Where Are the Women?: Why Expanding the Archive Makes Philosophy Better

Book – Philosophy has not just excluded women. It has also been shaped by the exclusion of women. As the field grapples with the reality that sexism is a central problem not just for the demographics of the field but also for how philosophy is practiced, many philosophers have begun to rethink the canon. Yet attempts to broaden European and Anglophone philosophy to include more women in the discipline’s history or to acknowledge alternative traditions will not suffice as long as exclusionary norms remain in place.

In Where Are the Women?, Sarah Tyson makes a powerful case for how redressing women’s exclusion can make philosophy better. She argues that engagements with historical thinkers typically afforded little authority can transform the field, outlining strategies based on the work of three influential theorists: Genevieve Lloyd, Luce Irigaray, and Michèle Le Doeuff. Following from the possibilities they open up, at once literary, linguistic, psychological, and political, Tyson reclaims two passionate nineteenth-century texts—the Declaration of Sentiments from the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention and Sojourner Truth’s speech at the 1851 Akron, Ohio, Women’s Convention—showing how the demands for equality, rights, and recognition sought in the early women’s movement still pose quandaries for contemporary philosophy, feminism, and politics. Where Are the Women? challenges us to confront the reality that women’s exclusion from philosophy has been an ongoing project and to become more critical both of how we see existing injustices and of how we address them.


P.S. Soon the Full Book

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Women in Philosophy

The point in thinking about the intersection of feminism and philosophy is not only to do justice to historical women who have been excluded from our consideration. Rather the point is to gain traction on our own time. How have women been absented? Why? What have the effects of this missing history been? And what about the unrecoverable history—the women whose thoughts cannot be found, no matter how hard we scour all the archives we can think to look for? To avoid merely seeking vindication for what we already know (and thereby offering justification for what already is and the silences by which it has been built), we need methods to unsettle our disciplined expectations. Such powerful methods have been developed within feminist philosophy.


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How do you approach public philosophy?

When I was in college, I saw dysfunctional academic philosophy first hand, the height of irony. In my junior year, two full professors in their prime left the Philosophy Department, and the department went into receivership. To my limited perspective, what I saw was a group of people who did not know how to listen to each other and work together constructively. Of course, there were exceptions, but the ethos was tense. I then went to graduate school where I encountered a different sort of problem: academic snobbery and what struck me in hindsight as abusive academic conditions. Students often existed in fear in an environment where communication about issues of basic existence for a graduate student often lacked transparency. As I saw it and experienced it, the sense of self of students was often disfigured, harmed, or vice was developed in protection.


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The Value of Knowledge and the Pursuit of Understanding

Epistemology has for a long time focused on the concept of knowledge and tried to answer questions such as whether knowledge is possible and how much of it there is. Often missing from this inquiry, however, is a discussion on the value of knowledge. In The Value of Knowledge and the Pursuit of Understanding, Jonathan Kvanvig argues that epistemology properly conceived cannot ignore the question of the value of knowledge. He also questions one of the most fundamental assumptions in epistemology, namely that knowledge is always more valuable than the value of its subparts. Taking Plato’s’ Meno as a starting point of his discussion, Kvanvig tackles the different arguments about the value of knowledge and comes to the conclusion that knowledge is less valuable than generally assumed. Clearly written and well argued, this 2003 book will appeal to students and professionals in epistemology.


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The Analysis of Knowledge

For any person, there are some things they know, and some things they don’t. What exactly is the difference? What does it take to know something? It’s not enough just to believe it—we don’t know the things were wrong about. Knowledge seems to be more like a way of getting at the truth. The analysis of knowledge concerns the attempt to articulate in what exactly this kind of “getting at the truth” consists.

More particularly, the project of analyzing knowledge is to state conditions that are individually necessary and jointly sufficient for propositional knowledge, thoroughly answering the question, what does it take to know something? By “propositional knowledge”, we mean knowledge of a proposition—for example, if Susan knows that Alyssa is a musician, she has knowledge of the proposition that Alyssa is a musician. Propositional knowledge should be distinguished from knowledge of “acquaintance”, as obtains when Susan knows Alyssa. The relation between propositional knowledge and the knowledge at issue in other “knowledge” locutions in English, such as knowledge-where (“Susan knows where she is”) and especially knowledge-how (“Susan knows how to ride a bicycle”) is subject to some debate (see Stanley 2011 and his opponents discussed therein).


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Self-Knowledge and Knowledge of the Self

In philosophy, “self-knowledge” standardly refers to knowledge of one’s own sensations, thoughts, beliefs, and other mental states. At least since Descartes, most philosophers have believed that our knowledge of our own mental states differs markedly from our knowledge of the external world (where this includes our knowledge of others’ thoughts). But there is little agreement about what precisely distinguishes self-knowledge from knowledge in other realms. Partially because of this disagreement, philosophers have endorsed competing accounts of how we acquire self-knowledge. These accounts have important consequences for a broad range of philosophical issues, especially issues in epistemology and the philosophy of mind.


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Defined narrowly, epistemology is the study of knowledge and justified belief. As the study of knowledge, epistemology is concerned with the following questions: What are the necessary and sufficient conditions of knowledge? What are its sources? What is its structure, and what are its limits? As the study of justified belief, epistemology aims to answer questions such as: How we are to understand the concept of justification? What makes justified beliefs justified? Is justification internal or external to one’s own mind? Understood more broadly, epistemology is about issues having to do with the creation and dissemination of knowledge in particular areas of inquiry. This article will provide a systematic overview of the problems that the questions above raise and focus in some depth on issues relating to the structure and the limits of knowledge and justification.


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German Idealism and the philosophy of music

German Idealism began with Leibniz and lasted until Schopenhauer, with a few central European after-shocks in the work of Husserl and his followers. That great epoch in German philosophy coincided with a great epoch in German music. It is scarcely surprising, therefore, that Idealist philosophers should have paid special attention to this art form. Looking back on it, is there anything of this prolonged encounter between music and philosophy that we can consider to be a real advance, and one that we should draw on? Many have thought so, not least because Idealism, as it matured in the post-Kantian period, inherited the adulation for art in general, and music in particular, that we find in the writings of the German Romantics, notably in Schiller, Tieck and Wackenroder. The post-Kantian Idealists connected aesthetic experience with their claims to reveal the secret meaning of things, in the infinite, the absolute, the transcendental, the ineffable or some other such object of a quasi-religious devotion. Such we find in the writings of Schelling, Fichte, Hegel, and Schopenhauer, the last of whom made music not only an object of philosophy but a prime example of it. Music, Schopenhauer wrote, is not unconscious arithmetic, as Leibniz had claimed, but unconscious philosophy, since in music the inner essence of the world, which is will, is made directly present to the intellect.


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A Neuro-Philosophy of History: “Sustainable History”; with Dignity, and without Directionality

Philosophies of history tend to assume one form or another of directionality. For an important number of philosophers, History has been understood to have a definite trajectory, moving forward to some specified end-state. These end-states have varied, from idealized conceptions of social and political harmony to dystopian visions of anarchism. The remarkable fact is that many such theories shared a common assumption: the seeds of future stages of history already existed in the present arrangement of things, and with the right “science” of history, we could predict “off the page” what comes next. When this prediction fails to manifest, “historical determinism” is strongly criticized. These reactions leave out two important points. First, any deterministic characterization of history is at odds with effective human agency. Second, and partly for these reasons, the idea of historical determinism denies the crucial role of dignity in History—a central tenet of what I have elsewhere defined as Sustainable History. The quest for dignity in public life can lead to seismic changes in national and global politics, overturning established regimes, sometimes more rapidly than expected. Dignity very often underlies the call for political change. When a directional interpretation of history is abandoned, greater clarity emerges with regard to the relationship between individual dignity and political stability.


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A Neuro-Philosophy of Dignity-Based Governance

The duality mind-body has ancient roots in philosophy, most notably with Plato, Descartes, and others. In dualism, the mind and body are contrasted as two are different realms. However, the interaction between them has been approached from different philosophical perspectives. The main views through which this relationship has been explored are: interactionism (the view that mind and body, or mental and physical events, influence each other), epiphenomenalism (the theory that mental events are caused by physical events, but without influence on the physical – this theory has encountered a lot of criticism, however), and parallelism (the view that there is no causal interaction between the two realms).


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