New: First Generation Philosophers

A new website features autobiographical essays by philosophers who were first-generation college students.

Launched today, First Generation Philosophers already has contributions from Helen De Cruz (Saint Louis University), Kevin Harrelson (Ball State), Christine Korsgaard (Harvard), Graham Priest (CUNY), and John Tasioulas (Oxford).

Here’s a passage from one of them:

I was good at academics, but I did not come from that part of the social world in which college is considered inevitable. It was a real decision whether to go, and I decided that I did not want to. My picture of college was basically that it would be four more years of high school, and my experience of high school did not make that appealing. Instead, I wanted to be an autodidact. So I bought myself a set of “great books” and began plowing through them. When I reached Plato and Nietzsche, I knew I was home. At that point I had been thinking about philosophical problems for some years, and occasionally even writing down what I thought. But I had no idea that it was a discipline with a name, and that other people did it. The discovery was thrilling.

(You’ll have to visit the site to see which philosopher wrote that.)

The site was created by Simona Aimar (UCL) and Daniel James (TU Dresden). (It follows an earlier related German-language site created by Dr. James and Barbara Vetter (Freie Universität Berlin).)

Professors Aimar and James sent along an announcement in which they describe the site and its aims:

We are delighted to announce the launch of the #FirstGenPhilosophers website. This platform is dedicated to increasing the visibility of first-generation academics in philosophy—philosophers from non-academic family backgrounds—and aims to provide a space for their experiences, perspectives and ideas.

The website is inspired by recent discussions such as the 2020 Eastern APA panel and subsequent APA newsletter “Outsiders Within: Reflections on Being a First-Generation and/or Low-Income Philosopher”, which highlighted the challenges faced by academics from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds and the underrepresentation of first-generation students in philosophy.

Moreover, the #FirstGenPhilosophers initiative seeks to promote a more comprehensive approach to diversity and inclusion in philosophy by exploring the intersections of class with race & gender. To this end, the #FirstGenPhilosophers website will feature personal reflections and scholarly contributions that explore how family background influences philosophical careers, as well as the obstacles encountered by, and the benefits of including first-generation academics.

Whether you’re a graduate student, an academic, or someone who has ventured beyond academia after your studies, we’d love to hear from you. We also offer the option to publish anonymously to ensure a diversity of perspectives. If you are a first-generation philosopher and would like to share your story, please consider submitting here.

Check out First Generation Philosophers here.


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1 month ago

I’m glad they plan to include those who have left academia. Largely, the experience of first-generation or poorer students I know in this job market is that they end up leaving academia when they cannot afford to spend several years on the job marlet earning nothing.