On Amy Ferrer, the APA, and the Colorado site visit

Amy Ferrer is not a philosopher (she has a BA in Women’s Studies and a master’s degree in Public Policy and Administration and appears to have a history of advocacy on social issues rather than of academic work), but she has served as Executive Director of the American Philosophical Association since 2012.

On December 4th, 2012, shortly after taking on her leadership role at the APA, she had the following to say on Leiter Reports: “Improving the climate for women and LGBT people in philosophy also means addressing the very serious problem of sexual harassment. The APA board of officers has recently charged an ad hoc committee on sexual harassment to focus specifically on this issue, and we strongly encourage individual departments to investigate and address sexual harassment as it affects them. One excellent resource for departments will be the APA Committee on the Status of Women’s forthcoming site visit program (loosely modeled on a similar program by the American Physical Society’s Committee on the Status of Women in Physics), which will be piloted in 2013.”

Despite taking pride in the fact that the APA board of officers recently formed this committee and endorsing the APA Committee on the Status of Women’s (CSW’s) forthcoming site visit program, Ms. Ferrer later attempted to put some distance between the APA and the APA CSW. In a letter to Michael Tooley on January 28th, Ms. Ferrer writes “The site visit program is a project of the APA’s committee on the status of women, which is somewhat different than being a project of the association. It is more like a sponsorship relationship, wherein the program is not overseen by the national office, the board of officers, or any division, and thus the site visitors cannot be considered employees or representatives of the association.

Read in the context of the very brief and friendly letter from Professor Tooley that precedes it, the legalistic phrasing “cannot be considered employees or representatives of the association” seems surprising. One might be excused for wondering whether a desire for a legal firewall between the APA and the APA CSW, prompted by the outrageous actions of the site visit team in Colorado, motivated the wording.

On March 8th, however, Ms. Ferrer posted the following announcement on the APA website:

This International Women’s Day, help us improve the climate for women in philosophy

Saturday, March 08, 2014
Posted by: Amy Ferrer

Today, on International Women’s Day, we are reminded of the high-profile cases of women treated badly in philosophy that have recently grabbed headlines. These cases have prompted many philosophers to ask what they can do to make the discipline more hospitable to underrepresented people in the profession, including women, people of color, disabled people, and LGBTQ people. One thing you can do is to donate to efforts that aim to improve the climate for women in philosophy.

To celebrate this day, the APA’s Committee on the Status of Women offers a challenge: help us raise $10,000 to support the work of the committee.

Any funds we raise will go to support initiatives such as training workshops for the Site Visit Program founded by the committee and the next Diversity in Philosophy Conference, to be held in late May 2015 at Villanova University. These projects and others like them need funding if they are to help change the status quo. The money we raise today will go not only to support the programs themselves but also to help to provide access to those who might not be able to participate without travel assistance.

Please give as generously as you can.

And thank you for everything you do to help make philosophy the welcoming, equitable, and inclusive discipline we know it can be.

With gratitude,

Hilde Lindemann
Chair, Committee on the Status of Women

Amy E. Ferrer

Executive Director

To summarize: Ms. Ferrer, a feminist activist with a background in women’s studies but no degree in philosophy, becomes executive director of the APA and a repeated guest blogger on the most widely-read blog in the discipline, giving her considerable sway over the direction of our profession. Upon being invested with those powers, she makes clear that she sees the upcoming APA CSW’s site visit program as instrumental in her goal to improve our discipline. In what seems to be the site visit program’s first outing, everything goes wrong: the site visit team discloses confidential information to a rather hostile administration despite getting that information on the basis of a written guarantee that they will not do so… and so on. The site visit team then refuses even to apologize; and its members appear to show no remorse as they stonewall, on what we now see to be specious grounds, a member of the department they trashed asking a simple, relevant and polite question of them in the wake of the disaster they left behind. Amy Ferrer’s response to this is to distance herself and the APA from the APA CSW, and to wash her hands of the matter.

A charitable observer might have assumed Ms. Ferrer to have privately expressed her unhappiness with the site visit team and their actions and to have had strong words with the APA CSW for allowing things to go so badly wrong. Leaving aside the moral question, it is clearly prudent for the APA and, for that matter, the CSW to distance themselves from the site visit project in the face of the shocking behavior of the team on its first outing. But instead, here we have Ms. Ferrer, in her official capacity, writing an open letter with the chair of the APA CSW, for the purpose of raising ten thousand dollars for the site visit project, as though none of this had ever happened.

Now, that’s some nerve! But in Ms. Ferrer’s defense, I can’t be sure she won’t get away with this audacity. Perhaps she’s just very good at reading the signs of the times and understanding which forms of hypocrisy and injustice the profession will abide today.

  • Update, March 24/2014: Amy Ferrer has now been invited to guest blog at NewAPPS for the next week. John Protevi and Eric Winsberg will be censoring moderating comments along the way.

Link: http://www.newappsblog.com/2014/03/looking-forward-to-guest-blogging-this-week-amy-ferrer.html

60 thoughts on “On Amy Ferrer, the APA, and the Colorado site visit

  1. It’s just hard to understand how an ideologue with an agenda — and a non-philosopher, no less — would become the Executive Director of the APA. How does this fit the job description?

    It renders the claim that women are without real power in the profession a mite absurd.

    And from the standpoint of these ideologues, it’s a mistake to think that the Site Committee failed miserably in their task. If one thinks of their real task as being putting the profession of philosophy on notice that usual standards of evidence or integrity or fairness simply don’t apply when it comes to the advancement of women in philosophy, and that the reputation of an entire department can be destroyed at will and without compunction for the unknown transgressions of perhaps only a single member, then they have succeeded beyond their dreams. The more they may freely violate ordinary standards of decency on such matters, the more powerful their impact.

    Of course, there’s not even the slightest reasonable expectation that, if women actually are further “advanced” in the profession, more and better philosophy will be produced. We’ll have essentially the same cast of characters afterwards as before, with the same level of talents, with the same dispositions to produce, and the same research output, but they will occupy grander positions with better pay and more power, quite possibly knocking deserving men out of those positions. Women will advance, but philosophy will at best stand still.

    But who believes these ideologues really care about philosophy?

    • With regard to the research output of women, think of the study conducted not long ago showing that of the top 500 cited papers in philosophy, less than 4% were written by a woman, and all of those papers were toward the end of the list.

      While the study’s author acted as though this indicated women were somehow being suppressed in philosophy, how does that get supported? Isn’t another take on it that women just aren’t producing high quality output?

      Ask yourself: which of the papers written by the women actually might be important on their merits as the top papers on the list? If women are roughly 20% of the profession, why aren’t they producing 20% of the top papers? Indeed, if women represent 50% of the potential talent in philosophy, and one makes the reasonable assumption that it is the most talented women who will make it through the rigors of a philosophical career, then why are women not producing close to 50% of the very top papers? Where are the potential women geniuses in philosophy if not in philosophy? Doing social work? Teaching elementary school? Running around barefoot and pregnant because The Patriarchy? Where are they?

      • My guess, though I’d have to look at the data in more detail, is that many of those papers were written at a time when women were considerably less than 20% of the profession. I’m open to the idea that there could be gendered traits that correlate with success in philosophy, but this number alone is hardly proof of it. A better measure might be, for example, might be Philosopher’s Annual’s top 10 papers of the year over the last, say, 10-15 years. I have no idea off the top of my head what percentage of those are by women but I’ll bet it’s well over 4.

      • Jeff,

        You raise a useful point, but the data shows that more recent cohorts don’t seem to do measurably better. The author of the study, Kieran Healy, whose wife happens to be among the women philosophers cited, looked at the subset of the 500 most cited articles published in the year 2000 or later, of which there were 49:

        “Several of the authors are relatively young. Here, “Young” means they got their Ph.Ds in the 1990s or later… There is one woman amongst the lot. The only other item published in the 2000s and written by a woman is by an established philosopher, Lynne Rudder Baker. Some of this recent work by relatively younger men—John Hawthorne (Ph.D ‘91), Ted Sider (Ph.D ‘93), Jason Stanley (Ph.D ‘95), Keith DeRose (Ph.D ‘90) and Jim Pryor (Ph.D ‘97)—even manages to crack the twenty-year Top 100, and in three cases the Top 50. That’s pretty impressive. Notably, the most-cited work by a 90s-cohort Ph.D is not on this list, because it was published in 1996. This is The Conscious Mind by David Chalmers (Ph.D ‘93).

        By contrast, we have to go down to joint 435th to find a well-cited paper authored in the 2000s by a—in fact, the only—woman from a comparable Ph.D cohort.”

        http://kieranhealy.org/blog/archives/2013/06/24/citation-networks-in-philosophy-some-followup/

        So where’s the tsunami of new talent one might expect from the rise in numbers of women in recent cohorts due to aggressive affirmative action, improved climates, and generally more enlightened attitudes? Why are there many more women, but no sign of more highest quality output? If our concern is on merit and philosophical productivity, are women already well overrepresented in the profession at 20%?

      • There does exist one potential justification for a much higher figure of women in philosophy than the proportion who are among the most highly cited. But it brings up an irony–in an domain that is, however, dominated by ironies. Larry Summers proposed a model that would explain how so very few women are at the top of professions like STEM– which model might easily extend to the equally abstract and rigorous discipline of philosophy. Namely, the bell curve of talent/disposition for abstract disciplines may differ between the genders, so that in particular the bell curve for women, though exhibiting roughly the same mean as that of men, has a smaller standard deviation. That would entail that at the very upper end, the numbers of women would decline much more quickly than for men. Thus, we would expect to see fewer women in the 500 most cited articles, and fewer still (in fact, in this case, none) at the very top of that list. Yet it may be that below the upper stratosphere of the 500 most cited, a significantly greater proportion of women would be found. This would of course be where most of the philosophy profession resides, so perhaps 20% would not be unreasonable for the number of women.

        It is striking in general just how well the model proposed by Summers works.

        One might think that philosophers of science, and philosophers of biology in particular, might be rushing to the defense of the model on its scientific merits. Sadly, though, philosophers of science are on the whole as bad in their ideological hackery as anyone, and philosophers of biology in particular are, if anything, only worse.

      • Hi again, Highly Adequate.

        I want to be sure I understand you correctly: are you saying that there are innate intellectual differences between men and women that account for what — in what I take to be your view — constitutes differing abilities to contribute proportionally to philosophy?

        I don’t see much plausibility in that model or in Summers’ speculations. Cordelia Fine’s _Delusions of Gender_ responds quite effectively to it, I think. I’d be interested to hear your reaction to Fine’s objections.

        There are several alternative explanations that I think could account for the phenomena quite effectively. One possibility, of course, is that any given man or woman with identical training and opportunities is equally likely to produce philosophy of whichever quality you like, but that women’s writings are being unconsciously discriminated against. But there are other explanations that could account for women producing objectively worse philosophy (if indeed they do) without this sort of bias against them.

        First, perhaps women tend to take on jobs with higher teaching loads, and that impedes their ability to conduct research. Second, it could be that women are subtly encouraged to undertake ‘feminist philosophy’, and that this sort of philosophy is just not very good, compared objectively with mainstream philosophy. Third and relatedly, it could be that women tend to be roped into feminist philosophy early on and that this does not force their critical thinking skills to develop to the high degree that more mainstream areas would. Fourth, as Linda Alcoff points out, it could be that a general but mistaken sense that women will find rigorous philosophy too difficult leads some teachers and fellow students to coddle female newcomers to the field rather than push them as hard as male newcomers are. And so on.

        But I’m not sure we even need to head into that area, since (it seems to me) there are plenty of women who have produced top-level philosophy by an objective standard. Several fields in philosophy today would be radically different without women’s contributions.

        Anyway, I’m not sure how significant this is to the diversity issue at hand. Yes, some proponents of diversity have suggested that more women in philosophy will make philosophy a better discipline because it will involve more viewpoints. But I think, for independent reasons, that that is a silly justification for promoting diversity. It depends on the assumption that women and men approach philosophy differently, and I just don’t see much credibility in that view (again, see Alcoff on this).

        Sex diversity in philosophy, it seems to me, is a legitimate goal exactly insofar as it helps create an environment in which everyone who wants to do or learn philosophy can do so without irrelevant hindrances.

      • jwshowalter,

        You raise a lot of points, so my response is going to have to be lengthy. I’ll start with a quick response to the question of Cordelia Fine’s book.

        I haven’t read her book in its entirety, but I’ve seen a good portion of it, and have not been impressed by the cogency of the arguments.

        Fine argues that some (maybe most) of the studies of gender differences in the brain via, say, MRIs or the like, and the conclusions drawn from those studies, are of poor scientific quality. So far, so good: I won’t disagree with that. But of course that a scientific study that purports to show P is, in fact, poorly designed to do so is hardly evidence that P is false. So one can’t take any important conclusion away from the legitimate criticisms Fine levels.

        Fine also invokes the standard repertoire of studies that purport to show a major effect of socialization on relevant gender differences. Here suddenly her critical faculty seems to leave her; these studies are seemingly beyond reproach.

        Yet they are certainly reproachable. I shall now reproach them.

        The kinds of studies that are most on point here are those which find so-called Stereotype Threat. But how much do those studies tell us, and how well do they hold up? It is a well recognized limitation in Stereotype threat studies that they don’t tell us how well those under stereotype threat perform on high stakes tests, such as tests used for admission, because the tests are always of relatively low stakes, such as those one contrives in an experiment. People would appear to be far more likely to give in to some discouragment, and not perform to potential, when little or nothing is at stake, than when their entire career might be at stake. And even if there were some effect from Stereotype Threat, why should we believe that it is so powerful in its effect that it should account for the stark differences in quality of output between the genders we see? That final, crucial bit of the argument is never laid down.

        And the problem is worse with the studies purporting to show Stereotype Threat. There’s a serious question as to how much of it really holds up, or is robust in a way that matters. A highly related supposed phenomenon in social psychology called “priming”, and indeed upon which Stereotype Threat really relies, has now been cast into real doubt by a number of failures to replicate the results, and indeed some cases of outright fraud.

        http://errorstatistics.com/2013/04/01/flawed-science-and-stapel-priming-for-a-backlash/

        http://www.nature.com/news/nobel-laureate-challenges-psychologists-to-clean-up-their-act-1.11535

        http://www.nature.com/news/psychologists-strike-a-blow-for-reproducibility-1.14232

        http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0072467

        And apparently many researchers who investigate Stereotype Threat properly speaking are often frustrated by their inability to reproduce results.

        http://scholar.harvard.edu/files/fryer/files/exploring_the_impact_of_financial_incentives_on_stereotype_threat_evidence_from_a_pilot_study.pdf

        To summarize, I don’t see how Fine’s book really constitutes any sort of refutation of the idea that biology may play a major role in relevant gender difference; at most she refutes some arguments in favor of that view.

        So if a model based on biological differences does an excellent job of explaining what we are seeing in gender differences, there’s little on the other side to tell against it, and it makes for a very natural default model.

  2. The relationship between the APA and the site visit team needs serious scrutiny. I’m very glad this blog exists. If there are any securely tenured people reading this comment: please, on behalf of all of us who feel insecure enough to weigh in under our real names, start making this an issue.

  3. Hi – Are philosophers of biology known for being zealots? I sense that they are often very skeptical about human nature and evolutionary psychology. Attitudes about these issues probably correlate with certain ideologies, though, of course, this is not to draw an inference about what motivates the skepticism of the philosophers. Or did you have something else in mind? Thanks.

    “philosophers of science are on the whole as bad in their ideological hackery as anyone, and philosophers of biology in particular are, if anything, only worse.”

    • Rather than argue at this time the more general point regarding philosophers of biology, let me suggest that you take a look at the sort of trouble they can get into because of their devotion to ideology over science, as exemplified by Philip Kitcher’s apologies for Stephen Jay Gould:

      http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/14/science/14skull.html

      Suffice it to say, many philosophers of biology see their peculiar mission to be to argue against the possibility that any socially important traits are wired into us. I can’t imagine a single reason in all the world to believe such an amazing thing.

      • Perhaps I should say instead,

        …to argue against the possibility that dispositions toward any socially important traits are wired into us

  4. HighlyAdequate,

    I certainly recommend reading Fine’s book all the way through. She addresses the points you raise.

    In fact, there is experimental evidence covering exactly the point you question: whether stereotype threat affects people on high stakes tests like admissions exams. It turns out that a significant difference in results is found depending on whether test-takers are asked to indicate their sex and race at the beginning or at the end of the exam. It’s for that reason that these things are now always asked at the end.

    Anyway, even if that claim were not problematic, I see no good reason at all for thinking (if you do think it — I’m not sure) that innate sex differences between men and women account for a difference in performance between the sexes. I provided several alternative explanations, and I don’t see what basis you have for ruling them out. Moreover, I also suggested reasons for doubting whether there is an important distinction in the first place.

    I admit that it is _possible_ that there is an innate difference in philosophical ability between men and women, but I see no good reason for believing that. And going on the track record of such conjectures in the past (e.g. the confident and widespread conjecture that Irish people had an innate inability to compete intellectually with Anglo-Saxons, etc. etc.), I would put the likelihood of this hypothesis as remote.

  5. jwshowalter,

    To begin with, let me point out that one of the links I presented upthread deals directly with the issue of Stereotype Threat, detailing a study conducted under the auspices of authors at Harvard and U Chicago, in which they simply failed to reproduce stereotype threat. One might argue I suppose that doing so is a delicate matter in how the experiment is set up. But how can a phenomenon which supposedly accounts for such massive effects in diminishing the performance of certain groups be one that seems to disappear entirely unless it is evoked in a very precise manner? Shouldn’t such a pervasive and potent phenomenon be extremely robust against smallish differences in experimental methodology?

    Here, again, is the link:

    http://scholar.harvard.edu/files/fryer/files/exploring_the_impact_of_financial_incentives_on_stereotype_threat_evidence_from_a_pilot_study.pdf

    And I’m not sure why you put such stock in Cordelia Fine’s book. As you might imagine, the scientists she has criticized have responded to her criticisms. Those responses seem pretty persuasive, and Fine’s responses to them not terribly so.

    Here is Simon Baron Cohen’s review of her book:

    And here is Fine’s response to it:

    http://www.cordeliafine.com/Fine_Response_Psychologist_December_2010.pdf

    I will simply say that, to me at least, Fine’s response is notably lame, focusing really only on one experiment, and then only on speculation that it may not have been sufficiently blinded. It does not address Cohen’s points about the studies regarding the long term effects of fetal testosterone. She also dismisses, typically, the idea that there is any connection between the greater prevalence of autism and language delay issues in males, and a greater prevalence of left-handedness, as having anything to do with normal development. I ask, who, of a genuinely scientific bent, will simply dismiss these facts as irrelevant? Yes, of course the ultimate case has to be made as to whether and how the prevalence of such conditions affect more typical development. But, just as with susceptibilities to physical disease, it is reasonable to expect that there is a continuum of liability to these conditions that reflect differences in underlying structures or processes. These will be present even in cases in which the condition itself is not present. This is pretty much the standard model for many physical diseases from which scientists work today, and it is mindless to assume that it is not operating with respect to autism, etc.. This is particularly so since the genetic basis for autism, for example, and liability to it, is well established.

    Here is another review by scientists in the field to Fine’s book (and another similar book):

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3108906/

    • Thanks, HA.

      The reason why I mentioned Fine’s discussion of the alternative stereotype threat experiment is that it seemed relevant to something you were saying before and you seemed not to be aware of it (and you admitted to not having read that part of her book).

      The debate over these particular psychological experiments is no doubt interesting, and perhaps others might enjoy debating the details with you here. For myself, I’ll confine myself to the bigger picture, and to a big question I still am not clear about: are you, in fact, trying to defend the view that women are innately less capable of doing top level philosophy than men?

      If you’re merely suggesting that this is _possible_, then fine — lots of things are possible. But if you’re saying it’s _true_ or _likely_, then that’s another story and I’d like to see your positive evidence for that assertion.

      As I’ve made clear, there are all sorts of reasons why women might produce less top-level philosophy than men (if that is even true, and I’ve already given some reasons for doubting it). If you think there are good reasons for preferring the innateness explanation, then you need to have good reasons for preferring that explanation to any of the others.

      If you want to raise the level of skepticism high enough, and say that we shouldn’t accept Fine’s conclusions because certain results from one experiment are not replicated in a somewhat similar experiment, or because the sample sizes are too small, or because there is a scholarly dispute on the matter, then great — I’m comfortable with skepticism. But if you are advancing a positive hypothesis about women’s innate inferiority (and again, please confirm it if you are), then that skepticism will be a threat to your positive arguments, also (and you haven’t yet provided any such arguments).

  6. ” a member of the department they trashed asking a simple, relevant and polite question of them in the wake of the disaster they left behind”

    The initial letters to the site visit team may have been polite. The followup letters seemed though to exhude a kind of politeness, if one can be polite in large boldface type, that I find  “odd” and “puzzling.”

    I cannot sufficiently express my gratitude to the Laughing Philosopher for his laughter.

  7. You’re being silly anonymous. It’s precisely because Tooley was stonewalled that there is a problem here. And as you concede yourself, he was quite polite when he asked DesAutels about the circumstances surrounding the release of the report to the provost. No amount of scare-quoting is going to turn boldface print into something that is in any way on a par with the abject failure to handle this matter like professionals that has been exhibited by DesAutels, her team, and Amy Ferrer. Bear in mind that when this all blew up the first thing they did was run to Feminist Philosophers to tell people that everyone was informed of the Site Visit rules regarding sharing the report, while they were also rewording those rules to make it seem more likely that the report would be shared with the provost. Let that sink in.

    In any other professional setting this would be grounds for immediate concern and the people involved would be expected to be totally open and up front about what happened. But because we have women advocating for women in philosophy, there’s been a shitstorm of obfuscation and a total clamming up by the women involved. So let’s have a conversation about privilege, shall we?

    I look forward to Amy Ferrer’s discussion at NewAPPS, and I’d like to echo a sentiment someone said earlier and implore those with tenure to speak up about these matters.

    • You’re being rude Schopenhauer. I find it odd that philosophers would find polite calling someone else’s remarks odd, especially in the adversarial context of exposing alleged wrongdoing. Maybe one is wise to clam up in case the matter goes legal. (I now see what Highly Adequate signifies, incidentally.) I’ll stick to the facts and pass on the transcendental considerations of privilege. Two versions of the rules, one modified ex post you say. Ok, I’ll check the Internet archive and let it sink in.

  8. Enough with the tone-policing. All admit that prior to the stonewalling Tooley was polite. That being so, this focus on whether or not the subsequent exchange was polite is beside the point. And if it was wise for Ferrer and DesAutels to clam up then something has obviously gone wrong. They are receiving sanction and support by the APA, and Ferrer is in addition an employee of the organization. For this reason they ought not put themselves into a position that make it wise for them to act as they have.

    If you’re interested in seeing how the wording governing the use of the report was surreptitiously changed so as to make it look as though the release of the report to Colorado’s provost was less surprising, read Section 2 (Comparing Some Site Visit Program Documents) here:

    http://spot.colorado.edu/~tooley/Two_Violations_of_the_Agreement_by_the_Site_Visit_Team.html

    Finally, it is monumentally absurd of you to suggest that you are “stick[ing] to the facts” while your interlocutor is concerned with “transcendental considerations of privilege”. There is nothing transcendental about the institutional abuses going on here, about the evident ideological motivations behind events like the release of the Colorado visit report and the responses by representatives of the site visit team, or about the duplicitous actions subsequently undertaken. The fact that Amy Ferrer, as executive director of the APA, has been actively supporting these women (recall the email she and Hilde Lindemann sent around asking for 10 grand to support the Committee on the Status of Women) shows that she is not acting as a steward of the profession in this. We will see what happens over at NewAPPS, but I fear we’re going to see a concerted effort on the part of Ferrer and the NudeChapps to shield DesAutels and her team from criticism. I hope I am wrong.

    Either way there is nothing transcendental about the privileges these women enjoy. If what occurred here had occurred in any other professional setting we would have either seen an open and forthright discussion by the people in charge, or there would have been an immediate, sustained, and widely supported call for an inquest in what exactly happened. But because this is women advocating for women in philosophy, we see damage control and deceit at Feminist Philosophers, stonewalled silence, and vapid support from ideologues like Eric Schliesser and John Protevi. Let’s hope the NewAPPS discussion changes all that.

    Once again, I implore senior figures in the profession to speak up about this.

  9. Let me put my thinking on this point in a nutshell (although the nut was large).

    I believe that there is no good reason, a priori, from a rational or scientific point of view, to favor an environmental over a genetic explanation of the gap between men’s and women’s achievements in philosophy or in STEM. Each might be true, and any combination of the two might be true. Only moralistic or political dogma will demand that we hold one extreme or the other true.

    Looking at the direct empirical evidence assembled so far on the point, I see little that favors the environmental side. I don’t regard Stereotype Threat as persuasive for several reasons. It is not reliably replicated. When it does appear in an experimental setting, it is almostly exclusively on tests of low stakes. And even in studies in which it does seem to appear, it is not in any way obvious how the phenomenon actually can fully explain the gap. The weakness of the environmental hypothesis also seems apparent in the utter intractability of the gap in relevant areas despite massive changes in attitudes in those areas, as well as in society itself, over the last 40 years. Moreover, in other, otherwise similar areas, such as medicine and the life sciences, women have marched to parity, or close to parity, even in the face of the far more hostile “climate” of 20-40 years ago. One might of course blame the problem with something that takes place well earlier than college, but that is little more than the purest of speculation, especially when it comes to philosophy — what cultural stereotypes that arise before college could possibly dissuade girls/women from philosophy?

    On the other hand, if one assumes that the explanation of the gap follows the lines described by Larry Summers (who of course picked up the explanation from a very long train of thought on that point), then everything simply falls into place, with essentially no discordant facts. The one extension of Summers’ explanation that should be made is to say that it is not just mathematical abilities or dispositions that are covered, but abstract thinking more generally. It would explain why it is that women do relatively well in moral philosophy and history of philosophy, because those are the less abstract areas, but far less well in metaphysics, philosophy of language and logic, and philosophy of mind. Likewise it would explain why women do better in applied mathematics than in pure mathematics, better in experimental physics and chemistry than in theoretical physics and chemistry, etc.

    And the shapes of the curves Summers described also would explain in detail the sort of citation data I reference above. If the standard deviation for women is smaller than that for men on all abstract thinking categories including philosophy, then one would expect to see virtually no women at the very top of the list, but an increasingly robust representation as one goes down the list. And that is indeed what one does see. My guess is that if the data were to be transformed into two curves, one for men and one for women, those curves would very closely fit the rightmost portion of two bell curves.

    And the near perfection of fit between a dominantly genetic explanation of the gap and all of the phenomena we seek to understand that strongly inclines me to believe in it. In fact, it is remarkable just how small a role any environmental component seems to play, which a priori I wouldn’t have expected. I would have expected that in the wake of the massive change in attitude toward women’s ambitions and in “climate” over the last 40 years, we would see appreciable changes in the overall quantity of their research output at the higher levels. But I don’t detect even the smallest change–as the citation study also seems to show, within the limitations of its small numbers. Is there even a single woman philosopher in today’s relatively enlightened climate who has matched the contributions in the 1950s of Ruth Barcan Marcus in the more abstract areas of philosophy?

    • Thanks, Highly Adequate.

      I don’t work in logic and don’t know what else you include as a ‘more abstract area of philosophy’, so I can’t speak to your question about modern-day Ruth Barcan Marcuses. Perhaps others here can.

      As for the rest: I completely agree with you that we shouldn’t let ideology dictate to us whether we prefer a more environmental to a more biological explanation for the relative merits of male and female contributions to philosophy. Perhaps, for all I know, these are both live options. If that’s all you’re saying, then great.

      But I fail to see how you mean to substantiate your claim that the biological explanation is superior to all the alternatives I offered, plus others I didn’t mention. For instance, a couple of alternatives that I mentioned involved the pressure on women to orient themselves toward feminist philosophy. Another involved the fact that male and female philosophers might be predisposed to condescend to female students rather than treat them as ruthlessly as they might with male students. Where do those possibilities get factored in?

      Moreover, there have been plenty of historical cases in which it was concluded on grounds little different from those you are using that the Irish, or black people, or other groups were less capable of thought (and in the case of black people, less capable of athletic excellence), and many of those claims were later clearly shown to be false. Don’t you agree that these were bad inferences to draw? So there is historical precedent for being skeptical of hereditary claims about aptitude.

      I’m not being politically correct here: I’m just pointing out that, by your own evidentiary standards, you haven’t come close to making a good case for the plausibility of the biological claim you say is the most reasonable. You haven’t ruled out relevant alternatives, and whatever positive evidence you provide seems easy to rule out on your own evidentiary standards.

      But again, I agree with your point that we shouldn’t let political correctness determine our views.

    • Just to follow up with the point about Ruth Barcan Marcus.

      I don’t think we have seen another woman philosopher in the most abstract areas of philosophy who has contributed more than — or I would claim, as much as, Ruth Barcan Marcus. So she would be a good candidate for the rightmost extant point on the bell curve of such abilities/dispositions for women. But the rightmost extant point for men could very reasonably be represented by Kripke.

      I should think it pretty obvious that, while Barcan Marcus’ contributions were important, Kripke took the entire field of modal logic, its interpretation, and its application to larger questions of philosophy of language and metaphysics, to a level Barcan Marcus couldn’t begin to approach.

      Such is the difference, I would argue, between men and women.

      The success of Barcan Marcus also indicates something important: that women with real capacity for achievement have had opportunities for a long time to fulfill their ambitions, even if facing very real and open hostility. That no woman of the current cohort seems even to have matched her achievements suggests that there is very little further improvements in “climate” can do to change things at this very highest level.

      • > I should think it pretty obvious that, while Barcan Marcus’ contributions were important, Kripke took the entire field of modal logic, its interpretation, and its application to larger questions of philosophy of language and metaphysics, to a level Barcan Marcus couldn’t begin to approach.

        While we might disagree with what the “entire field of modal logic” part, and Jaakko might frown upon the “questions of philosophy of language” bit, it may be more prudent (tm – The Laughing Philosopher) better to consider it empty. More interesting seems to be this story featuring Ruth, and perhaps indirectly, Saul:

        “It is therefore disappointing when blatant errors about what I have done occur and persist. I mean literal errors—not disagreements about interpretation. In the case of the paper on identity, for example, a major result and its import were missed by the reviewer. I expected the error would be noticed and corrected, but after eleven years of expectation, during which the error had been carried along by others in the literature, I wrote to the reviewer, who then informed Church: […] There remain lengthy bibliographies and historical accounts of intensional and modal logic as well as interpretations of modalities where reference to my work is absent, but that is gradually being corrected.”

        http://www.newappsblog.com/2010/09/from-ruth-barcan-marcuss-2010-dewey-lecture.html

      • I’m not real interested in getting into the dumb Barcan-Marcus vs. Kripke thing at any length.

        Let me simply observe that Kripke didn’t stand over Barcan-Marcus to steal her pen every time she was about to do Kripke semantics. Barcan-Marcus had years and years to do it herself first, call it Barcan-Marcus semantics, and claim dibs on it for all of time. Instead she let a high school student pull off what she couldn’t.

        And neither did Kripke keep snatching away her pen every time she sat down to write Naming and Necessity before Kripke could. She had plenty of alone time with pen in hand and paper in front of her, but wrote other kinds of stuff instead.

        I agree she had some important insights, and few glimmers of some very important insights. But she didn’t have the engine upstairs to power through what Kripke did.

      • > I agree she had some important insights, and few glimmers of some very important insights. But she didn’t have the engine upstairs to power through what Kripke did.

        Not that you’re interested in getting into the dumb Barcan-Marcus vs. Kripke thing at any length, mind you. What matters, of course, is the size of Kripke’s engine. By chance Saul is there to show how far the man brain can go.

        Invoking Kripke as the prototype of raw, masculine, brain power in a thread raising concerns regarding administrivial minutiae surrounding a case of sexual harassment case is more than irrelevant, HA. It might not be prudent, if I may borrow again our Laughing Philosopher’s favorite virtue. For we know why he left Princeton, right?

        Here’s a quote from that Healy article that may put what you make him say into perspective:

        An alternative hypothesis to pure quality always winning out is that work by women is not cited in high-prestige outlets.

        http://kieranhealy.org/blog/archives/2013/06/24/citation-networks-in-philosophy-some-followup/

        Let readers decide which hypothesis is the simplest, and perhaps most plausible one.

      • “An alternative hypothesis to pure quality always winning out is that work by women is not cited in-prestige outlets.”

        All people have to do is find articles on the list of 500 most cited which are written by women, and can be compared to the very best articles written by, say, Kripke, Lewis, Putnam, Quine, Chalmers. They should be obliged to explain how the concepts, points of view, and arguments by the women are every bit as original and basic as those presented by the men, and how philosophers should be spending every bit as much time talking about them.

        Philosophy wouldn’t be the same, of course.

        But I’m sure it will be a great improvement, right?

        Maybe you get the people over at feministphilosophers to put together the revised list, and post it on their site. Should be a piece of cake. I’m sure it will be well received by all.

      • > All people have to do is find articles on the list of 500 most cited which are written by women, and can be compared to the very best articles written by, say, Kripke, Lewis, Putnam, Quine, Chalmers.

        All people need grasp some statistics you may sharp shooting, now, HA.

        But that counterfactual to characterize historical importance is interesting:

        [HA] If philosopher P would not have existed, our actual history of philosophy would not have been the same.

        Collin McGinn might approve this way of revisiting historical problems. Well-ordering philosophers according to their social network counts is not as fun as providing possible-world arguments regarding their cultural importance. As fun as it may be, favoring a mysterian apparatus might not be prudent in our actual case of sexual harassment.

        Chalmers, the odd man in the quoted list, might provide a solution here. Let’s reverse a zombie argument and declare that a philosopher P is a non-zombie if his nonexistence would change the course of Western philosophy.

        What do you say, HA?

      • Hi Willard; I get the sense that you’re the sort of person who thinks there’s value to be found in wordplay and the oblique expression of one’s thought. I don’t think you’ll find that very well-received in situations where you’re conversing with someone over a point of dispute, so why don’t you try to be a bit more forthright in your mode of expression here?

  10. Regarding ‘tone policing’: I am a tone descriptivist, as opposed to a tone prescriptivist. The term ‘tone policing’ rides roughshod over that distinction.

    As for the link, it leads to http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2014/02/colorado-faculty-were-told-apa-committees-report-would-not-be-made-public.html which indicates to me some disagreement over who invited the site visit team and the wording and scope of confidentiality agreements.

    By transcendental considerations, I mean those going beyond the more narrow considerations of the timeline of events, which concerns who raised the possibility of a site visit and when, who extended the invitation and when, whether the letter of expectations was sent, whether the letter of expectations included the language on compliance with open records laws, who filed the CORA request and when, who responded to the CORA request–the larger question of privilege is not relevant here, though you apparently spare no opportunity to raise it. Questions of ideology are subordinate to a range of considerations the timeline does not reach.

  11. Call it what you’d like anonymous–questions regarding whether Tooley was polite are beside the point. It’s the manifest failure of the site visit team and its advocates to be open about what happened and why that ought to be the focus here. And I am glad to see we are in agreement about the timeline issue. My hope is that details are forthcoming.

    Finally, I want to reiterate that there is no transcedentality to the issue of the political ideology at work here. We cannot, in good faith to basic principles of justice, allow people to bracket the political views motivating DesAutels, Ferrer, Lindemann, etc. at every stage of this fiasco.

  12. jwshowalter,

    I certainly understand that one can always invoke environmental explanations for what I will call “The Gap” between the achievements of men and women at the highest levels of abstract thinking. But merely to speculate such an explanation is hardly the same as demonstrating that it is a plausible candidate to account for The Gap.

    I don’t find it very plausible that it is feminist philosophy itself that confuses or undermines women so profoundly that they just can’t do top shelf philosophy in the most abstract areas. I just don’t see how it could have the potency to do so. But it is in any case pure speculation.

    As for the condescension explanation, I think that there is pretty decent evidence against it. Namely, the rise to parity of women in medicine and other areas, in a period in which they were subject to open hostility in those disciplines. I find it to be a great stretch to believe that philosophers are far more recalcitrant to change in attitudes than the too-typical dogmatic, arrogant, dismissive, self-congratulating physician, especially of yesteryear.

    And yes, of course many things were believed in the nineteenth century, both with regard to abilities and to virtually all other topics that have since proved false. But the fact that once upon a time people believed things that proved false is not exactly good evidence that assertions that may bear some resemblance to those beliefs must be false, or that we can never draw reasonable inferences regarding them.

    Science marches on. We get a clearer picture of what is relevant. Models improve. Experiments become more focused and determinative. And underlying observable societal facts change, allowing more nuanced inferences to be made.

    In this particular case, immense changes in societal attitudes regarding women and their ambitions have been wrought. And in some professions, such as medicine, which otherwise seemed like a redoubt of male privilege, women have achieved parity. But in philosophy — which, as one of the humanities, might have seemed a priori to be a very good candidate for women achieving parity or more, as they have in all other humanities — women simply have not come close to any such number.

    I really do think that for an objective person looking at these facts, a dominantly genetic explanation, which predicts exactly what we see without even a slight hitch, is the obvious model to go with.

    If there is no scientific reason to prefer the dominantly environmental explanation over the dominantly genetic explanation, and the genetic explanation is elegant, simple, and neatly predicts every relevant fact, why should we not go with it?

    Why should we invent environmental epicycles that might, with sufficient contrivance, manage to “predict” the same facts, when we already have another explanation in hand that does away with the conceptual contortions?

    • I’m not convinced, Highly Adequate; but I’m afraid I don’t have the time at present to do justice to the content of your argument through research of my own. And that’s a shame, because I do find the issue to be very interesting and important.

      I hope someone else here will try to respond to your line of reasoning and that I might have the benefit of watching the debate. In the meantime, thanks for commenting, even though I’m far from ready to jump on board with your viewpoint.

    • Highly Arrogant,

      Your argument is not only bad, but laughably bad. Is that why you posted it here?

      Here’s your argument:

      1. Ruth Barcan Marcus was a great female logician, but Kripke was greater.
      2. And there isn’t a female logician today as great as Kripke.
      3. So men are better logicians than women.
      4. If this is true, then there can be twenty or thirty reasons why it’s true.
      5. One of those reasons is that women are innately inferior at logic.
      6. The other twenty or thirty reasons have slight problems or don’t seem very intuitive to me.
      7. Therefore, my pet reason (innate female inferiority) is better.
      8. And when I consider that pet reason in relation to my personal, cherry-picked observations about female logicians and philosophers, I find they fit perfectly.
      9. Therefore, my view is perfect and any other introduces epicycles.
      10. So, without any quantifiable empirical research whatsoever, I can establish my theory partly on the grounds that the other views have better but imperfect empirical research.
      11. And logic is the best area of philosophy, and connected with others that I can’t quite specify.
      12. And I’ll bet women aren’t very good at those other sorts of philosophy either.
      13. So men are way better than women at philosophy, and that’s because of genes.

      What an embarrassment.

      • Hi Sceptical–is there a way you can reframe this so as to be more precise about where, exactly, you think HA has gone wrong? Perhaps by reference to what he has actually said? I am not myself convinced by HA, but the moralizing contortions you’re going through in reconstructing him don’t do much to justify the view you seem to have. The fact that you also resort to name-calling makes your position that much more worrisome. This isn’t NewAPPS, so you’re going to have to do more than provide us with a choreographed public display of chest-clutching hyperventilation if you want people to share your perspective on this issue.

        Please everyone, let’s try to have a reasoned discussion with one another. That doesn’t require pulling any punches when it comes to critique, but we ought to endeavor to be as conclusive in our justification as we can. It is also a virtue to see that the force and scope of our assertions are circumscribed by and proportional to our evidence. This last requires a certain degree of humility and openness to the information and perspectives of other people, even (especially) those we antecedently disagree with.

    • jwshowalter,

      I can certainly understand that you are not yet convinced on the point. It takes some real doing in cases like this in which one position is basically the very water in which we swim. Just a few years back, I myself would have been arguing your side of the argument. I will say though that even then I could never bring myself to any real conviction that what I was arguing must be so. I really couldn’t come up with cogent arguments that the dominantly genetic hypothesis had any evidence standing against it. At most, I thought I could see some reasons that the environmental explanation might be true.

      But at a certain point, I allowed myself to walk a mile in the shoes of the genetic hypothesis, and see where it got me. There was really no turning back at that point. Everything fell into place; all that seemed confused and strained now seemed to make perfect sense. It was a heady experience, in the way that clarity of knowledge and insight can be.

      I do think, though, that one has to be ready for this sort of change, when it gets at assumptions that are so basic. It’s akin I’m sure to people who have thrown over belief in God in eras in which everyone they knew professed that belief.

  13. Ask yourself this anonymous–what kind of mindset must a group of people have to suppose that the political end of advancing some putatively disadvantaged group of individuals is worth a concerted effort to evade criticism and obscure the details of their own activities? The politics of DesAutels, Ferrer, Lindemann, etc. are most certainly at issue here.

    We’ll see what the NewApps discussion is like beginning tomorrow, and hopefully we can begin to put this issue to rest.

    • I, for one, am going to try and ask some hard questions. But knowing Newapps, who knows if they’ll be posted.

  14. I will read but not contribute to the NewAPPS discussion. I find it hard to read lockstep ideology into the prudent decision not to comment. Leiter writes, “…it would be in the interest of the site visit program for the APA to take a stronger stand on the confidentiality issue, lest other departments be scared off.” Suppose the committee or the APA initially acted inconsistently, subsequently took a stronger stand on the confidentiality issue, and then said nothing in accordance with the revised policy. Is it ideology at work? There are other possibilities, though one would like to see an announcement from those in control that a change had been made. Perhaps the NewAPPS discussion will clarify this and other matters.

    • It needn’t be lockstep, but it sure is convenient for those it benefits.

      And of course it’s in the interest of the site visit program that the APA take a stronger stand on confidentiality. But that’s just the problem–the APA, under the auspices of Amy Ferrer, is acting in the interest of the site visit program rather than in the interest of an open and honest consideration of what happened and why. And talk of the issue in terms of ‘confidentiality’ is a bit much. We aren’t talking about divulging any information other than who, in fact, requested the visit. So the apparent willingness on the part of DesAutels, Ferrer, and Lindemann to dissemble here is, to put it mildly, a bit disconcerting.

  15. I can’t stomach reading NewAPPS or Leiter Reports, but really appreciate the discussion here. JS, I hope you post the highlights here with commentary and open it up for additional discussion.

  16. Hi Sceptical–is there a way you can reframe this so as to be more precise about where, exactly, you think HA has gone wrong? Perhaps by reference to what he has actually said? I am not myself convinced by HA, but the moralizing contortions you’re going through in reconstructing him don’t do much to justify the view you seem to have.

    For starters, JS, HA attacks a prominent branch of the environmental interpretation because it relies on research on stereotype threat that HA doesn’t think is extensive or consistent enough to warrant the conclusions that many prominent psychologists think it does. Great, HA has very high standards for any explanation. But no, actually he doesn’t, because his own position is based on a comparison of two philosophers who he thinks represent the ‘rightmost’ extent of male and female philosophical ability (as if we all should agree on that) and then draws his conclusion from those two data points because he can’t think of anyone more important after doing the impressive fieldwork of thinking really hard about those two people.

    So are we playing with the net high, or low? For HA, it depends on which side is serving.

    • OK, better.

      Yes, I do think that the Stereotype Threat argument for an environmental explanation is vastly overblown. As I pointed out, there have been attempts to replicate it that have utterly failed. Again, why should this be if it is so basic and important a fact in determining outcomes that it must play a major role in suppression of women?

      But that doesn’t even get at what I consider the deepest problem with the invocation of Stereotype threat in this context. More basic is the inability of Stereotype Threat to account for obvious, and obviously relevant, social facts.

      For example, how is it that women were able to storm past all the obstacles put in their way by the overwhelming male medical establishment in the 60s, 70s, and 80s? Does anybody seriously doubt that Stereotype Threat existed in great power in the era in which virtually all physicians were male, and in which hostile attitudes toward women were quite completely open and not frowned upon? If Stereotype Threat is so potent a force, how did this come about?

      Now, you may complain that that point is not based on new empirical research. But how much such research does one need to see to see the bite of the argument?

      No doubt people will come up with fancy distinctions between the situation in medicine and that in philosophy, because they do need to save the thesis, but to outside observers it’s all going to look pretty ad hoc — which is supposed to be a bad thing.

      And how about the point of comparing Ruth Barcan Marcus to Kripke? I was hardly intending this argument as one that can stand alone to make the point that genetic differences were at play. Rather, I was more illustrating the consequences of the model I had in mind (again, essentially the same as those made by Larry Summers).

      In any case, if you don’t think that the work of Barcan Marcus is a good representative of abstract philosophy by women at its best, then please say so. Whether she is the very best, or simply among the company of a handful of such philosophers, is mostly irrelevant to my point.

      We can decompose the overall curve representing the ranks of the highest achieving philosophers into two: one curve for women, and one for men. The best model is to think of those curves as standard bell curves, truncated somewhere so that only the rightmost end appears. But what do those curves actually represent as models? The probability that members of the group being modeled will appear at a given point in the distribution. At many points, given the size of the groups, a number of members will appear. But at the very tail end, the probability that a member of the group will turn up will be relatively small, so small indeed that we would predict that no member of the group should appear beyond a certain point. I chose Barcan Marcus as the best candidate for the last such member among women, and Kripke for the last such among men. YMMV, but it doesn’t matter to the overarching point, which is that the differences between the two points is pretty stark.

      And there is some important evidential value that even single extreme points like this can add. A single woman who contributed to abstract philosophy what Kripke has contributed would constitute very good evidence that the model I’ve put forth is wrong. My model would predict that she wouldn’t exist, because the probability would be far too low.

      But there is no such woman. As best I can tell, Barcan Marcus comes as close as anybody, and that is not very close at all.

      • I generally don’t like to contribute to this type of debate, since I don’t think it’s rather productive. But HA is claiming that there are no female “abstract” philosophers, which, well, just ins’t true. Starting with logicians, we had Carol Karp, who greatly enhanced our understanding of infinitary logics, which is a very promising field nowadays. We also had Julia Robinson, who contributed a lot to our understanding of Hilbert’s tenth problem. Nowadays, Gila Sher has probably done the most to help us understand the nature of logicality, to the point that the main thesis in the field is the Tarski-Sher thesis — and having your name together with Tarski shows much more than having your name associated with Kripke, by my book (incidentally, Tarski had a lot of women students, so you might want to check out his genealogy page). From NewAPPS itself, there is Catarina Novaes, who has also contributed a lot to our understanding of logic.

      • Daniel Nagase,

        I am not claiming that there are no female “abstract” philosophers. In fact, I produce one, Barcan-Marcus, as a very good exemplar of the type. I am claiming that they follow a different curve of achievement from that of men.

        You have produced a number of female logicians, whom you place among the best. But the question is: are they of the same order of merit as the very best male logicians?

        The answer, clearly, is no. None of them is anything like the equal of Tarski, Kripke, Kleene, Kreisel, Montague, Solovay, etc., not to mention those further back, including Cohen, Godel, Frege, Russell, Skolem, etc.

        Is there really any serious dispute on this point?

  17. Wow. Just took a peek at NewApps. People, go get a load of Prof. Brogaard’s post.

    To paraphrase Mr. Wilde, One must have a heart of stone to read Prof Brogaard’s impassioned plea without laughing.

    The part that is unfunny is her calling down graduate students of the Rutgers philosophy department on my account, when here I sit (and live), hundreds of miles away — which at least jwshowalter could verify by my IP address (though I don’t wish the exact location to be revealed). I have no idea why she thinks I’m at Rutgers — I haven’t, so far as I can remember, posted at NewApps, and certainly haven’t done so recently, and have never done so from anywhere near Rutgers.

    Rutgers better watch out, though. Prof Brogaard is out to catch the “potentially psychotic or psychopathic” witch students trolling their ugly “sexism” here under my name. No matter that the body of my comments here deal exclusively with what is a purely scientific hypothesis — ugly sexism it is. Some scientific hypotheses can only be mentioned to be denounced; entertaining their truth is crimethink.

    Be wary, our friends at Rutgers. No one expects the Spanish Inquisition — oops, I mean the Site Visit Committee.

    • Things have only gotten more bizarre since then. This comment from Brogaard is especially odd:

      Rutgers is currently tracking them down and will dispel [sic] them from the program, as they are ruining all the progress Rutgers has made on the gender front

      I hope it’s a joke, but I ain’t optimistic.

      • Yeah, something really strange is going on over there at NewApps, which seems generally to be decompensating. And could it really be that academic freedom at Rutgers is so compromised that these sorts of discussions can’t be tolerated even on blogs?

        It’s especially absurd because, so far as I know, I’m the only one here who has dared to touch the third rail of genetics. And I certainly have nothing to do with Rutgers.

        And presumably they shouldn’t find my sort of talk intolerable unless I was saying things so obviously false that they are completely unworthy of serious discussion. Can’t they just refute me back into my dank cave the way I deserve?

        Is it maybe moral panic over there because they worry I am right?

      • I’m actually glad the whole thread is gone, in some ways. It was an irresponsible attack by the author against a group of ‘suspects’ to whom I do not, incidentally, belong. I trust that the author of the post realized that she had taken things too far with her speculations and retreated, and I am glad at least for that.

        Still, I think the episode highlighted the fact that many of the topics discussed here are politically dangerous to the point where established professionals will try to out people and even terminate their careers before they begin for the crime of trying to raise the issue or support either side of it.

        Some have questioned the legitimacy of commenting anonymously on blogs or using pseudonyms to mask one’s true identity. I think this makes very clear what one faces if one does not. The writers and commenters on blogs that champion trendy political views risk nothing by revealing their identities, even if they are quite prominent. There is no risk at all of their being drummed out of their graduate programs or jobs as a result, nor does that even seem like a real possibility.

        All this makes me more satisfied with my recent decision to allow anonymous posts here, and helps me realize the truth of some comments about how important it is to keep this blog running. I’m sorry that I’m often too busy to add new posts, but I’m very pleased that so many of you check in and debate these points. You really help make this possible, whether or not I agree with you. Please tell your friends!

      • The thread has been reinstated! We must emerge from under our bridges to end this discrimination against philosopher trolls!

      • The whole thread at NewApps was just batty.

        For one thing, Bogaard speculates meaningfully that the initials of my name have special significance. I blush to confess I didn’t figure out until today what she had in mind. Now that I do, I can definitely state that my name was based on a google mail account, HighlyAdequate@gmail.com, which I set up last year, well before any point at which I might have become aware of the significance of “HA”. And for Christ’s sake, why would I even think to base my name on such a bizarre connection in the first place?

        And what’s the deal with the Rutgers thing? I can only say for myself, again, that I have no connection to Rutgers. JWshowalter says he has not posted anything from Rutgers. Apparently “Tara Nelson” was just visiting Rutgers, and was genuinely asking people to come over and refute me. So who in all this mix really was either a student or faculty member at Rutgers?

        Brogaard was calling for the heads of students at Rutgers when, at least as well as I can surmise, no student at Rutgers had any involvement?

        How cracked can it get?

  18. HA;

    I don’t think the answer is “clearly no” or that there’s no dispute about this point. In fact, I *am* disputing it! I’d indeed put them in the same league as the others you mentioned. Karp’s, Robinson’s, and Sher’s works are brilliant and pioneering. I’d further add to the list the name of the linguist Barbara Partee, who, although not a philosopher, has certainly had an enormous influence upon how we conceive language.

  19. Holy shit. Berit Brogaard went off the deep end. Many of us have come to expect brow-beating moralizations from NewAPPS but her little hissy-fit surely constitutes a new low. She went after the professional livelihood of individuals on the basis of someone’s raising a question she doesn’t want discussed. And she went after those individuals like an idiot, somehow assuming that they were all one person, and located at Rutgers. She had no basis for making the shoestring associations she did, and the petulant self-righteousness she displayed makes the wrongs she committed against Rutgers’ community only that much more disgusting.

    • I suspect what’s going to happen as a result is that only the usual sycophants are going to post. Everyone knows there’s a deep dissatisfaction about how the site visit at Colorado was conducted; if there’s no robust discussion of this because of the restrictive commenting policy, NewAPPS will look like even more of a farce than it currently does.

  20. Hmm…there’s a comment of mine that’s hung up in moderation. Any idea what’s going on Showalter?

  21. I can see my comment, so I’ll try resubmitting it without the link.

    It’s pretty clear that the NewAPPS bloggers think of themselves as righteous advocates of Justice against the malevolent forces of anonymous patriarchy, and that they have their cheerleaders. That’s a shame, I think, but there it is. It doesn’t do us any good to stick our heads in the sand on that.

    But when it comes to you and I, Willard, I hope for a more amiable situation. That’s why I encouraged you not to think in terms of ‘us’ versus ‘them’. Had I been talking to Protevi I’d have said the same thing at some point, I’m sure. Eventually we might hope that even one with so cold a heart as Berit Brogaard could come around to sensible conversation. Until then, I’m trying to get you to be a bit more playful in your conversation and a bit more direct in your expression.

Comments are closed.