Theoretical background

Women and non-white persons are significantly underrepresented in modern philosophy. Only 10% of the 267 most cited contemporary authors in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy are women, and only 3% are of a non-white racial background (Schwitzgebel 2014). 0.32% of US authors of research publications in top philosophy journals are black (Bright 2016) and 13% of all authors in top journals are women (Schwitzgebel 2015a, 2015b). Only 20% of full time faculty are women in the UK (BPA 2011). In the US that’s 16.6% (Norlock 2011), while only 1.32% of faculty are black (Botts et al., 2014). 28% of US doctorates are awarded to women (Schwitzgebel 2016) and 5‑8% to non-white students (APA 2013). Despite the fact that about a third of all members of American and British Societies for Aesthetics are women, only a fifth of the articles in the journals published by those societies, are by women (Irvin 2014).

Research suggests that ‘a major contribution to the under-representation of women in professional philosophy occurs at the undergraduate level’ (Paxton et al. 2012: 955; cf. Dougherty et al. 2015 and Thompson et al. 2016). A number of factors contribute to the Perfect Storm which washes non-male and non-white students out of the discipline (Antony 2012). One of them is the stereotype of a philosopher as a white man, grounded by the fact that the majority of the texts typically read in class are written by white men, and that the philosophical ideals of rationality and objectivity are associated with maleness and whiteness (Haslanger 2008). This influences two psychological mechanisms which further disadvantage students and philosophers from underrepresented groups (Saul, 2013):

  • Stereotype threat – members of a group which is stereotypically perceived as less able to perform at a given task, tend to under-perform at this task. Since the stereotypical philosopher is perceived to be a white male, people of a different gender or race are likely to under-perform in philosophy.
  • Implicit bias – people who self-identify as being unprejudiced often exhibit subconscious or ‘implicit’ biases that follow past or present cultural stereotypes. In philosophy, this means that non-white-male students and authors may be treated more dismissively, or as less able, or be evaluated more harshly.

The aim of the Diversity Reading List is to help in addressing these inequalities by helping to overcome their cause: the stereotype of the philosopher as a white male.

What can I do?

Implicit bias and stereotype threat in philosophy are both related to the fact that the great majority of widely read philosophers are white males (Kelly and Roedder 2008Penaluna 2009). In effect, most people are implicitly biased to expect white males to be better philosophers, and members of under-represented groups perceive themselves as less philosophically able, which makes them likely to under-perform in class and in their careers.

One way to help combat this stereotype and its negative consequences is to decolonise the reading lists used to support teaching, by including philosophical writings by authors from under-represented groups. Including those texts in your teaching can give your students a chance to read good philosophy written by scholars coming from different backgrounds, making it less likely that they will perceive philosophy as something that can done well only by white men. As a result, the risk of them experiencing stereotype threat or developing an implicit bias will be reduced.

Making sure that a solid proportion of the readings in one’s class are by authors from under-represented groups, is not an easy task. Since such texts are likely to be less popular or less immediately available, finding them and assessing their usefulness involves considerable effort, adding to the already busy schedules of teachers and lecturers.

The Diversity Reading List is here to help you overcome this difficulty. It offers an quick way of finding texts and evaluating their relevance for your teaching. You can search the list for specific texts, authors or keywords, or browse by topic in a easily navigable structure of categories inspired by PhilPapers. Whenever possible, we included abstracts, author’s keywords, and links to online versions of texts and other resources.

What is on the list?

Following the existing body of evidence identifying inequalities with respect to gender and race, the list includes texts by authors who do not identify as cis-gender male or who are of a non-white racial background. In cases in which we were unsure whether or not to include an author, we contacted them and followed their suggestion. The current version of the list does not include authors who are members of a minority with respect to other protected characteristics such as sexual orientation, ability or age. We are open to the possibility of revising this in the future and welcome all suggestions on the best ways of doing so.

All texts included in the List have been recommended by philosophers and assessed by our team of specialists. They are of the highest academic quality, and have been selected for their clarity and relevance to current research and teaching. If you would like to recommend a text to be included on the list, please use the form available on our Contribute page.

 

Bibliography

The American Philosophical Association, (2013). Minorities in Philosophy. [online, accessed 16 Jan. 2015].

The British Philosophical Association and the Society for Women in Philosophy UK (2011). Women in Philosophy in the UK. [online, accessed 16 Jan. 2015].

Antony, L. (2012). Different Voices or Perfect Storm: Why Are There So Few Women in Philosophy?. Journal of Social Philosophy 43(3): 227-255.

Bright, L. K. (2016). Publications By Black Authors in Leiter Top 15 Journals 2003-2012. [Blog] The Splintered Mind. [Accessed 23 Jan. 2016].

Botts, T. F., L. K. Bright, M. Cherry, G. Mallarangeng, and Q. Spencer (2014). What Is the State of Blacks in Philosophy? Critical Philosophy of Race 2 (2): 224–42.

Dougherty, T., Baron, S., & Miller, K. (2015). Why do female students leave philosophy? The story from Sydney. Hypatia, 30(2): 467-474.

Haslanger, S (2008). Changing the Ideology and Culture of Philosophy: Not by Reason (Alone). Hypatia 23(2): 210-223.

Irvin, S. (2015). Diversity in Aesthetics Publishing. [Blog] Aesthetics for Birds.  [Accessed 16 Jan. 2015].

Kelly, D., Roedder, E. (2008). Racial Cognition and the Ethics of Implicit Bias. Philosophy Compass 3(3): 522–540.

Norlock, K. (2015). Women in the Profession. [online, accessed 16 Jan. 2015].

Penaluna, R. (2009). Wanted: Female Philosophers, in the Classroom and in the Canon. The Chronicle of Higher Education[Accessed 20 Feb. 2015].

Paxton, M., Figdor, C., Tiberius, V. (2012). Quantifying the Gender Gap: An Empirical Study of the Underrepresentation of Women in Philosophy. Hypatia 27(4): 949-957.

Saul, J. (2013). Implicit Bias, Stereotype Threat and Women in Philosophy. In Jenkins, F. and Hutchison, K. (eds.) Women in Philosophy: What Needs to Change? Oxford University Press.

Schwitzgebel, E. (2014). Citation of Women and Ethnic Minorities in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. [Blog] The Splintered Mind. [Accessed 16 Jan. 2015].

Schwitzgebel, E. (2015a). Only 13% of Authors in Five Leading Philosophy Journals Are Women [Blog] The Splintered Mind. [Accessed 12 Feb. 2016].

Schwitzgebel, E. (2015b). How Prominently Is Women’s Philosophical Work Discussed? One Empirical Measure [Blog] The Splintered Mind. [Accessed 12 Feb. 2016].

Schwitzgebel, E. (2016). Percentages of U.S. Doctorates in Philosophy Given to Women and to Minorities, 1973-2014 [Blog] The Splintered Mind. [Accessed 12 Feb. 2016].

Thompson, Morgan, Toni Adleberg, Sam Sims, Eddy Nahmias (2016). Why Do Women Leave Philosophy? Surveying Students at the Introductory Level.  Philosophers’ Imprint 16(6): 1-36.