Caucus Announcements: Senior Co-Chair Transition and Welcome New Editorial Staff
Feature: Messages from Senior Co-Chairs and New Editorial Staff
Highlighted Philosop-Her of Science: Suzanne Kawamleh
What We Wish We’d Known: Underrepresentation in Philosophy of Science and What We Can Do About It by Morgan Thompson
The PSA Women’s Caucus is excited to announce that Cailin O'Connor will be the next PSA Women's Caucus Senior Co-Chair! Thank you to all members who nominated and voted! A special thanks to Anya Plutynski for all her hard work and dedication!
The PSA Women’s Caucus and the Science Visions’ editorial team would like to thank María Ferreira Ruiz, the former editor of the section Highlighted Philosop-Her of Science, for her contribution to Science Visions!.
Our webmistress, Areins Pelayo, will continue to manage the listserv and serve as the new editor for Highlighted Philosop-Her of Science. Welcome to your new role, Areins!
Jacob Neal will be the new managing editor of the section What We Wish We’d Known. Welcome to the editorial team, Jacob!
Feature: Messages from Senior Co-Chairs and New Editorial Staff
A message from former senior co-chair Anya Plutynski:
I’m very happy to hand off leadership of the PSA Women’s Caucus to Cailin O’Connor and Sarah Roe. The Caucus is in exceptionally capable hands. Leading this group has been an honor, and I’m grateful for the opportunity. There are many benefits to serving - I had the opportunity to read and review exceptional work by scholars nominated for our bi-annual Women's Caucus awards. I also had the opportunity to watch our community pull together and support one another through a very difficult time over the past year. We’ve continued to share stories of our experience - whether teaching or scholarship - during this pandemic, with Science Visions. At our last meeting, we confronted head-on the question of how we want to see our future together as a community, and throughout this time of transition, I really appreciate how we all seek to genuinely listen to one another, and give everyone a platform to speak. I'm also thrilled to see how much we’ve grown - from only a handful of folks meeting for breakfast when I started, to filling a ballroom with new faces. While we were unable to meet in person during the PSA this year, we continue to support one another and find community in our common experience, as well as celebrate our contributions. Thank you to the many women leaders in the field who have contributed to our community, and to everyone who has worked so very hard to keep the Women’s Caucus vibrant as a community. Thanks so much to Julia Bursten, my former Co-Chair of the Caucus, as well as former editor of Science Visions, and other Science Visions staff, current editor Haomiao Yu, contributors to the PhilosopHer folks, Maria Ferreira Ruiz and Janella Baxter, deepest gratitude to Karen Zwier, our long-time webmistress, and thanks so much to our new webmistress, Areins Pelayo, and to Ryan Feigenbaum and Jessica Pfeiffer for working with us to ensure that the Women’s Caucus continues to be supported and represented on PSA’s new website.
A message from the next senior co-chair Cailin O'Connor:
I'd like to offer deep gratitude to Anya Plutinski for her work as co-chair of the caucus. And I'm honored to be joining Sarah Roe as the new senior co-chair. Looking forward to seeing many of your faces next fall at the in-person PSA meeting, and discussing what the future holds for the PSA Women's Caucus.
Areins Pelayo, Current Webmistress and New Highlighted Philosop-Her (HPH) Manager
I am a PhD candidate at the University of Illinois at Chicago. While my doctoral thesis focuses on the role of hypotheses in Isaac Newton’s scientific thought, I have general research interests in early modern philosophy, the history and the philosophy of science, and feminist epistemology.
I’m very excited and grateful to be part of the Science Visions team as the new editor of the Highlighted Philosop-Her of Science feature. I look forward to meeting more female philosophers of science and learning about the variety of work being done by them.
Jacob Neal, New What We Wish We’d Known (WWK) Manager
I am a doctoral candidate in History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh, with research interests in history and philosophy of biology and general philosophy of science. My dissertation analyzes changes in representations and explanations of proteins and develops a novel account of dynamic explanation of protein behavior. The majority of my projects explore epistemological, methodological, and historical questions that arise in the molecular life sciences, such as biophysics, biochemistry, and structural and molecular biology. I’m excited to join the Science Visions editorial team, and I am looking forward to offering my time and support to this wonderful resource for the PSA Women’s Caucus.
Highlighted Philosop-Her of Science: Suzanne Kawamleh
Suzanne Kawamleh is a PhD candidate at Indiana University-Bloomington. Her current research deals with the epistemological and ethical problems that arise in scientific modeling, particularly climate modeling. Suzanne is also Co-Founder and Educational Program Director of a nonprofit, Promise for Relief and Human Development, which provides medical, educational, and food assistance to Syrians affected by the civil war. Suzanne has received numerous awards already in her young career, such as the Clark Outstanding Associate Instructor Award, the Oscar Ewing Essay Prize, and the Herman B. Wells Graduate Fellowship, IU’s most prestigious academic award.
Suzanne graduated with a BA in Philosophy and Chemistry from Valparaiso University. While initially seeking to pursue a pre-med track, she was encouraged by her logic professor, Sandra Visser, to enroll in an advanced Metaphysics seminar and take more philosophy classes. At first, Suzanne’s medical and philosophical goals seemed disconnected, but after spending some time in Syria, her home country, she realized that philosophy didn’t have to be an armchair activity. Philosophical work and ethical issues are relevant for the underprivileged and even more so for those amid a civil war. She recalls that the nature of the conversations she had with her family and friends in Syria were very philosophical and led her to explore the practical implications of philosophical frameworks and assumptions.
Interestingly, the questions that Suzanne first encountered were versions of the ones that guide her research today. Suzanne’s philosophical interests first started in high school with an Arabic poem, “I promised you”, by the renowned Syrian writer, Nizar Qabbani, in which he explores the truth-indicating virtues of a lie. Since then, she has thought about whether and how falsehoods, metaphors and analogies can help us arrive at truth. Today, Suzanne investigates to what extent tools like computer simulations rely on idealizations, literal falsehoods, and analogies to shape and change scientific knowledge. In particular, she is working on revealing the epistemological mechanisms that underlie why scientists trust climate models and what makes models credible for decision-making. She currently has a paper under-review on this very question of what makes computer simulations of climate change trustworthy.
This past summer, Suzanne published her first paper in Philosophy of Science on machine learning and climate science, a project she worked on with Professor Elisabeth Lloyd and Professor Greg Lusk. Lusk writes that he “had the pleasure of working with Suzanne on her research about machine learning and climate science,” and that he is “inspired by the motivations that drive her quest for a PhD. She's getting a PhD largely so it can give her the authority to help those in need, particularly in war-torn Syria. She helped open Promise College in South Syria, which is helping to educate 1,836 students, including women. These skills make the graduates of Promise College too valuable to be soldiers, and gives them the chance at a conflict-free future.” Having been exposed to the rather extreme circumstances in Syria, Suzanne feels very grateful for the women philosophers that have mentored her throughout her career. She continues to admire her own peers most, who through their actions and own success have taught her what it means to be a female academic and philosopher. Suzanne is optimistic that philosophers won’t stop advocating for women with respect to work-life balance, family planning, and equality.
What We Wish We’d Known: Underrepresentation in Philosophy of Science and What We Can Do About It
What We Wish We’d Known is a short opinion column that features advice from female philosophers of science about a particular aspect of academic life. To suggest future topics or volunteer as a writer for a future column, please contact Jacob Neal at <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Underrepresentation in Philosophy of Science and What We Can Do About It
By Morgan Thompson
Morgan Thompson is a Postdoctoral researcher at Bielefeld University in the "Integrating Ethics and Epistemology of Scientific Research" group. Her research is in philosophy of science and feminist philosophy. Her current project is on the role of values in operationalization and explication of concepts in science. She has also worked on understanding and addressing the underrepresentation of marginalized groups in philosophy.
1. The Problem: Underrepresentation in Philosophy of Science
One part of the inclusivity problem in philosophy is underrepresentation. In the U.S., women and Black students are particularly underrepresented in philosophy at the undergraduate level compared to their representation among students enrolled in any undergraduate program. Women are less likely than men to major in philosophy (Schwitzgebel 2017a), despite being represented approximately proportionately in introductory philosophy courses (Paxton et al. 2012). Black students make up only 5% of philosophy bachelor’s degree recipients, despite making up 10% of all bachelor’s degree recipients (Schwitzgebel 2017b). Although different aspects of the inclusivity problem may make philosophy unwelcoming for members of other marginalized groups, the underrepresentation of women and Black students in philosophy signals a clear problem that we as philosophers and teachers need to address.
Less is known about the diversity of philosophers working in philosophy of science in particular. However, it seems a reasonable hypothesis that the underrepresentation of women and Black students in STEM fields as well as in philosophy compounds for philosophy of science. Further, the issues with a White-male dominated canon seem to replicate in introductory philosophy of science courses. Through an informal examination of 25 philosophy of science course reading lists, I found that only one text by a woman philosopher of science (Kathleen Okruhlik’s (1994) “Gender and the Biological Sciences”) was among the top 20 most frequently assigned texts. The lists included a few texts by Nancy Cartwright and Helen Longino, but unlike their male peers, these philosophers had no frequently assigned, paradigmatic texts. Across all reading lists, only two texts authored by Black philosophers were included (one by Antony Appiah and one by Quayshawn Spencer), and no texts by Black women philosophers were included in any of the syllabi.
2. The Solution: Practical Ways Forward
There are a number of hypotheses to explain why women and Black students are often less interested than men and White students in majoring in philosophy (See Dobbs 2017, Thompson 2017, Dougherty et al. 2015, Beebee and McCallion 2020). For example, some have suggested that there may be a perception by these students that there are few women and racial or ethnic minority philosophers and that the work of these philosophers is not central to the discipline. Others have hypothesized that women might find the methods typically associated with philosophy, such as abstract argumentation or focus on paradoxes, to be alienating, irrelevant, or just plain boring. I suspect that both of these factors are contributing to underrepresentation. Importantly, however, I think that both can be mitigated, in part, by well-designed philosophy of science courses.
2.1 Increasing Demographic and Content Diversity in Philosophy of Science Courses
The number of philosophers of science who are from marginalized groups appears to be growing, and this fact bodes well for diversifying the authors represented on our syllabi. Although my informal study of philosophy of science syllabi shows we still have a long way to go, Anya Plutynski (2016) has demonstrated that there are enough established women philosophers of science to compose an all-women syllabus.
The general organization of course topics and texts can also be made more inclusive. In introductory philosophy of science courses, the course topics tend to be organized in one of three ways: a linear story of HOPOS, a survey of contemporary topics, or an integrated history and philosophy of science course. Each of these can inadvertently lead to courses that lack inclusivity, but more intentional course design can help prevent this outcome.
The first strategy often leads to a ‘greatest hits of philosophy of science’ course, beginning with logical positivism and continuing through authors like Hempel and Kuhn. As Alexandra Bradner (2015) has argued, this standard structure omits the important role that feminist philosophy of science has played in our discipline for decades. To teach a historically accurate course organized in this way, instructors ought to give these authors and topics significant attention in their courses.
Likewise, topic-organized courses should better integrate feminist philosophy of science because it has played a crucial role in the development of contemporary philosophy of science, especially the turn to scientific practice. In order to avoid further marginalizing this work, instructors should also attend to whether feminist views are presented only as critiquing mainstream views in philosophy of science. If the only feminist texts included are critiques of “bad science,” it can lead to further marginalization, since it may suggest to students that science or philosophy, if done well, does not require feminist perspectives and analysis. Many feminist philosophy of science texts contribute to understanding key philosophy of science concepts in their own right (e.g., Longino’s work on objectivity). Inclusion of texts with clear positive contributions, as well as more critical ones, can help remedy this issue.
For an integrated HPS course, instructors may make use of current work on underappreciated figures in the history of science, such as Margaret Cavendish and Emile Du Châtelet. The newly published Routledge Handbook of Feminist Philosophy of Science (Crasnow and Intemann, eds., 2021) could be an important resource for this approach. Beyond including discussion of the work by women philosophers and scientists, instructors can also facilitate a critical meta-discussion about the reasons the history of science (or history of philosophy) is frequently taught as a particular story of linear progression from Aristotle to Galileo to Darwin. To make it even more inclusive, the course could explicitly discuss the role of the Islamic Translation movement in the history of science more generally and how the positive contributions of Arabic scientists and philosophers are downplayed by naming the movement primarily based on its role in translating Greek texts into Arabic. For a unit on empiricism or naturalism more broadly, the Cārvāka tradition episode from the “History of Philosophy without Any Gaps” podcast could be included.
2.2 Emphasizing Methodological Pluralism in Philosophy of Science
Another potential contributing factor to the underrepresentation of women in philosophy is lower enjoyment or endorsement of the methods typically used in philosophy. There are at least two major methods students may encounter in philosophy courses that are uncommon in other courses: (1) the use of thought experiments to elicit intuitions that are then used as input for philosophical arguments, and (2) the discussion of puzzles and paradoxes to motivate certain philosophical problems. Recent evidence suggests that women are less interested in both these common philosophical methods than men (Buckwalter and Turri 2016; Thompson et al. 2016; Demarest et al. 2017). (In work on the underrepresentation of Black students in philosophy, my collaborators and I found no effects concerning the use of thought experiments for Black compared to White students (Thompson et al., unpublished).)
Philosophy of science is well-situated to address students’ concerns with traditional analytic philosophical methods and enrich students’ understanding of what methods can be employed in philosophical projects. First, there are substantial methodological debates about the nature and use of thought experiments in scientific research (Stuart 2016). These debates can clarify whether and when thought experiments can be used to further investigations in science. For some students, discussion about the benefits and limitations of thought experiments could assuage concerns with the use of this method in philosophy as well. Second, the practice turn in philosophy of science, as well as work in HPS and STS, has led to increasingly interdisciplinary research. For example, philosophers of science may employ qualitative interviews to study the impact of philosophy of science research on scientific projects (Plaisance et al. 2021), or they may focus on the uses of detailed case-studies in philosophy of science (Currie 2015). Courses in philosophy of science could examine not only scientific methodology, but also reflect on the methods employed in philosophical projects, especially the relationship between traditional philosophical argumentation and these more empirical methods. This reflection could assuage student concerns about the traditional methodologies in philosophy by demonstrating there are many ways to pursue philosophical projects, some of which integrate empirical components.
While philosophy and philosophy of science in particular have a long way to go in addressing their diversity and inclusivity problems, there is reason to be optimistic that focusing on inclusive pedagogy can help each of us make philosophy of science a more attractive discipline for women and Black students.
Currie, Adrian. (2015) “Philosophy of Science and the Curse of the Case Study.” In: Daly C. (eds) The Palgrave Handbook of Philosophical Methods. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137344557_22
Crasnow, Sharon, and Kristen Intemann (Eds). (2021). The Routledge Handbook of Feminist Philosophy of Science. New York: Routledge.
Demarest, Heather, Seth Robertson, Megan Haggard, and Madeline Martin-Seaver, Jewelle Bickel. (2017). “Similarity and Enjoyment: Predicting Continuation for Women in Philosophy.” Analysis. 77(3): 525-541. https://doi.org/10.1093/analys/anx098
Dobbs, Chris. (2017). “Evidence Supporting Pre-University Effects Hypotheses of Women’s Underrepresentation in Philosophy.” Hypatia. 32(4): 940-945. https://doi.org/10.1111/hypa.12356
Dougherty, Tom, Samuel Baron, and Kristie Miller. (2015) “Female Under-Representation Among Philosophy Majors: A Map of the Hypotheses and a Survey of the Evidence” Feminist Philosophy Quarterly 1(1): 1-30. https://doi.org/10.5206/fpq/2015.1.4
Plaisance, Kathryn S., Jay Michaud, and John McLevey (2021). “Pathways of Influence: Understanding the Impact of Philosophy of Science in Scientific Domains.” Synthese. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-020-03007-1