Archive for the 'Logos, Pathos, Ethos' category

The Parable of the Struggle

Jun 04 2015 Published by under Logos, Pathos, Ethos, Race Matters

Once upon a time, there was a digital garden eastward in Eden. There a group diverse in academic background, gender, and religion (though not so much in race or ethnicity or class) were put, to dress it and keep it. They gave names to all that had been previously unspoken, and were a helpmeet unto each other. And every one among them did speak, the tenured and the grad students, the men and the women, and they were not ashamed. Of the Tree of Life they ate and of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil they did nosh, even of the humorous branches of both, without fear that they would be trolled.

But within this Garden of Eden grew a third tree, the Tree of Inciting the Spirit of Judgment and Fighting, which did harbor a serpent more subtle than any beast the rightwing nutjobs had made. And it came to pass one day that someone did mention yoga, and someone else offered up a transparent pun about downward dog, and others did virtually laugh. And the serpent saw its opportunity and didst strike. The serpent said unto the one most under siege IRL “eat thereof, and your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, judging all before ye.” And she did eat, and her eyes were opened, and she did judge that white privilege and cultural appropriation and disrespect for a thousands-year old religious practice were on display before her. And fighting did commence. And the Tree of Inciting the Spirit of Judgment and Fighting flourished and grew large, and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil did succumb to blight and cankers, and the Tree of Life also sickened.

And lo, it came to pass many years later that on Fresh Air, Terry Gross did interview Michelle Goldberg about her recent book The Goddess Pose: The Audacious Life of Indra Devi, the Woman Who Helped Bring Yoga to the West. Wherein: a Russian woman reads a self-help book written by an American about Indian wisdom; travels to India to study yoga under a yogi sponsored by a progressive nationalist intent on uniting “the best of the East and the best of the West”; the yogi develops his own system incorporating elements that he felt captured the “animal” energy of 8 to 10 year old boys, which we today know as vinyasa; and this system is brought back to the West by the Russian woman with the new definition of “self” not to be obliterated, but to be developed to have greater efficacy in the world. The moral of the story being: your sun salutation has no connection to ancient texts; stop worrying about authenticity; embrace the modern mashup, and adapt it for your own needs. Maybe take your non-authentic yoga mat outdoors, for example to the Morris Arboretum for ten weeks of vinyasa this summer. Just stay away from the serpents in the trees.

A very wise woman of long acquaintance recently advised me that “part of being part of a professional community is the need to be extremely careful not to criticize anyone, which – to say the least – isn’t consistent with scholarly objectivity.” That plum came from the cultivar 'Life Knowledge'. Here's another: "If you don't open your mouth, no one will know you are wrong." The sagacious Dr. Richard Gallagher, now professor emeritus of electrical engineering at Kansas State University, fed me that one.

Members of oppressed groups are injured in many ways, including the silencing of their voices about those injuries. To break that silence one must open the mouth. And then comes the serpent to offer up the succulent, sweet, instant gratification fruit of Judgment and Fighting. There is a bliss in the certainty of the high, though it be short-lived and followed by a headache. And when our better natures call unto us and say, where art thou? Who told thee that thou art persecuted? we reply I heard their voices in the garden, and I was angry and ashamed, and I felt silenced, and the serpent beguiled me.

The flaming sword now turns every way. Eden is protected. Behold, we are become as one of them.

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The Die Is Cast

Last night was it. After an attempt to file but dimly viewed nails, I asked Mr. Z for a pair of his reading glasses. Donning them I saw the world anew. Oh yes, the nails came into sharper focus; it was a delight to see them clearly, and a surprise at just how much I'd not been seeing. What I really saw, however, was my future of increasing disability.

I've been in denial about how difficult it's become to read my iPhone, how often and how much I have to blow up the screen, how very preferable the iPad has become. No more. My near vision sucks. It's going to get worse. I will one day be as my elders are now: happy youngsters will show me blurry screens of what they say are pictures of their cat; I will nod, smile, say yes I see.  The youngsters will know my vision is bad, but they won't know it, not really. I'll know they mean well and want to include me, and that's why I'll smile. That is, if there are any youngsters who come around when I'm elder. I don't kid myself. I don't have kids.  No kidding. The youngsters, if there are any, will be full of well-meant advice, and I will tell them I don't hear that.

We know what's coming, even as we work out at the gym, we aren't stupid. Unless there's an accident or a terrible illness like cancer, death creeps our way slowly. We make jokes about the reading glass harbinger at restaurants with our friends. We ask our partner to crank the volume on Alex Trebek - and wonder why everyone is mumbling. We dutifully remove treacherous throw rugs, install night lights all over the house, grab a cane for outdoor strolls (and then indoor ones too). We put in grab bars, high-seat toilets, convert to walk-in showers with shower chairs, all on the first floor.

We sell the house and move into a two-bedroom one story condo with a patio and outside maintenance provided, become best friends with the nurses at the clinic and the ER and the technicians at Quest, and upgrade to a walker. We become fond of ramps, acquire a handicap parking pass, complain about the lighting and noise in restaurants. (But not at Eat-n-Park, where the coffee is always just right.)  We upgrade to a better walker, add in a transfer chair, and turn in the car keys (some of us more some of us less reluctantly). We depend increasingly upon our children or the kindness of strangers and home health aides to supply us with Turkey Hill Lemonade Tea. Glasses and dishes and silverware grow so heavy, but we don't have much of an appetite anymore anyway. Our pillbox metastasizes from a discreet manageable one-compartment per day to a giant gargoyle garishly color-coded for morning/noon/dinner/night, permanently perched on the kitchen counter, filled (more or less accurately) by the visiting nurse.

We stay home/move in with a child/go to assisted living and we fall and break a bone/we bleed out from coumadin/we get recurrent resistant UTIs and we get pneumonia/have a stroke/become dehydrated and we die.

Mix and match as preferred, feel free to combine as you like, all permutations are allowed. Eventually, all roads this side of the Rubicon will lead to Rome.

The way that you can know all of this, know it casually from reading or intensely from up-close personal experience, and go on living, the reason you don't start haunting the Hemlock Society website, is cognitive dissonance. You think "eh, there's no good way to go, but I can make it another year, plenty of time for that, and maybe I'll go out with a heart attack in the middle of the night when I'm 80 and still kinda strong" and THEN you fall and break your hip.  Now you aren't strong and well enough to do anything about it. Welcome to the rehab hospital. The rehab hospital is where you go to be helped to be a little less debilitated before you die.

A few weeks ago we were visiting one of our elders at a rehab hospital. At one point I took a break to sit outside - there were some lovely rockers on the "porch", the covered front entrance area, and the sun was shining. A woman older than me, younger than rehab, sat in an adjacent rocker. She was visiting with her friend who sat in a wheelchair bemoaning her condition. The visiting woman offered up the following in a very soothing voice: "Well it comes to everyone eventually, though we never think it will, we think we'll always be young and strong, but it comes to all of us, it will come to me too one day. I think 'I'm always going to be just like this' but I won't, it will come to me too." But the older lady in the wheelchair was not much consoled. Because she doesn't have access to the cognitive dissonance anymore.

Of course, there are plenty of examples of people who live into a ripe old age retaining their wits and vigor, caring for themselves at home, until they die peacefully in their sleep. You could be one of them. Or you could be poor, in which case you will probably die sooner and younger, because you won't have access to as much elaborate health care to prop up your failing body.

If you are not poor, if you are blessed with the resources, I suggest using some of them not for elaborate healthcare but to talk with a doctor or someone trained in elder care about end-of-life planning. I mean a serious and sustained conversation, not a brief chat. In another post I will talk about some things you might like to discuss during such a conversation.

Do not despair! You are young and likely don't even need reading glasses yet! Possibly you even hope to have your oceanfront home drowned by the rising oceans before any of this stuff I'm talking about comes to you!

The fear of death and disability, and the fear of talking about them, is not helpful. Not thinking about these things now means it's much more likely that you could end up in a situation you don't want to be in - experiencing poor quality of life that goes on for years long after you can have any real say over what is done to and for you. I do not mean just in the case of being kept alive by machines. This is what I'll talk about in another post.

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Theon Greyjoy: Catastrophic Transformation Into Living Death

Game of Thrones fans, book and show alike: this post DOES contain spoilers. If you are not up to date with your reading and show watching (Season 4, Episode 6), then read no further.

Also, this is very sad. You are warned.

Continue Reading »

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Bag Nights and Authenticity

On the twitters today I saw this from @TomLevenson


The link is to a post called Viewfinder Hours by Thom Hogan that suggests authenticity of voice can be gauged by the "Bag Night" metric.

Back in my days running Backpacker magazine, we had an “authenticity” metric that we developed and practiced. I think it’s time for that here in the photography arena, as well. The Backpacker metric was “bag nights.” You got a bag night if you spent your sleeping hours in a sleeping bag in the wild (not your backyard ;~)...Authenticity is important. It means that your opinions are based upon real use and not casual contact with something. The Internet is filled with non-authentic opinions. That’s not to say that there aren’t plenty of authentic ones, only that it’s often difficult to discern which is which.

Hogan suggests an analogous metric of "viewfinder hours" for those who use and write about cameras. Those with more viewfinder hours would have more cred, wouldn't they? You'd take their opinion under more serious consideration.  @TomLevenson says we could apply a similar metric to writing or any other creative work.

My first reaction was wow, that's a great idea. And keeping track of your [insert creative endeavor] hours would be a kind of incentive to make time for your creative labor, and to do actually do it, shitty first drafts and all. And then...then I had second thoughts. Which I promptly put aside for several hours while I tended to a headache.

So, the second thoughts:

The metric BlaBla Hours as a badge of authenticity doesn't sit well with me for a number of reasons. Practice makes perfect, we say, and to some extent the time logged at any activity is going to yield improvement. But there is also the law of diminishing returns.

I once spent a month in the lab of a top researcher that my PI's lab cooperated with. She tended to attract almost all female students, postdocs, and even lab techs. Her lab was very productive and highly regarded. Several of her postdocs/grad students had children while working with her. She told me what advice she gave them about mixing family and work (I'm paraphrasing): when you're at the lab, leave family behind and do your work 100%. When you leave, leave the lab behind and be with your family 100%. And, she said to me with emphasis, no one can say that [her postdocs/grad students] have been any less productive or have done work of any less quality than any other groups we competed/compared with. This was true. She ran her lab in total anti-K3rn style, and she was a great success.

BlaBla Hours is a metric that, without context, tends to reward those with the fewest constraints on their lives - people without responsibility for children or elders or a chronically ill spouse; people without chronic illness or disability that impairs accumulation of BlaBla Hours; people with sufficient resources to afford the time and equipment necessary to accumulate BlaBla Hours; people whose BlaBla Hours will be recognized and acknowledged as such by the Powers That Be. (Bag nights in the wild only - what do you mean, urban science?  A smart camera phone? You need the V3XLR-22bi Pro! Writing for women's magazines? That's not real writing!)

It is possible to speak with authenticity, to add real value to the conversation, even if you can't rack up the most BlaBla Hours ever. BlaBla Hours is a metric that can tell you something, but not everything. Without context and without other information, it turns into just another version of Face Time At Work. BlaBla Hours is a metric that's probably most useful for you to evaluate your progress to a goal, rather than for others to evaluate you.

It all reminds me of when science bloggers tried to authenticate science blogging by putting a little stamp on blogs that authentically blogged about authentic science. It was a lovely idea, except it didn't include any way to authentically authenticate authentic blogging about authentic issues of gender/race/sexuality/ageism/class in science. Of course that's not actually science blogging so it wasn't really a huge problem for the authenticators.  If BlaBla Hours is just a metric for people who can really spend the time really doing real BlaBla, then none of that other stuff I talked about matters either.


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Dogs Here and Gone

Feb 27 2014 Published by under (if) Elder (why) Care, Logos, Pathos, Ethos

When I was a very young girl, some thousands of years ago, one of my favorite books was Go Dog, Go! Each reading brought the measure of delight at the end, when at last the dog party commenced, and the boy dog finally admitted he liked the girl dog's hat. Today I'm wondering if the dog party isn't very much like what dog heaven would be, if there were a dog heaven. I hope so.

I am a cat lady, but in the past two months I have made the acquaintance of two dogs I rapidly came to like very much. And just as I settled them into my heart, I lost them. I grieved a little along with the authors, a perfect demonstration of the paradox of fiction. I had never met these dogs in real life, nor even their owners. But their death touched me, and I could sense the hole their loss would leave.

Brandy was a side-story that crept into one's heart slowly somewhat like the snail,  in The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating. She was the faithful companion of the long-suffering author Elisabeth Tova Bailey.  Rose I came to know more directly in the various essays wherein Ann Patchett recounts her life with that beloved dog in This Is The Story Of A Happy Marriage.  (I highly recommend both books, and suggest you order them from if you are not so fortunate as to have a local independent bookstore.)  I came to know about the death of each of these dogs, and now I want them each to be at the dog party. I want them to meet each other, Brandy sporting a most fabulous hat, Rose offering effusive praise, both of them heading for the wild dog tree party, finding their favorite foods, trading stories of their owners' lives.

In "On Responsibility", Ann Patchett writes:

Is is wrong to tell a story about your grandmother and your dog in which their characters become interchangeable?

and by the time the one finishes the essay, the reader concludes with the author that the answer is "no, and please give us more."

I do not believe in dog heaven, or regular heaven; but sometimes, I treasure a fond hope of my mother welcomed at the Pearly Gates by Jesus's open arms, reunited with my father and brother, with all the chocolate she ever wants to eat.

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Does Intention EVER Matter?

Via @KMBTweets, I came across this piece offering an analysis of Feminism's Toxic Twitter Wars in The Nation. I harbor the suspicion, and perhaps the hope, that neither side would claim me if we could sit down and have a long talk. And that, if we could have the long talk I dream of, the war would be over. Or at least the part that matters, for the people that care. I leave figuring out what matters and who cares as an exercise for the reader.

Let us begin: to be fair, "toxic feminism" is already at play on twitter, its definition and ownership contested. So I'll allow it in the title, as it is itself part of the wars. Have at it, Young Fresh Face of Feminism's Future and Old Faded Farts of Feminism's Failure! (Please, no discussion of ageism at this time. "We live in a youth culture that hates old people!" "They don't understand Twitter and what's really going on today!" "My joints ache!" "My ass tattoo is itching!" Judean Peoples' Front, piss off! Splinter!) (Yes, I made sweeping generalizations about how the old and young sort themselves. Deal with it.)

However: I am not going to stop calling my vagina a vagina. I am an old crone. A vagina is the name for a thing I have, of which the GOP would like majority ownership. I would like to use the word vagina when I am defending the right to a legal, safe abortion.  I am simply declaring this non-negotiable, at least in the world of this blog, and will score one for the Old FFofFF against the Young FFofFF for proper deployment of intersectionality in achieving one's goals.

Moreover: I can read between the lines.  Why was a "wave of coruscating anger and contempt", poured on the studiously earnest politically correct Femfuturites' heads? Such silly complaints: New York centric, unaddressed groups, neglect of the offline. There was no travel budget! They had nine black women! And really - the offline, at a discussion of the online world! I declare this a well-mixed Cosmopolitan of social class, geography, and race privilege. I refuse to drink and will score one for the Young FFofFF against the Old FFofFF for getting the a theory of intersectionality but not (all) the practice.

With the score tied, let us call a temporary truce and look at this part of the article:

...there’s a norm that intention doesn’t matter—indeed, if you offend someone and then try to explain that you were misunderstood, this is seen as compounding the original injury.

Hoo boy! I can't tell you how many times Mr. Z has gotten himself in hot water with that one! Honey, when I said nobody in their right mind would want to watch a documentary, I was not insulting you. I meant that nobody would voluntarily choose to watch them, unless they want to nap. They are boring. Continue, article:

Again, there’s a significant insight here: people often behave in bigoted ways without meaning to, and their benign intention doesn’t make the prejudice less painful for those subjected to it.

Yep. I don't understand why you are still upset. I said I didn't mean to make you feel bad, and I explained that it's just because documentaries are known to be boring. This is so not helpful. But neither is "it doesn't matter what you say now, the evening is RUINED!!" Back to the article:

However, “that became a rule where you say intentions never matter; there is no added value to understanding the intentions of the speaker,” Cross says...

Added value: I think there IS utility in talking about intentions and what drives them, sometime AFTER, of course, a real apology has been issued. Honey, I'm really, really sorry. I know I hurt your feelings. I don't know why, though, and I never meant to. I want to understand. I want us to have a nice time together and be entertained and not bored. How did I go wrong? What? Is that a copy of No Direction Home on my shelf? Why yes, yes it is. Why do you ask? THAT'S a documentary? And there's more stuff like that out there? Great! Let's look for it!

Oh, wouldn't it be awesome if the conversation went like that. But no. Sometimes, all you get is, I'm sorry, I know I hurt you, I didn't mean to make you feel bad. And the subtext is it makes me feel really bad about myself that I made you feel bad. If this is coming from some whatsisface on the internet, you can pretty much classify this as a nonpology. I didn't mean to make you feel bad so I don't have to do any thing more than say I'm sorry, that should be enough. Except we all know it isn't.

If this is coming from your significant other, depending upon how long you've been together and how much $$ you've thrown down the bottomless pit of couples counseling, this is the cue that it's time for the two of you to use your tools and avoid pushing buttons and if your buttons get pushed count to ten before responding. Even leave the room for awhile if you have to. But come back and talk it out, to make the relationship stronger and communication better going forward.

Maybe your partner says documentaries are boring because he thinks they are all educational stuff he may not understand and is intimidated. Or maybe he says documentaries are boring but he doesn't know what they are and conflates them with something that's "good for you". Or maybe he says they are boring because that film style usually doesn't capture and hold his attention, and he experiences it as boring. Or maybe your partner's a jerk.  First two cases, there's hope of change and seeing things a new way. Third way, there's hope you both can understand each other's point of view, agree to disagree, and enjoy the things you can share. The last one: time to move on and find a new partner.

If my neighbor across the street comes in my house and disses documentaries I'm going to shrug my shoulders. I'm going to say no, it's not my job to prove to you that documentaries are interesting. I'm going to walk away. Or tell the neighbor to leave, I've got documentaries to watch. But if it's my partner - then I'm going to engage. I'm going to go past my hurt and try to get us past our defenses and maybe some insights will occur and maybe it will even end with us watching a documentary together.

The tricky part is when it's someone else close, like a sister. Sisters have long histories and complicated mutual misunderstandings.  "Documentaries are boring! Nobody likes them! Give me a reality show any day." "Documentaries are enthralling! Everybody agrees! They are the real reality shows!" It would be nice if the two got along. But, well, documentaries. And the history. Beyond the history and the COMPLETE cluelessness about documentaries, one is hard of hearing and the other has bad eyesight. One raises her voice; the other points and says "see? see?" over and  over.  They live on different continents. They don't have to keep in touch. It's more peaceful when each sticks to her own circle of friends and leaves the other to her crazy toxic ideas about documentaries.  I mean, if you want to make a good documentary, what could you possibly learn from anybody working on a reality show, or vice versa? Keep that kinda toxic thought outta here!




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Why Don't The Humanities Bring Science Into Their Classrooms?

Nov 19 2013 Published by under Geekalicious, Gendering Technology, Logos, Pathos, Ethos

In my usual graceful manner, I barged into a conversation on twitter between @Drew_Lab and @LauraSBooth regarding this point: "I see scientists bringing in Steinbeck, I never see English profs bringing in science." Nuh-uh, I said, they do too bring in The Science! And I promised references.

This post is my reply. Some qualifiers: I don't claim this is an exhaustive round-up of what's out there. It's just what I know about and can lay my hands on quickly. Also, consider these ponderings.

1. Humanities and social science scholars have been studying, critiquing, and writing about science & technology since forever. There's even a whole field called Science, Technology, and Society, with journals and conventions and classes and even, in some places, one can major in it. Does any of this scholarly activity count as bringing in science?

2. I will acknowledge, these scholars are not running gels or differentiating equations in their classes or having poster sessions of latest results at their meetings. But is this what we need humanities and social science scholars to do, really? And what outcome do we expect or want if they do?

3. What do we mean by science? What kinds of things do we want brought into non-science classrooms? Does that differ significantly from field to field?  Is history of science good enough? Are critiques of science (STS, feminist theory) sufficient? Do we want humanities students to learn actual bits of science - and if so, what bits?  Is the entrance of science into the humanities/social science classroom to be a demonstration of the wonder of science? Are the students to learn the scientific method, to think like scientists?

I'll stop now.

If your campus has a women's studies program, there is a chance that someone in that program has been doing something with science in one of their classes. This will most likely be one of two things: history or critique. Women's studies scholars look at the history of lost and forgotten women in science, and the barriers women faced against their participation in science. Margaret Rossiter's three-volume Women Scientists in America is a comprehensive overview, but of course there is much to be said outside these volumes and about women outside the U.S.

Women's studies scholars also critique the practice of science, its processes and products. Books on these topics are too numerous to list.

There are many courses that take these topics as their subject or include them as a portion of the course.  There once was an archive of these courses accessible through the wmst-l site but the link seems to be broken now. The wmst-l listserv would be a source of information for people who have or are currently teaching courses in these areas.

STS programs list their courses: check out Stanford's program's offerings. I want to take Text Technologies: A History. That sounds so cool.  Take a look at their faculty list - they come from all sorts of disciplines. OMG Helen Longino is there! Fangirl moment!

I would also like to point out that the esteemed Janet Stemwedel, @DocFreeride, teaches about ethics and science. Surely that must count as bringing science into the classroom. Do not argue that point.

There are print resources. The book Feminist Science Studies: A New Generation ed. M. Mayberry, B. Subramaniam, and L. Weasel, contains several useful essays. Take "Difficult Crossings: Stories From Building Two-Way Streets" by Baker, Shulman, and Tobin. A several-years long program designed to help scientists bring women's studies into their classrooms and vice-versa, it did not try to do both at the same time. The project devoted an entire year to each. I would bet that this project yielded more publications than just this book chapter. It might be worthwhile looking for them, or just contacting one of the authors about it. This is the most organized approach I am aware of.There could be others, I just don't know about them, as this has not been an area I've focused on.

There are two more essays in the book, companion pieces by Subramaniam and by Witmore. Subramaniam was a biological scientist, Witmore a rhetorician. He analyzed her scientific writing as rhetoric. They each wrote about the experience and outcome. I believe any scientist or humanities scholar would find these pieces of interest.

I myself have collaborated with a social scientist,  and we produced a publication! "Telling Stories About Engineering: Group Dynamics and Resistance to Diversity". It is in NWSA Journal, vol 16 no 1 spring 2004 pp 79-95. It's in an anthology somewhere but you can get it at your uni library in the journal form.

Helen Longino famously collaborated with Ruth Doell to write Body, Bias, Behavior: a Comparative Analysis of Reasoning in Two Areas of Biology Science.  So yeah, publications are not classes, but actual collaborations of a non-scientist with a scientist are worthy of note, I think.

One last significant publication: Sally Hacker's book Pleasure, Power, and Technology: Some Tales of Engineering and the Cooperative Workplace. Hacker was a sociologist who actually took calculus classes. Then she wrote about the role intro calc performs in the lives of engineering students: how important calculus was as a gate-keeper, how it functioned as a maker of men from the boys.

This is a completely random listing of things that I think speak to the question of "English profs bringing in science".  There would be more links if my head hurt less right now.  It may or may not be helpful, and it may or may not answer the original question. I think that's about a complete CYA. I shall therefore stop now.

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The Intro to Philosophy Take on Women's History

Today in intro to philosophy - the First Woman Writer Ever!
Learn with me.

Descartes was a really impressive dude. There were some problems with his Method. Princess Elisabeth wrote letters to him and asked him some good questions. She was kind of like Socrates in her letters, asking why and how. She was not playing a game, she was genuinely curious, kind of like she was saying you're this big intelligent man and I'm just a little princess over here trying to understand things.* Their correspondence was pretty cool. After Descartes died, Princess Elisabeth decided not to publish her letters, because, well, you see, there were some sentimental things in the letters. You know, that might have hinted at a relationship. So she kept them private. They were published long after her death. It's too bad she didn't agree to publish the letters, because they are the earliest known significant writing ever done by a woman! For realz! And if they had been published by Princess Elisabeth, people would have known a lot sooner that women were just as intelligent and capable of rational thought as men! Truth! [Because one exception was all that was needed to deconstruct an edifice of structural oppression. And obviously as soon as the letters came to light that edifice was demolished!]  Uh, you could ask a feminist philosopher or women's studies professor about it but I'm pretty sure this is the earliest writing by women that we have. [I am not an expert, some dudebro told me this, I didn’t bother to ask a women’s studies professor because a) really, and b) if a woman had written something I’d know about it.]

*Yes, he said "kind of like she was saying you're this big intelligent man and I'm just a little princess over here trying to understand things.


So when I got home, I went to the googles, and whaddya know, there's Hildegard von Bingen's theological writing in the 1100's. And Christine de Pisan's Book of the City of Ladies in 1405. Ann Bradstreet published a book of poetry in 1650. And then there's The Tale of Genji, by Murasaki Shikbu, "considered the world's first novel",

praised for the complex relationships between and among the characters. This is especially true regarding the portrayal of personal desire and the constraints that rank and gender in a highly hierarchical society place upon it, as well as the hidden tensions inherent in the conduct of Genji’s highly calibrated social and personal relationships. The novel is striking also for the compelling evocation of its characters’ minds, particularly of women of various ranks mulling upon their lot in life. In certain instances, these women exhibit an understanding of the workings of the psyche in terms almost modern.

It was written in the Heian Era (794-1185 CE).

But philosophy is what dudebros do. Hildegard was just writing about her visions in response to some "divine command" (not at all like Socrates's daimon).  Pisan's Book of the City of Ladies is just a pastiche done by a dancing dog while Augustine's City of God is philosophy. A bunch of poems or a gossipy book about ladeez and court life - you can't even talk about them in the same breath as Aristotle's Poetics. So I think we wimmin folk are lucky for two reasons.  Princess Elisabeth's letters made it into the philosophy category. And they got published so now everyone knows women are equally as smart as men. This is what makes the discipline of philosophy a warm and welcoming haven for women. Now that we have that straight, let us turn our attention back to Descartes, Berkeley, Hume, Kant, and Nietzsche.

You know, I want to study those dude philosophers. Understanding them is important for understanding a lot of other stuff. It's like learning algebra and trig before going on to calculus. But it burns my shorts to get my intro to philosophy with breezy "women are equal" jibber-jabber undermined in the same or next breath with condescension and implications about women's emotions blocking the progress of philosophy. And I really don't like it combined with casually wrong stories about women's history. I've got enough experience and knowledge not to be fooled or damaged by this crap, but those young kids in class with me? Well, they're just starting to learn, aren't they.



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What (I Think) I Know About Logic And Knowledge

Sep 26 2013 Published by under Basic Concepts, Geekalicious, Logos, Pathos, Ethos

With apologies to Dr. Seuss, and to philosophers, logicians, and poets everywhere.

LOGIC, or, The Philosopher Edits Dr. Seuss

1st submission: My shoe is off. My foot is cold. I have a bird I like to hold. (1)

You have here a valid, yet unsound argument. The holding of the bird is required neither by the offness of the shoe nor the coldness of the foot.

Revision 1: My shoe is off – my foot is cold. My foot is cold…my shoe is off!

Better, in that the irrelevant bird has fled the scene; but worse: this is made unsound by the very fact that the whole structure is itself invalid! The offness of the shoe is not required by the coldness of the foot. To wit: coldness of foot may also be caused by thinness of sock.

Revision 2: My shoe is off: my foot is cold. My shoe is off. My foot is cold.

Excellent! Valid, and sound. Persevere.

Revision 3: My shoe is off – my foot is cold. My foot is shoe is on. And now it's time to sing this song.



It is not an easy thing
To understand the song they sing
It grows, adds new words over time
Watch out! It turns round on a dime.

Physis, nomos, flux, the One
Atoms (but not like hydrogen)
Paradoxes, Sophistry
Hemlock juice for Socrates

Simple concepts, hard to follow
Up the mountain! Down the hollow!
Back to the grove! The maze of logos
Either leads, or makes fools of us.

A fish is old, a fish is new
A fish is yellow, red, or blue.
A fish is here and gone today.
The Form of Fish is here to stay.

A Fish and Fish make two, I say.
Two Fish by night, two Fish by day.
We know the Fish, without a doubt.
Yet still we cannot catch a trout.


(1) Quote from "One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish" by Dr. Seuss, 1960, Random House Books

2 responses so far

Back to School All Over Again

Life-long learning!

Who doesn't want to know more stuff?!?

Do you remember ever once saying "I'd be a professional student if I could?"


Two days ago I set foot upon the fifth - count 'em! fifth! - campus of my life wherein I shall be a student, albeit just for a semester, and just for one class. This waking nightmare is the fault of my neurologist. It's his way of testing out whether or not I can keep to even a minimal schedule and focus for a (limited) extended period of time several times a week, without things getting much worse migraine-wise.

He insisted that the course be something quite challenging, and suggested some sort of mathematics. I felt I have had enough mathematics to last me a lifetime (no offense to my dear friend and brilliant math guru Mark @MarkCC). So I picked philosophy: PHL 100, Intro to Philosophy. And what do we commence with? Logic. Logic, which is akin to math. But of course!

I must note here two interesting and somewhat discouraging observations from my brand-new one-day experience as a student. We shall call them (1) What? Where? Help? and (2) All That Feminist Theory in Action.

(1) What? Where? Help?  New Campus is a nearby, very good community college that draws a diverse student population.  Their website is one of the most friendly, welcoming, and easy to navigate of any I have ever seen. Colleges and universities across the land could take many a lesson from New Campus's website.  As I mentioned, this is not my first student rodeo (4 degrees, worked for a university).  And yet...registering for the course did not go smoothly. New Campus has me in their database as a former student with a student i.d. number because four years ago, my neurologist asked me to try the Take a Course experiment.  I tried it at New Campus and had to withdraw within weeks. Returning students need their student i.d. number to register.  But I didn't remember that number. No problem, friendly online registration will look it up for me! by my name and social security number! Oops, I cannot be found in the system. Sorry. So I registered as a new, not a returning, student. No problem, registration app accepted! The online form asked for my email; I gave it. I was to be notified within two business days of my course status.

Days went by...a week...there was a family crisis...I forgot about the registration...then suddenly, hey, this is the first day of the semester! I called New Campus. A friendly staff person told me I had indeed been registered, but then dropped from the course, because I had not paid my tuition. Why had I not received notification of my registration? It had been sent to me, via email - to my New Campus student email account. Which I did not realize I had and could not have accessed if I did, because I did not have my student i.d. number.  Long story short, staff person put me back in the class, took my tuition payment over the phone via credit card, gave me my student i.d. number, and walked me through the web portal, which is all quite easy and obvious if (a) you know it exists, (b) you know you should look there, and (c) you have your student i.d. number.

When you check your course registration online, there is a nifty option to order your textbook from a link right there beside the course! Then you just go pick it up at the bookstore! How handy! As it turns out, ordering your textbook actually means ordering it, as in, they will now ask for it to be fetched from some faraway warehouse. It does not mean, you have purchased a book that is physically lying on a shelf here in the bookstore and we are reserving it for when you come in to pick it up.  Luckily, there were actually textbooks physically in store, and I was able to buy one of those and cancel my order.

Now, I have not been a student in some time, so all this stuff may be old hat to the twelve-year-olds jostling past me on the New Campus pathways. (Students! So young!) But I am really, really feeling for the Adult Learners who do often come to community colleges for a degree or certificate program as part of a career re-boot, or even a career start, in some cases. Nevertheless, I suspect that every student, young and old, can identify a little with the stomach-churning anxiety of looking for your classroom in an unfamiliar building - especially when you have missed the first day of class. The stakes are about as low as they can possibly be for me, and I still felt that anxiety of not knowing my place in this place, being alone in the swarm, and already behind at the start.  It vanished at the desk, after I sat down in what was assuredly the right room, wrote the date at the top of a fresh notebook page, and commenced studenting. But I have a lot of empathy for the twelve-year-olds.

(2) All That Feminist Theory in Action  It is with dampened spirits and a cheerless heart that I report this to you: my class contains A Dude Who Talks All The Time. He is compelled to answer every question the instructor asks, often before it is quite fully out of the poor man's mouth. Many times it is on the tails of comment from another student who managed to get a smidge of words in before Dude's Autopilot SuperJaw opened to spew forth his brilliance. He will mansplain your answer to the professor for you, because the Things Women Say are difficult for instructors to understand unless a sympathetic mansplainer mansplains them into mansplain-speak. What a bracing experience indeed, to be a 50-year-old woman in PHL 100, and watch some twelve-year-old mansplain your words to a twenty-something instructor, whose head immediately swivels towards the translation.

Obviously, I cannot let this continue. The Dude Who Talks All The Time was sitting right smack in the center of the classroom. I think I will be sitting there come next class time. And if the instructor is not going to do more to actively keep him from mansplaining and controlling the discussion, I will have a word with the instructor.  I welcome your suggestions in the comments for fun things I can do in class to deal with TDWTATT.

Near the end of the class, we had a small group break-out to work on the logic structures from the lecture. I was in a group with two twelve-year-olds, one male and one female. I would say they had about an equal grasp of (a) what the instructor was asking us to do in our small group work and (b) the actual concepts he had gone over in the lecture. You, like me, may be dismayed but not surprised to learn that the female, with a deer-in-the-headlights look, kept saying that she wasn't quite sure, and that she felt like she got it for just a minute and then it would slip away. When we finished an item she wanted to review it to make sure she understood it.  Whereas the male, who made little eye contact with either of us, except when I would tell him "no, that's not correct", confidently pronounced "ok this is an X" or "We need to do Y" or "this one is valid AND sound" (it wasn't). And when we finished an item he just wanted to charge on to the next one, even though he didn't exactly know what it was.

So, I may have a little work cut out for me in the small group sessions. Have to tread lightly, but I can't just let the Overconfident Dudes get away with making the Underconfident Wimminz feel worse about things. Especially in light of the dismal state of affairs for women in philosophy. (Have you been following the NYTimes Opinionator Women In Philosophy series? Start here.)  Please do fire away with helpful suggestions in the comments, also please feel free to vent your bile about similar situations you have observed, either as student or instructor.


10 responses so far