Thursday, May 27, 2010

CFP - Under-Represented Groups in Philosophy

Sure, sure it's in the UK so it sure wouldn't hurt to have a research budget to get there. And, being 92% white, the UK probably faces different kinds of issues with underrepresented minorities than we do. That said, this CFP I saw over at the Brooks Blog seems right up our alley (Flyer available here):
This conference aims to focus attention on the following topics;

a)identifying the specific problems that minorities in philosophy encounter, especially those that may perpetuate or sustain that minority status;

b)articulating the philosophical concepts and frameworks that may be of use in thinking about these problems;

c)identifying strategies that might be employed in attempting address gender imbalances and the underrepresentation of disabled people and individuals of minority racial or ethnic identities

d)exploring the philosophical underpinnings of these strategies, and critically assessing them.
From the Flyer:
Papers of up to 3000 words prepared for anonymous review should be sent by August 10th 2010 to:
All this is to say, rather than just bitching about it, maybe we should try to bitch in a professional, constructive manner (?)

-- Second Suitor

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Education Reform Now!

I was taking a look at my teaching evals (and no, I'm not revamping my stuff for the fall yet. God.) and got typically angry at the paragraph long rant by that surly kid who consistently shows up just just a minute late and won't avail himself of help no matter how far you go out of your way.

Idea: Why don't we rate students the same way they rate us, you know, with comments optional? So instead of 'B,' you can report 'B - lacks focus in papers, overly aggressive with other students...' Comments go at the end of the transcript for anyone who cares.

-- Second Suitor

Monday, May 17, 2010

Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals of Anonymous Criticism of Real People And Things

This is not meant to be a statement of Official Philosophy Smoker Policy.

Some dumb asshole recently left a staggeringly ignorant and racist comment in one of our comment threads. In the ensuing discussion, the point was raised that this is the downside of permitting anonymous commentary.

I've been thinking about this lately because a little while ago, in a discussion thread concerning some content I lifted from some other blog, someone left an anonymous comment about the author of that other blog that was about 80% vicious invective (much of which was empirically false) and about 20% actual content. The person who was the topic of this comment wrote to me to ask why we would approve a comment like that, when it was so obviously a personal smear and made such a negligible contribution to the debate.

I told this person that I published the comment mostly because of the 20% of it that I thought was worthwhile. I also said that I think that sunlight is the best disinfectant. I think that there is a huge value in letting the dickheads have their say. I think there is no value at all in maintaining a public illusion that there are no dickheads, and I think there is a tremendous value in allowing the dickheads themselves to demonstrate once and for all that they have nothing of value to contribute to the discussion.

Here's an example of this sort of thing in action: when we were (mostly) celebrating the APA's new anti-discrimination policy, there was a not insubstantial subset of commenters who opposed the policy, and who articulated the following reason for doing so: since the guy who presented the petition to the APA works at Colorado @ Boulder, and that department lacks homosexuals, there must be something or other wrong with something or other. Another thing that came up was that I, Mr. Zero, must be (secretly) gay (even though I already conceal my identity), or else I wouldn't care so much about the injustices heaped on gays. I allowed this discussion to go on for kind of a long time because it served the important purpose of demonstrating that there was very, very little serious opposition to the policy.

I also think it's worth pointing out that we almost never get comments like these. I approve well over 99% of the comments we receive, and although we've had a few problems where somebody is being a real dickhead, these have been isolated and rare. If we had a problem with abusive comments or something, I would consider adopting a more heavy-handed policy. But we don't. Other people have more restrictive comment-approval policies, and these policies appear to work well for them, but ours seems to work quite well for us. Almost all our comments are thoughtful, respectful, and intelligent. The comment about how Asians are treated at Harvard and Auburn, for example, was swiftly and completely demolished.

I think we have a really great community here. And that's why I'm proud to be a Smoker.

--Mr. Zero

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Power in numbers

(Via Leiter)

Over at The Splintered Mind, Professor Schwitzgebel, scans the bibliographies on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (minus the historical entries), and gives us the top 40 most cited contemporary authors.

Longtime friend of the Smoker, S (as does commenter Hans), points out that, on the list, there are 39 men and 1 woman. 39-1. Once Professor Schwitzgebel expands the list to 200, on a quick, non-scientific count, the number of women shoots up to 17. 17 out of 200.

We've talked about the issue of women and philosophy a few times before, but, what also stood out to me about the list was the lack of non-White dudes, or more technically underrepresented minorities, on the list. Maybe someone would care to do the counting a bit more rigorously than I can (I'd appreciate the help), but by my super-scientific method of name analysis, I count approximately 1 (Amartya Sen) in the list of 200 (excluding those women included in the number above). 1 in 200. Maybe there's more, so let's bump up the number, generously, to 10 out of 200, regardless: HOLY SHIT.

What to make of the numbers? Well, as friend, S, has snarked to me:
You can rest assured that philosophy is the way it is only because people who aren't white dudes aren't as good at being rigorous and analytical as white dudes are. That's why disciplines with more women and non-white people are morasses of confusion, where no progress ever happens. You know, like biology and cognitive psych.
Maybe I (and my friend) only half-believe this snark, but after lobbing that bomb, let's put it aside. These numbers are disheartening and, shittily and more importantly, map onto recent experiences that I've had at conferences: workshops, dinners, and/or drinks where only or mostly White Dudes were in attendance (present company and a few women excluded), noticing women after talks and at dinners (when they felt comfortable enough to attend) having a more difficult time than men in having conversations started with them, and, more personally, being referred (harmlessly, I suppose) by a much more ethnic name than my given name by a prominent philosopher I had met before.

I'm not going to pretend like I have anything profound to say about this subject. Thinking about these numbers and recent experiences mostly just make me wince, question just why I would want to keep doing philosophy given its culture, find solace in snark, and wonder if I should just suck it up. After all, it's not a real problem since all the women and minorities are stealing the cushy jobs from super-qualified white dudes.

--Jaded Dissertator

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


So here's the question of the day: Based on your experiences this year, what do you expect the average number of applicants to be for (1) specialized positions and (2) open positions?

Anyone else feel extra bad when they get rejected from a place that received less than 200 applications?

I'm going 350/600 [or am I being too influenced by the 588 at Boise State? Side note, Anon 4:53's comment made me smile: "My guess is that at least 100-200 of the applicants must have been ill qualified" because, you know, going against 400-500 applicants isn't intimidating].

For me, the Rice Mellon at 1000+ applicants takes the cake.

-- Second Suitor

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

End of semester stuff

Just some light stuff at the end of the semester:

I recently overheard some students talking about how they were having trouble logging onto A website with answers to questions in textbooks was probably inevitable. Another,, seems to have more philosophy stuff. I guess this just counts as a friendly reminder know...occasionally change exam questions and try not to ask questions straight from a book.

Busy grading? Send those finals to women in Bangalore! Apparently they give "more detailed feedback on their writing than faculty or their TAs actually have time to give."

Of course, students are studying 13 hours less than they did in the 60s (since there was nothing going on then)...

Maybe we'll get back to soul searching and soulless job markets soon, but for now let's think about all the possibilities of summer.

-- Second Suitor