Wednesday, March 14, 2012

If P, then WTF?! (Revisited)

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about what has come to be known in the professional philosophical community as "L'Affaire Hendricks," in which Prof. Vincent Hendricks used several explicit and sexist photos (one example on your left) to advertise his logic course at the University of Copenhagen. I was, quite honestly, surprised to see so many defenses of Hendricks in the comment thread of my original post, though in retrospect I suppose I shouldn't have been. I didn't respond to most of them because, quite frankly, I think that their comments were all of a sort, that is to say, they did not meet the minimally acceptable bar of familiarity with women's and gender issues in professional Philosophy to warrant a response. (Their comments exhibited a manifestly gross naïveté with regard to the global structure of women's systemic devaluation, and so trying to convince them that Hendricks' photos were evidence of sexism in the profession of Philosophy would be like trying to convince a Creationist that fossils are evidence of evolution in Nature.) Thankfully, Prof. Hendricks provided his own rejoinder to the debate in an interview here, so I can now in good conscience avoid his defenders' objections and address the man himself.

Prof. Hendricks: Not to put too fine a point on it, but you SOOOOOO don't get it.

Here's the rub: you don't have to intend to be sexist in order to for an action of yours to be sexist. As a matter of fact, and not to be overly-Kantian here, but your "intention" is the least significant criterion that one should use to determine the sexist nature of your actions. In fact, forget Kant altogether, your decision to use overtly sexist images is non-instrumentally useful, regardless of your intent. For the record, and to be manifestly clear, using overtly and demonstrably sexist images in the service of an otherwise worthy charity is not an excuse, neither instrumentally nor on principle. So, Prof. Hendricks, you (and your excuses) fail on every philosophically-legitimate moral account.

Kudos, by the way, to Anna Meera Gaonkar, the interviewer at the Danish newspaper Universitetsavisen, who continued to press Hendricks on his decision to publish the controversial photos on his own website. From that interview:

Gaonkar: But wasn’t the criticism directed at the photos as displayed in a different context, namely that of your own website?

Hendricks: I used some of the images on my private website in connection with a site that advertizes my logic course at University of Copenhagen. It was the connection between the photos and the course advertisement that lead to some criticism, especially in the U.S. Some saw the pictures as sexist. As I see it, I shouldn’t have placed the pictures on my private website without providing the context for the photos. I have officially apologized, and I immediately removed the images when the criticism was raised. Let me also point out that the criticism ended, even in the U.S., as soon as it became public that I did this as part of a charity initiative.

Goankar: What was the purpose of advertizing a logic course using photos of yourself surrounded by half-naked women dressed in school uniforms?

Hendricks: I initially thought it would be humorous and ironic to use these photos to advertize for a logic course. It was not my intention to provoke people or make them feel offended. It was an effort to promote a logic course, a course that would not otherwise appear particularly interesting to most students. I also wanted the course to have some appeal to young men who read these kinds of magazines but who rarely sign up for logic courses. Remember in this connection that there is a long video interview with me on Connery.dk as part of the launch of the charity initiative. In this interview I make some comments about my background and argue for the importance of perseverance, persistence, knowledge, information and informed basis for informed decision and action (something I regularly do through my columns and commentaries in newspapers and in my co-authored books: Tal en tanke, Oplysningens blinde vinkler, and soon NEDTUR! Finanskrisen forstået filosofisk).

Gaonkar: You say that the pictures are self-mocking. How so?

Hendriks: Look, what’s the chance that a professor at a university would be associated with anything that might even remotely resemble the scenario depicted in the pictures? It's not my world. I am Professor of Formal Philosophy. I'm not a Clark Kent, model or rock star.

Oy vey. You may not be Clark Kent, a model or a rock star, Prof. Hendricks, but let me assure you that the chances that "a professor at a university would be associated with anything that might even remotely resemble the scenario depicted in [your] pictures" is far greater than you might imagine. Sure, it's unlikely that a bunch of scantily-clad female undergraduates would huddle around their logic professor in the way your photos imagine, but the fact that the environment for students serious about Philosophy might be manipulated in a way that convinces female students that they have a less-than-optimal chance at success if they don't-- forgive the salacious verb-usage here- prostitute themselves is far more likely than you seem willing to admit.

I know, I know, people are going to say (and have already said) that I'm viewing this issue through a myopically-"American" or "feminist" lens. I'm inclined to respond that I can't see how that makes any difference, as alleged sexism in our profession ought to be a concern for both non-Americans and non-feminists. Nevertheless, in the interest of fairness, I would like to invite Prof. Hendricks to contact me for an interview (to be published on this blog) for the American and feminist audience. I'll even provide the questions in advance, so there's no worry that the interview isn't being conducted in good faith.

If you're interested in reading an interview between Prof. Hendricks and myself, please send the following email to Vincent Hendricks at vincent@hum.ku.dk:
Dear Professor Hendricks,

I am writing to encourage you to accept the interview request by Dr. Leigh Johnson, which you can read here. Your English-speaking audience is eager and willing to hear your response to the controversy surrounding the images associated with your Logic course. I hope you will make every effort to accommodate this request.

Sincerely,
{Your name here}

Come on, Professor Hendricks. Let's chat. You can contact me here.

25 comments:

Tomáš Pavelka said...

Dear dr. Johnson,

by betraying your commentators (naming them lames et cetera multa) you have thrown away the one important value that your blog might have offered - a balanced discourse.

I am a lawyer with understanding of discrimination law, though I am not indeed proficient in feministic philosophy. That, however, should not necessarily disqualify me as a commentator.

I am starting to understand why feminism is struggling so much in todays world. Its proponents have been so far unable to put together a simple and clear political message that can appeal even to a person who does not:

"meet the minimally acceptable bar of familiarity with women's and gender issues in professional Philosophy to warrant a response"; and whose "comments exhibited a manifestly gross naïveté with regard to the global structure of women's systemic devaluation".

These are, unfortunately, 99% of the global pouplation. If you wanted to adress just people of the same mindset and education, you should stop writing blogs right now and start drafting a paper for the next conference on feminism. Don't take me wrong, you need not to abandon your values to make us listen to you. Just change the rhetorics, that is your key to success.

sincerely

TP

Mihai Martoiu Ticu said...

I see a bunch of logical fallacies in this post.
(1) Avoiding the burden of proof: you don’t prove that the pictures were sexist. That is Especially when talking about our “gross naïveté with regard to the global structure of women's systemic devaluation” That is like the Taliban saying that there is a huge evidence about the 72 virgins waiting in the Heaven; those who don’t see the evidence are intellectual incapable or unwilling of seeing it.
(2) Ad hominem. According to your post we – the commenters – do not have the intellectual capacities to understand the matter. We do not have the necessary knowledge.
(3) Abuse of ethos. You know that they are sexist, thus they are.
(4) Appeal to ignorance: “Here's the rub: you don't have to intend to be sexist in order to be sexist.”
(5) Begging the question: “using overtly and demonstrably sexist image”
So where is the argument?

Andrew MacKie-Mason said...

"(2) Ad hominem. According to your post we – the commenters – do not have the intellectual capacities to understand the matter. We do not have the necessary knowledge."

You also, it seems, do not have the necessary knowledge to understand what the ad hominem fallacy is.

Anonymous said...

How is that not an ad hominem? It's as fine an example of substituting personal attack for argument as you'll find anywhere.

FightTheRacism said...

I'm fairly astonished that you, Prof J, don't see how you yourself are falling into, and perpetuating, the racial hegemony in your unrelenting criticism of Prof Hendriks.

Whether it was his purpose or not (and I'll grant you that he certainly hasn't owned up to this potential motivation), Prof Hendriks clearly was resisting the stereotype that there was anything wrong with a man of African heritage being an appropriate object of interest for white females. Your own frankly excessive anger and discomfort with his doing so simply couldn't be more plain -- and your encouragement of this reaction in your readers goes beyond disturbing.

You might at the very least have chosen to criticize Prof Hendriks in a way that displayed some modicum of sensitivity to this issue.

Andrew MacKie-Mason said...

"How is that not an ad hominem? It's as fine an example of substituting personal attack for argument as you'll find anywhere."

You're misunderstanding what the ad hominem logical fallacy is, as well as drawing a false distinction between personal attack and argument. The suggestion that you lack the relevant intellectual skills or knowledge to understand what's going on may well be a personal attack, depending on the way it is expressed, but it's also a valid argument against people putting stock in your responses.

There are several valid objections to how it was framed in the OP:

(a) Arguments from less knowledgable individuals shouldn't be ignored (this, it seems, is roughly Tomas's point).

(b) A lack of authority in certain fields doesn't bear on competence to address issues like sexism.

(c) The comments are rude and offensive.

But none of those fall within the "ad hominem logical fallacy" category that you used. (a) is about the ethics of public discourse, (b) is a claim that ethos was improperly appealed to, and (c) is about courtesy. ((c) may, under a modern, whiney definition be a claim about "ad hominem attacks." But it's most certainly not about "ad hominem logical fallacies.")

By the way, (1) also isn't a logical fallacy, (4) isn't the proper usage of the "appeal to ignorance" (which is about establishing something by a lack of evidence for the opposite, not for arguments that intention is largely irrelevant to ethics), and (5) takes the quote in question out a context in which it is clearly not begging the question (that quote falls in an argument claiming that pure motives (use for "charity") does not excuse unethical behavior; in that context, the unethicalness of the behavior can be properly assumed without begging the question.)

I only ignore (3) because it's a debatable point, though I think you're wrong (the post doesn't make the claim, at least anywhere I can see, that the author's position or characteristics alone are sufficient to support the claim about sexism).

Anonymous said...

I want to respond to this observation: "the fact that the environment for students serious about Philosophy might be manipulated in a way that convinces female students that they have a less-than-optimal chance at success if they don't - forgive the salacious verb-usage here - prostitute themselves is far more likely than you seem willing to admit."
I guess the points to make in response are that (i) in Denmark/Europe female students are NOT convinced that they need to "prostitute" themselves in order to succeed in academic philosophy and (ii) these silly photos don't change that. If that's true (and, I take it, some Danish/European commentators are inclined to endorse at least point (i) ), then these photos seem far less inappropriate in the Danish/European context.

Anonymous said...

I just want to respond to Anon's "observation", above.

In Denmark, and at Hendricks' University in particular, there is still a big disparity between number of men vs. number of women philosophy faculty.

This is also true in many other places in Europe. There are MANY places in Europe where there is a worse gender disparity in professional philosophy than in, say, the U.S.A.

Though the causes of this are obviously complex, I think it is worth bearing in mind that there is no simple "They're European (or Danish, or whatever), so they must not have any problems with implicit bias that the less sexually enlightened, less "liberal" Americans do.

Just look at the numbers of men and women faculty in philosophy.

Anonymous said...

It's amazing what kinds of crazies come out of the woodworks to rationalize the indefensible. The best one yet is the guy who now claims that criticizing Hendricks is racist because Hendricks is, allegedly, African. Can his defenders sink any lower?

Izzy said...

Mihai Martoiu Ticu writes:

(4) Appeal to ignorance: “Here's the rub: you don't have to intend to be sexist in order to be sexist.”

As noted, this is not an appeal to ignorance. The claim is not that since we cannot prove that the photos are not sexist, then they must be sexist. This would be a fallacious appeal to ignorance. The claim is rather that it is an insufficient counterargument to deny the photos are sexist simply because one had good intentions. This is a perfectly valid position. The principle here is that an act may very well still be sexist even if you did not intend for it to be sexist, and even if you committed the act with the intent of some charitable cause.

For instance, a man may regularly refer to his females colleagues as "honey" without any ill intentions. He may believe that his use of the term is one of endearment, without realizing, however, that use of the term simultaneously undermines the professional position and integrity of his female colleagues. In particular, it exposes that he addresses his male colleagues formally but addresses female colleagues informally, and thus that he does not treat women with the same level of respect that he treats men. It's precisely this undermining that makes an act sexist, and it's precisely this kind of undermining that's on display in Prof. Hendrick's distasteful photos of scantily clad female students crowding around his desk, as he is dressed in full chic, professional attire, presumably appropriate of a man (I guess) who presides over the kind of sophisticated formal work that looms on the chalk board behind him.

You should be able to see very easily how good intentions do not absolve one from potentially sexist acts or behavior. There's no fallacy in this claim.

Caj said...

Hi Dr. Johnson,
You said, "you don't have to intend to be sexist in order to be sexist. As a matter of fact, and not to be overly-Kantian here, but your "intention" is the least significant criterion that one should use to determine the sexist nature of your actions. In fact, forget Kant, your decision to use overtly sexist images is non-instrumentally useful, regardless of your intent.

Yeah, but on what basis can I judge Dr. Hendricks to be sexist and not judge, say, Stephen Colbert to be sexist? (Indeed, it appears that a large number of people are unable to distinguish Colbert's satire from real self-expression).
Prima facie, it looks as though you're suggesting that an agent uttering something that is overtly sexist is a sufficient condition on that agent being a sexist. That would be a very strong claim. I doubt you actually endorse it.

I think this is the real rub,
"You may not be Clark Kent, a model or a rock star, Prof. Hendricks, but let me assure you that the chances that "a professor at a university would be associated with anything that might even remotely resemble the scenario depicted in [your] pictures" is far greater than you might imagine." This is, no doubt, an excellent point. But where is it leading?

It's tempting to say: Professors of philosophy arn't professional comedians. Unlike Colbert, they are not in the proper relationship to their audience to be able to appropriate sexist imagery without assuming the mantle of the sexist. So, Dr. Hendricks is* a sexist (without intending to utter sexist things, without understanding the context of when that is appropriate[satirical context]).

But, for reasons which I don’t have time to mention, even that argument isn't particularly compelling.

*You don't directly say it, but there is a very strong suggestion in your original post that Dr. Hendricks is a sexist. Moreover, you posted his email and directed your readers to essentially spam-troll his email account so that he would respond (with interview!) to your specific blog. He's not your government representative. He doesn't own a company which bakes arsenic into your butter and guns. Why are you Petitioning against him in particular? Given the tactics you have used—-spam-trolling which seriously deviates from any netiquette I know of—-why should Dr. Hendricks respond to you?

DOCTOR J said...

Thank you all for your comments.

I'd like to note, at the outset, that the tone of this post perhaps could have been more measured, though I stand behind all of the remarks I made here-- including the ones that characterized many of the comments to my original post as not meeting "the minimally acceptable bar of familiarity with women's and gender issues in professional Philosophy to warrant a response" and exhibiting a "manifestly gross naïveté with regard to the global structure of women's systemic devaluation." I will also note that I have not, as far as I can tell, engaged in what Mihai Martoiu Ticu characterized as "a bunch of logical fallacies," a judgment that I think has been reiterated by other commenters herein.

At the risk of pedantically stating the obvious, I'll just remind readers that the (well-documented and gross) gender disparity in professional Philosophy is a phenomenon that is not limited to the United States. No particular country and no particular institution, regardless of its real or alleged contravention of this pattern, is evidence enough to deny the systemic under-representation and under-valuation of female philosophers.

DOCTOR J said...

@FighttheRacism: To reassure you that I have, in fact, "demonstrated a modicum of interest" in the racial implications of these photos, I'd like to point you to my comment (at 5:43) in the original post, where I address just that issue. There, I admit (as you suggest) that the "outrage" over these photos on the part of many white women (of which I am one) is complicated by the very messy and equally objectionable utilization of both racist (i.e., hyper-sexualized black male) and sexist (i.e., reductively-sexualized white female) stereotypes. That agreement notwithstanding, I cannot in any way agree with your characterization of these images as Hendricks' "clearly resisting the stereotype that there was anything wrong with a man of African heritage being an appropriate object of interest for white females." What in those images represents female (white or otherwise) interests at all? I will assume that we can both agree that it is entirely possible to be both anti-racist and sexist at the same time, just as it is possible to be coincidentally anti-sexist and racist. Hendricks' images, in my view, may an example of the former, though I don't see enough evidence of an intentionally anti-racist representation here to convince me that they are so.

@Caj: In fact, I think that "Stephen Colbert" (I use the quotes to distinguish the ironic/satirical television personality of "Stephen Colbert" from the *real* person Staephen Colbert), when he says sexist things, *is* sexist. That is to say, I agree with you that "Stephen Colbert" is sexist, though I don't think that commits me to saying that Stephen Colbert is sexist, because I understand that "Stephen Colbert" is a character that capitalizes on overtly and hyperbolic sexism for the sake of comedy (or, if we're being generous, the sake of moral instruction). If Dr. Hendricks had an alternate personality "Dr. Hendricks"-- one that was clearly intended to be divorcable from Dr. Hendricks-- then I might be inclined to applaud him for his effective satirical representation in these images of what is, in effect, a very real (and not at all funny) problem. I don't see any evidence to believe that this is the case, in large part because (the *real*) Dr. Hendricks himself acknowledged the error of his ways and apologized for the images.

I'll just reiterate that my invitation to Dr. Hendricks to grant an interview with me might allow for many of these speculative disagreements about the best or most felicitous interpretation of his images (and his motivations for posting them) to be settled. Given the gravity of the matter at hand, that doesn't seem like an unreasonable request, in my view.

Emma B. said...

Dr. Hendricks wanted to "appeal to young men to sign up for logic courses."

Let's set up a thought experiment.

I, a woman professor, would like to "appeal to young women to sign up for philosophy courses." I hit on a strategy. I am photographed in a popular women't magazine dressed up, Madonna style, high leather boots and a tight bodice. I am surrounded by young men with oiled gleaming bodies.

The consequences? Parents question whether their children are being provided an appropriate education at my institution, and remove them. There is a furore in the press. The powers that be at my university strategize as to how best to recover from the scandal. I am expendable and they fire me. I send out a hundred applications for a new job but despite my fine publication and teaching record, no-one will hire me.

As a scholar of Greek classical antiquity, I am acutely aware of the operations of eros in pedagogy. However, the fact that sexuality is embedded in a profoundly patriarchal structure that systematically excludes women (this is not mysterious but simply a statistical fact) means that it cannot have a place in a system and institution where education is the goal. Recourse to any stereotypical "sexy" images will harm women in this context. Add to this the millennia-old stereotype that women can't do logic, and you have a particularly toxic mixture in the Hendricks affair.

I already wrote in a previous post that I think it was interesting and somewhat daring that a black man (already stereotyped as "highly sexed") would choose to highlight his sexuality in such a way, and to this extent it is readable as something of an act of resistance or a "f*** you" to the white club of philosophy. Nonetheless, this homosocial conflict occurs (as usual) at the expense of women, and over the bodies of women.

Mr. Hendricks. The burning question here should be, "How do we get young women and people of color to sign up for logic courses." Not, "how do use existing stereotypes of race and gender to encourage MORE young men to sign up for logic courses."

Andrew MacKie-Mason said...

Surely we should be encouraging more interested and talented people of all races and both genders to sign up for logic courses?

Emma B. said...

Andrew MacKie-Mason: Presumably, yes, of course. No problem there. Though I should say that a) redressing current imbalances in the demographics of our students should be a burning question given TOP priority, and b) as someone who breezed through logic but doesn't quite believe it added all that much that is of use or value to my thinking, nor that it's particularly philosophically interesting in itself, I'm fine with logic as a requirement, but to be honest getting more students into logic is not an educational goal I'm particularly committed to.

Anonymous said...

This consideration is more for the sake of argument rather than an actual point I believe in:

Is it sexist to present a man who is sexually appealing? From a male perspective, there are two general reactions that I will note. One is that a heterosexual male might see this as a representation that this individual is desirable to what might be considered attractive females. The second reaction is from a homosexual male - while he has no sexual interest in the females, he sees a glamorized male, who is supposed to be appealing. Either way, whether it is conscious or not, the male reaction includes feelings of admiration for this individual, which can evoke feelings, perhaps, that studying Philosophy enhances ones desirability. While it is arguable that all human beings want to be desirable, especially in a sexual sense, it is reasonable to assume that a majority do. And this certainly is not to say that the only reason for the study of Phil. is to enhance one’s desirability, but why can’t it be a part of it?

Possible (not all or even a majority) reactions from females could include similar emotions. A heterosexual female may see this man as more desirable because of his appearance, as well as the fact that he is attracting young physically attractive women, and therefore make the same connection to Phil. and desirability.

Why shouldn’t Philosophy be portrayed as sexy? I find intelligence, especially in this area, to be very sexy in a possible partner. While I do not find any of the women particularly of my liking, nor do I find their attire attractive, I can see the image as an exaggerated portrayal of attractive people. Would the same problem exist if we were discussing a picture of a female professor surrounded by attractive male models? Or if the individual was openly homosexual surrounded by members of the same sex. All of these options, in my mind, exhibit the same attempt at showing a Phil. professor who is sexy, which I see nothing wrong with.

Is there a need for a conversation regarding the female position in the Phil. field? Yes. Does that mean we must ward against any images that might be construed as sexist because of the current state of affairs? Perhaps, but I humbly suggest that I do not think so.

Caj said...

Dr. Johnson,
Thanks for your response.

Well, a lot of thoughts have bubbled up and I’m not quite sure how to organize them. I’ll just spit them out (they likely apply more to philosophy as it is practiced in the USA rather than Dr. Hendricks’ setting):
1) What are the job prospects for those who wish to become professional philosophers? What kind of economic security does a philosophy degree provide? Is it easy for a first-year college student, or her parents, to perceive how a philosophy degree could be useful outside of an academic context?
Obviously, young white men don’t have the social pressures placed on them that women and people of colors do. I suspect that parents of young white men say stuff like “ Pursue what you love” far more than parents of black women and men or white women. There are additional risks for these other groups. To name two, first, women don’t have a larger degree of control of their reproductive lives in this country second, black people (like women) face additional hurdles when searching for secure jobs. However, these factors can’t singly explain why women (or PoC) pursue degrees such as biology, English, and increasingly, engineering, rather than philosophy.

2) Consider public high school curriculums (in the USA):
Math, biology, chemistry, physics, art, English (literature), foreign languages, pre-engineering (voc-ed), and philosophy.
Doesn’t one of these seem…out of place? Outside of magnet schools for fine arts, how often do you see a public school which teaches any kind of academic philosophy? Financially and academically, it’s a risky proposition to try out new academic fields in college.
I suppose I haven’t come to any startling conclusion--that white men perceive less risk by pursuing philosophy degrees compared to women and people of color. At least for the USA, I think this is a basic sketch of why fewer women and people of color are in the field.

People will see what I am about to say and think, “You’re acting like Dr. Hendricks’ apparent sexism isn’t that important.” Yeah, I guess so. Whatever Dr. Hendricks uttered, it’s not particularly important to the specific end of having more women and people of color in philosophy. That requires actual work. It requires philosophers to have a real professional organization. It requires philosophers to lobby, to force their way into public schools, to target those under-represented groups specifically. Academic philosophers don’t have what it takes to do this, I think. Instead, we get this (easy) New Chivalry, with men like Brian Leiter subtly feeding into white-knight outrage over some peon in Europe (I know I got to your website through the Leiter Report, Dr. Johnson. I can’t be alone).
I don’t doubt your sincerity, Dr. Johnson. But frankly I do doubt the sincerity of a lot off male philosophers who seem like such good little feminists and socialists.
I’m sorry this is so disorganized*—I don’t know if I have a point. I really didn't even want to defend Dr. Hendricks in the first place...


*I really do appreciate that you allow anonymous/semi-anonymous commenting. On most philosophy blogs, that's not the case. I've heard it said that part of the reason for closed commenting is to prevent people with mental illness/cognitive differences from commenting. Well, what would certainly exclude me. That's certainly the reason I didn't pursue philosophy at the graduate level.

Mihai Martoiu Ticu said...

==At the risk of pedantically stating the obvious, I'll just remind readers that the (well-documented and gross) gender disparity in professional Philosophy is a phenomenon that is not limited to the United States. No particular country and no particular institution, regardless of its real or alleged contravention of this pattern, is evidence enough to deny the systemic under-representation and under-valuation of female philosophers.==

This is a non sequitur. If the females are under-represented in philosophy, it does not follow that the pictures are sexist.

Or maybe it is an Argumentum ad misericordiam. You are right because women are victims.

Anonymous said...

In what way are the pictures representing Dr Hendicks in an ultra-sexualized way? I see lots of stereotypes represented in the pictures but that simply isn't one of them, racial or otherwise. If anything he seems cooly indifferent to the advances he's recieving.

(Also, even if I did see that here, I'm not seeing how anything particularly racialized would follow. I mean, yes, some of the visual vocabulary of porn is clearly present here, and yes, porn does tend to represent black men as ultra-sexual - but that's also how it tends to represent white men, black women, white women, East Asian women, and would presumably represent any other combinations of gender and ethnicity if it bothered to represent them at all. EVERYONE in porn is like that. What's the racial angle supposed to be?)

Andrew MacKie-Mason said...

Mihai Martoiu Ticu, your problem is with Anonymous 3/27 @3:11:00, to whose comment the one you quote is a perfectly reasonable response.

Andrew MacKie-Mason said...

"a) redressing current imbalances in the demographics of our students should be a burning question given TOP priority, and b) as someone who breezed through logic but doesn't quite believe it added all that much that is of use or value to my thinking, nor that it's particularly philosophically interesting in itself, I'm fine with logic as a requirement, but to be honest getting more students into logic is not an educational goal I'm particularly committed to."

I'm not convinced by arguments along the lines of (a). We should be encouraging students to enroll in the subjects they're interested in. If that on its own doesn't fix gender imbalances, then we need to look at the real reasons for that. More encouragement of young women to enroll in logic won't do the trick. If there were no systemic problems and there were still gender disparities, we ought to accept that rather than encouraging people to "fix" it by taking courses other than they normally would.

And I'm having trouble reconciling (b) with your previous comment.

CTS said...

@Andrew MacKie-Mason :

Re: ad hominem argument - bless you. I suppose this is yet another illustration that 'a little philosophy [course] can be a very bad thing.'

CTS said...

P. S. 'CTS' is ChrisTS at Volokh and elsewhere.

DOCTOR J said...

Guest-blogger Shiloh Whitney responds to this discussion thread here.