By Kris Sealey
I’m the lead PI on a Mellon grant to develop a code of ethics for publishing in philosophy. Our team came to this project, not because the diversity in and ethics of publishing philosophy is anything new. Thankfully, there have been conversations about these challenges circulating in our profession for quite some time. According to its 2016 reported demographics, the membership of the APA is 76.4% white and 74.6% male. Concerns about the absence of diversity within the discipline and how that absence shapes practices around publishing and editorial decisions have been part of the experience of many constituencies in professional philosophy.
The goal of this project is to expand the conversation about how to encourage broader inclusion in philosophy. We join the concern – broadly shared in the field – with the statistical underrepresentation of marginalized scholars on journal editorial boards, and their underrepresentation in the kinds of scholarship that gets published. But our project is more specifically concerned with how marginalized groups are engaged in the literature, if and when those representative statistics increase. In other words, we consider substantial structural improvements not only in terms of increased published papers, more citations of marginalized scholars, and increased numbers of marginalized scholars on editorial boards but also in terms of more ethical practices of inclusion. It is our belief that inclusivity in scholarship and ethical approaches to historically marginalized groups requires more than increasing representation in publication and citation, that it also requires scholarship and peer review practices that follow ethical guidelines to give voice to those groups in ways that best serve them.
The questions that guide our project are: How might we rethink our publication, citation, and editorial decisions so that professional philosophy can counteract rather than amplify the structural precarity of certain groups of individuals in philosophy? What does it mean for philosophy to be accountable to marginalized constituencies in our profession, both when we theorize about their experience and when we cite scholarship on such marginalized experiences?
Our project focuses on how issues of diversity might be addressed at the level of producing the scholarly object. We are in the midst of facilitating focus group conversations which have been driven by questions about determining the (un)reliability of research findings, rectifying unethical research, and determining best practices for adequate engagement with/citation of marginalized scholarship. Such policies and best practices are well-established for the natural and social sciences, but we have noted a dearth in the equivalent for the humanities and for philosophy, in particular. Our planning grant examines the question of what guidelines for best practices and a code of publication ethics in the humanities might look like by analyzing publishing policies and guidelines that are concerned with
- explicitly defining academic misconduct, especially when it comes to appropriating the ideas of others without acknowledgment;
- defining guidelines for research addressing underrepresented or marginalized populations (more generally); and
- defining guidelines for engaging underrepresented or marginalized scholars (more particularly).
We’re engaging with these questions through a series of focus groups that gather journal editors, journal presses, and representatives of various APA committees. We conducted such a focus group at each of the three APA division meetings this year, as well as three online focus groups for those who could not make the in-person meetings, and will host one this summer for representatives of presses that publish professional journals. We also welcome comments from the broader philosophy community through this online form.
We plan to report our outcomes in a white paper which should be released in the fall. Alongside the white paper, we will develop templates for best practices that editors can adapt in conversation with their editorial boards for ensuring ethical treatment of marginalized groups in research and scholarship in philosophy. We hope to address inclusive citation practices, peer review practices, scholarly consideration of the effect of the research on those most affected by the scholarship, what it means to ensure inclusion of marginalized voices, and what would count as reflective processes for work that directly affects marginalized groups.
Our hope, my hope, is that this work can help people think about how the lives of actual people are affected by the work that we do, and how our research practices can acknowledge and reflect that reality.
Kris Sealey is an Associate Professor of Philosophy, co-director of the Peace and Justice Studies Program, and co-director of Curriculum Development at the Center for Academic Excellence at Fairfield University. She works in Continental Philosophy, Philosophy of Race, and Postcolonial Theory. Her current book project, Creolizing the Nation: The Argument for an Alternative Ontology, investigates the relationship between community formations, creolizing process of identity-formation, and the nation.
You conclude with…
“Our hope, my hope, is that this work can help people think about how the lives of actual people are affected by the work that we do, and how our research practices can acknowledge and reflect that reality.”
Meaning no personal disrespect, but I’m sorry to report that the lives of actual people are NOT affected by the work that you are referencing.
Yes, I have evidence. Please examine the comment section of this blog. Please note that I am almost the only person on planet Earth using it.
Please note that even APA members show little to no interest in the work their peers are doing. If APA members are not interested in the work being presented here, it’s not logical to assume that “actual people”, which I take to mean the general public, are interested or affected.
I would agree that domination of the field by white men could very well be a big reason why almost no one is interested in the work philosophers are doing. That’s a reasonable theory.
But in order for anyone to care about that theory it would have to be shown that a more diverse group of philosophers would be able to engage topics that are of sincere interest to the general public, or for starters at least their fellow APA members.
The best way to demonstrate that would be for more diverse writers to share articles here on the APA blog that succeed in engaging somebody other than me. As a place to start, a group of a dozen more diverse writers could form an alliance that agrees to engage each other’s articles here on the blog. If those articles were successful in creating passionate intelligent conversations here on the blog, those diverse writers would be in the process of taking over this place.
Again, please examine the evidence. This blog is dead. It’s ripe for a takeover from the snoozing group consensus majority. The field is wide open, no one is standing in your way.
Don’t just talk about it, do it. And then I can promise you at least one ally.
I’m an old white man. Yup, oh geez, yet another one of those.
I am the undisputed ruler of the comment section of this blog, posting more old white man wannabe crackpot philosophy than everyone else combined. My total domination reign of rhetorical terror will continue without mercy until such time as a more diverse group of writers begins filling the comment section up with their more diverse perspectives, thus diluting my old white man voice to such a degree that it becomes hardly visible.
It’s probably true that the white man good old boys club is limiting the range of diversity in philosophy journals. But nobody is limiting it here in the APA comment section. Thus, if old white men continue to dominate this comment section, it’s only because the more diverse voices allowed them to.
In other words, if the comment section of the APA blog is not diverse, it’s all your fault.
Lulz. This comment made me more optimistic about the APA than the last three months’ worth of reading the blog (at least).
I think I understand what you’re trying to say here – but it seems to me that you don’t understand why there’s such a lack of diversity in the academic field of philosophy in general, or on the APA Blog in particular.
It’s not that there are people intentionally buoying the voices of “old white men” necessarily, but rather a number of other factors let the “old white man” voice rise to the top easier than others. An easy example is the fact that philosophy in the collective conscious is sort of a viewed as an “old white man” thing – and so it draws in “old white men” and repels anyone not fitting that description. The prescription for this particular aspect of the lack of diversity can only be a normalizing of philosophy as something that’s not only for “old white men.” That will take time, and hopefully the cyclical reinforcement of this normalization as philosophy continues to include other voices, cultures, and perspectives.
But, like I said, that’s just one aspect of all of this. I mean, it definitely wasn’t necessary for you to label yourself as an old white man – it was statistically likely that you would be according to the blog posting. Actually, let’s take this a step further. Are you an academic or someone who is just interested in and curious about philosophy? You strike me as the former, though I could be wrong. How many non-old white men do you think just have a passing curiosity in philosophy? Probably not as many, percentage wise, as old white men. Why is that? Are old white men just biologically more inclined toward philosophy? Of course not, they’re culturally inclined. To make philosophy more inclusive, we need to work together to make more diverse groups feel like philosophy is something they can even be curious in, not just something for old white men.
I wouldn’t want to make any sweeping claim here, but my personal experience with philosophy is biological, genetic. For me, it’s not a choice, it’s what my brain was born to do, what my brain insists on doing whether I like it or not. And I don’t always like it. I call the inclination for processing abstractions “nerd syndrome”. My father had it, and more interesting, my sister does as well.
I do suspect that men are better suited to philosophy than women, generally speaking. But before everyone starts jumping up and down and screaming like a bus full of Jesuit priests high on crack, please understand that I don’t see being inclined towards philosophy as something to brag about, but more of a burden some of us must carry. Here’s an example…
Over the years I’ve spent about ten billion hours developing this book length rant about why I declare myself to be a Fundamentalist Agnostic in regards to God claims etc. Because I am obsessed with analyzing such subjects I’ve spent much of the last 50 years coming to my Fundamentalist Agnostic stance.
My wife, who is very un-philosophical and couldn’t write a blog post on these topics to save her life, figured out the same thing sometime during her first year of college. She’s too sensible to bother giving her insight a fancy name so she leaves that to the man of the house, I mean, the clueless nerd of the house.
Whoa, whoa, whoa! Now hold on just a second here. I was just reviewing the project team for the publishing ethics initiative and….. OMG, OMG, OMG!!!!
There are six women on the project team, and only one man. One! This is hardly diversity and fairness, but is instead the systematic oppression of specific groups based only on their genitalia!!
Not only that, the one man is not even old. This complete lack of mature citizens on your panel is nothing less than blatant discrimination against crackpot geezers!!! BLATANT DISCRIMINATION!!!
This is disingenuous at best and trolling at worst.
Make your point – inclusion of people outside “old white men” is actually oppression of old white men – so that we can at least talk about it. Most people don’t want to engage with a caricature.
“Most people don’t want to engage with a caricature.”
And yet, you did.
The disciplines and institutions that were founded on and continue to benefit from white supremacy and the marginalization of non-white voices need this work you’re doing. Thank you for leading the charge!
Ok, let’s do an experiment. To assist in building the diversity of perspectives here on the blog I’ll bow out of the comments section on all pages for awhile to create some space, thus delicate folks need not worry about inconvenient challenging etc. I’m ok with that, I need a break anyway.
I predict the comment section will still be dead as a door nail no matter what I do, but I might be wrong, and if so that would be interesting.
So, the comment section is now completely wide open for diverse voices, there are no obstacles of any kind whatsoever. Do with that what you can. Run the experiment. Have fun!
Before I say anything else, let me make clear that I am not approaching this in a spirit of confrontation.
With that out of the way, let me say that I am unclear what the scope of this project is. Professor Sealy begins her comments on the ethics of publishing in philosophy with a concern about the absence of diversity in philosophy. So one question right away is: are you interested specifically in issues that arise out of the under-representation of minority groups, or is the concern broader? One indication that it is broader is your explicit statement of concern regarding the appropriation of the ideas of others without acknowledgement. Is plagiarism your concern here? What else? Do you intend to formulate a code of ethics for publishing generally, or do you intend something much more specific?
I think it’s pretty obvious that journals published in North America and Europe by and large neglect the philosophical systems of minority groups, including those of Asia and Africa. This is lamentable, but it’s a societal rather than an individual failing. I mean: if I were to start a journal that was devoted to analytic metaphysics as it is practiced in English-speaking countries, I wouldn’t be doing anything unethical as an individual. But it is a matter for concern and ethics that most journals prefer such subjects over studies of Indian philosophy (to give you an example)—to the point where the latter simply isn’t discussed.
I suppose I could begin by asking a simple question: how can a code of ethics address societal biases without dictating to individuals what is rightly a matter of their personal preference?
This is a really well-put set of remarks and questions. I hope the people of the APA respond to it. I’d sure like to know where the people running the APA take themselves to be going with projects like this.
The editorial board’s lack of diversity is, as others have pointed out, a serious concern. (They might have been kidding, but I’m not.) Brian’s analysis over on his blog also highlights a bunch of the worries here: http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2018/05/apa-gets-grant-from-mellon-foundation-to-develop-a-code-of-publishing-ethics.html.
I posted a long note critical of the diversity of this group, which was apparently deleted. It was professional and courteous, but I guess wasn’t part of the group think on this one.
Tl;dr: why isn’t this group actually diverse? Is anyone on it politically conservative (cf., intellectual diversity issues, as well as ethnic/gender ones). Any why is the APA so myopically focused on diversity, to the exclusion of so many other topics?
This sounds to me like an elaborate effort to rationalize the outrageous treatment of the young scholar, Rebecca Tuvel, by members of the Hypatia editorial board.
It’s odd to me that APA seems completely oblivious to just how much damage is being done to its reputation and credibility by transparent stunts like this. I would have thought that philosophers should have greater clarity and a superior capacity for self-critical reflection, given the discipline’s Socratic heritage. But it seems rather, that much of the profession — including its professional organization — has been captured by a very specific political ideology and is entirely clueless as to how it is being perceived by many of its own members, not to mention the broader public.
I’d also like to see the APA give a serious response to this line of concern. I don’t think the ones running the show realize how many people (inside and outside academia) think the train has gone off the rails at this point. I’d be more confident in this organization’s future if I saw its leadership face that head on. Right now it looks like they’re running a play well past the time it might have worked.
Does it sound like this to you or did Leiter Reports tell you that this is what it sounded like?
Jon Light wrote:
Any why is the APA so myopically focused on diversity, to the exclusion of so many other topics?
= = =
Because it is abandoning its Socratic heritage and critical identity in favor of becoming an advocacy-discipline.
This and its simultaneous (and somewhat paradoxical) scientism will be its ruin, in my view. And its already happening, which is clear to anyone working outside the bubble of the top institutions.
First, in what way is the APA fairly criticized as advocates of “scientism”?
Second, coming to another blog to concern troll because Brian Leiter told you to do so is more of an abandonment of “Socratic Heritage” than trying to include diverse voices and opinions. There’s nothing critical about your comments on this blog so far, they are just parrots of Leiter Reports. An inclusion of diverse opinions, viewpoints, and cultures – on the other hand – is necessarily critical because it allows it’s assumptions and presuppositions to be put into question from those said voices.
I’m still waiting for an explanation as to why someone would put on a panel charged with developing ethical publishing standards, people who are responsible for one of the biggest ethical scandals in publishing in our profession in recent memory.
When you want to have a serious discussion, let me know.
I would appreciate it if Dr. Sealey could explain why her team, charged with developing ethical publishing standards, includes people who were signatories to the outrageously unethical Open Letter to Hypatia, regarding Rebecca Tuvel.
When I first came to academic philosophy (1980s), I heard much about the “underrepresentation” of women & minorities in the field.
Now, 40 years later … I continue to hear a great deal about the “underrepresentation” of women & minorities in academic philosophy. Nothing much has changed, except that the advocates of “diversity” have grown bossier, more bullying, & even more underhanded — even to some of their own (the R. Tuvel fiasco does come to mind). Most of the tenure-track jobs have gone to white men with center-left ideals, indicating their support for “diversity” groupthink.
One would think that this would prompt at least some reflection either on the methods being used to recruit more women & minorities into the field, whether those in the groups being targeted by those methods really care about philosophy, or both.
I think it was Einstein who once defined insanity is doing the same things over & over again & expecting different results. Are we not seeing insanity in academic philosophy, in that case?
But then again, maybe the answer is far simpler. Why would anyone in his right mind want to serve in the same department with some of these “diversity” loons?
The bad-faith concern trolling in this comment thread demonstrates the need for what you all are doing. Sadly, so much of the professional discourse in our field has become devoted to the kind of what about-ism that, for example, manages to be worried about the lack of diversity of this board, but not the lack of diversity in the profession writ large.
We should all do better.
I’d just like to point out that in two sentences you’ve managed to accuse your colleagues here of bad faith, concern trolling, and not carrying about diversity issues in the profession, all while trivializing the concerns they’ve raised. And you finish by admonishing people to “do better”. Though you may have an ‘us’-versus-‘them’ attitude, I hope you can appreciate how this looks to your ‘them’.
Yeah, except that you all literally have come over from Leiter Reports and have just been parroting what has been said over there. Ammon is right on the money here, this comment section is mostly a display of exactly what they’re talking about.
Doubling down on dismissiveness and personal insult does not support the attempt to foster philosophers’ engagement with the topic of ethics in publishing. The ‘us’ versus ‘them’ mentality is at the root of the problem, I suspect.
I would like to point out that Dr. Sealey, who does important work in a variety of philosophical areas, has done nothing more than task herself and her team with a series of questions to be investigated:
“The questions that guide our project are: How might we rethink our publication, citation, and editorial decisions so that professional philosophy can counteract rather than amplify the structural precarity of certain groups of individuals in philosophy? What does it mean for philosophy to be accountable to marginalized constituencies in our profession, both when we theorize about their experience and when we cite scholarship on such marginalized experiences?”
I am unconvinced, and frankly unmoved, by assertions that these questions do anything more than broaden, rather than limit the question of diversity in the profession.
I don’t think that the APA’s focus on diversity is myopic; the lack of diversity in out profession is indeed worrisome. However, I am curious about a response to Daniel Kaufman’s worry about the composition of the team—a majority signed the Hypatia letter concerning Rebecca Tuvel. I am also concerned about the scope of the team’s proposed code of ethics. These are legitimate questions, particularly when the APA has evidently endorsed the study, and it would be a pity if there were no response.
I am aware of at least a few comments of folks who are critical of the attempts to derail a legitimate set of questions and an invitation on an attempt to collaborate on genuine reform by entertaining a conspiracy theory. And yet these comments seem to not pass moderation while the red herrings do.
That this attempt is being orchestrated by an outside blogger should be cause for concern. So ultimately I disagree without Matthen above: given where the poisonous source of this particular red herring, I don’t think that these are questions that need to be addressed at all. It seems prejudicial to let an assumption about the motives of the organizers (and a prejudgment about what should have happened in one particular case) derail an entire forum on an issue that we agree desperately needs to be addressed.
So instead, let me just thank you guys for organizing it and express my hope that those of us who are committed to reforming the profession can come together and create a working set of guidelines that really does go some direction in reforming the profession.
Ammon, this is Mohan here. It’s good to hear from you about this issue. But I hope you are not saying that I have questioned anybody’s motives, or that I am a member of anybody’s orchestra.
To reiterate my concern: It’s unclear what the scope of the proposed code of ethics is going to be: whether it covers publishing as such or is restricted to recommendations about inclusiveness in publishing. I have suggested that some issues regarding the latter don’t fall under personal or institutional ethics as such.
I also think that there is a legitimate question why this group wasn’t structured in a way that includes some other points of view. This question isn’t really addressed to the group; they put in a successful grant application. It’s addressed to the APA: why are they backing and lending official credibility to a group that apparently excludes legitimate points of view?
I’m not questioning your motives, but rather those of the initial poster of those questions, who references another blogger’s call to arms, as it were, and whose own blog that they link to establishes their own dismissive attitudes to questions of diversity and identity.
The reason I called that move a red herring is precisely because one particular blogger has chosen to assert without any evidence other than the makeup of the board’s issue on one letter that the Tuvel issue is the raison d’etre for the whole code of conduct proposal.
I don’t think letting the conversation get derailed into that (which is precisely what is happening here) is particularly productive.
Rather, I think that those of us who care about diversity in the APA (and I trust your sincerity when you say you do) should treat the invitation to participate in open forums as a good faith gesture. I would hope that the scope of what counts as a needed code of ethics would emerge organically from that conversation — indeed, I will note that the Central APA which I was attended had just this sort of open forum, one that didn’t have any particular agenda.
What I’m worrying about here is that these real and fair questions are getting hitched to a comment thread whose tone was set by the fact started with a guy bragging about being a white guy owning the comments thread.
I’m far less concerned with the fact that those of us who genuinely care about diversity in the profession may come to different conclusions (that’s healthy) than I am about what seems to be a concerted attempt by some of the worst faith actors in our profession to derail that conversation from ever happening.
I say this without malice or snark, but in an effort to be helpful.
I find your assertion that linking to a blog establishes a person’s dismissive attitude to diversity issues to be in bad faith. I also find your ostensible concern about Phil claiming to own this blog to be in bad faith. Phil was clearly trying to encourage participation from people who claim to be interested in diversity issues. It is hard for me to see what genuine concern you could have had there. Perhaps you can spell it out in a way that doesn’t require me to already accept some controversial ideology. I’d appreciate it if you could; I would find that very impressive and welcome.
Generally, it is easy to claim to be concerned about those operating in bad faith. It is hard not to be one of them. I assume you agree with me that those operating from bad faith don’t recognize that fact. We can probably agree that they would strongly resist recognizing it. From the inside, it never feels like we are acting in bad faith. We have all kinds of methods of remaining unaware of this, wouldn’t you agree? I have done it many times and will do it many more! I think it’s a good idea to at least be aware that we are very much the same sort of animal, many of us spending a very great deal of energy and cunning attempting to remain unaware of that. That awareness alone has transformative power, I believe.
“…I think that those of us who care about diversity in the APA (and I trust your sincerity when you say you do) should treat the invitation to participate in open forums as a good faith gesture. I would hope that the scope of what counts as a needed code of ethics would emerge organically from that conversation…”
I don’t see how anything that was written in this discussion thread bears the mark of an author not interested in having a good faith conversation. Still less does anything imply a contrast with “those of us who care about diversity in the APA”. And I’d like to point out again that by imputing bad faith to your interlocutors and contrasting them with “those of us, etc.” you are doing them a professional and social discourtesy (at a minimum). Indeed, you go on and speak about “what seems to be a concerted attempt by some of the worst faith actors in our profession to derail that conversation from ever happening”. That’s an incredibly disrespectful thing to say of your colleagues. I say this with no ill will. But I want to be sure that it’s noted.
I’d also like to draw your attention to the fact that, for some of us, the suggestion that this forum is a place where the ethical norms of the profession will ‘organically emerge’ raises genuine (good faith!) questions about just what this project is or will become, and about its relationship to the APA. Indeed, that’s kind of the point.
First of all, it’s not clear what sort of role this project has within the APA’s structure. As one of the most important professional organizations for academic philosophers, any code of ethics the APA sponsors will potentially impose norms on the activities of a large number of people. For this reason, the development of a code of publishing ethics (if that is what this is to become) needs to be made a bit more clear in the details. And just what relationship, if any, does this project and its results bear to the official activities of the APA as a governing body for professional philosophers? Both of those issues deserve attention.
Second, the presence in this project of a number of people who signed off on the Tuvel debacle (an issue of ethics in publishing!) is a cause for concern by those of us who think that episode stands as a powerful testimony of the injustices that can be perpetuated by people who are convinced of a political ideology that brooks no dissent. To my knowledge, none of those signitories has apologized to Tuvel for the treatment she received at their hands. Those aren’t the kinds of people I want to uncritically trust with the task of developing a code of publishing ethics. At any rate, even for those who think the treatment of Tuvel was Just What Morality Required, it should be pretty clear why we who see things differently would have questions about the scope and aim of this project on ethics in publishing.
And the willingness of people in this very conversation to impugn the character and good will of their colleagues, while dismissing their concerns, is another sign that this venue may not be the best place for a code of ethics to ‘organically emerge’. Again I want to emphasize that I say all of this with no ill will toward anyone. I just want the perspectives in question to be clear.
So from where I sit, I hope people resist the suggestion that we suppress discussion of the scope and aims of this project in favor of simply developing a code of ethics.
Finally, I’m afraid Phil Tanny’s remarks haven’t been interpreted well at all. He’s been posting here as a bit of a crank for the last few months, and often he’s the only one who says anything on the blog. His point is that this speaks poorly about the state of the APA’s presentation to the public and its relationship to its members and their interests. He’s trying to goad the APA and its members into being more engaged with this work and one another.
1) I am a white guy. I blame this whole thing on my parents.
2) Although I quite happily (seriously) no longer own this thread, I do own the comment section of MANY other pages.
3) If you’re sincere about diversity in APA publications (and more generally) please present to us your plan for fixing #2 above.
The choices would seem to be:
a) get rid of me and have a dead blog,
b) fill many pages with the comments of many others voices,
c) both 1 and 2 above,
d) Rename this site as The Phil Tanny Blog.
4) I’ve never wanted to own anything here, quite the opposite, as the editors can confirm. I’m bragging, playing the fool, and acting like Tony Clifton to smoke the rest of you out of hiding. You’re here now, on one page at least, that’s great. Welcome!
Hey, why not try some of the other pages, you might like them too. For example, you might want to try this page….
… which is about a thousand times more important than the one you’re currently reading. One of the papers linked to seems to claim that we’d be safer if more countries had nuclear weapons. Diversity in mass death! Have an opinion about any of that?
Ok, going back underground now, the floor is yours.
Ammon Allred wrote:
“those of the initial poster of those questions, who references another blogger’s call to arms, as it were, and whose own blog that they link to establishes their own dismissive attitudes to questions of diversity and identity.”
= = =
If this is directed towards me, it is a flat out lie and thus, a slander.
In my most recent essay on sex and gender, I explicitly, strongly, argue for the legal and social protection of the liberties of trans people.
I am critical of the concept of gender identity and explain why, in some detail. But as is clearly expressed throughout, I am 100% invested in and explicitly call for the maximal defense of peoples’ civil liberties, which includes their gender expression and presentation.
The presence of individuals who joined in the vile, politically motivated attack on Tuvel completely undermines the credibility of this study. Professional bodies such as the APA should have nothing to do with it.
Would you like to speak to the question of why one would include on a committee designed to develop ethical publishing standards several people who were involved in one of the worst violations of ethical publishing standards in our discipline?
Would you also like to explain why this is a “red herring”? Or why it matters that a blogger has linked to the announcement?
I’m happy to venture a reply. I speak for me, not Ammon.
First question: not everyone agrees with that assessment. Your statement is over the top, even if one were to grant that it has a kernel of truth. None of that says anything about the questions asked or the kinds of responses the team will find.
Second question: you’re asking a bloated question that does not actually say anything about the team or what it’s talking about. That may be a herring of some color or another, or just a red fish of some grouping of some sort, but whatever the color, fish, or none of that, you’re not actually talking about the very sensible questions raised (and not yet answered, so un-bundle your undies).
Given that you seem disinclined to have a civil, serious conversation — “un-bundle your undies” — I’m not inclined to discuss this with you. I am more than happy to have people read the thread and draw their own conclusions.
Could the conversation be constructively focused by members offering their specific suggestions of how the APA blog comment section can be made more diverse?
Thanks, all, for your interest in/questions about this project. This scholar-led (not APA-led) project was spurred by the recognition that there doesn’t seem to be consensus in philosophy and the humanities about some important ethical questions related to publishing—What constitutes scholarly misconduct? Are there types of misconduct other than plagiarism that could lead to retracting or correcting a published article? Are there practices or structures in publishing in philosophy that perpetuate existing inequities in the field? If so, are there alternative practices or changes to those structures that might support increased diversity of all kinds (demographic, methodological, viewpoint, professional status, etc.)?
The individuals involved in this Mellon-funded project do not presume to know the answers to any of these questions. On the contrary, we are committed to being open to all perspectives on these and other issues that arise from our conversations. Accordingly, we have made efforts to extend invitations to (and include in) our focus groups representatives from a broad range of journals and publishers. In that same spirit, we invite all those interested in these issues, including those commenting here, to offer feedback and perspective via the contact form on our website (http://publication-ethics.org/comment-form/).
We expect that the white paper we develop at the end of the project will raise more questions than it answers. And we hope to spur ongoing conversations in the profession and among journal editorial boards about these issues so that controversies like those that occurred last summer do not recur in the future, or if they do, the journals, editors, and scholars involved have more tools available to them, and are better prepared to respond.
Hi Kris, thanks for your further explanation of the project being discussed. I have a question for you…
Why are we concerned about “inequities in the field”? I understand that to be referring to, for one example, the dominance of white men in philosophy journals. Yes? I’m hardly an authority on philosophy journals, but from what I can see from here I’m wondering why “outsiders” (non-white men) would want to break in to that realm. What’s so great about the dominant academic philosophy culture group consensus represented by such journals, and presumably this blog? Is anybody but the authors themselves reading such journals? Is anybody but the authors themselves, and one or two crack pot cranks, reading this blog?
To me, admittedly an outsider, it looks like under-represented groups such as racial minorities, women, LBGTQ etc are demanding that they be allowed access to a system that is dead, or at least dying. By trying to break in to the old white man’s club aren’t such groups actually validating the claim that old white man philosophy is the “real” kind of philosophy, and that old white men are the valid leaders whose permission must be sought on bended knee?
How about this? Why not just ignore the old white man’s club and create a community of diverse voices which can create something new, something fresh, something relevant, something that human beings would actually be interested in, something they would find useful to their everyday real lives? I’m not suggesting this would be easy, but shouldn’t this be the goal? Why let the old white men stand in the way of reaching for that goal? Why not just go around them?
If old white men control the philosophy departments that seem to always be on the edge of losing funding, why work for them? Why hitch one’s wagon to a system which is 1) not that welcoming and 2) probably not going anywhere?
What I’m suggesting is that such under represented groups stop wasting time on victim claims and the old white man’s club and instead re-invest that energy in to building the kind of philosophy experience that they want to be part of. If such individuals wish to be leaders in their field, ok that’s great, so stop following the old white men around, and go lead.
While you’re doing that, I’m going to take over this blog and turn it in to the Crackpot Philosophers Journal, a leading voice in the field of fearlessly hysterical explorations of the boundaries of the group consensus. So far we have only old white men on the staff (omg,not them again!) but if you should meet any diverse crackpots, send them on over!
Thanks for the update Kris. It’s good to hear that you and your team are interested in soliciting diverse viewpoints for the project. I hope that means that people who were not in favor of the way Tuvel was treated with her article at Hypatia will be actively sought out for contribution to the project. The work being done at the Heterodox Academy has gone some way toward showing the problems that arise from scholarship that is politically monolithic.
For more info see this:
Unfortunately, my comment is getting hung up in the spam filter so for additional sources I’ll just direct you to this paper:
Duarte, J. L., Crawford, J. T., Stern, C., Haidt, J., Jussim, L., & Tetlock, P. E. (2015). Political diversity will improve social psychological science. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 38, 1-13.
and the discussions at the Heterodox Academy’s blog under the titles “It’s finally out–The big review paper on the lack of political diversity in social psychology” and “Political diversity in social psychology — Our response to 33 critiques “.
Hi Preston, thanks for referencing my efforts.
The relatively low level of interest APA members have shown in their own blog may be representative of a larger more important phenomena, a relatively low level of interest among the general public in the work professional philosophers are doing. If the APA can better understand their own modest interest in each other’s writings they may also be able to better understand why they are not fully connecting with the public, those who in one way or another often fund the philosopher’s work.
Diversity may be an important tool in remedying the lack of enthusiasm by all parties. I don’t just mean the inclusion of minority groups who have typically been excluded, but diversity in approaches to doing and expressing philosophy. As example…
In the web publishing business world I come from bloggers can get quite serious about understanding what it is their audience wants. A variety of topics will be tried, the response to each will be tracked, and this tells the blogger what to do more of. Sales copywriters take this process to an extreme, tracking the effect of changing single words in their headlines, and so on. Let’s note the two elements here, content diversity and tracking. Trying lots of things and finding out which of them connect.
It seems possible, or perhaps likely, that academic philosophers are limited in the degree to which they can experiment with content diversity. Getting paid to produce ideas is great, but it would seem to come with a price tag. If one produces ideas that are too far outside of the academic philosophy cultural group consensus one puts at risk the authority that is needed to be in the philosophy business. If I correctly understand the Tuvel controversy some of you are discussing, carefully coloring within the lines of the group consensus may be essential. I don’t have a solution to this. Do you?
And so we come to another kind of diversity, perspectives from those outside of the philosophy business. The only reason I am able to take on the role of the oddball crackpot crank is that I have no authority, no credibility, no reputation, no status or rank. No paycheck. Nothing to lose. That is, I have freedom. Oh, and I actually am an oddball crackpot crank, that too.
Let’s have a round of applause for the blog editors, who have been remarkably gracious about accepting diverse commentary from crackpot cranks who regularly stick their finger in the eye of the APA specifically, and academic philosophy more generally. It’s great that the editors allow this level of inconvenient diversity, but if I’m almost the only person posting below the fold on this blog, then it’s not diversity, but rather a stifling uniform tyranny.
All this talk about crackpot cranks reminds me that I have a job to do. So here it is. Please choose from the following menu:
1) Back up all this talk about diversity by making the APA comment section rich in diversity, or…
2) Wander off, surrender your blog to a single voice, and shut up all this whining about diversity.
Or let it go.
That’s what philosophy is to me. Using clear minded reason to boil complexity down to the bottom line.
As co-editor of the Women in Philosophy series, I am concerned by some of the behavior and rhetoric used in this comments section. As a reminder, all commentators must post under their full name, treat others with respect, and be generous and constructive. (Please see the “Guidelines” link above for our full policy).
Referring to people interested in diversity as “‘diversity’ loons” or “Crackpot Philosophers;” casting aspersions against members of the panel mentioned in the original post (e.g. “transparent stunts” and “entirely clueless”); and imputing cynical motives to the APA or its members without evidence (e.g. “advocates of “diversity” have grown bossier, more bullying, & even more underhanded” and “vile, politically motivated attack on Tuvel”) does not meet our standard.
We encourage a healthy, constructive dialogue regarding this issue, but that goal is not served by adopting a sarcastic or cynical tone and broadly slandering a whole area of philosophical research. This does not mean you cannot be critical or skeptical–as several people have pointed out, being Socratic is part of our heritage–but please do so in a reasoned and respectful manner. From here on, any comments that do not meet this standard will be deleted. If you have any questions or concerns about this policy, please contact us.
As the “mean old white guy” who made the “diversity loons” & “bullies” remarks, I suppose I should say something. I don’t like the idea of being offensive, or thought offensive, but hard experience has taught me that it gets more attention than mere politeness (sadly). Was I bullied before walking away from academia a fair number of years ago? Yes. But this doesn’t matter now, & that’s not what I want to discuss here.
Is anyone in professional philosophy truly interested in being part of a serious left? A left which actually targets the enemy of human flourishing on this planet, which would be a prelude to actually doing something to minimize suffering?
It is serendipitous that this article just appeared: https://www.truthdig.com/articles/how-the-left-can-gain-footing-in-white-america/. I highly recommend Paul Street’s article. He is a leftist writer I take seriously. He’s also, at most, a marginal figure in academia, which is interesting. Guys like him do not get considered for tenure, any more than outspoken conservatives get considered for tenure. There are other such writers … not read by many academics. While I am aware that micro-specialization remains the rule on the campuses, including philosophy departments, these matters shouldn’t that hard to figure out.
To help folks get started: Paul Street argues compellingly in this piece that if you want to build a serious left, doing so means, at the very least: stop alienating white people. Stop treating us as history’s villains, which (among other things) is driving us rightward. Stop looking down on rural whites as if they were the scum of the Earth. Eliminate from your vocabulary terms like “deplorables” which probably cost Hillary Clinton the presidency, because rural whites vote. Stop telling us we have “white privilege” when many of us, just like many of you, are living paycheck-to-paycheck, & don’t have a pot to you-know-what in or a window to throw it out of. I am not saying this is my situation personally (it is not), but I’ve read the articles & looked at the stats about the declining fortunes of the predominantly white working & middle classes over the past 20 – 30 years, the product of upper-echelons decisions & circumstances none of us voted for.
Street also recommends, indirectly: if you truly want to understand the real world, get out of your academic cubicles, take a job for a while alongside working class people, & get your hands dirty. You will not understand working people, white or otherwise, merely reading about them in books & journal articles. Stop being, that is, an “armchair” leftist, someone who believes you should be taken seriously because you voted for Hillary instead of the Donald & have six articles in the academic-left journal of your choice.
Stop pretending, moreover, that you don’t need us as allies, when the truth is, you need us more than we need you. Because identity politics has done a good job of divided everyone into group-conscious tribes, we are still a numerical majority & even if the percentage of whites continues to drop overall, that in itself will not change because of the divisions between other groups (which, themselves, are hardly homogeneous units).
Speaking of identity politics, if you wish to build a serious left, you might consider shelving it. I am not saying stop battling racism, or sexism, or homophobia. Like all fair-minded people I would prefer to live in a world where none of these exist. But there are larger factors that are fueling tensions between all groups. These have more to do with class, & with the maintenance of political-economic arrangements which presuppose 1700s ideas about scarcity (think Malthus), creating conditions where everyone believes everyone else is getting more “freebies.”
The genius inventor & systems thinker R. Buckminster Fuller observed a number of years ago that we now have the technology to feed, clothe, & house everyone on this planet. So why aren’t we doing it? Why are we not using technological change to create abundance instead of maintain systems built on scarcity? Because not doing so remains profitable for powerful people, & until we figure out a way to address this on a large enough scale to make a difference, poverty & class divisions are going to remain endemic to the human condition. As will be efforts to conceal them behind non-issues like “white privilege” & “transgenderism” (or whatever fashion a couple of celebrities drag into the spotlight next).
All of this, of course, goes a light year, or maybe two, outside what academic philosophers typically write about & talk about, male or female, black or white, including academic political philosophers (with rare exceptions). Maybe that’s part of the problem.
I agree that harsh language often gets more attention (and I agree that it is sad that it does). But I don’t think it follows that harsh language solves problems; in fact, my experience says otherwise. If we’re all interested in the latter–and from the rest of your comment it sounds like you are–we should avoid using it.
For that reason, I want to thank you for your addition to the discussion here. The concerns you raise are an important part of the discussion both philosophers and the Left need to have (like you, I am aware of Paul Street and appreciate his work).
I hope you will continue to challenge philosophers, and other Blog contributors, when you think they are headed in the wrong direction. Please remember that some of the language used earlier is going to harm, not help, your long-term goal.
Hi Nathan. Thank you for that courteous reply. You read me well. No, harsh language won’t solve problems; it is, at best, an index of frustration in the fact of existing policies manifestly not working, but being retained by means that are ultimately authoritarian instead of through the rational, constructive discourse we should all prefer. I think we are problem-solvers by nature, though not necessarily in Dewey’s sense. (As a trained copywriter I earn my living using the written word to help people solve problems.)
At present, diversity & the policies surrounding it clearly present problems to address. The first thing to do is clarify them by asking questions like: what should a solution to the problem of too little diversity on campus look like? What kind of diversity are we, or should we, be after? A diversity of ethnicities, & more women in professional philosophy … or greater intellectual diversity, which would mean recruiting more conservatives, libertarians, & perhaps even Christians into the profession, as well as some who criticize identity politics & perhaps the institutions themselves from the far left?
This is not an exclusive disjunction. But I find that the first is widely discussed; the second is generally not.
My earlier point was that the quest for greater ethnic diversity seems not to be working by the methods presently in place. Just as an example of the lengths at least some institutions are going to, to further such methods, I still have in my possession a memo from years ago — early 1990s — I wasn’t supposed to have (the departmental secretary who knew of my interest slipped a copy in a sealed envelope in my mailbox): this administration was offering an additional, fully-funded tenure-track position to any department on campus who could recruit an African-American professor. In philosophy at least, they weren’t getting any takers. Why aren’t more African-Americans able to be recruited into professional philosophy might be a question worth asking. Do they regard philosophy as, in some sense, hostile? Or are most blacks just not interested in it? Is anyone asking these questions? I doubt that particular institution was unique. If not, efforts to create more ethnic diversity aren’t failing because of lack of effort on the part of administrations.
Incidentally, the above indicates — as I think many have noted — the main beneficiaries of present diversity policies are white women, not lacking in privileges.
We should also ask, Should diversity be given the priority it presently has? Or should professional philosophers — academia more broadly — give higher priority to other problems that suggest that there are bigger long-term threats than too many white men? Consider, e.g., the “adjunctification” of the professioriate: that is, the fact that the majority of the jobs advertised these days are “adjunct” (part time), & that even during the peak fall advertising / hiring seasons one sees a lot of such openings, & far fewer tenure-track positions than when I graduated & hit the job market (late 1980s). I know this because although I am not seeking an academic job, I never unsubscribed from the jobs lists. I don’t have exact stats, so this could be exaggerated, but I keep hearing that the overall percentage of faculty that are “adjuncts” is now up to 70%! Given that in the long run this will affect the health of the profession far more than lack of diversity in either of the above senses, shouldn’t there be somewhere on the APA Blog to discuss the matter? As someone who “adjuncted” for several years & then, unable to get a full-time appointment at any of three campuses where I taught, left academia. What I had discovered: commuting around 200 miles per week to teach as many as six classes on three campuses in two different cities was harming my intellectual life, not to negatively affecting my teaching, & that it was similarly harming others I spoke with or corresponded with. Small wonder adjunct faculty are forming unions on many campuses in many states, seeking outside legal counsel when not taken seriously by (often highly overpaid!) administrators.
I am convinced this is more serious than too many white guys. Incidentally, letters like the one I mentioned above, & a number of other factors considerations of length keep me from getting into, suggest that again contrary to a received consensus, lack of money to pay faculty living wages is not the problem. Opinion(s)?
Hi Nathan. Tried to respond yesterday, & when I hit post comment the entire thing disappeared. Nothing to do but try this again.
You read me well. Harsh language won’t solve the problems. What it does is express frustration in the face of policies / procedures that appear to have failed, or ideas that are demonstrably false, but with discussion all but shut down because a consensus is maintained by authority, not logic & evidence. I’d like to think of myself as a problem-solver (though not in Dewey’s sense, lol). I earn my living as a trained copywriter, where I use the bulk of what writing talents I have to solve people’s problems.
Diversity, & the exchanges surrounding it, do present us with problems. First, what precisely are we aiming for when we say we want a more diverse academy; & second, should diversity as a problem have the kind of priority it is currently being given?
The first: are we interested in a diversity of faces — of ethnicities, more women in professional philosophy, etc. — or a diversity of ideas? I hear a lot about the former, but little about the latter, which is therefore being forced on academia from the outside (e.g., Ben Shapiro appearances), as, whether justified or not, to many ordinary people on the outside, academia now has a reputation as a hotbed of leftist professors who turn their classrooms into launching pads for indoctrination in the latest identify politics.
Meanwhile, efforts at more ethnic diversity appear to have failed, as I mentioned. The percentage of African-American professional philosophers has barely budged in 50 years. To provide you with an example of the lengths at least some institutions have gone to, I still have in my possession a memo from a top administrator at a major state university where I taught back in the 1990s offering a new, fully-funded tenure-track position to any department that could recruit an African-American. Philosophy had no takers. I have no reason to believe this effort was unique, though obviously I’ve no way of being sure. In light of such revelations, though, is there really reason to see the lack of diversity as a product of discrimination? Or is something else going on? Are most African-Americans, for reasons not determined, just uninterested in going into university teaching in numbers proportionate to their percentage of the regional population (in that region, around 30% overall, although the student body was around 5% black).
A diversity of ideas, on the other hand, would suggest a need to recruit more conservatives, libertarians, & perhaps a few of those who criticize identity politics from the left (their point being that it is futile to bring more diverse faces into capitalist-based enterprises instead of challenging the legitimacy of the enterprises themselves). Incidentally, I was once told openly that one reason there are not more conservatives in universities as that few conservatives leave school with an interest in university teaching (as opposed to going into business). I wondered: to what other self-identified groups does this apply?
The second issue above: should diversity in any sense have a higher priority than, say, the “adjunctification” of the profession, which to my mind is a far bigger long-term threat to the future of academia than too many white male faces on campuses. I’ve not sought a teaching position in a while but still subscribe to two jobs lists. I’ve noticed how the percentage of tenure-track openings has dropped precipitously relative to the number of “adjunct” (part-time) openings, with a major drop-off having occurred since the financial crisis of 2008. Having taught in that position for 7 years before resigning & leaving academia, I can testify personally to what the low pay does over that length of time to a person’s intellectual life, motivation, & ultimately their teaching, especially given other information. My motivation to do scholarly work was nearly destroyed. When I was commuting over 200 miles per week to teach six classes at one point on three different campuses to make ends meet including buy a tank of gas every couple of days, I simply did not have time!
Memos such as the above, as well as the high salaries paid top administrators (& the head football coach), along with other visible factors such as newly constructed buildings, campus beautification projects, etc., strongly suggest that contrary to one consensus (“universities must cut costs!”) there is plenty of money to hire full-time faculty & pay them living wages; the problem is not scarcity but rational allocation. Is there, perchance, an area on the APA blog where such class-based issues as this one can be discussed, & the question raised as to why ethnic/gender diversity is a higher priority than addressing something which is demonstrably harming an entire generation, whatever its ethnic/gender composition? Opinion(s)?
Somewhere on the site we should be inspecting and challenging the group consensus dogma that as writers we are responsible for other people’s reading experiences. Here’s why…
This dogma teachers readers that they are powerless victims of anonymous strangers on the Internet. Is that true? No, it’s not. Each of us CHOOSES what to read and CHOOSES how we will experience what we’ve read. This is one of the glories of this medium which we should be celebrating.
It’s the simplest thing. Haven’t you at some time read some crazy nonsense online and rolled your eyes and then scrolled on by? Of course you have. You chose to stop reading and you chose not to take moronic twaddle seriously. You chose. Every time you read, or don’t read, you make a choice.
Everyone is so intently focused on the politically correct finger pointing blame and shame fantasy victim game that it seems we often forget that it’s GOOD NEWS that we are in control of our experience of the Internet. That’s what philosophers should be teaching, the good news that taking responsibility for our own brain brings to us.
I do get that Nathan or any editor is in the position of having to realistically manage a variety of child-like participants. I do have sympathy for that and am not suggesting that he adopt an “anything goes” publishing philosophy.
But this is a purely tactical decision which has nothing to do with the moral sermons that Nathan may be trying to share with us. The moral thing would be for philosophers to teach readers that taking charge of one’s own experience is a path to happiness and emotional stability.
If you guys want to surrender your brain to whatever anonymous stranger happens to pop up without warning, that is your personal choice which I have no complaint with.
But if you should then start teaching that personal choice as a morally superior “one true way” universal truth, please be prepared to have such sloppy philosophy ripped to shreds.
I hope this gets posted. I just want to register that this isn’t what I’d had in mind when I said I hoped the APA would weigh in on the concerns raised here. Indeed, the fact that you raise objections to the ‘tone’ of only people raising these concerns is a bit disconcerting. And as far as ‘crackpot’ goes, I think you’ll find Phil himself owns it.
If you choose to respond to this post, please do so at least in part by responding to the concerns that Daniel and Mohan have raised.
Thanks in advance, and with the sincere hope that we all can, indeed, do better in the future.
First, you need never be concerned about a post being approved if it follows the community guidelines (and yours certainly does). I have never and would never delete a comment just because it articulates a different opinion than mine.
I would love to respond to the concerns you, Daniel, and Mohan have raised, but I am not qualified. I am not a part of this project, which is also not being run by the APA (as Kris points in her comment). I am also not a decision-maker at nor spokesperson for the APA, although I am at times in contact with people who are when it comes to Blog business. As such, I cannot speak to the concerns you all have on their behalf; the most I can do is make the APA aware of them.
I appreciate that this response (as well as my other one above) is not what you would like to hear. I hope you can also appreciate why I felt the need to intervene. You, Daniel, Mohan, Phil, and others have every right to express your concerns, but neither your goal nor anyone else’s is served if the rhetoric is driving people away (as several people said it was).
Finally, thanks for your wishes for a better future. Please accept the same from me.
Thanks Nathan, this all sounds reasonable. However, given that Amy Ferrer, executive director of the APA, is one of six co-principle investigators, while a majority of the team off on the Tuvel debacle, and this project is being trumpeted at the blog of the APA, the fact that the project is not ‘run’ or ‘led’ by the APA doesn’t cut much ice. But I’m sure this will come up again as the project proceeds, so hopefully the principle investigators will take steps to see that they address these concerns. I think a serious engagement with the Heterodox Academy would be a good start.
At any rate, what stood out about your comment, and which is repeated here, is your signling out for concern only people who were critical of the project. This is despite the fact that, e.g., Ammon accused people of, among other things, bad faith concern trolling, which accusations were repeated by Cameron, and John told Daniel to ‘unbundle his undies’. An even-handed approach on the part of the APA would call those remarks out as well. But that’s not what happened. So once again it looks like a project of ‘ethics in publishing’ is being supported by the APA from a particular political ideology that is itself up for debate.
Let me add that I can understand only having so much time, and so we have to pick our battles. I guess what I’m suggesting is that in situations like this it’s particularly important for people who present themselves as representatives of our professional organizations that they strive to act in that capacity in ways that do not unduly privilege a subset of the profession.
Thanks for your reply. I will leave the project’s team and the APA to comment on your concern about how close they are to each other and the Tuvel situation. Regarding the Blog, I am equally willing to entertain posts critical of the type of thinking behind this project as I am posts which embrace it. No one at the APA has ever pressured me to not publish posts of that sort. As long as they are well written and clearly address a concern about how diversity is handled by philosophers, I’m sure the Blog would be happy to have them. In this case, the post was suggested by someone at the CSW and it met our criteria, so we published it.
The reason the samples I mentioned came from the side critical of the article is that those were the examples I most readily found when going through the comments. I would definitely have mentioned the “undies” comment too, had I seen it, but my guess is I missed it (and for that, I apologize). The “concern trolling” accusation is not, by itself, an example of bad behavior to me, since I think a decent argument (which is different from an accurate argument) can be made that it was occurring. Similarly, I did not call you out for claiming Cameron and Ammon were trivializing your position, since I think you made a decent (not necessarily accurate) argument that they were doing that.
Your concern about fairness is well taken. And I will consider what I can to do give voice to your side of the argument going forward. I appreciate you taking the time to raise these concerns.
Thanks Nathan, that all makes sense. Just a small point. In your first comment you called out those who were using pejorative language, “casting aspersions against” people, and “imputing cynical motives” to them. You said these kinds of comments did not meet the APA’s standard. I maintain that there were clear cases of that occurring among the ‘pro-project’ side of the debate, but which were not mentioned in your litany of instances of the problem as you saw it.
For that reason, your recent appeal to whether an argument could be (or did get) made in favor of one comment or another is beside the point I was making about the nature of your intervention here. My point has been that representatives of the APA owe the members of the APA a degree of impartiality when they weigh in on these issues in their capacity as, for instance, arbiters of the standards of discussion on the APA blog.
And I find it hard to think one could compare the comment here:
with accusations of “bad-faith concern trolling” and referring to people as “some of the worst faith actors in our profession” as though there’s any question about which of these comments fails to meet the standard spelled out on the APA’s behalf. Again, I understand we’re all busy and we can only do so much with what time we have. But I think it’s important to be clear about what the problem appears to be, and it’s not one of failing to give arguments for what was said here.
I’m not sure the discussion can go much further without a more nuanced discussion of what trolling is and what constitutes bad behavior. I promise that I will be thinking about the topic going forward. I hope you will do the same.
Hi Nathan–I will continue to give this some thought, but the issue of trolling is orthogonal to the impartiality of interventions predicated on calling out those “casting aspersions against” people, and “imputing cynical motives” to them. Indeed, accusations of trolling fall squarely in the target of that intervention. If the real problem is the trolling the APA thinks it can identify, then that should be called out and we’ll have a conversation about it.
But to selectively permit “aspersions” and “imputing of cynical motives” in cases of political debate where you (or some other APA representative) presumes to know the target is a genuine ‘troll’ is to display just the kind of partisanship that I think we should expect our spokespeople for standards of discourse to strive to avoid.
For myself, a leading voice in the Crackpot Philosophy Movement, I was hoping Kris, somebody on her team, or basically anybody at all might respond to this post above…
… which in my view solves the whole problem.
Don’t beg the old white men for a seat at the table, build your own table. Leaders don’t present themselves as victims, they don’t stand in line knocking on the door waiting for permission.
I rather like this idea. Reminds me of one of R. Buckminster Fuller’s (one of my intellectual heroes, a better philosopher than most academics with Ph.D.s) best known suggestions:
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
To be sure, this will require that they quit whining, get up off their duffs, & do something.
In the spirit of diversity, we might have a discussion somewhere on the site about the issues Nathan references above, speaking to each other respectfully etc.
NOT THIS: I don’t mean a debate about APA comment policies, which APA editors are fully within their rights to decide for themselves. There’s nothing to debate here, the blog belongs the APA, it’s theirs to manage as they wish. Over and done.
THIS: I’m referring instead to the issues that surround the general topic of how we talk to each other, here, or anywhere, especially online. In my crackpot opinion, there is a stale politically correct group consensus dogma on the subject that has taken on the form of mind-lock. Philosophers are supposed to investigate mind-lock where ever it appears, so let’s get to it.
Again, a reminder, this is a philosophy site, not a Catholic site. Reason is our game, not finger pointing blame and shame moralizing.
The question is not, what is right?
The question is, what is most rational?
As Nathan already knows, I wish to respectfully push back against the notion that rowdy talk is what is keeping APA members from using this blog. I do not buy it.
This blog has been dead for two years. There was no rowdy talk to worry about, because there was pretty much no talk at all. Page after page after page, week after week after week, nobody hardly said anything about anything. This pattern exists today as well, as most articles still receive no feedback.
Those folks who are saying they can’t contribute here because of rowdy talk need to be asking themselves whether they are well suited to the field of philosophy. A key role of philosophy is to explore the boundaries of the group consensus, and that is always a messy business. Those who can’t handle mess might consider accounting as a good career option.
A key goal of any collection of written words is to engage the readers, which the editors have routinely failed to do by being careful and colorless.
Philosophy online is a form of show business. Sure, few wish to admit this, especially the “intellectual elite” but that’s what this is, show business. People want to see a show. I offer this thread as evidence, note how a controversial topic brings people out of the woodwork, while far more important but less colorful topics remain untouched. Show business.
There is a boundary line between color and chaos, and I don’t claim to know exactly where that is in every instance. But if we’re going to talk about diversity we should be exploring a variety of options in the color to chaos spectrum.
TECHNICAL NOTE: In forum software, the best platform for facilitating conversation, there is a feature which allows members to put any poster on a block list. As example, if you put Poster XYZ on your block list, all of their posts on all pages vanish from your view of the forum.
The solution to these “problems” is simple. If you don’t find a particular poster worthwhile, don’t read their posts.
It’s interesting to me that this entire page is a big noisy flapdoodle over mostly nothing.
Concerns about diversity on television would have been valid a few decades ago when there were only 3 national broadcast networks. If you weren’t on ABC, NBC or CBS you didn’t exist. And it was certainly true that those networks catered overwhelmingly to the dominant white straight middle class culture, because that’s where the big money is, ad income-wise.
Such once valid concerns are largely obsolete today because in our times there are a million different ways for literally anyone to connect with an audience. In today’s world a publisher can ignore ABC, NBC and CBS and still prosper. There are teenagers with huge audiences on YouTube for example.
So what I get from this page is that teenagers can create huge audiences on YouTube, while academic philosophers are still squabbling over old boy’s club philosophy journals that are likely read by few other than the author’s themselves, just like on this site.
All of the above seems to be ignored, replaced by a chorus of competing fantasy victim claims. However, this too can be instructive as it illustrates the show business soap opera nature of the Net, even on philosophy web sites, because after all people are people and that doesn’t change once one has a PhD.
Diverse voices might learn from this, and create their own journals which are full of colorful intelligent commentary, more than a dash of drama, and conversation provoking inconvenient intellectual controversy, thereby building a big audience and leaving the staid and snooty dying old boy’s club journals in the dust.
I don’t know Phil, it’s not obvious that the lack of interest in the comment section of the APA’s blog is much of a weather vane about where academic philosophy is right now. Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather we lived in a world where the APA’s blog was a more lively venue for the discussion of the kinds of things going on here. But the fact it’s mostly a desert doesn’t tell us all that much.
For one thing, the blog doesn’t seem to be very well advertised. For another, most philosophers either don’t have or don’t want to devote much time to commenting on blogs. Not a bad idea, given what blog commenting can bring out in people. And I don’t think we should discount that some people are dissuaded from talking for all sorts of other reasons: disinterest in what the APA is up to, distaste over what little commenting there is here, worries about saying something that could be professionally harmful, working in a philosophical tradition the APA doesn’t serve the interests of, etc.
Further, it’s not clear to me that the blog of the APA should be expected to be a hotbed of public and professional debate anyway. Professionally, we do most of our work after thinking long and hard about a problem, or at least long and hard enough to have something we’re ready to share with our peers. Blog commenting doesn’t lend itself to that kind of skill. Further, in terms of time investment it doesn’t make a lot of sense to make a habit of writing for blogs (unless one is doing a lot of writing and the blog is prominent). After all, most of what anyone says here will be read only within a one-week window.
On the side of the public, the APA isn’t really set up for that right now. It’s an organization devoted to the internal workings of academic philosophy. Maybe that should change, and as I said I’d personally like to see a more publicly-engaged and professionally representative APA. At any rate the APA does appear to be getting more involved in public outreach.
But it’s not clear that the blog of the APA is where we’d expect to see vibrant public debate anyway. This place is like the reception desk at an APA conference, or a row of posters lining the hall. Outside of the people there for the conference, who cares?
Hi Preston, thanks for your thoughtful and insightful observations.
Ok, so the first question to arise in my mind after reading your words was, where should we expect to see vibrant public debate among intellectual elites? Or, where should we expect to find engagement between intellectuals and the public? If I had the answer to that I wouldn’t be here trying to pound the round peg in to the square hole, a process fairly labeled irrational.
Personally I don’t see the point of professional philosophy which isn’t aimed at serving the public. Scientists and engineers can deliver tangible products, so it’s not crucial they also engage with us. But all philosophers have to share are words and ideas, so if they aren’t interested in sharing their ideas with we in the public, why are we funding their work? Why should we pay philosophers to sit in the ivory tower talking only to other philosophers??
I do see an important social role that professional philosophers could play and have tried to specify some of the crucial issues I’d hope they would address, but I don’t really see that happening. As example, nuclear weapons would seem to serve as a rationality test for all of us, and as this site would seem to demonstrate we aren’t passing that test.
The blog probably isn’t well advertised, that sounds right, but the editors do have a solid search engine strategy, whether they think of it like that or not. I’ve suggested to the editors that they set up publicly available web traffic stats and they report they are considering it. Having such stats would tell us whether nobody is visiting the site, or whether those who are visiting just aren’t interested enough to bother engaging.
This thread seems evidence of the later theory. It appears visitors to this blog will engage when they are presented with a hot button topic rich with colorful controversial melodrama. In other words, philosophers are human like the rest of us.
You wrote, “Professionally, we do most of our work after thinking long and hard about a problem, or at least long and hard enough to have something we’re ready to share with our peers.”
I think you’re on to something here. As I see it, this is business agendas interfering with the process of philosophy. The reason philosophers think long and hard before sharing is that they can’t afford to be publicly embarrassed. They have to maintain the cloak of authority or they’re just another blowhard like me. I suspect that explains much of the staleness of the content found here, it’s too risky to be interesting.
I don’t have to think long and hard. I don’t have to worry about public embarrassment. I can push hard for the boundaries because I have nothing to lose. I just say what’s on my mind when it’s on my mind and if it’s wrong trust that the larger global mind will let me know. I would agree this is a poor business strategy, but it’s a better philosophy strategy, imho. Philosophy needs to be connected to life. It should include burps and farts, untidy hair, mismatched socks, and mistakes, lots and lots of mistakes. But when the priority shifts from philosophy to business, the living breathing real part of philosophy has to go out the window.
Anyway, whatever the merits of any of the above, you’re right that it’s not happening here for whatever reason. I’m coming to peace with that. I’ve decided from here out just to engage in threads which have existing conversations, if I have something to add to those topics. Time to be more rational, time to stop pounding the round peg in to the square hole.
Thanks for engaging. If you do so elsewhere and would like to share a link, please do.
I’ve got a lot to do over the next couple days, but I wanted to say that this misses the mark:
“The reason philosophers think long and hard before sharing is that they can’t afford to be publicly embarrassed. They have to maintain the cloak of authority or they’re just another blowhard like me. I suspect that explains much of the staleness of the content found here, it’s too risky to be interesting.”
We think long and hard before we speak because we’re looking for answers to questions that are hard to even frame properly, let alone find easy answers to. And our audience is mostly other philosophers, so we owe them a degree of respect in not spouting off half-baked ‘what-if’s. Sure, there’s a place for public philosophy. But insofar as philosophy is descended from the traditions within which philosophers work, we owe it to each other to think about these questions carefully.
You say that you feel free to “say what’s on my mind when it’s on my mind and if it’s wrong trust that the larger global mind will let me know”. Well fine, but you’re offloading a lot of your own work onto those around you in doing so. And those of us who do this for a living try not to do that to each other. Incidentally, I think this is the germ of the explanation for why your commenting hasn’t elicited more response around here.
There’s more worth commenting on in what you wrote, but as I said I’ll be busy for a bit so I may not get back to it. And if you’re looking for more publicly-engaged philosophy, try 3 Quarks Daily, Crooked Timber, Slatestarcodex, Daily Nous, Splintered Minds, Quillette, or Intellectual Takeout. I’m sure others could give you a better list, but that’s a place to start.
BTW Preston, I am reminded that you are the one who turned me on to https://heterodoxacademy.org. Thanks for that. I posted there today, and look forward to learning more.
Would this help? What if everyone could participate anonymously here? Might that liberate professional philosophers from the confinement of their business agendas and allow them to experiment freely?
Let’s say you’re thinking long and hard about some idea you’re trying to develop. Why not toss it on the table anonymously, let everyone bat it around and test it for weak points. We work for free helping you develop your idea, and then you publish it under your own name and get all the credit.
Let’s say you’d like to use a more colorful writing style, but you’re not sure how it will go over. Maybe you need to experiment with this new voice for awhile to grow in to it, work out the bugs etc. Maybe it’s too scary to do this in front of your peers. Maybe being anonymous would help.
Is the tyranny of the ivory tower group consensus one of the major factors limiting the diversity of expression needed to make philosophy writing more inclusive and engaging? How about a blog for professional philosophers which allows them to journey beyond the walls of that tyranny?
What if philosophical ideas existed without any reference to who typed them? Isn’t it sort of an illusion that any of us personally created these ideas anyway?
How do I change my screen name to Snoopydog27? How do I post without any screen name at all? How do me and my ego vanish so that I’m like the computer keyboard, merely a mechanical device for transferring ideas from one location to another? How do we create an environment that is about ideas, and not about us?
Hi Preston, you wrote…
“We think long and hard before we speak because we’re looking for answers to questions that are hard to even frame properly, let alone find easy answers to. ”
You’re trying to do with one mind that which can be advanced more quickly by the use of many minds. If you have an imperfect question, submit it to the group and allow them to help you improve it.
You wrote, “And our audience is mostly other philosophers, so we owe them a degree of respect in not spouting off half-baked ‘what-if’s. ”
Well, why is your audience mostly other philosophers? It seems academic philosophers see public philosophy as some kind of charity case which they are mostly above. I see no evidence of that “aboveness” on this site. What I see is some crazy old loon who installed wallpaper for living until he was 45, whom none of you can keep up with.
More to the point, the only value professional philosophers have, which could be an important value, is in service to the public, ie. those who pay their salary. You have no tangible product to deliver, so if you’re not working with the public, you have nothing.
Hi Preston, you wrote…
“Incidentally, I think this is the germ of the explanation for why your commenting hasn’t elicited more response around here.”
Have you noticed that almost nobody has commented on much of anything on this blog for the last two years?
Various folks keep trying to indict me for the lack of participation on a blog that was dead 2 years before I arrived. As you can see, I don’t find such arguments particularly logical, evidence based, or persuasive, though anyone should feel free to make such arguments if it pleases them to do so.
Here are a couple definitions of bad behavior.
1) Deliberately reading content one doesn’t like, choosing to have a negative experience, blaming that experience on somebody else, followed by a claim of fantasy moral superiority.
2) Anything an editor or mod defines as bad behavior.
3) Anything the Catholic Church defines as bad behavior.
4) Anything some group consensus defines as bad behavior.
Point being, you’re reaching for a universal definition of bad behavior, which doesn’t exist.
If you don’t know already, forum software solves these problems. Part of the issue here is that you’re using technology which is not that well suited to conversation.
In forum software, if you find a particular poster to not merit your time you can add them to a block list which removes ALL their posts in ALL threads from your view of the forum. Problem solved, in about 10 seconds.
Preston, I really don’t want to argue with you too much, but you should know I’ve had a series of exchanges with Nathan behind the scenes and I really believe he is acting in good faith and working diligently at the thankless job of being editor. And no, I’m not just sucking up to the editors, and Nathan could probably confirm for you that I suck at sucking up.
I have many noisy complaints with the blog as you’ve seen, but imho, Nathan isn’t the problem. I’ve been doing this almost daily this since Nathan was in elementary school and thus can say with confidence that as editors/mods go, Nathan exceeds the average by a long shot.
If he’s not perfect it’s only because none of us are.
You presume too much on behalf of my motives and attitudes, Phil. I’d prefer you didn’t do that.
I have no doubt Nathan is acting in good faith (he and I have emailed a bit as well, not that that matters). And I do not think he is ‘the problem’, as I’m not thinking about things in those terms at all. My point is a narrow one concerning interventions to police the discourse undertaken on behalf of someone claiming to speak for the standards of the APA.
Preston, I wrote…
“I have many noisy complaints with the blog as you’ve seen, but imho, Nathan isn’t the problem.”
This statement doesn’t accuse you of seeing Nathan as “the problem” but instead reports that in regards to the complaints with the blog I’ve expressed myself, I’ve concluded he’s not the problem. Academic philosophy is the problem, imho.
I take your point that in this instance you feel his editing was less than perfect, and that may be true. I was asking you to consider a larger perspective that there is no way to be either a perfect editor or a perfect writer, given that whatever decisions one makes it’s inevitable that some will like the choice and some will not.
For my taste Nathan is a tad too worried about everybody’s feelings, but as an editor he is expressing his own vision, which is entirely appropriate. As example, when I write a post I do so to express my vision, not Nathan’s.
My complaint with this thread is mostly that I wish we might have invested more thought in to asking why diverse voices should seek to join the old white man’s club. The focus of most of these kind of conversations seems to be an effort to change the old white men, which as an old white man myself, seems more than a bit of a fool’s errand. I would rather see diverse voices remain diverse, fresh and new, free of the mediocrity of the past, unrestrained in their ability to chart new courses.
It seems to me that one of the obstacles that stands in the way of that flowering of the new is the same thing that’s choking off the old white man’s club, a corrosive collision between the competing agendas of business and philosophy. Even if the diverse voices could develop their own customer base independent of the old white man’s club, customers are still customers, and if one wants to stay in business one has to be careful not to alienate them. That’s not really such an ideal position for any philosopher to be in.
The ideal position for a philosopher to be in is to have no career, no position, no rank, authority or status, no reputation, no customers and no salary. It’s only when one has nothing to lose that one is truly free to explore and follow the path where ever it may lead.
But of course it is a law of nature that everything comes at a price. The price tag for that freedom is that if one is in the position I’ve just described, and if one should find “The Truth”, nobody will pay any attention to you. And that is because human beings do not really listen to reason, they listen to authority and pain.
And so to be a truly diverse voice one also has to liberate oneself from the need to have one’s voice heard. In such a case one does philosophy because that is what was born to do, and whatever happens after that is incidental, of no great importance.
Those with authority will have an audience, but having an audience is much of what prevents them from saying anything too interesting. Those without authority will have the freedom to think and say interesting things, but if they do, few will hear their thoughts.
And so we remain, eternally mediocre. But luckily, just about the time being eternally mediocre becomes eternally boring and annoying, we pass from the scene to be replaced by new fresh from the factory humans eager to repeat the dance.
You’re importing things into the conversation that aren’t necessary for the point I’ve been making Phil. If you want to talk about old white men that’s of course your prerogative. But I’ve been about as clear as I can be about what I’m after, and it doesn’t have anything to do with race, gender, or age. You’ll notice I made no claims about any of those things. And before you tell me that what I was really concerned with was…, I will reiterate my request that you not presume to know my attitudes or motives. I think I’m a pretty straightforward person, and I’ve been upfront about what bothers me here.
Preston wrote, “You’re importing things into the conversation that aren’t necessary for the point I’ve been making Phil.”
Yes, I’m trying to steer back in the direction of the original topic. Diverse voices want in to the old white man’s club. Why? One theory could be that they aren’t actually diverse voices after all?
Being a minority, gay, female or otherwise a non-white man doesn’t automatically make one a diverse voice philosophically. If diverse voices are going to validate the authority of the existing philosophy biz status quo by begging for entry, then perhaps it’s appropriate that they be seen as junior partners to the enterprise?