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How can we encourage some women to view philosophy as important?

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Posted

I have outlined a concern of mine which came to my attention over this last weekend in this thread:

http://academy.galilean-library.org/showthread.php?p=79592

Hugo has kindly thanked me for raising the issue, and has suggested I open a new thread on it. I think it belongs in this philosophy forum, as I am not particularly wanting to pursue the sort of more generalised conversation I got into with my wife and friends, which focussed more generally on feminism. My interest is predominantly on the role of philosophy in human discourse and action, and not on the role of women (important as that is!). It would appear to me that a comment in Professor Sally Haslanger's pdf from the link given in the above cited thread, combines with my wife's view that many men want to appear intelligent and articulate, and will therefore be drawn to philosophy rather than activities which might be seen to be more useful! The comment from Sally's article (and really needs to be read in its context there) reads:

"The schema for women has us assume that women are life-giving and nurturing. The

schema for the military, of course, has us assume that troops are life-taking and aggressive."

Inevitably I began a search on the Internet, and immediately found this:

http://www.dur.ac.uk/swipuk/women-friendly/

I am encouraged to think that at least in the realm of academia, this topic is being addressed. Unfortunately, I am not being given easily argued but powerful reasons for my spending time in this philospophy site we call TGL! I am not only interested in philosophy (obviously!) but I have always thought, as a school teacher, that it has tremendous potential in the education of our young. I think I have cited the P4C (Philosophy for Children) website already in one of my posts here.

My wife remains unconvinced! Both of us are now retired, we have many shared interests, but there are one or two of hers which do not attract me (although I try to be a good listener) and my two are philosophy and chess (novice levels in both enterprises). She therefore gives me space to pursue them, but does feel that I am idling away my time!

I am therefore looking for sound arguments about why we should pursue philosophy, over and above the reason which I actually do fully endorse that it is a predominantly male enterprise founded on the assumed schema as cited by Professor Haslanger. Do we have many female members here at TGL, and if so are they able to justify their involvement as women? This will, of course, take us into aspects of feminism which might become unavoidable. Arguments for the philosophical enterprise without reference to sexism, or any minority involvement in it, can be searched out myself, and by keeping an eye on the other thread where 'wandering' has asked for career advice.

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Posted

Why should women be encouraged to study male-dominated disciplines, not just philosophy? Why should men be encouraged, too, to partake in activities that aren't considered "macho" enough? Why bother at all?

The disparity may not necessarily be a cultural one. It could be genetic due to the differences between male and female brains.

My girlfriend has a distaste for theory in general - even though she is rather intelligent and clever - and I'm sure many others are, too. Now, why is this the case? I think we should investigate this rather than attempt to "encourage," i.e., persuade people into what they aren't already interested in doing.

Ideology does not belong in philosophy; thus this thread belongs in the politics/social forum.

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Posted

Many thanks for your quick response, Campanella. I guess you mean the History, Society and Politics Forum, (I am sure neither you nor I want a social, or sociable, exchange about how I get on with my wife and you with your girlfriend, at an intellectual level :-)) and I have no reasons to feel miffed if moderators here think that that is the more appropriate forum.

Concerning your first question, I do not think that it is only nominated disciplines which are male-dominated. Surely the whole of human experience, historical and societal, is male-dominated, hence the feminist movement. Therefore as I explained in my OP, I placed this thread in the Philosophy Forum because I wanted it to focus on the apparent male-dominance of philosophy, rather than the very much broader, and very relevent, siginficance of feminism generally.

Your second question seems to relate to positive discrimination, in all of its manifestations; a movement, incidentally, to which I can give considerable support. Browsing the UK site to which I have given the link, concerning women in philosophy departments of universities, I am sure it says that there is one faculty which demands a 50/50 representation of male and female members.

You ask, "Why bother at all?" and I feel this must be addressed to the feminists themselves, many of whom hold tenured positions in the philosophy faculties cited. Your suggestion that the differences between male and female brains might be due to some sort of genetic configuration (evolution?) with great respect I have to ignore. My reasons for this thread are not to discuss why men and women are different, but to try to ask what we might do about it. I am reminded of that very funny cartoon which circulated the Internet through e-mails, which showed that the greater part of a woman's brain was concerned with shoes, and the greater part of a man's brain was concerned with sex. My wife and myself had a great laugh over that, I am sorry I cannot immediately find a link.

Campanella, you finally state that ideology has nothing to do with philosophy. You may be correct, but (and I am only a novice) I thought philosophy could maintain a purchase on any of our thoughts. I agree that along with the philosophy of religion, the philosophy of science etc. we do not have a philosophy of ideologies, but I do not see immediately why that should be so?

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Posted (edited)

Here's another excerpt from Haslanger's paper:

[fieldset=On choices]My point here is that I don

Edited by Hugo Holbling
Fixed typo.

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Posted

I suppose general opinions on "Why philosophy?" ought to be enough to convince all of us, male or female. But I must keep looking for something specific to say to those women, not all of course, who are not convinced of its usefulness, perhaps for those very reasons already mentioned about the differences between men and women.

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Posted

I just want to clarify a point I made in my post above because I noticed a typo that altered the meaning slightly. My suggestion was that if women are going to face discrimination at work and in academia in particular then, ceteris paribus, they are probably going to be more likely to enter a field in which they can counter that discrimination and succeed in spite of it. A discipline in which demonstrable contributions can be made would then be a better bet than one in which the perception or reality is that little or no progress is made (or worse, that the extent of a woman's contributions are judged by the very men discriminating against her in the first place because few external measures - such as recognition outside the discipline or book sales - exist and internal measures such as tenure or department chairs are again controlled by men). Neuroscience is thus to be preferred to philosophy of mind, and so on.

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Posted

I do not understand what the problem is supposed to be with women (in general) seeming to find philosophy less important (or less interesting) than do men (in general). I am not even sure that there is really that much difference (in general) between how males and females regard philosophy. After all, what percentage of males bother with philosophy? Is it really significantly higher than the percentage of females? It seems quite clearly the case that more males participate in discussion groups such as TGL (as well as groups of lesser quality), and it is quite clearly the case that more males pursue philosophy as both academic discipline and profession, but, both in discussion groups and academics, it is still a rather insignificant percentage of males that are involved.

It is not at all difficult for me to accept outright that there is some sense of discrimination against females in academic philosophy, whether merely perceived or actual, whether consciously instigated or not. I have only read the first six pages or so of the Haslanger paper, and I do not think that all of the examples she uses speak very strongly in favor of the notion that females are discriminated against for being female. Indeed, I think she is actually more interested in subtly - rather than overt - discriminatory conditions, but, then, I am not so sure that those subtle conditions are best interpreted as favoring males (or the masculine) over females (or the feminine) or as being a male/female issue.

I think she quite aptly describes the situation of academic philosophy at least in the U.S. when she basically notes the emphases in terms of the dichotomies of rational/emotional, objective/subjective, and the like -- matters generally regarded as pertaining to the determination of whether any stance is rational or not, and I have no problem with finding these dichotomies to be ultimately a reflection of what we generally regard in terms of the masculine/feminine dichotomy. Still, I do not think this is a male/female or masculine/feminine issue.

I believe that the problem which Haslanger is trying to identify actually pertains to the current conventional (and, therefore, the predominant) manner in which philosophy is conducted and performed, and I see this as a stylistic issue -- one which seems to emphasize an ever more analytic (and reductive) form.

Whether or not males in general - and for whatever reason - are more inclined towards or attracted to the analytical than are females in general, I think this emphasis, what I would prefer to call an over-emphasis, is a real problem for philosophy. I believe that the overly analytical style of philosophy is a problem insofar as this style tends to exclude other styles. This is to say that analysis is essential to philosophy, but it is not identical to - or all there is to - philosophy.

And, since this thread is already replete with others' personal references, I will sustain that approach with my own personal examples in an attempt to make more clear my thoughts about this women-and-philosophy issue.

I start by denying that it would be an adequate description of my wife to say that philosophy is less important to her than it is to me. Philosophy is utterly - even if largely indirectly - important to her in that my attraction to the philosophical is an important aspect of my person and thereby contributes to whatever it is about my person that attracts her (and, despite this attraction, she actually has good taste). But, apart from that attraction, there is also the fact that my wife herself very much relishes philosophical discussions (although not as frequently nor as intensely as I do), and this difference in intensity of interest might very well relate to why it is that there are very few (what would be readily recognized as) philosophical writings that she can stand to read. Those which she has enjoyed, such as Tolstoy's The Kingdom of God is Within You and, very recently, Wiesenthal's The Sunflower, are stylistically worlds apart from the most common ways in which philosophy is written.

It is most definitely the philosophy written in the more aridly analytic styles for which my wife maintains a distaste (it is a distaste which I actually share; I am just willing to more often persevere through such styles), and, yet, in her profession she has to be - and is one of the best in her field at being - analytical. (It is a field in which I have done some work; so, I know of what I speak when I praise her skills. And, besides, she'd have to be exceptional to be my woman! Heh!)

In my wife's case, it is not the analytical itself which is off-putting, but in her profession analysis is closely tied to an experienced result, and I surmise that it is the apparent lack of concern (rather commonly seen as a lack of relevance) which analytic philosophy or philosophical analysis has with the experience of being human that most dampens my wife's interest in philosophy. Of course, the scope of the philosophical is much broader than is the scope of my wife's profession; therefore, it is to be expected that any possible experienced result will be more distant from the analyses employed, and still the point remains that what it is about philosophy -- especially the exclusively or predominantly analytical variety -- that makes philosophy seem relatively unimportant if not outright irrelevant is the great distance perceived to be between the concerns and manner of philosophy and the experience of life (or between the philosophical conclusion and manifestation in life).

In the case of my wife, I know how to take some what seem to her arid philosophical points and make them relevant to her own style of philosophical thought, to her own concerns and interests, and I do this without ever imagining (or needing to imagine) that what there is at hand is a male/female problem built into philosophy.

Michael

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Posted

As I hinted at the end of my first post, I thought it must be incumbent upon me to do a little of my own searching on this topic, since I am the one who has raised it. I am, of course still interested in the numbers of women who post here, and especially if they have anything different to say concerning their own input as a female into the philosophical enterprise. This inevitably draws in aspects of feminism to which Hugo has already referred, and to which my the second of my two links below have quite a lot to say. I fully accept that this may not be seen to be important by many here, as we read each other's contributions and acknowledge them for their content irrespective of gender, ethnic origin, religious affiliation, whatever.

My own interest in this, as I have already said, is that my wife and a number of friends endorce very much the idea that to read philosophy is a macho endeavour, that basically I am wasting my time, and "that philosophers debate unanswerable questions without results". This is taken from this link:

http://records.viu.ca/www/ipp/whatis.htm

I have included this piece to begin because it addresses very briefly what is philosophy, its general benefits, its applications in specific areas and its usefulness. In fact I've printed it out and I hope my wife will read it! I am sure there are many equally helpful introductions written by philosophy departments in higher education throughout the world, and not least, of course, Hugo 's series here, "Introducing Philosophy", but this latter collection of essays, running now to 21 I think and which I am still reading, is really for those of us, novices we are, but already committed to the discipline. Now this brings me to one of my concerns and I think us men need to be honest. Are we really here because it is seen, at least by some of us, as a macho enterprise? I have to say for myself that my inclination to read philosophy would be diminished if I thought it was dominated by men with this orientation, much as I do with a so-called general Opinion Forum in a school teacher's website when it becomes dominated by atheists. I have a similar disinterest in the feminist movement when it appears dominated by women tending towards a male oreintated-disposition (macho?), or some others who aspire to emphasise the distinctly feminine.

Reason and objectivity are two pillars of philosophical thinking which are emphasised here:

http://www.uh.edu/~cfreelan/SWIP/Witt.html

If anyone goes to this link, they will find a very useful summary there by the author, which I reproduce here.

Professor Charlotte Witt:

"Cynthia suggested I summarize "How Feminism is Rewriting the Philosophical Canon" which she has also kindly put on the web. I'm going to simply summarize the paper, and leave my second thoughts for another post.

"Introduction: I use a quote from Rorty and Skinner to establish the idea that canons are formed to justify, and to villify, current philosophical viewpoints. They have in mind the split between continental and analytic philosophers. Can feminist philosophers working on the canon be categorized in this way? I note the (unintentional) sexism in the Rorty and Skinner quote and then talk about two special problems that we have looking at the history of philosophy: exclusion and denigration. I end the introduction by asking who "we" are, and suggesting that feminists have read the canon with different ideas of who "we" are: women, the feminine and feminists. I return to this issue in my conclusion.

"Section One: I describe feminist readings of the canon that challenge its derogatory characterization of women. These are of three kinds: (i) readings that record the explicit misogyny of "great" philosophers (ii) readings that argue for gendered interpretations of theoretical concepts (like form and matter in Aristotle) and (iii) synoptic interpretations of the canon (like the view that reason and objectivity are gendered male in the history of western philosophy--Lloyd and Bordo). COMMENT: My category of synoptic interpretations maps pretty closely onto Rorty's geistesgeschichte.

"Section Two: I discuss the response of feminist philosophy to the myths that there are no women philosophers or, in any case, no important ones. One response has been the retrieval of women philosophers for the historical record; another has been the elevation to the canon of greats (maybe just goods) women philosophers like Wollstonecroft, Arendt and Beauvoir.

"Section Three: I examine the way that feminist philosophers have been engaged in re-reading the canon looking for antecedents to feminist philosophy in the thought of those philosophers (e.g. Hume) and those theories (e.g. Aristotle's virtue ethics) that are most congenial to current trends in feminism or which provide the most fuel for feminist thought. This is to use the canon as other movements have done--as a resource, and as confirmation that a feminist perspective or problem is securely rooted in our philosophical culture.

"Conclusion: I focus on the fact that feminists read and evaluate the canon differently. I suggest that the multiplicity of feminist readings of the history of philosophy is rooted in, and reflects, different understandings of what feminism is, what its theoretical commitments should be, and what its core values are.

My summary, alas, leaves out all the feminist work I discuss or mention."

I have to say I found reading this paper very illuminating. Being a novice, I was not aware of how canons are used to justify current philosophical viewpoints. I was not aware of the explicit misogyny of the great philosophers. Professor Witt does show the distinction between the feminine and feminists, I think. Gendered interpretations of theoretical concepts like form and matter by Aristotle is a fascinating idea, I think. That reason and objectivity are gendered male in the history of Western philosophy, and in perceived contemporary discourse, to which I have already alluded, has been a sleeping suspicion of mine for some time!

Although I do not consider myself a feminist, affirmative action for all oppressed and minority viewpoints is, I think, a worthwhile enterprise.

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Posted (edited)

What an interesting thread, Maths! I appreciate you starting it and all the thoughtful contributions have been fascinating.

Being one of the few women who do participate in TGL, I'm not really in the group of disinterested women you are talking about. I don't know if my thoughts will be relevant to what you would like to do.

My reasons for turning to philosophy hinge on my being a member of the human race and not on my gender. I actually haven't read any feminist philosophers. I made a decision a number of years ago that I wanted to read philosophy as I grew older to see if it would help me understand more about humans and our behaviors. It's interesting for me. I don't see it as a waste of time at all. I read it slowly, and I don't retain as much as I wish I did, but I am always coming across something that makes me think about things a little differently than I did previously. I guess that's what keeps me coming back. I don't want to spend the latter part of my life, when I can draw on an increasing number of experiences to help me understand more about my co-Earthers, oblivious to the big picture.

I've always liked stepping back and trying to see things from a different point of view. Philosophy is a way to do that. I would have to say the analytical side of it is off-putting for me. I figure that may be because I'm not the brightest bulb in the package. However, there is so much else to read and consider that it doesn't much bother me.

When I first started here I did feel very self-conscious about my contributions. I'm less so now, although I tend often to start a post and then delete it without posting it. I was unaware of any specific gender prejudice in the philosophical world. The world in general has been problematical for women so it comes as no surprise. I think just barging ahead as if there were no obstacles is sometimes a good way to get to do what you want to do. Probably wouldn't always work though.

At any rate, thinking about what people do, why they do it, whether things could be done better, how best to think about a particular idea or subject, these are among the things I think about while reading philosophy. I wish everyone could be encouraged to do this.

[sorry for the rambling aspect to this. I'm posting it inspite of any misgivings I have about it though. :)]

Anyway, thanks again Mathsteach2 for starting this thread. Great one!

***

I edited my post to add in this entry from my husband's blog, phxtalk.blogspot.com. There are women who play chess. Some, like Judit Polg

Edited by AllBlue
added a smidge of info on women chess players

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Posted

Now this brings me to one of my concerns and I think us men need to be honest. Are we really here because it is seen, at least by some of us, as a macho enterprise? I have to say for myself that my inclination to read philosophy would be diminished if I thought it was dominated by men with this orientation ...

I swear: I have never thought of philosophy "as a macho enterprise", and I have never heard it described in such a way. Furthermore, I do not think that using the pronoun "he" when "she" could also fit necessarily excludes females no matter how many females may ever take offense at such a use of "he". After all, the current prevailing style (no doubt an attempt at mollification) which uses "she" instead of "he" when "he" could just as well be used (a style which I personally reject whether because of my age or sheer recalcitrance) does not make me feel as if I am excluded. Relying on a preference for using "he" where "she" could just as well have been used does not provide much of an argument or evidence for either philosophy "as a macho enterprise" or for the presence of sexism.

Michael

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Posted

I agree with Michael that some people may be put off by analytic philosophy, probably with good reason. Ultimately, I suppose, we are interested in things we find relevant to our lives. For some philosophers, that means analysis; for others, it means more accessible investigation of the kind of questions we all have. The key point I would emphasise to anyone who thinks philosophy is useless or doesn't achieve anything is that these questions really are ones everyone is asking, even if we don't all frame them in the same way, and that we achieve something by asking them. Everyone is trying to figure out the best way to live, judging whether actions are right or wrong or justifiable, and so on, and whatever answers they come up with help to shape their lives. Perhaps the key issue is not why women - or any group - aren't so interested in philosophy but rather whether we have to reassess what form that interest has to take. Is someone less of a philosopher if they talk about philosophical questions with friends in a caf

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Posted

We seem to be teasing out some very interesting facets of our sexist proclivities! In conversation with my wife, we have touched upon the gendering of form and matter (that was difficult for the concepts themselves are not easy to comprehend!), but this led us to discuss the gendering of ordinary nouns in other languages!! I am no linguist (being a typical englishman) but I do remember from my french lessons in a grammar school in North Wales (circa 1956) that common nouns are gendered, and in french we have to use "le" or "la", or "un" or "une" accordingly. e.g "book" is masculine and "chair" is feminine!! I hope I have got that correct! Now why is this? What a fascinating subject!

Michael Pearl raises the issue of whether or not to use our pronoun "he" or "she", and I agree with him to substitute "she" for "he" to promote some sort of feminist viewpoint is uncomfortable to say the least. I understand there is a feminist version of the Bible where this has been done, but that has to be yet another story! Interestingly, as we all become more conversant with this cyberpsace medium, and when we wish to refer to a particular poster but not knowing their gender, I am getting quite comfortable with the descriptor (for want of a better word) "he/she", or perhaps the feminists would prefer "she/he"!! I understand and accept that Michael has never heard philosophy referred to as a macho enterprise. I would have liked to have had him present this last weekend when I was in discussion with my wife and friends!

Pursuing this idea that reason and objectivity are gendered male in Western philososphy, does this bite deeply into the feminine psyche? It needs to be noticed that Professor Witt cites this only as a "view" within "feminist synoptic interpretations" (Lloyd and Bordo), but I have already said that this has resonated with a sleeping suspicion of mine. My observation of the male dominance within all of our societies, at all levels, has been a concern of mine throughout my adult life. In the UK in the 1960s and 70s I taught for a while in a boys' secondary school, which brought me to campaign against corporal punishment. In the UK the campaign was successful, and there seems little chance of it ever returning. To physically beat someone who is in a subordinate role, leading inevitably to the physical abuse especially of women, was and still is anathema to me. I think I am past my campaigning days, but I would always try to pursue, hopefully through reasoned argumentation, that if some women do see reason and objectivity as male-oriented, then I will be supporting those women who try to bring this more and more out into the open. It certainly makes me want to read some of what Lloyd and Bordo have to say.

The post from AllBlue is most informative, and her addendum showing Shiva Mahboobi playing chess impacts strongly on me, not only because chess is a game which perfectly meets the schema for men (actually the military) identified by Haslanger as being "life-taking and agressive", but also brings to mind the generally accepted role of women in Islamic culture, which, dare I say, is subordinate to men? I am not saying, of course, that women or men should not play chess! I accept the war-like tendencies in all of us and chess has to be the most harmless of outlets for these tendencies (well, perhaps not at world championship levels, but again that has to be another story!). I am not so sure that I could say the same for many of the current video games - yet another story!

I am continuing my search on feminism, but have deliberately avoided further links, at least for the time being. I say again, I think there is something quite profound in this discourse for all of us budding philosophers to consider.

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Posted

I feel I should be interested in this thread, being a woman, and being called a philosopher by some, such as my dad, whenever i argue about every proposition that I refuse to accept at face value.

Or such as maths teachers, who think my question about the nature of maths and thinking are philosophical.

I consider myself a bit of philosopher, but do not fit in the traditional schema of what western males consider traditional philosophy, therefore my thinking is only tangential to some of the questions discussed in philosophical threads, which btw, could be easily solved by looking at the issues from a different angle

but that does not seem to be an option of interest, answering philosophical questions by flipping them over

So I am suggesting that what traditional (western?) males consider worthy of being called philosophy, may not concide with what women would consider philosophy, thus ending up in us preferring to do some form of art to make our point.

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Posted

So I am suggesting that what traditional (western?) males consider worthy of being called philosophy, may not concide with what women would consider philosophy, thus ending up in us preferring to do some form of art to make our point.

Hey, Pg! How goes it? Because as a group females are physically weaker than males (although some individuals, male and female, of course don't fit that standard), women have been beleagered throughout history. We've had less of a chance to make the big decisions that have affected human history in general and our own in particular. We've tended to play catch-up to men in the pursuits that men have created by drawing on their own strengths, although there are many cases when we've kicked ass. (Except in tennis - just ask McEnroe!) When we create our own pursuits we do better. I think Pg's got something with the idea that women may define philosophy as something other than it's traditional western definition.

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Posted

Glad you share. I think its true in other disciplines too. Men set the standards, and then ask women to match them. They create problems that largely dont exist, fictitious and aimed only at flexing and developing their own brain muscles, and then wonder why women not capable of/interested in solving them. Maybe try psychoanalsys, or arts therapy. :-)

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Posted

I want to pursue your ideas, Pgalaxy, but I also need to try to clarify one or two points in your post.

You say you do not fit into the traditional male schema of philosophy (as you imply with your own question mark, the reference from Witt to western philosophy obviously needs to be explored - it seems to imply that Eastern philosophy may well be more oriented to female schema, but yet is not reflected in societal norms?) and that some questions could be easily solved by looking at them from a different angle. Am I correct in thinking that, just like my wife says, if some of us men would look at a problem from the women's point of view then the problem would cease to exist :-)? Now this suggestion interests me greatly, and I have great faith that it could be true, given my already-stated aversion to so much of the aggressive male thinking and behaviour. I neglected to give further anecdotal evidence of my experiences concerning this in my last post. The male teachers in the boys' school I mentioned were extremely arrogant and aggressive, as a young teacher I nearly threw in the towel. Popular entertainment, particularly from the USA I think, portrays male aggression from schoolboy fights to adult fist fights (and worse) as something to be admired and emulated, especially if you 'win'. Fundamentalists, atheists in books and blogs, and theists preaching from pulpits who are nearly invariably male, promulgate this male schema.

What I need, and perhaps men in general need, are examples of problems, simple they may be, theoretical or practical, where the female psyche can be brought to bear, and would leave men confounded as to why they did not think of that! It appears to me, regrettably I have to say, that in philosophy, the feminist endeavour is often derided as men continue to try to hold on to, what I hope, is their steadily diminishing status. To really stir this pot, is there any significance in the fact that we have already acknowledged that theism, at least in the form of church attendance, holds its position in society through the efforts of women?

This brings me to my final point from your post, Pgalaxy. You finish by suggesting that philosophy for some women may not be how men see the discipline? I would find an explication of this very interesting, and has it anything at all to do with my observation that church attendence is predominantly female? That is, is church attendance an expression of interest in an art-form? Both my wife and myself have reduced our attendance in church (any church - we hold no membership anywhere) to going for a spiritual experience, and for which we are quite willing to pay our entrance fee at the door. We are not artists, we do not create art (music, sculpture, paintings etc.) but are very willing to show our appreciation to those who do, when we listen and look at the works of others. Am I talking about your reference to art? Please bring me back to your point if I have strayed!

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Posted

You say you do not fit into the traditional male schema of philosophy (as you imply with your own question mark, the reference from Witt to western philosophy obviously needs to be explored - it seems to imply that Eastern philosophy may well be more oriented to female schema, but yet is not reflected in societal norms?) and that some questions could be easily solved by looking at them from a different angle. Am I correct in thinking that, just like my wife says, if some of us men would look at a problem from the women's point of view then the problem would cease to exist :-)?

I suppose so, sounds that some women do think alike then...

Now this suggestion interests me greatly, and I have great faith that it could be true, given my already-stated aversion to so much of the aggressive male thinking and behaviour. I neglected to give further anecdotal evidence of my experiences concerning this in my last post. The male teachers in the boys' school I mentioned were extremely arrogant and aggressive, as a young teacher I nearly threw in the towel. Popular entertainment, particularly from the USA I think, portrays male aggression from schoolboy fights to adult fist fights (and worse) as something to be admired and emulated, especially if you 'win'. Fundamentalists, atheists in books and blogs, and theists preaching from pulpits who are nearly invariably male, promulgate this male schema.

something to do with the chemistry, the hormons, very basic explanation probably for such differences

What I need, and perhaps men in general need, are examples of problems, simple they may be, theoretical or practical, where the female psyche can be brought to bear, and would leave men confounded as to why they did not think of that!

if you pick any of my posts, you will probably see how i attempt to suggest that answers to the questions posed may be sought by pursuing different reasoning , but I am not sure whether I was successful in communicating the intended message.

It appears to me, regrettably I have to say, that in philosophy, the feminist endeavour is often derided as men continue to try to hold on to, what I hope, is their steadily diminishing status. To really stir this pot, is there any significance in the fact that we have already acknowledged that theism, at least in the form of church attendance, holds its position in society through the efforts of women?

I am really interested in exploring this topic possibly for a manuscript, collaboratively edited perhaps?

we need to question all our assumptions I would say, including the use of the term feminist (I am not a feminist)

also male and female qualities coexist in bot men and women, I think we are looking at yin yang type of polarity, and the predominance of yang in the western world

thus all the assumptions that may follow from that would also benefit from being questioned

This brings me to my final point from your post, Pgalaxy. You finish by suggesting that philosophy for some women may not be how men see the discipline? I would find an explication of this very interesting, and has it anything at all to do with my observation that church attendence is predominantly female?

That i dont know, but we would have to start checking those facts. where? based on what figures? which country?

I rarely go to mass myself, but the occasions that i drop in unexpected, such as last time I went skiing at easter i attended a mass on a mountain slope, in the snow, it was lovely, and there were many men. (did not count)

do you have any reliable figures?

That is, is church attendance an expression of interest in an art-form? Both my wife and myself have reduced our attendance in church (any church - we hold no membership anywhere) to going for a spiritual experience, and for which we are quite willing to pay our entrance fee at the door. We are not artists, we do not create art (music, sculpture, paintings etc.) but are very willing to show our appreciation to those who do, when we listen and look at the works of others. Am I talking about your reference to art? Please bring me back to your point if I have strayed!

I dont know, but I like it that you are starting to see the mixed bag approach, philosophy, science, arts, beliefs etc

I a sorry I do not have time right now to pursueall the intersting questions you raise, but lets make it a point to continue discussing these issues and maybe dissecting into smaller chuncks for ease of analysis?

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Is someone less of a philosopher if they talk about philosophical questions with friends in a caf

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This may be straying off the topic concerning philosophy and women. However, if it can be taken as an example of how some men and women appear to be behaving differently from each other, it may therefore be of some relevance.

It seems I have been going down a wrong path when I suggested that since more women than men attend church, it may possibly be because they are expressing an appreciation of an art form, thus trying to draw on Pgalaxy's suggestion that "we (women) end up preferring to do some form of art to make our point". I even went further by suggesting that if the schema for men entails an aggressive viewpoint, then they will find ample opportunity for its expression from the pulpit! Pgalaxy also asked me to find some data on church attendance, and in doing so I may perhaps may be reviewing my thoughts!

Although it is true that women are still the greater proportion of attendees at least in the Christian churches, apparently their numbers are diminishing at a greater rate than the fall off in the attendance of males. Dr. Kristin Aune cites the following reasons for women not attending church in the numbers they used to do over the centuries; fertility levels, feminist values, paid employment, family diversity and sexuality. A brief explication of these reasons, and more of her ideas can be read in this link:

http://www.derby.ac.uk/press-office/news-archive/is-buffy-responsible-for-slaying-womens-church-attendance

Is it to be thought, then, that the inclusion of "feminist values" suggests that feminism as a movement is partly responsible for the falling off of female attendance at church? This is contrary to the point I was trying to make, that more women than men attend church because they are nurturing and less aggressive, characteristics which Jesus Himself exhibited and extolled. Or is it that feminism in this context is of the more macho variety, and it is the more stereotypical female (identified by the schema already mentioned) who attends church? This may be nicely illustrated by this fairly recent item in the Christian news media, which I find quite interesting and amusing!

http://www.christiantoday.com/article/men.want.more.anthems.and.less.hugging.in.church/23272.htm

The stereotypical male and female are well represented in this survey, it seems!

The following link gives some recent data on attendance in Christian churches:

http://www.tearfund.org/webdocs/Website/News/TAM%20Final%20Version%208.5.07.pdf

I am intrigued by one suggestion in other links I have found, where it is being suggested that men are no less spiritual, since figures suggest that male participation in Eastern non-Christian religions is not less than female participation. A distinction would have to be made between attendance and participation, of course. Here we also have to bring in mind what we mean by 'spiritual', since my first link suggests that spirituality is being explored in many ways, hence the apparent female interest in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Wiccan spirituality!

If this thread continues, I am going to try to bring it back to philosophy in general, and women's participation in it. I am hoping that my wife will read the short piece from The Canadian Philosophical Association given in an earlier link here, and hope to report her thoughts on it! Many thanks to all who have contributed so far.

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Thanks for diggin up some facts Mathsteach

I think before continuing along this line of inquiry, we should try to understand why you hypothesise that the question whether women vs male church attendance is related to why more men than women appear to be interested in philosophy. (where would such equivalence derive from, other than from a generic truth that men prevale in most sectors)

Along a similar argument, then maybe if we really check the facts, women are no less interested in philosophy than men, and that there may be some distortion in the way these facts/factoids are presented and/or understood, assumed.

How does one female succeed in getting ranked, either in in science or philosophy, if she does not conform to male stereotypes?

Luckily, nowadays we have engineering, and of course, there is always poetry...

When the education sector started welcoming females to science and engieneering, a lot of progress was made rather quickly

Maybe when philosophy lowers its prejudicial barriers , more girls will find their way naturally into discourse

the music here is too good folks, gotta share this

http://www.dizzi.co.uk/dulcisolo.php

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Saturday morning musings before taking up the task of sweeping away this week's household detritus:

Considering the question of women and philosophy, remembering that there are always many exceptions to any kind of statement regarding the behaviors of large groups of people and the reasons for their behaviors (so many exceptions that this may be an exercise in propounding beliefs rather than illuminating people as they are), the philosophies of women may be more closely tied to everyday existence than the philosophies of men.

Men have the possibility of standing somewhat aloof from the world if they can get someone else to do the daily tasks that keep a life running smoothly within a society. Women can sometimes do this too, but the weight of societal tradition and the moral strictures that have often been associated with traditions have been a force against it. And for women who give birth, a detachment from daily life is even more unlikely.

But this kind of connection to the world can be a strength, and, although it takes more time to work through, this kind of busy life can lead to a rich philosophy of living. However, it may seldom lead to a written system such as people (most often men) produce when they can devote the most energetic years of their life to the task.

Women have been sometimes denigrated for their concern with the mundane, but the detritus of daily life has to be periodically swept away or we can quickly become miserable in the midst of the leftover chaos. For many reasons, this task has fallen most often to the women of any given group. We have been assigned this roll by our societies, taken it up to whatever degree we are able as individuals, and have then often been restricted to it and ridiculed and punished for and by our restricted behavior. However, as Epicurus might have said if he was a woman, a wise woman

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I

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I think people definitely pursue philosophy in different ways (as it happens, I'm the only one who actually pursues philosophy--and so does everyone else), but it's not segregated along gender lines. It's true, most women don't care about philosophy, and neither do most men, as it happens, but that's usually such a blind spot for men who spend a great deal of their time thinking about what women find interesting.

However, when I engage in philosophy, I can hardly relate to the depictions brought out in this thread about why men philosophize or what makes man philosophy different from woman philosophy. What, doesn't anyone else simply become captivated by an idea and pursue it as far as he or she can? Is this really a man thing or can women participate?

But to criticize myself a little, I haven't taken philosophizing serious enough to take a good look at the ideas of others, so if a train of thought doesn't resonate well with me I pretty much ignore it. Clearly enough, philosophy is governed by instincts. And, as it happens, there are male and female instincts.

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I am very skeptical of "encouraging" an extremely varied group of people that cannot be truly categorized, especially in the day of liberalism. I am also skeptical of the implicit victim theory, that women "need" encouragement, or require "help" as if they are weaker, not philosophical by nature, and in need of special services that give them a leg up to be able to enter the lopsided playing field. If they are to be considered as equally capable, then why the fuss in the first place? They are capable of making their own decisions - despite the apparent obstacles or discrimination. Strong individuals smash through such obstacles, be they of a minority group, female, lesbian, whatever political tag of the day happens to be hot. Why bother with the weaker ones?

On the other hand, it depends on whether one accepts the possibility of philosophy (as well as science) offering a model of autonomy and independence of thought that women (as well as feminists) can aspire to. If, historically speaking, men have limitied philosophy, it does not necessarily follow that philosophy is misogynistic in itself.

Philosophy has been subjected to closure in the hands of men, so this may be a salvage operation. Even if the possibility of indepdence of thought proposed by philosophy is demonstrated to be illusory, this very demonstration cannot escape thinking philosophically in arriving at such a conclusion. Michele Le Doeuff argues that the historical limitations of philosophy can be shown when we realize that, through the very limitations, paradoxically, philosophy does demonstrate its relevance. She argues that it is philosophy's failure to be universal and th reality of its historical limits that makes it relevant. Historical limits actually mean being concerned with the issues of the day.

A parallel case may be made with regards to science. The lack of women's access and subordination in science does not necessarily make science itself discriminatory. The relentlessly rigorous use of science may be used in the struggle against discrimination.

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Women, the truly feminine ones, are only inclined to dedicate their thoughts to the immediate and the practical.

What is immediate and practical is determined by the mind's perceptual 'event horizon'. since female perceptual 'event horizon's' tend to be shorter than a male's, for many biological reasons, they will never and can never participate in anything that is beyond it....and so philosophy beyond a certain point becomes indecipherable and so it is deemed impractical.

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