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Shelley Tremain

Anne, thanks so much for doing this interview with me. You said many interesting things throughout the interview. I would like it if you elaborated on your remark at the end of the interview according to which the interview method is a transformative way to do philosophy. This is a provocative claim because the format of these interviews is not the format that philosophical texts and discussions ordinarily take place. So, would you say a bit more about how and why you regard these interviews as a way of "doing philosophy"? Thanks.

Anne Waters (via Shelley Tremain)

Anne has asked me to post this response for her. Shelley

Hi Shelley

Glad to join this blog! Thank you for the opportunity to share this interview ;-)

The interview style I conceive to be transformative because it gives philosophers (and “others’) opportunity to interact with philosophers in an open, accountable environment. It also ensures that when philosophers respond to queries, their responses are above board, and anything like, for example “ad hominem” attacks will not be able to work as well as they do in the APA environment where queries are often met with ridiculous responses, including rolling of the eyes, etc. This way, what folks say is as blatant as can be, and it draws in accountability. If our discipline of philosophy were to have more open opportunities like this, and include more diverse philosophers, we may be a bit further in dialogue, provided such was not compromised by “anonymous” remarks or “dissing” made by those who feel they hold more power within the discipline, and even within the APA. So man of our philosophy journals for example are still “old school” which means that it makes it more difficult to do philosophical work in areas traditionally unrepresented or in new developing areas, such as America’s Heritage Philosophy of American Indian Thought. One of the very new and recent journals I have been watching (and recently published in) is Confluence: Online Journal of World Philosophy. This journal is expanding how we think and do philosophy because it is bringing together philosophers from around the world into philosophical dialogue with one another. Lou Outlaw recently participated (along with myself) in developing a symposium of thought about “liberalism” and its limitations. Philosophers participated from various parts of the world in this dialogue, and looking at how each individual philosopher responded to Lou’s article is philosophically interesting in-itself! I would encourage everyone to have a look at this new journal (the first edition is free online).

What I am getting at here is that the APA has served the USA well developing the type of philosophy we in America are known for (pragmatism), and there are philosophy heroes and super heroes of this movement. But since the 80’s the APA has undergone some significant changes in our membership, and in our organization. These changes are opening up the discipline to more folks, and in so doing, getting more ideas of philosophical interest that are pushing the “envelope” of what counts as the “premiere” philosophy of the new millennium. I have heard graduate students with some remarkable new ideas (eg. MAP graduate students), ideas that are enabling better communication, and better analysis, than we have seen of issues in the past. In this way, your interview technique of doing philosophy is really able to grasp some of the current cognitive dissonances of our profession, and allow our scholars to talk about their work in a new less constraining, yet more accountable manner.

Dr. Anne Waters, J.D., Ph.D.

Shelley Tremain

thanks so much for your response to my question. You've in fact addressed a number of issues that are topical in the profession at the moment, as well as other issues that have been a source of discussion for some time now. Again, I'm really glad that you perceive great transformational potential to the interview mode of eliciting information. Thanks.

Melinda Hall

Hi Anne,

Thank you for doing this interview! I really enjoyed reading it and found, among many other things you said, that the implicit comparison between the U.S. justice system and the academic profession of philosophy to be really enlightening. I do believe that many elements of our profession (invitations to conferences, new job offers, and other sorts of opportunities) result in the sustenance of employment for those who already enjoy it and serve to maintain the status quo in terms of voices and resources. There has been a lot of related talk about this sort of thing in philosophy blogs in the last week as some have discussed "cliques" in philosophy.

As a young woman scholar, I would like to support the "ontology of fairness" you discussed and worry about inadvertently contributing to ontologies that "reinforce" hegemonic relations. I have a lot of leeway in impacting my students in positive ways, but feel much less sure of how to leverage my position (I am tenure-track at a small SLAC) in ways that benefit excluded peers and therefore contribute to fairness in philosophy. I don't often have the opportunity to spend money or use university resources. In lieu of this, I spread the work of diverse philosophers I admire to my students and engage in research that cuts across approaches and disciplines. I'm encouraged by some of the things you say about your experience in the APA, and recent changes in the APA, to consider becoming more involved in that organization. Do you have any advice for someone like me?

Thank you again, especially for the candor with which you discuss your professional experiences.

Alison Jaggar

I was so glad to read this interview and to learn that Anne Waters is continuing her brave and groundbreaking work.

Anne Waters (via Shelley Tremain)

I am posting a response from Anne, Shelley

Anne’s response is: I am so glad to read your comments Alison, thank you. I know how hard over the years you and so many others have worked, and influenced my own thought and politics, and that of so many feminist philosophers. I thank you especially for your support and encouragement of this blog! It means much to me and many others. :-)

Anne Waters (via Shelley Tremain)

I am posting this response for Anne, Shelley.

Hi Melinda,

Thank you for your comments sharing! It is encouraging to know that you use your teaching skills toward justice as fairness, as well as encourage the work of scholars moving in this direction. I think that is a lot to do, and I thank you for your work. Please continue it! I am wondering how an ontology of fairness might play out in your own ideas!

Since you asked, I would recommend to you that you consider engaging global philosophy. Check out the work, for example of Rosi Braidotti if you are interested in someone who weaves together feminism with ontology and metaphysics (can find on utube). And feel free to contact me via facebook or email and we can talk some more. I believe the internet has significantly changed access of philosophers to one another for the better (of the underclass for certain), and for sure check out the website, where you can read some new fresh interesting global work being done in philosophy, or other disciplines that cross over into our fields (look for me there).

As for comparing the USA justice system and our academic profession of philosophy, I have followed the work of Angela Davis here for many years, and there are some other philosophers doing work in this area of the justice system more recently. I don't know of anyone who is brave enough in their career to draw the analogy of the role that the justice system plays in our culture, with that philosophy departments play. Tommy Curry comes to mind; he also has an interview on this site. Interesting thought—perhaps you will follow through thinking about that? I’d love to read a paper about it, or simply some of your ideas! There are a plenty of social and political philosophers who could be connecting these dots, and I am sure they would know how to--but again, they hold tight to the privileges of the system and don't engage in query too much off the beaten path, as far as the relation of our discipline to the dominant culture is concerned (remember, education is a colonial tool).

As for the sustenance of employment and maintaining the status quo, count on there being enough hungry enough younger scholars who are willing to maintain the status quo of the profession. This so unless it is successfully challenged by those who hold different value principles (this was method of Thurgood Marshall in Brown v Bd of Education of Topeka, Ks.); only a good work ethic could pull this off! The status quo is maintained by a system. Young scholars are easy to train to thinking, respond well to things like graduate funds, job offers, and publications (for positive sanctioning), and can be “shunned” (for negative sanctioning). As well, they support their educational institutions (and mentors) with loyalty (and this includes supporting the cliques that help support them!) I believe you have it right, philosophy is comprised of groups (some just like this), and a few lone individuals. It has served those who have benefitted from colonization (genocide), and in the USA continue to benefit from the colonization of the America’s; and similarly in other geographical areas. That is, all academics continue to benefit from the colonization done by their ancestors (I mean, when was the last time you read about America's heritage indigenous philosophy! sad grin).

Most importantly, Melinda, the next time you go to an APA meeting, remember that philosophy as a discipline is SELF-REPRODUCING (stand on an escalator or stage, and look below at all the suited philosophers); this re-production is done meticulously by those engineers who are paid well to be the gatekeepers (travel funds, publications, power at meetings, etc.) Like any institution, those who have power, some (ab)use it a lot, and those who do not have such, try to move close to, and please, those who do, in order to hope to share that power themselves (not generally for others, unless the “others” are their own mentors or their own student-faculty-families). Of course some philosophers simply drop out of these power ploys, and disappear into their own safe employment in academe. I try to remember to remember always that some simply drop out entirely.

Just as in other disciplines (think of science where “research grants” determine so much), the "have's" have an interest in continuing "THEIR OWN" whether "their own" is their ideas, or the children of families of academic colleagues, who train their children (and similarly situated students of class, gender, etc.) for academic jobs. Older scholars are known for seeking out young potential philosophers who will assist in the reproduction of their own ideas, as well as the discipline. This system has been successfully used more recently by some different and unrepresented philosophers. This includes feminist philosophers, who e.g. recruit young women into the discipline --though some have not been including "difference" factors, so ideas and pictures of these groups that are being mentored look pretty much like "family pictures" if you get my drift (actually I've seen family pictures that portray greater diversity!) So understanding these nuances can enable a person to find "their own" "clique" or at least being aware of how the system works, they can choose to "participate" or "withdraw" when this kind of power is used in the discipline (rather like Marilyn Frye's notion of "withdrawing support" to watch it collapse). Of course, it’s hard to withdraw if you have spent your life preparing for a job in the field! There are some in the APA now who are becoming aware of how these problems have influenced the development (or lack of development) of philosophy as a discipline.

Advice? Continue doing what your doing and look for those interstices of theory that make sense of the reality of the culture we live in, and keep trying to make a difference, always remembering to remember that you have benefitted from, and continue to benefit from, an unjust system of power and privilege that the privileged have and hold by virtue of the historical and on-going colonizations of so many people. This will make it easier to understand philosophy as cultural institution. Discrimination is, after all, about on-going deprivation of self-esteem minimally, and life for some, and this... for discussion another day.

Thanks for your comments, Melinda, and I look forward to meeting you someday! Know that individuals can make a difference, yet more than one person is required to make important differences. Seek out mentors of common value! Join the APA, but find commonality of value there, rather than commonality of climbing the philosophical ladder upscale to the economic and privileged classes some desire. Use the APA, if for nothing else, as an opportunity to join with others who have some common academic background, with which to talk about the values of the discipline and institutional organization, and how to spend your time there well. I hope you do join! And if you see me there, be sure to say “HI!” But know that it is important to not be “alienated” when attending these events, to find out who you know is going there first, and I'll hope to see you there someday! Thanks again for sharing community ;-)

Dr. Anne Waters, J.D., Ph.D.

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