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March 10, 1998

I just quickly read your piece on your web site and am typing damn fast because our system has a tendency to disconnect when it has non-veridical perceptions of a lack of activity.

I *LIKE* the blood-sport aspect of philosophy. To me, entering my first philosophy class, freshman year (1967) and discovering that you were not only allowed to fight but that the teacher actually encouraged it was liberating. As a girl, I was constantly squeezed and suppressed into being "nice" and non-confrontational. I was under chronic stress holding back, trying to fudge, not to be too clear or direct. But, mirabile dictu: I got into the Profession and through my undergrad, and, oh with a vengeance in grad school at Johns Hopkins, everything I had been pushed throughout my childhood to suppress, and which I failed to suppress adequately to be regarded as "normal," was positively encouraged.

I've heard the line about women being discouraged from going for philosophy because of the aggression level expected as part of the ethos of the profession. And I agree that you can do philosophy, and do it very well indeed, without engaging in this kind of verbal machismo/a.

But, for myself, I LIKE IT, and I like it precisely because I am a woman and the philosophical bull ring is the only place where I can let go, fight and have fun!

BTW, we just did a conference on legal and policy issues concerning women at our Law School where the participants were primarily women, most lawyers, some philosophers and an economist who is a holy terror (as the leit motif for philosophers is aggression I've found economists on the whole are somewhat more laid back and their primary theme is cynicism). The level of aggression at that conference made the APA look like a Victorian ladies' tea party -- and we all had the time of our lives.

I was, as it happens, today just theorizing to someone outside the profession (former lawyer, now priest) that philosophers are bred like Jack Russell dogs were. Jack Russell I understand, started with a bunch of mutts, bred them over several generations picking the most aggressive dog and bitch of each litter for breeding purposes and shooting the rest of them. So I think your hypothesis is correct, and I did like your paper, which I will pass on to him.

Many thanks for your paper!

Harriet Baber
Dept. of Philosophy
University of San Diego
5998 Alcala Park
San Diego, CA

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