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eric Schliesser

Paul Russell asked me to post his response:

"Hi Eric,

As you know, I am not a natural blogger or, for that matter, do I especially enjoy online polemics. I tried to avoid encouraging that in my remarks on Brian's blog. For what it is worth, I think you make one or two interesting points and observations and I am not entirely unsympathetic to the more general point that you are making. Briefly:

1. I agree that Luxemburg is another glaring omission - she is a fascinating person and an important figure both politically and intellectually. I wish I had remembered to mention her (but I happened to be reading about Russian Marxism and the fate of Bukharin, which is the trivial psychological occasion behind my initial post).

2. I like your observation about Condorcet. You might add Diderot's name as well - there is no article about him in the SEP (another glaring, ironic gap).

3. The nub of your concern is with why I selected feminist philosophy and its (relatively heavy) representation as a point of contrast with (relatively) feeble representation of Marxism. I could go on at length about this but I hope the following brief points are of some help:

(a) As my own original remarks about this indicate, I hesitated about how to frame this and what to say about it. That is why I noted that other points of (relative) excess and neglect could also be found. It is also why I emphasize, as my first observation, that I share the general concern about a lack of interest and respect for women in any number of ways in "philosophy", including forms of neglect that are common in other venues (but not in the SEP).

(b) I went on to explain that I had selected the sharp contrast with feminist articles because: (i) in terms of content they are a relevant point of comparison (a few others might be available but none that seemed so obvious or relevant in this respect) and (ii) more importantly, the feminist representation is very heavy (relatively speaking) and that is something, I suggested, that requires further consideration and thought. I take it as obvious, however, that saying that any given topic is excessively represented - much less that merely noting that it is heavily emphasized - in no way commits a commentator to claiming that the topic is not important and worthwhile, or even that its current level of representation and emphasis cannot be justified. My own view is that topics of feminism are excessively represented and that to some extent this indicates professional/career interests in the subject - rather than some sensible aim to address important and neglected philosophical and political concerns. That is a view that will, no doubt, be treated as controversial and I realize that some may feel slighted by it - but no one should read it as dismissing the relevance or importance of feminist philosophy or issues (as I plainly and explicitly hold the contrary view).

(c) Finally, I understand why you might question my remarks concerning "real world politics and history" as it relates to the heavy emphasis given to feminism (i.e. in philosophy and the SEP). I hesitated over this issue and how to express the points that I wanted to make. Again, a lot could be said about this. For now let me say that I agree that feminist concerns and topics are obviously of more immediate real world importance than many other more "academic" interests in philosophy (e.g. as represented in the SEP). I would also agree that many feminist thinkers - past and present - have contributed a great deal to improving the lives of millions of people around the world (both women and men). I would not agree, however, that all activity labelled "feminist" has been constructive or effective. Nor would I agree that because it is associated with (admirable) aims and objectives that the motivations behind it - particularly in academic philosophy - are always admirable and worth supporting and encouraging. Feminism is by no means unique in this respect. Marxism has the same problematic legacy, which is one (very) important reason why its content and history should be well understood and its (relative) neglect in the SEP and more generally within the dominant ranks of professional philosophy is rather shocking and, in some ways, disturbing.

4. I hope the above points suffice to give you a general understanding of my response to your remarks and comments - and to clarify my own original comments and where I stand on these matters. Suffice it to say, with respect to the horrible and unpleasant tone that is now prevalent on internet forums and blogs, I could not agree more that everyone - whatever the issue or topic - should do her/his best to maintain a manner of expression that is restrained and civil. In particular, all such commentary should avoid personal abuse or sneering at and demeaning those we disagree with. Only genuine Fascists thrive in an atmosphere in which the tone is violent and dehumanizing.

Since these comments go to a primarily philosophical audience - and probably to one that is predominantly Left/progressive - I would encourage all my friends and colleagues to see the philosophical community as taking a real leadership role in this regard (since our own students read what we say and see how we present ourselves in these contexts).

All the best,


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


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