Thursday, September 12, 2013

Sally Haslanger discredits women in Philosophy

Keith Burgess Jackson critiques below a female philosopher who seems to lack basic philosophical competence.  It is possible for a woman to be a distinguished philosopher -- e.g. the redoubtable Elizabeth Anscombe -- but Haslanger is no Anscombe

I said yesterday that I would criticize the five op-ed columns written by female philosophers and published in the New York Times. The first column, entitled "Women in Philosophy? Do the Math," is by Sally Haslanger, who teaches at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). As you can see from the image in this post, Haslanger is very white. On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is perfectly white and 10 is perfectly black, her skin is about 3 (maybe 4). I mention this because Haslanger says in her column that "most professional philosophers are men; in fact, white men." Why does she mention skin color (or, if you prefer to think of it this way, race) in a column about the status of women in philosophy? The only reason I can think of is that she's implying that the men in philosophy are oppressors. They are oppressors in two ways: first, they oppress women; and second, they oppress people of color.

But if a man's being white makes him an oppressor, then Haslanger's being white makes her an oppressor. Does she acknowledge this anywhere in her column? No. She gets in a jab at white men and moves on. She has created a culprit and distanced herself from it. We mustn't allow her to do this. She is an oppressor. If white men are consciously, subconsciously, or unconsciously biased, then so is Haslanger. If white men have "white privilege" (unearned!), then Haslanger has "white privilege." If white men's whiteness is a form of undeserved property, then Haslanger has undeserved property and should disgorge it forthwith (by giving up her place at MIT to a black woman?). She appears unaware that her implicit criticism of white men applies to her as well. How could someone who works in metaphysics and epistemology be so unaware? It's mind-boggling.

Haslanger begins her column with a story about an airplane. Does she think that only female philosophers get asked silly or stupid questions about their discipline? If so, then once again, she is unaware. I've had the same thing happen many times. It has nothing to do with sex. I hope Haslanger isn't suggesting that everything bad or insulting that happens to her happens because of her sex. Maybe she's a jerk. Maybe she comes across as arrogant, insulting, or mean-spirited.

Haslanger cites statistics to the effect that the percentage of women in philosophy is lower than the percentage of women in other disciplines or in society generally. So what! What is she suggesting? Is she suggesting that this outcome is the result of bias? That must be demonstrated; it cannot be assumed. There are many reasons why a woman might avoid philosophy, none having to do with those awful men who work there. Why should we think, antecedently, that each profession, discipline, or occupation will be a microcosm of society, if only we eliminate bias? Is the NBA a microcosm of society? Does the fact that it isn't suggest bias, discrimination, or oppression? This is a flagrant example of leaping to conclusions. If Haslanger isn't suggesting bias, then what in the world is she suggesting by citing the statistics?

Haslanger's latest book is entitled Resisting the Real: Social Construction and Social Critique. I have no doubt that it's well written and well reasoned, but it doesn't interest me in the least, and I suspect that's the reaction of most men. Men and women are different, by nature. Their interests are different; their bodies and hormones are different; their literary and philosophical styles are different; their values and attitudes are different. Haslanger seems upset that men aren't interested in the kinds of philosophy being done by women. Where did she get the right to set men's agendas? Men have every right to be interested in whatever they're interested in, and to pursue it in whatever fashion they please, including what Brian Leiter calls "ferocious argumentation." If this promotes "alienation" or "loneliness" in female philosophers, then so be it. Women such as Haslanger have no right to set men's philosophical agendas or to demand that the discipline be reshaped to make them more comfortable.


You Don't Have to Stay Poor

The family into which I was born was so poor that my mother sometimes had to borrow money out of my moneybox to buy groceries.  But by good Presbyterian care with money, I prospered -- JR

Walter E. Williams

No one can blame you if you start out in life poor, because how you start is not your fault. If you stay poor, you're to blame because it is your fault. Nowhere has this been made clearer than in Dennis Kimbro's new book, "The Wealth Choice: Success Secrets of Black Millionaires."

Kimbro, a business professor at Clark Atlanta University, conducted extensive face-to-face interviews, took surveys and had other interactions with nearly 1,000 of America's black financial elite, many of whom are multimillionaires, to discover the secret of their success. Kimbro's seven-year study included wealthy blacks such as Byron E. Lewis, Tyler Perry, Daymond John, Bob Johnson, Cathy Hughes and Antonio Reed. Kimbro says that many of today's black multimillionaires started out poor or worse. So what were their strategies?

"The Wealth Choice" argues that wealth (millionaireship) is not a function of circumstance, luck, environment or the cards you were dealt. Instead, wealth is the result of a conscious choice, action, faith, innovation, effort, preparation and discipline. Or, in the words of billionaire W. Clement Stone, founder of Combined Insurance, whom Kimbro met with and mentions early in the book, "Try, try, try, and keep on trying is the rule that must be followed to become an expert in anything." He also said, "If you cannot save money, the seeds of greatness are not in you." Saving is necessary for investment and wealth accumulation. Therein lies much of the problem for many black Americans.

Kimbro gives us some statistics to highlight some of the problem. The median net worth, or wealth, of white households is 20 times that of black households. In 2009, 35 percent of black households had no wealth or were in debt. Twenty-four percent of black Americans spend more than they earn, compared with 14 percent of all Americans. Thirty-two percent of blacks do not save at all, compared with less than 25 percent of all Americans. To underscore these statistics, Earl Graves Jr., CEO of Black Enterprise magazine, said that blacks are six times as likely as whites to purchase a Mercedes-Benz and that blacks who purchase Jaguars have an income one-third less than whites who purchase the same vehicles.

Some, but not all, of the explanation for the wealth differences between blacks and whites has to do with inheritances. Slavery, poverty and gross discrimination didn't create the conditions for inheritances. But slavery and gross discrimination cannot explain today's lack of saving and investing. Nobody's saying that marshaling the resources for wealth is easy. Gaining wealth is a challenge, as singer Ray Charles lamented in his hit song "Them That Got": "That old saying 'them that's got are them that gets' is something I can't see. If you gotta have something before you can get something, how do you get your first is still a mystery to me." But as John Harold Johnson, who rose above abject poverty and racial discrimination to build a publishing empire, said, "if you want to know how people feel about themselves, look at their bank account. ... Wealth is less a matter of circumstance than it is a matter of knowledge and choice."

"The Wealth Choice" suggests several disciplines that can be only summarized here. Among them are: Be passionate, and focus on unique strengths; develop clear, delineated goals. Then develop strong work ethic. Recognize the power of ideas, and never consider the possibility of failure. Be thrifty and frugal in nature. My stepfather put Kimbro's list of self-disciplines in another way. He said: If you want to be successful at anything, you have to come early and stay late.

When Dr. Kimbro graciously sent me a copy of "The Wealth Choice," he included an 18-minute video, titled "In Conversation with Dr. Dennis Kimbro." On top of putting together an excellent book, he reveals himself as an excellent motivational speaker who should be speaking to young people regardless of race.


Poor forced to use food banks? They've only got themselves to blame for making bad decisions, says British government minister

Families become so poor they are forced to turn to food banks because of their own ‘decisions’, Michael Gove has claimed.

The Education Secretary argued that people who find themselves unable to buy essentials, including food and school uniforms have themselves to blame for being unable ‘to manage their finances’.

The remarks were condemned by Labour and ‘insulting and out of touch’.

More than half a million people across Britain have turned to food banks to stave off hunger, according to charities.

Ministers have previously argued that a surge in demand has in part being fuelled by jobcentre staff being allowed to refer the unemployed to food banks for help.

Cuts to benefits, frozen or falling wages and rising living costs have been blamed in part for some people struggling to make ends meet.

Mr Gove was challenged over reports that one in four parents are having to borrow to pay for school uniforms and some food banks were distributing uniforms to struggling parents.

He  said he had recently visited a food bank in his Surrey Health constituency.

But he suggested that many cash-strapped families have brought their problems on themselves.

He added: ‘I appreciate that there are families who face considerable pressures.  ‘Those pressures are often the result of decisions that they have taken which mean they are not best able to manage their finances.

‘We need to ensure that support is not just financial, and that the right decisions are made.’

Mr Gove was responding to a question from Labour frontbencher Luciana Berger who demanded to know ‘what more can he and his Government do to ensure that no students turn up to school embarrassed because they do not have the right clothes’.

Labour seized on the response with  Miss Berger saying she was ’appalled’ by Mr Gove’s comments. The Labour Liverpool MP said: ’People I have met are ashamed to have to turn to food banks.  ’I vehemently disagree it is because they have mismanaged their finances.

’This Government has got no answer to the millions of parents that are really struggling to get by.’

Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy said: ’It is appalling to suggest the rise of food banks is due to poor financial management.

’It’s a smack in the face to families who are working hard but can’t make ends meet, leaving them with no other option but to turn to food banks to feed their families.  ’These comments are completely misjudged.’

Chris Johnes, director of Oxfam's UK Poverty Programme, said: 'Thousands are now turning to food banks, but they do not so out of choice, they do so when they have nowhere else to turn.

'The staggering rise in the numbers of people using food banks is down to failings in the benefit system, too many low paid jobs and rising prices that are dragging huge numbers into poverty.'

In May a report by Church Action On Poverty and Oxfam suggested up to half of those seeking help were doing so as a direct result of having benefit payments delayed, reduced or withdrawn.

Other factors behind the increase on those using emergency help - the 'hidden hungry' - include rising food prices, unemployment and energy costs.

But Energy Secretary Ed Davey told MPs that it was 'completely wrong to suggest that there is some sort of statistical link between the benefit reforms we're making and the provision of food banks'.


Inside the Ku Klux Klan

Anthony Karen has carved a career from photographing the world’s most controversial, secretive sects. But what happened when he penetrated the most infamous of them all?

Eight years ago, after repeated knock-backs, Anthony Karen persuaded a faction of the Ku Klux Klan to let him attend a weekend gathering in Arkansas. As an ex-Marine, ethics were high on his agenda, and he was honest about being a photojournalist. But the Klan’s only caveat was that his camera must stay in his car until members were robed and in position for the cross-lighting ceremony.

Until that moment, nothing really seemed out of the ordinary – so much so that Karen almost forgot why he was there. When the time came to ignite the cross, though, “things became surreal".

"Here I was, in a remote area, and all of a sudden I’m staring at three 18ft, fiery crosses. It took me a moment to gain my composure.” The lighting ceremony recalls medieval times – an era the Klan revere for its strict moral code and, in their view, ethnic purity – when crosses would blaze on hilltops as a call to arms. For today’s Klan, it has come to signify the light of Christ, and the ceremony has the solemnity of a religious ritual: children are encouraged to attend and alcohol is prohibited.

Karen was intrigued. He has an interest in documenting contentious groups and subjects “cloaked in mystery” – previous quarry include practitioners of Haitian Vodou, and the Westboro Baptist Church. “The restricted access contributes to an unbalanced perspective,” he says. “It is my intention to show things in another context, to present work that is non-sensationalist.” Although he pictures the Klan in ceremony, he prefers to portray them in civvies, their kitchen tables littered with homework, their walls decked with snapshots of grandchildren. “Most of the time,” says Karen, “you’d never know someone was in the Klan unless they told you or had a racially themed tattoo.”

Members of a Louisiana based Ku Klux Klan realm at the home of one of their Imperial officers. (Credit: Anthony Karen)

Founded by confederate veterans as a prank-playing fraternity in 1865, the KKK (the name comes from the Greek word for circle, kyklos, and the Gaelic word clann) flourished throughout the Deep South, degenerating into a far-right extremist group that committed violent terrorist acts.

It disbanded in 1944, when the Internal Revenue Service came seeking overdue taxes and, as a result, lost any legal claim over their name. “Totally unconnected, independent groups began to appear. Some have as few as three members,” explains Karen. He has attended demonstrations and rituals in the majority of US states as well as Germany and Italy. “I met the leader of a very large and respected Klan – after [that] I had an open invitation and was allowed to shoot whatever I wanted.”

“Little Charlie” displays her custom made wedding veil, as her fiancée watches on. (Credit: Anthony Karen)

Now 48, and living principally in New York, Karen divides his time between personal projects and humanitarian causes. He was asked several times if he’d join the Klan, but turned down the invitation. “I spend time with people, I listen to what they have to say, and I treat each person as an individual. I don’t have to believe what they believe, but whenever I’m in someone’s space, I feel I’m obliged to observe without judgment.” Unsurprisingly, his project has sparked criticism from those who believe his photographs give the far-right organisation, which has been classified as a hate group by the Anti-Defamation League, exposure it should not receive. He says: “They can turn the page and choose to ignore things. As far as myself, I’d rather be aware of what’s going on around me.”



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the  incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of  other countries.  The only real difference, however, is how much power they have.  In America, their power is limited by democracy.  To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already  very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges.  They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did:  None.  So look to the colleges to see  what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way.  It would be a dictatorship.



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