The Philosophy Exception
Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in Academic Philosophy
Philosophy as it is practised in post-secondary institutions has a severe equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) problem. These issues have long been recognized and are certainly not unique to philosophy; however, while many other fields have made progress in alleviating these issues, what progress philosophy was once making has now largely stalled, and demographic data consistently shows that philosophy is an exception compared to all but a few sub-fields in the humanities. Hence, the name of our project. (Please see our About page for more detail.)
EDI problems challenge the conception of philosophy as an open and critical discipline. As Eric Schwitzgebel says, “philosophy should be among the most diverse of the academic disciplines, not among the least diverse” (Schwitzgebel 2020). We agree with Schwitzgebel.
We have compiled a database of English-language literature on EDI issues in philosophy that appears in journals, edited volumes, books, and, where possible, society newsletters and reports. We also include links to websites that serve as clearinghouses for web-based resources focused on EDI issues in philosophy, but we haven’t systematically tracked down online discussions. We have thus far lacked the resources to review non-English-language literature, but would enthusiastically welcome editorial assistance with this in the future.
We are grateful for the funding we have received from the American Philosophical Association to support the creation of a searchable database of the current and growing literature on EDI issues in philosophy. These resources will be invaluable to those researching and working on these issues in philosophy and other sub-fields in the humanities and social sciences.
How to use this database
There are several different ways to navigate through the resources included in this database.
- You can browse the database through one of the four primary themes listed below: Calls to Action, Documentation, Theorizing, or Interventions.
- You can search the database using the Entries tab by entering keywords in the search bar. Search terms apply to all content associated with each entry; they aren’t field-specific. So, for example, if you search for an author’s name the results may include entries edited by that author or that cite them in an abstract, as well as their own publications.
- You can filter the database using the Entries tab and selecting any of the categories or specific filters on the left side of the page. Filtering allows you to apply further subdivisions to the four primary themes, and also to locate resources that are relevant to specific identity categories, such as Dimensions of Diversity and Status or Role. These categories are disjunctive, so selecting more categories will yield more search results.
- You can also compare the volume of literature available in different categories. The left-hand menu on the Entries page lists the number of entries in parentheses next to each category. We have found this quite instructive!
The Inclusion Criteria page explains the scope of the project in more detail and describes our working rationale for deciding which entries to include in the database.
We are currently experimenting with using various forms of AI to generate keywords and abstracts for entries in the database that currently lack them. Stay tuned to this space for more information as this progresses!
We recently presented this project at the 2023 meeting of the Western Canadian Philosophical Association in Vancouver, BC.
In 2021, we published an article detailing the background for this project and the initial creation in the Journal of Social Philosophy:
One of our team members, Kristin Conrad Kilgallen, discussed her work on this project in an interview for the APA blog:
Philosophers in a cross-section of subfields have drawn attention to EDI issues since at least the late 1970s. We include here articles and reports that name the problems and call on the profession to take action to ameliorate them.
We assemble in this section publications that report original data on EDI problems in Philosophy. These include qualitative studies and testimony from those affected by EDI issues, as well as quantitative data: demographic and survey data.
With a growing recognition that philosophy has serious EDI problems, attention has focused on the question of why. Hypotheses abound. Here we list publications that engage these questions, including publications that report various kinds of data relevant for assessing the hypotheses on offer.
A variety of interventions have been proposed to ameliorate EDI issues in philosophy. The publications listed here describe these interventions and assess their impact. For this section we looked specifically for articles, reports, guidelines that focus on interventions and, in some instances, assess their effectiveness.