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