Hypatia Controversy Updates (updated)

Below is a list of assorted commentaries on the ongoing Hypatia controversy, mostly lifted from one of the updates on the original post on the story. Recent additions at time of posting include:

  • Kelly Oliver (Vanderbilt) in The Philosophical Salon at The Los Angeles Review of Books : “The split between what people wrote to both Rebecca Tuvel and to me in private, and what they felt compelled to say in public is one indication that the explosion of personal insults and vicious attacks on social media is symptomatic of something much bigger than the actual issues discussed in Tuvel’s article.”


  • Shannon Winnubst (Ohio State) in The Chronicle of Higher Education: “I signed the open letter as part of a continuing effort to make feminist philosophy something other than a damaged, dutiful daughter to the deeply troubled discipline of philosophy… For too many underrepresented scholars… philosophy is inhospitable and in many cases uninhabitable. The call for retraction signals this state of emergency”

I’ll try to keep the list below updated (new additions at the bottom):

  • “The reason that two anonymous blind reviewers recommended publication of Tuvel’s paper is because it is a tightly written, well argued philosophical defense of a novel thesis that merits serious philosophical consideration.” — Mylan Engel (Northern Illinois) in a public Facebook post.
  • “It looks to me like defamation per se.” — Brian Leiter (Chicago) at Leiter Reports.
  • “A tentative response to some elements in her piece from the perspective of a fellow-traveler in Millian philosophy.” — Eric Schliesser (Amsterdam) at Digressions & Impressions.
  • “The Associate Editors’ Board, in condemning publication (and themselves) ahead of any formal retraction investigation, seem to be on procedurally thin ice” — David Wallace (Univ. Southern California) in the comments on the original post. Also in those comments, from Udo Schuklenk (Queen’s University): “among the signatories of the letter demanding a retraction were a number of current and former journal editors who should have known better than demanding a retraction in the absence of providing an actual justification for that demand, a justification that meets the standards of international ethical guidelines that are binding on the journal.”
  • “It is time for those of us who are tenured to stop allowing a very junior and vulnerable feminist scholar to be subjected to this treatment without any public support from the feminist community.” — Chloe Taylor (Alberta) in the comments on the original post.
  • “Stop symbolically conscripting Rebecca Tuvel into the role of personifying all of these systemic issues that attach to the profession at large.” — Prof Manners at Feminist Philosophers.
  • “I am bothered by the self-righteousness of philosophers and others who speak from positions of relative privilege—white and/or cis and/or masculine and/or tenured—acting as if they’re so woke that they would never make the kinds of mistakes they’ve charged to Tuvel.” — Jason Wyckoff at his blog.
  • “Although there have been many contributions on both sides of the discussion that have made it clear that Prof. Tuvel is not to blame, individually, for the crisis, some have unfairly targeted her and do not look to the bigger picture. Let us now focus on why this spark led to the fire, rather than the spark.” — Sally Haslanger (MIT) here at Daily Nous.
  • In “The School of Athens,” Raphael “disguised Hypatia in the likeness of the Pope’s favorite nephew, hoping in this way to gain approval of the painting. By altering her to resemble the nephew’s juvenile features, he rendered her in a way that she could pass as male, but this also required replacing her darker features with pale ones. We need to understand more of our own history in order to make a different and better future.”  — Linda Alcoff (Hunter/CUNY) in a public Facebook post.
  • “I’ve heard a version of this criticism made many times by philosophers with activist commitments: we shouldn’t argue for such and so, even if it’s true, because of the possible political consequences of arguing for such and so. I’ve always found these kinds of worries to be exaggerated…” — Holly Lawford Smith (Melbourne) at Crooked Timber.
  • “If those of us on the left are unable to make distinctions between legitimate intellectual disagreements and damaging lies, we will be hoist with our own petard.” — Suzanna Danuta Walters (Northeastern) in The Chronicle of Higher Education.
  • “The conversation should have been about the issues, rather than the individual. Unfortunately, it did not begin that way. Instead it began with Rebecca receiving hate mail; it began with people trashing her paper without having read it.” — Allison Suen (Iona) here at Daily Nous.
  • Some academics “supported Tuvel in private while actually attacking her in public… [while others] were pressuring, even threatening, Tuvel that she wouldn’t get tenure and her career would be ruined if she didn’t retract her article.” — Kelly Oliver (Vanderbilt) in The Philosophical Salon at the Los Angeles Review of Books.
  • “The article’s publication signals an arrogant disregard for the broad, well-established, interdisciplinary scholarly fields of both critical race theory and trans studies.” — Shannon Winnubst (Ohio State) in The Chronicle of Higher Education.
  • “We need Hypatia to hold itself to standards that are different from mainstream philosophy, standards that mainstream philosophers may not even understand. This puts Hypatia in a highly fraught position. On the one hand, it needs to be the kind of journal that secures reputability within the profession of philosophy. This is crucial in helping junior professors who do work at the margins be taken seriously. On the other hand, it can’t merely replicate the standards of reputability with the profession without annihilating its reason for existence.” — Talia Mae Bettcher (Cal State LA)in a public Facebook post.
  • “I am uncomfortable with the scapegoating of this particular article and this (pre-tenure) scholar, sometimes by more powerful and institutionally recognized scholars, for much wider systemic issues that she did not initiate and which will not end with the retraction of any one (or multiple) articles.” — Ani Dutta (Iowa) in a public Facebook note.
  • “Tuvel’s article doesn’t engage sufficiently with relevant work in trans studies or race theory [but] it’s not unreasonable to think that a junior scholar like Tuvel would model her citation practices on the work of the respected philosophers whose work she is in conversation with.” — Sabrina Hom (Georgia College) in a public Facebook post.
  • “She made and defended a provocative analogy, one that isn’t pragmatically or strategically ideal, from the point of view of trans activism.  But that puts her inside the league of feminist gender scholars, not outside of it.” — Jean Kazez (SMU) at her blog, In Living Color.
  • “Ms. Tuvel devotes a considerable portion of her paper to discussion of the ostensible conceptual link between one’s race and one’s ancestry. The word ‘ancestry’ shows up in the paper no fewer than 21 times. The suggestion that Ms. Tuvel has ‘fundamental[ly] misunder[stood]’ this point strikes me as disingenuous.” — Molly Gardner (Bowling Green) in a letter to The Chronicle of Higher Education (scroll down to second letter).
  • “The problem is not that the paper was written. The problem is with numerous institutions and systems of power within the discipline of philosophy. This paper being published in this form is one clear symptom of that problem, and a useful illustrative example.” — by “I. Rohl” at Medium.