Saturday, August 30, 2008

Guest Post: An open letter to dude philosophers regarding your crap manners

At last! Our first guest poster! (Um, for such a bunch of whiners, y'all are pretty slow on the guest post submissions. Nothing, before this one. And publishing my email address like that now means that I'm getting a bunch of spam. Not cool, people. Not cool.) Anyway, this one's a doozy. I present to you Random Feminist, with "An open letter to dude philosophers regarding your crap manners." -- PGOAT

Dear dude philosophers,

Can I suggest something? When first meeting a feminist colleague, try not to start with comments like, "I've never really understood what feminist philosophy is supposed to be, anyway." It doesn't make you come across as collegial or interested in our work. It doesn't even come across as your garden-variety intellectual aggression. (We're fine with that. Seriously, we are.) It comes across as asking us to justify the existence of our subdiscipline. And you know what? That's just rude. As it happens, I think the philosophical interest of your JTB/S knows that P/Gettier masturbation ran its course a good 20 years ago, if it was ever interesting in the first place. (Didn't Dretske already solve that problem? Why are you still talking about it?) But despite my opinions about how lame your subdiscipline is, see how I manage to keep this to myself in the first three minutes of meeting you? Isn't that nice of me? Give it a try sometime.

XOXO,

Random Feminist

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Didn't Dretske already solve that problem? Why are you still talking about it?"

Oh. My. God.

Anonymous said...

it's true, it's one of the only times that people who otherwise pride themselves on knowing about everything somehow think it is acceptable to say, gee I don't know anything about it.

They're thinking, sheesh, I don't want anyone to think I've got girl-cooties. But it sounds like, I'm somewhat poorly educated and too dumb to know better, so I'll announce it to everyone.

Anonymous said...

Sorry. Our mistake. Can we have PGOAT, et al. back now?

Anonymous said...

Why do feminist philosophers want to be called "Dr." instead of "Professor"?

Sisyphus said...

Hee! I'm liking your guest poster! Keep up the good work, Random Feminist!

Anonymous said...

Or as I heard in the staff room recently, 'Why do they have to do 'that stuff'? Why don't they do real work? Philippa Foot does real work, surely the rest of them can manage it'.

Kassey said...

Oh man, that was so much fun to read. Thanks, Random Feminist!

Anonymous said...

hey, the 10 tips for SC members leiter linked to are good!
http://rateyourstudents.blogspot.com/2008/08/ten-polite-instructions-for-search.html

Anonymous said...

I feel ya on the Gettier stuff. That shit wants to make me shoot myself in the face. Fwiw, I'm another WME (white male epistemologist).

Anonymous said...

2nding the "Oh. My. God."

Anonymous said...

Maybe the men who ask you those questions aren't just being dicks. Maybe they aren't sure what to think about feminist philosophy. Maybe they would like you, as an expert, to tell them about some of the philosophical issues feminist philosophers work on, so that they can judge for themselves whether this is an interesting and worthwhile subdiscipline of philosophy. Why not just take them at their word and explain some of the issues? If somebody asked me about the sorts of issues that epistemologists work on I would not assume they were being dickish -- I'd be glad to tell them about it.

Anonymous said...

Stupidest.Post.Ever.

Anonymous said...

So....what is feminism? (Boys have penises, girls have vaginas?)

Anonymous said...

There is something to what anonymous 10:23 said. I do work in non-Western philosophy, and at conferences, people often tell me that they have no idea about my area. This is usually said as an attempt to spur conversation, as I've never had anyone say this to me and then tell me that they didn't care about my interests.

Anonymous said...

Uh, nobody does JTB or Gettier stuff anymore (at least as far as researching goes) because we all recognize that it DID run its course 20 yrs ago; and Dretske didn't "solve" jack.

But you're going to have to learn to put up with other philosophers questioning the legitimacy of your subdiscipline no matter WHAT it is... because some philosophers are just pompous asses (including some female ones) who don't care about, or haven't read enough in, areas outside their own.

Anonymous said...

@10:23 --

This is possible. And is probably true for many folks asking the question. But I've had folks on search committees asking me about feminist philosophy, who immediately segue from "What is it you DO in feminist philosophy?" to "WTF is it with all those crazy radical feminists eh? Surely you're not one of THEM." And from graduate students in my graduate program I got the "philosophy should be universal, whereas feminist philosophy is just for promoting a feminist political agenda, so how is it real philosophy" question.

I answer these calmly, patiently, and giving examples of different areas within feminist philosophy, and usually the conversation ends relatively well. But there can be a kind of unpleasant undercurrent sometimes. It can get a little old.

Anonymous said...

Gettier cases are clear cases of JTB without knowledge. Gettier cases are a bit unusual but they do actually occur. If you don't understand why it is that the guy in the gettier case fails to know, then there is a sense in which you don't really understand what it is to know in normal cases. Now knowledge is one of (the?) most fundamental and interesting relations between us and the universe. If you are a philosopher, you ought be concerned about what that relation comes down to--that's why Gettier cases are interesting.

That, my freinds, is how a philosopher responds when someone challenges the importance of one of her areas of research. Getting all "that's rude and it hurts my feelings" is how a baby responds. Just about everybody thinks all of philosophy is a waste of time. If you can't handle people thinking that you are wasting your time on trivia, you need to leave the biz. Get out or grow up random feminist.

Anonymous said...

I agree partially with 10:23 and 5:36. If I ask a philosopher of any discipline what it is they do I am asking because it might be of interest to me. A part of me thinks that feminist philosophy shouldn't be of interest to anyone.

But then I'm pretty sure I HAVE ASKED feminist philosophers in the past what it is they do, and now for the life of me I can't remember, so I don't even know why I would think it wasn't of interest.

Anonymous said...

Suppose someone (cough) is inclined to think that feminist philosophy has characteristics that make it unworthy of respect *as philosophy*. What should such a person read in order to be disabused of that notion?

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:20--

Off the top of my head: Sally Haslanger, Martha Nussbaum, Elizabeth Anderson, Louise Antony, Helen Longino, Alison Wylie.

philo said...

"Crap manners" (from Random Feminist's post) is a well-established tradition in philosophy (Socrates and all that).

There is some wisdom to "Get out or grow up" as anon 9:50 would have it; academic discourse is not as civil as one might hope (to put it mildly). Then again, another response to incivility -- when it is incivility and not just honest curiosity -- is to be grateful when one has colleagues who do not dismiss whole areas of academic discourse they do not understand. (I don't get Derrida or Zizek much at all, but I know there are reasonable people who see something of great value in their writings.)

Not that I'm good at keeping my perspective on this when it comes to my own work. Dismissive attitudes towards my AOS can raise my hackles too...

Anonymous said...

No one has yet replied to 8:17 anon's question, which I would ask too: What is feminism?

At least provide links to this sort of discussion if you can't come up with a succinct answer yourself.

Anonymous said...

Are you serious, 5:31? Take some initiative and go read the SEP articles, dipshit. How old are you? Do you need someone to hold your hand for everything?

Anonymous said...

And the same goes for the rest of you jackasses. Look at the names of some of the scholars who have written the SEP entries, and then tell me that you are doing "real" philosophy but these people are not.

Anonymous said...

I think that a lot of the criticism heaped at some "dude philosophers" is a bit unfair. Perhaps this is naive, but I have always done philosophy on the assumption that it is universal. Perhaps I was wrong, and there is some particular male bias in my thinking. But if that is so, it is probably pretty hard for me to realize, given all the validation about my methodology I get from the history of philosophy. Given that it is so hard for me to understand, sensitivity would demand some indulgence.

It often seems that feminist epistemology or feminist ethics asserts that there are particularly female ways of seeing the world. Telling males that females qua females can contribute something unique disturbs my sense of fairness, as much as if I (as a male) said to a female "sorry, you won't understand it, you can't think like a man". I'd never deliberately say something like that (in philosophy) to exclude women from understanding what I was talking about. And I would certainly never say that a point of philosophy hinges on a particular male way of thinking. I would certainly demand of a religious person that she justify her discipline if it had as a background assumption that one must first take on faith that there is a religious way of seeing that is only open to a select few.

To the extent that feminist philosophy points out that there are alternative ways of seeing the world that men, because of their traditional roles, have tended to overlook, this comes as a tad surprising to men as well. Again, sensitivity, and not vehemence seems called for.

(Anecdotally, a prominent feminist philosopher once shrugged her shoulders at me in response to my asking if I could ever understand her point given the fact that I will never give birth to a child. It still seems pretty counterintuitive to say that the only way she can be refuted was if I first gave birth and then asserted the negation of her ethical claim. I think that question deserved a better answer.)

Anonymous said...

Seriously?

You're sick of people slamming your field, so you slam another field in your post?

Seriously?

That rather disqualifies you from giving manners lessons, no?

Anonymous said...

I've always thought it was a good conversation starter to say, "So what sorts of questions do you address in field X of philosophy" (said without the sneering emphasis on "do"). But given this warning, I guess I'll have to be more subtle. "So how would you explain field X to an undergraduate in your intro course" or "How did you get interested in field X" That way maybe I can get my original question answered without someone erroneously thinking I'm just a prick.

Anonymous said...

Some people here seem to think Random Feminist is against being asked anything about the nature of her discipline by people who don't know much about it.

It seems to that the target of her scorn was clearly a specific subset of those who don't know anything about feminist philosophy: those who look upon it as some weird thing they have never been able to "get".

These people do not thereby transmit a sense that they have an interest in being introduced to philosophical questions with which they are not yet familiar; rather, it appears more like they have doubt about whether someone who does feminist philosophy is in fact involved in raising and answering serious philosophical questions in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Why only 'dude philosophers'? I'm a woman and I'd be just as likely to ask what the point of the sub-discipline was within minutes of meeting a feminist philosopher. Most philosophers are asked to explain and defend the relevance of what they do to non-philosophers all the time, and don't find it offensive...