Celebrate World Philosophy Day!

World Philosophy Day is on November 18th. Celebrated every year, and set up by UNESCO to underline the enduring value of philosophy for the development of human thought, for each culture and for each individual, it gives us the opportunity to demonstrate how philosophy encourages critical and independent thought. An important aim is to help us “work towards a better understanding of the world and promote tolerance and peace.”

At a time when there are so many critical issues affecting us: a global pandemic, unequal access to health services, concern about inequality and racism – to highlight just a few – sharing ideas on how we can address these concerns has never been more important.

This year, UNESCO wishes to emphasize “the more than ever essential need to resort to philosophical reflection to face these multiple crises. When the world is plunged into uncertainty and disorder, we turn to philosophy.”

On World Philosophy Day and over the week, we would like to share and discuss ideas and the role that philosophy plays.

We have put together a collection of articles on many of these key issues and we’ve gathered some recent special issues from our philosophy journals that we hope will stimulate debate. We hope you enjoy reading these and would love to hear your views.

If you are interested in ethics, global health, inequality, or want to learn more about new philosophical approaches and applications, we hope you will find articles to interest you – do check out the collection. There are also resources to help if you are looking to publish and make an impact with your research.

Philosophy in Action

An Interview with Alexus McLeod

Alexus Mcleod, Professor of Philosophy and Asian/Asian-American Studies at the University of Connecticut, is the new editor of The Philosophical Forum. Alexus’s research interests are in comparative and global philosophy broadly. His professional life has been dedicated to building bridges across philosophical traditions. In this interview, we ask Alexus about the value of a global approach to philosophy and what kinds of papers and issues he is interested in as editor. We’re thrilled that he will continue The Philosophical Forum’s distinctive legacy as a forum—a meeting place where ideas from across the globe are debated, exchanged, and enriched through open dialogue.

New Editor Interview

Your research interests cover a lot of ground—from the philosophies of early China and Mesoamerica to West African, classical Indian, and medieval Islamic thought. Is there a common thread linking your various interests? What are the benefits of taking a more global approach to philosophy?

There are many benefits of a global approach. Perhaps first among them is that we come to a better understanding of philosophy following this approach, because like language, literature, history, science, religion, and every other human intellectual pursuit, it is a global activity. While philosophy happens in some of the same patterns across the world and throughout history, no philosophical tradition is exactly the same, and in each we find unique insights, questions, and viewpoints on the world. Just as it would be fruitless to try to understand the nature of human language with an understanding of only one or two languages in a single region and ignoring all the rest (something I’ve sometimes seen!), or the nature of religion by looking only at Protestant Christianity, it’s hopeless to try to understand the nature of philosophy if we neglect the philosophy of most of the world.

This is not meant to be a broadside against “Western” traditions and those who study and work within them specifically. While particular Western modes of doing philosophy are dominant (often almost to the exclusion of everything else) in philosophy departments in the Anglo-American West, it would be just as objectionable to focus on, say, Chinese Philosophy to the exclusion of everything else, or Islamic Philosophy to the exclusion of everything else. There are of course cultural chauvinists in every tradition, even though due to the cultural and political residue of the European colonial projects that shaped the modern world, most philosophers outside the West know far more about Western Philosophy than Western philosophers tend to know about other global traditions. Because “philosophy” itself has been so thoroughly associated with and promoted as (by its practitioners and others) a particular kind of European-derived project, we most often see departments of philosophy across the world, even ones in which non-European traditions are the focus, taking Europe and Western Philosophy as a central core. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an academic philosophy department anywhere in the world that does not have at least some faculty members working on issues and areas connected to either contemporary Western traditions or historical scholarship of European and American Philosophy. I’ve seen many, on the other hand (especially at home in the USA) without a single faculty member working on anything connected to philosophical traditions outside of the “Western” world, either contemporary or historical.

We, philosophers in the Western academy, are simply not talking to the world for the most part, outside of the European and Anglo-American world. Particularly not the so-called “global south”. And we’re not talking to them even when they are engaged in the same projects! As I mentioned above, it turns out that many of the philosophers in China, India, Ghana, Peru, and elsewhere are working within the same philosophical tradition as many philosophers in the US and UK. There are analytic philosophers and Continental philosophers in the Western style throughout the world. It’s difficult to find any philosophy department anywhere without at least one person working in these areas. Still, there is little engagement between philosophers working in the English-speaking “West” and their counterparts in other parts of the world. And there is little good reason for this. Even our general category of this “West” hides a problem. Which nations do we include in the “English speaking world” for purposes of defining the West? USA, Canada, UK, Australia and New Zealand. Look the famous (or infamous?) Philosophical Gourmet Report. It ranks programs in the “English speaking world” in just these regions. But what of Caribbean nations? Various nations throughout Africa? India? English is the primary and native language of many Caribbean nations, for example, and the official and most common language of many African nations. Not so of Quebec. Yet the latter gets somehow included in “English speaking world,” while the former do not. And even in nations where English is not the official or most common language, language is still no barrier, as most people working on analytic philosophy outside the US can understand and work in English. It would be pretty tough, after all, to engage with a tradition whose major works one could not read due to not understanding the language in which they’re written.

I suspect that the reason for the lack of global interaction is the same as the reason for the general lack of focus on global philosophical traditions outside of the Western categories of analytic and Continental philosophy. Let me be frank here: racism. This is not largely (although it sometimes is) individual racism from philosophers, but rather the racism inherent in the conception of philosophy we’ve inherited. Just as institutional racism exists in the structures of American society, a cultural chauvinism grounded in racism exists in the conception of philosophy dominant in the West. Through practical inertia, we end up duplicating what we’ve been handed down by our chauvinistic and often racist intellectual forebears, even if we have no intention to be racist. At some point we’ve got to reckon with the fact that philosophy in the US (or that awkward “English speaking world” that has race built into it as well) is as it is because those who passed it down to us were racist, and engaged in an inherently racist project that explicitly excluded non-European people (and even particular categories of European people). We’re never going to improve philosophy until we come to grips with this racist past, understand the ways it clearly manifests itself in the present through our continuation of past patterns, and actively work to restructure the ways we think about what philosophy is and does.

To return to my own focus and the “common thread” linking my various projects—I think this common thread is simply my desire to talk to the world, to learn from the world, to understand at least some of the vast wealth of ideas that are falling largely on deaf ears in professional philosophy in the West. Philosophical insights and advancement, like all other kinds, are gained through broad interaction and discussion. Even though philosophers like to think of our field as making advancements through the contributions of individual geniuses creating brilliant new ideas from the armchair, this is a myth, and an insidious one at that. New ideas form through broad interaction with new people, situations, cultures, etc. This is just how the human mind works. Even the most powerful computer in the world can only do a single thing when the only program you’re running on it is a one line command in BASIC. We can only find new solutions, formulate new questions, and consider new ideas when we are exposed to a wide variety of people and things. It’s exciting to me to discover these new things (or things new to me at least!).

How do you see The Philosophical Forum fitting in to the wider philosophy community?

I hope to see The Philosophical Forum become a place for exploration of philosophical ideas unbounded by tradition, region, culture, or period of time. We are of course necessarily somewhat limited, in that we publish in English and thus miss out on philosophy as it’s done in other languages, but I also hope to include translation of work from other languages as well. I intend for The Philosophical Forum to be a true meeting place for philosophy as done in the broadest possible sense. The Forum will not be limited only to so-called analytic or Continental philosophy, but open to philosophy in all the ways is being done both at home and around the world.

The great challenge of our day in this field, I think, is to refine our conception of what the relevant philosophical questions are, as well as how to answer them, by looking to the variety of different philosophical discussions going on around the world and throughout history. While language is sometimes a limitation, it is less often so than we may think. An enormous amount of global philosophy has been translated into English, especially many of the important works from history. It’s also the case that much of the philosophy neglected in the West is being done in English, which is at least as much of a lingua franca in contemporary philosophy as it is in business. And there are numerous journals and series today dedicated to translating contemporary philosophical work from numerous languages into English. We live in a time particularly well-suited to the exploration of global philosophy, given the wealth of research available to us and the ease of communication across the world. With the resources and means for interaction at our fingertips, it is foolish not to make use of them. We can see that throughout history, periods of development, high culture, and the generation of new knowledge were always facilitated by the interaction between different people. The Islamic Golden Age, which gave us the innovations in science, mathematics, and medicine that made much of the modern world possible, resulted from the cross-fertilization of intellectual traditions throughout the area that came under the influence of early Islam, from Spain and North Africa through Persia and India. Philosophers and intellectuals in major centers such as Baghdad had access to a wide range of thought and traditions, combining the ideas of the ancient Greeks with those of Manicheanism, Syriac Christianity, Indian thought, and others. The Italian Renaissance was built through the development of both power and culture through eastern trade routes of the city-states of the peninsula, exposing people of these states to knowledge from throughout the Mediterranean and further east, which they could then synthesize in new ways. Flowering of new philosophical thought and new solutions to problems always accompanies the meeting of people, cultures, traditions. New ideas do not come from nowhere, created ex nihilo within an enclosed space. And new ways of thinking can only be generated by exposure to new environments.

The aim of The Philosophical Forum, since its beginning, has been to serve as a place for dialogue between numerous strands or traditions of the overarching philosophical project. In the past, this project was focused on bridging analytic and Continental philosophical traditions. In my leadership of the journal, I aim to move toward a more global approach. We will look to bridge the traditions of the West and those of the rest of the world. There is still far too little dialogue between various philosophical traditions around the world, and I hope to turn The Philosophical Forum into a meeting place, a forum for discussion, between all of these traditions, so we might learn from one another and develop something both new and shared by all of us. This, more than anything, is what I aim to achieve with The Philosophical Forum. A place for all of us, rather than one dominated by certain conceptions of philosophy, with the occasional inclusion of “outsiders.”

What criteria do you look for in a Philosophical Forum paper?

I look for papers that are doing something new, and something that doesn’t necessarily easily fit into other journals. Focus on quality is central, but too often the idea of quality gets conflated with style, subject matter, or particular views. I view quality in terms of creativity, strength of argumentation, and originality of contribution, not in terms of conforming to a particular style or tradition or a discussion of certain subject matter. Papers that push the boundaries, that aim to try something new, are more than welcome here. Papers that engage with philosophical traditions, ideas, or texts that may not be one’s own are welcome here. I aim for The Philosophical Forum to be a place of philosophical innovation, rather than a place to showcase one’s skills. I’ve long thought of the role of philosophy as a kind of “research and design” department of academia. Ideally, we have fewer constraints and more room to question and rework even the foundations of the intellectual project. Because of features of professionalization, though, we can sometimes become cautious and our creativity suffers. We have to show that our work contributes to some existing debate. That it supports or opposes some view on offer. That it adheres to the style and standards of a particular tradition. This kind of thing ensures that the gates to our particular philosophical projects remain close, and it tends to blunt creativity. The Philosophical Forum will not be a place where a paper will be looked at negatively for trying new things, or for branching off in new directions. On the contrary, that’s exactly the kind of thing I’m looking for. Still, any piece of quality philosophical work is welcome here. I don’t aim to expand the boundaries of philosophy by rejecting philosophical work as it has been done in the past. The more “traditional” article in contemporary analytic or Continental philosophy still has a place here too. Rather, the focus will be on innovation and contribution to a broader global philosophical discussion, to expanding the scope of what a generalist philosophy journal can do, so as to allow for a broader array of styles, traditions, and ideas. So the paper on analytic philosophy of language will sit alongside others on feminist epistemology, existentialism, philosophy of medicine, history of philosophy across the globe, indigenous philosophy, and on the variety of other topics that philosophers of all kinds both here in the US and across the world are interested in and working on.

What are your goals as editor over the next few years?

One aim, as mentioned above, is to make the journal international in scope, both in terms of contributors and in terms of subject matter. A forum should be a discussion place for everyone, and I will work hard to bring voices, topics, and traditions that tend to go neglected in the West into conversation, with one another and with the Western academy. I also aim to expand the kinds of topics and issues we think about as properly philosophical. There is such amazing philosophical work going on in areas such as anthropology, art history, religious studies, and so many other fields, and this work often flies under the radar of philosophers. The hope is that we can bring some of these people into the conversation at the Forum. I’m looking forward to further expanding the scope of these plans in the next few years—the sky is the limit, and my core commitment is to “stretching out,” to creating something truly new.

In your view, what are the most compelling issues and discussions in philosophy today?

There is so much interesting stuff going on in philosophy right now, but one of the things I’m particularly excited about is the way that traditions outside of the Anglo-American West are being engaged with by a younger generation of philosophers. I’m also encouraged to see more discussion of applied philosophy, often associated also with “public philosophy”—it feels to me like this move brings philosophy closer to what it traditionally was (in numerous cultures!) before the professionalisation of the modern university. Philosophy done for and with a wide range of people, not only members of the profession, and about the kinds of issues we deal with every day, things that can make a concrete difference in the ways we live our lives. The sorry state of our society (both at home and around the world), in which irrationality has become so prevalent that we’re no longer even sure how to tell the difference between seemingly obvious truths and falsehoods, or ignorance and knowledge, shows our desperate need of the aid of philosophical thinking, in the sense of critical thinkers like Socrates and Wang Chong. We have never needed philosophy more than we do today. And we have never needed a meeting of cultures more than we do today. Humans may not be able to solve the existential problems that we will have to reckon with this century. And if we don’t, we won’t survive. But if we can, it will only be through rational and critical thinking and through international cooperation, discussion, and exchange.

Visit The Philosophical Forum homepage for more information: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/14679191

Congratulations 2020 Philosopher’s Annual Winners!

Each year, The Philosopher’s Annual faces the daunting task of selecting the 10 best articles in philosophy published that year. For 2020, they’ve chosen four articles from journals published by Wiley: Zach Barnett’s article “Why You Should Vote to Change the Outcome,” published in Philosophy & Public Affairs; Renée Jorgensen Bolinger’s article “The Moral Grounds of Reasonably Mistaken Self-Defense,” published in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research; Waheed Hussain’s article “Pitting People Against Each Other,” published in Philosophy & Public Affairs; and Marc Lange’s article “Putting Explanation Back into ‘Inference to the Best Explanation’,” published in Noûs.

Congratulations to all the 2020 award winners!

Stephen J. White (1983-2021)

Stephen J. White made significant contributions to ethical and philosophical thought throughout his career. An associate professor at Northwestern University, his work focused on issues of responsibility, including what we should take responsibility for and how we are especially responsible for our own lives. In his memory, we are making three of his essays free to read through April 30: “On the Moral Objection to Coercion” (Philosophy & Public Affairs Summer 2017), which was chosen by The Philosopher’s Annual as one of the 10 best philosophy papers of 2017; “The Problem of Self‐Torture: What’s Being Done?” (Philosophy and Phenomenological Research May 2017); and “Self‐Prediction in Practical Reasoning: Its Role and Limits” (Noûs April 2020).

“On the Moral Objection to Coercion”

“The Problem of Self‐Torture: What’s Being Done?”

“Self‐Prediction in Practical Reasoning: Its Role and Limits”

In memory: Waheed Hussain (1972-2020)

Professor Waheed Hussain, University of Toronto

Philosophy & Public Affairs is offering free access for 90 days to two of Waheed Hussain’s recent articles in the journal, as a remembrance of his contributions to the discipline and to encourage more people to read his work. Professor Hussain’s research engages the moral issues raised by our economic practices, such as ethical consumerism and competition. His work raises deep questions about the moral limits to economic arrangements, and how our economic practices can be better designed to comport with liberal-democratic ideals.

“Is Ethical Consumerism an Impermissible Form of Vigilantism?” Waheed Hussain – 2012 – Philosophy & Public Affairs 40 (2):111-143.

“Pitting People Against Each Other.” Waheed Hussain” – 2020 – Philosophy & Public Affairs 48 (1):79-113.

An Interview with Philosopher Robin Zheng

“As I myself am untenured, the problem of precarity still ineluctably haunts me and most of the people I am close to in the academy.”

Interview conducted by Jacquelyn Kelley

In her article, “Precarity is a Feminist Issue: Gender and Contingent Labor in the Academy,” Robin Zheng establishes that two common myths—“the myth of meritocracy” and “the myth of work as its own reward”—not only reinforce the academic job crisis but also have gendered origins, ultimately allowing gender stereotypes and job insecurity to reinforce one another within the discipline of Philosophy.

Published in the Spring 2018 issue of Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy, Zheng’s research was first presented at the 2016 SWIP UK Conference followed by the 2017 Joint Session at the University of Edinburgh.

Her article was cited by the Australasian Association of Philosophy’s Committee for the Status of Women in Philosophy in their Statement on Insecure Work, and has received notable recognition and praise on social media.

Zheng holds a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and is currently an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at YaleNUSCollege in Singapore. I recently had a chance to catch up with Zheng, learn more about her career, and pose a couple questions about her popular article in Hypatia.


JK: What has been your favorite part about living and teaching in Singapore thus far?

RZ: My favorite part of teaching in Singapore has been the eagerness and enthusiasm that comes with trying to do something bold and different. For instance, I teach in a mandatory year-long team-taught course on “Philosophy and Political Thought” (PPT), covering 1/3 Chinese, 1/3 Indian, and 1/3 Western traditions of thought from antiquity to modernity. Working through PPT is very challenging for everyone involved, both teachers and students, but it is also extremely rewarding. It’s opened so many doors into new areas and ways of doing philosophy for me, and there really is nowhere else in the world where you could get this kind of education. I feel a strong sense of collective commitment amongst students, staff, and faculty to each put forward our best in pursuing a vision of what a liberal arts education is meant to be.


JK: How long have you been teaching there, and when you relocated, was your transition difficult, strange, or exciting in ways you maybe didn’t expect?

RZ: I’ve now been teaching for two years. Certainly the transition to teaching PPT was difficult, strange, and exciting all at once! Since my own philosophical training was very different, I really wasn’t very reflective about the value of engaging with philosophical texts qua texts and in their own social context, which I now understand is crucial, especially with a student population that is 60% Singapore and 40% international (from over 60 other countries). My second time through the course, I’ve been struck by how different texts have “lit up” for me, in the sense of appearing to me as intuitively powerful and compelling (rather than confusing and impenetrable), compared to the first year. Teaching in PPT has given me greater confidence that we all have the capacity to learn new things, and in the value of partaking in inquiry that pushes beyond the familiar boundaries of our home (sub-)disciplines.


JK: Turning now to your article, “Precarity is a Feminist Issue: Gender and Contingent Labor in the Academy,” what first inspired you to research and write on job insecurity within philosophy teaching and the overall realm of higher education?

RZ: This one is easy: my experience in the Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO) at the University of Michigan, which is the oldest continuously-running graduate student labor union in the country. Through the activities of the union, I gained a practical understanding of “how the university works” that had previously been completely opaque to me, along with a set of normatively rich perspectives and practices grounded in deep institutional memory. As I myself am untenured, the problem of precarity still ineluctably haunts me and most of the people I am close to in the academy. I’m very grateful that my time in the union gave me a much wider perspective on higher education and the job market crisis—plus their connections to more global crises—than I ever had as just a philosophy student.


JK: You write in your article that philosophers are particularly prone to believing “the myth of work as its own reward” because of your personal commitment to attaining “such ideals as truth, knowledge, and justice.” How often do you find yourself swept up by this myth and how do you snap out of it?

RZ: To be honest, I think that the pressures and constraints I face in my position as a junior academic (with respect to getting publications, going up for tenure, etc.) make very clear that philosophy is a social institution with its own set of hierarchies, vested interests, and professional norms which can be quite orthogonal to truth, knowledge, and justice.

But perhaps one way that the myth manifests in my own life is through frequent experiences of moral guilt whenever I perceive shortcomings in my teaching or research. I have to remind myself that it is okay not to put in a full 100% even if I genuinely, passionately care about them. At the end of the day, it is still just a job. There’s only a certain number of hours in the day that I am paid to spend on work, and I should consider it morally permissible to use the rest of my time on other things.


JK: In your article, you note that “the institution of tenure itself has problems, and may ultimately need overhaul,” and I can imagine there are many who would hotly debate your point of view. Are you interested in elaborating on this idea in future dialogues and writings?

RZ: This wasn’t the focus of my article, so I would have to do much more research before I could say anything definitive. But I should reiterate that I think the job security made possible through the tenure system is something that should be available for all workers, even though there is also distinctive reason for academics (namely, the freedom to pursue inquiry that challenges the status quo) to receive particularly strong protections. My main concerns with the tenure system are its being used as a kind of incentive or reward for individual “merit” and its being abused to protect people who are otherwise detrimental to the academic community (e.g. sexual harassers).


JK: Could you provide a preview of any other research projects you may be working on now—that way we can get excited about what’s next to come from you!

RZ: It’s still in very early stages, but I’m just beginning to think about a book project. My main areas of work are on moral responsibility and structural injustice, so I’m planning to look at the challenge of how politically allied groups can use practices of accountability to preserve solidarity in the face of disagreement.


Robin Zheng’s article “Precarity is a Feminist Issue: Gender and Contingent Labor in the Academy” is available Open Access here.

Facing Issues in the Profession – the Problem of Diversity

Miranda (2)

Since beginning my tenure as managing editor of Hypatia, I have had the pleasure of working closely with individuals who are associated with Hypatia in various ways, and I have been awed by the extraordinary generosity and effort so very many people freely give to Hypatia.

One of my most valued experiences at Hypatia has been watching this cluster on “Issues in the Profession” take shape. I proposed the idea for the cluster in the fall of 2016, when we began to receive a large number of submissions that dealt with issues in philosophy as a discipline. The authors did not coordinate their submissions. Without knowing they were doing so, the authors in this cluster entered into dialogue, and they are speaking to a topic that is vital to philosophy as a whole. Each of the seven articles in the cluster focuses on problems of diversity in philosophy: how prevalent they still are, why they continue to exist, what it means to face them in the classroom setting, and what we can do to address them. These articles are by no means comprehensive. They do not speak to all of the issues in the profession, and many important voices are still missing from the discussion. These articles do, however, serve as part of an ongoing call to action that philosophy—and philosophers—are responsible for taking up.

Read the special cluster in Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy 

Yolonda Wilson’s musing “How Might We Address the Factors that Contribute to the Scarcity of Philosophers Who Are Women and/or of Color?” opens the cluster with a poignant analysis of common acts of discrimination underrepresented philosophers routinely face. In Wilson’s words, by examining why philosophy remains a “relatively homogeneous” discipline, “we become empowered to take important steps to recruit, encourage, and support those who are underrepresented to enter the field and to flourish”. Beginning from the lived experience of underrepresented philosophers, Wilson critiques the everyday practices of “a profession that is relentlessly white and male” , noting that such practices function as “microcosms” of a racist, sexist society. Wilson argues that “A real commitment to caring about how racism and sexism work in philosophy necessarily commits one to caring about these issues generally”. If we are to truly address issues of discrimination within the discipline of philosophy, we must also work to address these same issues on a broader social scale.

The next three articles focus on pedagogical techniques that counteract the harmful effects of privilege in educational settings. In “Comforting Discomfort as Complicity: White Fragility and the Pursuit of Invulnerability,” Barbara Applebaum examines the role comfort and discomfort play in social-justice classrooms. Applebaum notes how educators tend to comfort white students who feel distress at discussing issues of racism, and how this comforting serves to maintain both the privilege of white students and the systematic oppression of black students and students of color. Applebaum argues that the best response to such situations is “supporting but not alleviating white students’ discomfort”. Encouraging white students to develop a sense of vulnerability—which Applebaum defines as “an openness to change, dispossession, and willingness to risk exposure” —could guide white students “to a willingness to stay in discomfort”, and encourage them to directly confront their own privilege.

In “Tracking Privilege-Preserving Epistemic Pushback in Feminist and Critical Race Philosophy Classes,” Alison Bailey takes aim at privilege-protective epistemic pushback, “a variety of willful ignorance that dominant groups habitually deploy during conversations that are trying to make social injustices visible”.This kind of epistemic pushback frequently occurs in philosophy classrooms as a way for students from dominant social groups to maintain their social dominance, and to exercise control over critiques of their dominance, by utilizing traditional philosophical techniques. It is, as Bailey writes, a method of “using the master’s tools to defend the master’s epistemic home terrain”. Bailey recommends that social-justice educators treat cases of epistemic pushback as shadow texts, “texts that run alongside the readings” and function to undermine instead of engage the readings. In this way, educators can encourage “class members to become aware of the fact that these moves are political and that sometimes they are driven just as much by fear and ignorance as they are by the desire to engage with the text”. The goal of social-justice education should not only be to teach students to critically read texts, but also to critically read their reactions to those texts.

In “‘Tell Me How That Makes You Feel’: Philosophy’s Reason/Emotion Divide and Epistemic Pushback in Philosophy Classrooms,” Allison Wolf expands on the discussion of epistemic pushback. Focusing specifically on how “the discipline of philosophy itself facilitates, obfuscates, and/or provides the tools for students to engage in this privilege-protecting type of epistemic pushback”, Wolf maintains that philosophy’s tendency to emphasize reason over emotion is frequently “deployed as a tool of privilege-evasive epistemic pushback to continue tilting the unlevel knowing field toward dominant groups”. Wolf notes that while philosophers pride themselves on engaging in unemotional argumentation, philosophy, and philosophy classrooms, are never free of emotion. Instead, the emotions of members of socially dominant groups tend to be implicitly validated, while the emotions of members of traditionally marginalized groups are taken as an indicator of poor argumentation skills. Arguing that “good philosophy requires us to recognize both information and our emotional response to the information to gain knowledge”, Wolf outlines three strategies that are designed to help students of philosophy engage with texts on an emotional level, and learn to critically respond to their own emotional reactions.

David M. Peña-Guzmán and Rebekah Spera’s article, “The Philosophical Personality,” picks up on the theme of what counts as good philosophical argumentation, and who is taken seriously as a philosopher. Peña-Guzmán and Spera construct a profile of the archetypical philosopher, based on both the social, economic, and political considerations that “determine, empirically, who can become a professional philosopher today” and the idealized image of what it means to be a philosopher—the way “philosophers understand themselves qua philosophers” . Together, these factors create a conception of a philosopher who “is white and he is male. He is also heterosexual, cisgendered, and able-bodied. He is an offspring of the middle class, the child of academics” . According to Peña-Guzmán and Spera, “This conception, which is internalized by current and aspiring members of the profession, shapes the latent content of the philosophical imaginary as an unacknowledged norm” , influencing both who counts as a philosopher, and even what is considered the proper philosophical methodology. Peña-Guzmán and Spera point out two significant problems with this conception of the philosopher. First, the conception contributes to the continued marginalization of philosophers who do not appear to fit the archetypical image of the philosopher. Second, the conception encourages philosophers to be ignorant of the realities of their own discipline, “creat[ing] a cycle of active ignorance that prevents philosophers from engaging in genuine self-critique” . Peña-Guzmán and Spera argue that “In order to meet the demand for self-knowledge and become a welcoming space for individuals from diverse backgrounds . . . philosophy must be reimagined at its deepest level”. Diversifying philosophy means reconceptualizing both who the philosopher is and what it means to do philosophy.

The last two musings present empirical investigations of two important aspects of underrepresentation in philosophy: academic publishing and recruiting undergraduate philosophy majors. In “The Underrepresentation of Women in Prestigious Ethics Journals,” Meena Krishnamurthy, Shen-yi Liao, Monique Deveaux, and Maggie Dalecki ask if women are underrepresented in prestigious ethics journals, relative to the number of women who specialize in ethics. The authors conclude that “Women who specialize in ethics are indeed underrepresented in prestigious ethics journals”. These findings are particularly important since—as the authors note—there is a much higher percentage of women specializing in ethics than in other subfields of philosophy. If women are underrepresented in some of the most prestigious ethics journals, “the gender problem in philosophy publishing may be more widespread and pernicious” than many philosophers suspect. Krishnamurthy, Liao, Deveaux, and Dalecki suggest that further research is necessary to determine if there are structural causes both in academic journals and in philosophy departments that lead to this kind of underrepresentation.

In “Evidence Supporting Pre-University Effects Hypotheses of Women’s Underrepresentation in Philosophy,” Chris Dobbs reports the results of research supporting the hypothesis that there are causes influencing women to choose not to major in philosophy even before they enter university. Based on an analysis of American Freshman Surveys conducted between 2004 and 2009, Dobbs finds that even though women made up over fifty-five percent of the survey respondents, only “About one of every three students who intended to major in philosophy were women”. Dobbs notes that “The sex gap in intention to major in philosophy mirrors the sex gap in philosophy degrees awarded. . . . About one of every three students who graduated with a philosophy BA were women, despite the fact, again, that more than fifty-seven percent of the sample was made up of wo. Dobbs cautions his readers against mistaking these results as a sign that philosophy departments should give up on diversity initiatives. On the contrary, Dobbs points out that “If anybody is contributing to an anti-woman philosopher schema, it is the people who practice philosophy. . . . It is up to philosophy department members, and nobody else, to foster an anti-discriminatory culture”. Philosophers are responsible for creating a culture that can either encourage or discourage women from becoming philosophy majors, and the ripples of this culture reach beyond the formal boundaries of the university. If the culture that discourages women from becoming philosophy majors—even before they enter university—is to change, it is philosophers who must change it.

Read the special cluster in Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy 

Miranda Pilipchuk is Managing Editor of Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy

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