APA Issues Statement on 2016 US Presidential Election

The board of officers of the American Philosophical Association (APA) today issued the following statement on the 2016 U.S. presidential election:

Leading up to the United States presidential election one month ago and in the weeks since, the nation has experienced increasingly divisive rhetoric and a rise in bias-based attacks on members of vulnerable groups. In light of this polarized post-election climate, the board of officers of the American Philosophical Association reaffirms the association’s core values of inclusion and diversity, open and respectful dialogue, and academic freedom.

The board of officers further commits to continue working to ensure that all in the philosophical community and beyond have the opportunity to study, work, and engage in free inquiry across cultural, linguistic, and other social boundaries. Today, philosophy and other humanistic disciplines remain fundamental to our nation’s most deeply held ideals of justice and freedom of expression, and as such, the work of philosophers and humanists is needed now more than ever.

In addition to the statement, which can be found here, the APA drew attention to sessions at its upcoming divisional meetings that address “issues of inclusion and diversity, open and respectful dialogue, and academic freedom.” They include:

2017 Eastern Division Meeting: Baltimore, MD, January 4–8

  • Presidential Address: The Moral Significance of Being Human
    Speaker: Eva Feder Kittay
  • 1E — Voting
    Speakers: Matt Whitt (Duke University), Jon Garthoff (University of Tennessee), Thomas Mulligan (Georgetown University), Piers Turner (Ohio State University)
  • 4C — Living, Thinking, and Teaching “Black Lives Matter”
    Arranged by the APA Committee on Public Philosophy
    Speakers: Robert Birt (Bowie State University), Anika Simpson (Morgan State University), Calvin Warren (George Washington University), Michael Cryor (OneBaltimore)
  • 5I — A Vision for Black Lives as/and Philosophy
    Arranged by the APA Committee on Public Philosophy
    Speakers: Devonya Havis (Canisius College), Qrescent Mali Mason (Berea College)
  • 5J — Women of Color Feminism
    Arranged by the APA Committee on the Status of Black Philosophers and the APA Committee on the Status of Women
    Speakers: Naomi Zack (University of Oregon), Joy James (Williams College), Tommy J. Curry (Texas A&M University), Celena Simpson (University of Oregon)
  • G6J — Liberalism and Creative Democracy in the Age of Clinton v. Trump
    Arranged by the John Dewey Society
    Speakers: Shane Ralston (Pennsylvania State University – Hazleton), Dan Reyes (University of Dayton), Stefano Oliverio (University of Naples Federico II), Joseph Betz (Villanova University)
  • 10K — Academic Freedom in Foreign and Branch Campuses
    Arranged by the APA Committee on International Cooperation
    Speakers: Kevin W. Gray (Boston College), John Ryder (American Institute of Malta), Michael Gow (Xi’an Jiaotong Liverpool University, Suzhou, PRC)
  • G10B — Philosophy of the City—in Color
    Arranged by the Philosophy of the City Research Group and the Committee on the Status of Black Philosophers
    Speakers: Lewis Gordon (University of Connecticut–Storrs), Eduardo Mendieta (Pennsylvania State University), Jane Gordon (University of Connecticut–Storrs), Robert Birt (Bowie State University)
  • G10F — Respecting People with Disabilities in Public and Private Life
    Arranged by the Society for Philosophy and Disability
    Speakers: John Vorhaus (University College, London), Alice Crary (The New School), Adam Cureton (University of Tennessee), David Wasserman (National Institutes of Health, Department of Bioethics)
  • 14C — Sexual and Gender Identity and Choice
    Arranged by the Committee LGBTQ People in the Profession
    Speakers: Esa Diaz-Leon (University of Barcelona), Robin Dembroff (Princeton University)
  • 15J — Philosophy and Refugees
    Speakers: Serena Parekh (Northeastern University), Luara L. Ferracioli (University of Amsterdam), Bat-Ami Bar On (Binghamton University)
  • 17F —The Philosophy and Politics of (in)Civility
    Speakers: Alison Reiheld (Southern Illinois University–Edwardsville), Amy Olberding (University of Oklahoma), Karen Stohr (Georgetown University)

2017 Central Division Meeting: Kansas City, MO, March 1–4

  • Presidential Address: The Well-Being of Philosophy
    Speaker: Valerie Tiberius
  • GIII-1 — Doing Philosophy in Prisons
    Arranged by the Committee on Public Philosophy
    Speakers: Lori Gruen (Wesleyan University), Jennifer Lackey (Northwestern University), Myisha Cherry (University of Illinois at Chicago), Geoffrey Adelsberg (Edgewood College)
  • IV-F — Author Meets Critics: David Shoemaker, Responsibility from the Margins
    Speakers: David Shoemaker (Tulane University), Matthew Talbert (West Virginia University), Michael McKenna (University of Arizona), Gary Watson (University of Southern California)
  • GIV-2 — Social Norms and Structural Injustice
    Arranged by the Society for Analytical Feminism
    Speakers: Ann J. Cahill (Elon University), Jessica Payson (Bentley University), Audrey Yap (University of Victoria)
  • GIV-6 — Power, Public Reason, and Justice
    Arranged by the North American Society for Social Philosophy
    Speakers: Sarah Conrad (Western Connecticut State University), Esme Murdock (Morehouse College), Sebastian Purcell (SUNY Cortland)
  • GV-4 — Philosophy of Liberation after Ferguson and Orlando
    Arranged by the Society for Philosophy in the Contemporary World
    Speakers: Christian Matheis (Virginia Tech University), Ayanna Spencer (Michigan State University), Geoffrey Pfeifer (Worcester Polytechnic Institute )
  • GV-5 — Bathroom Bills, Religious Freedom and Anti-LGBTQ Legislation in the U.S.
    Arranged by the Society for LGBTQ Philosophy
    Speakers: Loren Cannon (California State University, Humboldt), Claire Lockard (Loyola University Chicago), Richard Nunan (College of Charleston), Erik Zimmerman (New School for Social Research)
  • VII-E — Disability
    Speakers:  Kevin Timpe (Calvin College), Joseph Stramondo (San Diego State University), Melinda C. Hall (Stetson University)
  • VIII-C — Human Dignity: Perspectives From Political Outsiders
    Speakers:  Charles W. Mills (CUNY Graduate Center), Lori Gruen (Wesleyan University), Lori Watson (University of San Diego)
  • VIII-N — Swinburne’s Argument about Homosexuality
    Arranged by the Committee on LGBTQ People in the Profession
    Speakers: John Corvino (Wayne State University), Rima Basu (University of Southern California)

2017 Pacific Division Meeting: Seattle, WA, April 12–15

  • 3O — Enforcing Immigration Law: Philosophical Issues
    Arranged by the APA Committee on Philosophy and Law
    Speakers: José Jorge Mendoza (University of Massachusetts Lowell), Alex Sager (Portland State University), Stephanie J. Silverman (University of Ottawa),
  • 5D — Race
    Speakers: Quayshawn Spencer (University of Pennsylvania), Ron Mallon (Washington University in St. Louis), Jeanine Schroer (University of Minnesota Duluth)
  • 7M — Inclusiveness in Crisis: How Do We Address Social and Political Flashpoints in Philosophy Courses?
    Arranged by the Committee on Inclusiveness in the Professionand the University of Washington Department of Philosophy Climate Committee
    Co-sponsored by the Committees on the Status of Black Philosophers, Hispanics, the Status of Women, Teaching Philosophy, and Pre-College Instruction in Philosophy, and the Pacific Division of the Society for Women in Philosophy
    Speakers: Stephen Esquith (Michigan State University), Christian Hoeckley (Westmont College), Ruth Groenhout (Calvin College), Christina VanDyke (Calvin College)
  • 8B — Book Symposium: Linda Martín Alcoff, The Future of Whiteness
    Speakers: Linda Martín Alcoff (The Graduate Center, CUNY), Barbara Applebaum (Syracuse University), Kim Hall (Appalachian State University), Falguni Sheth (Emory University)
  • 8F — Rawls and Racial Justice
    Speakers: Brian Thomas (Simon Fraser University), Elizabeth Edenberg (Fordham University), Joseph Frigault (Boston University), Wendy Salkin (Harvard University)
  • 8K — Outreach and Issues of Recruitment/Retention
    Arranged by the Committee on Inclusiveness in the Profession and the University of Washington Department of Philosophy Climate Committee
    Co-sponsored by the Committees on the Status of Black Philosophers, Hispanics, the Status of Women, the Teaching Philosophy, and Pre-college Instruction in Philosophy, and the Pacific Division of the Society for Women in Philosophy
    Speakers: Adam Blazej (Columbia University), John Fantuzzo (Valparaiso University), John Torrey (University of Memphis), Liam Kofi Bright (Carnegie Mellon University), Eva Kittay (Stony Brook University)
  • 9B — Book Symposium: Ryan Muldoon, Social Contract for a Diverse World
    Speakers: Ryan Muldoon (University at Buffalo), Samuel Freeman (University of Pennsylvania), Hélène Landemore (Yale University), Nicholas Southwood (Australian National University)
  • 9D — Black Students & American Philosophy
    Speakers: Tina Botts (California State University, Fresno), Tommy J. Curry (Texas A&M University), Irami Osei-Frimpong (University of Georgia), Camisha Russell (Colorado College)
  • G9B — Roundtable: Religion, Philosophy, and Prison Abolition
    Arranged by the Political Theology Group
    Speakers: Andrea Pitts (University of North Carolina at Charlotte), Joy James (Williams College), Colby Lenz (University of Southern California), Natalie Cisneros (Seattle University), Brady Heiner (California State University, Fullerton), Dan Berger (University of Washington), Dean Spade (Seattle University), Vincent Lloyd (Villanova University)
  • 14A — Book Symposium: Tommie Shelby, Dark Ghettos: Injustice, Dissent, and Reform
    Speakers: Charles Mills (Northwestern University), Ronald R. Sundstrom (University of San Francisco), Naomi Zack (University of Oregon), Tommie Shelby (Harvard University)



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7 years ago

It’s good to see that Swinburne’s argument will receive a formal examination. It would be ideal if they invited him to provide some comments. Anyone know of they tried to do this?

Lee J Rickard
Lee J Rickard
7 years ago

It seems to me that the concept of living in a ‘post-truth’ society is one that would be of great concern to the APA. Where is this being handled?

Professor Plum
Professor Plum
7 years ago

So, the APA’s answer to Trump’s win is to issue a hand-wringing statement and double down on its focus on phosophical issues connected to identity politics? This strikes me as a strange move given that the left’s over emphasis on identity politics likely contributed to Trump’s victory.

Why not see this moment of division and discord as an opportunity to expand the conversation beyond the usual suspects? Perhaps the APA could host a panel on the history of conservative political thought. But instead we get this reactionary, we-are-so-progressive-and-likeminded commitment to discuss what is actually a pretty narrow range of issues.

Now, more than ever, we need genuine viewpoint diversity in philosophy.

Matt LaVine
Reply to  Professor Plum
7 years ago

This seems like a rather uncharitable way to read what happened. And, since you’re trying to understand why the APA would have taken the actions it has, formulating their maxims in terms that they would use themselves seems useful. Going that route, it seems like the way to characterize this response is:

During the election, there was a great focus on justice (rather than identity politics) from the left. The result of that election was unjust (insofar as it was undemocratic). Since that result, there has been an increase in injustices around the US. Given this set of circumstances, perhaps we should double down on our focus on issues of justice.

Even if you think this mischaracterizes the actual facts, surely looking at things this way makes it obvious why the APA would have responded as it did.

A couple other random thoughts on your post:

(1) I don’t agree that philosophical discussions around social justice are narrow at all. But, let’s suppose you’re right about that. I still don’t see why focusing on issues of social justice would be problematic. Following Rawls, it seems that justice is the first goal of any social institution and that “laws and institutions no matter how efficient and well-arranged must be reformed or abolished if they are unjust”. So, while we may want to focus on other issues, it seems like there’s a certain sense in which none of it matters until we make some progress on justice.

(2) I agree that viewpoint diversity in philosophy would be good. I don’t agree that viewpoint diversity is anything like any of the other aspects of diversity that normally get discussed in these conversations, though. It seems appropriate to legislate a need for racial, gender, class, sexual orientation, disability status, etc. diversity—especially given a wildly-unjust track record on these fronts. That said, it seems to me inappropriate to legislate in any way in relation to viewpoint diversity. Surely doing so would be a violation of academic freedom, right? This is actually a genuine question. It seems very clearly a violation to me, but I’m skeptical of my feeling here given how much I hear people who feel very strongly about academic freedom talking about the need to do something about viewpoint diversity in the academy.

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  Matt LaVine
7 years ago

On viewpoint diversity and academic freedom: I think there are two reasons one might be concerned about underrepresentation of conservatives:

1) We might be concerned that in subject areas which have explicitly political aspects (e.g., ethics, philosophy of law, political philosophy) students don’t get enough exposure to conservative views, and so seek to hire academics who’ve stated and defended such views. I don’t see that as a threat to academic freedom any more than a desire to hire, say, someone with a Kantian ethics specialisation, or a focus on Chinese metaphysics, because we think those areas are underrepresented in our teaching repertoire.

2) We might be concerned that conservatives are underrepresented in areas of philosophy that aren’t particularly political. Here the debate seems almost exactly parallel to other underrepresentation debates:
a) we observe that people with characteristic X are significantly underrepresented in the faculty;
b) we accept a prima facie possibility that this is just because Xs are intrinsically less good at philosophy than non-Xs, but are disinclined to accept that without having fairly seriously explored the possibility that non-intrinsic factors are at work;
c) we note that one plausible reason why Xs don’t stay in philosophy is because of an apparent hostility to X or perception that philosophy is only for non-Xs, potentially exacerbated by the lack of Xs on the faculty itself;
d) we therefore regard the underrepresentation of Xs as potentially bad in itself (because unjust, and because it reduces the quality of work being done by restricting recruitment to non-Xs) and also as potentially self-perpetuating through (c);
e) we are also concerned that underrepresentation of Xs in the faculty, and in academia, as a whole may deprive us of important insights in policy-making that we miss if we come from a purely non-X perspective
f) so we make some effort to address underrepresentation of Xs, not by explicit discrimination or quotas (because usually illegal, whatever the ethical status) but by outreach and by care in the shortlisting process not to overlook strong X applicants.
I think that argument form goes through for political viewpoint as well as for race and gender. And I don’t see it posing an academic-freedom issue, not least because ex hypothesi being conservative decreases your chance of a philosophy career, so these measures just compensate for that. (I see that there’s an academic-freedom issue in, say, advertising a metaphysics position open only to conservatives – but then, discrimination at that level is pretty clearly illegal in the race/gender case too, at least in the systems I know.)

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
7 years ago

Given the divisive rhetoric we’ve seen, along with some actual hate-crimes, it is natural for philosophers to be concerned about “issues of inclusion and diversity, open and respectful dialogue, and academic freedom.” There is certainly no harm in drawing attention to meetings that deal with these important issues. Having said that, there is a great danger of spending a lot of effort preaching to the converted, a traditional pastime in political philosophy. What’s disappointing isn’t what the APA is doing in response to the election, but what it isn’t doing. There’s no call for more focus on economic class, no call for discussion of the status and position of poor whites, no call for less demonization of political opponents, no call to do a better job of seeking objections and critiques from beyond our echo chambers, and no call to do a better job of bringing philosophy to the public.

Lee J Rickard
Lee J Rickard
7 years ago

So, I’m guessing that there are no epistemologists in foxholes.

Bharath Vallabha
7 years ago

I very much second the comments by Professor Plum and Hey Nonny Mouse.

The APA sessions look great, and needed. But what is striking, given the election, is what is missing. Trump is not an intellectual, but behind Trump are people guided by an intellectual vision (probably many internally competing visions) of where the world is and where it is going, justice, religion, secularism, capitalism, economic inequality, race, role of expertise in a democracy, limits of modernity, tradition and communitarianism, etc. Though in America, Europe and Russia this family of intellectual visions has ties to some elements of white supremacy, in other parts of world there are similar intellectual visions being embraced by non-whites, like in India, China, Philippines, not to mention in Muslim countries. So it is just not plausible to say that the intellectual vision of Trumpism is something specifically white. More likely, Trumpism is the American version of a broader response, seen in many parts of the world, to the global infrastuture of liberalism.

It’s a familiar idea that minorities might be critical of liberalism, or modern European philosophy, because it fosters a false sense of universality. Hence the point of the APA sessions listed above is to highlight marginalized voices. Great. But Trumpism is some white people’s own disenchantment with modern, European liberalism, and as such, they claim they are getting screwed both ways: by liberalism, and by the presumption that any real criticism of liberalism must be from brown people. Looking at the APA listings, they might feel their concerns reaffirmed.

By the way, sure there is genuine racism among some Trump supporters, but that doesn’t disqualify their overall perspective, anymore than the homophobia or misogny, not to mention racism against blacks or hispanics, of Asian-Americans disqualfies theirs. We are not only in a post-truth world, we are also in a world where we can no longer easily point to the “oppressors” as one homogenous group (segregationists, colonialists); in fact, the latter is probably the cause of the former. Would be great if academic philosophy addressed this head on. Those of us outside academia need all the help we can get.

Arthur Greeves
Arthur Greeves
Reply to  Bharath Vallabha
7 years ago

Wow, this is great stuff. Viewpoint diversity must proceed like this: beginning with an honest evaluation of our own biases. The idea that the concerns of white European men dominate philosophy is both deeply true, and deeply false: deeply true, because the white male desire to show interest in multicultural/minority achievements has become ascendant, and deeply false because NO ONE’s actual concerns dominate philosophy. We create for ourselves an icon of “the other” — the gay person, the woman, the immigrant, the African — and then we allow these people to speak to us on our own terms. Will we hear anything other than what we want to hear?

Bharath Vallabha
Reply to  Arthur Greeves
7 years ago

Agree we need to find new ways of hearing ourselves and each other. What though do mean by, “the white male desire to show interest in multicultural/minority achievements has become ascendant?”

Kathryn Pogin
Kathryn Pogin
7 years ago

I’m a bit confused by the reaction from folks here. Given the program the APA is pointing to is for a conference that’s less than a month away, I’m guessing these sessions aren’t a response to the election, but rather were already taking place. What is a response to the election is the statement, and pointing to these sessions. Maybe the APA should have done more; maybe they should have done something better. But maybe if we wanted them to have better sessions to point to, we should have submitted something of the sort we’d wish they’d point to. They can’t work with what we don’t give them.