Ta-Nehisi Coates on the Riots in Baltimore

“When nonviolence is preached as an attempt to evade the repercussions of political brutality, it betrays itself. When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse. When nonviolence is preached by the representatives of the state, while the state doles out heaps of violence to its citizens, it reveals itself to be a con.”

Feminist Philosophers

In the Atlantic:

Now, tonight, I turn on the news and I see politicians calling for young people in Baltimore to remain peaceful and “nonviolent.” These well-intended pleas strike me as the right answer to the wrong question. These well-intended pleas strike me as the right answer to the wrong question. To understand the question, it’s worth remembering what, specifically, happened to Freddie Gray. An officer made eye contact with Gray. Gray, for unknown reasons, ran. The officer and his colleagues then detained Gray. They found him in possession of a switchblade. They arrested him while he yelled in pain. And then, within an hour, his spine was mostly severed. A week later, he was dead. What specifically was the crime here? What particular threat did Freddie Gray pose? Why is mere eye contact and then running worthy of detention at the hands of the state? Why is Freddie…

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The TransAdvocate interviews Catharine MacKinnon

Catherine MacKinnon, I misunderstood you.

Feminist Philosophers

Really interesting interview with Catharine MacKinnon here. I’ll only quote a few bits (I really am leaving out interesting things though, so do take a look yourself):

MacKinnon on who is a woman:

I always thought I don’t care how someone becomes a woman or a man; it does not matter to me. It is just part of their specificity, their uniqueness, like everyone else’s. Anybody who identifies as a woman, wants to be a woman, is going around being a woman, as far as I’m concerned, is a woman.

And on ‘bathroom panic’:

Many transwomen just go around being women, who knew, and suddenly, we are supposed to care that they are using the women’s bathroom. There they are in the next stall with the door shut, and we’re supposed to feel threatened. I don’t. I don’t care. By now, I aggressively don’t care.

On misrepresentations of her…

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My Name is Palestine

eL Seed is a French-Tunisian street artist whose works incorporate traditional Arabic calligraphy, a style he calls ‘calligraffiti.’ His art was born on the streets of Paris, and now adorns walls across every continent. (Wikipedia)

eL Seed - Arabic Inspired Street Painting

The olive tree: at once a symbol of peace throughout the mediterranean and an embodiment of identity deeply entranched in Palestinian culture. The olive tree is also the foundation for the economic activity and development in Palestine. Planting an olive tree, therefore, is both expressing a desire for peace and also a desire to protect lands from dispossession and ruin.

The scattered pockets of color which compose this mural are but a symbol of a culture, an identity, which is itself disjointed and in fragments. In contrast, the phrase ‘My name is Palestine’ affirms the existence of this identity. Naming is one manner through which to assert the presence of a people, a history, and a culture.

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“That’s just the internet”?

Sometimes discrimination can be easy to spot – for example, if a hotel turns you away because you’re gay. This is called direct discrimination. This is when you’re treated differently simply because of who you are.

But there are other times when you may be treated in the same way as everybody else, but it has a different and worse effect on you because of who you are. This is also discrimination. The Equality Act 2010 calls this indirect discrimination.

Indirect discrimination is when there’s a practice, policy or rule which applies to everyone in the same way, but it has a worse effect on some people than others. The Equality Act says it puts you at a particular disadvantage.


A health club only accepts customers who are on the electoral register. This applies to all customers in the same way. But Gypsies and Travellers are less likely to be on the electoral register and therefore they’ll find it more difficult to join.

This could be indirect discrimination against Gypsies and Travellers because of the protected characteristic of race. The rule seems fair, but it has a worse effect on this particular group of people.

Feminist Philosophers

From an article on internet comments sections over at The Guardian:

Recently, however, a colleague penned a piece that defended a woman – it doesn’t even matter which woman or what context. Every week brings a new reminder women are not welcome – especially on the internet.

The site published it proudly – however, and inevitably, the comment section ended up a fat sack of misogyny hanging like an unwanted testicle below it. This wasn’t a special case; it seems to happen every time a woman writes something that somehow defends some aspect of women’s autonomy.

A lot of times when people express their hatred for people’s behaviour online, wizards emerge to inform us, “That’s just the internet. Learn to deal with it.”

This assertion gives no humanity to victims: everyone is a blank, emotionless internet user, with no history of being targeted for her sex, race, sexuality…

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Diversifying Syllabi

“Given that increasing diversity in the profession is essential to the continuing relevance and vibrancy of Philosophy; and given that one of the apparent barriers to diversity is the lack of diverse philosophers included in Introductory courses; and given that the lack of diverse philosophers in most Intro syllabi is likely caused by lack of familiarity with this work rather than lack of good will; The Graduate Student group Georgetown’s Women in Philosophy Climate Coalition sponsored a summer reading group of work by diverse philosophers. We read selections from various authors appropriate (in terms of topic, level of difficulty, and length) for Intro level courses.

“Our aims were:
1) to increase familiarity with texts by diverse philosophers and to think about their potential pedagogical uses so they can easily be incorporated into our teaching;
2) to do this in a supportive, informal and relaxed setting;
3) to eventually create an online resource for the profession in the form of an annotated bibliography.

“This website fulfills our third goal.”

Feminist Philosophers

This is cool:

The Georgetown‘s Women in Philosophy Climate Coalition (GWPCC) is pleased to announce the launch of a new website, “Diversifying Syllabi” compiling an annotated bibliography of philosophical texts by diverse philosophers, appropriate for teaching in undergraduate courses. The website includes a reading list with text summaries and teaching tips.

We welcome others to join in this initiative by sending in suggestions for additions to the reading list and resources for teaching these texts.

To visit the site, go to http://diversifyingsyllabi.weebly.com

(The website grew out of a summer workshop for Georgetown graduate students that the GWPCC and philosophy department sponsored, “Diversifying Syllabi 101” where we read and discussed papers written by diverse philosophers and discussed pedagogical strategies for incorporating the texts in our own teaching.)

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10 Mind-Altering Philosophy Books from 2014

2014, ten challenging philosophy books from this year. Have you read or heard of any of these?


Philosophy books often don’t get their due. They’re usually long, often badly written, frequently pompous and annoying, and sometimes even poorly edited. But 2014 has been a hallmark year for works of philosophy that can genuinely impact your life (even in the immediate future) without becoming self-help nonsense. These books deal try to change what is possible in politics, sex, feminism, art, and more.

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Illusions of Understanding

Extended research on Kruger & Dunning, 1999:
“People’s mistaken sense that they understand the causal processes underlying policies contributes to political polarization.
“Across three studies, we found that people have unjustified confidence in their understanding of policies. Attempting to generate a mechanistic explanation undermines this illusion of understanding and leads people to endorse more moderate positions. Mechanistic-explanation generation also influences political behavior, making people less likely to donate to relevant advocacy groups. These moderation effects on judgment and decision making do not occur when people are asked to enumerate reasons for their position. We propose that generating mechanistic explanations leads people to endorse more moderate positions by forcing them to confront their ignorance. In contrast, reasons can draw on values, hearsay, and general principles that do not require much knowledge. Previous research has shown that intensively educating citizens can improve the quality of democratic decisions following collective deliberation and negotiation (Fishkin, 1991). One reason for the effectiveness of this strategy may be that educating citizens on how policies work moderates their attitudes, increasing their willingness to explore opposing views and to compromise. More generally, the present results suggest that political debate might be more productive if partisans first engaged in a substantive and mechanistic discussion of policies before engaging in the more customary discussion of preferences and positions. However, fostering productive discourse among people who have different political stances faces obstacles and can have consequences that fall outside the scope of the current research. Future research should explore the benefits of mechanistic explanation in more ecologically valid civil-discourse contexts.

“Our results suggest a corrective for several psychological phenomena that make polarization self-reinforcing. People often are unaware of their own ignorance (Kruger & Dunning, 1999), seek out information that supports their current preferences (Nickerson, 1998), process new information in biased ways that strengthen their current preferences (Lord, Ross, & Lepper, 1979), affiliate with other people who have similar preferences (Lazarsfeld & Merton, 1954), and assume that other people’s views are as extreme as their own (Van Boven, Judd, & Sherman, 2012). In sum, several psychological factors increase extremism, and attitude polarization is therefore hard to avoid. Explanation generation will by no means eliminate extremism, but our data suggest that it offers a means of counteracting a tendency supported by multiple psychological factors. In that sense, it promises to be an effective debiasing procedure.”

Feminist Philosophers

This research is fascinating, and could have serious methodological importance for philosophy.

Here’s the gist of the result (which was obtained by studying samples of US residents recruited online).

People often don’t understand political issues fully, yet have strong convictions about them. When subjects were asked to go into state-and-defend mode on a political issue (i.e., asked to state their view and then give their reasons for holding it), their conviction was entrenched and their misunderstandings went unnoticed.

But if asked to explain, or talk through, how the policy, position, etc. they defend would actually work, people were significantly more likely to appreciate what they did not fully understand, and to stop being so entrenched in their opinions.

This kind of information could be a huge deal for philosophical methodology. There are many issues (political and otherwise) that philosophers discuss which we do not fully understand, yet have strong convictions about.

State-and-defend mode is so common in our discipline. What if…

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