My Pacific APA

Last week the Pacific Division of the APA met. For a very brief, visual summary, see this post at Feminist Philosophers. I found the meeting truly interesting for a change. It wasn’t so much the sessions, though there were good sessions, but rather the professional dynamics that were visible in more informal interactions, though these “informal interactions” were fueled by the sessions. Here are my “highlights”, though some of them might be more appropriately referred to as “lowlights”. I acknowledge that this report on my Pacific APA may bear little or no resemblance to your APA!

  • A P-SWIP/BayFAP reception where I had several fascinating conversations. One was about the question of wanting to live a life that addresses issues of social relevance and doing philosophy of science. Are these different impulses? If not, how do we integrate them and yet still do work that is judged to be good by the standards of the field. This conversation was followed by another about the ongoing and so little changed sexism that female graduate experience. The latter was particularly disconcerting to me. I left graduate school 28 years ago and the stories that I was hearing were too similar to my own experience. The reports that male graduate students (at least some) truly believe that female graduate students get all the jobs was particularly worrying.
  • A Routledge Companion to the Philosophy of Science that had 55 articles only 5 of which were by female philosophers and two of those were co-authored with males. More disturbing is that there was only one article discussing feminist philosophy of science (by Cassandra Pinnick) and the theme of that article was that there was nothing of value that it had to offer and that feminist should stay out of science and stick to politics!
  • A memorial session for Richard Rorty which reminded me of the startling experience of the meta-philosophical critique, a possibility that had not yet occurred to me when I read it as I finished graduate school and something that the experience above remind me is so sorely needed.
  • A mini-conference on Making Philosophy of Science More Socially Relevant organized by Nancy Cartwright, Sophia Efstathiou, Helen Longino, Katie Plaisance. These sessions were an example of where one might go if one engages in such a critique and a hopeful sign that at least some philosophers are interested in integrating all the aspects of their lives as philosophers and participants in their social and political life.
  • Blogging connects you to people! Several people came up to me and recognized my name from blogging both on Knowledge and Experience and here. I also got to know some of the bloggers who contribute regularly to the blogs that I read.

Update: Check out Philosophy’s Sexism at the APA particularly the comments. I think these are discussions we need to be having. What are we ourselves doing to keep these sexist practices in place?

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4 Responses to My Pacific APA

  1. Flying Lily says:

    For all of the reasons stated, I have ceased attending APA meetings. Thus, by my absence, I contribute to the invisibility of women in academic philosophy and am not there to encourage new faces either. Additional reasons: I can’t bear the tedious and boring presentation style which has not changed one iota since I was young enough to be impressed by a fast reading of dense prose. I am disappointed by how little philosophy has changed in the 25+ years since I got my PhD. At that exciting time, I expected a revolution. Still waiting, haven’t done enough myself to bring it about, so not entitled to grouse!

  2. Anonymous says:

    I would love to hear more about what exactly in the memorial session on Rorty prompted you to think about the metaphilosophical critique. Also, do you think such critiques are viable now? It seems to me that there is far too little metaphilosophical examination of our discipline. As a h historian of philosophy, for example, I have often been struck by the near-absence of historiography in our discipline–with some rare exceptions like Rorty himself, Margaret Wilson, and, more recently, Bernard Williams. Yes, we have the important feminists who do question the history of the discipline and how it is or has been practiced, but they appear to have had/to be having little effect on the dominant modes and self-understandings of our field. “Know Thyself” is an adage long forgotten by the leading philosophers at least the ones making most pages of major journals. This is so discouraging.

  3. Hi Flying Lily,Your comment makes me feel that I some how didn’t emphasize the high points enough. My APA had a lot of women at it and they were all very visible to me at any rate. Yes, there were the negatives I mentioned but there are active and interesting women at the APA and when I go I spend most of my time with them and lately I have been having a pretty good time. There are the SWIP panels and the SAF and a chance to meet other women who either have survived or are just starting out and need to see that it is possible to be a woman philosopher and actually thrive in a variety of ways. Oh, and occasionally you just might see a new presentation style as well.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I’m just finishing my PhD and this was my first APA. I couldn’t wait to get out of there. I literally felt in pain. The main reason? The incredibly low intellectual level of most of the talks, questions, discussion, and side chats. Add to that the clusters of men who do not even see you and to whom your questions and ideas are totally befuddling and inconsequential. And add a dollop of condescending, intentionally convoluted, and/or offensively disorganized and unclear presentation style. These are professional philosophers?

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