Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Microphone Explodes, Shattering the Molds

Just as a quick follow-up on Thursday's thread, I wanted to pull out a couple of comments. These are really, really, really nice analyses* of how sexist assumptions operate in philosophers' thinking about the job market. You want to make a good-faith effort to make sure you're thinking about the job market in non-sexist ways? Print these comments out and tape them to your wall.

First up, the one and only Tenured Philosophy Girl:
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.
What's goose for the sauce is a duck for desert, or some shit like that. Anyway, yes. Now, up next is Anon. 5:57:
Presumably the young man [and let's let this stand for anyone in the following situation, shall we? --PGS] 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. . . .
Indeed it does.

Okay, I hereby promise a semi-funny post about a drunk asshole. But I haven't had my coffee yet, so it might be a few hours.

--PGS

*Analyses of patterns of reasoning, even. Philosophy!

114 comments:

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:57's totally right that, if anon 4:00 blames his situation on affirmative action, then, given his evidence, he merits all the epithets we care to hurl at him. But I have yet to be convinced, however, that he was in fact blaming the situation on affirmative action or somesuch. In the spirit of analysis, I'd be very happy if someone could walk me through why I should read that in what the last thread's anon 4:00 said...

Pseudonymous Grad Student said...

Anon. 8:12 --

I suppose I could have been more explicit, but the point of my paranthetical comment was suggest we not take Anon. 5:57's comment in light of any particular case, but rather as a general point that's potentially applicable to any of us jobless white guys, depending on how we think about our joblessness.

female grad said...

pgs, I know you occasionally catch flak in comments from readers who want teh funny, and do not like these kinds of posts because of the controversy and anger that sometimes appears in comments afterwards. (and your funny posts are hilarious).

but you know, as a female grad, I just so appreciate that you are doing this, that you are putting these comments out for everyone to see and to confront. we really do have a hard time talking about this as a profession, and I feel sometimes like I am shouting into the wind when I defend myself as *not* merely getting professional kudos because of my gender.

it's nice to not feel quite so alone on this. thanks for using your platform with philosophy as a field to this end.

Anonymous said...

Whatever your intentions might have been, holding up one of the clearest cases of a strawman I have ever seen (anon 5:57s reading of anon 4:00) as a "really, really, really" nice analysis of a pattern of reasoning (it's supposed to be anon 4:00's reasoning that anon 5:57 is analyzing, right?) is itself a pretty piss poor analysis of a pattern of reasoning, and I dare say betrays your biases, pgs, since I doubt you would make the same sort of error in your philosophical work.

anon 8:12 said...

Fair 'nuff. Then it's dead on the mark.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure this got hashed out in the prior thread, but since I don't want to sort through 70+ comments - why isn't it fair to take Anon 5:57's interpretation as likely to be right? Anon 4:00 does say he's being sincere when he doesn't know what to think, and his tone feels reasonable. But that aside, he says that (a) his CV is really good, (b) the white men who beat him out had better CVs, and (c) the women who beat him out had worse CVs. Given the context (a discussion of gender bias in the job market), he seems to be implying something. I suppose he could have had a range of possibilities in mind, including that he interviews rather poorly, or that his letters are lackluster, but he doesn't suggest that he's considering any such thing, and I assume he included the aside from his girlfriend for a reason.

Anonymous said...

Ah, nothing says "philosophy" like a good game of burden tennis. Tenured Philosophy Girl serves the following:

"Not ONE drop of evidence - rigorous or otherwise - has been offered to support the claim that men are disadvantaged."

Well, this is obviously false. For one thing, ads routinely solicit applications from women specifically. For another, just about everyone at least pays lip service to trying to hire female faculty. Are these decisive reasons to suppose women are advantaged in the job market? Of course not. Is it evidence at all? Of course it is.

Suppose that we replaced "women" with "Hegelians". Now suppose an ad for an open position read "We especially encourage applications from Hegelians" and the search committee members openly spoke of trying extra hard to consider Hegelians. Is this not relevant evidence for the claim that, ceteris paribus, a Hegelian has an advantage in applying for that job?

Now, of course this evidence is defeasible, and there might be overwhelming evidence that supports contrary claims. The point is just that to say that there isn't "a drop" of evidence, "rigorous or otherwise" that women are favored is unhelpful hyperbole and quite demeaning to those who have an honest curiosity about how this complicated beast actually works....

Patrick said...

I don't want to get my head cut off, but shouldn't it be noted that the current evidence is also supportive of a claim that is routinely presented by feminists: that women are systematically discriminated against when on the job market?

I mean, if we are taking the fact that women as 30 percent of the grad population make up 30 percent of the hires (roughly) as prima facie evidence that women don't have an advantage on the market, shouldn't we equally take it to be evidence that they don't have a disadvantage either? That wherever the discipline's sexism limits female participation, it isn't at the level of job selection?

This would be surprsing to me, as I had assumed that there was just such a disadvantage, but presumably the principle applies that feminists like myself should shut up about that until we have the data.

I can think of two ways that the data is consistent with a large gender disadvantage on the market.

1) Female candidates are, on average, better than male candidates.

2) The gender disadvantage is compensated for by affirmative action.


I don't view either 1) or 2) to be particularly plausible. Especially when you consider that 2 would have to compensate for it exactly to get the correspondence that has been alleged.

anon 8:12 said...

9:54 --

4:00 is definitely entertaining the hypothesis (that affirmative-action-type-things have something to do with the results). But there's a big difference between that and concluding the hypothesis.

It's also alleged by 5:57 that his conclusion is that "the women who beat him out for the positions must have been unqualified", which is too strong on two counts: he may have concluded that at least one of the women beat him out, and despite being less qualified (not unqualified). These aren't trivial differences. First of all, it's overwhelmingly likely that if affirmative action takes place, there will be at least a few instances of a less qualified candidate being hired over a more qualified one, even if the vast majority of affirmative-action-oriented hires in fact only cancel out a pre-existing bias against a group. (Just as it is overwhelmingly likely that, even if affirmative action occurs, particular instances of discrimination against women still sneak through uncorrected by it.)

More importantly, although it's definitely sexist to think that the only way (or the most likely way) for a woman with a "less scary" CV to beat out a man with a "more scary" one is affirmative action, is it obviously just as sexist to think that this could happen once in a while?

I can see scenarios in which 4:00's speculation isn't clearly sexist. Suppose he's had 18 interviews: 9 went to women, 9 went to men. Then it would seem oddly coincidental (to say the least) if all 9 men had wow-a-riffic CVs and all 9 women did not. (Even if CVs aren't a super-reliable standard of philosophical prowess, it's not unreasonable to expect, statistically, to see the scary CVs to be scattered uniformly over the 18 people, not bunched up with one gender.) So, searching for some explanation of this, and knowing (as he might from statements in ads) that the selection process has an AA element to it, it might not be terrible to wonder if one or two of the nine women beat him out thanks to AA practices. And nothing in this would involve any of the sort of "the only/most likely way any woman with that CV could beat me was if AA was involved" reasoning.

'Course, that's only one scenario. If 4:00 p.m. had 12 interviews, 10 of which went to men with scarier CVs and 2 to women, then it's harder to think he's not just a sexist pig. And maybe everyone was assuming the actual situation was something like that, or maybe there's more to the context that I just wasn't picking up on that would make his sexism obvious. I'm completely open to these possibilities. But everyone seemed to be taking it as a given, and I sort of wanted some help seeing what everyone else seemed to think obvious.

sympathetic discriminator said...

1) Is it unreasonable to believe that, historically, women have been underrepresented and unfairly passed over in hiring decisions at philosophy departments?

2) Is it unreasonable to believe that women are, presently, underrepresented in most philosophy departments?

3) Is it unreasonable to believe that most philosophers in departments in which women are currently underrepresented and the university administrators discussing new hires with them believe that women have been unfairly passed over in the past and are, currently, underrepresented in their philosophy department?

4) Is it unreasonable to believe that most philosophers in a department in which women are underrepresented and the university administrators discussing new hires with them would like to remedy the underrepresentation of women in their philosophy department?

5) Is it unreasonable to believe that most philosophers in a department in which women are underrepresented and the university administrators discussing new hires with them would go about trying to remedy the underrepresentation of women in their philosophy department by favoring female applicants to male applicants even when male applicants are slightly more qualified for the job?

5) If the answers to 1-4 are all "no" (as I believe they are and should be), is it unreasonable to believe that women have a slight advantage on the current job market?

I think the answer is "No, it is not unreasonable to believe that women have a slight advantage on the current job market."

Stated affirmatively, I have the following beliefs:

A) Women are underrepresented in most philosophy departments.

B) Most philosophers and university administrators are aware of (A) and would like to remedy it.

C) The best way to remedy (A) is to adopt a policy that favors women to men even when a particular female candidate is slightly less qualified than male candidates.

D) Most philosophers and university administrators are aware of (C) and do, in fact, favor women to men even when a particular female candidate is slightly less qualified than male candidates.

E) Therefore, females have a slight advantage on the philosophy job market.

Let me add one more thing. If I were on a hiring committee, and women were underrepresented in my department, I would favor hiring a female candidate over male candidates even if the female candidate was slightly less qualified than all the male candidates (I would do this because I think there is great value in diversity that would more than offset the female candidate's slight lack of qualifications were they to exist). I think my position is a reasonable one. I think most professional philosophers and university administrators are reasonable people, so I expect most of them to adopt an attitude similar to mine. Therefore, I expect women to have a slight advantage on the job market. And I think that is a really good thing.

Does the empirical data support my assumptions? I don't know. We would need to know the number of men and women on the job market this year, the exact number of hires that went to men and women, and the reasons behind the hiring decisions.

In my own department's search this year, we had four candidates for fly-outs. Two were male, two were female. The females were a great deal more qualified than the male candidates (though all of them were very good). We made offers to each of the two women first and both offers were refused because these tremendously qualified women got better offers elsewhere. We hired our 3rd choice, a male. In our case, the choice was clear; the women were clearly more qualified, but I suspect (and have been told flatly by one member of the department) that our faculty would have preferred a slightly less qualified female to a male if forced to choose.

Anecdotal, I know, but unreasonable?

Anonymous said...

A lot of this debate has seemed to me pointless and off-the-mark, but I have to say sympathetic discriminator's thoughtful comments are a breath of fresh air. Thanks, SD.

To answer your questions: no, I don't think it's unreasonable to think that women have a slight advantage on the market. And nor do I think this is a bad thing.

Anonymous said...

small point, here, but one from a long-time search committee member.

many of you are imagining a hypothetical situation in which an sc has to choose between a more qualified man and a less qualified woman.

that's not how it works very often.

what is more likely to happen is that you have two really smart, really talented people in front of you.

you may have *some* reason to think that the man is better qualified and that the woman may be less qualified.

maybe you liked her paper less well than his, or his letters are more glowing, or she did not dazzle quite as much in the question period.

but if you have been on a lot of searches, then you also know this:

dazzling in question period is a highly unreliable indicator of philosophical potential.

letter luminosity is a highly unreliable indicator of philosophical potential.

quality of papers is a better indicator--probably as good as you're going to get--but if these are people at the start of their career then they may only have one or two pieces out. the quality of a fresh phd's first publication is only a so-so indicator of their career-long philosophical potential.

sure, when you are narrowing down the field from 350 to 12, then the judgements are much easier and more reliable. and when you are trying to narrow down the field from 12 to 2 you pretend that you can discriminate very finely among the merits of candidates who are actually very close to each other in their abilities and promise. and finally, when it comes down to a vote on 1 of the two, you can sometimes see that one of them stands out as clearly better. but very often, you can't; in most cases you just don't have the evidence to make very fine-grained rankings.

so what you really have, if you are honest about the epistemic limitations that you face, are two really smart, talented, academically successful people.

you've got a bunch of fairly weak reasons to think that one of them has more potential than the other.

but--in most cases--you have very solid, highly reliable evidence that one of them is a man and the other is a woman. generally speaking, their gender is not in doubt.

so it doesn't generally feel like some betrayal of standards to hire her instead of him, and in fact, it is not a betrayal of standards.

instead, you just have to realize that you are facing a tie, or something that is indiscriminable from a tie given your evidence. and in that situation, opting to redress an historical imbalance is a better tie-breaker than most.

Anonymous said...

But everyone seemed to be taking it as a given, and I sort of wanted some help seeing what everyone else seemed to think obvious.

shorter me on the other thread: there's so much that goes into a hiring decision that is based on merit, but not itemized on the CV, namely:

the writing sample;
the actual interview;
letters of recommendation;
quality of teaching experience;
teaching demonstrations;
colloquium paper & q&a;
intangibles on collegiality;
you get the idea.

The importance of none of these things should be unfamiliar to a young philosopher going on the market. I imagine many of us have a stock story of the young hotshot with 15 APA interviews with no flyouts because he came across as cocky/arrogant/is really shy in person and I'm sure some of us have been at job talks where we couldn't believe we had thought to bring this person out because their talk was so crashingly dull. I've seen senior search prospects crash their chances by being rude to grad students or by badmouthing their home institution.

To skip over all of those perfectly plausible explanations, on the way to entertaining that some women were likely unqualified seems dubious at best, and that seems to be where the sexism attaches (though I think it can be argued that he was blaming AA, or thought that it was rational to blame it, based on how strongly we read his sincerity, and whether we assume he'd read the thread on which he posted.) I don't consider this to be a damning sin (and I didn't insult him), but it is telling. Why would the idea that the CV determines one's outcome even be one's first reach, given how many factors there are? (And especially since the CV seems to function largely as a gatekeeper, i.e., whom to interview, not whom to hire.)

-anon 5:57 from the other thread

Anonymous said...

anon 12:18: you forgot that there is still a residual, unconscious bias against women. So even though a SC might be told that they should, ceteris paribus, hire a woman, things aren't CP. between the equally well qualified male and female, the male has a slight advantage because of subconscious evaluation biases.

thus, there is no reason to conclude that having a dean tell you to look seriously at female candidates translates into a slight advantage. The advantage gained by female candidates in this regard would have to outweigh the disadvantage of being female (which is well documented, including in previous threads on this blog).

on a different note - anyone who thinks that "women and minorities are encouraged to apply" actually means anything like women and minorities will be given extra consideration is looking to believe something because they want to. be honest about that part.

Anonymous said...

Wow, someone needs to take a logic course:

1) Is it unreasonable to believe that, historically, women have been underrepresented and unfairly passed over in hiring decisions at philosophy departments?

A) Women are underrepresented in most philosophy departments.


Compare the leap from (1) to (A) to the following:

1') Is it unreasonable to believe that there is life (or no life) outside of earth?

A') There is life (or no life) outside of earth.

I especially like this claim:

I think my position is a reasonable one. I think most professional philosophers and university administrators are reasonable people, so I expect most of them to adopt an attitude similar to mine.


Umm...EVERYONE thinks her or his position is reasonable (unless you're deliberating trying to be an a-hole)! KKK members think they're being reasonable. So do Nazis. They think that the truth of the their position is obvious; so if other people are reasonable too, then those people should adopt a similar position.

Anonymous said...

12:18 --

"Some" or perhaps even "many" might be reasonable, but "most" sounds a bit farfetched. And without "most", you can't get to "females have a slight advantage on the job market", but only "females have a slight advantage for a certain set of jobs", which may very well be offset by sexist biases in other jobs.

sympathetic discriminator said...

1:57,

I'm male, and I would favor a female over a male candidate even if the male candidate was slightly more qualified (i.e. if my department was imbalanced). The males in my department (save maybe one) seem to be of the same mind (some have said so explicitly).

I agree that there is probably an unconscious bias against women, but I think it usually plays out in different ways--e.g. talking over females at faculty meetings, not respecting their work, etc. I feel, however, that most agree that the hiring practices have been unfair and that most are actually working on changing that. And for this reason, I think women have a slight advantage on the job market. And this is a good thing.

2:21,

I'm not sure why you felt the need to say, "Wow, someone needs to take a logic course." Why is it that anonymity is an excuse to say things people would not say in civil conversation.

Instead, I'll imagine you reacted more civilly and responded, "Sympathetic discriminator, It seems to me you have made a fallacious inference from 1) to A). Compare the similar leap from 1') to A')."

To that, I would have pointed out that I made no inference from 1) to A). I began with rhetorical questions 1-6 (it looks like I numbered them incorrectly, though). I, then, stated my position in a different way in A-E. I did not (nor did I intend to) infer A from 1. I expected people to generally agree that the answer to 1) is "no" and I expected people to generally agree with A). There is no inference drawn from the two separately.

You next write, "I especially like this claim:" I'll remove the sarcasm from your response and imagine, instead, that you wrote, "I, also, strongly disagree with the logic of the following claim:"

You are right. What I said is silly if read in the most natural sense, but perhaps you could have found a more generous reading. Notice that my conclusion is an intensional one. I talk about what I expect, not about what is the case. I meant the last paragraph to be persuasive in a different way. I wanted my reader to say, "You know, I would favor a woman over a man if I were on a SC. The people that I have met in those positions don't seem much different than me, so maybe it is reasonable to assume that they are doing what I would do in a similar situation."

You are perfectly right, though, that the way I put it was not clear.

2:30,

Yes, if "most" is far-fetched, nothing I said works. It doesn't seem far-fetched to me. In my experience (which is limited), what I said is true of "most" philosophers and administrators. I have no reason to think otherwise. Perhaps, you do.

anon 8:12 said...

5:57 from the other thread--

So, I'm totally on board with the thought that it was a mistake to place so much weight on the CVs -- and starting to get more convinced that I should have been reading his comment in a way where he was (at least implicitly) blaming AA for his lack of a job.

I'm still not entirely sure why his mistake (relying on CV evidence) counts as a paradigmatically sexist one, though. I predict that if a post just like 4:00's had appeared but with the genders reversed, the majority of people would have taken it as a solid example of discrimination against women in the profession. I assume the same sorts of arguments would apply there -- the imagined female 4:00 would have been ignoring all the other factors you point out, etc. So if the real 4:00 is bad for some sort of sexist reason (rather than just for forgetting, as we all seem to do in normal, uncharged situations, that CVs aren't that great a predictor), there must be some underlying asymmetry between the real and imagined cases. And I haven't yet quite figured out what that is.

Anonymous said...

To sympathetic discriminator:

2:21 here. You're right. I apologize for my tone and sarcastic remarks. When I started posting on this blog way back when, I really did take pains to be civil and asked others to be; but the constant barrage of uncivil comments and out-of-hand dismissals of other folks' reasonable positions has caused me to be jaded and bitter. I am sorry.

Anonymous said...

Why has the discussion become focused solely on women and their alleged advantages in the market when the original issue also concerned minorities?

It might seem that reasonable people would prefer to have more of the underrepresented groups in their profession, but I've never seen any evidence on this in serving on, say, five or six search committees in recent years. Indeed the reverse is true. If I so much as point out that it might be nice to interview a woman or a minority candidate who seems promising, my colleagues jump on me and say they will make no such preferences, they will ONLY look at "philosophical quality." You might think to look at or meet them they are reasonable people but they don't behave as you are imagining reasonable people would.

Anonymous Female Department Chair

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:12

One aspect of the offensive post's language was the very choice of the word "scary" to describe a CV. It is worth spending a moment or two pondering who would use such a term and why. I believe this word choice itself set some people off. It is as if the goal is to become someone with a set of frightening, dominating credentials with which one will bludgeon all comers. There is doubt it my mind about whether any woman would ever choose this word to use in describing herself or her credentials. Why not? Perhaps few women have the relevant kind of bold self-confidence. But it may be also that many women would find the idea of seeing either oneself or others in terms of how "scary" their qualifications are inherently distasteful and repellent. The associations that this term brings up for many of us are not pleasant and make us--I include some gentle men and some but not all women here--feel as if the profession itself is weighted toward modes of assessing individuals that are, to put it bluntly, sick.

Anonymous said...

Have a look at the empirical research alluded to in a NY Times op ed piece today:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/06/opinion/06kristof.html?ref=opinion

The research provides reasons for thinking sexism in our society is very deep, entrenched and often unconscious.

Ask yourselves if the stereotypes for women similarly clash with the stereotypes for philosophy. It seems very possible given (a) philosophy is overwhelmingly associated with men and (b) a number of people here seem to think there there may be something genetic that limits women's ability to excel at philosophy.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, 7:03: you are dead on. I've come to believe--through observation and experience--that the philosophy profession, on the whole, is virtually hopeless regarding minorities.

When the topic of minorities is raised, things get quiet in a hurry. Many of our colleagues clearly don't care or, I often suspect, worse.

I do not--and cannot in good faith--advise members of stigmatized minority groups to go on in philosophy. So I warn them of what they can expect to have to deal with.

This blog is a good place to start getting a more concrete idea.

tenured philosophy girl said...

Anon 7:20: Well said. It was certainly this use of the term 'scary' that more than anything else made me think that 4:00 was an asshole of the sort that I would never support hiring. Presumably he thinks that this attitude doesn't come out in his on-campus interviews, but I strongly suspect it does. If you think of yourself and other people that way, it shows.

cw said...

This discussion is useless at best, harmful at worst. First, none of the evidence presented here or in the previous post (much of it anecdotal and second-hand) allows us to infer much at all about philosophy generally. In the discussion here, the evidence presented serves as little more than a Rorschach. The anecdotes and partial evidence presented do give us reason to think a more systematic study of the (claimed) problem is worthwhile, but nothing more.

Second, too much of this discussion is being driven by people frustrated with the job market. Their comments probably ought to be read as venting. This doesn't mean that many of the comments aren't unwise or even offensive. Still, we should keep all of this in perspective.

These points aren't original with me. I read them elsewhere in this and the past thread. But I think they're right.

In any case, I'm done reading threads like this on PJMB. So what?, you may ask. I'd bet I'm not alone here.

tenured philosophy girl said...

This may redirect the thread a bit but ... Following up on my last comment and 7:20's on the obnoxiousness of thinking of one's cv in terms of how 'scary' it is ...

I've been thinking about the fact that a lot of the people one this board who are just starting out in professional philosophy don't likely have a good grasp of what makes a cv impressive anyhow. There's been lots of talk about the role of publications, conferences, what have you, but there's a gestalt that can make a cv attractive or off-putting, and I strongly doubt that people who haven't been on search committees could possibly understand this.

Here are two real examples that may be helpful and relevant.

One search committee I was on got an application from an ABD guy from a top-20 school who had 9 or 10 publications in very good journals (not JPhil but Synthese, etc.). This was indeed a 'scary' cv. The SC suspected that either (a) he was getting a lot of help from his mentors in churning this stuff out, or (b) he was a self-serving, socially inept paper-production machine who would spend very little time on his teaching and would make a bad colleague. (This was at my old job - an MA-program department - but my current Ph.D. granting department would have thought the same I am sure.) We had him out for an on campus interview anyhow, because we were open to the possibility that no, he really just was that smart and productive. In person we clearly saw that (b) was certainly true and (a) was maybe true too. He didn't get the job - it went to someone whose cv was less 'scary' but also, all in, better since it didn't have those flags.

On a different SC I was on, another ABD guy applied - this one from a mediocre program - who had literally something like 20 edited volumes on there. I am sure he thought this made him very 'scary'. Indeed he told us as much during the APA interview. Actually, our first thought when we saw all those edited volumes was that he must be very desperate indeed to pump up his cv and have little or nothing of his own to say. We were worried that he would keep doing things that required no original thought to pump up his cv more. Actually, the long list made him look kind of creepy. He barely made it onto the APA list and made it no farther.

In both cases, the SC's (which had totally different members other than me) *strongly* suspected that the fast rate of publishing represented an unwillingness to take time and care with one's thoughts and we thought that this did not bode well for the possibility of making a real mark on the field later.

In both cases we were willing to give the person the benefit of the doubt when it came to interviewing, but not beyond. I am really, really sure - because of their whole approach to building their cvs and also because of their attitudes in person - that both these candidates thought that they had killer, scary cv's that everyone was surely impressed by. But the fact of the matter was that both cv's were off-putting and full of red flags, and both candidates came to their interviews guilty until proven innocent in the eyes of the SC's. as it were.

To tie this back to gender just a bit, I hereby make the totally unscientific and sure-to-be-attacked claim that it's all but exclusively men who shoot themselves in the foot in this way ... i.e. overfilling one's cv with underdeveloped and unoriginal stuff in a macho attempt to make that cv 'scary'. Not that women's work in philosophy is all so great or anything - I just think this whole trope of jockeying for position on the 'scariness' hierarchy rather than just sitting there and doing some philosophy is very male. Ceteris paribus, and all that crap. All I can give you by way of direct evidence is that I have sat on 6 or 7 search committees at 3 different institutions and I have never seen a female candidate make this kind of mistake and I have seen lots of men do so. And my fellow SC members virtually always agree with me. And I am usually the only or one of only two women on the committee because, well, sadly, that's how philosophy is, which is the real point of this thread. So it's not that I am just being girly or biased or something.

Am I recommending against publishing a lot? No, not exactly. I am suggesting that SC's can bloody well tell when you are driven by the desire to fill up lines and intimidate and dominate the competition rather than the desire to produce work that matters and that you can feel really proud of because of its quality.

anon 8:12 said...

Thanks, 7:20 -- that's helpful. There are some of us males who want to be part of the solution but aren't natively sensitive to the subtler sources of the problems. Having them pointed out gives us some help.

mr. zero said...

Why does the mere fact that there are minor physical differences between populations suggest or indicate in any way that there would also be intelligence-related differences between them? Especially in a species whose sole evolutionary advantage is its intelligence? I don't see it. Does the Australian heat favor stupidity as a way of dissipating body heat? Or are you just a well-educated sexist who's found a nice, scientific-sounding way to justify your prejudices?

Anonymous said...

From SD, with my comments.

1) Is it unreasonable to believe that, historically, women have been underrepresented and unfairly passed over in hiring decisions at philosophy departments?

I don't think this is an unreasonable thing to believe. However, I don't think that my colleagues on the whole believe this. They believe various other things instead, perhaps, such as that women aren't as good at philosophy, or have made other choices (such as having families or staying with spouses) that limited their options, or that they had actual advantages on the market and got jobs when the men didn't. You see, the men hired 20 years ago were saying the same thing you guys are saying now, that women had unfair advantages on the market. I was hired 30 years ago and was told directly and explicitly by a male colleague in my new department that I'd been hired because I was a woman. These guys are still the people making up some of the constituency of hiring departments. We don't have mandatory retirement remember.


2) Is it unreasonable to believe that women are, presently, underrepresented in most philosophy departments?

Here again, I do not think this is unreasonable. But all the evidence of my 30 years in the profession indicates that there are actually few men in their 40's or older who really believe this, i.e., who find the current situation unreasonable. Among the men in their 30's, the situation is more complicated, but I would say at most the breakdown is 50/50.

3) Is it unreasonable to believe that most philosophers in departments in which women are currently underrepresented and the university administrators discussing new hires with them believe that women have been unfairly passed over in the past and are, currently, underrepresented in their philosophy department?

Same answer as above. Keep in mind there are a lot of other options. In many of my colleagues' cases, they seem just not to have noticed it or not to have thought about it. It is not an issue with them. If a group of applicants is 90% male or if a group of new graduate students is 90% male, they simply DO NOT NOTICE. And in many cases if they notice, they DO NOT CARE. If you are with such people year in and year out and they NEVER NOTICE and you are the lone female pointing it out repeatedly, you become the "Bitch" and the response is that your view is "BULLSHIT" (in so many words, I have been told this by colleagues 15 years younger than myself).

4) Is it unreasonable to believe that most philosophers in a department in which women are underrepresented and the university administrators discussing new hires with them would like to remedy the underrepresentation of women in their philosophy department?

Again, I agree this sounds reasonable, but let's look at the facts. When push comes to shove, even if some men "would like to rememedy the underrepresentation," there are other things they would like more: to have a colleague they would have fun talking with, a colleague who publishes a lot, a colleague with high philosophical quality, a colleague they can play racketball with or go have beer with, in short, a colleage exactly like themselves: a white male. (Yes there are beer-drinking women and racketball playing minorities, but there would then arise the all-important issue of "Philosophical Quality." And if the PQ quotient is high and the person is a woman and/or a minority, the argument becomes "we should not waste an interview on such a person because we could not afford them" or "we should not waste a flyout on them because even if we hired them they would leave in a year because they'll have too many other options."


5) Is it unreasonable to believe that most philosophers in a department in which women are underrepresented and the university administrators discussing new hires with them would go about trying to remedy the underrepresentation of women in their philosophy department by favoring female applicants to male applicants even when male applicants are slightly more qualified for the job?

First of all, the university administrators you mention here play absolutely no role in department hiring decisions. NONE whatsoever. Affirmative action is just paperwork or maybe an occasional lecture. It is not in people's minds when they are making choices about hiring or interviewing. And second, once again, while this seems like something reasonable, in my experience in various hiring committees and in hearing of friends' experiences and observing the hiring committees of nearby institutions, if the choice is between a woman/minority and the all-important "PQ" quotient, PQ always wins--with little to no self-awareness of how abstract assessments of PQ are measured. And on this point I heartily endorse the fine remarks of 1:06 p.m., who has served on many search committees (and who is btw, not myself).

tenured philosophy girl said...

Anonymous Female Department Chair -

To be fair, the 'original' discussion was not in fact about women and minorities per se, but just about women. This was only because the original post counted names of men and women on Leiter's list, and you can't tell minority status from Leiter's list.

(By the way I hate the word 'minority'. Non-white people are the majority, as are women. Why are we still using it without interrogation? But that's a separate issue.)

I agree, of course, that questions of race/ethnicity and gender are not ultimately separable and should not be prioritized over one another (not to mention class, which we haven't even brought into this, etc.) ... but in this case the conversation really was about women in the beginning, and for a fairly benign reason I think.

Anonymous said...

I haven't read the comments in these two threads, just the original posts themselves, but I'll say this. I found the initial stats somewhat persuasive.

A couple months ago I was one of the people arguing most strongly against anecdotal evidence, because I think there's good reason to believe that it can be systematically biased in these kinds of contexts -- and I'm particularly frustrated when people argue "no, I know what I know and no one will convince me otherwise"

So you might find it interesting that I do find the data from Leiter's blog rather persuasive. I don't see any reason to suspect systematic bias in the posts he collects (not to say it's not there -- proving this would be hard -- but I just don't see any reason to suspect it). This doesn't prove there isn't bias against hiring men, but it does indicate that any bias is probably balanced by bias in the other direction.

So if I lost out to a woman (yes, I'm male) for a particular job, this bulk data wouldn't dissuade me from believing I was the victim of an evil conspiracy.* It would only persuade me that female candidates probably were the victim of equally evil conspiracies that I benefited from. So the statistical data is very interesting, but it still doesn't help us with individual cases (as it never does).

* In fact jobs on the wiki/Leiter that I wanted did go to women, but I don't suspect conspiracy in any of those cases. I just believe I could if I had good reason.

s.d. said...

I guess others' experiences are just very different than my own.

My department is fairly small (12 members). There are 4 women and 8 men. If female candidates (who were our first choices) had not turned us down over the last two years of hiring, we would have had 6 women and 6 men (but we would have had one less member of a "minority" racial group).

Of the 12 members of our current faculty, I can only think of two who probably would not consider it better, ceteris paribus, to favor even a slightly less qualified female candidate over a male (although, I don't have any hard evidence of this; the two females who turned us down where more qualified than the males who accepted (though they were all very good), so there really was no chance to demonstrate our faculty's preference of slightly less qualified women to men).

I know that if I were on a search committee in a department that was not diverse (in both gender and race), I would consciously prefer those candidates who were underrepresented in the department already. I don't think my attitude is exceptionally progressive. It seems like simple, common sense. There is a problem if everyone around you looks like you. Diversity is good; homogeny is bad. It's more fun to work within a diverse group. It's better for students. It makes a better world. There are serious issues in our past that need to be redressed.

I have a very hard time believing that most smart, educated people do not feel the same. It seems like everyone I talk to believes the same way. It appears that the people running this blog agree as do all but a small number of those commenting in these threads.

My experience is very unlike the experiences expressed by others in this thread. I hope theirs are the anomalous ones.

Anonymous said...

Why does the mere fact that there are minor physical differences between populations suggest or indicate in any way that there would also be intelligence-related differences between them?

Who made that claim that you're objecting to, Mr. Zero?? Rather, the claim is simply that there is reason to think that if there are physical differences, then cognitive differences are also possible. I didn't see that anyone has made the claim (yet) that women and men do indeed have cognitive differences (though those seem to exist). But folks here seem to think it's impossible and unthinkable and scandalous to even suggest that there are cognitive differences between men and women.

Anonymous said...

One of the things that trouble me about this debate is that when discussing female "advantage" on the job market, people talk about it in terms of which candidate is "more qualified".

Qualification for a job is not a quantifiable notion. You're not going to be able to take two candidates, measure Male Candidate A as a 5.4 on the scale of qualification and then measure Female Candidate B as a 5.2, and say "well, due to past discrimination, Candidate B wins".

That's not really how it works. When departments fly out 4 candidates, all of them are qualified for the job (or else the department is wasting its time) and all of them are more-or-less qualified in an equal way. The actual hiring decision allows factors such as likability, personality, familial status, common interests, etc. to creep in. And it's *there*, I suspect, that women have had historical disadvantages. If newer policies favoring women are enacted at that stage, then I fail to see how we have some kind of crisis of underqualified women getting jobs that should have gone to men. That strikes me as nonsense.

Anonymous said...

"Diversity is good; homogeny is bad. It's more fun to work within a diverse group. It's better for students. It makes a better world. There are serious issues in our past that need to be redressed."

Common sense?

Let's see _how_ diverse your department really is:

How many are Mormons or Southern Baptists?

How many are conservatives?

How many are such that they might, oh say for just the pure philosophical fun of it, willing to question the well-founded "common sense" view that says "diversity" - apparently for its own sake - is better than the opposite?

How many are such that they are disinclined to believe that "past issues" need to be "redressed" on current (one might even say "innocent") persons at the expense of merit as well as other considerations?

I'm just guessing here, but I'd wager my own tenure that the answer to each of those questions is "zero."

People such as myself - we lackers of "common sense" - do not oppose hiring minorities or women who are better qualified. (And before it starts, we are also well aware that more goes into "qualified" than merely the lines on a CV - personality, teaching, etc., counts as well.) But some of us (again, we lackers of common sense) simply believe that skin color or gender (oops, almost said "sex") should play NO DETERMINING ROLE WHATSOEVER.

I keep hearing about the "inherent bias" that infect the white males against women and minorities. And yet, such people as Mr. Zero, TPG and others are telling me that they don't look around their respective departments and count the numbers of representatives from each social group before going into the search committee meetings? This doesn't play any role whatsoever _until_ it becomes a matter of tie-breaking? Is that what we're supposed to believe?

Oh, I'm sorry. It's just "common sense" that this sort of bias is appropriate. Right?

Anonymous said...

To Tenured Girl

Correction: I didn't mean "original" post as the one starting the thread, I meant "original post" as in "the one that pissed some people off" which was the one in which the guy with was comparing his CV to other people's. He found his was bigger, --er, I mean, "scarier" -- than the other people who were women or "visible minorities."

AFDC

Anonymous said...

Dear Anon @ 4:38,

I think by "diversity", most people mean "more individuals who agree with them but have different color skin or no pee-pees". Because if they really championed diversity, there would be--must be--more colleagues who are Mormon, etc. So good point.

tenured philosophy girl said...

"And yet, such people as Mr. Zero, TPG and others are telling me that they don't look around their respective departments and count the numbers of representatives from each social group before going into the search committee meetings? "

I don't think Mr. Zero, who I respect, has been in any search committee meetings, if I've understood his career point correctly. As for me, you betcha I look around at the room full of white male faces on my way into each meeting, and I am acutely aware of it the whole meeting through, and in every other professional meeting I go to. But apparently my doleful looks don't make much difference, seeing as we have hired white males for every search I have ever been on but two, and one of those two times we hired a white woman when the white male we wanted turned us down. This year we had four white males out for on campus interviews. I put in a plea for at least giving a woman I liked a chance to prove herself, pointing out that it was a bit much that we had nothing but white males coming out, and there was literally zero interest in this issue on the part of the other committee members. I was told that we had 'enough' women (under 25% now that this hire is done) and that we 'already had a higher percentage of women than most other departments on the Leiter list', and hence that this was not an issue. Also, the one strong candidate who we knew not to be white was dismissed as not experienced or socially polished enough and too likely to be snapped up elsewhere to bother with. It was also insinuated that since he wasn't black he wouldn't do us any good anyhow, and hence his non-white status was supposedly no plus to us.

Anon 4:38's apparent belief that there *are* representatives from enough social groups sitting around the room to make such representative-counting plausible is naive and laughable.

I can't resist adding that I am totally comfortable with not making a special effort to hire Mormons. I do not consider groups based on voluntarily chosen, ridiculous, false shared beliefs to be groups such that having their representatives in my department will particularly enhance either social justice or my life or my students' lives. If one ends up in my department by chance, fine. This holds for any group of religious fundamentalists, including conservative ideologues - nothing special about Mormons.

s.d. said...

4:38,

You are right; by "diversity" I mean non-white and female. More appropriately, I guess I should say racial and gender diversity (although, I think that is how most people understand the term now, so maybe that should be assumed unless someone says otherwise).

Personally, I would definitely NOT seek diversity by seeking out conservatives or conservative religious people, because, for the most part I find them obnoxious (present company excluded, I'm sure). [I say this with some experience as I am an ordained Southern Baptist minister (turned atheist) with two seminary degrees from large, Evangelical seminaries.]

But that is personal bias, and I own it. A strong department is probably diverse in exactly the way you claim.

But, I went to a Christian college, and it wasn't very diverse in the way you suggest. Neither were my seminaries. There were no atheists in the philosophy departments. There was very little diversity of opinion there. They didn't seem to value diversity of opinion much either.

I wonder if Biola/Talbot would hire me as a philosopher? Cedarville? Wheaton? Gordon? Westmont? Bethel? Bob Jones? Tennessee Temple? I have a pretty good philosophical CV as well as theological training. I would make them more diverse.

But maybe it should be different with state universities. Still, that would leave out NYU, Princeton, Stanford, Harvard, etc.

I'm not sure what you mean, though. Do you think departments should be diverse (in either the way you mean or the way I mean), that there is any value in diversity?

Can't Take This Anymore said...

An anon above characterizes affirmative action as promoting someone who is a member of a particular group "at the expense of merit". In other words, the anon is considering the case where group membership is not used merely to "break a tie" but to make a decision where candidates are not equally qualified (if such a clear case ever exists--and there's reason to think it doesn't).

This position fundamentally misunderstands the diversity rationale of affirmative action.

How does the position that AA comes "at the expense of merit" misunderstand the diversity rationale? Here's how: it fails to recognize that, on this rationale, the fact that a person is of a different background (whether racial, gender, class, culture, national origin, religion, etc.) is itself a kind of merit.

How could that be, you ask? How could that count as merit? Shouldn't "merit" only include things like scholarly accomplishments, teaching ability, etc? Well, maybe if we were simply trying to build a university out of the best scholar/teachers we could find, with no interest whatsoever in also building a a university that is welcoming to all students, and that will train the future leaders of society. It's similar to what goes on at the level of undergraduate admissions. If Harvard just wanted the kind of "meritocracy" you get when you only consider, say, test-smarts as counting as "merit", then they could admit an entire freshman class of just people who got a perfect score on the SAT. But instead they want a thriving community, one filled with artists and musicians and athletes and perfomers, even if it means admitting fewer valedictorians.

That's right, being an oboe player or a track superstar or, yes, a member of a racial minority, all count as "merit" in the sense relevant for building a thriving university. That's because we want a university that has a marching band, and a track team, and opportunities for students to interact with people from different backgrounds--an important educational experience.

At the faculty level, we want the same thing. We want teachers who will contribute to the community in ways not necessarily measured by their publications and lectures. This is especially true at public universities, which are charged with the responsibility of using public funds to train the leadership class. We want a leadership class that is representative of those whom it leads, because it has been shown that leaders are more responsive to the needs of those whose lives they are familiar with. So, we admit a diverse group of students, and expect that an integrated community will foster greater understanding. But we also need to support this diverse group of students with a diverse faculty, because students need role models to help light their path toward becoming members of a responsive leadership class.

Now, all of this is said with a certain obvious caveat in mind. The caveat is that we pick and choose students and faculty members to build our diverse university community from a pool of candidates who all meet the minimum qualifications. When AA started out, this wasn't the case--students were admitted below the minimum qualifications deemed necessary to succeed, and many of them failed, tarnishing the reputation of AA. But as currently practiced, AA is just a rationale for picking from amongst the many talented and (over-)qualified candidates for slots in the student body or faculty. Given that there are too many qualified candidates in both cases, and that a "meritocracy" that uses only test scores/scholarship as "merit" would result in a student body and faculty body that is homogenous in all kinds of undesirable ways, AA seems like an obvious and harmless tool.

Now, the anon to whom I am responding may worry that, even if all the above is true, AA nevertheless introduces race(/religion/class/whatever) into the equation when we should instead be "race-blind" and that this constitutes "discrimination" all over again. But of course "discrimination" itself is not a bad thing--it's just a word for the differentiating among things for the purpose of some selection task. When "discrimination" becomes a bad thing, it seems, is when the criterion on which we are differentiating the items is a criterion that is irrelevant to the selection task. But on the argument I've given above, the criterion of race (/religion/gender/athlete status/whatever) is relevant to the selection task at hand--namely, the task of selecting a thriving university community that will effectively train the future leaders of our communities. So the cry of "discrimination," where that is meant as a bad thing, is question-begging.

Now, if my argument above has failed to convince anyone that AA at the level of hiring is a good idea, don't worry: dueling anecdotes aside, we don't seem to have any systematic evidence that AA is successfully being practiced at the level of hiring in most philosophy positions. We know that universities (/deans/human resources departments) are saying that they want to encourage diverse applicants, but we don't have any evidence that this is translating to any "advantage" on the job market, whether a gross advantage or a net advantage (when balanced against the institutional racism/sexism that undoubtedly entails a gross disadvantage at the outset). If AA were being practiced successfully, one would think that levels of women and minorities would be rising in our profession, as they have in other humanities, rather than remaining stagnant as the evidence suggests.

Anonymous said...

I do not consider groups based on voluntarily chosen, ridiculous, false shared beliefs to be groups such that having their representatives in my department will particularly enhance either social justice or my life or my students' lives.

Ah, hypocrisy and self-interest rear their ugly heads. Normally, maligning more than half the world who have religious beliefs is a career-limiting move, but since you're tenured, TPG, I suppose you are free to be intolerant and a hypocrite.

Further, we can all agree that some diversity is good. And if two similarly qualified candidates of different genders are being considered, we might agree that there's some reason to favor the woman. But to deliberate seek out women as a top-line requirement seems to subvert the general mission of philosophy departments, which is to TEACH PHILOSOPHY. If they can also create a diverse learning environment, then great. But that seems to be a secondary goal at best.

Anonymous said...

I can't resist adding that I am totally comfortable with not making a special effort to hire Mormons. I do not consider groups based on voluntarily chosen, ridiculous, false shared beliefs to be groups such that having their representatives in my department will particularly enhance either social justice or my life or my students' lives. If one ends up in my department by chance, fine. This holds for any group of religious fundamentalists, including conservative ideologues - nothing special about Mormons.

This is a good illustration of how quickly the show goes on the other foot when you're in the majority.

hobbes said...

Look, let's get over the fiction that philosophy departments, or any academic department, are objective, fair, balanced, whatever you want to call it. They are all interested in diversity to the extent that it does not conflict with their particular brand of philosophy. If they were truly interested in diversity, then there would be atheist philosophers at Catholic universities, for instance. Or Mormon philosophers at your typical public university that's not in Utah.

But there's not. And for good reason: why would anyone want to hire a dissenter, a potential trouble-maker, someone who might teach students things that the department as a whole don't want to be taught?

So let's stop using "diversity" as a reason to hire more women or minorities. The reason we want to hire those folks are usually that there's a woman or person of color in the department who resents not having more of "their kind" and so pushes for those hires. Which is fine, because that's what we white males have been doing all this time. At the end of the day, it's ALL about self-interest!

tenured philosophy girl said...

"'I do not consider groups based on voluntarily chosen, ridiculous, false shared beliefs to be groups such that having their representatives in my department will particularly enhance either social justice or my life or my students' lives.'

Ah, hypocrisy and self-interest rear their ugly heads. Normally, maligning more than half the world who have religious beliefs is a career-limiting move, but since you're tenured, TPG, I suppose you are free to be intolerant and a hypocrite."

Your elisions between 'false, ridiculous beliefs' (my words, first paragraph) and 'religious beliefs' (your words, second paragraph) is very telling. You must really hate all religious people. Too bad you don't have tenure.

tenured philosophy girl said...

Hobbes, there are plenty of atheists at Catholic universities. Check out Georgetown for instance. Or did you just mean there are no atheists at those Catholic universities at which they don't hire atheists?

Anonymous said...

Dear "Hobbes",

Give me a break. There ARE atheist philosophers at Catholic schools--I know several. And there ARE Mormon philosophers outside of Utah--in fact, one of the best profs I ever had at my ultra-liberal ultra-selective liberal arts college was a Mormon. The other faculty members loved him, and not just because his religion never ever came up in the classroom.

Your position is utterly ridiculous. Plenty of white males desire diversity. (You apparently are not one of them, so you may have trouble understanding this.) The idea that philosophy profs don't want "dissenters" presupposes that (1) there is a strong correlation between a person's racial/gender/religious characteristics and the kind of philosophy they teach in the classroom, and (2) philosophy faculty give a damn about what other faculty members are teaching in the classroom. In my experience, both (1) and (2) are generally false.

It may be true that certain schools have biases against, say, consequentialists, or externalists, or experimental philosophers, or one-boxers. But these tend (1) not to be correlated with what the person would be teaching undergraduates, since most responsible profs try not just teach their own views, and (2) not to be correlated with the qualities affirmative action seeks. You argument about what the candidate "might teach students" seems quite dubious to me.

Anonymous said...

Notre Dame has some atheists, right? And most of the top Leiter departments have at least a Christian or two on the faculty. Probably the reason we don't see many Mormons on the faculty are that there really aren't that many Mormon grad students (although I do know of one, and he has a good job), and I'm assuming that's (mostly? party?) because Mormons make up a very small proportion of the population in this country.

I know this is getting off track, but I think the religion issue is interesting as well.

Anonymous said...

Your elisions between 'false, ridiculous beliefs' (my words, first paragraph) and 'religious beliefs' (your words, second paragraph) is very telling. You must really hate all religious people.

The only thing you can and should read into that jump is that I assumed you were biased against all religions (or worse, are a theist based against all other religions). If you aren't, then please explain why the Mormon tradition is so much more "false and ridiculous" than others?

Too bad you don't have tenure.

Wow. Great comeback (for a woman). In fact, I do have tenure. I simply don't think that's a relevant fact or something I need to advertise in my blog handle.

Indeed, how do we know YOU are tenured? That you call yourself TPG leads me to believe that you are not and are claiming to be only to gain credibility. Tenured faculty generally don't have those insecurities or hang-ups...

Anonymous said...

Hey 8:25, I have been beginning to have the same suspicions about TPG. The "false, ridiculous beliefs" remark isn't the first staggeringly uninformed and unreflective tidbit to be posted by that individual, just the most recent. The poster is coming across as someone trying to build up credibility before launching into full provocateur mode. Or maybe it's just someone who's bored and trying on a fictional identity. As an academic who is also a woman, I do find it interesting how much good faith and leeway I've privately been extending to that poster's comments on the basis of the TPG handle. I will say, though, that when I'm on my faculty's search committee next year I will be strongly inclined to nix any candidate who makes remarks like some of TPG's, regardless of the person's race or gender.

Anonymous said...

fuk. reading through all this back and forth about diversity and privilege is really, really depressing. i knew my undergrads held such naive views about the sociology of race and gender, but the total disconnect professional philosophers seem to have with the real world is quite astounding to me. is it not common knowledge that AA policies haven't actually translated into any real advantage for women or people of color? that, in general, they only serve administrators worried about fund raising or, rarely, law suits? i mean, it's not like there isn't a HUGE scholarly literature on this stuff. instead of trading ignorant barbs back and forth, perhaps we should, um, consult the data? even worse than the total disregard of the relevant scholarship is the completely hostile attitude of professional philosophers toward addressing social inequities. perhaps most of this is indeed fueled by anxieties about the job market. but i shudder to think that one day i'll be walking into a department filled with colleagues who think like some of you above. it makes me seriously reconsider going into this profession, quite apart from job prospects. (i'm a phd student in a top 5 school, so i'm not super worried on that score.) i can only hope many of the posters here are undergrad trolls or that, in any case, the views expressed in this blog are not by any stretch representative of those held by the profession at large. if so, it suddenly becomes a lot clearer why AA policies haven't worked. what intelligent person would willingly choose to be surrounded by such feeble, hateful minds for her entire career?

austin powers said...

TPG isn't a woman, man. She's a man, man!

mr. zero said...

Who made that claim that you're objecting to, Mr. Zero??

I guess I posted my reply in the wrong thread. Some anonymous dickhead made the claim I'm objecting to, and then I got exasperated and surfed away, and then I got even more exasperated and fucked up my reply.

tenured philosophy girl said...

"The only thing you can and should read into that jump is that I assumed you were biased against all religions (or worse, are a theist based against all other religions)."

Um, that was my point. I was teasing you and that stupid inference. So I read the jump just right it turns out. That whole post was supposed to be teasing you and your dumb reasoning, but apparently you and the 'academic woman' after you didn't get that.

This is probably troll-feeding at this point, but if you read my post I was very clear - I said 'religious fundamentalists' had beliefs that were false and ridiculous. I am happy to stick by it.

After I posted I was a bit uncomfortable with my having presumed that all Mormons are fundamentalists. I am sure there are Mormons with a subtler interpretation of their texts. So take my comment as having been about fundamentalist Mormons.

The point was that I have no interest in hiring people based on their *beliefs*, rather than on a history of oppression and an imposed different social vantage point, and I think it's a terrible analogy. What someone believes should be entirely irrelevant to hiring, for all sorts of reasons - though if they believe things and can't give sensible arguments for them then this should count against their philosophical abilities, but mostly I just think we should leave beliefs out of it.

Of course you don't know if I am really who my handle says I am - any more than assprof or anyone else who has used their career position in their handle in order to situate their comments. Duh, it's an anonymous internet blog. Believe what you will. I have given away too much about my identity already.

I've spent TOO much time on this discussion for the last few days. This all just makes me so very sad. The idea that what it has come to is comparing being female or non-white in academic philosophy with being a Mormon, and that we are still arguing over whether women are genetically predisposed to be worse at analytic philosophy than men, is just utterly disheartening. I forget when I teach my classes and look around at my sea of white male students, who I overwhelmingly like, that many among them are privately thinking crap like this about me - wondering whether I was hired despite being 'less qualified' because I am a girl, and maybe even doubting my analytic philosophy cred on genetic grounds. God that sucks.

Jason said...

I'm fairly confident that 4:38's choice of a Mormon (and a Southern Baptist) examples was more-or-less arbitrary. But the choice has been singled out for attention, so as a Mormon philosopher myself, I figured I might as well throw my two bits in.

First, yes, there are very few Mormon philosophers generally, and so you shouldn't expect to run across very many. This doesn't seem to be thanks to hostile workplace environments (the way the lack of women and "visible minorities" in the profession seems to be), but just because there aren't that many of us in the population generally. (I'd estimate maybe 2-3% of the U.S. population is Mormon -- there's about 13M in the world, and I'm guessing 2 to 3 out of 5 is in the U.S.) I've never encountered anything like systematic hostility against Mormons in the profession -- sure, there are a few offhanded comments like TPG's that rankle a bit, but nothing at all on the scale of the sort of thing I've seen women and "visible minorities" have to deal with.

Second, I'm fully supportive of affirmative action hiring practices favoring women and "minorities". (Not to say that any are implemented, or effectively implemented -- I'm not in a position to know. But I think it would be a good thing if they were.) And I would be very bothered by a policy that favored hiring Mormons (except perhaps at a place like BYU where the policy has a lot to do with the ecclesiastical mission of the university). I can see two good justifications for affirmative action. The first has to do with social justice: there is systematic bias against hiring people of group X, so we'll put these policies in place to counterbalance the bias. The second has to do with diversity, all right, but not just any old diversity for any old reason. It is, rather, that our student body is likely to be diverse in way X, but the faculty body is not diverse in way X, so we should make an effort to diversify in way X in to increase the likelihood that students can find some faculty to whom they can relate.

Since I think women and non-whites are biased against (maybe not consciously, but I think it's there) in a way Mormons aren't, I support asymmetrical affirmative action practices on justification one. And since a quick glance around the classrooms I've been in reveals many more non-male, non-whites than I tend to see in faculty bodies -- but has only ever revealed one Mormon other than me -- I support the asymmetry given justification two.

Finally, on TPG's post: sure, I was a bit saddened by (what I could only take as) a characterization of some of my deeply held beliefs as "ridiculous and false". But I took the substance of her comment to be exactly what I just outlined in the previous two paragraphs. So my religious sensibilities notwithstanding, I don't think we should argue ad hominem here from "Some supporters of affirmative action say unlightened, etc. things about Mormons & co." to "We should ignore what those people have to say" or "their justifications of affirmative action are inherently untrustworthy" or etc.

tenured philosophy girl said...

Dear Jason the very nice and sensible Mormon guy -

Although I more or less stand by both my arguments and the content of what I said in each post, I am continuing to feel increasingly uncomfortable about the appending 'ridiculous and false'. For one thing it was irrelevant to my point, which is that someone's beliefs are a really stupid reason to want to hire or not hire that person. I stick by this. For another thing it was unnecessarily abrasive.

I don't know how much of a fundamentalist or a literalist you are or aren't about your Mormonism. If you are one, then I am going to say I think you have some beliefs that I believe to be false and indeed wildly far fetched (nicer word than 'ridiculous' but the point is the same). Is that OK with you? I am willing to bet anything that you find many of my beliefs to be ridiculous and false. I'm OK with that. I think I'm right - such is the nature of belief. It's no surprise to you, is it, that non-Mormons find many Mormon beliefs, taken literally, to be completely implausible? My sense is that most Mormons understand this and are fine with it and secure in their faith.

This is all morally irrelevant, and professionally irrelevant, which was the point of my post, though I put it abrasively. I think the fact that you believe things that I don't swallow for a second has nothing whatsoever to do with whether I should hire you or not. Nothing at all. And of course, it has nothing to do with how much I do or should respect you as a person.

This is all completely different from the case where we are trying to correct and account for deep and widespread systematic disadvantage and disenfranchisement, as you so nicely explained in your post.

So I am sorry for my abrasive and hurtful wording. And I stick by my point. And I think your post was refreshing in tone, content, good sense, and etiquette.

TPG

Anonymous said...

Can't Take This Anymore and TPG,

You're more honest than most people in this discussion. CTTA makes it clear that he thinks it's good to be black or female, and presumably bad to be white or male. Maybe there's an important qualification that I'm leaving out, like "good for hiring purposes" but I'm not sure how much of a difference that really makes. TPG admits to always being aware of how many people in her environment are like or unlike her.

Setting aside the question of whether AA or (reverse)discrimination can be justified (I think both can be, but let's set that aside), both these attitudes bother me.

Jason said...

TPG,

Apology happily accepted. And yes, it's no surprise or bother to me to find that others find my beliefs far-fetched, etc., for the reasons you point out. Heck, I think some of them are far-fetched; I just also think they're true. And think I have good reason to think they're true, and so on... But agreed, none of that should be relevant to whether or not anyone hires me. (Unless they started withholding jobs based on nothing other than these beliefs; but like I said, I've seen no evidence of anything of that sort happening in philosophy.)

will philosophize for food said...

"Indeed, how do we know YOU are tenured? That you call yourself TPG leads me to believe that you are not and are claiming to be only to gain credibility. Tenured faculty generally don't have those insecurities or hang-ups..."

I can attest to the fact (knowing who she is in real life) that TPG is a real live person who is in fact tenured, a (full) professor, and a girl. And moreover, not only is she rather well respected, having published outstanding work in top (*gasp!*) analytic journals, but she is also a really swell person.

What you perceive as insecurity is perhaps frustration that so many would be so hostile to such a simple point. That itself indicates to me how prevalent these biases actually are.

Reading threads about this topic just bums me out. Not only for how far we as a society still need to go, but how little progress is actually being made by this generation--the one which was supposed to be overcoming the racial and gender biases prevalent in past generations. Sometimes the educators also need to be educated.

tenured philosophy girl said...

Thanks WPFF. By all rights someone should have hired you already so you could happily lose investment in this blog, as I clearly should have ages ago.

And no, WPFF is not my boyfriend or anything. :-)

And thanks to you too, Jason, really.

s.d. said...

Reading threads about this topic just bums me out. Not only for how far we as a society still need to go, but how little progress is actually being made by this generation--the one which was supposed to be overcoming the racial and gender biases prevalent in past generations. Sometimes the educators also need to be educated.

But wait, it seems to me that most people here are saying exactly the thing you expected and hoped about our generation. PGS, Soon-to-be-jaded, me, and a majority of the other commenters are saying AA is a good thing and that if we were on hiring committees we would actively try to make hiring decisions that diversify our departments. I suspect there aren't more than 3-5 people commenting on these threads (albeit in great numbers) who disagree.

Isn't it even a little encouraging that we all are shocked by this stuff, that we think it is so obvious that diverse departments are more desirable that homogeneous ones? We're young, white male future philosophers (I'm assuming) who are adamantly defending the value of diversity and think it is foolish that people think otherwise. Isn't that something to be encouraged by?

Anonymous said...

And how do we know "Will Philosophize for Food" is a real philosopher too and, further, a different person than TPG? Again, the ability to blog anonymously lends itself to fictional identities, which is fine. But if you want to say that you're tenured, you need to offer some proof.

So either put up or shut up (about being tenured, your credentials, etc., but don't stop posting). If TPG believes her positions to be so reasonable, then why hide behind an anonymity?

TPG and WPfF may be who they claim to be. Or it's equally likely that they are one and the same person: a fat, balding, middle-age man with sweaty armpits and a penchant for kiddie porn, and who lives in his mother's basement. (Apologies to anyone here who is fat, balding, middle-age, or male, or who has putrid pits or still lives in a parent's basement.)

mr. zero said...

And how do we know "Will Philosophize for Food" is a real philosopher too and, further, a different person than TPG?

In a Cartesian sense, of course we don't. But I was reading several months ago when WPFF inadvertently outed himself to TPG, and it would be pretty fucking weird for one person to have staged that event so as to lend credibility to his sockpuppet several months down the line. Not that it couldn't happen, but I doubt that's what we're dealing with here. It's safe to presume that TGP is who she says she is. Plus, she's totally right.

Also, it's stupid to say, if you're so right, why are you anonymous, you know, anonymously.

will philosophize for food said...

:But wait, it seems to me that most people here are saying exactly the thing you expected and hoped about our generation. PGS, Soon-to-be-jaded, me, and a majority of the other commenters are saying AA is a good thing [.]"

My apologies, S.D. But as I was saying, I stopped reading because the topic was bumming me out. But I think you get the gist of what I was saying.

"And how do we know 'Will Philosophize for Food' is a real philosopher too[?]"

In fact, I'm not real. I'm a figment of your imagination.

Anonymous said...

"This is all morally irrelevant, and professionally irrelevant, which was the point of my post, though I put it abrasively. I think the fact that you believe things that I don't swallow for a second has nothing whatsoever to do with whether I should hire you or not. Nothing at all. And of course, it has nothing to do with how much I do or should respect you as a person.

This is all completely different from the case where we are trying to correct and account for deep and widespread systematic disadvantage and disenfranchisement, as you so nicely explained in your post."

TPG: I suppose the bottom line is this - do you think that it is possible to be (a) a reasonable person who, on philosophical grounds, (b) disagrees with your assessment of affirmative action and (c) disagrees with your assessment of the current state of philosophical study?

Given certain caveats, I am more or less in opposition to your point of view. I just wonder whether you think it prima facie evidence of my own bias' (racial and otherwise) or whether it is at least conceivable that I have an evidentiary leg to stand on?

I'm genuinely curious. I do hope you (and, of course, the many others on this forum) respond.

Let me add that I don't personally care who you are, whether you're a girl, whether you are in fact a philosopher...Doesn't really matter, it seems to me. What matters, however, _is_ this discussion, and the fact that we be reasonable human beings (who, at the end of the day, may simply have to agree to disagree).

Anonymous said...

In fact, I'm not real. I'm a figment of your imagination.

I have GOT to get new figments--my current figments are making me paranoid.

tenured philosophy girl said...

"So either put up or shut up (about being tenured, your credentials, etc., but don't stop posting). If TPG believes her positions to be so reasonable, then why hide behind an anonymity?"

Hello ANONYMOUS 1:55. I take it as blatantly obvious that I post anonymously for the same reasons as everyone else, including, say, YOU. Good God!

Frankly my commitment to anonymity is pretty thin, though it has obvious advantages. I submit that anyone who was neurotically obsessed enough with me could go back through my posts and things I have said about myself and find that they uniquely identify me. I am not sure this is true but I suspect it is. Because - to get back to the point - well, there really aren't that many tenured philosophy girls in Ph.D.-granting philosophy departments to choose between in the end. I don't much care, because I am actually quite comfortable with pretty much everything I have said on this blog. Although I admit I would be somewhat embarrassed if JESSE PRINZ and his hair figured out who I was. Only a bit.

However, dear blog hosts, if anyone actually decides to play this pathetic game, please do not post the results of their speculations - it would be bad precedent indeed, and all-in I would rather stay anonymous, as apparently would virtually all of the rest of you.

It's just a handle, folks. I was trying to situate myself in the profession and relative to the job market, not pull rank or credentials. I'm actually pretty sick of the handle now but I am maintaining it for continuity's sake.

tenured philosophy girl said...

"TPG: I suppose the bottom line is this - do you think that it is possible to be (a) a reasonable person who, on philosophical grounds, (b) disagrees with your assessment of affirmative action and (c) disagrees with your assessment of the current state of philosophical study?"

I am enough of a Kantian to think that it is required by rationality itself that I take everyone as a reasonable person worthy of respect, no matter how wrong-headed and badly supported his or her particular beliefs are.

I'm chagrined, however, that y'all have uncovered my true identity as the fat kiddie-porn watching guy in the basement who has spent months elaborately constructing at least two different online personas with enormously detailed and different job market experiences who know one another. Sure pulled the wool over Mr. Zero's eyes at least. :-)

will philosophize for food said...

Oh, and by the by, I wish more people would choose consistent nicknames.

In the jumble of anonymous posters is difficult to keep track of who's who. Aside from TPG and myself, there's only a handful of people who are not moderators that use consistent handles ('Mr. Zero,' 'undetatched rabbit part' and 'ttassprof' are a few I can recall off the top of my head, most of us being long-time contributors to this site).

One must distinguish between those who use pseudonomymous nicknames, and those who remain literally anonymous. The latter class are those who are truly hiding behind anonymity--including you Anon 8:25 and/or 1:55! Those who are too uncreative to call themselves anything at all should not be poking fun of what others choose to call themselves.

will philosophize for food said...

Good idea, WPFF....until you recognize that this takes the problem up on level...as I'm doing now by using your handle to make the point (but haven't before nor will in the future). It's an ongoing problem with anonymity...*sigh*...

Anonymous said...

"I am enough of a Kantian to think that it is required by rationality itself that I take everyone as a reasonable person worthy of respect, no matter how wrong-headed and badly supported his or her particular beliefs are."

I'm sorry, TPG, but that does not answer my question. Or, if it does, then you are apparently inconsistent in your practices. Need I cite a number of your posts wherein you criticize person X or person Y (normally, persons who happen to disagree with you on the issues under debate) as being clearly biased...and you seem to point toward their being biased simply in virtue of their disagreeing with your stance on these issues.

So, again, do you think a person can _reasonably_ hold to views contrary to your own (as regards race, gender, and whatnot in the (philosophy) workplace)? I ask because, again, in the spirit of many of your comments (and this goes for Zero, Female Department Chair, and many others), it appears as though you do not think such a position is tenable.

Much obliged.

tenured philosophy girl said...

Anon 10:52: You're right, I didn't really answer your question, except in a cheeky and unhelpful sense.

Anonymous said...

Yikes...people stealing others' blogging handles?? Let the cyber-squatting begin!

mr. zero said...

10:52,

I think that the view that women and minorities are "naturally" less interested in or able to do philosophy, and this explains their underrepresentation in our field, is unreasonable. It's unreasonable not because it's contrary to my own view, but because it's such a stupid idea, contrary to all available evidence and common sense. There are issues about which reasonable people disagree; this is not one of them.

I don't think I've expressed any views about affirmative action.

Anonymous said...

Zero:

By "current state of philosophical study" I mean the working academic environment wherein, proportionately, women are "under-represented." One need not pull out the "there's something wrong with a woman's brain that happens to be right with a man's" to maintain that such a state does not demonstrate "oppression" or "bias" or "sexism" (or, for what it's worth, "racism" in the case of minorities).

Here is a post by you from the immediately previous thread, which is why I countenanced to use your name:

"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."

Now that we've cleared that up...I ask again: is there room in your intellectual world for a reasonable person to deny what you posted (and I quoted) above? I.e., am I without doubt "willfully ignorant" because I do not judge the discrepancy between men/women (white/black) to be irrevocably caused/explained by "latent (and blatant)" sexism (racism)? Might there be other explanatory factors - again, bracketing any considerations of whether a female's brain works in exactly the same manner as a male's?

That's all I'm asking...Because I find it increasingly apparent that the vestiges of philosophically "open" discussion are often lost - not only by appeals like 'You're just a CRAZY PC-ADVOCATE' but ALSO BY a reductio to racism...I.e., 'if you possibly think that's true, you're a ________(fill in your -ist here).'

Anonymous said...

Mr. Zero (are you not DR. Zero?),

What would count as evidence that women are just as capable in academic philosophy as men are? An equal or greater number of women than men in the field?

Oh wait, that evidence doesn't exist. How convenient. Then isn't that position also contrary to current evidence?

As for the common sense part, just because you don't find something to be reasonable doesn't mean that it's not common sense or reasonable to others. Ever hear of a pluarality in a democracy?

And thank you for disproving the point that someone else raised (in this or another thread) that everyone can concede the point, at least in principle, with which you strongly disagree. Apparently, many still cannot even concede the point that, in principle, women and men can have cognitive differences, one of which may be that men are more predisposed to academic philosophy. Your position is certainly reasonable as well, but when you deny that the opposite might also be reasonable, you're just being plain stubborn. Very UN-philosophical of you.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I got confused there, 2:03: are you implying that it's somehow anti-philosophical to think that some views are utterly untenable on current evidence? If I think that (say) flat-earthism is untenable on current evidence, does this make me unphilosophical?

mr. zero said...

I used to have the point of view that it was not sexism or whatever that caused the under-representation of women & ethnic minorities in our profession. Then I started paying attention to what the women and ethnic minorities were saying and what (some) white males were saying about them. It made my skin crawl. It's documented in various comment threads on this blog. Go read them and then come back.

There have been numerous attempts to show "scientifically" that women and minorities lack intellectual abilities or interests possessed by white males. They have all been shown to be fraudulent. Do you believe in ghosts? ESP? Uri Gellar? I don't, and I put your B.S. in the same category. Prove it doesn't belong there. Oh, wait. It does.

There are issues about which reasonable people may disagree. This isn't one of them.

will philosophize for food said...

Anon whatever (I would prefer to concoct a name for you. Something simple and poetic, and that speaks to you. How about "One who shifts the burden of proof"?)

I think the consensus is that there IS room for a reasonable person to disagree with someone else about these things. But a necessary condition for that is being unreasonable. You have so far not demonstrated that.

riding on coattails said...

wpff's 7:21pm comment makes a whole lot more sense if you replace 'unreasonable' with 'reasonable'.

Anonymous said...

Fair enough, Zero. There is no room for disagreement. I guess I'll have to start paying attention to the folks around me more often.

And until I've seen the light, I suppose I'll have to live with being a latent (or blatant) sexist/racist.

Who knew?

a visible minority said...

If anyone is interested in papers or more information regarding some of the issues that have come up in this discussion try visiting the "Equity in Philosophy" website:

https://wikis.mit.edu/confluence/display/
philequity/Equity+in+Philosophy+-+Home

a visible minority said...

The link I just gave may not work this one will get you to the reading list:

https://wikis.mit.edu/confluence/display/phil
equity/Reports%2C+Essays+and+Reading+Lists

zero said...

I guess I'll have to start paying attention to the folks around me more often.

I recommend this course of action. In the likely event that there are very few women and ethnic minorities in your immediate vicinity, I recommend checking out the relevant comment threads on this blog, the thread that's called something like "And they have begun to shake the dirt" and the ones immediately before & after are good examples. And also the Sally Haslanger piece. Link.

Anonymous said...

"I recommend this course of action."

Man, you are _exactly_ what MLK "had a dream" about. Congratulations!

I know for my part, I certainly wanna' be more like you. Having never had a thought contrary to the civil rights of another person. And now the wisdom of "looking around" yourself at women and minorities. Damn, where will it end, Zero.

It's hard for me to believe that you take yourself seriously. If not, then you're simply genius. But if so, well...

Anonymous said...

Don't you know by now that Mister Zero is always right and everyone else is wrong?? If you have an opposing opinion, I'm sure it is so obviously wrong that all he has to do is assert so much, thereby avoiding any real philosophical debate.

hoi polloi said...

Don't you know by now that Mister Zero is always right and everyone else is wrong??

Copy that. Don't you guys listen? Mr Know-It-All, er, zero, has already insisted (in this thread and many others) that if you don't agree with him, it's either because you're intellectually defective, or morally defective, or both. That's the very definition of "unreasonable." Duh!

I mean, he has clearly stated that if you read the anonymous posts on this blog, you'll see that racism and sexism are clearly and completely responsible for any apparent gender/race discrepancies. And if you have read this blog, and you don't see what he sees? Right! You're a morally insensitive douche!

I'd propose that we take a vote and make Mr. Know-it.., er, zero, our philosopher king, and retire to making baskets, but, unfortunately, the philosopher king isn't interested in what the hoi polloi think.

Anonymous said...

Now that we've cleared that up...I ask again: is there room in your intellectual world for a reasonable person to deny what you posted (and I quoted) above? I.e., am I without doubt "willfully ignorant" because I do not judge the discrepancy between men/women (white/black) to be irrevocably caused/explained by "latent (and blatant)" sexism (racism)? Might there be other explanatory factors - again, bracketing any considerations of whether a female's brain works in exactly the same manner as a male's?

Is zero straw-manning this question, or just not answering it?

And, for what it's worth, I read the Haslanger paper a while back, (it made the rounds via email) and I think it's terrific and does much to highlight an (apparent) problem. But, still, the anonymous poster's question above remains unanswered.

mr. zero said...

Is zero straw-manning this question, or just not answering it?

Not answering it, so far. Since the anonymous douchebags seem to have degraded to mere trolling, I figured, why bother? But since you asked nicely, here goes:

I think it's possible that the guy who asked that question hasn't been paying attention and is therefore unwillfully ignorant, which I've said all along is a possibility. I didn't say he, himself, personally, was a sexist or a racist--latent or otherwise--or that I am the final arbiter of morality and common sense. I attempted to present evidence for my views (or provide directions to it); the evidence is what is powerful.

Might there be other explanatory factors

Like what? I don't know what they would be, and you're not suggesting anything. Although you claim to "bracket" the "cognitive differences" theory, you don't offer any alternative explanations. What other factors do you mean?

I've said this before, but I'll repeat it. I didn't have my current views about the state of our profession until recently. I never thought that the under-representation of women and ethnic minorities in philosophy was explained by natural cognitive differences--that's stupid--but I didn't think there was much sexism/racism. Then I started paying more attention to what people were saying. Women and minorities report levels of sexism/racism in our profession that is incommensurate with the levels in other sectors of society--if you read the Haslanger piece, you know this is true. And there are several threads here where sexism and racism are in evidence. I didn't just make this up. It's around for you to see if you look, but white people tend to be oblivious to it unless they really try to see it. That was my experience.

So no, I don't think there's any room for reasonable people to disagree about what's causing our profession to remain dominated by white males. Getting pissed off and making fun of me doesn't change my mind.

Racism and sexism are clearly happening--it's obvious if you look around; racism and sexism clearly explain the data; there is no other credible explanation on offer. If the fact that this is my view bothers you, I don't care.

Anonymous said...

Zero,

Your response - resoundingly self-righteous as it is -reminds me of something Chesterton once said, and I shall appropriate it here:

"In truth there are only two kinds of people, those who accept dogmas and know it and those who accept dogmas and don't know it. My only advantage over [you, Zero] lies in my belonging to the former class."

Anonymous said...

You just know that 2:13 spent all day thinking up that comment. Pay no heed to the trolls, Mr. Zero.

sick of zero said...

Word up, 2:13!

tenured philosophy girl said...

Dear Mr. Zero -

It's pointless. Drop it. Thanks so much for trying.

Best,
TPG

mr. zero said...

anon 2:13,

It must be awesome to be so self-aware, knowing about all your dogmas and everything. Your mom must be really proud.

Now that that's out of the way, I wonder if you wouldn't mind taking a break from the ad hominems and address the substance of my post. What factors am I being so self-righteous and unreasonable and unwittingly dogmatic for ignoring?

Anonymous said...

This is 2:13, Zero. Just take TPG's advice. The great herd of independent minds has spoken, and the rest of us, I guess, should just follow suit.

I'm doing some research, myself. After spending all day formulating my last comment to you, I've got a lot of work to do...you know, figure out how to "look around", become acquainted with all of the victims walking the halls (ooh, I mean _not_ walking the halls, due to rampant racism and sexism, ya' know) in my department. Just, generally becoming enlightened, I reckon, as you so obviously have.

Thank-you, Zero. Thank you.

mr. zero said...

2:13,

You talk a lot for somebody with nothing to say. I hope you and your dogmas have a nice weekend.

Anonymous said...

As someone who is liberal and would tend to agree with Mr. Zero's conclusions, I would also agree with 2:13 that Mr. Zero's approach seems dogmatic. His unwillingness to engage the issues (but instead simply dismiss critics as stupid or racist or sexist) is what gives us liberals a bad name...

mr. zero said...

Mr. Zero's approach seems dogmatic. His unwillingness to engage the issues (but instead simply dismiss critics as stupid or racist or sexist)

What issue have I failed to engage with? You can't mean the issue that women and minorities are less cognitively able to do philosophy. That is stupid. Plus, we "bracketed" it about 10 posts ago. I never once said anyone was a sexist or a racist--I've been accused of it, but I didn't do it.

What else, then? 2:13's "mystery suggestion" that some unnamed X factor is what is doing it? I said, what factor? He said, you are self-righteous. I said, Ok, but seriously, what other factor. He said, shut up.

And I'm the one being dogmatic? I mean, maybe there's some X factor that's keeping women and minorities out of professional philosophy. But there's nothing on offer about what it could possibly be, so there's no evidence that it's the cause. On the other hand, we know what my suggestion is, we know that if it were happening it would cause a dearth of women and minorities, and we know it's happening. So why isn't the guy who believes in the X factor the dogmatic one?

Anonymous said...

4:15,

Maybe as a good, uncommonly open-minded liberal, you'd like to steer the conversation in a different direction. There are, after all, so many questions that go unanswered.

So I'd like to put on the table and insist on willingness by critics to engage the following issue:

Why do more than a few white males in philosophy seem to have racist and sexist tendencies?

I sincerely do not get why the rest of us are expected to consider whether women and certain minority groups are somehow intellectually inferior, or "differently" abled intellectually or socially, and that this could well explain the extent of their underrepresentation in philosophy.

Please help. Thanks in advance for not offering the standard, counter-PC dismissals.

tenured philosophy girl said...

I completely disagree with Anon 4:15. Neither Mr. Zero nor I nor anyone else dismissed anyone out of hand. This conversation has gone on for 216 posts so far (this thread plus the previous one) and it became very clear at a certain point that the conversation was no longer going anywhere and that some people were repeating their far-fetched hypotheses ad nauseum, completely without argument, and ignoring any sensible points that told against those far-fetched hypotheses. After 216 posts it is time to give up and stop rising to the bait. This absolutely does not constitute dogmatism or mere dismissal and unwillingness to engage. In fact I think Mr. Zero was too willing to engage and should have given up several posts ago, as he is at this point showing his interlocutors more respect than they deserve by responding at all.

I may be falling into that same trap by writing this, but since 4:15 wasn't merely name-calling I felt it was perhaps worth responding.

en passant said...

Though one of the best chess players in the world is a woman, the overwhelming proportion of strong chess players are men. If you go to a chess club, you are likely to see twenty guys and (maybe) one woman. But it doesn't start out that way. In grade school, there are as many or more girls as boys seriously interested in chess. By high school, most of the girls are not playing any more. Once you get to professional chess players who have have the required combination of talent, interest, perseverance, and willingness to sacrifice a lot of other valuable things for the sake of chess, almost all of them are men. Now, there are a lot of possible explanations for this phenomenon, and I don't see why all the explanatory work couldn't be done without invoking biology. But I also don't see why all the explanatory work couldn't be done without invoking sexism in the community of chess players (sexism in the culture, e.g., the construction of gender roles, is a different matter). Chess is a lot like a certain brand of philosophy: abstract, logical, unmoored from concrete, practical, issues, requiring lots of work to get good at, with little in the way of financial compensation or prestige. It wouldn't surprise me if the reason many women steer clear of philosophy and the reason many women steer clear of chess are very similar, and that neither has much to do with sexism among professional chess players or philosophers.

anon 4:15 said...

Anon 4:15 here again,

Thanks for the indulgence, TPG. (And sorry that I'm joining this discussion very late, in case someone else had made this point previously.) Yes, there has been many posts on this and other related threads, but as far as I can tell, Mr. Zero and others won't even entertain alternate possibilities, again dismissing them as "stupid".

As for Anon 11:09 posts, that's exactly the kind of discussion needed here! While I still think there's a good amount of sexism in philosophy (to the extent that there's sexism/racism everywhere, as the answer to Anon 4:15's query "Why do more than a few white males in philosophy seem to have racist and sexist tendencies?"), the chess analogy is a good, instructive one. There are likely (sexist/racist?) cultural factors as well as biological factors (to the extent that there seems to be biological explanations for nearly everything else; or at least because there are biological explanations for many other things, it doesn't seem that unreasonable to think there might also be one for this particular issue).

mr. zero said...

Mr. Zero and others won't even entertain alternate possibilities, again dismissing them as "stupid".

Again, I ask: Like what? I admit that I think this idea that there is a biological explanation is stupid, but if you look, you'll see that I haven't merely dismissed it; I've dismissed it while thoroughly explaining why it's stupid. I think most of this material is in the other thread.

11:09,

I am inclined to agree that problems within the culture at large are keeping lots and lots of women and minorities out of philosophy, in just the same way that these pressures keep women and minorities out of high-paying jobs, four-year colleges, chess clubs, etc. It's not just latent racism and sexism in our profession. But I don't think that the role of racism/sexism can be ruled out or even minimized in favor of societal factors.

As I see it, if that hypothesis were true, we should expect the percentages of women or ethnic minorities who are college graduates and who are philosophy grad students to be commensurate, since women and minorities who manage to graduate from college would largely have overcome the problems that affect society at large.

But that's not what we see. We see that 50% of college graduates are women, but a much smaller minority choose to attend philosophy grad school, and this in spite of the fact that other disciplines in the humanities have no such problems. This suggests that there is something in particular about philosophy that is turning them away.

Add to that the reports of actual women and minorities, who say that they experience a great deal of sexism and racism in the profession. To turn back to your chess-club example, if we interviewed the few women chess players, and they said stuff like, yeah, I really love chess, but it's a constant struggle to decide whether I really want to put up with all the sexism, that would be a powerful point that the problems weren't limited to society at large.

tenured philosophy girl said...

Zero writes:

" To turn back to your chess-club example, if we interviewed the few women chess players, and they said stuff like, yeah, I really love chess, but it's a constant struggle to decide whether I really want to put up with all the sexism, that would be a powerful point that the problems weren't limited to society at large."

To which I say:

Yeah, I really love chess, but it's a constant struggle to decide whether I really want to put up with all the sexism.

Not that I am a professional chess player. But I am really good at chess by any everyday standard (which means I suck compared to a real master). I love chess. I hardly ever get to play but I still love it. I can beat pretty much anyone who isn't a serious chess-head without much effort.

My husband, on the other hand, can't fianchetto his way out of a paper bag.

So here's a story for you: My six-year-old joined the chess club at his school. It's run by an actual grandmaster and former olympic chess player who is related to one of the kids or something. On the first day, the guy was giving out handouts to the parents (mostly moms) picking the kids up that just went over the basic rules so that we could help the kids at home. I said I didn't need a sheet as I had been playing for 33 years. He said, "Really? There are some tricky rules on here! Do you know about castling?" I tried to contain my annoyance and said, "Really, it's fine. I've played in chess clubs myself. I don't need it." He said, "How about en passant? That's a really tricky one. Do you know that one?" At that point I just barked, "no, I don't need the sheet!" and he finally gave up.

At this point he turned to the next mom and offered the sheet to her. She said "Oh, I don't know the first thing about chess but my husband already knows the rules so we don't need it." He said, "Oh well then he can help your kid and you don't need it" and went on. (Obviously we don't have any idea how much the husband actually knows about chess). Boiling mad at this point, I got out of there.

The point of this story is not just that the guy is a sexist prick, which he clearly is. The point is how the story ends: On that first week of chess club there were about 8 boys and 7 girls in the club. Now, 6 months later, there are 7 of the 8 boys and ONE of the girls left. Do we know that this is because of the differential treatment they received from the instructor? No -- and here the trolls will pull out their random biological hypotheses rather than acknowledge the most obvious explanation (having mastered the Polish Defense was really crucial to hunting success back in the paleolithic era) -- but, I mean, duh. It seems to me that there's next to no chance that those little girls weren't discouraged, overlooked, patronized right out of the class.

So I accept the chess/philosophy analogy, prima facie. My experiences at the hands of most male philosophers have been analogous to this at every turn.

mr. zero said...

TPG,

That sucks. Thanks for having my back, though. 'Preciate it.

Anonymous said...

They have chess in the olympics?! I've been getting all the wrong channels...

tenured philosophy girl said...

Anon 6:06:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chess_Olympiad

Google before you post, or GFE as Dan Savage would say.

Anonymous said...

Backs against the wall...dealing with the uneducated horde of bloodthirsty racist & sexist barbarians...Way to go, TPG & Zero! Thanks for the personal anecdotes. Both of you. Really.

Everyone - dissenters to your view and assenters alike - knows that there is racism and sexism about in the world. What is _not_ obvious is that it is as rampant as the two of you seem to suggest it is. In this discipline, at least.

I'm genuinely sorry that the chess-master at your child's school is an ass, TPG. But do you have genuine evidence that this ass did not treat every parent in the same way? Of course we have what you claim to be "sexism" by his mentioning to the other mother that her husband could help the child. A tad insensitive, perhaps, but might he not have known this fellow? I will not infer from this that the dearth of females playing
chess are due wholly to such attitudes. Nor will I infer that conspiratorial sexism/racism is the _only_ explanation for the dearth of females/minorities
in philosophy. It may in fact be a partial explanation, but in all of my years in this discipline, I've met very few sexists/racists. And again, I'm (genuinely) sorry that our experiences are so different in this regard.

(1) Persons A, B, and C are insensitive, and hence are probably sexists (racists).

(2) Hence, most persons in like positions are insensitive, and hence are probably sexists (racists).

Thus (3) sexism (racism) is the whole explanation for state of affairs S.

(2) doesn't follow from (1). Nor does (3) follow from (1) & (2) conjunctively. The train-of-thought is entirely specious.

It's not hard to become a victim, if you just try hard. If you're told you're a victim long enough - and Christ knows I've heard about the evils of racism and sexism ad nausea for my entire academic career - then you not only begin to look for it but you also begin to expect it. Virtually _any_ slight counts as evidence.

Here's an anecedote. I'm a Southerner. I often perceive that many Yankees immediately infer either (a) that I'm an inbred racist or (b) that I'm a dumb hick. Again, I _perceive_ this, though it need not be the case. Is this evidence of a colossal conspiracy? No. Perhaps _I'm_ too sensitive about my being a Southerner.

mr. zero said...

5:32,

I think your reconstruction of the argument isn't entirely fair. I was trying to argue that the available evidence strongly suggests that, a) whatever else may be going on, racism/sexism are having an effect in keeping women and ethnic minorities away from philosophy; and b) socio-biological factors according to which there exist cognitive differences between white males and all other demographic groups that explain why WMs are uniquely suited to careers in academic philosophy are unreasonable.

I also think that the fact that you don't know many sexists or racists can be over-emphasized. I don't know anyone I'd regard as being a racist or a sexist, and I've never personally witnessed any behavior I'd regard as being an instance of racism or sexism. However, every non-white or non-male philosopher I know has all kinds of stories about times when they were treated in ways that are hard to regard as anything but exhibitions of racial or gender prejudice.

You correctly point out that there are other possible explanations for any given example, even TPG's chess coach. But stuff like that seems to happen to women and ethnic minorities all the time, and stuff like that never, ever happens to me, at all--it's completely out of step with anything I experience. And I don't think it can be overemphasized that white males are likely to be somewhat oblivious to this kind of thing when it happens around us, since it doesn't happen to us and doesn't directly affect us.

Also--and this affected my judgment until recently, I think--as educated, enlightened people who closely identify with the philosophical community, it is hard for us to admit that there is any substantial presence of prejudice in it. Our membership in the community causes us take suggestions of prejudice personally, and motivates us to disbelieve them. So we look for excuses.

But even admitting that there are possible non-sexism-related explanations of TPG's story, these explanations seem implausible, given the whole story. 1. the guy reacts with complete disbelief to a claim that a woman knows the rules of chess. 2. The guy reacts with complete credulity to a claim that a man knows the rules of chess. 3. within half a year, the percentage of girls in the club went from approximately 50 to approximately 12. I agree with TPG when she says that there is next to no chance that this guy's sexism isn't to blame--which is compatible with there being some small chance.

I've got it! said...

"Dear Mr. Zero -

It's pointless. Drop it. Thanks so much for trying.

Best,
TPG"

Thank you! With that comment, I finally figured out what Mr. Zero, TPG, and their herd of Anons followers remind me of: It's Kundera's circle dance from the Book of Laughter and Forgetting. The angels (students really) dance in a circle, so certain of their righteousness that they float up in the air higher and higher, leaving the rest to gaze wistfully at them from the ground.

Seriously, thank you. That was bugging me.

Anonymous said...

It's 5:32 again.

Zero,

Thank you for addressing my concerns. I have no wish to definitively settle the matter here, nor was I ever so delusional as to believe said matter _could_ be settled here (note: I'm not presuming that you were under such a delusion either).

But, the fact that you so reasonably argued against (a few of) my points leads me to believe that you _do_ think reasonable disagreement can manifest itself in regard to the present controversy, contrary to what you stated earlier (i.e., "I see no room for...")

This is enough of a concession for me.

Yet, the following... "Also--and this affected my judgment until recently, I think--as educated, enlightened people who closely identify with the philosophical community, it is hard for us to admit that there is any substantial presence of prejudice in it. Our membership in the community causes us take suggestions of prejudice personally, and motivates us to disbelieve them. So we look for excuses." ... is mere psychobabble. And doesn't impress me one wit.

I should add that I do disagree with much of what you've written, though I do not wish to belabor the point here. At least there appears the subtlety of argument in your previous post, rather than the (what I gleened as) sanctimonious rantings of previous ones.

So, much obliged. 5:32, over and out.

mr. zero said...

5:32,

Thank you for addressing my concerns.

No sweat.

the fact that you so reasonably argued against (a few of) my points leads me to believe that you _do_ think reasonable disagreement can manifest itself in regard to the present controversy

Not necessarily. I think almost everything in your post is unreasonable. Your snide introductory paragraph; your unfair and ridiculous characterization of the reasoning in favor of my position; your inane response that since there is a competing explanation of the behavior, no matter how unlikely, it is reasonable to suspend judgment; your straw-man refusal to grant that sexism is "wholly" to blame--who said anything about wholly?; your blithe suggestion that the victims of racism and sexism in our profession are merely reveling in victimhood, willing to interpret any slight, no matter how slight, as evidence of prejudice. None of it seems the least bit reasonable to me.

Your comparison of your experiences as a Southerner in the North with what is experienced by women and minorities is particularly lame. As a sometime Southerner myself, I have pretty good idea of what you're talking about, and it's not in the same ballpark as the behavior my female friends tell me about. As Jules would say, it's not the same league, it's not even the same sport.

Anonymous said...

"As a sometime Southerner myself, I have pretty good idea of what you're talking about, and it's not in the same ballpark as the behavior my female friends tell me about."

Now there you go again, Zero. Just have to look a gift-horse in the mouth, eh? No worries. But for future reference: there is no such thing, nor has there ever been such a thing, as a "sometime Southerner." It's like being "sometime pregnant" - i.e., absurd.

I'm quite content thinking of you as yet another Yankee who knows it all - morally, socially, politically, what-have-you. I'll also content myself with being unreasonable. As my old man used to say: "Don't ever argue with an idiot, son. A third party probably couldn't tell the difference..."

third party said...

No, we can. It's pretty easy, really.

mr. zero said...

Now there you go again, Zero. Just have to look a gift-horse in the mouth, eh?

What gift horse?

But for future reference: there is no such thing, nor has there ever been such a thing, as a "sometime Southerner." It's like being "sometime pregnant" - i.e., absurd.

You don't know much about pregnancy, do you? Pregnancy is a non-permanent condition. If you're pregnant, there will come a day when you're not. So, sometime pregnant. I'll spare you the details of my family history, but I know what kind of "prejudice" you're talking about, and the idea that it's comparable to the stuff Sally Haslanger describes is pretty silly.

I'm quite content thinking of you as yet another Yankee who knows it all

Good for you. It's hard for me to tell which of us is the dogmatic, self-righteous one, though. Which of us called the other a yankee know-it-all whose arguments are mere psychobabble? I don't think it was me; I think I was recently commended for my even-handed and reasonable approach in my rebuttal of your recent post.