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Friday, February 13, 2009

Relative Truth

I recently put together a special issue of Synthese on relative truth. It has just come out in print. Contributors include: David Capps, Andy Egan, Michael Glanzberg, Steven Hales, Max Kolbel, Peter Lasersohn, Michael Lynch, John MacFarlane, Daniel Massey, Sebastiano Moruzzi, Stephen Neale, Duncan Pritchard, Brian Weatherson and Crispin Wright.


Aidan said...

Great line-up! But isn't this the kind of 'male-dominated' volume you were complaining about in the previous post?

Brit Brogaard said...

Yes, it is. I did say that the excuse "I invited lots of women but they all said 'no'" sometimes is a legitimate excuse. And I did ask lots of women who said 'no'. I was the only one who accepted :-). But I have changed my mind about the legitimacy of that excuse. I did invite women who said 'no'. But I didn't put enough work into it. I should have continued asking women until I got some women in there. So, yes, I am guilty of committing a terrible crime. And it won't happen again. The fact that I have committed this crime, however, does not give others an excuse to commit the same crime, and it shouldn't prevent me from writing about it.

Aidan said...

I didn't mean to suggest this was a 'terrible crime' at all. But it does raise some points about your previous post. There you asked with respect to the first pair of excuses, I took it rhetorically, 'But how often does that happen?'. But how often does it happen? The following seems like a non-crazy explanation of why (in some cases at least) men disproportionately outnumber in these volumes: there are far fewer women working in these areas, and so if those that are say no, there's really nowhere to go. With conferences, there are often geographical constraints too, imposed by a limited budget for flights. So that can cut the options down considerably too. Your rhetorical question suggests that you're rather dismissive of this kind of explanation, but I think an answer to that question might be illuminating.

A couple of comments on the foregoing, to guard against misunderstanding. I'm not trying to suggest there isn't a problem with low level of representation of women at conferences and in invited volumes. I'm simply wondering about its source. Nobody should feel good, or let off the hook, if it transpires that the reason women are underrepresented in volumes and at conferences on a particular area of philosophy (or in philosophy in general) is that women are generally underrepresented in that area.

Second, I'm quite confident that in some, perhaps many cases, you're right that the editor or organizer just didn't bother to try to invite any women, and didn't care. I'm not trying to defend such people in the slightest.

So I didn't mean to suggest you didn't do enough to involve women in this volume. Who am I to make any pronouncement on that? But the fact that you would have had to go way above and beyond, so to speak, is itself suggestive. It suggests that we shouldn't be so quick to dismiss the idea that the problem with lack of representation at the level of invited journal and conference participation is often (though certainly not always) a symptom of an underlying problem of lack of representation in certain disciplines. Like I said above, that doesn't make the current situation any more acceptable. But we need to make sure we locate the source(s) of the problem if we're to fix it.

Brit Brogaard said...

I do think it's a terrible crime. The reason I ended up with only one woman in my volume (myself) was that I didn't bother asking enough women. I asked 3 or 4 women who turned me down. But I should have asked others at that point. It wasn't the case that I couldn't think of anyone else to ask. I was simply lazy. I thought I had done what was minimally required of me. But I really hadn't. How long would it have taken me? Two hours? Instead of doing what was minimally required of me I was probably messing around on Facebook (actually I hadn't signed up for Facebook yet back then, but you get the idea).

I don't think "I asked lots of women but they all said 'no' " is a legitimate excuse. So, you *should* take what I said rhetorically. That's exactly how I intended it to be read.

But let it be granted, at least for argument's sake, that "I asked lots of women but they all said 'no' " is a legitimate excuse. Most people can't use it. For in most cases women simply aren't invited. How do I know? Because the women tell me. We talk. They aren't invited. Or they are rarely invited. Those who are invited are often invited to give the feminist spin on things. They are special contributors serving two purposes at once.

As the second Anon pointed out, most volumes and conferences in the mainstream areas have the same 10 male philosophers contributing. Just occurred to me that this could be a problem also for male philosophers -- those who happen not to be among the 10 regulars -- those who happen not to have jobs at elite universities.

Of course, you're right when you point out that women automatically will be underrepresented in volumes because they are already underrepresented in the profession. But I am not talking about underrepresentation, I am talking about *extreme* underrepresentation. If there are 15% great female thinkers in philosophy of mind, then we should expect 15% female representation in the volumes and at the conferences. 10% or 5% or 2% just isn't good enough.

Anonymous said...

Here's a thought (meant in a helpful spirit, even though it seems obvious in a sense): when someone turns you down for an invitation, ask them, who is doing good work in this area that I might have overlooked? (You could also ask this of people who accept your invitation, since you're likely to have more spots to fill.) Or just think to yourself, who is doing good work in this area who is not one of the "big names" in the profession. Obviously, you want your volume/conference etc. to have high impact, and so you want some big names in the contents/on the program. But people who are not big names -- and not the same big names -- are also probably doing good work in the area.