Call for Papers: Journal of Religious Ethics

“Empress Theodora and Her Court” (Basilica of San Vitale)
The Journal of Religious Ethics is seeking manuscripts for a projected focus issue on feminist moral philosophy and religious ethics. Here’s the invitation from the editors:

We are interested in articles that address historical, methodological, and practical issues related to the intersection of feminist moral philosophy and the field of religious ethics. Our goal is to foster broader conversations about feminism’s influence on religious ethics, and, in particular, to break down artificial disciplinary boundaries that often stifle robust conversations. We encourage a diversity of perspectives from philosophers and religious studies scholars.

Submission deadline: May 1, 2013

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COMING SOON: Hypatia Special Issue and Online Symposium!

Special Issue: A Hypatia special issue on “Animal Others” has now gone live which brings together leading feminist animal studies scholars, Lori Gruen (author of Ethics and Animals: An Introduction) and Kari Weil (author of Thinking Animals: Why Animal Studies Now), and presents exciting new work on the intersections of sex, race, gender, and species.

Online Symposium:As co-editors of the special issue, Gruen and Weil have recruited six scholars to reflect on some of the lively debates occurring within this burgeoning new field of scholarship. The symposium will start officially on Monday 9th July.

A full list of authors and topics can be seen below, and you are encouraged to join the discussion and engage with the editors and discussants.

Symposium articles: Continue reading “COMING SOON: Hypatia Special Issue and Online Symposium!”

Hypatia Essays on the Place of Women in the Profession of Philosophy

Ann E. CuddThis virtual issue (edited by Ann E. Cudd) brings together essays published over a twenty-year time span that address the question of women’s place in the profession of philosophy. It includes essays about women in the history of philosophy; empirical studies of the numbers of women at various stages in their careers; analytical essays about why women, including specifically women of color, are not reaching parity with white men in the profession; and what women are doing to change the representation of women in philosophy. By highlighting this important research, the virtual issue will contribute to the groundswell of efforts to make philosophy a more welcoming place for diverse people and ideas, thereby also improving the quality of philosophical thought.

Read the full issue

Read the introduction

Are there cognitive differences between sexes?

Cheeky peekIn a series of posts, entitled ‘Gender Is Dead, Long Live Gender’, ‘Social by Nature’, and ‘Girl Power’, philosopher Alva Nöe makes some contentious claims about the sexes.  Never one to shy away from controversy, Nöe argues that almost all behavioural or cognitive differences between males and females will not and cannot be explained in terms of underlying psychological or neurobiological processes.  Instead, what will do all the heavy lifting in explaining any such divide is society and the way in which our concepts assume certain differences between the genders.  Such deeply held assumptions in turn structure our lives and our expectations of ourselves, and these expectations turn into self-fulfilling prophecies.  In other words, boys aren’t really better at math and science, our social concepts just assume boys to be better, boys in turn expect themselves to be better, and this leads them in fact to be better.

It’s a long chain of reasoning, one that Nöe never really defends or argues for in a particularly illuminating way.  Indeed, across the three articles, he can’t decide whether or not to include the category of the psychological as something underpinning differences seen in the use of gendered concepts (psychology understood as the place where social concepts do their work), or indeed as something that is part of and explained in terms of sex-differences (psychology as understood as structures and processes like memory and reasoning).  And this vacillation might be one of the reasons that lead him to conclude that most behavioural or cognitive difference between the sexes is explainable only at the level of wide-spread social concepts.

Continue reading “Are there cognitive differences between sexes?”

Undoing Gender: New Experiments in Social Deconstruction

‘The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says, “It’s a girl”,’ the American politician Shirley Chisholm once said. Exposed in this insight is the miraculous power of language; all that is required for something so fateful to be determined is not biological nature, not even social imposition, but, simply, speech. So seemingly simple is this mechanism, in fact, that some are doing their best to change it. It was revealed this week that a pre-school in Sweden has decided that the use of gender-specific pronouns such as ‘him’ (‘han’) and ‘her’ (‘hon’) is to be prohibited, in favour of gender-neutral terms, in an attempt to reduce the effects of linguistically determined gender-stereotyping.

The school, aptly name Egalia, is tackling an issue which has been firmly on the feminist agenda since Dale Spender’s influential book Man Made Language appeared in 1980. There Spender argued that, far from passively capturing the way that the world appears to us, language actively constructs the way that the world is. More specifically, the state of language, according to Spender, structures the world in a way that promotes males and inhibits females, whether by exclusion, alienation, control, or construction. The claim was supported by the famous studies in linguistics carried out by the American anthropologists Edward Sapir and Benjamin Lee Whorf, whose extensive research on Native American languages led to the hypothesis that the structure of language restricts and determines our cognitive categories. It is hard to report an event in English without using the tense-marked words that the grammar requires, and it is hard to encode a fact in Hopi without marking its testimonial status, that is, whether it is first-hand knowledge, second-hand, third-hand, and so on, as required by the structure of the language. Importantly, it makes it hard to think outside of these limits, and, consequently, hard to behave outside of them. The way that we mark gender according to our grammatical structure is no different, an assumption which the new Egalia policy operates on. Continue reading “Undoing Gender: New Experiments in Social Deconstruction”

A Lesson in Abstinence

Allegory of Chastity, by Hans Memling (1475, oil on wood)

Early Wednesday afternoon, when Nadine Dorries, Conservative MP for Mid Bedfordshire, moved to introduce a Bill to ‘require schools to provide certain additional sex education to girls aged between 13 and 16; to provide that such education must include information and advice on the benefits of abstinence from sexual activity; and for connected purposes’, she set alight to the feminist blogosphere (See here, here, here, and here, for examples).

Central to the feminist criticism is the clear gender asymmetry contained in the proposal, as immediately pointed out by her detractor Chris Bryant, Labour MP for Rhondda (a transcription of the debate is to be found here). ‘For a start, the Bill is just about girls,’ complained Bryant, ‘I am not an expert, but it seems axiomatic to me that if we want to tackle teenage pregnancy, we have to talk to the boys and the girls.’ Continue reading “A Lesson in Abstinence”

Comments on “Killing, Letting Die and the Morality of Abortion”

Contemplation of the nature of embryonic life extends far back into our history

This month, the Philosopher’s Eye is inviting discussion on our free article “Killing, Letting Die and the Morality of Abortion”. But for many of us, our position on abortion is not one that we easily submit to philosophical scrutiny. When we question this reluctance, we might find that it rises because our position on abortion is entailed by other ethical commitments; we are first and foremost defenders of a woman’s right to determine the fate of her own body, or the right to life, or perhaps even both at once. It is easier for us to leave the questions specific to abortion largely unexamined, appealing instead to background values.

Anton Tupa’s article fights against this trend, and demands that we consider a question that is currently central to the morality of abortion: this is the question of whether or not upholding that it is morally Continue reading “Comments on “Killing, Letting Die and the Morality of Abortion””