Editorial: UK philosophy department needs more women


The UK philosophy department is located on the 14th floor of Patterson Office Tower.


Why is philosophy such an outlier among the humanities for gender representation?

Faculty in the UK Department of Philosophy met Friday to discuss why women shy away from their department. 

UK hosted Eva Cadavid, a philosophy professor from Centre College, who said there are two men for every woman in philosophy.

According to Brandon Look, chair of the UK Department of Philosohpy, UK is no exception to the problem of underrepresentation of women in philosophy. In the fall of 2015, the philosophy premajor requirement courses were nearly 2-to-1 in proportion of males to females.

Interestingly, this is not the case for low-level philosophy courses at UK.

“At the college level, the story that I hear in the profession is that freshman enrollment in Philosophy 100 is pretty much 50/50,” Look said.

Last fall, the three introductory philosophy courses (intro, ethics and logic) were actually 55 percent female overall.

One of the explanations is that aggressive classroom discussion and debate is more accommodating to men than women.

Cadavid said the problem is more multi-dimensional and that a perfect storm of causes keeps women from philosophy.

Social structures, classroom behavior and ideological schemas all contribute to this systematic issue in philosophy.

Cadavid rightly said the field needs different voices in order to evolve, expand, grow and learn.

The UK Department of Philosohpy has taken notice of this problem and steps to resolve it. According to Look, the department actively seeks to hire female professors, recruit a broad graduate class, and have more female role models in philosophy.

Furthermore, Look said he suggests that course syllabi include different voices. While reading Nietzsche and Freud are important, it is important for students to hear from a diverse group of philosophers.

At the same time, readings from women or people of color, for example, should not be included just as token pieces. Instead, they are representative of the human condition. UK philosophy professor Arnold Farr said philosophers try to separate themselves from the world and fail to realize that their gender, race, and social condition are integral like everything else.

Cadavid brought a crucial discussion to the UK Department of Philosophy. Now that the department is more conscious of the problem, it is time to take action.

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