Ways to Increase Diversity of Authors in Philosophy Journals
A recent series of articles on diversity and philosophy journals at the Blog of the American Philosophical Association (APA) culminates today with various suggestions for how editors can improve the diversity of authors they are publishing.
Nicole Hassoun (Binghamton), Eric Schwitzgebel (UC Riverside), and Sherri Lynn Conklin (UC Santa Barbara) first offer three general suggestions to editors:
- Set specific, achievable targets to make progress in increasing diversity in your journal.
- Implement promising practices to increase diversity in your journal and meet these targets.
- Collect data and evaluate progress at regular intervals and revise practices accordingly.
Their more specific suggestions of “editorial practices to consider” include:
- Editorial Staffing:
- Diversify representatives—editors, editorial board members, referees, trustees, staff, etc.—to include more people from under-represented groups and on important but neglected topics of interest to a diverse range of philosophers, utilizing a diverse range of methods.
- However, also be cautious about creating disproportionate burdens on members of under-represented groups, especially if those burdens do not come with public recognition.
- Publication Choices:
- Solicit submissions of promising work by members of under-represented groups.
- Reserve more space for articles by members of under-represented groups to help meet specific targets.
- Publish more papers of interest to under-represented groups in philosophy and on important but neglected topics of interest to a diverse range of philosophers.
- Encourage referees and authors to avoid using language that is insensitive to cultural differences or that inappropriately excludes or offends any group of people based on their ability/disability, age, ethnicity and race, gender identity, sexual orientation, class, nationality, etc.
- Encourage referees and authors to check that papers cite and discuss a fair representation of relevant work by members of under-represented groups.
- Encourage referees to not reject promising papers on grounds of writing quality, if the concerns are merely stylistic, can be repaired to an adequate level, and the philosophical content is good. This helps ensure fair consideration of work by philosophers who are not native speakers of English.
- Encourage timely and developmental reviews, since members of vulnerable groups are especially disadvantaged by long delays before publication.
- Accessibility of Content:
- Utilize text-to-speech capability for print-impaired users in the absence of an audio book.
- Include Alt-text descriptions to explain illustrations for readers with reduced access to graphic information.
- Give readers control over the font (size, style, and color), background color, and line spacing for online publications, and/or make them available in html.
- Consider trying to make your journal more accessible for those in developing countries by making your journal open access in those regions.
- Employ W3C web accessibility standards where feasible, and check for web accessibility.
- Publicizing These Efforts
- Inform all representatives and bind future representatives to uphold these standards.
- Publicly and explicitly adopt diversity-promoting practices, helping to create a culture of concern that enhances the journal’s reputation for welcoming diversity, attracting more diverse submissions.
The full post is here. Further suggestions welcome.
“Reserve more space for articles by members of under-represented groups to help meet specific targets. ”
Isn’t this just the quota proposal discussed here before (and defended in https://meenakrishnamurthydotnet.files.wordpress.com/2018/03/quotas.pdf)?
I find it depressing that this is still being floated. (Not an argument, I know).Report
Not obviously. One way to reserve such space without a quota is this: For every issue, allow for 2 papers from members of the relevant groups, so that once a paper is accepted, if the paper’s author is a member of a relevant group, and less than 2 papers from the relevant groups are to appear in the issue, put the paper in the issue.Report
Not sure I understand your proposal. I took the proposal at issue to involve having space set aside (“reserve more space,” in the words of the authors) for publication of articles by members of the relevant groups. I supposed that would require acceptance decisions to be based on something other than triple-blind review. Could you elaborate?Report
Not sure what’s so hard to understand. There are ways of reserving more space that do not require quotas. Here is an example. I call a restaurant asking to have a table reserved for me. They *might* say “Sorry but we have N tables, and reserving one for you would require that we reduce the number of available tables.” Or they might say “OK but since we don’t want to reduce the number of available tables, we’ll get some additional tables for the restaurant.” If they get additional tables, those tables can remain open and only for those who call and ask to reserve a table. Notice, reservations can be made *without the relevant identifying information* to those who call and ask, and the restaurant need not go out of its way to identify certain people to sit at a reserved table; it does not have to use a quota. They might simply comply with the following rule: if someone calls and asks, she can sit at a reserved table; if someone calls but doesn’t ask, he cannot sit at a reserved table. Similarly, a journal might add reserved slots in each of its issues, and apply the following rule: if someone has a paper accepted and does belong to the relevant group, she can have the reserved spot; if someone has a paper accepted but doesn’t belong to the relevant group, he cannot have the reserved spot. This doesn’t require a quota.Report
The basic reason that journal quotas can and in my view should be implemented concerns the fact that once a person has achieved a certain level of prominence (or even if they haven’t but their paper has been workshopped to any degree), blind review is effectively impossible. In these cases, and as per empirical usual, implicit bias operates as a distorting factor in the decision-making process, unfairly overvaluing the work of some (especially males at elite institutions) and unfairly undervaluing the work of others. Implementing quotas seems to me to be the only way to correct for this serious problem; moreover, given that bias works both positively (again, overvaluing the work of some) as well as negatively (undervaluing the work of others), the predictable upshot of implementing quotas would be an overall increase, not decrease, in the quality of papers published in journals.Report
This looks like a reason for quotas for low-prominence philosophers and not for philosophers of certain race/gender/etc., no? (The former is probably another underrepresented group but I doubt this is one of the groups authors had in mind.)Report
It is a reason for quotas for high-prominence philosophers from underrepresented groups (or, more generally, philosophers from underrepresented groups whose work cannot be blind-reviewed, for whatever reason), since these are the philosophers whose work is presently being undervalued due to implicit bias, in ways that are not just individually injurious, but also are reasonably taken to result in the quality of published articles being less high than it would be otherwise.Report
Hi Jessica. Just curious as to why you would support a quota system rather than a point-based system. I.e., have the referees rank the paper quantitatively on things like scholarship, argumentation, clarity, originality, fit, etc. and in addition have the final editor add points based on whether the submitting author is a member of an underrepresented group in making final decisions. This seems to me to be less crude than a quota system, which given the small number of underrepresented groups I think is likely to produce weird and unreliable results if adopted across the board. My thoughts are that it would be inadequate for journals on race and gender precisely because those groups are over-represented and would be more likely to admit bad papers where these groups are especially under-represented (which would then be pointed to by those who oppose affirmative action).Report
*small number of philosophers from under-represented groupsReport
If you seek more submissions from all sorts of philosophers (great, in my view), and you change the topics of central concern and the acceptable methods (likely bad, in my view), in order to encourage submission and acceptance by members of targeted groups who are, we all know, more likely to work on those topics and use those methods, and you practice triple-blind review, how can you go on to impose quotas based on the identity of the authors? I am flabbergasted.Report
No quota is necessary to comply with the relevant suggestion. See my reply to your earlier comment.Report
Carnap, you might be less flabbergasted if you read the whole document?Report
One of the Authors,
I did. Could you indicate what you think I am missing?Report
Sorry about the slightly snide comment, but it seems that your comment did not reflect the following facts about the document in question:
1. that we do not endorse triple-blind review.
2. that we suggest that journals only implement the recommendations that work for them, not all of the recommendations.Report
I see. You are right that I did not read carefully enough and that I was simply assuming best practice required suitably blind review. In fact, you suggest that journals ought to “ensure fair practice in weighing the value of anonymity and non-anonymous editorial discretion” and suggest editors might use their “discretion” to accept for publication papers by members of relevant groups. This is, you appear to suggest, because the evidence is “mixed regarding the effectiveness of anonymous review in increasing diversity.”
So, now it looks like your suggestion is more radical than I had thought, amounting to the suggestion that even blind review ought to be eschewed if it is not conducive to the goal of publications by members of a group in proportion to their membership in the professoriate. The point of blind review, I had thought, was to make sure work was evaluated entirely on its merits so that the very best philosophy is published. You appear to think the goal of journals should not be to publish the best work they can, but to advance the goal of “diversity” (setting aside the concerns about “diversity” advanced by Sasqawatch below).
I remain flabbergasted. In addition, I am now gobsmacked. I hope to God I’m not the only one who finds this overwhelming focus on equality of outcomes at the level of journal publication very troubling indeed.Report
You are not. And if our professional publications go down this road, we are finished, even if the stuff we have been discussing over in the Hoax thread doesn’t do us in.Report
I’m fine with your being flabbergasted and gobsmacked as long as it’s for the right reasons, based on a careful reading!
Obviously, we disagree about the merits of seeking out and valuing work from people in underrepresented demographic categories. That is of course a huge issue. As we suggest at the end of the document, we believe that doing so will actually enhance rather than compromise the quality of the work that is published.Report
One of the Authors,
You write, “We disagree about the merits of seeking out and valuing work from people in underrepresented demographic categories.” I think we should seek out relevant work from all, and value work in accordance with its quality rather than in accordance with the demographic category of its author. We should value excellence (even if we rarely achieve it).
Peace. 🙂 I wish, as a discipline, we were better at allowing ourselves to disagree about such things without hostility.Report
That’s not obvious at all. It looks to me that what you disagree about is how best to seek out and value work from underrepresented demographic categories. One of you thinks the best (or a good) way to do that is by eliminating anonymous review in certain cases where you can wend the system closer to equality of outcomes for publication rates among underrepresented demographic categories. The other thinks differently.
How widespread are these convictions? What would the impact of this proposal be on the evaluations of different publications among those who know what’s going on?Report
The evidence may be “mixed regarding the effectiveness of anonymous review in increasing diversity,” but that’s hardly the only purpose of blind review. Another is to prevent the cronyism and insiderism that until recently was far too common at certain philosophy journals. So just when we seem to have dealt with this by having blind review almost universally accepted we’re supposed to abandon it, even if partially?Report
Yes, because if a method doesn’t give us the results we want, we need to change it to one that does.Report
I am not sure if this comment is indeed from one of the authors but the above facts are true of the document (it does not endorse blind review and basically just asks people to try something offering ideas about things that might help improve diversity). The data so far has not been particularly promising for using blind review to increase diversity – see our Phil Studies publication though a more comprehensive study we are working on (R&R at Ethics) suggests that blind review increases publication rates in most journals just not the top ones. Cheers, – NicoleReport
I find the suggesting regarding literary values particularly depressing. Ditto for the language policing. And I agree with Carnap that the promotion of the use of explicit racial and other identity-based quotas is outrageous.
Overall, one of the things that really strikes me about the whole document is the extent to which the suggestions give the impression that people from minority groups should be thought of in a manner analogous to fragile children.Report
To police referees and authors might be to encourage them not to use offensive language. But is encouraging referees and authors not to use such language policing? Not obviously.
I didn’t read the whole document, but what I’ve seen here doesn’t give the impression that people from the relevant groups should be thought of in a manner analogous to fragile children. For example, the suggestion about offensive language does not give this impression because a normal, rational response to offensive people (or language or whatever) is to avoid places where they’re found. So the suggestion merely gives the impression that members of the relevant groups are normal, rational people.Report
It doesn’t give the impression *to you*. Obviously, it does to me and others. I could point to the parts that strike me that way, but you’ve already read the proposal, so I don’t see what point it would serve.Report
That’s right, it doesn’t give the impression *to me*. That’s at least partly because *I* don’t make the assumption that proposals like those under discussion are proposed by people who endorse what your friends might call the “New Infantilism.” It would be worth asking yourself why it does give the impression *to you*. Perhaps it is because *you* do make such an assumption.Report
Most of my friends are not philosophers, so I can’t comment on that. I’d be happy to point to the portions of the proposal that struck me that way if you like.
“My emphasis, incidentally, wasn’t meant to snark at you, but simply reflected that in your original comment, you wrote:
“what I’ve seen here doesn’t give the impression that people from the relevant groups should be thought of in a manner analogous to fragile children.”
And I just wanted to be clear that whether something gives a certain impression is subjective, not objective.Report
Totally unfair Dan – noting that people have suggested quotas does not imply that we think women e.g. are children. Are you in favor of all affirmative action? If you are does that mean you think recipients are children?Report
It wasn’t the quota proposal that suggested that to me (though I am opposed to it). It was some of the language.
And I am quite skeptical about affirmative action at this point.Report
Would you please explain what gave you that impression so we might correct it? Thanks!Report
Well, this for starters:
“Commit to inclusion with influence. However, also be cautious about creating disproportionate burdens on members of under-represented groups, especially if those burdens do not come with public recognition.”
“Encourage referees and authors to avoid using language that is insensitive to cultural differences or that inappropriately excludes or offends any group of people based on their ability/disability, age, ethnicity and race, gender identity, sexual orientation, class, nationality, etc.”
**With respect to the latter, insofar as it is unlikely that the sort of person who referees or writes for professional philosophy journals is going to employ, outright, racial or other slurs, this strikes me as amounting to suggesting a kind of linguistic tip-toeing, which is infantilizing. With respect to the former, one is struck by the idea that while marginalized folks should be put in leadership positions, they shouldn’t be burdened too much.
A good test for these things is to ask oneself if one ever would make such suggestions on behalf of non-marginalized people. Would we say regarding a non-minority, “Advance him to CEO, but don’t burden him too much” or “Make sure not to offend her in any way, by anything you say, even inadvertently.”Report
I haven’t read the whole series of blogposts, but I’d like a clearer criterion and justification for how “underrepresented groups” is going to be spelled out. Should it include reserving more space for articles by people with conservative views who are vastly unrepresented in philosophy relative to the population as a whole? More Mormons or Catholics? How about more space for philosophers outside R1 universities? Or dedicated space for adjuncts and people on temporary contracts? For that matter, how about more pieces by people with mental health conditions, or who have previously served in the military, or who have training in philosophy but now work outside academia?
There’s no end of ways we could spell out ‘underrepresented groups’, and insofar as any way of cutting the cake is going include and exclude some underrepresented groups it brings with it substantive and controversial normative assumptions that I rarely see argued for.Report
“Underrepresented” is a euphemism, whose purpose is to obscure the explicitly racialist (and otherwise illiberal) groupings of people. It means “the minority groups we care about.” And of course, it is related to the sortings that regularly appear in equity & diversity policies.Report
The only diversity that should matter to philosophers, is the diversity of ideas and arguments we can bring to bear on a question. If ethnic background actually does contribute to that, then it is an instrumental value, not a primary value. The primary value, of course, being the truth. Though, I suppose I’m outing myself as a quaint throwback, by admitting that.
Surely, there must be some psychological/sociological data that can contribute to the empirical question of whether diverse distributions of ethnic background actually do contribute to diversity of ideas and arguments? Even more important, though, is the question of whether that diversity (of ideas and arguments) actually contributes to reaching truthful conclusions or not (and what use those truths have in application).Report
I think you are right about that: the target groups are not those who are “underrepresented”, but rather those that are “discriminated against” – it would be worth correcting the expression and abandon the “underrepresented” nonsense once and for all, as this would at least manifest the clear commitment to the idea that these “underrepresented” groups are actually groups that are considered to be *unfairly* kept out of the profession (and this is of course only a subset of the set of underrepresented groups).
Are all and only these groups actually discriminated against? My guess is that some genuinely are, but I worry that pushing their presence in reputable journals is not the right strategy, or at least it’s far from the most effective one: it tries to make up for problems that emerge way earlier in an individual’s professional life, as a result of of one’s class, upbringing, origin, and so on.Report
“Underrepresented” at least has the virtue of being an objective measure; we can disagree about methodology for measuring it but the conversation has relatively clear rules.
I am less than 100% confident in philosophy’s collective ability to accurately distinguish the fairly from the unfairly underrepresented.Report
The proposal doesn’t call for philosophy’s collective ability to accurately distinguish the fairly from the unfairly underrepresented. It does seem to call for those in control of journals to have such an ability. I take it that, at least at reputable journals, those in control are clear-headed and intelligent enough to have such an ability. (Perhaps I overestimate their abilities!) I am, however, not confident that most of the people in control care enough to use those abilities to comply with the proposal.Report
I take it that, at least at reputable journals, those in control are clear-headed and intelligent enough to have such an ability.
= = =
I would have been much more confident of this 25 years ago than I am now. Indeed, in the current climate, I have very little faith in this.Report
Being clear-headed and intelligent correlates with being able to make acute and accurate distinctions in light of sufficient relevant information. So as long as being in control of a reputable journal correlates somewhat well with being clear-headed and intelligent, why should we think that the current climate has any affect on the *ability* of those in control of such journals to accurately distinguish between the fairly and the unfairly underrepresented? Or are you simply suggesting that your confidence in this latter correlation has been undermined in the current climate?Report
Possibly you’re using “correlates” metaphorically, but taken literally, this doesn’t follow. Being clear-headed and intelligent could correlate 100% with being able to make acute and accurate distinctions, and being in control of a reputable journal could be a strong predictor of being clear-headed and intelligent, and yet it could still be the case that journal editors aren’t good at making this distinction in the current climate, provided that non-journal editors are even worse at it. Correlation constrains neither the y-intercept nor the effect of external shifts on the y-intercept.
(Stripped down to its minimal structure: your argument is: “A correlates with B. Provided that having C correlates at least somewhat with having B, why should we think that D has any effect on the ability of having C to bring about A.” And that’s obviously wrong. Take A=running a marathon, B=being in good physical shape, C=regularly going to the gym, D=a heatwave.)Report
I’m not using ‘correlates’ metaphorically. And I agree with you that it does not follow. But I wan’t claiming that anything follows from anything. Rather, I was genuinely asking why we should think the climate has any affect on the relevant ability, given the correlations. But I understand that my point was convoluted partly because I put the question in terms of correlation.
It would’ve been better to put the question this way: It is likely that those in control of reputable journals are clear-headed and intelligent, and being clear-headed and intelligent is likely enough to have the ability to make acute and accurate distinctions in light of sufficient relevant information. Given this, why should we think that the current climate has any affect on whether those people have the relevant ability?Report
Okay, put that way I’d answer that these are politically fraught issues on which there is a lot of strong feeling, and I don’t agree that intelligence and clear-headedness (at the level I’d feel confident expecting just because someone is a journal editor) is enough to guarantee getting the distinctions right in that context.Report
It sounds like you don’t believe journal editors at reputable journals can both have strong feelings and very clear-headedly think about political issues. (FWIW, if so, this is where you and I differ. I think they can but don’t care enough to do so.) I wonder what you think about those in congress if our best and brightest can’t clear-headedly think about political issues. My guess is that you think even less of those in congress, and so you must be very skeptical of whether American democracy can bring about a just state of affairs. I’d think that people who aren’t skeptical of this would think more highly of congress, and so be confident that journal editors at reputable journals can think clear-headedly enough about political issues to distinguish accurately between the fairly and the unfairly underrepresented.Report
I’m generally not impressed by the extent to which academics’ intelligence and clarity of thinking in their own speciality areas extends to more general questions (of University politics and admin, let alone more general issues). But beyond that, I usually try hard to avoid discussing electoral politics on professional blogs so I’ll let the (intereresting, to be sure) wider question go.Report
The difference (between philosophers’ intelligence and clarity of thought as it extends to their favorite philosophical questions, and that as it extends to political questions) looks to be best explained by my view–i.e. there is a difference in care: whereas they care a lot about accuracy as it pertains to their favorite philosophical questions, they care much less about accuracy as it pertains to the political questions. This, in turn, might be best explained in terms of caring about others: whereas, generally, care for others minimally contributes to caring about accuracy as it pertains to favorite philosophical questions, it greatly impacts caring about accuracy as it pertains to political questions. Accordingly, if it is true that those in control of reputable journals aren’t good at accurately distinguishing between the fairly and the unfairly represented, what explains this is a lack of care for others.Report
No doubt underrepresentation can be measured better than discrimination, but to what avail if underrepresentation fails to track discrimination? An example: maybe veterans are underrepresented in academic philosophy. Is it a problem? I would think it’s not. As Daniel Kaufman notes above, now underrepresentation is being used to lift selected groups, and it is questionable whether these groups are all discriminated, let alone in a way proportional to their under representation. For instance, I believe that women unfairly benefit from the widespread view that they are discriminated against *just as* some ethnic groups are – a view that is promoted by lumping women together with these groups whenever under representation is discussed.Report
Underrepresented relative to what? Undermines a useful sense of objective measure.Report
Admire and appreciate the authors’ effort at diversifying. But two issues:
1) “Under-represented” here is really used as a demonstrative, and what it picks out depends on shared social cues of how the demonstrative is used. I think I know what falls under this term, but is that because I studied at certain depts and not others, or because I share some sympathies and not others? If so, that should be made clear so we all know where the power lines are in changes like this, and where one can disagree productively.
2) Re to (1), “non-under-represented” is also used demonstratively. But it seems clearer what it picks out: mainly work by white males on topics popular 50 years ago at Harvard and Princeton. Ok, best be open about that. Big question: should current whites pay the price for advantages their ancestors benifited from? That seems cruel – just as it would be if we punished a son for what his father did. Then again, leaving things as they were 50 years ago is a nonstarter. So how do we combine these two ideas?
Here an alternate suggestion. Don’t worry directly about how many people are represented in a journal, or syllabus, or conference. It will never come out right. Instead, talk much more about issues like (1) and (2). Make those problems central to the profession, and have people – irrespective of race, gender, politics – take their shot at solving them. The way mathematicians vied to address Hilbert’s top problems in math in 1900. The down stream effects of that will be much more powerful.Report
I’m interested in how the part about papers from (supposed) non-native English speakers works and fits with the other parts. This is an issue I’m fairly sympathetic to, for a number of reasons. (1. I have reviewed a good number of papers written, pretty clearly, in what Michael Dummett once accurately described as “international academic English” – a version of English largely its own that, while understandable, is pretty jarring to native speakers in many cases. 2. I’ve been a EFL teacher at a point, and know the difficulties faced by people writing in a language other than their own from that perspective. 3. I am an (even worse) speaker/writer of a language other than English (Russian) myself, and so can _really_ understand the difficulties of working in another language.) I agree that referees should be hesitant to reject otherwise good articles because the writing is not so good stylistically, especially when this is likely because the author isn’t a native speaker, at least so long as the author is willing to work on this in revisions. We ought not let _pure_ style get in the way of good substance. (*) And, no doubt, non-native English speakers are in some ways “under represented” in English language philosophy journals. But I wonder if this isn’t a distinct issue from the others suggested here. Isn’t the “don’t be too hard on style, if the substance is good” argument distinct from the other issues? Is it really the case that we have good reason to want, on the merits, more papers from, e.g., native Dutch, French, Norwegian, Spanish, or Hungarian speakers? (Most of the people writing in “international English” and submitting papers to English language journals seem to be from the EU – to a lesser degree China, but less in Philosophy than other fields, I think.) That would seem odd and not obviously right to me, regardless of what we might think about the other proposals to improve “diversity” in publications, though the mixing of this idea with the others in the proposal seems to suggest otherwise. So, over-all, this seems like a good point to me, but one that is completely independent of, and maybe in conflict with, the other suggestions.
(*) I’ll admit that I’m less likely to give a pass on really jarring writing from native English speakers. Why? Because it’s _really hard_ to have a good ear in a language other than one’s own, while at least minimal stylistic competence seems to me to be a reasonable prerequisite for publication and academic advance for native speakers. But, I could perhaps be argued out of this view.Report
I think your suggestion is correct: being charitable to non-native speakers seems a good thing, but it’s not quite the same as being more open to other under-represented groups.
I think that part of the confusion is due to the fact that under-representation, by itself, lumps together all sort of things: groups kept out of the profession for discriminatory reasons, groups that have no particular interest in pursuing publications in philosophy journals, groups that hold philosophically unorthodox views, groups that discuss unfashionable topics, etc., and I am not sure we should do something to encourage all of these groups to publish in philosophy journals, although the issues that concern discriminated groups should obviously be addressed.
I am particularly skeptical when it comes to the broadening of acceptable methodological approaches. A discipline defines itself also through the contributions it excludes, despite their obvious interest and value. Leading analytic philosophy journals do not typically publish French-style postmodern philosophy, and I think they should go on doing so.
(Non-native speaker here, so pardon the jarring prose!)Report
Thanks. I should add that lots of non-native speakers of a language manage to be good or even excellent writers in other languages. I certainly don’t want to suggest that all (or even most – I’m not actually sure here) non-native speakers write in ways that are jarring, only that there are certain ways of writing English – often relating to sentence structure, the use of articles, pronouns, etc – that are much more typical of non-native speakers. There are, of course, similar things for other languages. (The type of writing that makes me think, “this person is probably not a native speaker of English” is different from the type of writing my students sometimes produce that just makes me want to cry.) (And, the writing in the comment here was obviously fine.)Report
The accessibility of content suggestions are excellent. I hope they are widely adopted. I have serious misgivings about the other recommendations but I don’t have the time to participate in debate about them here. I post this comment simply to encourage people not to lose sight of the recommendations that we might all get behind as we debate those that we disagree on.Report
I’d like to see more interesting and intellectually enriching and insightful papers which seems to be an underrepresented genre in the last few decades.Report
But is it unfairly underrepresented?Report
1) the readers suffer
2) the reviewers suffer
3) Philosophy suffers and, hence culture and education suffer
4) the writers of bullshit who know it’s bullshit suffer
5) the system produces more and more writers of bullshit who do not know it’s bullshit, turning the whole thing into a vicious circle
6) the writers of bullshit who do not know it’s bullshit have vested interest in keeping it up and, systematically suppress non-bullshit writers.Report
“I take it that, at least at reputable journals, those in control are clear-headed and intelligent enough to have such an ability [to distinguish the fairly from the unfairly represented]. (Perhaps I overestimate their abilities!)”
Jen, I think you are overestimating their abilities! It’s unclear how the skills of leading a journal connect to distinguishing fairly from unfairly under-represented. The inference seems to be: these are good philosophers, hence they end up in leadership positions, hence their implicit(!) sense of the needs of the discipline can be trusted. I thought it is exactly this kind of thinking we are trying to get away from.
This is not a criticism of journal editors. I don’t know how to distinguish the fairly from the unfairly under-represented, and not sure anyone does. Expecting editors do this magical thing is setting them up for failure and a whole lot of unnecessary guilt.
Want to put pressure on someone to do better? Put the pressure on the chaired professors at the “top” departments to not be silent, but to start talking publicly about this topic. And on the famous public philosophers, like Dennett, Nussbaum, Appiah, Singer, Leiter, Stanley, Chalmers, now Manne, etc.. That is where the real, implicit power lies. Make it a condition for philosophy fame that one has something to say about the issue of under-representation – no matter what position they take. Don’t blame them for their views no matter what it is, but respect them and debate them. That will move things much, much more.Report
You seem to have misunderstood my comment at a couple of different points.
First, you’ve mischaracterized my line of thinking. I was simply thinking that being in control of a reputable journal correlates somewhat well with being clear-headed and intelligent. Since being clear-headed and intelligent correlates well with an ability to make acute and accurate distinctions in light of sufficient relevant information, any clear-headed and intelligent person has an ability to distinguish between fair and unfair underrepresentation. So it seems to me that anyone in control of a reputable journal is clear-headed and intelligent enough to have an ability to distinguish between the fairly and the unfairly underrepresented. I still don’t understand what mistake this makes.
Second, knowing how to distinguish between A and B is not the same as having an ability to distinguish between A and B. So one’s having an ability to do it need not be undermined by someone’s not knowing how to do it. For example, many have the ability to read despite not having been taught to read, and hence not knowing how.Report
Re first: One of the authors, Eric Schwitzgebel, has done a lot to show that philosophical expertise doesn’t translate into moral expertise. (I am not discounting the expertise of the female authors, just highlighting a crucial point Schwitzgebel has worked on). But the transition from “clear-headed” to “make acute distinctions” to “distinguish between fair and unfair underrepresentation” presupposes just the opposite. I think Schwitzgebel’s work on moral expertise is at least prima facie in big tension with what you are saying.
Re second: if debates of moral importance like the current one depend on the fine points of the distinction between “knowing how” and “abilities”, we as a species might as well give up hope.Report
My line of thinking does not presuppose that philosophical expertise translates into moral expertise, unless having an ability to make accurate distinctions between fair and unfair underrepresentation depends on having moral expertise. But having such an ability does not depend on having moral expertise. Just as I might have an ability to read despite not being an expert reader, I might have an ability to make accurate distinctions between fair and unfair underrepresentation despite not having moral expertise.Report
At least this brings out better where we disagree. I strongly believe that the ability to make accurate distinctions between fair and unfair under-representation depends on moral expertise. The moral part is just built into figuring out “fair” and “unfair”.
To be clear: I think the status quo is unfair to women, racial minorities, etc. But I also think the status quo is unfair in some ways white men, the poor, people who are not that smart, and many other dimensions. In the case of segregation and women not voting there was a clear sense of what righting that wrong was. Not at all obvious to me that is true now. The proposal we are discussing – and your comments – seem to presuppose it is obvious. As far as I can see, that is only going to make things more divisive. We need the moral expertise of bringing people together. Am I being conservative in a bad sense? No. My point is the proposal is actually protecting the implicit power structures in academia, which aren’t journals but our shared sense of philosophical fame.Report
I don’t believe that what’s right/wrong is clear, but I do believe that clear-headed and intelligent people have the ability to accurately discern what’s right/wrong. However, I doubt that most of them care enough to put to use that ability. As a result of their lack of care, I think, they form their moral views according to what *seems* right/wrong or according to the views of their friends or whatever interests them. This is a source of the problem.
Whether your point–about moral expertise and distinguishing between fair and unfair–is true depends what exactly you have in mind by ‘moral expertise’. I haven’t read Schwitzgebel, so I don’t know what he means either. I would have thought that having moral expertise is sufficient for having an expert grasp of the differences between what’s fair and what’s unfair, so that having moral expertise is sufficient (although not necessary) for the ability to make the relevant distinctions. I figured that someone has moral expertise only if she has an ability to distinguish between fair and unfair in combination with–among other things–a concern for the well-being of others.
I don’t understand your last point about implicit power structures in academia.Report
“However, I doubt that most of them care enough to put to use that ability.”
There is something the editors are failing at. You seem to think it is not doing what they know is right. I think it is not acknowledging that they don’t know what is the right thing to do.
If you are right, shaming or pressuring (or cheering) them on is the way to go, hoping to make them act on what they already know. If I am right, publicly acknowledging the lack of knowledge and so fostering debate to gain knowledge is the way to go.Report
That’s not what I’m saying, nor does it follow from what I’m saying. What I’m saying is this: those in control of reputable journals, if they fail to distinguish between the fairly and the unfairly underrepresented, are failing to care enough about putting to use their abilities to distinguish. They cannot come to know what is right/wrong without caring about using their abilities to distinguish between the fairly and the unfairly underrepresented. So nothing I’m claiming implies that they know what’s right/wrong.
If they don’t care now, why should we think they’ll care if we shame them? We shouldn’t think this, it seems to me. And if they don’t care now, why should we think that they care to gain knowledge about what’s right/wrong? We shouldn’t, it seems to me.Report
“What I’m saying is this: those in control of reputable journals, if they fail to distinguish between the fairly and the unfairly underrepresented, are failing to care enough about putting to use their abilities to distinguish.”
Thanks, that’s clear. But I don’t think this is true. They might be failing to distinguish not because they don’t care enough to put to use their ability to distinguish, but because the distinguishing at issue is really hard!
It would be so refreshing if the editors of Mind or Nous said, “Know what, we don’t what is right on this issue of representation. It’s a complex problem. So we are going to devote some space to it in each edition (or through the year), while we keep going with our normal content, and while diversifying in noncontroversial ways.” Turn the controversial issue into a debate rather into which side you are on.Report
I think that, if these people are so smart that they can figure out solutions to philosophical problems they care about, then they won’t have a problem distinguishing between the fairly and the unfairly underrepresented *if they care enough about the well-being of others*. So, the problem is not that the issue is too hard.
I’m not convinced that the issue is very difficult. I am convinced that many people on both sides are very confused, however. That might be one reason to encourage debate.Report
Perhaps its both: they don’t care enough, and the issues are too hard.
I can list off top of my head 15 different groups, cross cutting in all sorts of ways, which are underrepresented in phil. Add to that too many Phds to jobs, lack of money in schools where most people will be employed. Add a politically charged climate where this proposal going on Fox news will lead to further cuts. Doesn’t matter if the editors are Plato, Kant and Arendt, and they all care deeply: no easy answer here.
I will end here. Thanks for exchange.Report
Your claim seems to be this: the problem is so hard that clear-headed and intelligent people can’t solve it without debate among lots of confused, self-interested and irrational people, and that this is so no matter how much those intelligent and clear-headed people care about solving the problem. This is an incredibly strong and dubious claim. I doubt it’s true.Report
Ok, can’t resist. 🙂
The editors aren’t that much clear-headed and less self-interested than most people. Even if they are, thats not how knowledge works, just some people deciding among themselves. And even if they know what is right, the point is to ennoble and inspire those who are feel confused or disagree, not rule from above just because they now have power.
This is so clearly the Napoleon/Lenin problem. “We see all and have best intentions and speak for the oppressed and will change things for them.” Right. They certainly dont speak for me. Not this way.Report
I agree about their being just as self-interested, though I’m strongly inclined to think that they are much more clear-headed than most (e.g., of people who comment on this blog). Anyway, the point is that a small group of elites *can*–and are more likely to–make informed judgments that are better than the judgments that rise out of the debates of the masses.Report
Just to wrench this discussion away from the symbolic and towards the material, might I suggest that the authors consider the broader context when offering proposals like this? There is much to like in the document, in particular the stuff about language and biased refereeing, but think for a second about what it means to actually reserve quota spaces for underrepresented groups when, by all available data concerning our field, people from those groups need fewer publications to receive a tenure track job (“The odds of women obtaining a permanent academic placement within two years is 65% greater than men when all else is held constant.- Dicey Jennings 2016”), and where a cursory glance at Philjobs reveals that scores of departments are desperately trying to hire in topic areas friendly to underrepresented groups.
That is, we appear to inhabit inhabit a scenario where our discipline’s most important material resource, the TT job, is already being distributed disproportionately to underrepresented groups in spite of their appearing less in the journals. I stress: every other reward in the field pales in comparison to the material importance (for health, safety, well-being, happiness) of that resource, and there is therefore something potentially quite unfair about proposing, on TOP of this, to raise the bar in yet another way for the Standard White Male. In short, I fear that our excessive focus on the symbolic (“is our journal diverse enough?”) is distracting us from the overall material reality we inhabit.
I would re-post this on the APA blog but my commentary there is rarely published.Report
To be clear, I didn’t post this comment for kicks. As they appear to be reading this page, I would very much like to know what the authors think of this issue. Is it reasonable to reserve quotas in journals for people who are already at a significant advantage with respect to our discipline’s most important material resource? The impression that I have, and that an increasingly angry, suffering, disenfranchised group of young white males in philosophy shares (see: the likes on my previous comment), is that this issue will simply be ignored. At present I am tempted to interpret the silence from the authors (and supporters) of this policy as a desire to ignore the issue. But we can soothe the collective anger and persuade young white men to embrace reasonable diversity goals if we start talking to them and responding to these kinds of concerns. Anyone?Report
I think it would be great to give this topic its own thread. Justin, are you willing to risk your neck? It’s clearly something many young philosophers are concerned with.Report
Unless something comes up soon, I will soon give up on the academic career, because I won’t have a way to survive materially if I don’t.
I have applied far and wide (around 100 positions of all kinds), and I think I am close to being as competitive as it gets, for my career stage. Great publications, very good references. But it has made no difference so far. I can’t help to think that things would have been different, hadn’t things been the way you describe.
So, yes, I am turning increasingly “angry, suffering, disenfranchised”, to use your words, but I struggle to see what else we could do about it. I see you have a blog but I can’t seem to find a way to get in touch with you from it, and I prefer to remain anonymous here.
I also would like to stress that we should avoid at all costs to blame this on the underrepresented groups (not that you did it). I believe most of these groups are genuinely oppressed in many very real ways outside of the academic world, and have worse problems than lacking a TT job.
The thing is that the sort of superficially egalitarian veneer promoted by these diversity policies does very little to address the underlying problems. To hint at one, I would like to know of many members of underrepresented groups in academia come from families that are in socio-economic conditions similar to the national average of the relevant underrepresented group. I would suspect not many at all, but I may be wrong.Report
I, for one, have not been distracted by the symbolic. My response to the question of whether there is something potentially unfair to white males about the proposal, is the one that strikes me as obvious: yes, there is *something* potentially unfair, but this is one consideration among many. Other important considerations to take into account are, among many others:
(1) whether it is only slightly unfair
(2) whether, if there is not widespread compliance with the proposal, things are more unfair overall
(3) whether the extent of the potential unfairness that compliance with the proposal brings to white males is in large part because of the great unfairness to other-than-white-males in the profession in the past
(4) whether this “condition of unfairness for white males” (brought about by compliance with the proposal) is a practically necessary precondition of the conditions that are most fair overall.
It seems to me that the potential unfairness to white males is a reason against complying with the proposal. But this reason against compliance might be outweighed by reasons for compliance, and it is *prima facie* outweighed. Additionally, it is very plausible that it will be shown to be outweighed once we consider (1)-(4) and the other relevant considerations. If we accept all of this, we have enough for compliance with the proposal until it is shown that the reasons for compliance do not outweigh the reason against compliance.Report
Jen’s probably got the right way to frame the discussion. But it appears I take non-discrimination rights more seriously than she does. I don’t think those violations of those rights are outweighed by the goods provided to females and other minorities by discriminating against white men.
My worry is that people who find your line of reasoning compelling are making the mistake of seeing discrimination against white men as a form of Robin-Hoodism: discriminating against the rich (white men) to benefit the poor (women and other minorities). But many of the white men are more poor and professionally vulnerable than many minority members of the profession. I could benefit from a boost far more than, say, Tommie Shelby or Sally Haslanger. So it’s morally wrong to discriminate indiscriminately against people like me to benefit Shelby or Haslanger. The proposal would have us do this, given its broad phrasing.
Further, even if Jen’s right, something important follows. If I trample your geraniums in the service of saving a child’s life, I may have correctly destroyed your property but I nevertheless owe you an apology. If you trample the non-discrimination rights of white men to benefit minorities, you may have correctly violated those rights, but you still owe those men an apology. We’re not even in a place where we can publicly discuss the kinds of issues Avalonian raises. So a good start before taking steps on this proposal would be to fully acknowledge its implications, such as the ones Avalonian sketches. I’ll call on Justin a second time to start a thread on that topic.Report
Tim Collins, you don’t take non-discrimination rights more seriously than I do. It’s very plausible that those who aren’t white males are currently having their non-discrimination rights violated in the profession. Thus, things are already unfair. So, we should ask whether, if there is not widespread compliance with the proposal, things are more unfair overall. We therefore need to take this into consideration.
Notice, what I’ve just suggested is not that the goods provided to females and other minorities by discriminating against white males are more important than the good provided to white males by compliance with their non-discrimination rights. My suggestion is much more complex than simply taking from the rich to give to the needy. For this reason, there’s no mistake of understanding discrimination against white males as a form of Robin-Hoodism. There no need, then, to worry about (as you put it) “indiscriminate discrimination” against white males that you say arises from such Robin-Hoodism.
Now it should become clear that your analogy involving trampling geraniums is not apt. This is because the suggestion is not like trampling one group’s property for the benefit of another group. Rather, the “trampling” of the non-discrimination rights of white males–through compliance with the proposal–is much like the “trampling” of the non-discrimination rights of the rich–through compliance with taxation. To bring about a country that is most secure, most prosperous, etc., it may currently be appropriate to unevenly burden members of society (for example, by ensuring that the rich are taxed at a higher rate than the poor). (Obviously, this is more complex than taking from the rich to give to the poor.) No apology is necessary in this case of uneven burdens. Similarly, to bring about a profession that is most equitable, most fair, etc., it may currently be best to unevenly burden members of the profession (for example, by ensuring that white males have to face greater burdens to publishing than others). Plausibly, if no apology for uneven burdens in the former case is necessary, no apology for uneven burdens in the latter case is necessary. So no apology is necessary in the latter case.
I think all of your objections have been overcome. If I’m right, you have not yet provided sufficient justification for hesitating to comply with the proposal.Report
Jen and Collins offer schema for arguments, but as they lack the necessary empirical content, neither has overcome any objections or, really, made the argument. That something might be does not show it is.Report
J. Bogart, the part of your comment concerning a lack of empirical content has no force unless you point to a place in my comment for which there is both a lack of and a need for empirical content. You certainly haven’t done this.
What schema of an argument in my comment are you talking about? Without saying more, your claim about a schema is very mysterious, and should not be taken seriously.Report
Hi Jen, thank you for your reply. I have always believed that we in philosophy can have this discussion without resorting to the kind of ludicrous, polarizing rhetoric that has terminated real discourse time and again, and I thank you for engaging seriously with my concerns.
Now, I would appreciate it if we tried to flesh out your (1)-(4). There are always counterbalancing reasons against any course of action. We need to know how strong they are, not just how numerous they are. Clearly, if strong journal representation were necessary for the receipt of our field’s most valuable resource (job) then that would be a powerful reason. But that is not true. So given the stark material reality we are actually inhabiting, how would things be “more unfair overall” if we didn’t reserve quota spaces in journals?Report
Avalonian, you’re welcome. I don’t have a lot of time right now. So, I’ll keep my response brief.
“…how would things be ‘more unfair overall’ if we didn’t reserve quota spaces in journals.”
To be clear, I’m uneasy about any suggestion that the proposal involves a quota. And I’m not saying that things *would be* more unfair overall. Rather, I suggested that one consideration to take into account is whether things would be more unfair overall. So, I think you mean to ask how *could* they be more unfair overall. Here’s how: there might currently be something similar to quota spaces reserved for white males (perhaps something that comes in the form of famous philosophers’ preferences for students who are white males, which might lead to white males’ receiving more than their fair share of journal space). This is obviously a possibility, and it is one in which things might be more unfair overall than what might be brought about by compliance with the proposal.
This is true even if white males currently have more trouble getting jobs than others. This is because whatever is causing their trouble might be eliminated once people are complying with the proposal and begin to believe that things are getting better for the currently underrepresented who face challenges because of the quota-like mechanism mentioned that favors white males.Report
Forgive me, because I know you lack the time here, but I was looking for some substantiation of your claim that the potential unfairness to WMs is “prima facie outweighed”. You have generally listed possible-reasons, one of which might possibly be weighty if certain highly contestable empirical assumptions were true. That is a lot of qualified statements upon which to rest an actual concrete policy, or indeed a claim about anything being “outweighed”.
I hope you can understand that this will not pacify a skeptic here, largely because the reasons I am offering are not possible-reasons nor are they grounded in mere empirical speculation. There is hard data on TT jobs and changing AOC/AOS preferences that is freely available to anyone who wants to see it. Combined, what we see is a very strong effort at accommodation and inclusion wrt what is indisputably our most precious resource. A reasonable person can easily conclude, on this evidence alone, that any existing biases in the journal process are already being compensated for by other policies, and a satisfactory reply to this person cannot just consist in the listing of possibilities.Report
Avalonian, no problem. I don’t have time or energy to list all of the reasons. Let the following suffice.
To understand why the reason against compliance (which is that there is *something* *potentially* unfair to WMs) is prima facie outweighed by reasons for compliance, consider the following: whatever it is that makes compliance with the proposal potentially unfair to WMs, it involves the burdens to publishing that WMs will face. The burden will likely be minimal as WMs will likely continue to publish in much greater numbers than members of any other groups. So, the reason against compliance that arises from the burden WMs face will likely be minimal. Compliance with the proposal will likely contribute to the promotion of the work and the spread of the ideas of those who are currently underrepresented. As such promotion and spread increases, the numbers of the currently underrepresented will likely increase. This will combat the results of the unfairness facing the currently underrepresented: the low number of women, the low number of black people, the low number of Hispanic people, the low number of gay people it, and so on for the multiple other relevant groups. As the numbers of the currently underrepresented increase, the unfairness facing the currently underrepresented will decrease. This is why: As the number of women in the profession increases, the occurrences of sexual harassment against women will likely decrease, and support for the victims of such harassment will likely increase. As the number of black people in the profession increases, the success rates of black people in philosophy will likely increase, as support for them will increase. As the number of Hispanics in the profession increases, the success rates of Hispanics will likely increase, as support for them will increase. As the number of gay people in the profession increases, the success rates will likely increase, as support for them will increase. And so on for the other multiple relevant groups. There are many other reasons. So the reasons for compliance with the proposal are quite weighty. Prima facie, all of the reasons for compliance outweigh the reason against compliance that arises from the relatively minimal unfairness to WMs.
Admittedly, the reasons for compliance are prima facie more weighty than the reason against compliance. So, although you might object that there are highly contestable empirical claims on which the reasons for compliance that I mentioned rest, there would need to be serious empirical evidence against the claims to undermine their prima facie greater weight. Simply calling into question any evidence supporting the claims will not enough.
You might object that things are so unfair for WMs already (given that the likelihood of the currently underrepresented earning tenure–or getting TT jobs–is greater that it is for WMs) that the added unfairness leads to the reasons against compliance to outweigh the reasons for compliance. But this is a mistake. This unfairness (if it is that at all) will be eliminated once people realize that the numbers of the currently underrepresented has increased to a sufficient extent. So, compliance with the proposal will increase the number of the currently underrepresented to the point at which the unfairness to WMs will be eliminated. Thus, the fact cited as contributing to unfairness to WMs is a reason *for* compliance.Report
This, again, this is the correct take.
There are two ways to directly increase underrepresented groups in publishing, in addition to the indirect ways rightly commended by Avalonian such as bias-mitigating procedures in blind review. One is by reserving a quota in a journal like, to pick at random, Phil Studies for publications by underrepresented groups. The other is by increasing the number of journals that disproportionately publish articles by underrepresented groups, such as Hypatia. Of course these are not mutually exclusive options. But the authors of the study focus on the first, zero-sum approach. (I presume this is implied by the “reserving space” proposal, otherwise the authors would call for creating space.) It’s worth asking why.
I think the authors’ preference for the first approach reflects a desire not simply to get more work published by underrepresented authors but to get more work accepted by mainstream philosophers like me. Otherwise, creating new venues would serve the authors’ goals better and, if those venues were open-access, would also help to further undermine extortion by Springer and friend, to the benefit of all.
But is the first proposal likely to succeed at this goal? Is that more likely to get me to accept those articles? Of course not. Being published in Phil Studies doesn’t make an article good. Being published in Phil Studies (imperfectly) tracks the article’s goodness. Rather, the result of the proposal will be greater suspicion of the quality of papers published by underrepresented groups in Phil Studies. That’s because choosing work based on the identity of the author rather than the content of the article is less likely to result in the publication of high quality articles. I presume the authors of the study disagree, but that’s because we disagree about what constitutes a good result.
The authors should not ignore this disagreement. My experience with proposals of this type is that their proponents ignore criticisms like mine because those proponents *know* that they’re right. But if the ultimate goal of the project is the widespread acceptance of work that is now, rightly or wrongly, regarded as bad by people like me, then the authors should focus on showing me why I’m more likely to read articles that I judge to be of high quality under their proposal. If they don’t care about my opinion, why care that it appears in Phil Studies rather than, say, Hypatia II or The Journal of Diverse Philosophy?Report
This was meant as a reply to Avalonian.Report
Tim are you saying you don’t read articles by women etc. in top journals because you don’t think they are good or wouldn’t if some journals decided to reserve some slots for them because you would assume they are less good? I am guessing you also think things in Hypatia are less good than those in Phil Studies now, then, and don’t read them? If so, how would your proposal help get more people like you to take women’s work seriously? I am sorry, i am not following…Report
No, I am not saying that.
I’ll copy-paste the crucial point: “That’s because choosing work based on the identity of the author rather than the content of the article is less likely to result in the publication of high quality articles.”
What I intended by that apparently opaque sentence is that if a journal’s choice to publish an article is informed by factors that are orthogonal to quality, it is likely to publish lower-quality articles as a result. So, for example, I oppose publication standards that benefit redheads. Does that mean I hate redheads? No. Do I think that the fact that a redhead has published the article indicates that it’s of lower-than-average quality? No. It just means that a subset of the population is strictly less likely to produce a journal’s worth of great articles than the entire population. So it’s bad to have a redhead quota.
Now that I’ve clarified the most important sentence, does that help with your confusion? It might help me if you explained the reasoning behind “you don’t read articles by women etc. in top journals because you don’t think they are good”. That seems like a disappointingly uncharitable reading of what I wrote, but maybe I’m missing something. I’m all ears.Report
thanks for clarifying — I suppose I think the reasons we don’t have so many things from members of underrepresented groups in ‘top’ journals is more complicated than just their quality. But the thing that I didn’t understand in your comment was just how your alternative proposal was supposed to be better *if* the goal was (as you put it) the “widespread acceptance of work that is… regarded as bad by people like me”. I guess I also want to ask: Why the presumption that this work is bad (or less good than what is in Phil Studies) in the first place? Have you read a good portion of what is published in Hypatia? I haven’t…Report
Jen: there are no more reply buttons, so I am replying here. The current climate has caused me to lose faith in the “clear headed” part of your correlation.Report
I see. So, you no longer think that being in control of a reputable journal correlates somewhat well with being clear-headed, and hence does not correlate well with an ability to accurately distinguish between the fairly and the unfairly underrepresented. I’m guessing that this is either because you have been surprised by the large number of otherwise intelligent people who, in the current climate, are not clear-headed, or because you think it is harder in the current climate–even for intelligent people–to be clear-headed. FWIW, neither am I surprised by the large number nor do I think it is harder for intelligent people in the current climate to be clear-headed.Report
Well, we clearly disagree profoundly about the current state of our discipline and the people at the top echelons of it.Report
Seemingly so. Thanks for the conversation.Report
Thanks to you too. It is refreshing to disagree to this extent without it sliding into invective.Report
A bit late to this party, but here are my two cents. Most of the stuff sounds pretty reasonable, but I suspect that changing acceptance standards will ultimately prove self-defeating. Quotas especially seem like too blunt an instrument; doing little in journals where minorities are already well-represented and possibly leading to the publication of bad work where there is low interest. It will also invariably raise the specter of tokenism, and may actually hurt minorities. “Well, she has a publication, but it is from X so it might have just been for the quota”. I’m not endorsing the line of thought that lowered standards for acceptance mean one should lower one’s evaluation of the publication. Presumably, the thought is that the quota will only accept x over y if they are already judged to be equal in quality by blind reviewers and that there will be enough submissions total for this to be possible, such that this reasoning will be irrational. (Though, again, this raises logistical worries about whether the numbers are actually there.) But still, you might worry that people will be irrational.
I’m not saying the negative effects will necessarily outweigh the good. I’m saying it is probably worth thinking about various possible effects of radical policy changes before implementing them. Even if we grant from the armchair the Millian assumption that one can trade off universal norms of fairness (i.e. blind peer review) for large enough benefits, you still have to get out of the armchair and do the dirty logistical work to be reasonably certain that the tradeoff is worth making.Report
Regarding the proposal to reserve space: there are some issues with how this sort of approach might impact hiring, tenure, and promotion decisions. Double- and triple- anonymous-reviewed articles are viewed in a certain way by hiring committees, outside reviewers, and colleagues in other departments, etc. This is different from how, for instance, invited articles or books are viewed. Different reviewers have different standards for this sort of thing. It’s also important to note that some hiring and most tenure and promotion decisions aren’t only made by philosophers but also by colleagues in different fields, as well as administrators. If certain journals in the field cease to practice anonymous review, then this aspect of the review process for those journals should, as I think is usually the case, be mentioned on the C.V.s of candidates who have published in those venues when they apply for jobs, tenure, or promotion decisions. If it’s not mentioned, it’s usually easy enough to find out what kind of review procedure a journal uses. I think it might make any journals that no longer practice standard anonymous review less attractive venues for philosophers seeking to impress colleagues and outside reviewers. Perhaps one way to mitigate this would be to invent some new term for the kind of review the authors of these proposals have in mind, but use of whatever this term would be would look kind of odd, especially to our colleagues outside of philosophy.Report
This was said in passing, but it looks like a pretty central feature of view that certain philosophers have a moral expertise that is owed to their work on politics. Jen writes
I’ve thought a fair amount about a bunch of political questions and it’s not clear to me that there’s anything like a pure light of reason, or a theory of morality as we have them today, that tells us what to do about widespread, entrenched and for the most part misunderstood situations.
For instance, despite consistent effort on a number of fronts over the last few decades there remain variagated distributions of men and women across a bunch of professions and vocations in western, educated, etc. societies. What should we do about that? What even best explains it? I don’t think any of the Grand Narratives cut it (fight me!), we don’t have enough information about many of the underlying facts, and most of what comes out of the Narrative quarter of the academy today looks hopelessly mired in Theory. To make matters worse some potential explanations cannot even be mentioned in certain circles without the conversation almost immediately becoming a show of moral grandstanding and condemnation. So that’s one strike against thinking that the moral experts in the academy today, or the people running the journals, ought to be deferred to in matters of social justice.
And it would be another thing if there was moral consensus. But there’s nothing approaching consensus on what to do about lots of what we in philosophy, or we in western, educated, etc. societies more generally, face today. This is exacerbated by the fact that we don’t have some of the basic information we need to even consider what justice requires in many cases! I know there are some people who think they’ve figured it out, but honestly those are usually the last people I want at the moral helm of the organizations I’m a part of. Particularly when it remains difficult to talk openly about a lot of what’s going on.
So the suggestion that, owing to our lack of care, we trust and defer to the expertise of journal editors looks off along a couple of dimensions. I’m not at all convinced we should cede moral expertise to the vocally political wing of the profession, and I don’t think it’s right to say that those of us who are less confident about what ought to be done are failing to exercise sufficient care concerning what ought to be done.
And to be clear, I’m not questioning the worth in proposals like this, nor am I saying I think it shouldn’t be accepted. I have no idea about whether or not it should be accepted. But I’m optimistic that if we can talk about proposals like this we might make some headway toward building broader consensus. So kudos to the editors for suggesting it, and to the people here for talking about it. My point has been that we should not be so quick to accept that journal editors who have firm political convictions buoyed by reflection, philosophical theory, etc. are moral experts. We don’t have a well-enough developed praxis for ethics today sufficient even to make sense of the notion of ‘moral (or political) expertise’.Report
“it looks like a pretty central feature of view that certain philosophers have a moral expertise that is owed to their work on politics.”
That certain philosophers have a moral expertise that is owed to their work on politics, is nothing implied by my words. And it is nothing I believe.Report
To be clear, I’m objecting to the claim that there are differences among various philosophers’ “intelligence and clarity of thought” concerning political questions that are best explained by whether they “care alot about accuracy” concerning those questions. I disagree that these differences (and their valences) are evident, and I deny that what differences that due exist are best explained by the putative fact that some of them are exercising more care about being accurate.Report
Sorry, “…what differences that do exist…” in the last sentence.Report
I don’t anywhere claim that there are differences among various philosophers’ clarity of thought and intelligence concerning political questions. You’ve misinterpreted me. Sorry to leave it at this. But I don’t have time for this.Report
I’ll repeat the quote I started with.
You’re giving an explanation here. The explanandum is “The difference (between philosophers’ intelligence and clarity of thought as it extends to their favorite philosophical questions, and that as it extends to political questions)”. That’s a difference concerning how much intelligence and clarity philosophers exercise concerning their favorite questions, as against political questions. You think this difference exists, and that it is best explained by your view. Your view is that they care more about their favorite philosophical questions than they do about political questions.
It is a consequence of this explanation that you think there are differences in how much intelligence and clarity philosophers exhibit concerning different questions. And your explanation for this difference concerns how much care for accuracy philosophers exercise in different areas of interest (“they care much less about accuracy as it pertains to the political questions”). Furthermore, you think the existence of journal editors who are not good at accurately distinguishing the fairly and the unfairly represented is best explained by those editors not caring enough for others:
This rules out the possibility that there simply is no moral expertise to be had here, and it presumes that there are those with moral expertise who are in a position to tell the rest of us what ought to be done. I disagree that these differences in intelligence and clarity (and their valences) are evident, and I deny that what differences that do exist are best explained by the putative fact that some people are exercising more care about being accurate or more care for others.Report
This is clear. Thanks for clarifying. I’m not sure why you think that to have clarity of thought and intelligence, and then to apply it to distinguish between the fairly and the unfairly underrepresented, is to have moral expertise. If my claim does not depend on this, your criticism fails. In fact, my claim does not depend on it. Rather, it depends on whether there is clarity of thought and intelligence that can be applied to make the relevant distinctions. Since this is not moral expertise, you criticism fails.Report
My point doesn’t turn on the use of the term ‘moral expertise’. I deny that some philosophers’ supposed greater degree of “intelligence and clarity of thought” allows them to, in general, distinguish the fairly from the unfairly underrepresented in most of the situations we face in the profession today. We lack an accurate picture of the facts, we lack a sustained discussion about the facts and the ethical issues, and we lack anything like a consensus on any of this. In fact, I deny that there is the ability to make such distinctions in any but the most trite of cases–e.g., whether you should use a slur to refer to someone in a professional setting (and notice that there are ongoing and sustained debates about even what counts as a slur).
You say that “a small group of elites *can*–and are more likely to–make informed judgments that are better than the judgments that rise out of the debates of the masses”. I deny both the claim that there is such elite knowledge (whatever it’s called) and the claim that differences in intelligence and clarity concerning political as opposed to other types of question are best explained by differences concerning how much people care about others.Report
You’ve missed the important qualification “in light of sufficient relevant information.” I’ve been discussing an ability to make the relevant distinction in light of sufficient relevant information. I believe that with this qualification, your criticism fails.Report
I’ve been arguing we are not in a situation where that qualification obtains: “We lack an accurate picture of the facts, we lack a sustained discussion about the facts and the ethical issues, and we lack anything like a consensus on any of this.” And so I’ve been arguing that the ability in question is not actually realized by anyone. So whatever might hold in situations where that qualification obtains, I have been arguing against the claims you’re been making, e.g., here
To see what I mean, consider the following:
This does not consider the possibility that those in control of journals, who aren’t good at accurately distinguishing between the fairly and the unfairly represented, lack that expertise because it simply doesnt exist. Furthermore, it portrays those who *are* in control of journals and who *do not* have firm convinctions about what fairness or justice requires as not caring about other people! I deny that such expertise exists concerning many of the situations we face, and I reject the claim that those who profess intellectual humility here do not care about others.Report
And there’s this as well:
I think it’s fair to gloss this as the view that there are differences among people concerning their moral expertise (“intelligence and clarity of thought”), and that this difference is owed to the work they do on politics (the “care” they excercise concerning “accuracy” in political issues).Report
It’s not fair to gloss this as you would. This is because I hold the view expressed by my words without holding the view you attribute to me.Report
I think I’ve done a pretty good job explaining what I’m objecting to, and why. You say you don’t have time for this, but if you do choose to respond again I hope it comes by way of more than a bare denial of what it looks like you’re saying.Report
After you clarified above, I responded.Report
Apropos these proposals, the following was posted on Leiter Reports. It very much reflects my own criticisms, but is from the perspective of an actual member of several of these under-represented groups:
” I belong to a group that the identity politics folks describe as a ‘triple minority’: ‘queer’; ‘person of colour’; woman (scare quotes because I dislike those labels). I should, then, be all for these measures designed to include and promote people like me. I’m not, though, because I feel quite included and promoted enough qua the only identity I care to adopt: philosopher. And if I don’t, it’s as someone whose primary interests lie in ancient Greek philosophy and not as a ‘WOC’ (or ‘QWOC’ or whatever absurd acronym best captures my demographic).
I’m not even sure what it means to “Publish more papers of interest to under-represented groups in philosophy” — do ‘under-represented groups’ have special philosophical interests? Will it be assumed that people like me are more interested in, say, standpoint epistemology than in Platonic metaphysics?
While I wouldn’t dare put my name to any of these thoughts (since I don’t have tenure and the times are what they are) I’m truly disturbed by these proposals formulated to help groups under-represented along the lines of sex/orientation/race/etc. I find the suggestions in the most recent APA blog post scary and, frankly, stupid as a philosopher and condescending as a member of various ‘under-represented’ groups.”Report
I have just arrived here from the (latest) hypatia thread on this site where I was being told that we need some affirmative action to add more right-wing voices to our discipline or else we’ll end up a left-wing echo chamber. After all, these journals are just gatekeeping in such a way to let only those ideas in that they like.
But in this thread many of the same voices are arguing against increasing diversity for diversity’s sake because all that should matter are the ideas. Now it turns out that we should trust the blind peer-reviews to judge fairly and objectively.
I’m quite confused about what all these people want.Report
I’m not. But I understand your rhetorical point. Their point is Tarski ‘true’ and so it should be only reasonable to want it better represented. I honestly regret wasting my life (up to now) on learning this stuff.Report
The best explanation of their behavior (that I can think of) is this. They believe that there is a good reason to promote the diversity of ideas in order to increase the number of right-wing ideas in prominent journals: the low number of right-wing ideas in prominent journals is a problem, and the source of the problem is gatekeeping and bias. But they do not believe there’s a good reason to promote the diversity of ideas in order to increase the number of ideas like those in Hypatia, in prominent journals because either they believe it’s no problem that there’s a low number of such ideas in prominent journals, or they believe it is a problem but gatekeeping and bias do not explain the problem.Report
When we speak across political boundaries I think it’s important that we do our best to be precise about what we think is going on. And I’m continually struck by the fact that we are often so far away from understanding each other that the possibility of agreeing on any of the first-order policies isn’t even in sight.
So toward the end of mutual understanding, could you identify specific comments from ‘these people’ that you think make what you’ve said here true?Report
Several defenses of the quota proposal assume that implicit bias is partly responsible for “underrepresented” groups’ low publishing rates in top journals. A preponderance of evidence refutes this claim–at the very least, it should not be a default assumption of the APA.
In addition to the disproportionate TT hiring of members of such underrepresented groups mentioned by other commenters, there is the research on the left’s unclnscious pro-black bias and the left-wing orientation of the philosophy profession. I quote from Coleman Hughes’ essay, in Quillette, “The High Price of Stale Grievances”:
“But there are good reasons to believe that these lofty (diversity) principles are in fact anchored to an unthinking, reflexive bias towards blacks. In one study, participants were asked to decide between two similarly qualified hypothetical college applicants—a black student with a higher GPA, and a white student with a tougher course load. Participants chose the black applicant, citing the importance of GPA. But when researchers switched the resumes so that the white student had the higher GPA and the black student had the tougher course load, participants still chose the black applicant, this time citing the importance of taking tougher classes. In both cases, participants denied that race had anything to do with their decision.
“An even cleverer study asked participants whether they would sacrifice an innocent person’s life to save the lives of one hundred. The innocent victim was either named “Tyrone Payton” (a stereotypically black name) or “Chip Ellsworth III” (a stereotypically white name.) Right-wing participants were equally likely to kill the innocent victim regardless of their perceived race. Left-wing participants, however, preferred sacrificing Chip over Tyrone. What’s more, left-wing participants were completely unaware of their pro-black bias.”Report
You say there’s evidence, but don’t point us in the direction of that evidence. Please do, so that we can take more seriously your comment.
What is the point of pointing to a “pro-black bias” and “left-wing orientation” of the profession? (This is a genuine question.) Even if there is such a bias and such an orientation, that doesn’t support the idea that there is a problem because it’s plausible that there are some biases we should have–e.g., a bias toward preserving the habitats of endangered species over that of non-endangered species, and a bias toward preserving the Earth over preserving a distant planet. And it doesn’t support the idea that there isn’t a problem because it’s plausible that there are some biases we have that don’t solve solve any problems.Report
“What is the point of pointing to a “pro-black bias” and “left-wing orientation” of the profession?”
The point of pointing to academic philosophy’s left-wing orientation is to establish that it likely has a pro-black bias, as per the research cited in the passage I quoted. The point of pointing to a pro-black bias is that the existence of this bias makes it unlikely that an anti-black bias reduces the number of publications in top journals by black authors.
This hopefully also answers your request to have the evidence I discuss more clearly pointed out. As I say in my original post, it’s not the only evidence for the claim in question–trends in TT hiring provide further support. Other commenters have touched on these trends and I assume you’re aware of the relevant details.
“And it doesn’t support the idea that there isn’t a problem.”
I haven’t claimed that this is evidence that there isn’t a “problem.” I’m claiming that it’s evidence against the hypothesis that anti-black bias reduces publication rates for blacks in top philosophy journals.
By the way, I’m focusing on blacks here because that’s the group that the research I cited is on. It’s of course unlikely that these kinds of biases on the left are restricted to blacks.
I did not express any value judgment about pro-black biases in my original comment, though to put my cards on the table, I don’t consider the value of life to vary by race and doubt that treating it as if it did, as do many of those with the bias in question, is a good thing.Report
“I’m claiming that it’s evidence against the hypothesis that anti-black bias reduces publication rates for blacks in top philosophy journals.”
I see. And I agree that it is evidence against the hypothesis. However, it does not refute it, nor does it show that the hypothesis is unlikely true. There is a significant, potentially relevant difference between killing/saving someone and choosing to accept someone’s paper. When choosing to accept someone’s paper, it is often the case that one is in conditions involving one’s favorite philosophical question, a journal’s reputation, one’s own philosophical reputation, etc. Under these conditions, the bias might be inactive. I have a bias for chocolate over vanilla when having ice cream by itself. But when having ice cream with chocolate cake, I always pick vanilla. So plausibly something similar may be true when it comes to accepting papers. For this reason, the evidence you cite is not impressive.Report
It goes without saying that the biases found in the cited studies *might* not carry over to academic publication. But you’ve given no reason to think they don’t (the hand-waving about reputation etc. Is, to use your word, unimpressive). Moreover, since biases typically aren’t restricted to one narrow domain, and since the bias in this case is known to manifest in multiple, disparate domains (see the other cited study, which your comment ignores), and since blacks enjoy an advantage in TT hiring after controlling for factors other than race (where the factors you mention are operative), the evidence I’ve cited is enough to establish a defeasible presumption that the bias carries over to publishing.Report
“It goes without saying that the biases found in the cited studies *might* not carry over to academic publication. But you’ve given no reason to think they don’t (the hand-waving about reputation etc. Is, to use your word, unimpressive).”
I never claimed to have evidence of anything being true of false. You did, as you claimed that the evidence you cite (to use your words) “makes the hypothesis” unlikely true or refutes it.Report
The claim you quote was not meant to contradict you in and of itself. Rather, it’s a premise in an argument whose conclusion does so. You claimed that the possibility of some imagined scenarios seriously diminishes the evidential force of the research on pro-black bias for the hypothesis that there is an anti-black bias in philosophy publishing. The lack of evidence that these possibilities are actual, together with the other considerations I raised, which independently call these scenarios into doubt, make these scenarios irrelevant, for practical purposes, to the question of the evidence’s salience to the hypothesis.Report
“The lack of evidence that these possibilities are actual, together with the other considerations I raised, which independently call these scenarios into doubt, make these scenarios irrelevant, for practical purposes, to the question of the evidence’s salience to the hypothesis.”
That’s too strong a claim. Obviously, the possibilities are relevant given the obvious differences between killing/saving someone and accepting papers. So the possibilities are relevant even for practical purposes.Report
The ‘so’ in your last sentence marks a disturbingly weak inference. Obvious =/= relevant. Coke is obviously different from Pepsi, but the differences are irrelevant to many extrapolations from known facts about the one to hypotheses about the other.
I’m going to have to sign off now.Report
It is not a weak inference. But I understand why you might think so. It would be to be clearer. Let me clarify.
The possibilities are relevant precisely because there is no evidence against their being actualities (rather than being merely possibilities), and until there is some such evidence. The differences between Coke and Pepsi are relevant to any extrapolation from known facts about one to hypotheses about the other, when both there is an obviously relevant possibility which, if actual, undermines or supports the hypotheses, and there is no evidence against the actuality of the possibility.
You disagree, since you think that the possibility is relevant only if there is evidence *for* the actuality of the possibility. But that’s a mistake. This is why: You have a headache and Rita, someone who does not like you, has a pill for you. The pill looks a lot like a normal pain reliever, but it is slightly different. An obvious difference between the pill Rita’s giving you and the pills you get for yourself is that this one is being given to you by someone who dislikes you. Your hypothesis is that the pill is not poisonous. But it is a possibility that, because Rita doesn’t like you, the pill is poison. Is this possibility relevant to the hypothesis? Obviously the possibility is relevant given the specified difference between the pill Rita offers and the pills you get for yourself, because both the possibility’s being an actuality undermines your hypothesis, and there is no evidence against the actuality of the possibility.
However, you are committed to denying the possibility’s relevance because there is no evidence of the actuality of the possibility, and you think the possibility is irrelevant if there is no such evidence. But that is obviously a mistake.Report
I agree that the trend in TT-hiring provide support for pro-black bias. But this is unimpressive because there is a possibility that the trend is due to the talents of the philosophers in question, and there is no evidence against this possibility’s being an actuality. You, of course, are committed to saying otherwise. You’ll say that the possibility is irrelevant because there is no evidence for this possibility’s being an actuality, and you think a possibility is irrelevant if there is such evidence. But this is subject to the same mistake mentioned above.Report
Correction to the post immediately above, in the second to last sentence. It should read “You’ll say that the possibility is irrelevant because there is no evidence for this possibility’s being an actuality, and you think a possibility is irrelevant if there is *no* such evidence.”Report
To be clear, when I say “It’s of course unlikely that these kinds of biases on the left are restricted to blacks” I meant that it’s unlikely that the left has pro-black biases but not biases in favor of other races included under the heading “people of color.” I didn’t mean to say that blacks are the bearers of the biases in question.Report
Subject matter bias and author bias are not at all the same thing. We should stop treating them as proxies.
If reviews are blind and subject matters are diverse, there’s nothing to prevent a nontraditional/underrepresented author from specializing in Kant and publishing a paper on Kant, provided that they can write a good enough paper. Similarly, there’s nothing to prevent a fully tenured “old white male” from specializing in black feminist philosophy and publishing a paper on it, if he wants to. That is the whole point of blind review, at least in theory.
Many of these arguments appear to revolve around some sort of essentialism, in which “of course” the POC will want to write about black philosophy, and the women on feminist philosophy, and the trouble folks will write an autoethnography on mental health. But that is, in a way, very paternalistic: It’s not for us to choose what someone wants to write about, and if they elect to write an autoethnography rather than a discourse on Kant, why should we question their choice?
Of course, we all know that there are likely to be more nontraditional authors in the field of “feminist philosophy” than “Kantian ethics” so If you want more diverse papers, you can simply state a goal of what you want to publish, and run a “feminist philosophy” issue. The problem is that this solution requires the journals to be up front about what they are actually planning to publish, which they don’t want to do.
Unsurprisingly, journal editors value relative academic standing, so this whole thing is essentially a dance: They want to trade off some factor (blind-review paper quality) for another factor (diversity). But they are well-aware that reducing paper quality will affect their standing, so they attempt to obscure the tradeoffs.
Thus these types of pretenses, in which all of the we are essentially asked to accept that (for example) choosing a non-quality-related subset of a group of people will not tend, overall, to reduce the quality of the top applicants. Are we seriously arguing that “the best papers by ___ set of people” will be as good as “the best papers by all people?” This is simply ludicrous.
It’s a pity we can’t be more honest about things. If you apply the same process to two groups w/ differing inputs then they will not have the same outcomes. And if you want to take different inputs and obtain identical outcomes you cannot–literally, mathematically, cannot–treat the groups equally. Which is FINE: by all means, we should make efforts to give some special status to those folks who have been screwed over by our ancestors and governments. Commit to publishing one POC paper every issue; advertise it; seek out all possible POC to compete. But why pretend the opposite?Report