Philosophy Syllabi Study Needs Volunteers


Jennifer Saul (Sheffield) says: “Procrastinate and help women in philosophy!” She elaborates:

Have you been meaning to get around to making your undergraduate syllabus less male, but not got around to it yet? I have a study I’d like to do on gender differences in student attitudes toward philosophy, and I need to compare the attitudes of those in classes with very male syllabi and those in classes with more women on the syllabi.  I am having trouble finding people with very male syllabi who want to help me with my study. So you can actually help me by postponing your changes a little further.  If you’d like to help, send me an email at [email protected].

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Clifford Sosis
5 years ago

Interesting idea! It seems to me like it’s *possible* that more women on a syllabi might reinforce negative attitudes *if* people are going in with them. So when undergrads see these articles from women, they think, ‘yeah, this confirms my view that women are not fit for philosophy’ even if the articles are good. After all, you see something like this when you show climate change deniers good evidence climate change is real. They explain it away and end up more confident deniers than before. Homo sapiens never disappoint: they always find new ways to disappoint!Report

Karen Bennett
Karen Bennett
5 years ago

Nice idea. One wrinkle, though — you’ll need to take the gender of the professor and TAs into account. I mean, I have some syllabi that are pretty male, but hopefully that’s somewhat offset by the fact that I’m the one teaching the class. Not only am I demonstrating that women can do philosophy well, but I’m also making sure to call on women and take them seriously, occasionally shooting down the cocky freshmen boys, etc.Report

Anonymous
Anonymous
5 years ago

What counts as very male? 75%? More, less?Report

Anonymous
Anonymous
5 years ago

What is the idea? Can Saul clarify the research question for DN readership?Report

guy
guy
5 years ago

This issue seems uniquely challenging at a community college where transferrability of curriculum is paramount. How can a community college philosophy professor ditch a male-syllabus unless all or most regional transfer institutions also do so? Typically it takes an entire semester just to cover all the dead white males that most 4-year schools already cover; there’s rarely opportunity to introduce any novel readings, let alone by females or minorities. But to reiterate, even if there were time, novelty in a syllabus is not a virtue at a community college, but a transfer liability.Report

Mary Ellen Waithe
5 years ago

For more than a decade my Early Modern Philosophy course has featured readings of works by women philosophers and of the men philosophers with whom they interacted, often the former criticizing the latter. I start with van Schurmann and Elisabeth of Bohemia, followed by Descartes and Hobbes and Margaret Cavendish, Leibniz, Anne Conway, Emilie du Chatelet, Locke, Catherine Trotter Cockburn, Damaris Masham, Mary Astell, Berkeley, Hume, Lady Mary Shepherd, Kant. We didn’t usually read full works, and students were not required to read everything, but did write their papers on unassigned portions of philosophers’ works. Although we covered many thinkers, necessarily somewhat superficially, students clearly came away with a picture of early modern philosophers (half of them English) and their major contributions to philosophy as it was: both men and women acting as an informal intellectual community. Of course, women lacked the educational advantages the men enjoyed, but they were usually multilingual and well traveled, as well as being quite famous abroad. I’d help you with your study, but, as you see, I’m not qualified. Best of luck, and thanks!Report