Yesterday the Guardianpublished the results of a research conducted on the over 70 million comments that have been placed at Guardian articles over the years. The question was: is there a pattern in who gets most abusive comments? Given the Guardian’s policy to block comments (blocked by moderators) when they are not aligned with the spirit of constructive debate, this constitutes an extremely dataset to explore online behavior (it is reassuring by the way that only 2% of the 70m comments were blocked!). It has been long felt that women, and in particular women speaking from a feminist perspective, receive much online abuse in reaction to what they write. (Comment sections are one such venue, but think also of Twitter and other social media platforms.) But crunching the numbers is the right way to go if one wants to move from the level of ‘impressions’ to more concrete corroboration. The results will probably not come across as surprising:
Although the majority of our regular opinion writers are white men, we found that those who experienced the highest levels of abuse and dismissive trolling were not. The 10 regular writers who got the most abuse were eight women (four white and four non-white) and two black men. Two of the women and one of the men were gay. And of the eight women in the “top 10”, one was Muslim and one Jewish.
And the 10 regular writers who got the least abuse? All men.
In an interesting new piece, Jim Thatcher, David O'Sullivan and Dillonn Mahmoudi propose that big data functions in the context of capital as “accumulation by dispossession,” which is David Harvey’s term for what Marx called “primitive accumulation,” the process by which capital adds to its wealth by taking goods from others and adding them to the system. Marx: “so-called primitive accumulation, therefore, is nothing else than the historical process of divorcing the producer from the means of production” (Capital I, 875 [I am using the Penguin edition]). Perhaps the best example of this is the one detailed by Marx: the enclosure movement in England involved the privatization of agricultural common spaces in England, such that it was no longer possible to graze sheep on lands held by the community in common; the result was that a lot of peasants, who ended up with no or inadequate amounts of private property, lost everything of value they had and became “free labor,” forced to sell themselves to the emerging factories. As Marx sums up the process:
“The spoliation of the Church’s property, the fraudulent alienation of the state domains, the theft of the common lands, the usurpation of feudal and clan property and its transformation into modern private property under circumstances of ruthless terrorism, all these things were just so many idyllic methods of primitive accumulation. They conquered the field for capitalist agriculture, incorporated the soil into capital, and created for the urban industries the necessary supplies of free and rightless proletarians” (895)
I am very sympathetic to the thesis, and there is something profoundly right about it, insofar as Thatcher et al. rely on the separation of the valued information from the person who produces it. But I also think it needs tweaking, for reasons that emerge in the paper itself: the data trail that a person leaves is generally itself without value, and only becomes valuable when aggregated with a lot of other data. In other words, as I tried to argue a while ago, data is itself without value; it is only when it becomes information that it realizes that value.
It seems to me that the accumulation processes of big data is involved in a much earlier stage, the commodification of data into information itself, which involves both the elevation of exchange value over use value, and the conversion of qualitatively different items of data into commensurable units of information. These are, to an extent, equivalent processes, as Marx notes: “as use values, commodities differ above all in quality, while as exchange values, they can only differ in quantity, and therefore do not contain an atom of use-value” (128). Still, I think it’s worth teasing the two threads apart here.
Consider cases in which a person sincerely endorses some proposition ("women are just as smart as men", "family is more important than work", "the working poor deserve as much respect as the financially well off"), but often behaves in ways that fail to fit with that sincerely endorsed proposition (typically treats individual women as dumb, consistently prioritizes work time over family, sees nothing wrong in his or others' disrespectful behavior toward the working poor). Call such cases "dissonant cases" of belief. Intellectualism is the view that in dissonant cases the person genuinely believes the sincerely endorsed proposition, even if she fails to live accordingly.Broad-based views, in contrast, treat belief as a matter of how you steer your way through the world generally.
Dissonant cases of belief are, I think, "antecedently unclear cases" of the sort I discussed in this post on pragmatic metaphysics. The philosophical concept of belief is sufficiently vague or open-textured that we can choose whether to embrace an account of belief that counts dissonant cases as cases of belief, as intellectualism would do, or whether instead to embrace an account that counts them as cases of failure to believe or as in-between cases that aren't quite classifiable either as believing or as failing to believe.
I offer the following pragmatic grounds for rejecting intellectualism in favor of a broad-based view. My argument has a trunk and three branches.
The trunk argument.
Belief is one of the most central and important concepts in all of philosophy. It is central to philosophy of mind: Belief is the most commonly discussed of the "propositional attitudes". It is central to philosophy of action, where it's standard to regard actions as arising from the interaction of beliefs, desires, and intentions. It is central to epistemology, much of which concerns the conditions under which beliefs are justified or count as knowledge. A concept this important to philosophical thinking should be reserved for the most important thing in the vicinity that can plausibly answer to it. The most important thing in the vicinity is not our patterns of intellectual endorsement. It is our overall patterns of action and reaction. What we say matters, but what we do in general, how we live our lives through the world -- that matters even more.
Consider a case of implicit classism. Daniel, for example, sincerely says that the working poor deserve equal respect, but in fact for the most part he treats them disrespectfully and doesn't find it jarring when others do so. If we, as philosophers, choose describe Daniel as believing what he intellectually endorses, then we implicitly convey the idea that Daniel's patterns of intellectual endorsement are what matter most to philosophy: Daniel has the attitude that stands at the center of so much of epistemology, philosophy of action, and philosophy of mind. If we instead describe Daniel as a mixed-up, in-betweenish, or even failing to believe what he intellectually endorses, we do not implicitly convey that intellectualist idea.
As I noted in a previous post, APDA is in the middle of finalizing data for a new report. This will be a follow up to the report released in August 2015. We hope to include data on graduates with no listed placements and Carnegie Classifications, among other improvements. It is our aim to release the new report by April 15th, so that it can be useful to those who have applied to graduate programs this year. (Until that time, editing on the site has been turned off so that we can verify and analyze the data. We will turn back on editing in May when we turn on a new feature to allow for individual editing.)
In preparation for that report, I have been trying to determine the best way of displaying our data. I am attaching four DRAFT images that present data for 104 universities using pie charts (on gender, AOS, job type, and graduation year: gender and AOS use data from APDA alone, whereas job type and graduation year also uses graduation information from outside APDA, discussed in this post). I used pie charts because they are visually intuitive and I want the data to be as accessible as possible. I used suggestions from this post to help avoid some common criticisms of pie charts. (Note: I tend to analyze data in R, using ggplot2 for graphs, which is the language I provide below for anyone with expertise in this area.) At the top left of each image are the data for the full set of 104 universities. (Universities are included only if we have both an external source of graduation data and placement records for that university with recorded graduation years in this time period.)
I am looking for feedback on these charts. Are these easy to understand? Are there alterations that would be beneficial? Two other options, with images below: 1) Replace pie charts with bar graphs (one sample version below). 2) Make university-specific sets of charts. (This is more time-intensive than 1.)
Note also: We aim to release tables and regression analyses, as we did last time, and any images we release will be in addition to that work. Your input is welcome!
The Academic Placement Data and Analysis project (APDA) hopes to release program specific placement rates in the next week or two (before April 15th). These placement rates compare placement data to graduation data, so good graduation data are crucial. Yet, finding consistent graduation data is surprisingly tricky. The project currently uses the following external sources:
We gather data from multiple sources because each data set is incomplete, and for different reasons. For instance, the Survey of Earned Doctorates gathers data from programs in the United States alone, while the American Philosophical Association collects data from programs in the United States and Canada. Since the Review of Metaphysics publication supplied names we were able to integrate this information into APDA. For the other three sources we compiled the number of graduates for the years 2012-2015 into a single spreadsheet, assuming the later of the two years when a range was provided (e.g. 2011-2012). If I remove the programs that had missing data from all three remaining sources (SED, PhilJobs, APA) then we have data on 105 universities. How do these sources compare to one another and to the data contained in APDA?
Yesterday was a long day, legally speaking. First, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Zubick v. Burwell, which argues that it substantially burdens the religious beliefs of corporations to opt-out (by signing a form) of providing contraceptive coverage for their female employees, as mandated by the Affordable Care Act. The argument is absurd on its face, because it relies on the premise that it is a “substantial burden” of religious freedom to announce that you are exercising your religious freedom by refusing to do something that everybody else has to. But nevermind; according to everything I’ve read or heard about the session, it looks like the Court is heading for its first 4-4. Sorry, women in the states covered by the 8th Circuit! (UPDATE: this is somewhat oversimplified: the argument is that it makes the religious organizations "complicit" in immoral behavior. This is subject, however, to an obvious reductio: presumably these women draw a salary, and they can use that money to fund their contraception and any form of sexual activity they desire. Men of course also draw salaries, and there seems to be no worry about their sexual activities. One question is whether less intrusive means are available to achieve the same ends. See here and here).
Here in North Carolina, we began a special legislative to put a stop to a grave public health threat: allowing trans* individuals to use the restroom of the gender with which they identify. Why now? Because Charlotte passed a non-discrimination ordinance a few weeks ago allowing just that. So there had to be a special legislative session before April 1 (when the ordinance would have become effective), because kids. Or something. I can't make sense of the law except as a display of trans* phobia. First, something like 200 municipalities have adopted such rules, and there have been zero problems. So we’re solving a problem for which there is not a scintilla of non-speculative evidence that it actually exists. That suggests that claims of state interest are wildly overblown. The law is being used purely as an expressive device, even though it is about to make life more difficult for real people. Even if there’s a state interest here, I don’t understand how the statute does anything meaningful to advance that interest: predators would avoid public restrooms that are highly trafficked, and a law like this wouldn’t deter those predators (again, "predator" and "trans*" actually refer to different sets of people!) at less trafficked areas.
But the legislature likes to think big, and the bill does a lot more than restore restroom access: it sets up (for the first time) a list of things on the basis of which you’re not allowed to discriminate in NC. This initially sounds promising; The Raleigh News and Observerreports:
“The bill would create a statewide law that would ban discrimination on the basis of “race, religion, color, national origin or biological sex” at businesses and other “places of public accommodation.” But the law wouldn’t include sexual orientation and gender identity as categories protected from discrimination”
And that's about where it stops sounding so promising: it bans local governments from going further and granting additional protections. In other words, it specifically bans efforts to protect LGBTQ rights. We should pause at "biological sex," which features in the statute, and which the state defines as the one written on your birth certificate. The state points out that you can have that changed (assuming, I guess, you were born here, which a huge percentage of Charlotteans at least were not). But this is an attempt to define trans* right out of existence: Caitlin Jenner was not born a woman, she became one. The entire discussion brings to mind Judith Butler's remarks on "Gender Identity Disorder" and the way the state functions as part of a damaging dialectic of recognition.
When I first took philosophy of mind at St Andrews in 2002 as an undergrad, we discussed the mind-body problem, behaviorism, identity theory, functionalism, modularity, and qualia. I wrote my term paper on anomalous monism and strong supervenience, entitled: "Is it possible for someone to be in a particular mental state without having any propensity to manifest this in behaviour?" I answered "yes" (!) citing 16 articles, including works by Armstrong, Child, Crane, Davidson, Heil, Kim, Moore, and Quine. I argued that Davidson's arguments for strong supervenience ignored the possibility of circular causality and of acausal mental events, which I admitted might be undetectable. My closing remarks: "Anomalous Monists hold that it is impossible for a person to be in a particular mental state without having any propensity to manifest it in behaviour...I have shown that it is possible, where possibility includes unobservables, that a person be in a mental state without having any propensity to manifest this in behaviour. Whether the person in question can discover this mental state is a question of practicality: a matter for psychologists."
Now, almost 15 years later, I am planning to teach my first course in philosophy of mind. But the field has changed, as have my intellectual leanings. In 2008 Joshua Knobe and Shaun Nichols published their "Experimental Philosophy Manifesto." In that same year I presented my first poster at the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness meeting in Taipei, which officially changed my research trajectory from philosophy of physics to empirically-informed philosophy of mind. In 2010 I presented a poster at my first Vision Science Society meeting, a meeting only rarely attended by philosophers. I now teach in an interdisciplinary program with neuroscientists, psychologists, linguists, computer scientists, and philosophers. In short, I have come a long way from boundary policing. Moreover, the field has come a long way from the metaphysical debates that caused so much excitement in the early aughts. So where is philosophy of mind now? What should we be teaching our students in philosophy of mind courses? This is where you come in.
There are a couple of emerging narratives about Donald Trump. One is that he is the unreconstructed id of middle-aged, white American men who were left behind by the economy. They aren’t quite sure who they’re mad at, but the list probably includes everybody who doesn’t look like them, women in general, and all those libruls who insist on the “political correctness” of being civil whilst in civil society. It also includes the Republican establishment, which Trump supporters have finally realized not only has virtually nothing in common with them, but also does not care about their actual interests. So the base devolves to all it has left: a generalized rage. The other narrative says that Trump is a European-style nationalist: you can have your social services, but you can’t have people who don’t belong to your tribe running around and using those services. These narratives have in common the idea that Trump is appealing because he is racist.
One should never underestimate the explanatory power of racism in American politics, but there’s a third narrative about Trump that belongs in the picture, because I think it adds some explanatory value that the other two don’t: Trump is also the perfect embodiment of contemporary capitalism, by which I mean brand capitalism. I want to take a little time to explain this via a detour into Saussure, but if you don’t want to go there, here’s the gist of it: Trump doesn’t have policy positions because he’s not selling any product other than himself, and there isn’t anything to him other than his being the embodiment of TrumpTM.
The FBI has the iPhone of the San Bernadino shooters, and would very much like to examine its contents. But they have a problem: the contents are encrypted; guess the wrong password ten times, and the phone will self-destruct like one of those tapes in Mission Impossible (that’s not a technically correct analogy, of course: the data would end up permanently encrypted, and there would be no smoke). The FBI thus got a judge, using the authority of the 1789 (sic!) All Writs Act (more on this another day; for some initial analysis, see here), to order Apple to disable the auto-destruct, which would allow the FBI to fire up its biggest computers to try to guess the password by brute force. In what is likely to be the beginning of a very long legal fight, Apple refused, arguing that there would be no way to open this individual phone without creating a back door that would enable access to all phones of that type.
I’m currently teaching an ethics and public policy course, and for this week we read Kaplow and Shavell’s Fairness vs. Welfare (actually, we read the first 70 pages of the NBER paper that became the much bigger book). Their central claim is that to pick fairness as the dominant principle in policy-making is by definition to make some people worse-off than they were, and that there are numerous cases where the priority on fairness would make literally everyone worse off. An important subtext is that they don’t think “fairness” means anything, except as a poor, error-inducing proxy for “welfare;” the argument is like reading chapter 5 of J.S. Mill’s Utilitarianism on justice.
The argument is a preference-based one, and it interprets “welfare” broadly – there’s no correcting of preferences here (or apparent awareness of problems with adaptive preferences). They also allow for a “taste for fairness” – i.e., the preference many people feel for a situation they believe is fair. More on that in a minute. It’s a little unclear who their target is, as well: it sounds like Rawls, but of course Rawls is quite clear that his version of rationality is lifted directly from economics. Kant is the only person I can think of who spends a lot of time separating preferences (heteronomous desires) from what reason demands, so he’s as good a target as any. In any case, I want to focus briefly on the claim that fairness-based policies can make everyone worse off.
Eric Schwitzgebel and Carolyn Dicey Jennings
This article brings together lots of data that we have been gathering and posting about over the past several years, here and at The Splintered Mind. Considered jointly, these data tell a very interesting story about the continuing gender disparity in the discipline.
Here's the abstract:
We present several quantitative analyses of the prevalence and visibility of women in moral, political, and social philosophy, compared to other areas of philosophy, and how the situation has changed over time. Measures include faculty lists from the Philosophical Gourmet Report, PhD job placement data from the Academic Placement Data and Analysis project, the National Science Foundation’s Survey of Earned Doctorates, conference programs of the American Philosophical Association, authorship in elite philosophy journals, citation in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and extended discussion in abstracts from the Philosopher’s Index. Our data strongly support three conclusions: (1) Gender disparity remains large in mainstream Anglophone philosophy; (2) ethics, construed broadly to include social and political philosophy, is closer to gender parity than are other fields in philosophy; and (3) women’s involvement in philosophy has increased since the 1970s. However, by most measures, women’s involvement and visibility in mainstream Anglophone philosophy has increased only slowly; and by some measures there has been virtually no gain since the 1990s. We find mixed evidence on the question of whether gender disparity is even more pronounced at the highest level of visibility or prestige than at more moderate levels of visibility or prestige.
Full paper here.
As always, comments, corrections, and objections welcome, either on this post or by email.
As I remarked on Facebook yesterday, there is a lot of spectacular mendacity involved in the current crisis at Mount Saint Mary's Unviersity. As of yesterday, the University's provost has been forced to resign, and two faculty members have been summarily fired, one a tenured associate professor of philosophy and another an untenured professor of law. The justification for these firings, where available, made explicit reference to violating a "duty of loyalty," which adds to the already overwhelming impression that they come in retaliation for the exposure of the university president's plan to cull incoming students deemed likely to leave school without completing their first year before the school was required to report enrollment data to the federal government.* As a whole, the case is outrageous—and one hopes that these firings will be reversed, that the president and any board members who engineered them will be forced to resign, and that the principles of academic freedom, tenure, and the university's contractual obligations to its employees and its pedagogical obligations to its students that have been abrogated in the whole mess will be restored, reaffirmed, and strengthened. (Anyone who hasn't should consider signing the petition begun by John Schwenkler, located here.)
But while our attention is held by outrage over what is happening to these faculty and the cavalier attitude toward students reflected in the plan, we run the risk of overlooking the way that this case is an instance of a much more general problem. With the rise of various forms of quantitative assessment protocols (many of which, in practice, have been implemented ad hoc, and not always by folks with the training or expertise to produce reliable social science), we have also gotten a substantial increase in pressure to improve performance on such metrics, and thus to improve one's position on the rankings that are inevitably derived from them—rankings which have very real consequences for institutions, both in terms of their ability to recruit students (and their tuition) and in terms of other funding flows, like federal student aid money.
News this week of a planned asthma inhaler that connects to the Internet of Things. On the one hand, this seems like a pretty good use of the Internet: as you try out different medicines, they can learn precisely how well those medicines work, and work in genomics might even show that some medicines work better for some people and other medicines work better for others. All the data can all get amalgamated so that you can get an inhaler that works sooner. Some time ago, I suggested in a few posts that there are really two different kinds of biopolitics at work here – a mid-century public-health-oriented variety, which is being eclipsed by an individualizing, neoliberal version. The asthma inhaler shows that how we interpret big data will make a difference in which, a point which I want to make by way of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan (I’m not using the word ‘tragedy’ because ‘tragedy’ implies inevitability, and the problems in Flint were absolutely not inevitable). In Flint, we see the decay, if not active destruction, of a public health infrastructure under the weight of neoliberal policies.
On the public health front, the data from things like this inhaler might produce some important public health discoveries: what if the people of Flint turn out to have been breathing air so toxic that it is associated with a higher incidence of asthma? The answer to that question depends partly on who has access to the data. As Frank Pasquale has argued at length in the context of Pharma, for big data to make a meaningful public health impact, it is going to have to be de-siloed, and publicly accessible. The experience of Flint’s water supply is strong evidence that he is right, because it shows the disaster that neoliberalism can otherwise become as it individualizes and privatizes health information.
All of you reading this will certainly have witnessed the uproar this week in response to a paper published in Synthese which is problematic, to say the least, for a number of different reasons. (It is worth noticing, as has been often noticed, that this paper has been online for 22 months, but presumably having appeared in the latest printed edition of Synthese, those on the Synthese mailing list will have received a notification, and someone actually took the trouble of checking the paper. From there on, it went ‘viral’ through the usual channels – Facebook, blogs etc.) In particular, it contains a passage with clear homophobic and sexist content. [But see UPDATE below.] But this is not the only issue with the paper, which overall seems to be below the level of scholarship that one would expect in a journal like Synthese.
[Full disclosure: I’ve known the author, JYB, for many years, and have attended a number of the events he regularly organizes. He was supportive of my career at its early stages. I know two of the Synthese editors-in-chief quite well, and the third I have close indirect contacts with (he is a regular collaborator of one of my closest colleagues). I have 5 papers published in Synthese, two of which are forthcoming in two different special issues.]
There is no question to me that this paper should not have been published in its current form. JY Béziau has made important contributions to logic earlier in his career, but in recent years his work has not been of the same caliber as his earlier work (this is also the opinion of a number of people I’ve talked to much before this episode). So purely on the basis of the paper’s merits, the decision to publish it in Synthese (whoever made the decision) seems to have been misguided. Adding to that the homophobic and sexist content, then the decision to publish it is not only misguided but also deeply disturbing. But the issue I want to discuss here is: what does this say about the editorial process in Synthese? Does this episode warrant calls for the resignation of the current editors-in-chief?
Due to the suggestion of Lionel McPherson in comments at this post, I am disaggregating the non-white category of this previous post into three lists: "Hispanic," "Asian or Pacific Islander," and "Black" graduates of PhD programs in philosophy, per graduating institution. Importantly, the data only cover permanent residents and citizens of the United States (thanks to Brian Weatherson for pointing this out). Because of that fact I use data from the United States census as a point of comparison above each list.
Note that the data on graduates was provided by the National Center for Science Engineering Statistics thanks to Eric Schwitzgebel's efforts (see here and here). Specifically, the NCSES supplied the number of racial and ethnic minority graduates from doctoral philosophy programs in the United States between the years 1973 and 2014 (but not broken down by year).
Below, I list the programs in the United States with a higher than average (mean) percentage of graduates from each of these categories, where the mean is taken for 96 programs in the United States (I omitted institutions from the NCSES data that no longer offer doctoral degrees in philosophy)...
Most of us know about efforts to sort philosophy programs according to placement rate or prestige, but what of the percentage of PhD graduates from each program who are women or other underrepresented minorities? Thanks to Eric Schwitzgebel's efforts in contacting the National Center for Science Engineering Statistics (see here and here), we have access to some numbers on this issue. Specifically, the NCSES supplied the number of women and minority graduates from doctoral philosophy programs in the United States between the years 1973 and 2014 (but not broken down by year). Below, I provide the top programs in the United States from this list of 96 programs in terms of % of women graduates in this period, as well as the top programs in terms of % of non-white graduates, where for "non-white" I am aggregating the NCSES categories of "Hispanic," "Asian," "Asian or Pacific Islander," "Black" and "two or more races." (I omitted institutions from the NCSES data that no longer offer doctoral degrees in philosophy.) One striking feature of these lists is how many of the programs show up on Brian Leiter's list of PhD programs "whose existence is not easy to explain." A provocative rhetorical question follows: Should we be closing PhD programs that better serve women and minorities in philosophy? I welcome discussion below.
It is well known that philosophers like to argue, and one of the things they like to argue about is arguing itself. Argumentation is frequently (and rightly, to my mind) taken to be a core feature of philosophical practice, and thus how to argue becomes a central topic for philosophical methodology. But many have claimed that the centrality of argumentation within philosophy is a weakness rather than a strength, deploring the excessively adversarial nature of argumentation in philosophy. Critics point out that philosophers are trained to find objections, counterexamples, rebuttals etc. to what their philosophical interlocutors say, who are tellingly described as one’s opponents. On this conception, argumentation is a duel between two opponents, and only one of them can win; blood will often ensue. Much of the criticism has been motivated by feminist concerns: aggressive, adversarial styles of argumentation are oppressive towards women and other disadvantaged groups, emphasizing competition (which is often presented to be an essentially ‘male’ feature) at the expense of cooperative, presumably more productive endeavors. Some of the authors having defended ideas along these lines are Janice Moulton and Andrea Nye (see here for a survey article by C. Hundleby).
A few years ago I became interested in how the presumed adversarial nature of philosophical argumentation affected not only the practice but also the outcome of philosophical investigation. It seemed to me that, while some of the feminist criticism definitely struck a cord if not with the theory at least with the practice of philosophy in some (well, many) quarters, the general critical stance that is characteristic of philosophical interactions was still an essential and epistemically valuable feature of the philosophical method. (Btw, it may be worth noting that this is not unique to philosophy; mathematics seems to proceed by ‘proofs and refutations’ (Lakatos), and in many if not all of the empirical and social sciences, objections and criticism are the bread-and-butter of the theorist.)
So we all know that there’s a difference between “sex,” taken as a biological characteristic, and “gender,” as a social one. Maybe the heuristic is overdrawn (put down the updated theory; that’s not where this is going), but it works pretty well as a heuristic. It also has just led to a (maybe not so surprising) study result (paywalled; for a quick video summary, see here, though you may get served an ad): among young people with premature Acute Coronary Syndrome (ACS; it’s an umbrella term for anything involving a sudden reduction or block of blood flow to the heart, such as a heart attack), being gendered female – of self-identifying with traits that are traditionally associated with women – increases the risk of recurrence over the next 12 months. Being a woman (i.e., biological sex) does not affect future risk. As the authors say:
“Gender-related characteristics like personality traits and social roles (psychosocial sex) may be as important as biological sex in predicting adverse cardiovascular outcomes in young patients with acute coronary syndromes. Both women and men with personality traits and social roles traditionally attributed to women are at increased risk of subsequent adverse events.”
I make no assessment of how robust this result is (I noticed that the cohort was fairly small). I will note that the study did not take race into account, although everything we know about intersectionality says that young women of color are likely to have even worse outcomes.
The Survey of Earned Doctorates is a questionnaire distributed by the U.S. National Science Foundation to doctorate recipients at all accredited U.S. universities, which draws response rates over 90% in most years. The survey includes data on gender and ethnicity/race. Data for 2009-2014 are readily available online here. At my request, the NSF sent me gender and ethnicity/race data for philosophy going back to 1973.
With the NSF's permission, here are the raw data. Philosophy response rates averaged 92% per year, and were over 85% in all years but two.
(Note: "Ethics" started being collected as a separate doctoral subfield in 2012. For gender analysis, I have merged the 83 recipients in that category with the 1442 "philosophy" doctoral recipients during the same period. Given the small numbers, much of the race/ethnicity data were suppressed, so for race/ethnicity analysis I have excluded the "ethics" recipients. The numbers are not sufficiently different from "philosophy" to make a material analytic difference in a pool of over a thousand (54/83 [65%] male; among U.S. citizens and permanent residents, 52/68 [76%] non-Hispanic White).)
Data on Women:
Almost all respondents reported gender as male or female, with only 25/14495 respondents (0.2%) declining to self-classify gender. The total number of respondents increased from an average of 354/year in available data from the 1970s to an average of 484/year for available data in the 2010s. The chart below shows the percentage of women by year, along with both a linear regression line (green) and the best fitting quadratic curve (red).
We’ve known for a while, thanks to work by scholars such as Stephen Menn, that Descartes was in many ways a deeply religious and conservative thinker, one who took great care to try to align his work with Church doctrine, and who engaged scholastic thought with a good deal more precision than his dismissive comments suggest. One need only compare his assertions about the epistemic veracity of “ideas” as opposed to linguistic expression, to see the point. Indeed, as Tad Schmalz documents in detail, Descartes and his followers’ problem – and why he ended up on the banned books list – wasn’t any of the things that you might initially think, like the cogito, but the inability of his followers to explain the Eucharist (this shows up as early as Arnauld’s replies; in a way, the failure was inevitable, since the official explanatory apparatus of the Eucharist, as a product of the 1300s, presupposed Aristotelian physics, which Descartes rejected). Foucault’s lectures On the Government of the Living deepen that picture and apply it to the world we live in today.
In his Descartes and Augustine, Menn makes the case that Descartes is fundamentally an Augustinian thinker in many ways. The cogito (Descartes never says “cogito ergo sum” in his own voice, by the way, so really we are talking about the res cogitans) appears to be lifted straight from Augustine. Via Menn, then, here is the Augustine. I apologize for the length, but if you’re not familiar with it, the passage is worth it (for the TLDNR crowd, I’ve boldfaced the parts that get the point across most succinctly:
An important trademark and First Amendment case was decided in the Federal Circuit yesterday. In it, the Court ruled in favor of Simon Tam, who named his band “The Slants.” When he attempted to register the band name as a trademark, the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) rejected the mark as “disparaging,” arguing that the First Amendment does not allow government to disfavor speech that it disapproves of the message it contains. Per the Court:
“The government cannot refuse to register disparaging marks because it disapproves of the expressive messages conveyed by the marks. It cannot refuse to register marks because it concludes that such marks will be disparaging to others. The government regulation at issue amounts to viewpoint discrimination, and under the strict scrutiny review appropriate for government regulation of message or viewpoint, we conclude that the disparagement proscription of § 2(a) is unconstitutional. Because the government has offered no legitimate interests justifying § 2(a), we conclude that it would also be unconstitutional under the intermediate scrutiny traditionally applied to regulation of the commercial aspects of speech.”
The Court thus rules that the PTO needs to allow the mark to be registered (for a quick blogpost, see here). A lot of people think this case has ramifications for whether the Washington "Redskins" should be allowed to keep their trademark registrations (they were canceled by the 4th Circuit; the Washington Post has a long list of rejected marks here). The conflict between the circuits raises the odds of Supreme Court review. I wrote about the Redskins case when it came out, and a lot of what I said there applies here. In that post, I expressed some support for the PTO, because I wonder if the case shouldn’t be framed as viewpoint discrimination so much as whether one has a constitutionally protected right to a government subsidy for speech that it does not endorse. But it's not a comfortable road to travel, as I based my argument on abortion cases, Rust v Sullivan in particular, that I wish were decided the other way.
In their critique of Foucault that accompanies their translation of his writings on Iran, Janet Afary and Kevin Anderson accuse Foucault of a certain Orientalism: “indeed, similar to a passionate Romantic, Foucault may have exoticized and admired the East from afar, while remaining a Westerner in his own life” (17). Evidence for this charge is not too hard to find; the most striking may be his assertion in History of Sexuality I that non-Western societies practiced an ars erotica but not a scientia sexualis. In the context of Iran, Foucault’s self-qualification that he’s read “three books” on Shi’ism doesn’t inspire confidence in the person who claims that genealogy requires a “relentless erudition.”
But then there’s this: “in an unusual turn, however, Foucault’s ‘orient’ seems to include the Greco-Roman world as well as the modern Eastern one, since the contrast he draws is primarily between tradition and modernity rather than East and West as such” (Afary and Anderson,18).
This evening I had an opportunity to get together with the other women in my philosophy department at UC Davis, and it caused me to reflect on how far we have come - when I joined the department in 2006, I was the only woman. Elaine Landry (front center) joined in 2008, followed by Marina Oshana (back right) in 2009. We stayed that while for awhile, until a recent spate of hires gave us Tina Rulli (front left) in 2014 and Zoe Drayson (back center) and Alyssa Ney (front right) starting just this fall. We are now 6 full-time women faculty out of 15! So, I just wanted to take this moment to celebrate, hoping that others have similar stories to tell and that they will share them here. Please do!
Since we’re in the interregnum between “sign up for health insurance” time and “eat yourself into a stupor” time, it’s appropriate to notice something about pastoral power and our healthcare system. First, we’ll go back in time. Foucault proposes that pastoral power under medieval Christianity:
“Gave rise to an art of conducting, directing, leading, guiding, taking in hand, and manipulating men, an art of monitoring them and urging them on step by step, an art with the function of taking charge of men collectively and individually throughout their life and every moment of their existence.” (Security, Territory, Population (=STP), 165)
He then urges that this is not the same as political power, the power used to educate children, nor is it persuasion (“in short, the pastorate does not coincide with politics, pedagogy, or rhetoric” (164)). The pastorate does not disappear with the rise of modern power forms, as he emphasizes in a couple of places (STP 148, 150). Indeed, he makes a much stronger claim: “I think this is where we should look for the origin, the point of formation, of crystallization, the embryonic point of the governmentality whose entry into politics … marks the threshold of the modern state” (165).
In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
My warriors, after Paris, much work remains to be done. But we have many new recruits. They are infidels, but they have to come to our aid, they will do our work with us. They will ensure that the Caliphate will find new capitals, that it will spread from sea to shining sea. They will turn upon the Muslims in their midst, the devout, and the apostates, those Muslims who--for whatever reason--do not grow their beards, whose women do not cover their heads, whose children do not memorize the Koran, who do not pray five times a day, who study in schools where the Koran is not taught, who do not fast in the holy month, who pledge allegiance to infidel flags. They will turn back refugees from their shores; they will prosecute their own citizens. They will drive them back into our fold. We shall welcome those who show contrition for their desertion; for the rest, apostasy means death.
Between the anvil of the New Crusaders and the hammer of our armies, the apostates, those who left Muslim lands and vainly sought a better life elsewhere--believing foolishly in the propaganda and lies of secular written constitutions with their pathetic Bill of Rights, and in mock-revolutionary declarations of liberty, equality, and fraternity--will be crushed. They will find no new homes; they will be turned back from the shores that were to welcome them. Those Muslims who imagined they could live in peaceful co-existence with infidels will find that there will be no such peace for them. They will be blamed for our work; they will be punished for it. Among them, we will find yet more soldiers.
Truly it is by Allah's Grace that those who imagine themselves the New Crusaders are instead our Jihadi brothers. Such is Allah's Infinite Wisdom that our enemies become our soldiers. They speak of waging war against us but first they will wage war against themselves. They are termites who nibble at their own foundations; we need only direct them from afar.
Allah is Great. Victory will be ours. Welcome the New Crusaders.
As is being widely reported, Steven Salaita has settled with UIUC, which has agreed to pay him $875,000 (some of which will resolve his legal fees). The press release from the Center for Constitutional Rights, which has represented Prof. Salaita, is here. A bit more detail about the trustees' meeting where the settlement was approved can be found here.
Prof. Salaita has not been reappointed to the faculty at UIUC as a result of this settlement. This is certainly disappointing, especially for his supporters at UIUC. But in assessing the significance of this outcome, it should be borne in mind that it is apparently rare, even when cases reach a litigated conclusion, for judges to force employers to reinstate employees who have been wrongfully terminated. The fact that Prof. Salaita has received significant compensation does constitute, then, as his attorney points out, "an implicit admission of the strength of Professor Salaita’s constitutional and contractual claims."
We should, and I certainly do, offer Prof Salaita congratulations for the vindication he has received and thank him for being willing to fight for a number of principles that are of great importance to all of us working and studying in the academy. I also think it is important to acknowledge the many faculty at UIUC who have supported Prof. Salaita, borne the burden of the academic boycott, and all too often seen their departments and programs suffer significant retaliation. One would certainly hope that, as part of UIUC's efforts to have the AAUP censure lifted, it will move to ameliorate the damage that has been done to its departments and programs, especially the American Indian Studies program.
Finally, for those who have questions regarding the status of the philosophers' boycott in light of this settlement, John Protevi has made the following suggestion, which I endorse:
While I was not in any sense the "director" or what have you of the philosopher's boycott, I was a catalyst, so I think I should say something here.
Unfortunately, there was some inconsistency in my statements: the letter sent to UIUC and BOT officials said "until Professor Salaita is reinstated" whereas many of the blog posts which alerted people to the boycott effort said "until an equitable resolution is reached." On reflection the latter standard seems the right one to me, but people should make up their own minds here.
Update: Kirk Sanders, Chair of the Department of Philosophy at UIUC, has released a statement regarding the Boycott, which you can read here.
Update 2: There is a statement calling on the AAUP not to lift its censure of UIUC until some of the problems at the institution which remain unaddressed by the settlement are resolved. Those interested in signing may add their names here.
Update 3: Salaita himself has a long piece in The Nation, reflecting both on the significance of this settlement and articulating his sense of what remains to be done at UIUC, throughout the larger academic institution, and in the broader political sphere.
Update 4: Corey Robin posts a useful corrective to those inclined to see something wrong with Salaita's decision to settle the case—which, again, I wholeheartedly endorse.
Many years ago, I taught the inaugural edition of my Philosophy of Welding seminar. I began the semester by introducing some of the problems that would hold our attention during the semester: What is welding? How is it distinguished from other activities that claim to be welding? Is there a distinctive being-in-the-world characteristic of the welder and his tools? What makes a welded work beautiful? How should such works be shared? In the political economy of welding how is value created and sustained? Do we have a moral obligation to weld? And so on.
My reading list for the class was not excessively ambitious: I stuck to some of the usual suspects--Heidegger and some of the works of the Shipyard Collective, for instance--and concentrated on a few key passages in each, hoping close attention to them would repay dividends in the form of rich class discussion. Early in the semester, I began to notice that one young student did the readings diligently, came to class prepared, and engaged vigorously in all ensuing discussions.
This was no idle interest; no lofty, disengaged, from-on-high tackling of philosophical problems. This young man was in the trenches, on a mission. And it was quite clear what it was: defending--nay, aggressively speaking up for--welding and welders. He had air-tight definitions for welding: necessary and sufficient conditions for it neatly marked its domain off from the impostors clamoring to be let in; he offered an at-times-almost-mystical description of the relationship of the welder to the welded (and the tools that mediated that relationship); he spoke movingly of the affective responses that welded works provoked in him, deftly bringing in Kantian notions of the sublime; he offered a creative theory for how welded works could be copyrighted and welders granted patents for their work; he described the outlines of a political economy for welding that would allow welding to continue to generate surplus value in a world increasingly dominated by the intangible and the immaterial; and most movingly of all, he offered a passionate, stirring, argument whose fascinating conclusion was that we have a duty to weld, a moral inclination that must be obeyed.
It was on this last point that we passionately disagreed. Even though I recognized the importance of welding, I could not bring myself to accept this argument. Surely, one could assign a respectable position to welding in our hierarchy of valued activities without taking the final move to make our engagement something that acquired normative weight. But this young man would not budge. Welding, as an activity, had normative implications; it gave our lives meaning and value; it was the tide that would raise all boats. It was not the cement of the universe, but it was the tool that brought the fabric of space-time together.
By semester's close, our disagreements had grown sharper. When it ended, it was clear I had lost my student. My failure--and the rest of the class'--to accept and internalize his arguments seemed to have turned him off philosophy altogether. I do not know what had so animated his passion for welding, but it was clear and distinct, an important motivational force in his psychological dispositions.
Several folks in last night's Republican presidential debate, including Marco Rubio, apparently decided to use philosophy as a foil for some of their typically ridiculous claims about education. In response, lots of people are citing an average salary for people working as professional philosophers — sometimes attributed to the Bureau of Labor Statistics — north of 70k, much more than 'welders.'
I would like to take this opportunity to ask folks to think about what they're doing. I am, and the rest of you should be, extremely dubious of statistics saying folks working as academic philosophers are making $70k on average. There is, to be blunt, no way such numbers —if they are being correctly reported — are being arrived at without massively undercounting continent faculty working at multiple schools, all technically 'part time,' and almost surely making 'welder' salaries or less. None.
At very least, let's not gleefully paper over the economic reality of many members of the profession just to score points against grandstanding right wing politicians. That would be to continue one of the worst patterns of the current academy, namely that of throwing many of us, and the most vulnerable of us, under the bus in order to reinforce the narrative that there isn't a problem with the economics of our profession — a position which is flatly wrong and only serves the interests of the most privileged subset of professional academics.
This is shameless self-promotion, but I've just posted "Equitable Biopolitics: What Federal School Desegregation Cases Can Teach us about Foucault, Law and Biopower" to SSRN. This is my SPEP paper from 2014, and I've referenced it in a few blog posts here. So here it (finally!) is. The abstract is:
The present paper looks at the intersection of juridical and biopower in the U.S. Supreme Court’s school desegregation cases. These cases generally deploy “equitable relief” as a relay between the juridicially-specified injury of segregation and the biopolitical mandates of integration. This strategy is evident in the line of cases running from Brown to Swann v. Mecklenburg, and has its antecedents in pre-war economic regulation. Later cases have attempted to close this relay, confining equality and rejecting claims of equitable relief. Study of the school desegregation cases thus both shows an example of the intersection of biopower and law (which has been difficult on Foucauldian grounds), as an example of the biopolitical race war that Foucault identifies in Society must be Defended.