December 19, 2015 1:10 AM   Subscribe

At Philosop-her, Meena Krishnamurthy invites women in philosophy to introduce themselves and their work. For example, Elizabeth Barnes, "Confessions of a Bitter Cripple": "I have sat in philosophy seminars where it was asserted that I should be left to die on a desert island ... I have been told that, while it isn't bad for me to exist, it would've been better if my mother could've had a non-disabled child instead ... And these things weren't said as the conclusions of careful, extended argument ... They were the kind of thing you skip over without pause because it's the uncontroversial part of your talk."

Further examples:

Teresa Blankmeyer Burke, "Doing Philosophy in American Sign Language": "ASL does not have name signs for Plato or Aristotle, but Greek Sign Language does! One way that I determined the name signs of philosophers was to ask deaf academics I met at international conferences whether philosophers from their country had name signs in their native signed language. Naming conventions differ among signed languages just as they do with spoken languages, but it is acceptable to use namesigns from another signed language, even when they do not conform to the norms of one's own signed language."

Lucy Allais, "Kant on Giving to Beggars": "Since there are beggars at so many street intersections, and since Jo'burg life involves driving everywhere, every day involved some time thinking about whether and why to give. I had never worked in political philosophy, and though I had started working in ethics (after years of writing primarily about Kant's theoretical philosophy, mostly interpreting his transcendental idealism), it was mostly through writing on forgiveness, which felt like the opposite of a systematic approach to theoretical ethics ... But as I began to think through his position ... I found materials for a surprisingly rich account of the troubling nature of interactions with beggars."

Sheridan Hough, "The Exhausted (First) World: a Plea for 21st-Century Existential Philosophy": "From social justice to Bayesian epistemology, it does matter how the student (and the instructor) relate to, and inhabit, the arguments and explanations that they explore: not simply a matter of 'what does it mean?' But 'what does it mean for me?' ... [T]he point of locating oneself in a project, and in a view of the world, is to go forth and do something with it, and about it--to write essays, organize protests, demand economic reforms, to join a struggle (intellectual or physical), to be present in one's own life."

Talia Mae Bettcher, "Other 'Worldly' Philosophy": "But it's also thought the philosophical questions themselves bring the perplexity ... The perplexity that vexes me, however, wasn't revealed by the questions of some philosopher. My entire life has already been saturated with perplexity. As a trans woman, my life and experiences haven't conformed to the common sense that's been accepted for much of my life."

Japa Pallikkathayil, "Morality and the Market": "Suppose, for example, I discover that you are having the garage sale because you are being unjustly evicted from your home (your landlord is violating the terms of your lease but you lack the resources to defend yourself). There are two respects in which this situation should unsettle my use of market norms. First, you lack the control over your resources that you are entitled to have. In this way, your willingness to accept $10 for the vase becomes suspect - it may not reflect the discretion you are entitled to have over your ends. Second, I should worry about being the beneficiary of injustice. Although I am not the perpetrator of the injustice, using the injustice to further my ends taints them."

Lisa Herzog, "Ethics for 'cogs in the wheel' - theorizing organizations": "Several of my interviewees told me about cases in which they faced moral questions that had to do with the distribution of knowledge in organizations. Should they reveal a piece of information although it might hurt them to do so? Did they have a duty to go the extra mile if a colleague was sloppy in handling information, but something morally important - for example the successful treatment of a patient in a hospital - was at stake? I started to systematically analyze the ways in which knowledge is handled in organizations, and the moral questions it raises. Organizations are spaces of divided labor, which means that gaps in the transmission of knowledge can have grave moral consequences."
posted by Wobbuffet (13 comments total) 72 users marked this as a favorite
I super respect how deep this all is. Let me add to it...

Today I passed a severe burn victim, another human being like me, begging on Hollywood Blvd for money. Their sign indicated the money given would go towards an operation, but this person's injuries were very extreme, their fingers were gone. The sign helped to explain their situation (burn victim) I think the donations were more towards basic living costs. Because I chose to stop and donate to this person, my 4 year old son took notice of this person and his condition. My son was confused. I think my son's reaction to this man's severe burns may have made the man feel badly, but I had a choice to make - support someone in need or protect my child's naïveté that bad things happen. It's Christmas, and it was a hard choice.

Here was my inner dialogue, "Why is someone who has experienced this trauma begging on the street? We should have better health care and social care than this. We are a failed society."
posted by jbenben at 3:29 AM on December 19, 2015 [15 favorites]

Very nice site, thanks. Bookmarked for regular visits to read. The following comments are offered in respect to Linda Singer, a philosopher whom I looked up to and respected, and whose time on this earth was far too short.

I like Leibniz. Even if it's a struggle for me to understand aspects of his philosophy. And I really have less respect for Voltaire than I might otherwise have because I think he takes a bunch of cheap shots at Leibniz (via Pangloss, etc...)

The notion that "this is the best of all possible worlds" is something I think about a lot. I want to agree with Leibniz--and sometimes I do. Yet...every Christmas season I am reminded of an event which, if I were to allow it, might crush my soul.

I'm a middle child of three. My older brother was mentally challenged in what I think is the worst possible way: he knew he was different. In many ways he was brilliant--almost a savant--yet, anyone looking at him from a distance could tell that there was something wrong with him. Society used to use the word "retarded" to describe such folks.

So, we manage to get the entire family together for Christmas one year. My sister's boyfriend is in and out of the house a lot, and I have plans to split my vacation with the family of the woman I was seeing at the time. Early one morning I'm in the kitchen and I hear someone come downstairs. It's my brother but he doesn't know I'm around the corner in another room.

Imagine a wail. Angst vocalized. Really loud. Sobbing. (I'm sorry, it's pretty hard to describe, but just think of gut-wrenching sorrow.)

My mother comes downstairs and begins consoling my brother. Asks him what's wrong.

I'll paraphrase. "Julie (my sister) has a boyfriend and CincyBlues has a girlfriend and it's not fair. I'm the oldest, I should have a girlfriend. And I know that no one will ever love me."

Best of all possible worlds. Intellectually I mostly get it. But that moment. That moment haunts me. My brother's gone now. He died approximately 20 years after this happened. And he was right. No one ever loved him in that special way. I frequently ask myself, as his brother: "Did I love him enough? Did he know? Could I have loved him more?"

The best of all possible worlds? Not each and every moment, I think.
posted by CincyBlues at 4:36 AM on December 19, 2015 [18 favorites]

A professor of mine once said: "there is nothing I admire in philosophy so much as a well-bitten bullet", and I guess Leibniz left some teeth marks. God is all-good and all-powerful? That proves that the worlds He didn't create are WORSE than this one. QED.
posted by thelonius at 6:00 AM on December 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

I really needed the article about Kant and giving to beggars - it captures exactly an intuition I didn't realise I had and helps me to realise what that miserable conflicted feeling is telling me about the demands of justice. Thanks for this, it's great and I'll be revisiting it often.
posted by Aravis76 at 7:03 AM on December 19, 2015 [3 favorites]

Thanks for the link. Very interesting stuff...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 7:57 AM on December 19, 2015

While I want to see more women in philosophy, as a former student of philosophy I think about how many others are cut out of these conversations of ethics, the people who are being talked about themselves often have no voice in these conversations and their real and raw pain has no place in detached emotionless conversations that are often promoted as "the way to do philosophy" on the books.

I am a student of life, but I sometimes think university culture can occasionally take us further away from truly connecting with what life is and means as much as it opens new ways to understand. Not to mention that a certain book heavy scholastic achieving sort of person tends to dominate the discourse in terms of defining what philosophy is and should be.

Like the article about ethical duties to adopt, I don't even think impoverished people's first choice is that wealthier nations all stop reproducing and taking all the poors children for themelves and calling that ethics- if you have a duty to lift others up, lift them up where they are.

But I don't have a degree I've just lived with the consequences of people like this injuring me and my family over and over and the financial and learning difficulties that come with PTSD and developmental trauma from things done to my parents haven't helped me achieve the kind of degree where I would get to have a voice that matters.

I should just be happy some women are getting lifted up, but all I think about is all the women too injured by the injuries their communities have carried out on them, rape, domestic abuse, the multigenerational injuries, rearing children as single parents, parenting from young ages that makes school hard to participate in-- who due to being a woman may be more likely to have specific kinds of difficulties being part of the university environment- but who may have a lot of valuable ideas to share about the meaning of life and how to create empathic ethical system that promote human welfare and harmony.

This is not that I have a problem with this website at all, it's great-- it's just like, you take one step forward and it makes you realize how far there is to go and feels a little more depressing than you would have thought.
posted by xarnop at 8:21 AM on December 19, 2015 [5 favorites]

jbenben: I wonder if that's the same guy I used to see on Ventura in 2006. I wonder if he knows how much soul searching he's responsible for. Or if all that soul searching by all those people has made a lick of difference to his circumstances.
posted by klanawa at 10:07 AM on December 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

Sending this along to my wife who carries an MA in Philosophy, and has just recently recovered enough from her defense to submit a paper to an academic conference.
posted by endotoxin at 10:19 AM on December 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

Reading Elizabeth Barnes' article I'm reminded that I used to be shocked when professional philosophers like those she has encountered exhibit stupid, unscientific, and unenlightened thinking. I am afraid I've come to accept that it's not unusual. It still makes me want to weep.
posted by cleroy at 2:51 PM on December 19, 2015 [3 favorites]

Thank you so much for posting this content, Wobboffet. I don't always understand the academics, but this perspective and this subject area are so so important.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 11:40 PM on December 19, 2015

cleroy I have heard these stories first hand too many times
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 11:45 PM on December 19, 2015

Hey, nice to see Meena showing up here. She's doing good work, and it makes me glad when I see her name pop up here and there.

As to disability - professional philosophers will say some unbelievably stupid things, case in point the reactions to that Elizabeth Barnes piece. People were defending the practice by being like "oh but if you had to choose between $perfectly-liveable-disability-x and dying, it would be a 50-50 choice" which just, it's embarrassing. It's a defect in how the discipline is choosing and socializing its members.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:56 AM on December 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

As to disability - professional philosophers will say some unbelievably stupid things, case in point the reactions to that Elizabeth Barnes piece. People were defending the practice by being like "oh but if you had to choose between $perfectly-liveable-disability-x and dying, it would be a 50-50 choice" which just, it's embarrassing. It's a defect in how the discipline is choosing and socializing its members.

This is why I prefer to go with an across-the-board anti-natalism.
posted by atoxyl at 4:14 PM on December 20, 2015

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