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OK people, I did not claim that dressing poorly causes sexual harassment, that all philosophers dress badly, that poorly buttoned shirts are a gateway drug to harassing students, that dressing in a slovenly way is the only way in which philosophers self-present as iconoclastic or norm-violating, or any of the other strong causal or universal claims that keep showing up in my inbox, and I am not going to publish more comments that presume I did. The point was about a general romanticization of certain kinds of boundary and norm violations in the profession. I do think these are linked in a family resemblance kind of way. I also think we have several manifestly good and very public examples of people in the profession explicitly trumpeting the claims I have been making (in certainly widely-read letters of recommendation and hand-themed blogs, for example). I understand that I am suggesting a picture of the profession based on anecdote and soft data, and that that picture is incomplete. People writing to tell me about all the slovenly dressers they know who don't harass anyone or about how wonderfully they and their friends dress can stop, please.
Thanks, M, I deeply agree. I am glad I am not the only one who finds the Hobo/Prof thing distasteful. I was troubled by the language in Matt's comment in just the way you are, but I was really hoping someone other than me would flag it as a problem.
Well, scientists aren't exactly a random sample of humanity.
Katy - Yes my sense is that they are deeply connected. I have directly heard the 'Aspergery defense' brought out to explain sexually harassing and otherwise sexually inappropriate behavior in at least two cases. I guess I don't see a big explanatory gap between the two, but maybe I am missing the point. Sexual norms and boundaries are just tossed in there among the other norms and boundaries that philosophers are supposedly just too quicky/brilliant/Aspergery/boundary-busting to be bothered with. I don't think the sexual norms are in a magical separate category, even if their flouting is especially prone to causing damage. As for discriminatory behavior, I have less of an opinion. I don't think that I think that philosophers are distinctively or intererestingly worse than other groups of people in that domain, although I expect I will get attacked for that view.
Katy, can you clarify your last sentence, so that I can try to clarify in turn? Anon: I am reluctant to try to give a full answer because it's a complicated issue. Yes, all the worries you mentioned are among my worries. Plus I worry that this kind of spread of the character trait of 'Aspergersy' encourages distorted perceptions of what actual Aspergers is, and that it does an injustice to people with Aspergers by both watering down the diagnosis and associating it with various problematic behaviors that don't especially go with having Aspergers in fact. And I worry that it becomes a way of just neutralizing the moral charge of what is in fact genuinely bad, blameworthy behavior and making it seem uncorrectable and a matter of natural, given fact. And it does this at the cost of any actual engagement with what people who actually have Aspergers need and can do. That's just a super brief and partial answer. Maybe others will chime in. There is no way I can capture such a complicated issue in any short pithy way, nor do I have a complete and settled story to tell.
People on this thread are not very sympathetic with my intellectual property concerns, I can see. Perhaps I am just more concerned than I should be, but I still think my point didn't really come through. My worry is not about whether professors are profiting from their intellectual labor (which would be nice I guess). Rather, I think there is a serious pedagogical/ethical/intellectual issue here. If a private company can repurpose and recombine our words how they like, it can distort our ideas in important ways. It can also resituate those ideas for what might be objectionable ends. More generally I am worried that the pedagogical threat of MOOCs comes less from their massivity or their onlinitude, and more from the fact that they are not really under the control (in multiple senses) of actual scholars/teachers, and are driven by 'business models'. Mark Alfano's point about student exploitation is a great example of the kind of use of data that worried me in point 2 in the original post. I agree with his whole comment.
I can't possibly respond to all these thoughts and points. Just quickly: I didn't mean to imply that we 'just' need some applied ethics, and CERTAINLY not that doing applied ethics is a matter of picking some principles in advance and forcing their application. I basically agree entirely with Daniel Muñoz. I think that concretely responsive, engaged moral thinking about what we are doing that is broader than what we have seen so far is *one* thing that is called for. I also fully acknowledge Anand Vaidya's points. In particular I share the worry over when and how faculty can opt out of these things if they want to, and who is in control of that.
Part of the reason I made no sweeping claims about pedagogy is that I don't think there is any answer to what 'the' pedagogical potential of MOOCs is any more than there was an answer to what 'the' potential of the internet was in say 1993. I remember thinking that the Internet was kind of cool but basically just a replacement for paper memos and brochures. Not even the most brilliant science fiction writer foresaw youtube, ebay, facebook, okcupid, etc. or could have imagined their potential for creative social change. (And I am just sticking to well established mainstream examples.) I think we have ZERO idea what can be done with MOOCs and how they could transform learning. The one we are making is pretty pedagogically innovative but this technology is in the newborn infant stage and our imaginations are just barely getting going. We have way more technological capacity than we have tapped so far. In the mean time though, as we explore, I worry about the corporate and for-profit takeover of both professors' intellectual labor and products and the students' privacy and autonomy. That kind of hijacking can be solidified before we even have a chance to explore the possibilities. And no, SLAC, of course Georgetown is not replacing its own classes with MOOCs. It's a class-stratified world out there.
Some of you may remember the kerfuffle in March over the professor who sent a letter of recommendation to many philosophy grad programs, including ours, that included the following lines: "You will have to forgive a bit of political incorrectness, but I think it important. Y happens to be a beauty and enhances her fine looks with a careful attention to her grooming and clothes. Since I tend to associate philosophic depth with an alienation from the codes and conventions of everyday life, I found it hard to believe that Y was producing not only excellent philosophic work, ... but thoughtful philosophical work." This seems to be serious confirmation of Holly's point, and it is a despicable attitude. I did write to the letter-writer on behalf of my whole admissions committee and tried to call him out, and I got a kind of apology back, though not one that showed a grasp of why the attitude itself is problematic. Anyhow this is all just to say that these attitudes are out there in the profession - this guy didn't just think this, but thought that it was an obvious enough way to think that of course all the admissions committee members reading the letter would be sympathetic. And Holly is right that there is nothing ok about thinking this way. It doesn't make you cool or intellectual; it just makes you sexist and narrow-mindedly judgmental.
Very nice post, Catarina, and I actually agree down the line. In standing up for tenacity, critical dialogue, etc. as non-gender-biased philosophical virtues, I did not mean to be standing up for egoistic competition for its own sake or general douchebaggery. And I deeply agree that while these are not in fact skills that men are better at than women, women can pay social prices for exercising them. Goodness knows I have first-person experience of that. I am totally behind deflating the gender dimension of productive adversariality - nice way of putting it!
Ok someone already took away the offending comment. Thank you.
Can someone please moderate away comment 52 (Jenny), which no one should be exposed to? I just wanted to point out that in the Southern US, 'miss' can have a totally different and quite nice use ... when combined with the first name, it's a way for children to address female adults of ANY marital status in a way that is marked as both polite and affectionate. My son, who goes to school in Florida, has always called all his female teachers 'Miss Megan', 'Miss Anne', etc., even when he knows they are married - that's just how they are addressed by their students. Likewise male teachers are 'Mr. Matt', 'Mr. John', etc. And when I am in the south, my adult friends (not usually my close/academic friends) introduce me to their kids as 'Miss Rebecca'. Last weekend I was introduced to kids in Northern Virginia that way too, so it creeps fairly far north. Honestly I kind of like it. That was intended as an anthropological point, not any kind of big political statement, by the way. My more general view is that I don't want to be called 'Mrs.' or 'Miss' (by adults) and other than that people can call me whatever they want, as long as they are not giving my male colleagues some more 'honorific' title. For a while last year I insisted on being called Her Beatification Rebecca Kukla, but it got old.
Cynthia: Thanks for sharing that; that's exactly the kind of dynamic I had in mind. I've had similar experiences. I think your point about signaling outsider status and undermining your credentials are especially spot-on. Again, this isn't about anyone's intentions, obviously!
Mark: Your comment was in the spam hopper, sorry! I have basically the same response to you as to Brandon. I don't think they are suggestive of what you're suggesting we were suggesting. Again, we were not trying to point to specific exclusionary processes, but rather to the resulting shape of the conversation. To make things a bit more interesting: We hypothesize that if you looked at facebook threads that constitute peripheral philosophy speech - threads that have philosophical content, or make philosophy jokes, or are in any of a variety of ways directed at philosophy 'insiders', you'd find a quite different gender dynamic, with women more represented. It's an empirical question and we are not in a position to defend our hypothesis right now, so I will just put it out there as food for thought. Blog dynamics and facebook dynamics are different in all sorts of fascinating and relevant ways.
FWIW that was my experience at first too, and I think that was and is some of the intention of the bloggers. But over the years I suspect that an interesting dynamic has developed that no one intended, as the identities became semi-public. Just to be clear: I was not intending to criticize the fine bloggers at FPB. I am just interested in the complexity of online discourse and identity and its role in negotiations of community.
Yeah - I just responded to this on Leiter, but I too support the 'good but not great' worry and I also don't think it has anything to do with dissing people who get MAs. This just doesn't seem to me to be what anyone on the Leiter thread was suggesting. I entirely agree with John S's comment above, as well as with his, David V's, and David C's comments on the Leiter thread.
I really didn't take David as saying that people who get MAs have less potential to be great, and his recent clarification reaffirms that for me. Indeed, his comments are closely related to one of the (many) thoughts that was behind my original post. It seems plausible to me that the pressure to publish early and plentifully, combined with breaking one's early career into bite-sized pieces designed to make your cv appealing at the next stage up, combined with a slow creep towards the science-y model where you spend your early career working in someone's 'shop' on their problems and research agenda with a team of people, all make it easier to train up on doing good philosophy but leave less room for great philosophy. And I do think this is all a mixed bag. I certainly encourage my students to professionalize themselves and I try to help them do that. Learning philosophy skilz early makes for more opportunities and helps one speak in a way that will be heard. But I suspect there are downsides as well. Just to name one: this thread has focused a lot on the students who are getting MAs, but I worry that brilliant but unpolished undergrads are not getting PhD spots and then finding themselves too discouraged to continue on.
Sigh. Hostile anonymous comments will not be published.
Bence: I am not sure which country you are writing from, but in the US, the 'people' funding postdocs are not typically individual professors who are able to be so directly altruistic. I was wondering why schools and foundations were moving towards funding postdocs in an age when other forms of university funding are contracting. And I intended no implicature that it was a bad thing; I just really wonder! (Though it is not nearly so obvious to me that moving towards a natural science model is all good.) Others: So far I've posted a bunch of anonymous comments because their anonymity seems harmless, but if there's no good reason to stay anonymous please don't, k?
I can only speak to Georgetown, again, but we have had exceptionally strong continentalists (Pinkard and Blattner being two obvious examples) for a very long time. I am not sure exactly why we are getting more students in those areas now, but I expect our ability to hire continentalists and continental-friendly faculty, the increase in good interested students, and our PGR ranking are all in a dialectical relationship with one another.
Well, USF is unranked and SPEPpy, or at least SPEPpyish. As for SPEPpy departments hiring from SPEPy departments, that's somewhere between totally unsurprising and trivial. After all, if they hired enough people from unSPEPpy departments they wouldn't be SPEPpy departments any more. But more importantly, you seem to be attributing causation ('a marked preference for') when all you have is correlation. Perhaps the SLACs and regional colleges and so forth tried to hire from PGR-ranked departments and failed, because there aren't that many continentalists coming out of those and they were in high demand. (Not saying it's true - just saying we don't know.) And anyhow, unless you compare their hiring in continental to their hiring in other areas, we can't say that you've identified a salient phenomenon. Maybe those schools just generally don't hire from top PGR programs in any area, because they can't or don't want to or whatever. You'd need to look at who they've hired in other areas of philosophy before you could have evidence that there is a phenonenon of the sort you are suggesting to be explained.
I hadn't actually checked or realized this until now, but that means that all four of the people I mentioned (all three finalists for the georgetown continental position and the person who got the USF continental position) got their PhD's from places ranked in Group 1 or Group 2 for continental on the PGR. That's some anecdotal but not entirely trivial validation of the rankings. Especially since both are very good jobs to get, in this market, and very different from one another - one SPEPpy and one not. (For a variety of reasons I think it would be misleading and not entirely sensitive to publicize the schools the other USF finalists came from.)
Dunno about all of them but the woman hired at Georgetown from Chicago was hired for an explicit continental position. I believe the other two shortlisted candidates were from Notre Dame and Rice, if I remember correctly. Also, this isn't on B's list, but we searched for a 19th century continentalist at USF that same year, and hired one whose PhD was from Notre Dame. And USF *is* in fact pretty SPEPpy.
I agree with Cora and Mike as well. I must say, throughout my career, I have felt much more alienated and impostory in virtue of my economic background and childhood economic instability than I have in virtue of my gender or sexual orientation. (I am careful not to call it my 'class background' as my father was an academic, and that in many ways put me in the middle class, regardless of economics. But for various elaborate reasons to do with the weirdness of my family, I grew up nearly homeless and ended up supporting myself completely from the age of 14 on through various minimum wage jobs.) I know I am just one person but I have always felt that the academy is much more set in its ways and insensitive to moral texture when it comes to class/economic background than with respect to any of the other standard social fractures.
Based on your comment 64, Skef, I take it you are implicitly agreeing with me that a GCC-style campaign would be inappropriate. Artificial visibility in the form of self-declaration may well be helpful, and is of course totally different from people on a blog taking it upon themselves to somehow out the sexual orientation and identity of lists of speakers at conferences far away whom they likely don't know personally. So I take it that you implicitly admit that deriding me and others for saying that such a campaign would be inappropriate was unfair. And I will take you as having implicitly apologized. Apology accepted. I agree with you that whenever and wherever people are forced into the closet for professional reasons, that's simply not ok. That's explicitly the situation at the religious colleges that got so much play a few years back, and I assume we all agree that that's a morally abominable situation. You say: "it also isn't clear whether a professional life out in the open is currently tenable at any given institution. (I'm sure it's tenable at plenty -- but which ones?)" I don't have a systematic answer for you of course, and I am sure that there are many institutions at which it is not, even beyond the religious schools with explicit closeting contracts. But I will say that i have been completely 100% out as bi at every school I have attended or worked at, including right now Georgetown University, which is a Jesuit institution, and I have never encountered even the teensiest whiff of a professional or social problem because of it. So count Georgetown, University of South Florida, Middlebury College, Carleton University, University of New Mexico, University of Toronto, and University of Pittsburgh as on your list. (At one institution I worked at briefly, I was sexually harassed and demeaned in various ways, so I am not listing it, even though I am 99% sure that there is no way to tie this to my sexual orientation, since I have some suspicions that all sorts of people have been sexually harassed and demeaned in that department over the years. I put that very carefully so as to not get in any legal trouble.) Anecdotal lists like this don't prove much, I know, but those departments do deserve props I suppose. I was mildly worried when I started working at Georgetown that there might be some issue, since I'd never had any dealings with a Catholic school before. Mark Lance will remember that I checked in with him, early on, about whether it was going to raise any eyebrows if I brought the woman I was dating to a department function so early in my time there. He assured me there was zero to worry about and he was right; it didn't and hasn't caused me the remotest problem or moment of awkwardness at Georgetown. My speculative sense is that trans folks face more challenges, and that genuine trans acceptance and inclusion is more nascent. Transphobia both explicit and implicit, and just harmful levels of ignorance when it comes to transgender, are pretty rampant, even among philosophers' socioeconomic demographic. I have no numbers or hard evidence for any of this, of course, which was part of my original point.