Thursday, April 3, 2008

I Was Just Guessing at Numbers and Figures, Puzzling the Pieces Apart

In comments, Rebecca does the math:
There was an exceptionally annoying and extended discussion a few months ago on this blog about whether being female gave you some big advantage on the philosophy job market.

With all the obvious caveats, I thought the following might interest PJMB readers. Leiter now has 96 comments on his hiring thread. I went through and counted how many of these jobs went to women and how many to men. I skipped a handful of names that were gender-ambiguous, at least to me. I did not bother to look at how 'good' the jobs were or whether they were postdocs or whatever.

Here are the current results:

85 jobs went to men
20 jobs went to women.
That's 76.5% of the jobs going to men.

There are no good stats on what percentage of philosophy grad students are women but the best figures I have read put it at about 25%.

So unless the original posters are willing to come out and claim that male grad students are just better or more qualified than their female counterparts, that seems to me to be very good evidence that it is no advantage to be female in this market.
Obviously, there's a lot more here we'd want to know. But just as obviously, this is pretty useful point.

--PGS

120 comments:

crabby abby said...

Quick! Take cover ...

peter k said...

do you have a reference for that 25% please?

Anonymous said...

I counted 25 women (J.K. Swindell is female) and left off a lot of names I could not know b/c they aren't standard Western names.

Getting closer to 30% with about 20 names I couldn't tell. Minus those 20 and it is closer to 40%.

We need an answer to the question of the % of women getting Ph.D.s in phil right now to make a real analysis of ease. We don't so we cannot.

Anonymous said...

I know of a job where a woman turned it down the first offer *wait* for something better.

Man listed job on Leiter
Woman hasn't listed on Leiter (but has a job)

Incomplete data cannot be used to make this analysis b/c the numbers are so low and can get affected so easily.

Data over 5 years would be better. But good luck with that.

Rebecca said...

Before the conversation gets too heated, notice I said 'with all the obvious caveats'. No, I don't have the reference for the 25% any more, and I admitted it was shaky to start with. We don't know how representative the current list is of all the hirings that will happen. We don't know (without looking more closely) whether females are getting disproportionately good jobs. We don't know what percentage of people on the market this year were female. Etc. So take my post with the huge grain of salt it needs - it's still manifestly evidence that being male isn't some huge disadvantage on the market.

As for the person who counted 25 women ... some people were double-listed and I took them out. Plus I didn't know the gender of Swindell. These two facts might explain the difference between our counting, or maybe you're just better at telling the gender of foreign names than me.

Anonymous said...

yeah, i wish philosophers would just stick with standard western names.

tex. roy. lefty. hoss. those sorts of names.

maybe sadie, jane, or annie, if we gotta let in girls.

and i guess geronimo, sitting-bull, pancho, and cisco, if we're going to get all inclusive and shit.

but the main thing is to make sure they're standard western names.

yee-haw!

Anonymous said...

Arithmetic error!
85/105 = 81%, not 76.5%

Rebecca said...

Oops, yes, 81%. And hence if it's right that it's actually 80/105, that would be 76%, not 2/3.

I can't imagine how I gave the impression that I was against foreign names somehow. I just said I wasn't guessing the gender if I didn't know it. I wouldn't have counted a 'Sandy' or a 'Pat' either. How in the world did that give offense?

Anonymous said...

What's offensive Rebecca is that you make a charge with incomplete data and you didn't even try to see if the following were m/f.

Eiho
Hagop
Zizi
Sari

Eastern Style names as opposed to:

Chloe
Margaret
Jill

Which are Western style names.

And names like Eli and Blake are seriously ?

Many people name their daughters like this so that they are stigmatized with diminutive names. I would be willing to bet that many of those type of names are females and that would change the data.

jp said...

There must be a better way to get the relevant data; there are (even) more 'obvious caveats' than one might think:

Many of the names on the list are people who are moving from one job to another; so, people who are likely to change jobs will be over-represented.

Many of the names of the list are people who have found first jobs on second or third job searches; so, people who are more likely to stick to philosophy after a failed job market run will be over-represented.

Many people who have jobs are not on the list; so, people who are likely to post themselves on the list, or to have someone else post them on the list, will be over-represented.

Many people choose to leave grad school before applying for jobs; so, people who are likely to stay in grad school to the bitter end will be over-represented.

I don't know whether the over-represented groups will, on the whole, be mostly men, but I wouldn't be that surprised if it turned out that way.

Anonymous said...

calm down, 11:27. rebecca didn't make any 'charges', and didn't do anything offensive.

and don't worry, rebecca--10:44 was making a joke about an off-hand phrase in anonymous 10:25, not something you even said.

Rebecca said...

Huh? Where did anonymous 11:27 get this purported information about what I counted and what I did not? I counted Sari (female). I did not count Blake (clearly ambiguous). I know who the Eli on the list is so no judgment call was needed.

You are of course right that I did not 'try to see' if the ones I did not know (Hagop, Zizi) were men or women. I was not planning on turning this into a major research project. Of course you are right that some of the VERY SMALL number of people I didn't classify were probably women. And some were surely men. None of this mattered to my point at all ... however the residual names shook out, the list was going to be overwhelmingly male. I explicitly denied providing rigorous statistical information.

And anyhow, even if this had all watered down my point somehow, none of it shows the remotest thing about my 'wanting' philosophers to have 'Western' names, as one person put it. So don't change the topic. (I didn't even ever use the phrase 'Western' - it's not a term I ever like - so I am not sure where the cowboy jokes came from.)

Really fascinating how people are getting hysterically defensive at what was a weak and pretty uncontentious point about the list so far.

I'm hereby going to stop posting about this so when people heap more abuse on me, don't take my silence as acquiescence.

Anonymous said...

i'm slightly puzzled by this post, since i thought that it was an undisputed fact that there is a ceteris paribus preference among (a substantial proportion of) hiring committees for non-whites and non-males. don't the various clauses - in many job descriptions - about "actively encouraging" certain kinds of people to apply and "seeking a diverse faculty" provide a more or less explicit expression of this preference? i - incidentally - happen to think that a ceteris paribus hiring preference for non-whites and non-males is both good for the profession and justifiable. i also didn't think there was any serious question about whether this preference, as a matter of policy, is fairly widespread. somebody tell me what i'm missing.

P.G.O.A.T. said...

Anon. 11:56: I think the concern is that the supposed c.p. preference for hiring women and other minorities often seems not to translate into the actual hiring of women and other minorities.

Kenny said...

I believe the question is whether the ceteris paribus bias in favor of non-whites and non-males is stronger, weaker, or equal to the average (probably subliminal or subconscious or whatever) bias in favor of white males. No one sets out specifically to hire white males, but it's also not surprising that white males sometimes have an easier time convincing hiring committees that they look like a good philosopher.

Anonymous said...

Kenny put it well.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:56, et al: PGOAT is more right than he/she might realize. The boilerplate statement suggesting "preference" for women and minorities is generally a matter of university policy. This typically has nothing to do with philosophy department attitudes or practices--when it comes to hiring. But it is true that philosophy departments often make "special," "outreach" efforts to encourage women and minorities to apply--with little to no real interest in hiring those encouraged. The point of this practice--which was defensively described to me by a member of a leading department as "standard and customary"--is mainly to satisfy "affirmative action" office procedures, so that the department can hire whomever it really wants (by implication, a white man, otherwise there would be no "problem"). And, yes, I write from experience: as a member of an underrepresented minority group, with a high status academic pedigree (with highest honors undergrad), with articles in leading journals, who repeatedly has been encouraged to apply for jobs from the prestigious to the good. In almost all cases, the expression of "preference" was later revealed to be empty, to put it charitably. Anyway, just go look at the overall numbers--they tell a story. And, no, most of us are not so deficient that, despite the "preferential treatment," we still don't "merit" in significantly greater numbers jobs in roughly top-50 departments.

Anonymous said...

Ceteris Paribus, if woman are hired in direct proportion to the proportion of woman in the job pool then Ceteris Paribus there is not a distinct and overwhelming advantage to being a woman on the job market. Ceteris Paribus.

Leave it to philosophers to make a bunch of stupid arguments about incomplete information and statistics (she didn't do a test for statistical significance...neither did any of the critics...jeeze...do you even know how to to do that? Would you use a Probit or Logit regression model and test and assume normal distribution of coefficients? Really...what are people talking about?!?), theory about ceteris paribus claims and, of course,red herrings.

Can we stop with red herrings all the time...what does not trying to guess at the gender of people with odd names have to do with the comment with the anecdotal counterexample Rebecca offered?

Rebecca was making a point about all the sour puss white boys who feel they are at a distinct and overwhelming disadvantage for being a white boy.

BTW, I'm a white boy. We're pretty lucky guys...really.

Anonymous said...

well, really, 12:42, what is the purpose of the post then? someone posts a bit of crap social science about an extremely important issue. does the fact that the original poster acknowledges it to be crap insulate her point from all relevant criticisms? does the fact that the underlying concerns are real and important preempt any suggestion that they are worth considering responsibly? either the arguments are credible enough to warrant relevant criticisms or they aren't worth posting. unless the point is just to entertain everyone with the usual back and forth of cant and bullshit.

Anonymous said...

I don't get why philosophers have such a hard time talking about this kind of stuff.

Anonymous said...

I am a white male on the market. I had lots of interviews -- more than 10, but I won't be more specific than that. I didn't get a job. I do know that when the job went to a woman or a visible minority, the person's CV appears to be not nearly as strong as mine. I don't of course know about their reference letters or writing sample. When the job went to a white guy, his CV scares the shit out of me (and my CV is pretty scary to begin with).

I try very hard to resist generalizing beyond the (double digit) cases I am familiar with. But it's not very easy. My partner (who is female) thinks I'm crazy to even try (that is, she thinks, having observed several years of the hiring market at my top-15 program, that it is overwhelmingly obvious that white guys have it harder on the market.)

I'm sincere when I say I don't know what to think.

Anonymous said...

The point is that of the 100 or so hires posted on Leiter this year, less than 20% are women. We can split hairs, I guess, but that's not the least bit embarrassing? 20%...really?

Now, sure, we can make all kinds of statistical arguments, if we want. We could say the posts on Leiter aren't representative of the general hiring this year. That's probably really important because that is actually a pretty darn big sample for however many total hires there were this year for the stat to be different (percentage of women).

But more importantly, this is just some anecdotal evidence (not crap social science). It would be VERY difficult to actually answer the criticisms of method posed quite matter-of-factly by earlier posters. Percentages of population can't be analyzed by simple statistics, instead you'd have to come up with some factor analysis, run a logit or probit model and then test for significance (based on women vs men in job pool). This at the very least.

On top of that, we'd still need to parse out causation/correlation blah blah blah.

My point was, philosophers seem to feel entitled to run as fast away from 20% as we can. 20%...isn't that embarrassing? There is rampant, overwhelming affirmative action but there 20% of hires are women? Really?

I don't see why the automatic response is:

"You aren't being rigorous statistically!!!"

"You are a Western Chauvinist!!!"

That's all.

-anon at 12:42

Anonymous said...

The point of the post seems to be that limited evidence suggests that all the bedwetting last December about how it was so hard to be a white man in philosophy, what with all the girls and minorities getting jobs, doesn't actually seem to be borne out.

It's not scientific, but it's not like the earlier complaints were grounded in serious scientific studies, just job-market neuroses.

Anonymous said...

I don't get it.
Why is the 20% supposed to be embarrassing? Whom is it supposed to embarrass?

tenured philosophy girl said...

4:29's point is spot on.

Among all these people so excited to point out that the anecdotal evidence offered is not statistically rigorous (duh), there seems to be a VERY deep presumption that we should assume that men are disadvantaged on the market *until thoroughly proven otherwise*. This is simply an arbitrary bias, and one that no one who has argued against these folks has shown even once. Not ONE drop of evidence - rigorous or otherwise - has been offered to support the claim that men are disadvantaged. So why is that the presumption until proven otherwise? Seriously, why? What's the argument??

You just can't get away with this, guys. If you are going to reject all anecdotal and suggestive evidence as meaning nothing - even when it is VERY suggestive indeed - until we have statistically rigorous science at our finger tips, then you don't get to make one single claim about how you think men are disadvantaged until you hold yourself to the same bar.

And, oh, anon 4:00? Maybe, just maybe, your CV isn't nearly as 'scary' as you think it is. And maybe your letter-writers let on that you're a self-satisfied tool.

Can you imagine how someone defending the claim that women don't have an advantage would have been slammed - and slammed and slammed and slammed - on this board if that person had put up a post saying "My CV is like so awesome and yet men got jobs instead of me and they weren't as awesome as me so you guys must be wrong, despite the numbers"? Talk about anecdotal!

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:00: Sorry, "white male," as seconded by your female partner. A cursory look at websites of roughly top-50 departments plainly reveals that these departments are not being heavily populated with women and "visible" minorities. Focusing more specifically on the tenured ranks makes this only more obvious. (Hello, Michigan).

So, no, contra the Jesse Helms "white hands" ad (see YouTube) sensibility that seems common among the dominant group of philosophers: women, let alone minorities, are very unlikely to have cost a male of your type a job. This is true in general, though there are, no doubt, a few white guys in the land for whom this is not true.

Actually, you implicitly suggest as much. Most of the jobs you applied for probably went to white men. You believe they were overwhelmingly qualified--unlike those women or minorities who were undeserving compared to you.

The CVs--out of graduate school--prove it. What's that? They might not, and so much rests on the letters and writing sample? But those fortunate (white) guys must have been really smart, unlike those, you know....

Anonymous said...

"I do know that when the job went to a woman or a visible minority, the person's CV appears to be not nearly as strong as mine. "

Here's an anecdote: my department was hiring this year; we skipped the APA and just did the fly-out based on dossiers, and reached tentative agreement on candidate rankings prior to meeting them: man, man, then woman (all white). There was no disagreement between us after the visits: the woman blew the men out of the water. She was just a better philosopher,with what we all agreed was a deeper and more promising project. The men both had attractive websites and were more "active" (had participated in multiple conferences, had at least one outside letter, etc), while the woman had no web presence at all and hadn't put any conferences on her cv.

Anyone looking at the 3 CVs would probably have ranked her last. Yet I am quite confident that we hired the best candidate.

Anonymous said...

My department was hiring this semester. We had two males and two females for fly-outs. Our first two offers went to the females (both got better offers and turned us down). We hired our third choice, a male.

What about others?

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:00:

YOU are the problem. Is there a personality issue you're not telling us about?

I was on my first search committee this year-- more a peripheral member than anything-- and, after general philosophical ability and potential, personality played a huge role in the decision-making. BTW, we interviewed 4 white guys. Our new white guy is not on Leiter's list.

Oh, Eiho is male-- if you want to keep doing stats...

Anonymous said...

My (white guy) problem isn't women or minorities. It's mostly other white guys in top 20 programs. Gads!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 4:50 wrote

I don't get it.
Why is the 20% supposed to be embarrassing? Whom is it supposed to embarrass?

You're kidding, right?

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:31, no, I wasn't kidding.
I'd be grateful for your answer.

Anonymous said...

This post is ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

Why would Michigan be a good example if you focus on only their tenured faculty? They look better if you do that, because all of their female faculty are tenured (including their latest female hire).

mr. zero said...

Why wouldn't it be embarrassing?

Anonymous said...

8:28, that's a reductio, right? A department of over 20 active members has 2 women and no "visible" minorities. But it is true, as you say, that "all of their female faculty are tenured."

Anyway, the parenthetical Michigan reference was meant to bear on the two sentences that preceded it. I apologize for the ambiguity.

On second thought, I did write "heavily populated" and referred to women AND minorities.

So your comment must be read as a reductio. Otherwise, it would be almost entirely beside the point, or you would be as hopeless as 4:50. I find the latter especially hard to believe.

Anonymous said...

to throw out some more shoddy data:

leaving out UT austin, which for some reason has an extremely slow website right now, i count 51 assistant professors on the websites of the leiter top 16, plus 3 recent hires at nyu announced on leiter's blog. so 54 total. of those, 18 are women. that's exactly 1/3. making the reasonable assumption that the proportion of women getting phds is not much less than 1/3, that lends further support to the claim that, whatever advantage women might have on the market, it isn't overwhelming, at least not at the elite research depts.

Anonymous said...

Texas has 0 female assistant professors and apparently 2 males (not all of the males list their ranks).

But what's special about the number 16? Or did you just understandably get bored after going through 16 faculty lists My guess is that the percentages would get worse if we did, say, the top 25 ... though I could be wrong.

Anonymous said...

Food for thought:

http://chronicle.com/jobs/news/2008/04/2008040401c?pg=dji

http://howtheuniversityworks.com/wordpress/archives/91

Maybe we should quite calling it a "job market"

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous 4 p.m.

Maybe when you went to flyouts (if you made it that far) your attitude of implicit privilege and condescension toward the other brown red and yellow and white female people was so evident and your sucking up to the ones you deemed "scarier" than you was so overt that the department members actually NOTICED this and WORRIED about it and about whether you would make a good colleague and/or would be willing and/or able to teach the other 66% of the world, the ones you weren't "scared" by.
Maybe it was even true that some of the people making the decisions were among those inferior types who just for some unexplained reason lack the "scary" CV's you are so taken with.
Asshole.
And let's hope your "FEMALE" partner (Wow, what epistemic privilege that grants here, wow, you even listen to one of us!), with all of her job market privilege, will find a good job and can support your weak ass, at least until she figures out what a jerk you really are.

From
Anonymous Female Department Chair

Anonymous said...

I count 2 assistant professors on the UT site, neither female.

Anonymous said...

Female graduate school application are going down every year, in my experience. We are now at aabout 11% for APPLICATIONS in our graduate program. I wonder if other places are noticing this. You can be sure there is NO affirmative action influence upon our admissions decisions, either. (TRANSLATION: the percentage of women admitted is probably fewer than the percentage who apply;and the percentage who are awarded TA-ships is even less.)

tenured philosophy girl said...

I heart Anonymous Female Department Chair.

Those of you twerps who get called out on this board for being obnoxious sexist self-important pricks can take the criticism of other poor anonymous job seekers like yourselves with a grain of salt.

But Anonymous Female Department Chair and I are among those giving away the jobs. Think about it. If you are coming off like total dickwads to us, is it any wonder you aren't getting jobs? We (unlike you, despite the special insight of your fawning 'female' girlfriend) have special epistemic privilege when it comes to this issue. If WE say that people who think their own cv is 'scarier' than that of all those women and minorities won't get jobs because they are dicks, WE are right, because we are the ones who decide! (with the help of other department members, of course, who also think you're a jerk.) It's an Austinean thing.

Anonymous said...

uh, what the hell? anon 4 pm offered anecdotal evidence that contradicts the anecdotal evidence of others about the relative advantage of being a non-white male on the market. he's not overwhelmingly self-righteous about it, nor does he even claim that his scenario is somehow unjust. why is everyone chopping off his head? i should point out that if affirmative action actually works, then cases like his - in which the pure "scariness" of a white male cv is beaten out by other kinds of considerations that make one a good philosopher and colleague - ought to be a regular occurence. that's precisely how affirmative action is supposed to work when it works well, and anon 6:11's anecdote supports precisely this point (whether or not that was actually a case in which affirmative action criteria were explicitly applied). so those who support affirmative action shouldn't chop off his head - they should say: "good, the policy is doing what it is supposed to be doing." we can't have it both ways: if we think that non-white-males are suffering from various biases, and if we think that measures ought to be taken to correct these biases, then we shouldn't be shocked when instances are pointed out in which the measures are actually implemented.

Anonymous said...

So, nobody is going to say why it is 'embarrassing' that only 20% of the hires listed on Leiter, and nobody is going to say who is supposed to be embarrassed.

I know you want readers to think the reason is that it's so obvious it doesn't need to be said, but I don't think it's working. I'm pretty sure the real reason is that nobody can do it. Because there isn't anybody who should be embarrassed by that 20%.

crabby abby said...

Remain under cover good soldiers. The fracas will die down just as soon as our hosts redirect our interests.

How about a post on a different topic PGOAT? PGS? Second Suitor? Anyone? ... Bueller?

Mr. Zero said...

It's embarrassing because half of all college graduates are women, but a disproportionately tiny amount of those women choose to become philosophers. That, in itself, wouldn't be embarrassing, except that the women who do become philosophers report tons of overt and covert sexism, which is often bad enough to cause them to contemplate quitting. That sucks, and I am embarrassed by it.

I used to think that the profession was fundamentally not sexist, and that there was some other, alternate explanation for the under-representation of women and minorities. (I didn't think I knew what it was.) Then I participated in a series of discussions on this blog that opened my eyes. Then I got embarrassed for my profession.

So, to sum up, it's embarrassing because there is an under-representation of women and minorities in philosophy, and that's embarrassing because it's caused by latent (and blatant) sexism and racism. If you don't buy it, then either you haven't been paying attention, or you're engaged in some willful ignorance. Both responses are common, I think, and both are embarrassing.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 1:30 - Except apparently affirmative action *isn't* working since a relatively low percentage of women (and we know nothing at least here, so far, about minorities) is being hired. I can't remember where I've seen the figures, but I believe it's a slightly slower percentage than that of women who go to grad school in the first place.

Anon @ 1:46 - Perhaps I am wrong to dignify your comment with a response. Nonetheless, it is the profession that should be embarrassed. The numbers (both on grad students and hiring) suggest that we are somehow driving away women (and taking a look around the lily white APA, minorities, too). I am sure it is a complicated issue, but the tone of some of the comments on this blog suggest that the misogyny of a certain class of philosophers cannot be helping. By your comment or comments, you seem to place yourself among them.

Anonymous said...

11% of grad applications were women?!?! Could you please let us know what sort of program this is--is it a Leiter-ranked program? Top 20? A place that focuses mostly on analytic? Any details would be appreciated. That figure is utterly shocking. If anyone else has statistics for other programs, do tell.

Anonymous said...

I like this thread, but I miss rumor and speculation about what's going on on specific SCs. What about establishing a permanent 'rumormill' thread? I don't mean rumors about specific people (since comments are moderated, that's easy enough to control), but rumors about when/why/how decisions are being made -- the sort of thing that's driving us all crazy right now (except the 85 men and 20 women who have currently accepted offers).

I have information to volunteer, but nowhere to put it.

Anonymous said...

Is it embarrassing that few men graduate with degrees in Women Studies? Yet, about 50% of college students are men. Holy crap!

And for what it's worth, just because one perceives that some situation is sexist does not make the situation sexist. Compare this to some minority group members are are always quick to call "racism!"...

Anonymous said...

I think there are fewer applications from women because women are smarter. Women are perhaps beginning to realize that it's ridiculous to spend so much time and money being tortured for a comparatively worthless future -- a job you are lucky to get, and may try for years to get, could pay only as little as $38k. And for this you will have squandered your youth. Women know that if they want to have children, it's ridiculous to go to school for a billion years toiling away for a stupid piece of paper that entitles you to a piss poor salary, and few job prospects that pay this piss poor salary.

It's f**ed up and we should all revolt against this ridiculousness.

mr. zero said...

Is it embarrassing that few men graduate with degrees in Women Studies?

I'm of two minds about this. (I admit that I don't know what goes on in WS departments.) To the extent that women's studies is a gender-specific, then no, it's not embarrassing. I make no claims about the extent.

To the extent that it's not gender-specific, it is embarrassing. Or it ought to be.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:30: Presumably the young man with no offers who is blaming it on affirmative action is coming under fire because of his quick and unwarranted assumption that the women who beat him out for the positions must have been unqualified. (Not say, that affirmative action merely canceled out a pre-existing bias, but unqualified.)

He's comparing C.V.s. But we all know that's an imperfect indicator of one's job market performance and philosophical talent, and we can safely assume he wasn't present at their flyouts. Nor does he have access to their letters of recommendation or writing samples, nor does he know of how supportive/manipulative their departments were.

So on a small amount of available evidence, he's concluding not that someone women legitimately beat him out due to things that weren't itemized on the C.V., but that while the men who beat him obviously must have been more qualified, the women who beat him must have unfairly gotten the job because someone had a quota to fulfill.

Sounds like fairly standard set of sexist assumptions, even if his girlfriend does agree.

tenured philosophy girl said...

"Is it embarrassing that few men graduate with degrees in Women Studies?"

Seriously? SERIOUSLY??? You are suggesting that philosophy is inherently more relevant to men the way that women's studies is to women (or something like that) and furthermore you think that that is JUST FINE??/

I have to go drink an entire bottle of bourbon now...

Anonymous said...

Well, Mr. Zero, you are consistent, so I'll have to give you that.

As for Tenured Phil Girl who said that women's studies is "inherently more relevant to men the way that women's studies is to women"....seriously??? Seriously??! That's one of the most sexist remarks I've read in this thread!

Besides the fact that men still must "deal" with women and any discontent that occurs because of sexism or some imbalance of power, WS is still an academic discipline, and the entire premise of this discussion is that academic studies -- being an intellectual pursuit, and assuming that intellectual capacities and interests are even between genders -- should not generate any over/under-representation of the sexes (or races).

By your reasoning, we white folk should care less about civil rights that are "inherently more relevant" to minorities. That's the kind of reasoning that created a need for WS in the first place.

Anonymous said...

>Besides the fact that men still must "deal" with women and any discontent that occurs because of sexism or some imbalance of power, WS is still an academic discipline, and the entire premise of this discussion is that academic studies -- being an intellectual pursuit, and assuming that intellectual capacities and interests are even between genders -- should not generate any over/under-representation of the sexes (or races).

>By your reasoning, we white folk should care less about civil rights that are "inherently more relevant" to minorities. That's the kind of reasoning that created a need for WS in the first place.

The point, I think, was that there is a very obvious reason that women's studies has more women than men: self-interest. (Just as you would expect white people, on average, to care less about civil rights, even though they shouldn't.) But there is no obvious reason why men should want to study philosophy more than women do, so it would be nice if we could figure out the cause of there being fewer women in philosophy and decide whether part of the cause is discrimination.

tenured philosophy girl said...

"As for Tenured Phil Girl who said that women's studies is "inherently more relevant to men the way that women's studies is to women"."

That's not what I said. Learn to read, or to type - not sure which. Your version doesn't even make sense.

I of course don't think men should not care about women or women's issues or that whites should not care about blacks' civil rights as much as blacks (I'm wondering how many philosophy conferences or activist events on feminism/racism/heterosexism you've been to lately though). But surely it is easily explicable - even psychologically exculpatable - that more women choose women's studies as a major, more African-Americans choose African-American studies as a major, etc. We critters are a pretty egocentric bunch. The idea that philosophy is in any way like this is wildly offensive.

And if you really thought my comment was one of the most sexist on this blog... in the face of anon 4:00, anon 4:50, the earlier troll who thought that (despite all known evidence) ceteris paribus it was bad to put your 4 year old in day care, etc, then ... well I just don't know what to say. The principle of charity demands that I take you as not serious.

Yes I certainly do wish more men were in Women's Studies, or at least interested. but the two cases are not parallel AT ALL. Obviously.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the statistics regarding the percentage of women hired in TT philosophy jobs from graduate schools relative to the percentage of women in philosophy graduate school is very interesting.

Those who think white males are discriminated against usually think the discrimination begins at the level of graduate school admissions. If this is true, and women make up 30 percent of the job market, 30 percent representation at the level of TT hiring at top institutions is only a perpetuation of an earlier prejudice. A fair hiring practice would correct for the prejudice involved in graduate school admissions.

If, on the other hand, women make up less than 15 percent of applicants (at least at one of our blogger's school) then a 30 percent placement rate in top jobs is also unfair and reflects, apparently, extreme prejudice.

The argument that there should be a rough match between job candidates and job hires depends on the claim that graduate admissions themselves, and the road to getting a PhD, is non-biased in favor of women and minorities. But for many graduate students, this initial process appears clearly biased. In fact, I know first hand that it is certainly biased at least at a number of prominent/desirable institutions. If we're honest with ourselves, this bias is also suggested by the talent, on average, of those graduate students that belong to a desired demographic group.

If there's unfair bias, I suspect it begins at the level of graduate admissions, and then is perpetuated in the job market if the initial prejudiced percentages are maintained.

All this said, it seems right to me that women and minorities, even if otherwise less qualified than their waspy counterparts, should have an advantage. Especially when hiring faculty in ethics and political philosophy, it seems extremely important to have a broad representation of ethnic groups and a good gender balance. I wonder who would deny this. Perhaps anti-white male "prejudice" in the job market I have mentioned is not all that scandalous after all.

tenured philosophy girl said...

And I am sorry but I just have to add ... I am not sure if anon 3:55 and anon 7:27 are one and the same person but either way, the 7:27 comment is just so disingenuous and cheap. It is completely obvious, in context, that the point of comment 3:55 was NOT to shift gears and talk about the sad fact that there were not more men in women's studies. It was obviously a suggestion that we should mind the inequality in philosophy no more than we mind it in women's studies (by implication, very little or none). One has to play wildly fast and loose with conversational pragmatics to read it any other way. And that was clearly what I was replying to - not a genuine concern with the gender imbalance in women's studies.

Anonymous said...

Tenured philosophy girl,

Would you also say that military affairs is inherently more interesting or relevant to men? Or that abortion is an issue that concerns Catholic men less?

Seems silly to say that one area of study intrinsically appeals to one sex over another. That was the home-economics-in-high-school debate.

I appreciate your zeal in defending women (so cute!), but please refrain from using outrage in place of argument.

Anonymous said...

Women's Studies, for those of you who don't know, does not involve B.Y.O.V. (Bring Your Own Vag) labwork or anything else that theoretically would exclude men or somehow be less titillating to men.

So, to be consistent as Mister Zero has been, you would be hard up not to believe both (1) that there's something fishy about saying that it's fine for WS to favor women and (2) but not for philosophy to favor men.

Anonymous said...

I write as somebody who is genuinely not sure what to think about the question of whether our profession is sexist (or for that matter, whether qualified women have a leg up on similarly qualified men in the job market -- no, scratch that, I know they do, but that is compatible with the profession being sexist). I think people like tenured philosophy girl (who I have often agreed with and applauded in past posts), anonymous female department chair, and anon 5:57 need to stop to ask themselves how they would respond to comments directed at them with the same extraordinary lack of charity and plain nastiness as they show to anon 4:00.

In spite of anon 5:57's clearly false statements to the contrary, anon 4:00 did not draw any conclusions about the women who beat him out benefiting from affirmative action; at most, he was questioning whether something like that could explain why the women who beat him out had weaker cv's, and the men who beat him out had stronger cv's. Anybody who thinks that having that doubt makes you an asshole whose girlfriend should dump him is lacking in the empathy department.

Anonymous said...

Let me throw a tiny monkey wrench into this lovely salad of diversity. As a tenure-track member of an SC a few years ago at a regionally reputable LAC, I was told by a tenured member of the SC that we could under no circumstances interview, much less hire, a female minority whose dossier I liked and for whom I argued. The reasoning: if we interview her, we'll have to hire her because she is a female minority; if we hire her and don't like her, we'll never be able to get rid of her. I knew full well without a doubt that if I told anyone this (without more evidence than my word), I would be terminated myself (not difficult, as I am a white male).

Anonymous said...

I have a crush on tenured philosophy girl...

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 7:27 - It seems radically uncharitable to assume that TPG thinks WS is irrelevant for men. Here, perhaps (though I can't say I speak for her) is a more charitable reading of the sort of thing TPG could be saying:

WS departments have higher female enrollment for a number of reasons (I'm certainly not saying this list is exhaustive): (1) Even as an academic discipline, WS has a more intrinsically political element, which as a matter of fact, tends to be a higher priority (though not only a concern, even in the de facto sense) of the women whose problems they're studying and addressing, (2) no doubt some men are kept away by their own sexist assumptions, and (3) some departments may very well be hostile to male students in ways that are relatively explicit, or which tend to fly under the radar (as does much of the sexism described on this blog).

I suppose something like (2) could be in principle at work in philosophy, though you'd have to flesh out what that is. Something like (1) doesn't seem like much of a consideration in the case of our field.

As has been said many times, enrollment and retention in philosophy (like many other fields) is no doubt a complex matter. But I think we can make better progress if we're willing to discuss it in a more open manner, and not immediately move into combative mode.

Pseudonymous Grad Student said...

TPG --

I've had my head down on some stuff, and haven't been able to come out to play here. Looks like you're doing most of the heavy lifting in this thread. Sincere thanks.

Pseudonymous Grad Student said...

Anon. 3:43 says, "I don't get why philosophers have such a hard time talking about this kind of stuff."

I don't get it either. Most academic disciplines don't have this problem. I makes me feel really, really worried about the kind of profession I'm trying to get into. What about philosophy attracts so many people like this? What's wrong with it?

Anonymous said...

Threads like this make me want to stop reading this blog.

Hmmm. The premise behind this thread is: we have anectdotal numbers on who received jobs this year available on Leiter and no idea what number of men and women were on the job market this year, so lets pull a number out of the air and use these numbers as evidence in favor of our pre-existing bias' concerning the levels of sexism in philosophy.

This thread commits a flagrant fallacy of irrelevance. Seriously, this thread demonstrates nothing other than the posters' pre-existing biases and their lack of charity in addressing one another.

I have a proposal. Let's remember that this blog is largely populated by people who are frustrated on the job market. Unsurprisingly, these people (whether men or women) are upset when they are told that they have an unfair advantage on the market (either because sexism preferences men or AA preferences women) and are possibly sexist if they refuse to acknowledge this unfair advantage.

Pseudonymous Grad Student said...

Anon 3:44 --

If you want, you can get in touch about your rumors at philosophyjobmarket -at- gmail -dot- com. We can work something out.

Anonymous said...

Please don't feed the "women and minorities are typically so much more sexist or racist these days than white men" trolls...

...nor the "women and minorities are always so quick to cry sexism or racism as cover for their own deficiencies" trolls...

...nor the "why should we expect philosophy to be significantly more diverse by sex and 'race' than, say, women's studies or Af Am studies?" trolls...

...nor the "why on earth might it be problematic that philosophy as a profession continues to be overwhelmingly white and male?" trolls...

...nor the "those few women and even fewer minorities were given jobs that, I, a white man, obviously deserved way more" trolls.

Such perspectives are beyond the reach of reason and plain common sense--conveniently so.

Mr. Zero said...

By your reasoning, we white folk should care less about civil rights that are "inherently more relevant" to minorities.

I don't see how that follows from my reasoning. I made two conditional claims, in a near-total vacuum of information about what people who do WS study, which I admitted. This is a defect on my part.

I then said that if WS is women-specific, without making any claim about whether it was or not, then then it's not embarrassing. And, I added, if it's not, it definitely is embarrassing.

Of course, civil rights are important to us all, and that is consistent with everything I said here, and with everything I've ever said in my entire life.

Anonymous said...

"Of course, civil rights are important to us all, and that is consistent with everything I said here, and with everything I've ever said in my entire life."

Wow. Your entire life, huh? Damn, but you're a sanctimonious little prig, aren't you?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Zero,

I posted "By your reasoning, we white folk should care less about civil rights that are "inherently more relevant" to minorities." -- but that was directed at Tenured Phil Girl, not you. Sorry about the confusion. Your reasoning is fine by me.

mr. zero said...

What's weird or sanctimonious or offensive about having been raised to think that civil rights are important to us all, and then continuing to think so even after I was old enough to think about it independently? Seriously. I have no idea what I'm being criticized for.

Anonymous said...

Yes, let's not feed the trolls. That's a good way to move a debate forward. (Dumbass.)

I see some recent posts that suggest that self-interest justifies the domination of women in Women's Studies programs. Seriously?? SERIOUSLY??! If self-interest is a legitimate basis, then racism and sexism should be similarly justified.

There's way too much "political correctness" going on here and not enough common sense. Let me explain:

People are different. Some have lighter skin, some darker; some have pee-pees, others have hoo-hoos.

Sometimes, these differences are indicative of different lines of evolutionary development. For instance, Africans have darker skin, because that acts as a natural sunblock and enables them to better survive their environment. This means that Africans evolved in geographically-different environments than, say, pasty-white folks. (Notice there's no value judgment here.)

If different peoples evolved separately in different environments, then why--despite obvious physical differences--is there a presumption
that all people have equal capabilities and interests (beyond the basic ones needed for survival, friendship, etc.)?? The odds of that happening would be remote, like having the same culture and language even on opposite sides of the world.

We also already KNOW that, given physical differences, men were built to be the hunter-type and women more as gatherers. But it also seems that hunters and gatherers need to have different psychological profiles in order to best execute their roles. Maybe, just maybe, philosophy is something "inherently more valuable" to men qua hunters (whether you want to argue that philosophy requires more analytic skills or whatever reason)--is this not possible? Or is it so un-PC that the very idea should be censored?

Pasty McPast-a-lot said...

You assume that the reason that there aren't many women philosophers is due to their lack of interest; if that were true then there would be nothing wrong with the distribution. But most women report that this is not the reason. Rather, they cite some crazy fucked up sexual discrimination as evidence. Add to this the fact that if you are male you are less likely to notice this and you get the conclusion.

So, even if you are right that philosophy is more relevant to men (fat chance, I say, but even if) that wouldn't excuse the treatment of women reported by the average woman phil grad student/professor

Anonymous said...

I think 10:09 is onto something. There seems to be a certain tribe of people who have evolved to be witless losers who have nothing better to do than try to shock and offend people on anonymous blogs by being as backwards and idiotic as possible and painting themselves as fearless crusaders against the tyranny of political correctness. I really can't think of any reason why someone would act like this except that it's in their genes, so kudos, you figured it out.

Anonymous said...

Maybe, just maybe, philosophy is something "inherently more valuable" to men qua hunters (whether you want to argue that philosophy requires more analytic skills or whatever reason)--is this not possible? Or is it so un-PC that the very idea should be censored?

No, it's not too politically incorrect to mention. Do you actually believe this, out of curiosity? I know that there's a lot of literature on the subject; in fact I think someone provided a reference earlier, because the point arises frequently. It does, unfortunately, have a limited utility in situations/discussions like this even if it is somehow accurate, because it's far, far too imprecise, and at the level of vagueness in your statement above there's just no way to talk about degree of influence, mitigating factors, mechanisms, etc. with any meaning. As far as I know, the evolutionary-psych literature is nowhere near being broad enough to support the kind of claims you suggest as working theories.

It does irk me -- and probably other people -- to see "political correctness" brought up in this context as, you know, the primary counter-theory to evo-psych models: if I don't embrace evolutionary psychology, it's because of political correctness, and there's no third option. So I'll ask you this: do you in fact think a person can question evolutionary psychology without being "politically correct"? And what does that entail?

Finally, I have long wanted to propose a corollary to Godwin's Law whereby as any discussion of gender discrimination on the Internet increases in size, the probability of someone mentioning Larry Summers approaches 1. We are very close to the Summers horizon at the moment. Take note.

Anonymous said...

In spite of anon 5:57's clearly false statements to the contrary, anon 4:00 did not draw any conclusions about the women who beat him out benefiting from affirmative action; at most, he was questioning whether something like that could explain why the women who beat him out had weaker cv's, and the men who beat him out had stronger cv's. Anybody who thinks that having that doubt makes you an asshole whose girlfriend should dump him is lacking in the empathy department.

I don't think I called for his girlfriend to dump him. Or called him an asshole. But I will explain why my comments weren't clearly false.

I explained, for 1:30's benefit, why people were reacting harshly, and it's because the original poster ignored a fairly obvious set of explanations - perhaps the women had better on-campus interviews, had stronger letters, fantastic writing samples, a more savvy department chair, better teaching letters, any number of things which any job market seekers knows can make or break a candidate, let alone anything that could have been lacking in his own performance. Heck, he even could have ended up in the position of being second in the all-around, where he's everyone's second choice for his top choices, but figured to be too good and thus unlikely to stay at some of his backups - in favor of concluding that some 'i know not what' was at work, in a context about whether the job market was unfair to white men because of AA practices. And he throws in some information about how the men all had stronger CVs, and his girlfriend agrees with him (surely only relevant if he is trying to suggest that he is not falling prey to sexist assumptions.)

He didn't say that he could only conclude that it was affirmative action. But it's hard to read him charitably without him meaning 'I know not what else to conclude, but that these women received their positions not based on merit, even though I really don't want to.' Context matters. I didn't react harshly, but I can see why some would have.

Just like the comment from last week where the recommender wrote something to the effect of "I don't know why X can't get a job, he's so talented" might mean more to the search committees than it literally says, or to take the canonical example "X is punctual to tutorial and has excellent penmanship" might mean "X is not a good philosopher" given the right context.

I don't doubt the guy's intentions; for me, at least, I don't think he's an asshole, just that he's not really thinking this through and fell into a lazy set of sexist assumptions (not uncommon, not a mortal sin. still worth avoiding.) I'm willing to believe he's an excellent philosopher on paper based on the number of interviews he received, and profoundly disappointed, because who wouldn't be? The market sucks.

But to not be able to think of any reason at all why a person with a weaker CV might have beat out someone with a stronger CV for a position where the interview process involves much more than ranking CVs? Really? That's it? Nothing else to it? It's that bewildering? Is his only advice to himself for next year going to ignore everything but the CV? Is it so out there to suggest that a department might interview three candidates and find that the weakest one on paper absolutely blew the doors off of the other two in the Q&A?

--anon 5:57

Anonymous said...

Maybe, just maybe, philosophy is something "inherently more valuable" to men qua hunters

Because chasing down those non-existent unicorns painted to look like zebras in fake barn country required the ability to discern whether one was a brain in the vat before throwing a spear?

Anonymous said...

Way to ignore the argument and go straight to rhetoric and fallacies, 12:05.

Why is it so difficult to believe that women are less predisposed to academic philosophy than men? What would convince you that might be the case? We can take a survey which, I'll bet, shows that more male high school and college students would choose philosophy as a career path than women.

Of course, defenders of political correctness would say that there's some societal bias here that has been operating at the elementary school level. And any claim of bias is difficult to disprove, though some/many are likely right.

Consider this as an analogy: Are there more male Trekkies than women? (Yes.) What's the reason for that? Could be that boys are more predisposed to geeky, sci-fi things. Or it could be that there's a "societal bias" that pushes girls away from such things. Both are equally plausible, and both could be true; but to summarily dismiss one or the other for no/little stated reason--and I haven't seen any rebuttals to the first kind of reason, that men are more predisposed to academic philosophy--is close-minded.

Indeed, Ockham's Razor would point us to the simpler solution, that there's something in the hardwiring of the adolescent/adult male brain that causes those males to be interested in academic philosophy more than women of the same age. The other explanation suggests some mass conspiracy or that most of us are sexist and, whether intentionally or not, perpetuating the bias.

And while there are studies that suggest young girls (elementary-school age) are just as interested in math and science, if not more, than boys, interests and abilities can rapidly change with adolescence.

Men are different than women, no worse, no better. Get over it. (Or maybe one is "better" than the other...why not?? Either sex is a plausible candidate.)

Anonymous said...

I see some recent posts that suggest that self-interest justifies the domination of women in Women's Studies programs. Seriously?? SERIOUSLY??! If self-interest is a legitimate basis, then racism and sexism should be similarly justified.

Self-interest explains it, i.e. lessens the need for an explanation that invokes the unfair treatment of men in women's studies.

Perhaps self-interest explains racism and sexism too. But it doesn't justify it.

Let's not get sloppy.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:15, you haven't studied evolutionary science at a very advanced level have you?

Anonymous said...

2:15 here. No, I don't have a PhD in evolutionary psychology, but I do have a MS in biology...in addition to my PhD in philosophy from a top-20 Leiterrific school. (Have YOU studied anything at an advanced level?)

However, it doesn't take a bio/psych professor to grasp the fundamentals of evolutionary development. So let me try to explain it to you, using small words where possible:

Environmental pressures (such as an abundance of predators) drive evolutionary development (such as running speed to escape said predators). In our considered case, those prey that are slower will simply be eaten first, leaving the faster ones alive to reproduce and pass along their genes that contain some mutation or trait that enable faster running speed.

Different environments hold different environmental pressures. Animals in the tundra may be furrier than those elsewhere, since the cold favors those animals who can keep themselves warmer. Are you with me so far?

Now, Australian aborigines and Scandanavian people evolved in radically different environments. So they are exposed to different evolutionary pressures. For instance, aborigines have darker skin, because the Australian heat favors that as a way to better dissipate body heat.

Ok, here's where some big words come in: If you allow for physical differences in people as a result of evolution, then it's reasonable to allow for mental differences too. The reason is that the mental is an emergent property of the physical brain (like liquidity is an emergent feature of a collection of H2O molecules; no individual molecule has the property of liquidity). These differences are not limited to different peoples or "races" but also extend to the sexes.

This opens the possibility that some races and/or sexes are more predisposed to some pursuits (such as berry gathering or war or philosophy) than others. Now, I'm not suggesting here that men are in fact "natural" philosophers, and that women are not. I'm just saying that some people (you) are quick to ignore science-backed possibilities for the sake of some egalitarian ideal that the sexes and races should be equal in mental traits but (inconsistently and obviously) unequal in some physical traits.

If you see an error in the above explanation, please let me know.

Anonymous said...

Because chasing down those non-existent unicorns painted to look like zebras in fake barn country required the ability to discern whether one was a brain in the vat before throwing a spear?

Philosophy dork! (But good post.)

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 5:42 - I take part of the problem with your explanation (in principle sound as it is) is that concrete attempts to suss out the relevant genetic or morphological differences (both across races and sexes) have failed quite regularly in the past. (Stephen Jay Gould's _The Mismeasure of Man_ is a nice overview of such attempts, though of course it's somewhat outdated at this point). When attempts to come up with a more concrete, empirically-based version of the theoretical point you make continue to fail, one must wonder what prompts individuals to continue to pursue that theory so doggedly?

Anonymous said...

7:28,

All good points. Possible answers:

1. If no specific cases is found to confirm the explanation (cue up philosophers of science here...), then not only is the principle, which had seemed so sound, thrown into question, but also logic or reason itself, which had made it seem so reasonable to believe the principle to seem sound in the first place? So people tend to not like to be proven wrong or about something so fundamental to their being and understanding of the universe. That drives their dogged pursuit for specific cases, which may or may not exist.

2. But and/also perhaps that the problem is not with the theoretical point, but the limitations of research on an incredibly large and complex population?

I dunno...why can't we all just get along???!

Anonymous said...

Perhaps as a recent undergrad with only a BA in Philosophy I'm a little out of my league here, but it seems pretty clear to me that many philosophers on this post are in desperate need of a course in Feminist Philsophy.

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE logic, oh the bliss of scriblying little letters and symbols with my mechanical pencil, rather than hovering endlessly over my books or computer.
But, as mentioned before, this is not an issue that can be resolved by looking at statistics, or even tracking the course of evolution.

Affirmative actions exists because from the moment that a person comes into the world and begins to be recognized by others as belonging to a certain socially defined category, be it their gender, race, or whatever, they are treated as a member of that category.

So somehow, over time, it seems more girls than boys loose their once equal interest in math and science.
Is this because all of a sudden their evolved natural inclination towards more "female interests" suddenly kicks in? Or is it because they live in a society where this is what is expected of them as a member of that group?

Affirmative action exists because even if two people are born with same potential talent it is less likely that the woman or minority vs the while-male has had the resources or support to reach that same position. Obviously, this social situation implies that white males are hired more often because it is already expected that they will succeed.

The only way to change this expectation, and truely create an equal playing field, is to have more women and minorities in the fields that lack them.
If it leaves a few white males in an unlucky position, it seems to me they're getting a small taste of what it's like to be on the other side. When what you look like is something that isn't to your advantage.

But don't worry those of you who agree that men have a natural inclination towards academic philosophy. As long as you keep this view alive in society you will always have the advantage.

I'd also like to say that this blog has been very educational to me. After graduating a semester early with honors, I decided to get a job for now to pay back some loans and decide later if I should persue my passion in philosophy as a career.
Being reletively intelligent and outgoing it didn't take me long to find a well paying job in the business sector. In a department where I am surrounded by young successful women no less!
This blog is sending me the message that a career in Philosophy for a women is an uphill climb, with lots of shiny bald heads crowding the path.
Perhaps I'll follow my gatherer insticts and gather enough money to take nice vacations where I can read all the philosphy books I like. And I'll let the hunters handle the more exhausting endevour.

Anonymous said...

Come the fuck on. Say you have a bunch of brown people in some equatorial country where people are less educated than white people in Canada. They end scoring worse on a standardized test. Are you going to assume that this is because of the differences in education or are you going to jump up and down and scream "ugly political correctness!" and argue that it's just as plausible that brown people have evolved to be predisposed to perform worse on standardized tests?

There's tons and tons of evidence that young women are steered away from certain academic disciplines and then treated poorly if they do end up going into them. If we're trying to explain the fact that there are a lot fewer women in philosophy than men, are we going to think that it's mostly because of large scale discrimatory practices or are we going to be profoundly thick-headed and insist that it is just as plausible that, because they evolved to raise kids and gather berries, they may not have had the selective pressures that men had that gave us the special predisposition to do analytic fucking philosophy?

That's just so deeply absurd. You wonder why you're not getting serious responses? It's because the position that you're arguing for is crazy and most of the people reading this blog are reasonably intelligent and so aren't going to take you seriously. I don't know why I'm even wasting my time writing this. You'll just jump up and down like a monkey and yell "PC! PC! PC!" If you are telling the truth and you do have a Ph.D. in philosophy, you're an embarrassment to us all.

Anonymous said...

Anon. 5:42, one can readily grant your brief (possibly suspect) account of evolutionary adaptation--i.e., that selection pressures in different environments leads to differences in, e.g., pigmentation. However, it is a HUGE leap to move from thinking that there may be *some* differences in sexes induced by selection pressures (maybe men have broader shoulders, and women can hear better, e.g.) to thinking that there would be such differences in our higher cognitive functioning, much less ability or interest in something like philosophy. You've given no reason to justify making this leap; all you've said is, 'why not think there could be such differences in cognitive functioning?' But that's clearly a fallacious argument.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 7:28 - Good post. That's one of the most level-headed response to that sort of position I've seen. Most critics are content to dismiss it out of hand as fundamentally flawed, i.e., racist or sexist. But the point is that it's not, at least in principle. Of course, the trick, as you pointed out, is to support it with this pesky thing called "evidence"...!

Anonymous said...

Why aren't you people working? Who cares? If blacks want to do philosophy, let's steer them toward Plato rather than King. If women want to do philosophy, why don't we encourage them to put down Freidan and pick up Heidegger. We should help women and minorities rather than hinder their progress. Seriously, as a white male, i want to help them. Moreover, i think they need encouragement.

Anonymous said...

But that's clearly a fallacious argument.

So is presuming that the sexes are equal physically or mentally (despite our plain observations to the contrary). No one here has defended that assumption.

Yes, it is a leap (but not huge) to say that there must be cognitive differences given that there are physical differences. But that's not the claim. The claim is: If there are physical differences, then it is also possible that there are cognitive differences.

As trivial as that point might sound, many individuals here seem to reject it for no reason other than their world would fall apart if this cruel world were to reveal cognitive differences between the sexes.

There IS a sound argument that men and women are different physically and cognitively/psychologically (see Anon @ 5:42). But what would be the argument that we should presume them to be equal cognitively? I will admit there's no knock-down evidence yet to the contrary, but it does not follow that we must presume them to be equal.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 7:07 said: "That's just so deeply absurd."

Please explain. Why should it be so offensive to think that women can't do analytic philosophy as well as men (not that anyone has said that in this thread yet)?

Or is it so obvious that you don't need to explain it? Or maybe you CAN'T explain it, because no good explanation exists for believing that men and women should be equal in all respects (which is different from the claim that men and women should be treated equally)?

Anonymous said...

Am I #100? Rock on, philosophers.

tenured philosophy girl said...

"If women want to do philosophy, why don't we encourage them to put down Freidan and pick up Heidegger."

Tee - hee - right. Cuz Freidan is what all the grrlz are reading these days. I see you really keep up with the latest trends. Why, I was just re-reading Freidan the other day while cooking Spam for my man after my pedicure, in my swing skirt.

(Insert analogous snarky remark about the King comment here.)

Anonymous said...

As trivial as that point might sound, many individuals here seem to reject it for no reason other than their world would fall apart if this cruel world were to reveal cognitive differences between the sexes.

Look, you -- is there more than one of you? -- have made your point. It is possible that cognitive differences between the sexes explain the comparative lack of women in philosophy. We get it. At this point I am 100% convinced that a lot of men have a sex-linked, intrinsic need to prove that men and women are cognitively different in ways that favor their particular field of work. I really am. I am sure of this. Does that make them wrong? NO! THEY MIGHT BE RIGHT! Would their worlds fall apart if it turned out not to be true? POSSIBLY! BUT THAT DOESN'T MATTER! Emotional investment in a concept has nothing to f'ing do with whether it's true or false.

So, to reiterate: there may be cognitive differences between men and women that predispose men to choose to study philosophy, persist in that study, and be better at it. I think you're highly annoying, BUT I GRANT YOUR POINT. I think everyone here grants that point in principle, with greater or lesser degrees of acceptance and enthusiasm. The reason these arguments tend to go nowhere is that they're actually not about facts, they're about emotional attitudes towards facts. You seem more interested in how these facts allow you to criticize the "political correctness" and "lack of common sense" of others -- how they can function as a stick to beat others -- than in their details, applicability, and scope. You want people to accept a possibility. How do you know if people have accepted the possibility? Presumably if they join you in endorsing it and using it as a stick, if they criticize "political correctness", if they forswear any girly -- okay, sorry, any emotional resistance to the idea. Until then, you'll just keep asking rhetorical questions about why people are so unreasonably opposed to "even considering" these ideas, probably until we reach universal consensus -- about a possibility.

So honestly, dude, why are people so unreasonably opposed to "even considering" these ideas? I can only speak for myself: I am female, I basically accept that men and women have cognitive differences that disfavor women in certain quantitative and competitive fields, and it makes me hate myself. My two options are hating myself, or accepting that I'm "flawed", but that that's "okay". Now you -- if you are a man -- never have to worry about being on the losing side of this disparity, do you? No, happily, you come out of it pretty well. For you it's good news. For me, it sucks. This isn't a value-neutral fucking thing like skin color: this is one's capacity to KNOW THINGS. To the extent that I might be measurably disadvantaged in KNOWING THINGS, genetically, I curse the day of my birth. Now, that isn't either rational or irrational, I think: reason doesn't enter into it; this semi-reasonable account of my beliefs merely crystallizes around pain and shame. You, of course, can discount the pain and shame. You can even declare proudly that men are less empathetic, because it would get in the way of hunting or spreading seed widely! Lucky you.

But you should at least know that this is a serious question with consequences for people's self-conception that go way the fuck beyond "political correctness" and scoring points in arguments on a blog. I'm probably giving your scientific expertise too much credit in the first place, but I will never understand why the men and women who love to declare that men have innately superior intellectual capabilities think that the only appropriate response to this is "Hurrah for scientific clarity! Knowledge is power! The world is more amazing and fascinating than any of our false, ego-driven ideas of it might make it seem!" My response to it is more along the lines of "Jesus, I'll never excel at the things I consider most worthy and beautiful in life. I want to die."

In conclusion: please, please, please, just shut up.

Anonymous said...

I think everyone here grants that point in principle, with greater or lesser degrees of acceptance and enthusiasm.

Um, no. That's the rub: most people here do NOT grant that point, even in principle (or at least they didn't until I took the trouble to argue the point).

Also, even if there are cognitive differences between the sexes, why assume that women come out on the losing end? Men are "dumber" or less able on many fronts. And even if women are less predisposed to philosophy, that's neither a good nor bad thing.

a woman said...

Consider this: Even if were true that men are more natural philosophers than women, doesn't that say something about the stupidity of men? This blog is dedicated to bemoaning the fact that philosophers have a hard life pre- and post-tenure. It's a fairly long shot to "make it" in philosophy, to have a good and comfortable life. So to still want to be one while faced with those odds seems retarded...

sorry i'm unable to let this drop said...

Also, even if there are cognitive differences between the sexes, why assume that women come out on the losing end? Men are "dumber" or less able on many fronts. And even if women are less predisposed to philosophy, that's neither a good nor bad thing.

I find it hard to believe that you've posted this many comments and persevered so far with this line of argument, and yet are actually agnostic about women coming out on the losing end. Your point is that cognitive differences may (partially?) explain the greater number of men in philosophy... right? Because maybe... men... are "dumber" than women...? No, I don't think you believe that. You are a philosopher, right, from a "top-20 Leiterrific" department? You think philosophy is a worthwhile pursuit? You think it leads to greater clarity and greater wisdom, and requires sharp analytic capabilities? As I see it, either you're very cynical about philosophy, or you're being disingenuous in saying that men and women are just different, neither is better or worse and because of this difference many more men go into philosophy than women.

You said, if this was you:

Maybe, just maybe, philosophy is something "inherently more valuable" to men qua hunters (whether you want to argue that philosophy requires more analytic skills or whatever reason)--is this not possible?

I honestly find it hard even to make sense of that question. Here's your apparent line of reasoning:

1) There are more men than women in philosophy.
2) There are [probably] cognitive differences between men and women as such.
3) Those differences can be traced [to some extent] back to the division of labor in the EEA.
4) Cognitive differences are a strong candidate to explain the gender disparity in philosophy; [because?] to believe otherwise is "political correctness." (Unlike philosophy, "political correctness" appears to be gender-neutral.)
5) Thus, whatever causes philosophy to skew male must have evolved through the division of labor in the EEA.

You (I think) also say:

Now, I'm not suggesting here that men are in fact "natural" philosophers, and that women are not. I'm just saying that some people (you) are quick to ignore science-backed possibilities for the sake of some egalitarian ideal that the sexes and races should be equal in mental traits but (inconsistently and obviously) unequal in some physical traits.

But earlier you said:

Indeed, Ockham's Razor would point us to the simpler solution, that there's something in the hardwiring of the adolescent/adult male brain that causes those males to be interested in academic philosophy more than women of the same age. The other explanation suggests some mass conspiracy or that most of us are sexist and, whether intentionally or not, perpetuating the bias.

So, on the one side we have: hardwiring, Ockham's razor, science

On the other side: mass conspiracy, some egalitarian ideal, "most of us are sexist"

Come on. Either you actually believe that men are more predisposed to be philosophers, or you're a fatally incoherent writer. You're not merely encouraging people to consider all the options; you're pushing one in particular. And you seem, in fact, to find alternative explanations repugnant ("mass conspiracy", "political correctness"). Just what kind of philosophy do you do?

Anonymous said...

"Also, even if there are cognitive differences between the sexes, why assume that women come out on the losing end? Men are "dumber" or less able on many fronts. And even if women are less predisposed to philosophy, that's neither a good nor bad thing."

Okay, sure. But the rhetorical force of this argument is to affirm philosophy as belonging to (white) men, if not exclusively, then as a rule, and in the case of women philosophers (or people of color), to approach them with suspicion or disdain or to automatically assume that if they do have a job, they are "less qualified" than some white man who, by virtue of possessing the Y chromosome that links him to some fucking pre-historic *hunter,* truly deserves the position in philosophy. That's what these arguments exist for. It's not some happy "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, so let's all get along" crap; it's to invalidate the few women who are in philosophy, and bitch and moan that the toys you deserve are being taken from you. Because the wimmenz are not home cooking, raising babies, and typing up your manuscripts like they 'sposed to. (Despite all made up evidence about pre-historic cavemen), we're not stupid.

Jesus. And people wonder why it's hard out there for a sister.

Anonymous said...

Hi Anon @ 11:37,

Yes, I posted some (but not all!) of those comments. And here's why I CAN be agnostic on the value judgment attached to claim that women are less naturally academic philosophers, which I would lean towards supporting:

I don't like it that I like philosophy, even as much as I've achieved so far in the profession. Certainly it's gratifying in a self-indulgent way to be able to think and write about whatever issue I'd like. But, as is well reported, the life of a professor also has many downsides. I would much prefer to have the tolerance to be, say, a software engineer/entrepreneur or a lawyer.

Academia, while perhaps a noble profession, has little else going for it. Flexible schedule? Yes, but we also work on many weekends and teach at odd hours, at the mercy of the department or institution. And we often work more than 40 hours a week, when we try to squeeze service and research with our increasing teaching loads. You'd need to be fairly useless in other professions and fields in order to choose (or resort?) to academia.

I should have listened to my graduate advisor way back when to get out of academia while I can. Philosophy is mental masturbation, and you know how well masturbation pays. (Ok, in some cases, it might pay well, just as some philosophers do well. But they seem to more be the exception than the rule.) We don't really offer anything of real or productive value, just clever words and arguments that have little force in the real world. If you disagree, please give me some examples to the contrary.

So I am serious when I say that it's neither a good nor bad thing that women might be less naturally philosophers than men. Men are also less naturally things that women seem to be better at, such as in psychology, communications, literature, parenting, and so on. I realize I'm opening a can of worms here, but a similar argument still applies: Why should we presume that men and women are equal in all respects (beyond obvious physical differences)?

Anonymous said...

What most people are missing here is that while its quite possible that men are more naturally disposed to do *analytic* philosophy, that’s not because women are ‘dumber’, its just because men have shaped the discourse of analytic philosophy to fit their particular cognitive strengths.

Anyone familiar with Carol Gilligan’s “In a Different Voice” knows that even little boys and girls approach problems differently, with boys favoring more ‘rule based’ approaches. The discourse of Analytic philosophy internalizes just such rule-based thinking, so it’s not surprising that men are more comfortable with it. However, this just means we should recognize analytic philosophy as a male distortion of what philosophy should be, rather than as some ‘norm’ which we need to pretend that women are equally comfortable with.

P.G.O.A.T. said...

Anon. 12:23: Nobody--not even Gilligan herself--takes the gender essentialism implied in what you've just said seriously anymore. Seriously. Gilligan retracted all that. As well she should have. Because it's ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

If gender essentialism is so ridiculous, why did Gilligan believe it in the first place?? Maybe because it IS plausible...just hard to measure or prove (or disprove) convincingly.

Anonymous said...

If gender essentialism is so ridiculous, why did Gilligan believe it in the first place??

You're right. GE is true. The second question mark convinced me.

Anonymous said...

Yay for PGOAT again!

Anon @ 2:33 - I'm not a philosopher of science, but those 'theories' that are more or less impossible to prove or disprove? That are able to be confirmed by any evidence, even two pieces of potentially confirming evidence are otherwise diametrically opposed? Aren't they pretty much considered pseudoscience? If the men who buy that tripe on this blog want to subscribe to a certain non-empirically founded view of the world, fine by me. I'm not buying what they're selling anyhow. But you want to talk about inconsistent? Multiple posters admitting that it's really hard, and perhaps impossible to 'prove' their theses (I'm looking at you, anon @ 5:42/9:18), and yet trying to act like their claims are 'scientific'!

Anonymous said...

The second question marks actually negates the first; it's not as with an exclamation point in that you can stack them for added effect.

Anonymous said...

Multiple posters admitting that it's really hard, and perhaps impossible to 'prove' their theses (I'm looking at you, anon @ 5:42/9:18), and yet trying to act like their claims are 'scientific'!

You're right...you are not a philosopher of science. Otherwise, you would already know that it's also/still very difficult to prove seemingly easy scientific claims.

For instance, take the claim "All crows are black." Counting the number of black crows you come across might provide incremental support for the claim, but the real piece of evidence needed is to find something that supports the counterfactual "No crows are not black." That is, you need to search the entire world/universe to ensure you don't ever find a non-black crow.

It's much more complicated than I put it in the above, but the point is that science is not as straightforward as one might think. So theories that are difficult to prove (e.g., take any of Einstein's theories) can still be scientific, especially if there's a priori or prima facie reasons to think they are plausible.

mr. zero said...

the real piece of evidence needed is to find something that supports the counterfactual "No crows are not black."

You're not much of a philosopher of science, either. For one thing, that's not a counterfactual. That's an ordinary, run-of-the-mill declarative sentence. Perhaps you meant 'contrapositive.'

And the fact that it is impractical to round up all the crows to determine whether they're all black is not the interesting puzzle in the philosophy of science. That puzzle, the Raven Paradox, says that since 'all crows are black' is equivalent to 'everything that's not black is not a crow', it's weird that a black crow would seem to provide at least a little evidence in its favor, but a non-black non-crow does not seem to provide any evidence for it at all. The point is not that it's impractical to prove that all crows are black. You've got it totally wrong.

Your mangled misinterpretation of the Raven Paradox notwithstanding, I have no idea why you think your views about women are so plausible. Because in the bad old days well-meaning but ignorant people believed them? We know better now. Give me a break.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Zero,

Thank you on the correction of the "contrapositive" typo. Was drunk and still am.

Also, I wasn't discussing the Raven's Paradox proper, but a variation of it that makes a different point, which involves a red herring as a confirmation of black crows.

To your reference on the bad old days, that's an admission that the point in questions was at least plausible on the surface of it, because so many people back then believed. But fewer believe that now, though given certain evidence and lack of evidence in the matter, the debate seems to be alive and well.

"We know better now" implies that there was some obvious event or compelling data to show otherwise, such that only ignorant people would still not believe it. For instance, if there is experential evidence that the world is not flat; so you'd have to be close-minded and sheltered from news to still believe that it is fact. The situation with our considered issue (that women and man may have cognitive differences) does not have the luxury of the having drop-dead evidence that, once properly understood, you must believe a position by the force of logic.

This is to say, we don't necessarily know better now, since we still have not resovled the isse. There is "common sense" or folk psychology on one side, but progressive skeptivism and some data (but none that directly addresses the question at hand).

CONCLUSION: IT IS STILL AN OPEN QUESTION WHETHER WOMEN & MEN HAD COGNITIVE DIFFERENCES. There is some evidentiary support for both sides of the debate, but the debate is hard for over. As such, each side should be treated with the same respect afforded to other debators. Theor reasonable positions should be taken seriously and countered, if possible. But when no explanation has been given for your position, maye you should be open-minded and believe that your position may have been off...

Anonymous said...

Suppose you have 3 of the latest models of laptop machines from Apple or IBM. They were not designed to do the same thing: one was built for the best gaming experience, another was a business machine, and another was marketed towards college kids.

Should we assume the same software is running in each of the 2 machines, beyond any basic operating system? The same hardware, beyond the same components needed?

No and of course we shouldn't assume this. The gaming computer likely has a more advanced graphics card; the business machine has the latest version of a sophisticated suite of office programs; and the basic one probably runs things like MS Works, the retarded sibling of MS Word. They might all have Intel processing chips inside, and are mostly similar, but there are still a few real differences in abilities.

So why do we assume that people of obviously different backgrounds must have the same "sofware" inside?! The pyhysical differences alone should be a tip-off that the machines or people may have different internal capabilities.

mr. zero said...

This is to say, we don't necessarily know better now, since we still have not resovled the isse.

I'm sorry, but I disagree with you. I, and lots of other people, do know better now. The fact that you don't is not even prima facie evidence that there is any unresolved issue here. The fact that you (or whoever) would cite Gilligan's work, which was controversial at the time and is now all but discredited, is evidence of the intellectual bankruptcy of your position.

And you're still mangling the RP--the puzzle is, given its contrapositive, a red herring should confirm 'all crows are black' just as a black crow would. Your claim was that it is a matter of practical impossibility to prove that all crows are black, and you tied this in to the practical difficulties with proving your position. You say, "That is, you need to search the entire world/universe to ensure you don't ever find a non-black crow." Which is, of course, not the point of the RP at all.

The pyhysical differences alone should be a tip-off that the machines or people may have different internal capabilities.

Not necessarily. This principle, when extended to ethnic minorities, this is obviously total BS.

We also already KNOW that, given physical differences, men were built to be the hunter-type and women more as gatherers. But it also seems that hunters and gatherers need to have different psychological profiles in order to best execute their roles. Maybe, just maybe, philosophy is something "inherently more valuable" to men qua hunters (whether you want to argue that philosophy requires more analytic skills or whatever reason)--is this not possible? Or is it so un-PC that the very idea should be censored?

Who said anything about censoring it? I just think it's stupid and ignorant and embodies what has been called a fairly standard set of sexist assumptions. So I guess I would encourage people who think this way to voluntarily shut up--you embarrass us all. Philosophy is "inherently more valuable to men qua hunters"? Do you know how stupid that sounds?

This idea that hunting is the difficult, intellectually challenging work while gathering is easy and mentally untaxing could only be had by someone who has never tried to forage for anything. Your contention that gathering doesn't take any "analytic skills" compared to hunting couldn't be more false.

Foraging is a complicated affair because although we can eat almost anything, not everything is equally good to eat. If you eat too much of this stuff, not enough of that stuff, or any at all of this other stuff, you'll get sick or die. Figuring out what quantities of which stuff to eat and then finding enough of it to feed a family is tough to do and requires analytical ability. It's not like you can just walk into the forest, grab whatever is within reach, and expect not to starve.

I suggest reading The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan, which contains a nearly 150-page account of his attempt to hunt/gather enough food for one measly meal (I'll give you a hint: the hunting was easier). Until then, I think you should consider shutting the fuck up.

macbook pro said...

What's the question. (1) Is it plausible to think there are cognitive (software?) differences between lily white men and others? Or (2) it is plausible to think there are cognitive differences between these which explain (and perhaps justify) the prevalence of white men in philosophy. Why don't we grant (1), shall we? Even so, (2) simply flies in the face of the evidence: if you don't think there's already a better explanation (women & minorities get treated like crap by a lot of folk in the profession), you haven't been paying attention, just as if you think the earth is flat you haven't been paying attention. Maybe (1) is reasonable; who cares? It's not a reasonable explanation for the numbers; another explanation is already out there, and it has the advantage of not just explaining the data but also accounting for the anecdotal evidence (which women, minorities, and even many white men grant). Since I take it the "interest" in (1) is in support of (2), since (2) is untenable (and no, I don't think reasonable people who've been paying attention can disagree about 2), can we stop muddying the waters by acting like (1) matters?

Anonymous said...

Okay, this one is patently stupid.

Computers are manufactured by humans for different purposes. To extend the analogy, then, for what different purposes are men and women "manufactured"? If you're going to speculate like this, be honest and take it all the way.

Also, how is it that the oh-so-vital differences between men and women are indications that they come from different "backgrounds"? Is there some kind of major cultural distinction between men and women that no one told me about? Or did you switch from gender to race here?

I am so entirely convinced. Your philosophical skillz have overwhelmed by tiny girl-brain.

macbrook pro said...

Yeah, 8:41 -- we high-powered computers has gots the mad skillz. If you had to hunt more, instead of just foraging, you'd understand that.

a visible minority said...

After reading the valiant efforts of some to engage in discussion with Anon. 10:04 and Co., it seem obvious to me that Anon. 10:04 and Co. are not interested.

They are using this blog to stir people up and by making provocative claims, which they keep on repeating. Not to engage in a conversation. It's kind of like we have our own Rush Limbaugh(s), only with some philosophical jargon mixed in.

I am all for talking with people with opposing views on this issue, if the interlocutors seem to be really open to conversation. Anon 10:04 and Co. are not. So I propose we stop letting them dominate the blog.

Anonymous said...

viz minority,

what do you propose as a solution: (more) censorship? that's generally believed to be anti-liberal and -intellectual.

also, your post is one big ad hominem fallacy (though perhaps accurate observations).

Anonymous said...

anon. 8:56:

With regards to censorship being anit-intellectual: Thanks for the hot tip.

Also, with regards to censorship: I believe you just committed the making-shit-up-out-of-
the-clear-blue-sky fallacy. Look that one up in your rulebook for argumentz.

macbook pro:
lolz.

back to research; I mean, foraging...