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Becko Copenhaver
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I apologize in advance for returning us to the armchair and to anecdote. I have what I think is an anthropological or sociological point. The thing that was hardest for me as a woman beginning in philosophy (and every now and then still today) is the question of whether some behavior or comment is a function of my being a philosopher or of my being a female. In particular, among the various idiosyncrasies of the way philosophers talk to one another when doing philosophy, many of them are ambiguous: they can be read either as signs of exclusion or signs of inclusion. We interrupt each other. One person make a point that is ignored and another puts the same point a bit differently and it becomes central to the discussion. We sometimes say we don't understand one another when what we mean is that we disagree. In and of itself this nagging question (did that just happen because I am being treated as a philosopher or because I am being treated as a woman?) is a disadvantage to women, though versions of the question might arise for others as well. It is not a function of overt sexism at the level of the profession. But it is an interesting point, I think, that signs of inclusion and exclusion can be read this ambiguously.
I have always found the suggestion that women are discouraged to study philosophy because of the overwhelmingly male canon very disturbing. In particular, it is very important that we not say this to our own students. If we say this to our students it might seem as though we're saying "Aristotle? He's not for you, dear." There is a subtle implication that women are in fact or should be drawn towards the writings of women. But different people are drawn to different things for different reasons and we ought not write a script that confines female students to womens' writings. I fell in love with philosophy the first time I read Kant. He had deplorable things to say about women, but that's not what I fell in love with. Insofar as people who lived in overtly sexist societies included sexist remarks in their philosophical works, such remarks are hopefully as dismaying to male students as they are to female students. And hopefully both realize that there are historical contexts that explain how and why such thinkers could get something so fundamental, so fundamentally wrong. Finally, I do not understand why a student's role model has to be the same gender as the student. I had many mentors and role models throughout my education. Some were women. Many were men. But all of them offered me a way of envisioning myself as a philosopher.
I teach at a small liberal arts college that has excellent undergraduates, a few of whom continue on to very good graduate programs each year. Each of the faculty has the opportunity to teach one senior seminar a year on any topic. Though I did once offer one on Reid, the most successful senior seminars I taught were on topics about which I wished to learn more, either for research or for my own edification, e.g., Concepts, Embodied Approaches to Perception. Learning alongside your students can be really productive and energizing.
It strikes me that the sense in which all other disciplines engage in philosophy (thus the 'Ph' in their 'Ph.D's') is a perfectly legitimate but much, much broader usage of the term than when I refer to myself or Jason as a philosopher. Both uses ought to be retained, but they also ought to be distinguished. As with Jason, I have had strained conversations with other academics (and many students) who appear to have the attitude that they can simply help themselves to a discipline for which they have no practice. Worse, this attitude seems to arise from some notion that doing philosophy is something for which no one needs practice. But that isn't true even for the legitimate, wider use of the term. That students exhibit this attitude (sometimes) indicates that it is not just an interdisciplinary terminological squabble.
Reid is an interesting example of a philosopher who has been neglected but is on the rise once again. Though his position at 31 makes my heart break, it would have been much farther down the list only a decade ago. At least it shows that the conception of the early modern canon is not as ossified as it might be. The more people downplay Reid's "common sense" philosophy and explore his surprisingly contemporary contributions in matters of mind and agency, the higher his star will rise, I hope.