Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Anne Jaap Jacobson interview

Anne Jaap Jacobson is interviewed at 3AM Magazine, called "the neurofeminist philosofunkster."
I'm not exactly sure what a Philosofunkster is, but I'm quite sure that the world needs more of them!

The interview ranges across intentionality (skepticism but not eliminativism), neuroscience, experimental philosophy, what makes certain forms of analytic philosophy so excruciatingly tedious, what feminist philosophy adds to other approaches, David Hume, and the roadblocks put down for women in philosophy and science.

One part worth noting quotes a report from the AHA:

People seem to be uncertain about whether a woman can do science, and dead certain that a female philosopher has no place in that world.
I could recount a host of other insults, some quite large and some small, and the very worst of it all is that it accomplishes just about nothing, saps one’s strength and weakens one’s morale. This is happening to women in philosophy across the country. When I recently felt I was being done substantial harm, I hired a lawyer. I have since learned I know a number of successful women who have finally gone the same route. The American History Association’s 2005 report on the Status of Women notes that among senior women in their field:
“There is more than enough resignation, bitterness, disillusionment, and discouragement to warrant a more serious and extensive consideration of gender in the profession than we were able to carry out in this survey. … The profession as a whole should be concerned that so many successful women feel they have suffered from gender discrimination. Female talent is being squandered in fights over large and small issues that could be ameliorated by the attentiveness of administrators, department chairs, and colleagues, and the establishment of more transparent institutional procedures.”
And history is supposed to be much better than philosophy. As numerous studies are pointing out, we badly need administrators who will not accept what can amount to a prolonged harassment of women.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Twin-Earth, Hilary Putnam, and the 47%

Philosophy of science exam question:
What does a theory of reference aim to give an account of? Why is a theory of reference relevant for philosophy of science?
An exam answer:
A theory of reference aims to provide a guide for finding the source for entitlement

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Women in Politics = Women in Philosophy

Sam, a student in my Feminist Theory course, points out that the percentage of people with full-time teaching jobs who are women is about 17% and that the percentage of people in Congress who are women is also about 17%.

No claim about magic numbers here, but just an interesting mirroring.
17% of U.S. Senators are women.
16.6% of the members of the U.S. House of Representatives are women.

In both cases, there is nothing about the work that's done that would predispose women to have less ability or experience than men. (Indeed, in both cases isn't the work related to universals? That is, in the political body, a single representative stands for all constituents, and in philosophy, the philosopher identifies universal truths.) Also in both cases, the methods involve adversarial discussion, and the field's history is predominately male and symbolically masculine.

Monday, October 29, 2012

But it's a Design school!

My university is not just an engineering school, it's a design school, too. We have very good programs in film, in fine art photography, in industrial design. (We're also getting an architecture program, in spite of having no architects on the faculty.)

But here we are, #9 on the Princeton Review's list of 10 UGLY campuses! Hey, they picked one of the nicest shots they could for the slide show!

Recent Chronicle Articles on Women in Academe

Two articles about women's representation in the sciences and philosophy have come out in the last week. One is behind a paywall and focuses on women in philosophy and history: http://chronicle.com/article/In-Terms-of-Gender/135306/

The other tracks women's publishing records in the sciences and makes a few nice points which can be generalized to other areas of research: http://chronicle.com/article/The-Hard-Numbers-Behind/135236/
(The most interesting parts of this article come toward the end, so it's worth reading it in full.)

The first of these, which features Sally Haslanger in a photo, goes over familiar ground. For instance, the speculation that women are turned off by the male canon, but with no explanation of why that would hold in philosophy but not English. And the Rutgers female graduate students' defense of their department, in which they say
their views are taken seriously, they are supported by faculty, and they in turn are role models for undergraduate women. 
If this is true, then what more could one want? One may doubt their word, but it seems entirely conceivable to me that a department may be woman-friendly without anyone doing specific work in feminist philosophy. Feminist work is important, but it needn't be done everywhere--there are good reasons for a department specializing. The proof is in the success and well-being of the women faculty and students.

Another familiar idea to explain the absence of women makes its appearance:

"Philosophy, in the English ­speaking world, has migrated closer to the sciences, and places a high premium on technical skills, logic, and dividing problems into lots of small pieces," Mr. Leiter says. 

But this ignores the prevalence of women in the sciences, including in those areas, such as molecular biology, biochemistry, and chemical engineering, which use technical skills and highly specialized problem areas. Women make up over 50% of undergrads in the life sciences and a larger proportion of majors in chemistry than in philosophy. What it does do is to put the blame on women for being underprepared or selling themselves short. What it doesn't do is take responsibility for the social environment, which is a sufficient explanation for philosophy's shortfall.

The article on women's record of publishing in the sciences is more sophisticated and offers a more complex picture of women's changing status. Women are not let off the hook--the article suggests that they submit fewer papers to journals. But this observation is situated in the complex social setting women find themselves in, for instance with obligations for childcare and eldercare and different expectations for non-research academic work.

The article also shows some of the simplistic thinking that comes to the fore when we discuss the status of women in research, even by people whose other professional work is supremely complex and nuanced. For instance, there is often an assumption that if women aren't facing active, open hostility and obvious discrimination, then nothing is wrong. In that case, any choices they make to cluster in subfields, to publish at lower rates, to collaborate less, or to accept a lower author ranking are chalked up to their own lack of proficiency rather than the social setting.
John J. Siegfried, a professor emeritus of economics at Vanderbilt University who has worked with the economic association, says there is not much that academe can do about gender imbalances, short of forcing women into subfields that may not interest them. "What's the solution?" he asks. "Should I tell women starting a Ph.D. that they should only study finance or econometrics?"
It can seem obvious to the women who consider work in certain subfields that it is controlled by crony networks, or that newcomers are more or less welcomed. This is one of the phenomena which is the target of the Gendered Conference Campaign.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Markets, and also Media Influences on Thought

This post is about Pornography. But I've learned better than to put that in the post title, or it attracts all kinds of comments which then have to be deleted for the sake of decency.

My Feminist Theory course has been discussing pornography, and the reading assignment last week was a well-structured examination of the issues that Catherine MacKinnon raised in the mid-1980s. The pornosphere was so different then, though, that my students had a hard time understanding what the debate was about.

Their obtuseness didn't just seem a result of different experiences with porn than the easy access to Playboy and little else that was a feature of life before the internet. Their premises about cultural influence seemed markedly different from mine and from those of the textbook chapter we read. Most of the students weren't disagreeing with MacKinnon's point. Beyond disagreement, there seemed to be a failure of comprehension. Some of the sticking points:

1. MacKinnon and other feminists started by formulating a definition of porn that differed from the Supreme Court. While the Supreme Court's definition uses criteria such as 'obscenity,' 'prurience,' and 'community standards,' the feminists don't mind materials that are sexually explicit or unusual ("kinky"). Their problem is with violence and with acts and attitudes which are dehumanizing. My students' response was that "you can't change a definition--just look it up in the dictionary." What's going on here? A failure to understand philosophical methods? A failure to see the role of law in changing culture? A failure to accept that culture can change and be changed, that it's not simply given? I don't have a sense of the reason for the strenuous opposition to MacKinnon's move of using a term ("porn") to specify a category different from the category the term usually specifies.

2. Once they understood that MacKinnon was only talking about a subset of porn, the students' response was "don't watch what you don't like." And also, "if enough people like her want more sex-positive porn, then the market will respond." Thus, all culture and all means of controlling culture were reduced to markets. And furthermore, there was the unstated belief that markets are responsive and can't (or shouldn't) be controlled.

3. Finally, the majority of the class resisted the idea at the heart of MacKinnon's critique--that the content of porn could shape how people think about sexual possibilities. That is, though they agreed that many young people look to porn as a form of sex ed, they disagreed that porn influenced how people think about what's appropriate or inappropriate behavior in sexual relationships. Further, there seemed to be general disagreement with the statement that media affect how people think. Instead, they believe that viewers exercise free choice in what they watch, and they only choose to watch things that reflect what they already think. There was strong resistance to the idea that what you watch can change your perception of the world.

Monday, September 17, 2012

More Examined Than Some

A former student recommends The Partially Examined Life podcast and blog.

[Whoa! Is that a St. John's College t-shirt on one of the bloggers? What IS the ratio of philosophers to others at that school? Not that they have majors.]

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Interviews at 3AM

It's apparent that since I avoid reading the most-read philosophy blog I do sometimes miss a gem.

And so here I am, on a Saturday evening, finding some thoughtful weekend reading: Richard Marshall's interviews with philosophers at 3AM magazine.

Earlier this week:
Huw Price on deflationary accounts of truth and tenseless time

Last week:
Simon Blackburn, too, touches on deflationism (if these interviews were all one read, wouldn't one develop a healthy attitude toward truth?), but also on relativism and--true to his style, so to speak--just about everything else.

And from the dimly remembered days of summer:
Elizabeth Anderson, who gives a shout-out both to Dewey and to the Levellers.

Update: As I dig deeper into a pint of pistachio ice cream and into my Saturday evening reading, I said to my nearby Saturday evening philosophy-reading friend, "Huh, I never really thought that the second thing someone would say about Huw Price, after 'ice cool,' is that he's a pragmatist. I guess he is a pragmatist, sort of. But it's not the first or second thing to say."
Response: Sure, he's a pragmatist. Like Brandom's a pragmatist.
Me: Elizabeth Anderson--now there's a pragmatist. John Dewey's right there at her elbow. Her work is always socially engaged. Price and Brandom? That's affinity with pragmatism not identity with pragmatism.
Response: Why's it matter?
Me: It's an honorific.
Response: True that.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Gendered Conference Campaign

The Gendered Conference Campaign has designed a petition to publicize the importance of attending to inclusive gender participation among professional philosophers. To sign the petition is to commit to paying attention to whether or not women are included or excluded from organized events (conferences, speaker series), from invitations to contribute to edited volumes, and for other forms of work which are typically organized through precisely those informal networks which tend to leave out women.

The petition also includes a set of links to help jog our memories about the women who work in various subfields:
"Information on female experts in various areas is available hereherehere,here."

Friday, September 07, 2012

Bad writing and writing badly

Siris writes about Jonah Lehrer and the scandal of his recycled, misquoted, and plagiarized writing for the New Yorker and Wired. Most of the work that has been called into question appeared as blog posts or in books.

A news (NYT) article is here, and a more extensive analysis of what he did wrong and why it was wrong is on Slate here.

Siris makes an excellent point about the differences between journalistic writing and academic writing and that though they are similar in that authors in each area strive to say something distinctive or in a distinctive way, the ways in which they build their reputations are different.

That line becomes blurred, though, when academic writing becomes judged as a matter of quantity without concern for the content of what is said (e.g. in merit evaluations that simply quantify number of articles published) or the process of vetting (selectivity of journals, % of their articles that are submitted rather than invited, forms of peer review). I remember reading about this problem and an effort to combat it a while back, but I haven't heard much in the meantime about its effects.

Charles Seife, the author of the Slate article makes a subtle move, highlighting his own control over his writing and the way that a point can be made available to certain readers without making an unfair or explicit accusation. Seife shows text that Lehrer wrote next to previously published but very similar text by other authors. The explicit message is that Lehrer plagiarized others' work. What is not said but can't be missed is that in every case the original passage conveys more detail in fewer words using more interesting sentence structure. A secondary question follows the ethical issue of plagiarism--how does a writer rise to stardom when his material is not (all) original and his writing is not in the best style?

And now a serious question. I've assigned Lehrer's "The Truth Wears Off," an article in the New Yorker, in my philosophy of science class later this term. The New Yorker has posted notes on Lehrer's blog posts identifying the recycled material but has not made a note about this article. On the other hand, the Wired piece makes it seem as though everything Lehrer has written should be called into question, not just for having been recycled (which doesn't bother me in this particular context) and not just because of plagiarism, but also because of factual inaccuracies and unsupported claims. The New Yorker's fact-checking department has a sound reputation, so should I keep the article on the syllabus?

Friday, August 31, 2012

SPSP cfp 2013

Now this is one conference that I couldn't possibly miss.

Open Calls for Papers: Society for Philosophy of Science in Practice, Fourth Biennial Conference

Location: University of Toronto, Canada
Event Date: 26-29 June 2013
Submission Deadline: Dec. 1, 2012
Notification of acceptance: 1 February 2013 
Main Contact: Andrea Woody at the University of Washington

Keynote speakers will include: 

Rachel A. Ankeny (University of Adelaide) 
James Griesemer (University of California at Davis) 
Arthur Fine (University of Washington) 

Please see the SPSP website for details and submission guidelines: 


The Society for Philosophy of Science in Practice (SPSP) aims to create an interdisciplinary community of scholars who approach the philosophy of science with a focus on scientific practice and the practical uses of scientific knowledge. For further details on our objectives, see our mission statement on our website (URL above). 

The SPSP biennial conferences provide a broad forum for scholars committed to making detailed and systematic studies of scientific practices — neither dismissing concerns about truth and rationality, nor ignoring contextual and pragmatic factors. The conferences aim at cutting through traditional disciplinary barriers and developing novel approaches. We welcome contributions from not only philosophers of science, but also philosophers working in epistemology and ethics, as well as the philosophy of engineering, technology, medicine, agriculture, and other practical fields. Additionally, we welcome contributions from historians and sociologists of science, pure and applied scientists, and any others with an interest in philosophical questions regarding scientific practice. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

FEAST 2013 cfp

I've never submitted to FEAST. Florida hasn't been appealing. Arizona is slightly more appealing, though further away from New York.

Pluralism is a potentially divisive topic, oddly enough! I think this would be open to some work on interdisciplinarity and on collaboration between philosophy and other disciplines. If I submitted it would be in that vein.

The Association for Feminist Ethics and
Social Theory

invites submissions for the Fall 2013 conference:

Envisioning Plurality: Feminist Perspectives on Pluralism in Ethics, Politics, and Social Theory

Oct. 17-20, 2013

Fiesta Resort and Conference Center
Tempe, AZ

submission deadline: February 28, 2013

Keynote speakers:
Linda Martín Alcoff, Professor of Philosophy at Hunter College and the CUNY Graduate Center. Author of Visible Identities: Race, Gender and the Self,  Alcoff has initiated public discussions of pluralism, through both her Pluralist’s Guide to Philosophy and her 2012 NYT op-ed piece addressing Arizona’s censorship of the teaching of critical race theory in public schools.

Jennifer Lisa Vest is a mixedblood (Black/Florida Seminole/German) poet and philosopher who holds the position of Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Central Florida.  Co-author of Philanthropy in Communities of Color, her book manuscript Sovereign Wisdom: Generating Academic Native American Philosophy is under review.

Invited Sessions:
·        Viewing and discussion of film, “Precious Knowledge”
·        Invited Panel on Pluralism

FEAST encourages submissions related to this year's theme. However, papers on all topics within the areas of feminist ethics and social theory are welcome.
Description of this year's theme:
One meaning of pluralism within philosophy is that it seeks to bring
underrepresented theoretical perspectives and underrepresented groups into the philosophical mainstream, transforming philosophy as a result. Yet what is meant by "pluralism" and how to assess whether or not pluralism has been achieved remains hotly contested.

While philosophy is often depicted as the academic field most in need of pluralistic correctives, other disciplines, too, struggle with the marginalization of those whom, due to their theoretical approaches or their bodies, have been pushed to the edges of their disciplines.

This year's FEAST conference encourages submissions that challenge us to think in new ways about the boundaries, methodologies, and subject matter of academic subfields that pertain to feminist ethics, politics, and social theory, broadly construed. The program committee welcomes papers that take both theoretical and practical approaches to these issues. We aim to create a conference with a diverse group of presenters and a wide range of approaches, topics, and styles. FEAST strongly encourage members of groups that are underrepresented in academia to send submissions.

Call to submit a panel proposal (topic and speakers) for a lunch time “Difficult Conversation”
FEAST conferences typically feature a lunch time “Difficult Conversation” that focuses on an important, challenging, and under-theorized topic related to feminist ethics or social theory. Past topics include: Critical Understandings of Dependency and Disability; Are Academic Feminist Philosophies and Methodologies Still Too White?; A Difficult Conversation about Feminist Sexualities and Identities.  We hereby invite proposals for next year’s Difficult Conversation.

Submission Guidelines
A completed paper of no more than 3000 words must be submitted for individual presenters and prepared for anonymous review. Proposals for a Difficult Conversations session or for non-paper formats (e.g., workshops, discussions, etc.) must include detailed descriptions (500-750 words).

Please send your submission, in one document (a Word file, please, so that abstracts can be posted), to feast2013@csbsju.edu  by February 28, 2013.  Your document must include: paper title, abstract of 100-250 words, and your paper, with no identifying information. The word count (max. 3,000) should appear on the top of the first page of your paper. In the body of the email message, please include: your paper or panel title, name, institutional affiliation, e-mail address, surface mail address, and phone number. All submissions will be anonymously reviewed.

Note: Panel organizers, please send the panel title and all three abstracts and papers in one document, along with word counts (3,000 for each paper). Difficult Conversations and other non-paper submissions should be marked as such.

For more information on FEAST or to see programs from previous conferences, go to:  http://www.afeast.org
Questions on this conference or the submission process may be directed to the Program Chair, Jean Keller, at feast2013@csbsju.edu .

Back to School 2012

Labor Day is rolling around, and for me that always means the first day of the official academic year. Perhaps some day my university's schedulers will come to their senses and give us the national holiday off.

I didn't blog much at all last year but will seek to return to the habit with the new school year. I'll go with the shorter style posts, maybe. I suspect that Facebook has replaced the blogging world entirely. If it can't be said in 140 characters, is it worth saying at all?

What have I been thinking about?
-- The SAF conference at Vanderbilt in October
-- climate ethics
-- how to do undergraduate research with philosophy majors
-- assessment of a general education ethics requirement
-- teaching philosophy of science, and specifically teaching issues having to do with assessing evidence useful for policy decisions
-- teaching feminist theory, and the challenges that poses on my campus, with its particular student body (technical school + art school)
-- increasing interest in the philosophy major among undergraduate women

and lots more stuff than that!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Black Oaks and Majesty

In my neighborhood old-growth forest in the city, one of the black oak logs looks to have 260 rings.  It was a fairly careful count, though the most accurate way of counting rings is to cut and polish a slice of the log--not to count rings in the field. This number is significant because the oldest registered black oak is one with 257 rings, and that one lived in Tennessee.

Here is Neil Pederson's blog, "The Broadleaf Papers," which focuses on the ecology of hardwood forests. These old black oaks that live just up the hill from me are my "Charismatic Megaflora."

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Oxford Comma

Although we long ago received the grammarian's permission to eliminate the last comma in a list, I've been in favor of continuing with the Oxford comma because there are those situations where it adds clarification. A student passed on this graphic which demonstrates why. (As an internet meme I was unable to find the attribution.)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Century of Washington Grove

The neighborhood park which has been the focus of some restoration efforts over the last few years is described in the following piece. It's written by "A Friend of Washington Grove," not by me:

Celebrating Washington Grove's Double Anniversary

One hundred years ago, Rochester's City Council approved legislation authorizing purchase of the “Cobb’s Hill Woods” as the next component of its rapidly developing parks system. Most of the money raised to purchase the land from the Beckwith Farm came from private individuals who saw the inherent benefit of preserving this treasure. It was the culmination of decades of dedicated efforts to preserve this ancient woodland and its pristine glacial landscape. And 2012 is a double anniversary because 80 years ago this year the Cobb's Hill Woods was rededicated as "Washington Memorial Grove." Here's a little history to enjoy.

In the late 1800s, this popular tract had long been enjoyed by nearby residents and passersby. The woods were already popular for nature hikes, picnics, birding, gathering nuts, and hunting. It was even a longtime hangout for hobos and homeless families. The hill is the site of a centuries old Iroquois portage trail and some of its current trails could be from that pre-colonial era.

But as the city’s population grew so did the demand for the high quality sand and gravel that was available in the glacial soils of Cobb’s Hill. Increasingly, edges around the entire hill was being quarried, dug away and carted to points throughout the City to satisfy the community’s increasing construction needs.

In the early 1900s, the desire to preserve open land for parks met the need to create a second reservoir to serve the burgeoning population and new industry. As a consequence, the beautiful Cobb's Hill Park and reservoir were opened in 1908 and became an immediate success and tourist attraction.

But those public lands did not include what we know today as Washington Grove. The woods were still privately owned by the Beckwith family whose farmhouse still stands at the corner of Castlebar and Winton Roads. Park advocates and preservationists continued to seek protection for the Pinnacle Range, especially the "dingle dell" woodlands on the east side of Cobb's Hill.

In 1911, the City of Rochester commissioned the Frederick Law Olmstead firm to aid in an assessment for a City Plan. The result of that effort was a parks plan that envisioned one long contiguous park from Mt. Hope Cemetery all the across the Pinnacle Hills ending at the Beckwith farmlands at Winton Road. Though most of this land never became a park, in 1912, the City, with the help of private individuals, was able to purchase the “Cobbs Hill Woods” and today we enjoy this great woodland because of the hard work of individuals and a shared community vision.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

FEMMSS 4: Day 1

At FEMMSS 4, at Penn State.
First plenary session "Where Theory and Practice Meet: Pragmatist Feminism as a Means of Knowing and Doing Scientific Practice."

The speakers each approach the problem of objectivity in science and what a problem-solving feminist response would be. The problem is that empiricist approaches to scientific practice have (with reasonable success) identified ways to improve objectivity by eliminating unwanted bias from scientific research and policy applications.
Shari Clough: Feminist empiricism identifies social, institutional procedures for scientific inquiry which are less likely to produce the kinds of systematic bias which feminist scientists and philosophers of science have criticized.
Alessandra Tanesini: Empiricist commitments undergird the compliance with (obedience to?) the "Green Book" and the "Magenta Book" which contain the rules for civil servants who do social science research. Policies are developed insofar as they are based on standardized research methods and cost-benefit analysis, and the only research models which influence policy are those which best approximate random controlled trials (controls are not often available in social research for ethical reasons, but randomizing trial groups is). (Though Alessandra does not say it, the implication is that these shared methods do manage to prevent poor or unethical research designs, and at least certain forms of inappropriate and biased uptake of research into policy production.)
Nancy McHugh: Evidence-based medicine has become the norm in medical research and the translation of research into clinical practice. (Again, though she doesn't emphasize this, the reason is that prior to the widespread adoption of EBM, clinical practice varied widely and clinicians often did not change or improve the practices they learned in medical school. This resulted in the continued use of out-of-date, unsupported, and ineffective practices.) EBM replaces "intuitive" clinical practices with those shown by randomized controlled trials to be best practices for "average" patients.

But there is also a problem with empiricist approaches. They are successful at eliminating some unwanted bias from policy or practice. But at the same time, they also eliminate the possibility of applying values (which we would not want to call biased) in ways that positively contribute to developing policies. Each of the speakers shows that there is a cost to eliminating/averaging values, such that empiricist science is less accurate than it could be.

Shari: Empiricism doesn't take personal, subjective, embodied forms of knowledge seriously. Example: a woman's understanding of her body's needs when giving birth.
Alessandra: In the development of social policy to address poverty, empiricist research methods and the standardized definition of poverty are skewed toward identifying easy-to-measure quantities (such as income) rather than subjective harms (such as not being able to afford healthful food). In addition to counting some people as poor who can rely on savings rather than income, this approach also devalues the professional expertise of civil servants and the people who perform the research by relying on 'objective' measures rather than researchers' judgment.
Nancy: People who are marginalized (due to gender, race, ability, income status, language, etc.) don't benefit as much from EBM because they are less likely to fit the model of the 'average patient,' in part because people who belong to marginalized groups are less likely to be included in the randomized controlled trials which establish the 'best' clinical practice. The best practices are best for the average or mainstream patient, but side effects are more likely to affect the non-typical patient. This is particularly true because people from marginalized communities are likely to be excluded from RCT's because they suffer from multiple morbidities. (Nancy also brings John Dewey to bear.)

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Women's Colleges and Women at (Essentially) Men's Colleges

I'm celebrating the choice that one of my friends has just made to attend Mt. Holyoke in the fall. You'll have a great experience, Phoebe!

At the same time, I'm thinking about the two women in my 30-seat philosophy of science class. Last time I taught the course, there were 3 women in it. And the time before that, only one. The women students at my institution are exceptional. One of the things they learn is that they can't fade into the background, and there is a way in which this serves them well. But this is not a world that is built for them.

From The Washington Post, "Why All Colleges Should Think of Themselves as Women's Colleges"

We need more empowered, educated, wise women involved in making the decisions that will lead us out of crisis. And to lead, it's not enough simply to know things. Leaders must be educated to grapple with the complexities of interdependence and must have the confidence to envision possibilities that others have missed, and then make them happen. Leaders must be able to galvanize disparate groups to solve problems.
These are skills that begin in the classroom, and it’s time for higher education to sharpen its focus on inspiring that vision, confidence and capability among women.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Education as Consumption

The business model of higher education which conceives of education as being a consumer good like any other has been criticized on many grounds: it trivializes education overall, it reduces emphasis on humanities and sciences, it drives up grades and drives down rigor, and it inflates tuition costs.

Blind to these criticisms--and to subtlety--my university just introduced a course registration system which asks students to put the courses that they would like to take into their "enrollment shopping cart."

Sunday, April 15, 2012

CFP: Society for Analytical Feminism at Vanderbilt in October

This will be the third conference organized by the Society for Analytical Feminism, and it welcomes papers related to women and feminist thought in all areas of ethics, metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of science, philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, etc. etc.

Special Conference Theme:

Take it to the Bridge:

Crossing between analytic and continental feminist philosophies

October 4-7, 2012

Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, USA

Submission deadline: May 30, 2012

Take it to the bridge: 1. (In music) A phrase that connotes a change of key, a connecting but distinctive series of notes

The Society for Analytical Feminism invites long abstracts (1000-1500 words) on all topics in feminist philosophy. Accepted papers will be given 30 minutes of presentation time.

Analytical approaches to feminist topics are happily invited as usual. In addition, special consideration will be given to abstracts that bridge feminist analytical and continental approaches, including the history of the analytic/continental “divide” in philosophy, mutually informing applications of analytic and continental philosophical methods to specific questions, analyses of the work of philosophers who bridge analytic and continental traditions or of collaborations between analytic and continental philosophers, methodological debates about the study of philosophy, including the value of different traditions, theoretical accounts of pluralism in philosophy.

Plenary speakers

Brooke Ackerly, Vanderbilt University

Amy Allen, Dartmouth College

Samantha Brennan, U of Western Ontario

Sharon Crasnow, Norco College

Heidi Grasswick, Middlebury College

Kelly Oliver, Vanderbilt University

Anita Superson, University of Kentucky

Naomi Zack, University of Oregon

Submission information

Send abstract in MSWord as an attachment via email to the chair of the program committee at . Please delete self-identifying information from abstract. Include in body of e-mail: name, title, contact information, and, if applicable, institutional affiliation.

For questions about local arrangements, including accessibility, at Vanderbilt University, contact Marilyn Friedman: .

Generous support for the conference has been provided by the Philosophy Department and the Dean of Arts & Sciences of Vanderbilt University.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Super Duper True

I learned a new term this weekend at the Lafayette College Environmental Ethics Conference: Supertrue.

A statement is supertrue if it is true in all of its interpretations. That is, the terms of a statement may fail to refer or may be vague and thus the statement lacks a (clear) truth value. But other statements which include that vague statement may themselves have a truth value, and if they are true under any interpretation, then they are supertrue. In the example here, the statement "Pegasus likes licorice" is true under one possible interpretation and false under another. But the statement "Pegasus likes licorice or Pegasus doesn't like licorice" is supertrue.

I have a 5-year-old in my family, and I've fallen into the habit of using "super" to add emphasis to anything and everything. But now that I know this particular term is taken, I'll just have to mark my enthusiasm by escalating the language further.

Thus, a Super Duper Truth is one that is true under any interpretation--AND you feel really strongly about the importance of recognizing its truth.

For example, Does Evelyn wish there is going to be green olive pizza for dinner tonight? Super Duper True, that!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Alice Dreger on technology, ethics, and birth

The Most Scientific Birth Is Often the Least Technological Birth - The Atlantic

A number of important points worth further discussion are slipped into this piece:

De Vries suggests that the organization of maternity care in this country -- "the limited choices that American women have for bringing their baby into the world, what women are not told about dangers of intervening in birth, and the misuse of science to support the new technologies of birth" -- actually constitutes an ethical problem, although we typically do not recognize it as one.

and also a quotation from a medical researcher

"We're all very interested in having healthy babies and it is pretty easy to make the kind of cognitive errors that people make, and attribute to technology benefits that don't exist. At the same time, when there are problems in a pregnancy, that very same technology can be life-saving. It is easy to make the [problematic mental] leap that technology is always going to be necessary for a good outcome."

In other words, that most pregnancies are treated as though they are high-risk does not create an overall benefit.

This issue, a personal one for me and many other women (and their partners) is tied to numerous philosophical issues: the appropriate role for medical ethics, how values are introduced into research design, analysis of evidence, communication of results, and translated into clinical practice. There are also issues of social epistemology: why don't women know which common procedures are couple with risk and which are not? Who benefits from the creation of ignorance in this case? And how can ignorance of risks (and even of variation from one practitioner to another, such that some OB's perform 'routine' episiotomies and some never perform them at all) continue to exist despite easy internet access to scads of information?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Philosophy's Blind Spot

I just received a promo textbook for teaching Intro to Phil. It contains 34 excerpts from primary texts. Five of those cover Hinduism and Buddhism. One of them is by a woman--a literary theorist writing about feminist aesthetics. Well, the world's population includes a whole lot of Hindus and Buddhists.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Who Works for the APA?

OK, so another complaint about the APA, its website, etc. is of course redundant. Who doesn't complain about the APA?

Nonetheless, filling out my membership renewal provokes me even to the point of blogging for the first time in months.

First of all, I'm late renewing. It's February, and the conference programs for the conference almost two months hence have already been sent out. I assume I can't get one at this point. But then again, would I carry the thing across the country or would I just access the program electronically?

And there's more. After years of requests, the APA is finally collecting demographic data on its members. The form asks, for instance, about AOS and gender. It also asks about about employment status, and the options are: adjunct, part-time, tenured, and visiting. Eh? Who made this up? Somehow, the fact that the form has a place to mark a special interest in Logic makes it even more frustrating that this list is incomplete. I suppose the logical thing to do is to leave it blank, since I'm tenure track and hence none of the above.