apolliana: (Default)
I am a lady who is big into technical stuff. Philosophy of language, taking electronics apart and putting them back together; you want to talk about how to solve a problem? I'm all over it.

I am also surrounded by dudes all the time.

So why in the name of the seven mad gods who rule the world isn't most of my life like Kaylee at the ball on Persephone (Firefly)?

 photo tumblr_mjd9s8KQbu1ri2dp5o1_250_zpsykt9ixx3.gif

Oh, because the latter is a Joss Whedon fantasy. Carry on.
apolliana: (Default)
My suspicion is that this fear is largely a matter of style rather than content (or subject-matter). Many of the topics discussed by 'continental' or non-traditional philosophers are perfectly sensible, and should not be feared. What people fear--and probably should fear--is turgid, unclear writing. But I'm not sure they know that. Very often students are accused of being 'continental' when their writing is just slightly idiosyncratic, even when they're addressing analytic topics in a mostly analytic way.

The disturbing thing is that professors who use these terms of abuse have no idea it's a trivial, easily corrected, feature of the student's idiosyncratic writing style (and let's face it--all young people have idiosyncratic writing styles; especially the smart ones) that they're objecting to when they use this label. In my early years I was called Heidegger and Derrida, despite the fact that I wasn't doing continental philosophy of any sort. The paper accused of having Heideggerian language was a straightforward cognitive science paper; granted, it probably wasn't the best thing for the course, but it betrayed no signs of that strange German metaphysician. It was also quite clear and well-organized, though at times I certainly failed on that score.

Not being maximally clear and well-organized are not signs that a student is doing a different kind of philosophy. They are signs that he or she needs to refine her sentence and paragraph structure. I've noticed this in students I teach: often I'll think a particular student's writing is a bit contrived and convoluted, and that it sounds continental for that reason. But it's never because he's trying to do a different kind of philosophy (they're answering set questions, after all): it's because his writing sounds like that right now, and he needs concrete pointers to make it clearer and plainer.

None of the professors who accused my youthful writing of sounding ...European ever gave me these. They assumed the problem lay at the level of content, not of language--and mistakenly also assumed that these levels are separable. Kids express themselves idiosyncratically. They're not trying to be Heidegger; they may not have ever heard of Heidegger. They just need to learn to speak plainly; or, if they know and forget under pressure, to be reminded. The process of trying to become a clear and careful thinker isn't one that ever stops. But it is a skill that can be taught. Or self-taught, as the case may be.
apolliana: (Mum)
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/03/arts/colin-mcginn-philosopher-to-leave-his-post.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Yes:

"In an essay on implicit bias in the forthcoming book “What Needs to Change: Women in Philosophy,” Ms. Saul recalled the terror of overhearing faculty members at Princeton, where she earned her Ph.D., casually sort graduate students into “smart” versus merely hard-working — or worse, “stupid.”"

And progress:

"Some gatherings, like the Bellingham Summer Philosophy Conference, to be held next week in Washington State, have instituted an informal “be nice” rule. At the same time, other efforts to make sure women in the field aren’t rendered invisible are gaining steam."
apolliana: (Default)
I ran across this post the week before last, on the avoidance of responsibility enabled by self-deprecation. And immediately I thought of Richard Moran's analysis of weakness of will, and other failures to take the deliberative stance.

From the blog post:

"Call it the "I'm such an asshole" speech or call it strategic self-deprecation, the end goal is always the same: deflect women's anger.....

"These guys figure that if they say truly awful things about themselves, they'll force their partners to cease the search for legitimate discussion and turn to the more traditionally feminine role of soothing male anxiety."

(Aside: the author assumes this is particularly something men do with women, and it may be, though I don't see why it has to be. The many commenters suggesting that appearance-based self-deprecation functions in the same way are wrong, however. Though feeling excessively miserable about one's appearance might deflect anger, it does not do so in the same way as claiming one's character is rotten does. Unlike the latter, the former does not attempt to make it look as if actively managing one's life is an impossibility for the person exhibiting it. Thinking you look like crap is not a character flaw for which one is failing to take responsibility by treating it as an incontrovertible fact.)

Here's Fred Vincy & Mary Garth:

Fred: “I wouldn’t have hurt you so for the world, Mary,” he said at last. You can
never forgive me.
Mary: “What does it matter whether I forgave you? said Mary, passionately.
“Would that make it any better for my mother to lose the money she has
been earning by lessons for four years, that she might send Alfred to Mr.
Hanmer’s? Should you think all that pleasant enough if I forgave you?”
Fred: “Say what you like, Mary. I deserve it all.”
Mary: “I don’t want to say anything,” said Mary, more quietly; “my anger is of no
use” (Middlemarch, Ch. 25).


One might notice a slight difference: namely, that Fred seems to be encouraging Mary's anger rather than trying to defuse it. But the goal--to avoid actually figuring out what to do about the mess he's gotten himself into--is also present in the cases the blogger describes. Anger is superfluous, after all; it's goal is to get the person who's messed up to take a more active stance in dealing with what they've done. If it's not going to accomplish that, it's pointless, as wise Mary Garth can see.

And this is an instance of the broader problem Moran sees with adopting the 'empirical'--or 3rd personal--stance in situations in which a commitment, deliberation, or other effort of the will is called for. These things are active, not passive. They determine one's will; and insofar as they do so they must be seen as possibly subject to change. Even if one admits with Frankfurt that some features of one's will are unchangeable, as features of one's will they must be able to be affirmed as such, rather than simply self-defeatingly proclaimed. Saying "I'm terrible, awful, and rotten" is not the same as saying "I'm terrible, awful and rotten; and that's all I want to be." For all the wantonness that it indicates, in the latter, at least, the will is active.

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