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anne jacobson

I'm quite stunned. At the same time, I'm wondering whether there's a conflict between this fact and the recently criticized question about topics that will suit women. That discussion was largely at Daily Nous.

Bryce Huebner


I'm not really sure what to say, mostly because I didn't follow that discussion closely, and I'm not sure how exactly it went.

Botts and her colleagues are careful to note that they don't have a clear sense of the underlying causal factors that have resulted in the particular distribution of interests that they find in their sample. I wouldn't want to speculate about this either, given the multiplicity of factors that could be involved. So, I guess I plan to wait to see what their follow up paper says, and I hope that it offers some clear insights about how to proceed.

I'm sure that's not satisfying, but it's the closest thing to an answer I can work out.

Rebecca Copenhaver

I'm glad you asked this question, Anne - I was reminded of that discussion as well.

I'm not sure there is as much a conflict as might first appear. As I noted on the Newapps discussion, there areas of philosophy that are neglected or treated as not really philosophy or not really in the core of philosophy where it seems likely that at least part of the reason for the neglect has to do with an explicit or implicit association between that area and a marginalized group. In that discussion, my example was the philosophy of education and its association with women and women's work.

There are a number of things that can be true all at the same time here. It can be true that the topics in philosophy of interest to individuals of some group are: all of them. It can be true as well, that members of a particular group tend to enter and stay in philosophy because of work in a very neglected area. It can be true that the reasons why some folks enter and remain in philosophy through that route are themselves at the same time both beneficial and pernicious. It can be beneficial because philosophy is diversified and made more comprehensive and powerful by the inclusion of people who enter by that route. But it can be pernicious if people enter and stay by that route because of the implicit or explicit message that such an area is where some people ought to be and ought to remain.

This latter point is crucial because it explains why some areas can remain neglected precisely because they are or are seen as an entry point for populations that have been traditionally excluded from philosophy. This feedback effect can operate very successfully at a systematic and implicit level.

That's why I think it's helpful to think about the areas of philosophy that we neglect or relegate to the margins. It's why we might focus more on the questions: what areas of philosophy are deemed not of interest to most philosophers with institutional power and are those areas really so devoid of philosophical value?

Michael Della Rocca

Thanks, Bryce, for this very thought-provoking post and comments.

Sherri Irvin

I appreciate this post & also Rebecca Copenhaver's great reflections here and at Feminist Philosophers.

anne jacobson

Rebecca, thanks again for reflecting on a question of mine in a way that really adds to the discussion. (You'll remember the Hume Soc. this summer.) I'm not sure about the situation, though. Some people have argued that current analytic philosophy is suffused with white male privilege. I don't want to argue that, but I'd be reluctant to say it is never the case that philosophy hasn't required a kind of falseonsciousness..

Even before I started on cogsci, Jenny Lloyd had convinced me that that starting an account of perception by describing what one thought one was seeing when siiting and staring at one's desk might reflect a point of view that was hardly shared. Similarlyy, a whole field based on trying to figure out the truth conditions of "S knows that P" did actually fascinate me, though I now realize I was going to have to fight to be counted a knower, and that all sorts of questions about the minds of thinkers were ruled out.

Aaron Garrett

Thank you Becko and Bryce for the thoughtful posts.

Bharath Vallabha

Perhaps it is helpful to distinguish three questions: A)what philosophical topics a person can be interested in? B) what topics provide a chance for a person to, consciously or unconsciously, reflect on aspects of one's personal ancestors, culture, family history? C) If one is frustrated by lack of choices regarding (B), what topics enable one to express that frustration in a philosophical way?

Irrespective of whether one is male/female/etc, black/white/etc, the answer to (A) is surely everything. One's gender or race dont determine what topics one can care about.

But they can affect (B) very much. If a person of Jewish background is working on Spinoza, consciously they might do so just because they like thinking about his views. But unconsciously the person also gets a chance to process a major thinker in Jewish history and how that affected scores of people, including ones family. An black non-Jewish person might love spinoza's ideas as much as anyone else, but the connection of that to their personal cultural/family history is not so obvious. In this way, white philosophers have an enormous psychological advantage. They can choose most any topic in the philosophy curriculum and have it also connect to (B) for them. That is just not true for minorities. If one thinks, which is completely reasonable, that (b) is essential to ones psychological health and for connecting to ideas for their own sake, it means not that whites care more about all aspects of philosophy for its own sake, but that they have structures in place which enable that and minorities dont.

If one is upset about this state of affairs, then re (c) feminism, race theory, Asian philosophy, etc can be an outlet because they can create spaces of (b) for groups who otherwise don't have a chance at (b)at all. Because they enable (b) it doesn't mean they are not universal topics. A German descendent working on Kant can do so both because of the universal values of the ideas and because it helps them understand their particular past. To marginalize traditions which dont fit the standard European history is to limit structures of (b)to just the standard groups. It is to perpetuate a form of psychological starvation among minorities, and to deny them the human right of (b).

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Here's a link to my past blogging (and discussions involving me) at: New APPS.


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