Coming up

Michael Tooley recently sent me some details of how the Colorado philosophy department came to invite in the site visit committee. Once I’ve got his permission, I’ll post a summary of those details here. They portray a picture of the department and its motivations in a way that, it seems to me, makes much more sense than the increasingly implausible account in which the dean and provost co-requested the site visit.

In the meantime, I hope everyone has had a look at Ludlow’s response to the charges raised against him by his anonymous accuser. If his account is correct (and I suspect from his response that there will soon be objective evidence to falsify either his story or his accuser’s), he has been hounded quite unjustly not only by a student who may be somewhat unbalanced, but by a shockingly irresponsible investigator and administration, not to mention a horde of self-righteous students who are rubbing salt into the wounds of an innocent man. Details here:

The cadre of students, faculty, bloggers, and site visit team who have been banging the feminist drum more and more loudly these past weeks and months came out to fight the good fight, but somehow got lost along the way. As Adolph Reed, Jr. describes an oddly similar group in his essay in this month’s Harper’s, “its metier is bearing witness, demonstrating solidarity, and the event of the gesture. Its reflex is to ‘send messages’ to those in power, to make statements, and to stand with the oppressed.”

Philosophy blogs as supermarket tabloids

Lately, I’ve been remembering the good old days when you could open up a philosophy blog and read about… well, philosophy and the philosophy profession. And that was about it. Perhaps this is nostalgia talking, but I think those were good times. And they weren’t so long ago.

Over the past couple of months — or is it only weeks? — I’ve noticed a shift. The thing to talk about now is sexual harassment and sexism in the profession. And you can’t get away from it. Even if you steer clear of the blogs whose main purpose is to promote political correctness and gasp in self-righteous horror at its apparent violations, blogs that were once devoted to other topics (like The Philosophy Smoker) are serving up sex-talk to a satisfied readership around the clock these days. And Leiter Reports has apparently switched to 24/7 sexual harassment broadcasting.

Continue reading

Tooley on the Colorado Site Visit

Bravo to Michael Tooley for bravely stating his case against the Colorado Site Visit Team. For far too long, no important philosopher has been willing to speak out against this disturbing trend of anti-intellectualism and irresponsibility in the profession, or to question the received dogmas. Not only has Professor Tooley argued forcefully against the legitimacy of Site Visit Report, but he has also at last made it legitimate to question whether ‘climate’ problems in the profession are the cause of few women in the profession and whether there is, indeed, a widespread sexism problem in philosophy.

Continue reading

Let’s NOT be friends!

Over at the Philosophy Smoker, ‘notthatdifficult’ offered some interesting advice at 11:42am:

(a) where grad students teach undergrads, they are acting as professors and should not, therefore, in their professorial role, befriend, date or fuck ANY undergrads at the institution where they work. Happy to clarify that. If they do, they are asking for trouble. (b) when grad students are colleagues with each other, they should not treat each other as a dating/fucking pool, and should not, as a rule, romantically proposition each other. I’d even go as far as to say they should exercise some reasonable caution in forming platonic friendships. Yeah, it may not be the most realistic guideline ever. It’s still a good one. Your colleagues are NOT your dating pool. And, honestly, if you are truly in love or its destiny or whatever, okay – but be forewarned that it could go horribly wrong and result in disaster. Be it on your head then. (The exact same could probably said of friendship. Who hasn’t seen a grad student relationship or friendship completely implode and make problems for the rest of everyone in the department?)” [emphasis mine]

This writer also finds it scandalous that colleagues should be married: “Notoriously, for example, the current President of Harvard, always trotted out for show as a splendid example of the achievement of women, married her colleague who was very much her senior at the time of their first involvement. Like examples abound across academe.

I’ve heard this view expressed before by someone I can only describe as a self-obsessed, image-hungry moralizer. I have reason to think that person is non-identical with the commenter at the Smoker. How common is this view, exactly? I hope it’s limited to two people, but I worry that that might not be the case.

According to this view, it is wrong for a grad student to become involved with anyone taking an undergraduate degree in any department — even any faculty — at the same university, regardless of any other details of the two people. Could someone please explain to me why that would be so?

Moreover, as I just commented at the Smoker:

Aristotle, the Epicureans, Hypatia, and many other ancient thinkers thought the best life was one of reasoned contemplation with philosophical friends. What fools!

In the middle ages, professors and students alike lived within the university community and there was often no difference between the two. Imbeciles!

The early modern philosophers? Don’t get me started! Hobbes, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Rousseau, Voltaire, Locke, Berkeley, Hume… rather than hold academic positions, they seem to have seen philosophy as a sort of lifestyle choice, in which the main idea was to circulate their ideas among philosophical circles of friends — friends! — rather than for professional advancement. And yes, they actually sat down with one another as friends and discussed it out of interest! How unprofessional and deluded!

But the real outrages had to wait until the mid 19th century, when it all started to go bad. John Stuart Mill and Harriet Taylor? Why, they actually married and collaborated! How incestuous!

But the 20th century got even worse. Sartre and de Beauvoir! Anscombe and Geach! Openly involved with each other! Ew! How dare they?

And Philippa Foot and Iris Murdoch? Two philosophers, who were friends! And roommates! And had a fricking affair! Can one imagine a greater sacrelige?

And let’s pass over in silence the many scandalous! scandalous! marriages between philosophers working in the same departments, and between professor couples who work in different departments at the same school nowadays! Get a room, people, and tender your resignation on your way there! Not only do these academics dare cause an affront to public morals by fraternizing and even doing the nasty with other academics, but they can’t even exercise sufficient restraint to work at different universities in different cities or, preferably, in different states or countries (if they have to be involved with other academics at all). And then they want to actually get married, and expect us to honor their relationships! When will the outrages end?

Wake up, everyone. It’s the 21st century now, and we need to get it right at last. If you want to date, have sex, or be married, be sure to limit your romantic partners to maids, construction workers, landscapers, businesspeople, neurosurgeons, panhandlers… anyone but other academics! Them’s the rules!

And remember: philosophy, and academic life in general, must not be a passion for you. If it is, you’ll be tempted to find love and friendship in academia, and maybe even in your own department. You must treat academic life as a 9-5 job, with some work to take home to do alone — not with anyone else.

If any colleagues invite you to any social events, or to shoot some hoops after the day is done, just say no! And let them hear no. They’re the ones being inappropriate by suggesting an inappropriate, friendly liaison. Healthy workplaces require that nobody be friends, and the only philosophy worth anything is done in isolation in the evenings. Be polite with your colleagues (or your fellow students), but draw the line sharply and never cross it.

Why aren’t there more women in philosophy?

I just finished reading Louise Antony’s ‘Different Voices or Perfect Storm: Why Are There So Few Women in Philosophy?’ in the September 2, 2012 edition of Journal of Social Philosophy. I highly recommend that readers have a look at it.

Some other excellent discussions of the issue are here:


The reason I mention this now is that, in some recent blog discussions, it’s been suggested that the best way to combat sexual harassment in philosophy is by starting with more women, not the other way around. So, how to attract more women into the discipline? I suggest these articles make a plausible case for what might work best. Again, it’s all sketchy at present; but surely this is worth considering.

A scientific approach to diversity promotion

Beta at feministphilosophers has linked to some useful information for us to think about today: I wish more discussions about promoting diversity could follow these lines!

The article, published in Science on Friday, surveys the field of research on the success rates of various diversity intervention programs. Though the research is not directed at philosophy in particular, it seems fair to assume that similar considerations will apply.

Some key points:

  • The research suggests that academic scientists have important implicit biases that work against women and minorities. (As other research has shown, there has been a significant reduction in explicit biases over the past few decades: it’s the implicit biases that have lagged behind. Hence, initiatives aimed at causing academics to see, assert and believe anti-discriminatory and pro-diversity statements will not solve the problem, though it may lead many to falsely believe they are helping to solve the problem).

Continue reading

Assessing and publicizing the extent of sexual harassment: erring on the side of caution?

Two related, long-standing issues that have come to the surface in the disputes over the Colorado report are how much sexual harassment is going on and how much it should be widely publicized. For instance, everyone seems to agree now that there were fifteen reported cases of harassment in Colorado, of which two were substantiated, and that lack of substantiation does not entail lack of truth. But there the agreement ends. At least a few people seem to feel that we should therefore assume that something like two cases took place, and many others appear to assume that all fifteen accusations, and more, were probably accurate.

Continue reading