Linda Alcoff is having trouble with the Typepad interface, so she has asked me to post the following on her behalf:
Once again I want to thank those who have offered their considered reflections and heartfelt thoughts on the Pluralist’s Guide, and the general issues of inclusivity. The level of information sharing and publicly stated commitments to inclusiveness that the Guide has induced are, surely all must agree, a good thing.
I will restate some of our responses to criticisms below; it has been dismaying to see repeated claims that we have not responded to criticisms when in fact most of the information some are demanding is on the Pluralist Guide site itself and other responses have been posted on this site.
But first, let us be clear on the situation of our profession. There has been a generation of brain drain in philosophy. Continental philosophers go into English and Religion and Comparative Literature departments; critical race philosophers go into Ethnic Studies Programs or law schools; LGBT folks go into English or LGBT programs; American philosophers go into Political Science departments; feminists go into Education and Women’s studies. Some of the best and brightest choose between a career facing constant battles within philosophy, or fame and fortune (relatively speaking) outside philosophy, and make rational choices. We are committed to making philosophy more hospitable to philosophical diversity, and thus to combat brain drain. Otherwise, as folks at the Collegium of Black Women Philosophers put it, why would you encourage students to put themselves into this kind of alienated, embattled environment?
Now let me restate and amplify some points made earlier about the methodological debates, especially concerning climate studies:
1) Methodologies of climate studies are intrinsically difficult, without a doubt. Taking a majority vote of the target group within a department does not guarantee accuracy, as many have pointed out. It is vital to consult those who have left a department, but often difficult to track them down. Actual climate conditions can vary significantly from person to person, depending, for example, if the person’s area of interest requires them to study with a given individual who is problematic. Identities are complex objects, and the specific mediations of gender identity, for example, such as race, sexuality, disability, and class, can create significant differences in experience.
2) Methodologies of climate studies have been usefully debated. In other words, reasonable people disagree. Rather than impugning dishonest motives or devious goals, differences over methodological issues might be approached as we approach our other (constant) epistemological disagreements.
3) However, many of us who have been involved in climate studies over the years have noticed a pattern of deflection from the content of the study to the methodology of the study. Quick dismissals, demands to know who exactly said what exactly about whom exactly, and personal attacks on the authors of the study are such a common occurrence that this phenomena bears study itself!
4) The question then is, should climate studies be engaged in at all, given these sorts of inevitable debates, intrinsic problems, and vulnerability to deflection from what should be the real concern? Again, reasonable people answer this question differently. On the yes side, it can be argued that some climate studies have galvanized policy change and a shift in the culture of a workplace. Despite flaws, they can get people talking in ways they did not before. They can be done responsibly to provide useful even if imperfect information. They can be approached as a starting point. They can help people to begin to realize that there may be things that they did not know that they did not know.
This discussion of climate studies needs to be put squarely in a real, non-ideal world context. Actual steps taken should be responsive to actual conditions, and likely effects, rather than based on an idealized approaches. Consider this in light of the demand for ‘evidence’ about the basis of a negative judgment of climate: in my experience, a search for evidence can be motivated by a desire to establish that there is one isolated bad apple, or that the charges are bogus for one reason or another, or to find out who was the whistleblower so that that person can be harassed. In other words, it can be motivated by a desire to avoid making changes. So it is very important to do any evidence gathering in a way that will not end up adversely affecting whistleblowers. Perhaps the best thing for departments to do would be to forego the evidence gathering and develop some pro-active actions. What these might be may include changing hiring priorities, addressing gender and pluralism issues in pro-seminars, having some recent work in social psychology made available to the whole department in some effective way (Claude Steele’s research is great), and so on.
We have to be honest about the fact that the process of criticism and debate within philosophy can be distorted or overdetermined by professional competitiveness, individual psychological dynamics, and plain racism, sexism, etc. Yet somehow we have to remain open to criticism, and engaged with debates in a constructive way. We at the Pluralist’s Guide will remain open to suggestions, critiques, and offers of help! And we will continue to try to improve our Guide.
Department of Philosophy