A raging philosopher

Philosopher Sally Haslanger (MIT) is very unhappy about how she has been treated by her colleagues in philosophy:

There is a deep well of rage inside of me. Rage about how I as an individual have been treated in philosophy.

“Changing the Ideology and Culture of Philosophy: Not by Reason (Alone)”, Hypatia 23 (2008), p. 221.

Well, let’s look at some details from her biography.

According to Haslanger’s CV on MIT’s website, although she had no publications in 1985, she got a tenure-track job in philosophy at the University of California, Irvine. The next year (still with no publications) she moved to a tenure-track position at Princeton. Three years later she moved to the University of Michigan.

In 1992 Haslanger was offered a tenured position at Cornell. Moreover, she was actually approached by Cornell and urged to apply for that job, although by that time she published only three articles (and no books). But she was not ready to accept the offer from Cornell because she wanted to explore the possibility of staying at Michigan and getting tenure there. The problem, however, was that apparently her publication record was so weak that the chair of the philosophy department in Ann Arbor advised her not even to think about applying for tenure so early. Luckily for her, a solution was found:

I was told that because Steve [Haslanger’s husband] was in the department (and because they had just told me that I couldn’t even count on being brought up early), it would have to be under “heightened scrutiny.” That meant I would have to have twice the usual number of tenure letters. It worked.

http://www.whatisitliketobeaphilosopher.com/sally-haslanger/

A stunning change: the department first lets her know that her research output is clearly inadequate for tenure, but then soon reverses itself and puts her under “heightened scrutiny”, which amounts only to asking her to submit more recommendation letters. And, unsurprisingly, “it worked”.

Even far better philosophers than Haslanger would consider themselves extremely fortunate if they were showered with offers from UC Irvine, Princeton, Penn, Michigan, Cornell and MIT.

But not Haslanger. She feels rage about how she has been treated in philosophy.

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One thought on “A raging philosopher

  1. Hello Neven,

    thanks very much for your work and your concern!

    Maybe your note about the “raging philosopher” Haslanger invites some supplementation. So, allow me to add some information:

    A few lines after your citation of Haslanger’s (“There is a deep well of rage inside of me. Rage about how I as an individual have been treated in philosophy”), she writes in the same paper:

    “MIT is my fifth job in philosophy and it is the first department I’ve felt at home in and broadly respected by my colleagues.”

    (Source: 5/1/07 DRAFT, retrieved from http://www.mit.edu/~shaslang/papers/HaslangerCICP.pdf )

    Confront this with your finding: “the department [in Ann Arbor] first lets her know that her research output is clearly inadequate for tenure, but then soon reverses itself and puts her under “heightened scrutiny”, which amounts only to asking her to submit more recommendation letters.”

    Despite this stunning change, we must conclude, Ann Arbor was not a “department I’ve felt at home in and broadly respected by my colleagues.” It must have been a painful experience for Haslanger to get a tenured position in Ann Arbor.

    A few lines after my citation of Haslanger’s, she writes in the same paper:

    “In spite of my deep love for philosophy, it just didn’t seem worth it. And I am one of the very lucky ones, one of the ones who has been successful by the dominant standards of the profession.”

    (Source: Hypatia 23(2), 2008, p. 210)

    Confront the last clause with your finding: “Even far better philosophers than Haslanger would consider themselves extremely fortunate if they were showered with offers from UC Irvine, Princeton, Penn, Michigan, Cornell and MIT.”

    Haslanger’s last clause, we must conclude, is blatantly false: She has not been “successful by the dominant [viz. male] standards of the profession.” Instead, she has been successful by the standards of female entitlement.

    Finally, let me point out an incoherence in the mentioned paper: On the one hand, Haslanger provides a table with percentages of women among the faculty of the top twenty graduate programs in philosophy, and states that “the data mostly speak for themselves” (Hypatia 23(2), 2008, p. 214). On the other hand, Halanger states in the same paper: “Whatever the numbers say about women and minorities in philosophy, numbers don’t begin to tell the story” (Hypatia 23(2), 2008, p. 210).

    How can statistical data mostly speak for themselves if numbers don’t begin to tell the story?

    Liked by 1 person

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