not my intention. I'm just trying to figure out if there are people out there who actually think that you have to be a feminist philosopher to care about the oppression of women.

Thanks.

Anonymous said...

"Can a conservative Catholic Republican consistently and in good faith also be a feminist philosopher?

If the answer is No, then feminist philosophers have a serious problem."

Question 1: Why would you think the answer is 'no'? There's lots of variability in Republican beliefs and there's even more variability in what Catholics believe. There's also tons of variability in what feminists believe (hint:look up 'personalist feminism').

And for the record, I know of many Catholic feminists. I don't know their political affiliations.

Question 2: Even if the answer was yes (and you think a feminist Catholic republican would have to contradict herself), why would it be a problem? Most Catholic Republicans contradict themselves even without throwing feminism in the mix.

Mr. Zero said...

Can a conservative Catholic Republican consistently and in good faith also be a feminist philosopher? If the answer is No, then feminist philosophers have a serious problem.

A) What if he said, "I don't believe this, but suppose for the sake of argument that women are unjustly oppressed..." and then argued that this would have some implications for something. Why wouldn't that count?

B) Am I the only one who doesn't find this "No True Subdiscipline" stuff remotely compelling? As I said waaaaaaaaaaay up there, it seems to me that we philosophers ought to be free to organize our work and to see it as connected with the work of others in whatever ways we find interesting or useful. If that organization takes place in terms of subdisciplines, and then makes use of substantive commitments, or methodological ones, or political ones, I don't see why it matters. Even if feminist philosophy is the only one that makes use of a political commitment in this way. I don't care. All I get is a big bowl of who gives a fuck.

I concede that it would be one thing if the "Orwellian" Suggestion or the Best Practices document made use of this standing as a subdiscipline in order to shield this political commitment from criticism. But interpreting these documents this way clearly involves pretending they say things that they don't say, or pretending they don't say things that they do. So that's a merely counterfactual worry, and if it were a problem it would be a problem with the documents, not the subdiscipline.

So, I guess I don't see any real problem here.

Anonymous said...

When someone starts invoking conservative Catholic Republicans in order to make an argument about the nature of philosophy, I think that means it's time to move on.

Anonymous said...

I am 4:38. In other words, could someone be said to "legitimately" do feminist philosophy and be a feminist philosopher even if one held the following beliefs:

-abortion is immoral and should be illegal
-contraception is morally wrong
-women are to submit (in a theological sense) to their husbands
-staying at home with one's children is a noble calling and should be encouraged, not denigrated
-sex is to be only had within the confounds of a monogamous, heterosexual marriage

One can believe all of these things and be a consistent metaphysician, an ethicist, or an epistemologist. (Even if you think these views are abhorrent, they are no barrier to being a metaphysician as such, etc.). The question is therefore could a feminist philosopher also *consistently* hold these views?

Anonymous said...

*confines

Anonymous said...

Thanks, 7:18.

I'm not on either side of this issue, and am definitely not a conservative Catholic or a Republican, but I hope your question makes the point clear.

The point is that, if (since?) at least some of the answers to 7:18's questions are presumably 'no', it's blatantly obvious that feminist philosophy entails some substantive assumptions on the very topics under discussion. I don't get why anyone would deny this.

And that's the equivalent of saying that to be an epistemologist, you have to believe that skepticism is not a problem, or that to be a metaphysician, you have to believe that God doesn't exist.

I guess I do have a side after all.

Ben A. said...

4:38/7:18pm:

It sounds to me like a person who sincerely holds this set of beliefs could have quite a lot to say about many issues taken up in feminist philosophy, assuming of course that s/he has well considered reasons for these beliefs. (If s/he simply holds them unreflectively and has no interest in defending them via philosophical dialogue, then this is probably not an area of research for him/her.) I myself would be skeptical about their ability to defend these positions in a way that is compatible with taking gender oppression seriously, but hey, they could surprise me.

They could, for example, argue against the main conclusions of The Subjection of Women, which directly engages the sorts of beliefs you've listed here. When I teach Mill & Taylor on liberal feminism, I often provide examples of critical engagement by their contemporaries. If this person were to similarly engage their arguments, then s/he could be contributing to feminist philosophy.

If s/he had something good engaging philosophical discussion of these beliefs, s/he could consider submitting that work to Hypatia or Feminist Philosophy Quarterly, as these subjects would fall within their purvey. So, another way in which we might say this person was doing feminist philosophy.

Now if someone where to say here, "I don't think this person's work would be regarded as feminist philosophy," then I would want to see evidence to back up this hypothetical surmising. If someone where to scoff that Hypatia or Feminist Philosophy Quarterly would not take this person's philosophical work seriously, I would want to see evidence to back up this hypothetical dismissal.

In general, if one wants to get a sense of what can fall within the context of feminist philosophy, my advise is to investigate this area of philosophy as it is actually practiced. It may surprise!

Ben A. said...

10:35, why is the answer to some of 7:18's questions "presumably" no?

If we're going to do this, then let's do this. Let's actually have a conversation about feminist philosophy rather than speculation about feminist philosophy!

It sounds to me like this person might be interested in contributing to feminist philosophy of religion and/or to feminist theology, since some of the beliefs listed here concern gender implications of theological matters. Maybe they will want to read Pagels and take engagement with her work as a fruitful place to make his/her contributions to feminist philosophy. Or again, this person may want to engage Mill & Taylor, each of whom take up issues on which this person has distinct beliefs.

The only real question for me is whether this person wants to take these beliefs as objects for truly engaged philosophical investigation, or if s/he holds these beliefs in a way where s/he is not really interested in defending them as a matter of philosophical analysis.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your comments, Ben A. I think they move the discussion forward well. (I'm 10:35).

You say that it's an empirical claim whether being a feminist philosopher precludes maintaining the following set of views (from 7:18):

"-abortion is immoral and should be illegal
-contraception is morally wrong
-women are to submit (in a theological sense) to their husbands
-staying at home with one's children is a noble calling and should be encouraged, not denigrated
-sex is to be only had within the confounds of a monogamous, heterosexual marriage".

I agree with you on this: it's an empirical matter.

Before I get to whether your suggestion is true or false, let's look at the implications of this. Suppose that what you say is true: suppose that the editors at Hypatia and Feminist Philosophy Quarterly would be very happy to publish works defending those views, and would give any such submissions fair consideration. By fair consideration, I mean that they would completely put aside their personal views on the matter, and where possible altering the composition of their editorial boards to as to be genuinely inclusive and contain several members who reject the tenets of feminism. Suppose also that they would gladly have over half the journal consist of explicitly anti-feminist views, not just as a 'special antifeminist edition' or something but on a regular basis, should the quality of those articles be objectively (i.e. not by a group with a clear feminist bias) better contributions to the discussion, philosophically speaking.

If that's what the editorial boards on these journals are like, and if that's also how unbiased search committees tend to be when hiring a feminist philosopher, then it would seem clear (with one caveat) that 'feminist philosophy' does not denote an improper area of philosophical research.

The one caveat is that, if this really is the case, then the term (not the subdiscipline it denotes) should be changed. It should be called 'philosophy of gender' or 'philosophy of gender relations'. Naming something after an -ism denotes, misleadingly if you are right, a bias toward that ism.

So then: is your empirical claim correct? I can see two straightforward ways of testing it.

1. We could look at the proportion of antifeminist articles published in these journals over, say, the last year, or five years, or ten years. My guess is that we will find something between 0% and 2% (but probably closer to 0%) that maintain as true any of the claims 7:18 asks about. I think the same is true of professors of feminist philosophy across the Anglophone world. But there are huge number of conservative intellectuals (whose views I in no way defend, by the way) who take the opposite opinions. I would wager that, at this point, no articles defending these views from an admitted antifeminist perspective appear in these journals. Zero.

I would gladly join you in doing this survey. But just to make sure there is any point, perhaps you might make the first move. Please cite for us any article whatsoever in either of the journals you mention that argues (from an admitted antifeminist perspective) that abortion is immoral and should be illegal, or that contraception is morally wrong, or that women are to submit (in a theological sense) to their husbands, or that staying at home with one's children is a noble calling and should be encouraged, not denigrated, or that sex is to be only had within the confounds of a monogamous, heterosexual marriage.

I'm betting you come up with nothing. But I'm open to being surprised.

Anonymous said...

(Continued)

If it turns out that only one or two articles at most have been published defending on these views in the last twenty-five years, or (more likely) none at all, then it won't do for the femphilosophers to protest that they just don't receive submissions that take those views. The reason is that antifeminist thinkers would be reasonable in assuming, from the term 'feminIST philosophy', that the discipline is constitutionally biased against their view. If that is not the case, then the editors of femphilosophy journals should make it very clear that they are interested in promoting a genuine diversity of views in their journal and encourage submissions by antifeminists.

Ben A. said...

Some further suggestions:

The person described by 7:18 has a belief about gender-specific submission. OK. This could be a fruitful place for contribution to feminist philosophy. What is this person's account of submission? How does this account make sense of the imperative of women's submission to another adult human being as compatible with women's personhood, with respect for their particular goals, intellectual capacities, and so on?

This person could explain how submission could be disentangled from oppression. Some philosophers have worried that comprehensive gender-based deference of wives to husbands promotes these men's epistemic arrogance and other such vices. This person could take up those philosophers' arguments and explain how submission practices can avoid moral and intellectual vices.

Now perhaps this person is not interested in any of this. Perhaps s/he simply wants to take gender-specific submission as a premise for practical action in his/her life, and not want to bring it into philosophical analysis. OK. But it's no surprise then to say that this person is not contributing to feminist philosophy on this matter.

Anonymous said...

A: Regarding the set of beliefs that seem to be inconsistent with 'feminist philosophy,' I can imagine defenses of any of them that draw on feminist scholarship, frameworks, and methods (for example, a care-based ethical account could be stretched to defend many of them. Feminist theology could say many things about the duties between wives and husbands, etc. I don't think any of these would be very good feminist philosophy, but I think they would still be feminist). For what it's worth, feminists aren't usually in the business of denying people the label 'feminist philosophy.'

B: If you want to continue this discussion seriously, we really do need to focus on what it means for something to be feminist philosophy. Unfortunately, this turns out to be a hard question, but these difficulties aren't unique to feminist philosophy. There's lots of philosophical debate about how to differentiate various disciplines/subdisciplines. Look at the long-standing debates about how to differentiate metaethics from normative ethics, for example (starting with Stevenson and Brandt in the 50s and continuing until today with Dworkin, Kramer, etc). Maybe we should take a cue from these debates and acknowledge that there is no one received view of what it means for something to be 'feminist philosophy.'

C: There are arguably other disciplines for which it is true that there are some claims which can be defended within that discipline but cannot be denied within that discipline. When people deny some versions of scientism, they could arguably be doing metaphysics when expressing this denial. However, if I endorse scientism (a la NDT), I would not be doing metahpysics. In short, if you cannot imagine NDT being a metaphysician in 'good faith' then metaphysics has the same problems as feminism. Do you want to prove me wrong? Find more than 2% of articles in Metaphysica or Review of Metaphysics that defend NDT's variety of scientism.

D: Why is this even an important question? Zero raised the point that even if we grant all the claims about the nature of feminist philosophy, and thus grant that it is unlike any other subdisciplines, this would only be problematic if our field accepted a blanket protection for subdisciplines. Since we have not accepted such a blanket protection, it shouldn't really matter if feminist philosophy carries more substantive commitments than other subdisciplines, as those commitments are still open to be criticized and challenged. Let people classify their work however they like.

E: "By fair consideration, I mean that they would completely put aside their personal views on the matter, and where possible altering the composition of their editorial boards to as to be genuinely inclusive and contain several members who reject the tenets of feminism."
Do you actually think this is true of most editorial boards? That's really naive.

Anonymous said...

Right, Ben: I'm saying that feminist philosophy is set up so as to preclude that kind of project. And as I agreed and re-emphasized, that's an empirical matter. It seems for the reasons I just gave above that the evidence supports what I'm saying. I don't see the evidence on the other side, but again you're welcome to provide it.

Anonymous said...

To Anon 7:37:

A: You say "For what it's worth, feminists aren't usually in the business of denying people the label 'feminist philosophy.'" OK, can you show some cases where feminist philosophers have embraced as femphilosophy the sorts of articles and contributions we're talking about? This is, again, an empirical question here.

B: If there's no set of necessary and sufficient conditions for something being feminist philosophy, then why is it a purported discipline at all? Surely those who suggest it's important must have something in mind that feminist philosophy does that isn't already covered by other areas of philosophy. If they don't have anything, then what are we discussing?

C: Examples abound of philosophers writing critically about metaphysics, and any metaphysician worth his or her salt confronts these objections regularly. Sextus Empiricus, Hume, Kant, Ayer, Carnap, Stich, Unger, etc. etc. Please, show me the equivalent for feminist philosophy: established philosophers who, after feminist philosophy came into exitence, have been published challenging its central assumptions and very legitimacy from an outside perspective and whom every feminist philosopher thinks it important to refute.

Your request that I show you that a marginal number of articles about metaphysics feature the scientism *of Neil DeGrasse Tyson* is surely unfair. I didn't put any limitations on the sort of antifeminism that I asked you about.

But let's not lose the overall point here. Suppose Neil DeGrasse Tyson were to be cross-listed as a philosopher in my department, and suppose he regularly made denigrating comments (in whichever sense of 'denigrate' you think was intended by the Colorado Site Visit report) in front of the people the SVR prohibits us from doing. Surely, we philosophers could come up with responses to him and wouldn't need to pressure him politically to keep his mouth shut. That's the point that's being missed here. If criticism is unfair, then point it out. Don't try to ban it.

D: You say, "Zero raised the point that even if we grant all the claims about the nature of feminist philosophy, and thus grant that it is unlike any other subdisciplines, this would only be problematic if our field accepted a blanket protection for subdisciplines. Since we have not accepted such a blanket protection..."

So you're saying that you think nothing bad will happen to people who criticize feminist philosophy openly? It won't cause those people professional problems either directly or as a result of some bullhorn mob shouting or writing that there must be something sexist about that person, etc.? You think that criticizing feminist philosophy would be treated no differently from criticizing epistemology?

E: I don't think editorial boards on decent journals are always impartial, but at least there are many cases of such boards publishing articles that call the legitimacy of their disciplines into question. But I'm still waiting to see your case for feminist philosophy journal articles doing that. As you started out by saying, it's an empirical question. Where's the evidence, please?

Anonymous said...

Zero asks, "Am I the only one who doesn't find this "No True Subdiscipline" stuff remotely compelling?"

I'm not sure I find it "compelling" or even "remotely compelling," but I do think that the recognition of Feminist Philosophy as a sub-discipline (understood as an AOS) is weird for reasons that aren't all that easy to articulate (but here's a stab at it!).

Forget about whether feminist philosophy has ideological commitments in a way that everything else doesn't.

I guess I think it's weird that feminist philosophy is an AOS because we don't also elevate expertise on similarly narrow topics to AOS status. For example, I'm sure the topic of _class_ raises a lot of the same kind of problems as the gender-related ones that feminist philosophers spend their time thinking about. And I'm also sure that there are plenty of experts on this topic who have a lot of interesting things to say about them. But we don't find AOSs in philosophy of class. Why not?

Or take a philosopher who focuses just about all of their time on the nature of belief. We would call this person an epistemologist, not a philosopher of belief, no? So why do we call a philosopher who spends all of their on the constitution of gender a feminist philosopher, and not just a metaphysician?

It also seems weird to elevate feminist philosophy to an AOS, because it seems to presuppose that the issues related to the oppression of women are _too distinct_ from similar issues (e.g. oppression based on race) to be profitably discussed in, say, metaethics (or metaphilosophy, perhaps).

So, it's not that it's a problem that people can have an AOS in feminist philosophy but it does seem weird. Maybe that's why people are reluctant about accepting it as such, and not because they're sexist or something.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Zero,

By flippantly dismissing the problem with your hip saying, 'big bowl of who gives a fuck', you glibly reveal that you're determined to win the battle without noticing the war that you're helping all of us lose.

For most of their history, universities have been under the ideological sway of some ideological group or another -- whoever's been paying the bills. One way or another (not surprisingly), that's been the church or the state.

What we have now, after centuries of fighting for it, is a university system in which the right to free expression is sacrosanct. And what got us here? An understanding, at long last, that the aim of a university is not to indoctrinate but to allow for and promote free inquiry.

The cornerstone of that is simple: all of us, as private individuals and members of our universities, are free to express and explore whatever views we wish. But as a collective, legitimate universities and their functional units may not take, promote, or be biased toward any opinion on any controversial matter. Period. If they did, then of course they would violate the freedom of inquiry that should be enjoyed by their individual members. But that's not all: they would violate the core promise that entitles them to public and (typically) foundational support, and they would remove their own credibility in the public's eye.

This, Mr. Zero, is the reason why we would not take seriously a university or subdiscipline like 'Pro-capitalist philosophy' or 'the department of Ayn Rand promotion'. But if you and the fems have your way, it's only so long before that starts to happen.

Why can't corporations give funding to departments to hire some philosophers to work in the new 'subfield' of 'free trade philosophy', which is just like normal philosophy except that its practitioners are committed to reflecting on how great it is for the economy to have sweatshops and cheap foreign labor? Or why can't the NRA pay Princeton, say, to establish ten new chairs in the soon-to-be-burgeoning field of pro-gun philosophy? One reason only: because through a careful avoidance of setting the wrong precedent, we make clear that we're serious when we say that no biased subdisciplines or departments get any respect.

But here you and the feministphilosophers come and try to change all that. And nobody complains openly, because unlike the NRA and the Catholic church and the free market think tanks, feminism is a flag we're all pressured into saluting whenever it's raised.

Well, the NRA, the Catholic church, and the free market have been trying to fight their way in for a long time now, and you're giving them an opening. And they have way, way more money than feminist organizations. When the budgets start to get tight and administrators start to get greedy (hint: already happening), offers of conditional funding will start to seem tempting. And I'd bet my life savings that they'll point to you and your fellow travellers in support of letting ideologies be subdisciplines. And then we're all fucked.

But you're not worried about any of this, you say, because there are a couple of dictionary definitions of 'denigrate' and you think that the administrators to whom the SVR was dishonestly leaked by the feminist SVC would interpret it in the way you like and never use it to fuck anyone over. Let's look at that.

Anonymous said...


Suppose you're right somehow and 'denigrate' is restricted to unfair criticism and that the administrators will for some reason follow that policy. Let's just assume that for the sake of argument so we consider how it would be if you have all the protection you think you'll have. OK, now the members of your department who work on pro-Catholic philosophy start putting up anti-abortion posters everywhere. You're asked about this in one of your classes and you say that you don't think the anti-abortionist arguments are any good. A Catholic student is offended and reports you for violating the code by 'denigrating' pro-Catholic philosophy. Your pro-Catholic colleagues agree. You claim that you had in mind certain objections to their arguments, so it wasn't unfair. They think otherwise. And the dean is under pressure from above to make the department friendly to the Catholic sponsors, and he now has to decide whether your critique was fair or unfair. What do you think will happen? Do you like this prospect? Do you think it's a better way to have universities?

We've got a good thing going here, Mr. Zero. Let's not blow it.

Ben A. said...

10:35/6:54, You write:

"Suppose that what you say is true: suppose that the editors at Hypatia and Feminist Philosophy Quarterly would be very happy to publish works defending those views, and would give any such submissions fair consideration. By fair consideration, I mean that they would completely put aside their personal views on the matter, and where possible altering the composition of their editorial boards to as to be genuinely inclusive and contain several members who reject the tenets of feminism."

"Putting aside one's personal views" is a pretty vague requirement, particularly as a necessary condition for fairness. After all, *some* of my personal views will be exceedingly relevant in judging the quality of a manuscript submission. Exactly which of our personal views should and should not be taken into consideration for review purposes is an interesting and important question.

You seem to be saying that a necessary condition for fairness in feminist philosophical journal publication would require having board members who "reject the tenets of feminism." What does this phrase mean? Certainly members of Hypatia editorial and advisory boards disagree among each other about a wide range of subjects. Each of them will reject certain feminist claims and endorse others.

You also write as follows:

"Suppose also that they would gladly have over half the journal consist of explicitly anti-feminist views, not just as a 'special antifeminist edition' or something but on a regular basis, should the quality of those articles be objectively (i.e. not by a group with a clear feminist bias) better contributions to the discussion, philosophically speaking."

Here the phrase "they would gladly have" seems importantly ambiguous to me. It could be that a journal is committed a procedural conception of its mission, so that it publishes work within its clearly identified domain that passes peer review. As an editor of such a journal, I might not be glad to see that the journal's published content happens to be reflecting this rather than that, and yet I may be sufficiently committed to procedural justice in anonymous review processes that my gladness or lack thereof makes no difference.

But furthermore, I'm not sure what you mean by "anti-feminist" views in this context. The whole point is that such questions are among those up for consideration in feminist philosophy. So, for example, can one articulate a compelling account of gender-specific submission compatible with feminist values? Perhaps one will attempt to offer a feminist ethical critique of contraception. And so on...

You seem to endorse a particular conception of objectivity that just doesn't resonate with me. Fair enough; we can disagree about what objective processes of evaluation require.

Finally, as I'm sure you'll agree, looking at the record of what's actually been published or not published in Hypatia (for example) over a given period of time will not tell us what was rejected, or on what grounds these submissions were rejected. Nor will it tell us what people may have considered submitting but refrained from doing so. However, if a person's submitted work were rejected for particular reasons, and these reasons seemed to be suspect, then s/he might offer this up as potential evidence. We could consider the submitted work itself alongside the reasons for rejection (all of this could still be done anonymously, to be sure). This might be a promising if laborious approach we might collectively take up.

Anonymous said...

Regarding point C:

"However, if I endorse scientism (a la NDT), I would not be doing metahpysics."

Hmm, I'm not so sure. What about Ladyman and Ross's "Every Thing Must Go: Metaphysics Naturalized", in which they excoriate contemporary analytic metaphysics for its disengagement with and irrelvance to science, and advocate its replacement by what they call naturalistic metaphysics, a project intended to unify scientifcally serious hypotheses. (The title of the first (66 page!) chapter -- "In Defense of Scientism" -- is revealing!)

Many metaphysicans did not like the book. (See for instance Cian Dorr's review here: https://ndpr.nd.edu/news/24377-every-thing-must-go-metaphysics-naturalized/). But I don't know response that argues that the book is not a work of metaphysics.

(It's not as if this work is a major outlier either -- see also the volume "Scientific Metaphysics", edited by Ladyman, Ross, and Kincaid, with a diverse range of contributors and dedicated to more or less the same project.)

Anonymous said...

"What we have now, after centuries of fighting for it, is a university system in which the right to free expression is sacrosanct."

We do? Can I come to your university? Because at mine, adjuncts find themselves "non-renewed" when they express their disappointment with living below the poverty line. Recently, some untenured TT faculty failed tenure review because they were found to have been acting against the public interests of the university by speaking against massive cuts to educational programs.

Your university sounds much better. Are you hiring?

Mr. Zero said...

But we don't find AOSs in philosophy of class. Why not?

I don't know. One hypothesis is that class doesn't make the sort of difference in American life that it often does in Europe, whereas gender does. One notable exception to this is the institution of slavery and its descendants, which created a kind of race-based class system. But my understanding is that there *is* a philosophical subdiscipline that deals with those issues.

But I'm just speculating. I don't know.

By flippantly dismissing the problem with your hip saying, 'big bowl of who gives a fuck',

Well, that's not all I said. I said I thought philosophers ought to be free to work on whatever they think is interesting or important, in whatever way they find interesting or important, and to see their work as connected with or related to that of others in whatever way they find interesting or important. It seems to me that this is an important facet of academic freedom.

This, Mr. Zero, is the reason why we would not take seriously a university or subdiscipline like 'Pro-capitalist philosophy' or 'the department of Ayn Rand promotion'. But if you and the fems have your way, it's only so long before that starts to happen.

I just don't see this slope as being particularly slippery. This thing where the head honcho of BB&T is trying to pay colleges to teach Rand is corrupt. I agree that it's important to be vigilant against corruption. Is feminist philosophy corrupt? Is there money? Show me the money.

...feminism is a flag we're all pressured into saluting whenever it's raised.

I'm not sure what this remark is supposed to mean, so I'm not sure how to respond to it.

Suppose you're right somehow and 'denigrate' is restricted to unfair criticism and that the administrators will for some reason follow that policy.

It seems to me that you've hit upon a serious issue here: the administration. If I were at Colorado, I'd be scared shitless, but not because of the SVR, and not because of the Best Practices document. I'd be scared shitless because the administration has an absolutely abysmal track record of supporting the academic freedom of its faculty. But it doesn't seem to me that this is because they're feminists; it's because they're cowards. I can't see where they have any ideals whatsoever.

Anonymous said...

Straw man, 2:02. The fact that there are breaches in the recognition of a principle does not in any way entail that that principle is not held to be sacrosanct. Norms can withstand a certain amount of violation and still be held up, but after enough violations they begin to cave in. In particular, the very people who try to uphold the norms (the faculty) should not shoot themselves in the foot by blatantly violating them. There's a world of difference between that and the administration violating them.

Mr. Zero,

I'm not saying that feminist philosophers have been bought with money. You're confusing the case you're opening the door for with the case at hand: they're different.

What I'm saying is that it's bad for all of us if we open the door to there being disciplines or subdisciplines that carry with them ideologies, and where those ideologies cannot be denigrated (whichever meaning of 'denigrated' you happen to have in mind).

As for Colorado, well, obviously, administrators at most universities are sick and greedy human beings who would chop our heads off and turn us into mindless drones if they have half a chance. The only thing that's holding them back is the collective resistance of the faculty members. That's my point. The feminist Site Visit Program was happy to collude with the administrators and give them the document they needed to really start fucking things up in the department. It's not because the administrators there are feminists: they're just sociopathic assholes. But the feminist philosophers handed them a bomb they could detonate under the department, and they think it's a victory for them because the bomb had the name 'feminism' on it.

Mr. Zero said...

You're confusing the case you're opening the door for with the case at hand: they're different.

I don't think I was confusing them. I was pointing out that they are different.

What I'm saying is that it's bad for all of us if we open the door to there being disciplines or subdisciplines that carry with them ideologies, and where those ideologies cannot be denigrated

I don't see where anyone is saying that the political commitments characteristic of feminism (or whatever) cannot be criticized. The Best Practices document says that the criticisms are better when they are focused rather than sweeping, specific rather than general, and stated using non-invidious language. But I think that it is of some philosophical and social importance to do that.

Anonymous said...

Zero: [i]I don't know. One hypothesis is that class doesn't make the sort of difference in American life that it often does in Europe, whereas gender does. One notable exception to this is the institution of slavery and its descendants, which created a kind of race-based class system. But my understanding is that there *is* a philosophical subdiscipline that deals with those issues.[/i]

You don't really want to claim that the reason that there is no philosophy of class AOS is that class makes less of a difference in American life than gender, do you? No, I know you don't. That's why you said you were just speculating.

Here's another explanation for why we don't have AOSs in philosophy of class: Because people who do philosophy of class are just doing political philosophy, and we already have an AOS for that.

Someone will surely point out that calling feminist philosophy 'political philosophy' wouldn't work, because there are feminist philosophers who also (say) think about the constitution of gender. But aren't there political philosophers who think about (say) what makes a class a class, who are still only thought to be doing political philosophy?

So again, it's weird that feminist philosophy gets to be distinguished above neighboring subtopics of philosophy as its own AOS.

Anonymous said...

I remember, a couple of years ago, a female philosopher frequently commenting here that she came from a working class background and that the hindrances and biases associated with class were far greater obstacles in her doing philosophical work than her sex, which was not an issue at all.

She's right. Class is the great invisible divide in America, and it's getting greater all the time. There are very serious moral issues associated with that, compared with which many of the feminist hobbyhorses seem piffling.

But the fact is, nobody really wants to address that. Sure, feminists will give a teary-eyed, concern-faced sigh or two in that direction every once in awhile. But nothing will be done. How can it? Only a few spots at the top universities will ever be made available to lower-class applicants with promise. The system can't sustain itself otherwise, economically. The political progressives have lost the war. Both political parties embrace economic neoliberalism and the dismantling of the state, and there's no room for a third party. The lower classes are fucked, and they will continue to be more and more fucked as time goes by.

But the consciences of the largely privileged liberal academics are easy to assuage for these failures of public policy. Instead of genuine diversity, we can find ways to increase the most superficial kinds of diversity. We now have more students than ever from privileged families in our universities: rich black people, rich women, rich hispanics, and rich gay people.

And sure, this is better than it being just rich white hetero men. But to call this 'diversity' is a joke. It's a trick that gets used to convince liberals that they're making a difference when the world has long ago slipped out of their grasp.

And the suggestion in response is that class doesn't make as much of a difference in American life? What?

Mr. Zero said...

You don't really want to claim that the reason that there is no philosophy of class AOS is that class makes less of a difference in American life than gender, do you? No, I know you don't.

No, and the more I think about it the more I'd like to distance myself from that hypothesis. Not that great of an idea.

Here's one I think is a little better: the civil rights movement that would advocate for the interests of the poor is nonexistent (in the United States--I'm not well-informed about the situation elsewhere) in comparison with the civil rights movements that advocate for the interests of e.g. women and african-americans.

But if there were a subdiscipline like that--philosophy of class--that said that philosophy has traditionally been done almost exclusively by members of the upper classes, and that this exclusivity has had a deep effect on what problems have received philosophical attention and what philosophers have tended to say about the issues they've addressed, would that be good or bad?

Because it seems to me that it might be good for the discipline, and good full stop. It seems to me that at least some of the work might be good, and might lead to real progress. Some of it would suck, of course, but probably not all of it. And it seems to me that someone who thought it was all shitty might be exhibiting some (potentially latent) classism, particularly if he or she wasn't well-versed in the literature. And it doesn't seem to me that it would have to overlap perfectly with political philosophy, and might be distinctive and popular enough that it deserved to be thought of on its own.

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