Towards an Equitable, Diverse, and Inclusive Philosophy
Philosophy as it is practised in post-secondary institutions has a significant 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 continued to make progress in addressing these issues, recent EDI-Philosophy reports suggest that the progress we were making two decades ago has largely stalled. In addition, as we explain in a recent article in the Journal of Social Philosophy, the available demographic data make it clear that philosophy is an outlier compared to all but a few sub-fields in the humanities and social sciences; indeed, philosophy has a profile similar to the most demographically-challenged STEM fields. Academic philosophy is thus an exception with regard to EDI issues; hence the name of our project.
People working in and studying philosophy have not been silent about these issues. There is a substantial body of work on equitable, diverse, and inclusive academic practice in philosophy. Since at least the 1970s the focus has been primarily on issues relating to binary gender. More recently it is expanding to consider issues relating to non-binary and transgender people, as well as race, ability, and indigeneity, to name just a few areas of concern. The goal of our project is to provide a searchable database of this literature that will be useful to those who are actively studying and responding to these issues, in philosophy and in other sub-fields in the humanities and social sciences, as well as by those who want to learn more about them.
Initially we developed a static website organized around an initial set four categories: Calls to Action, Data, Theorizing, and Interventions. Our aim was to capture the current state of discussion about EDI problems in philosophy so that anyone who wants to engage with them can see what the problems are, why they exist, and what has been tried to remedy them. Generous support from the APA has made it possible to rebuild this website as a searchable database that incorporates a number of cross-cutting categories. In addition to providing tools that make it easier to find relevant EDI-Philosophy resources, we hope that this faceted search design better reflects the growing diversity of the existing literature, and also illuminates its continuing gaps in ways that will usefully direct future work.
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.
The Philosophy Exception project first took shape in the Spring of 2019 when two of us (Matthew & Alison) set out to update an archive of literature discussing philosophy’s EDI problem that Alison had accumulated over the years. We were taken aback by how much had been published, especially in the previous decade. Following an initial search in which we identified 60 substantive articles, in addition to society reports, and shorter notes and commentaries published in society newsletters and posted on blogs, we decided to expand our search. As of the Fall of 2022, The Philosophy Exception website bibliography includes four times this number of resources, and continues to grow.
We also found that that EDI-Philosophy resources are so widely dispersed – often appearing in publications that philosophers don’t typically follow – that they’re in danger of being overlooked, marginalized by the very mechanisms of exclusion to which they draw attention. We undertook the two-stage website development project described above to ensure that this growing body of work gets the attention it deserves, and that the insights, advice, and experience captured by these resources are readily available to all who share our passion for making philosophy all that it can and should be.
Although much of this literature testifies to serious and continuing EDI issues in philosophy, this expanding literature seems a hopeful sign that the tide is turning: that a critical mass of philosophy students and faculty members are actively addressing these issues, documenting, analyzing, and theorizing the “philosophy exception,” and exploring a range of strategies for translating what we’re learning, collectively, into action aimed at bringing about concrete change in our field.
xʷməθkʷəy̓əm | Musqueam Territory
The University of British Columbia is located on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the Musqueam people.
Traditional: recognizes lands traditionally used and/or occupied by the Musqueam people or other First Nations in other parts of the country.
Ancestral: recognizes land that is handed down from generation to generation.
Unceded: refers to land that was not turned over to the Crown (government) by a treaty or other agreement.
The Philosophy Exception project is supported by UBC College of Arts research funds linked to the Canada Research Chair held by Alison Wylie.
The Philosophy Exception © 2021 by Alison Wylie, Matthew Smithdeal, Jasper Heaton, and Kristin Conrad is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0