Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Code, Weinberg, Nichols, and Stich

A quick story to relate, then out of town for a few days. Several weeks ago we read Lorraine Code's "Taking Subjectivity Into Account" in my epistemology class. The reception, to put it nicely, was frosty. Many students took exception to her claim that mainstream epistemology represents the biases of wealthy white males (which is pretty much the wording she uses).

Then a couple of weeks ago we read this article by Jonathan Winberg, Shaun Nichols, and Stephen Stich. It's entitled "Normativity and Epistemic Intuitions" and it's received a lot of attention. I like the article a lot, too.

The last sentence of their article is:
We think that the best reaction to the High-SES [High-SocioEconomic Status], Western philosophy professor who tries to draw normative conclusions from the facts about “our” intuitions is to ask: What do you mean “we”?
That it pretty much exactly what Code was arguing about 20 years ago. So you'd think there would be a similar outcry in class -- but there wasn't. Why not? Well, part of it might be rhetoric: Weinberg et al. conducted surveys to arrive at their conclusion; Code didn't. But that didn't seem to be a factor for my students. A few of them said they thought the surveys were either poorly designed or just foolish: of course people will have different epistemic intuitions.

Maybe people had come around to what Code was saying in the intervening weeks. I think that might be possible. But I think the real reason was that people responded with hostility to a piece that was clearly in the vein of feminist epistemology. They were much more receptive, even blase, about a more straightforward, apparently value-neutral article.

Of course I don't mean to single out my students. What goes for them goes for the philosophical profession as a whole. I like both of these articles, but it's sort of dismaying to see the same point made 20 years later, and receive a lot of attention, when it was made just as well by Lorraine Code.


Blogger sara said...

good luck to your future classes =)

6:21 AM  

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