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Women in Philosophy - "The classics are all written by men"

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Women argue emotionally, men rationally? Why there are so few women in philosophy - even today.

When you talk about the lack of women in the sciences, you often think of the MINT subjects, i.e. mathematics, computer science, natural sciences and technology. Philosophy is paid less attention.

But there is also a blatant shortage of women there, says the Society for Women in Philosophy Switzerland (Swip).

What Keeps Women From Philosophy? Is there any difference between female philosophy and male philosophy? A conversation with Melanie Altanian, the President of Swip Switzerland.

SRF: The MINT subjects have a problem for women, the humanities do not. What is different about philosophy?

Melanie Altanian: I do research at the University of Bern, a university that can proudly point out that the proportion of women in the humanities is over 50 percent.

When it comes to the quota of women, the philosophical institutes are often on the same level as the MINT subjects.

What one often overlooks, however, are the individual subjects: When it comes to the quota of women, the philosophical institutes are actually often on the same level as the MINT subjects - depending on which level one is looking at, even worse.

Melanie Altanian

Philosopher

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Melanie Altanian is a philosopher and President of the Society for Women in Philosophy Switzerland (Swip). She studied in Bern and Berlin and is currently working on her doctoral thesis at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich.

Why is that so?

Many factors contribute to this. Philosophy has always been male-dominated. There was this misconception that women were defined as emotional beings who cannot think rationally. Men, on the other hand, are sensible and analytical beings.

Does feminine philosophy differ from masculine?

That is a very complex question. You could say that people have different interests and different experiences depending on their gender.

The classics are all written by white men.

That certainly has an influence on which topics women work on. But I don't want to infer other people from myself on this question.

Let's talk about you anyway. You are currently doing research on genocide. How exactly?

To be precise, I am not researching genocide, but rather denying genocide. I examine the question of what is problematic from an ethical and epistemological point of view about the systematic denial of a past genocide.

For example, it is about how such behavior makes people ignorant by spreading ignorance and denying people important knowledge.

Is your work affected by being a woman?

I've never asked myself that question. But what I can certainly say is that my approach is inspired by philosophers who deal with social injustice and oppression, but also the aspect of sexist discrimination. Some of these are also works from feminist philosophy.

There is, for example, the approach of epistemic injustice: a certain social group is not given credibility because of a prejudice. This makes it impossible for this group to communicate relevant knowledge.

This can be seen well with sexism. In my opinion, this approach can also be applied to denying genocide.

One of the goals of your organization Swip is to propose practical examples to increase the quota of women. What would it take to get more young women into philosophy?

One example is the texts: when you study philosophy you read the classics - and of course they are all written by white men. One approach would be to see that introductory courses also include women philosophers.

For example, we are working on lists of texts by women philosophers that are just as suitable for conveying the essential content of an argument as the texts of men.

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  • Comment from Rolf Künzi (undefined)
    Male and female are always changeable even in one life. Trees show us how. There are singles, doubles and triples as well as hermaphrodites and then still singles who suddenly become doubles. That is biological philosophy and in the end you can just stick it in the ground and it works, sometimes. So if a male, 5000-year-old Buchs man with a single age suddenly gets female branches due to hormonal age, why shouldn't that also be possible for humans?
    Agree agree to the comment
    1. answer from Roger Stahn (jazz)
      Is that what you want, Mr. Künzi? We are on the way there, but not because of natural evolution. Together with other estrogen-like substances in our water cycle, this not only endangers the amphibians (gender reversal from genetically male to female animals, which in turn can lead to the extinction of a population), it also represents a serious impairment for us humans.
      Agree agree to the comment
    2. Show answers
  • Comment from Roger Stahn (jazz)
    “There was this misconception that women are defined as emotional beings who cannot think rationally. Men, on the other hand, are reasonable and analytical beings. " In the last thousand years no one has seriously claimed that this sweeping across the board and one cannot philosophize away the biological differences between men and women. There are exceptional talents, like Hannah Arendt, for example. Men are more rational and women are more emotional. The reason lies in our nature ...
    Agree agree to the comment
    1. answer from Michael Studer (Mi_St)
      The question is rather what conclusions a culture draws from the biological differences. And: whether a culture does not itself contribute to the biological differences through conformation over generations (see epigenetics).
      Your statement "the reason lies in our nature" is extremely wood-chopping!
      Agree agree to the comment
    2. answer from Roger Stahn (jazz)
      How do you explain the lack of women in mathematics, computer science, natural sciences, technology and philosophy? Is everything conditioning, Mr. Studer?
      Agree agree to the comment
    3. answer from Michael Studer (Mi_St)
      There are many reasons for the lack of women. However, the argument that women's brains function differently with regard to logical-technical thinking has already been scientifically refuted in x-studies. Significant differences in mean values ​​can hardly be found even with a magnifying glass. So how can the difference be explained?
      Agree agree to the comment
    4. answer from Michael Studer (Mi_St)
      The faculties you mentioned are traditionally strongly male-dominated, which will not change overnight - not even due to the whole gender discussion - not so quickly.
      An experiment, which is able to show particularly clearly how strongly gender stereotypes affect actions, was set up in such a way that men and women took a mathematical test. The results of men and women were identical. But had to do that before the test
      Agree agree to the comment
    5. answer from Michael Studer (Mi_St)
      Gender, this had a strong impact on the result. Women were clearly worse now. If it is explicitly activated, the "woman" type has an effect on performance. Here you have the difference you are looking for (google the experiment. It has already been replicated).
      Agree agree to the comment
    6. Show answers

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