Is there gender bias against women in academic hiring?

Michael Brownstein has written a very thorough post at the Feminist Philosophers blog discussing a widely publicized study by Wendy Williams and Stephen Ceci that’s supposed to show that women are favored over men in academic hiring.

Here is Michael’s summary of his argument:

(a) participants in W&C’s study know that this is only a mock hire; (b) they know they are comparing applications from men and women; and (c) all of the candidates are described as excellent (e.g., “a powerhouse”). Given all of this, it seems reasonable to think that participants took this as an opportunity to appear unbiased. The stakes are low; gender is salient; and all of the candidates are stellar. So it remains very plausible that biased hiring persists in this (i.e., TT junior hires in STEM) and other areas, when the stakes are higher and the quality of the candidates is harder to decipher.

But you should read the whole thing.


Registration is now open for SPP 2015!

The 41st annual meeting of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology will be held at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina from June 4-6, 2015, with a pre-conference workshop, welcome reception, and poster session on Wednesday, June 3. Registration is now open at the SPP website.

The program is not yet available online, but I have seen a preliminary schedule now available here, and it looks great! Also worth noting is that child care will be offered during the meeting, at a cost of $100 for the first child plus $30 per additional child for the whole event, or $40 per child per day. You should reserve your spot by May 15, when you register for the meeting. Please direct any questions to Felipe De Brigard:


Announcing the Papers for the 2015 Minds Online Conference

Together with my co-organizers Cameron Buckner and Nick Byrd, I am very pleased to announce the selection of papers for the first annual Minds Online Conference, which will be held at the Brains blog in September 2015. The conference will comprise four weeklong sessions, organized as described below. Further information, including dates for the sessions and names of commentators, will be available soon at the conference page. We are all looking forward to what promises to be a really excellent event!

Here are the papers that will make up this year’s conference: Continue reading Announcing the Papers for the 2015 Minds Online Conference


Cognitive Phenomenology: The Stream of Consciousness

According to William James experiences, including conscious thoughts, flow in a stream of consciousness. Peter Geach argued that whatever we say about other experiences, conscious thoughts at least do not flow, but rather occur in discrete sequences. A number of recent arguments against cognitive phenomenology take Geach’s criticisms of James as their point of departure. In the book I examine them in detail and give reasons to think none works. Here I will discuss the background to these arguments, showing that Geach himself at least provided no good reason for skepticism about cognitive phenomenology.

Continue reading Cognitive Phenomenology: The Stream of Consciousness


Cognitive Phenomenology: The Role of Introspection

In my first post I isolated Irreducibility as the main thesis in dispute about cognitive phenomenology:

Irreducibility: Some cognitive states put one in phenomenal states for which no wholly sensory states suffice.

In this post I am going to write about the role introspection should play in helping us decide whether Irreducibility is true.

Continue reading Cognitive Phenomenology: The Role of Introspection


Cognitive Phenomenology: What is the Issue?

First off, thanks to John Schwenkler for inviting me to write a few posts about my new book, Cognitive Phenomenology, and also for inviting other authors to write about their new books. I’ve really enjoyed following this series on the Brains Blog.

In this post I will isolate what I take to be the main thesis in dispute when people talk about cognitive phenomenology.

Continue reading Cognitive Phenomenology: What is the Issue?


Participation: Normative Demands and the Explanatory Role of the Emotions

To be immersed, I said in the last post, is for there to be something it is like for me to be in a mental state–it is the phenomenology of a first-person stance. Yet the question “What is it like for me to be in a mental state?” and the question “What is it to be in that mental state?” can hardly be unrelated. In this post I will argue that inhabiting a first-person stance is a matter of normative endorsement, which I label “participation”. I speak of the participant self as the place in which mental states are located: somewhat as all northerly lines meet and end at a single place, so the self is the place from which all one’s experience outwardly intends. A metaphysics of location and locatee replaces that of substance and attribute.

The leading idea in the philosophy of mind of an important group of Indian thinkers is that occupying a first-person stance has centrally to do with the bearing of reason on the whole of one’s mental life. In The Self I discuss, first of all, Praśastapāda’s (fl. 530) five arguments against the thesis that mental states are properties of the body, implying rejection of both materialism and property dualism. I call his arguments the Unity, Spatial Parts, Persistence, Self-Knowledge, and Self-Reference arguments. The arguments are all attempts to give voice to a single thought: that the relationships of participation and endorsement that are implied by the idea of owning a mental state, and so of occupying a first-person stance, are fundamentally different in kind from any relation of physical exemplification. Praśastapāda is already aware of the point Wittgenstein would later make famous when he declares that “Only of a living human being and what resembles (behaves like) a living human being can one say: it has sensations; it sees; is blind; hears; is deaf; is conscious or unconscious” (PI §281). Continue reading Participation: Normative Demands and the Explanatory Role of the Emotions


Immersion: The Sense of Mineness

In the previous post I argued that the self is a unity of immersion, participation, and coordination, the first-person stance at once lived, engaged, and underwritten.  In this post I will say more about the concept of immersion.

What is sometimes called a first-person perspective can consist of nothing more than a matter of having one’s own mental life in view. What I call a first-person stance, in contrast, does require more: it demands that one’s mental life presents itself to one as “mine”, as owned by me. There are different ways to account for the nature of the presented ownership constitutive of what I am dubbing “immersion”, the phenomenology of the first-person, sometimes known as “for-me-ness”, “sense of mineness” or simply “subjectivity”.
One might see it as fundamentally a relationship of bodily ownership: the theory of a core self as bodily feeling of presence to oneself, for instance, is a bodily account of immersion. Alternatively one might develop an analysis out of a more detailed study of the intentional and phenomenal structure of self-consciousness. In The Self I identify three distinct Buddhist accounts of immersion of this latter sort: a mental files theory, a reflexive self-representational account, and a theory of quasi-subjects. Continue reading Immersion: The Sense of Mineness


The Natural Self

Many thanks to John Schwenkler for inviting me to outline here at The Brains Blog the main ideas in my book The Self: Naturalism, Consciousness, and the First-Person Stance (Oxford University Press, new in paperback 2015). I’ll sketch the overall picture in this blog and follow up with two more in which I’ll draw on Indian theory to add substance to the picture. I bring in Indian theory because methodologically I am an advocate of cross-culturalism or  cosmopolitanism in philosophy, the view that philosophy—and especially philosophy of mind—must make appeal to a plurality of intellectual cultures if it is to avoid parochialism in the intuitions that guide it and the vocabularies in which it is phrased.

The reconciliation of naturalism with the existence of a first-person perspective is the first work of a theory of self. The views of ourselves as corporeal beings and as “presences of self to self” seem to pull in different directions, for we stand in two relations to ourselves, one of which is as to a corporeal being and the other as to a subject of experience. My aim in The Self is to reclaim the self as a naturalistically respectable item with a legitimate role in the explanation of subjectivity as the occupant of a genuine first-person stance. A natural self is metaphysically dependent on the body from which its states emerge and upon which they supervene, and it survives no longer than the body does; but it does not have the same identity conditions as the body, and neither are the mental states of the self reducible to physical states of the body. For a body to have a self is for it to have the capacity to assume a first-person stance, a fact which I see as being closely associated with the idea that mental states are owned and not merely occurrent. For a self to have a body is for it to have capacities for agency and sentience, activities which I claim are criterial to a relation of common ownership as delimited by normative emotional response.  Continue reading The Natural Self


CFP: Objectivity, Space and Mind

2015 BPPA Masterclass: Objectivity, Space and Mind

Bill Brewer, King’s College London
M. G. F. Martin, University College London/U. C. Berkeley

Institute of Philosophy, London, 14th-15th May, 2015

We are glad to announce that Institute of Philosophy will host the BPPA (British Postgraduate Philosophy Association) masterclass on objectivity, space and mind. Two renowned philosophers on this theme, Professor Bill Brewer and Professor M. G. F. Martin, will lead the class. We warmly invite graduate students to apply for participation.


To apply for presenting your work, please prepare these documents:
1) Cover letter: Name, Academic Affiliation, Email Address, and Academic Interests.
2) Either an abstract from 200 to 800 words, or a full paper less than 8000 words.

Due Day: 10th of April
Result available: Late-April
Submission to:

The decision will be based to the quality and relevance of the abstracts or papers. We will make our best effort to secure funding to cover the expenses of the participants, however participants are encouraged to apply bursary from their home institutions.

Tony Cheng, University College London
Vanessa Carr, University College London
Alisa Mandrigin, University of Warwick

For further details on the themes of the masterclass, please visit


Two new journal symposium series at the Brains blog

I am very excited to announce that in addition to the symposia on papers from Mind & Language that we have hosted since 2013, beginning in the coming months the Brains blog will host regular symposia on papers from Ergo and Neuroethics:

  • 10408957_637970006295161_1280406507623971351_nThe Ergo symposia, which will be organized by students in the graduate department of philosophy at the University of Toronto, will target all papers on topics in the philosophy of mind that are published in Ergo, an open access journal that publishes papers in all areas of philosophy. The first symposium, on “The Logic of Mind-Body Identification” by Bernard Molyneux (UC Davis), with commentaries by István Aranyosi, Liz Irvine, and Jonathan Simon, is being organized by Elliot Carter. It will be held in late April or early May. (A draft of the target article is available here, and we’ll provide a link to the published article when it is available.) We are grateful to Ergo‘s editors, Franz Huber and Jonathan Weisberg, for their support of these symposia.
  • 3The Neuroethics symposia, which will be organized by Katrina Sifferd (Elmhurst College), will target one paper from each issue of the journal, which is published three times a year in April, August, and December. The first symposium, on “Moral Enhancement: Do Means Matter Morally?” by Farah Focquaert (Ghent) and Maartje Schermer (Erasmus MC Rotterdam), will be held in August. (The target article is available here as an Online First publication, and will be available as an open access article during the symposium.) We are grateful to Neil Levy, editor of Neuroethics, and Springer Publishing for supporting these symposia.

Finally, it’s a real pleasure to welcome Katrina Sifferd as a new Contributing Editor at Brains. Be sure to check our calendar and follow us on Facebook and Twitter to keep abreast of these and other upcoming events.


How does a black and blue dress sometimes appear white and gold?

By Justin Broackes

I expect everyone’s heartily tired now of the Dress … But I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and with an artist-designer friend in London, Hilary Brown, I started thinking of ways to illustrate what was going on. So here are a few images — note that all of them can be viewed in a larger size by clicking on the image shown.

Figure 1
Figure 1: Publicity photo, colour-adjusted to match the kind of colour-corrected exposure in the Tumblr photo (inset, left). The image is pale and very yellow—given the face and arms and legs, one ‘counter-corrects’ and sees the dress as blue and black. But without them (in the Tumblr photo, inset, left) many people don’t ‘counter-correct’, and see white (or pale blue) and gold: which is, more or less, what the colours (as pixels in the image) really are. You can see how extremely ‘unnatural’ the conditions have to be, to get a really blue-and-black dress to look as it does in the Tumblr image. (But look back at the full Tumblr photo, and you can see how yellow the background to the right is: a sign—if only one had known how to read it—of the extreme colour-correction (the ‘de-blue-ification’) that the camera system has imposed.)

The first (Fig. 1, right) shows the kind of thing I described in my first post: making the kind of strange colour-correction that the camera must have made, when it created the original Tumblr photo of the Dress. We’ve taken the publicity photo and transformed it (with the generous permission of Roman Originals) so the dress more or less matches the Dress in the Tumblr photo (detail in inset box, to left). The transformation of course shifts the colours towards yellow: if all you saw was the dress, you wouldn’t know any special colour-correction had happened (since, after all, dresses can be more or less any colour). But as soon as there are arms and legs and a face visible too, the visual system responds to the colour-adjustment (as when we see things in extremely yellow light) and imposes a kind of counter-adjustment: the result is that we see the dress basically as blue and black. Is this a matter of ‘inference’ and ‘judgement’? I think not: I’d say the dress on the model really looks a different colour from the dress in the inset. One might have to zoom in or mask out the outer part of the photo to check.

Figure 2: “Photoshopped” combination of the Tumblr photo and the Publicity photo. Left: The model of the publicity photo (unadjusted in colour) has been given a cut-out of the dress from the Tumblr photo (also colour-unadjusted). Most people (I think) will see the dress as blue-and-black (but more pale than in Fig. 1, given that there isn’t the extreme yellow of the flesh tones in that image). Right: Here the model (and background) have been darkened, and the dress ‘lights up’, looking to most people white and gold. This is the kind of context that the white-and-gold seers of the original Tumblr Dress treat it as having: they see (e.g.) as if it were in a darkened store, with bright light, contrasting, outside and behind. No wonder it looks white and gold in that context. The dress itself is the same (as pixels on the screen) in both images: as the strip connecting them shows.
Figure 2: “Photoshopped” combination of the Tumblr photo and the Publicity photo. Left: The model of the publicity photo (unadjusted in colour) has been given a cut-out of the dress from the Tumblr photo (also colour-unadjusted). Most people (I think) will see the dress as blue-and-black (though more pale than in Fig. 1, given that there isn’t the extreme yellow of the flesh tones in that image). Right: Here the model (and background) have been darkened, and the dress ‘lights up’, looking to most people white and gold. This is the kind of context that the white-and-gold seers of the original Tumblr Dress treat it as having: they see (e.g.) as if it were in a darkened store, with bright light, contrasting, outside and behind. No wonder it looks white and gold in that context. The dress itself is the same (as pixels on the screen) in both images: as the strip connecting them shows.

In the two pictures of Figure 2, the model is wearing the Dress that caused all the trouble — as in an identikit photo. (You can see Hilary’s tailoring to the jacket-material and adjustments to the neck and the waist-line. Thanks again to Roman Originals for permission to transform the image.) I’d say, in the lefthand image, the dress looks more or less blue and black (though a less deep blue than in the yellow-tinged Fig. 1) and in the righthand one it looks white and gold—thanks just to the darkening of the surrounding. They’re wonderful images that one could puzzle over for a long time.

The same conditions as in Fig. 2, but set out above and below, rather than right and left. Many will see the dress as blue-and-black at the bottom, and white-and-gold at the top: and it’s the relative lightness in the relevant surroundings that seems to be cue.
Figure 3: The same conditions as in Fig. 2, but set out above and below, rather than right and left. Many will see the dress as blue-and-black at the bottom, and white-and-gold at the top: and it’s the relative lightness in the relevant surroundings that seems to be the cue.

Finally, in Figure 3 the colour-adjusted dress and two different lighting conditions of the second figure are combined into a single image: the model and her surroundings are shown as brightly illuminated in the bottom part of the image, and as darkened in the top half. Here, the appearance of the dress will vary depending on where you focus your attention, or if you use your hand or a piece of paper to cover up one or the other portion of the image.

How come the blue of the dress so easily comes to look pale? I think it is partly that the dress (in the world, so to speak) is actually rather reflective: so the blue shows highlights that can easily be read as light and shade. And light and shade (on what is evidently a single surface) are often a sign of white or pale colour. (On a matt black surface, shadows don’t show up at all, and there are no highlights.) The light-and-dark variation, which actually comes from specular reflection on the blue, easily gets read (particularly since a lot of colour-detail is lost in a phone-camera picture like this) as a sign of a white or pale surface.


CFP: Buffalo Annual Experimental Philosophy Conference 2015

Conference dates: Fri., Sept. 11 – Sat., Sept. 12, 2015

Keynote Speaker: Thomas Nadelhoffer (College of Charleston)

Prof. Nadelhoffer’s main areas of research include free will, moral psychology, neuroethics, and punishment theory.

We invite submissions for paper or poster presentations on any topic pertaining to experimental philosophy. Submissions can report new experimental results or contribute to broader philosophical or methodological debates over existing or possible results. Both XPhi-friendly and XPhi-critical papers are welcomed. For paper submissions, we prefer to receive complete papers, but we will also accept extended abstracts. For poster submissions, please submit an extended abstract. Continue reading CFP: Buffalo Annual Experimental Philosophy Conference 2015


Interview with Dan Kelly in Emotion Researcher

Andrea Scarantino (Georgia State) is the editor of Emotion Researcher, the online newsletter of the International Society for Research on Emotion. The most recent issue includes an interview with Dan Kelly (Purdue), discussing his work on disgust. Here’s a bit from Dan’s description of his research:

DanMaroonLakeI often find myself searching for points of contact and common ground between different insights and theoretical approaches found in philosophy, psychology, anthropology and other areas of research, and looking for ways in which they can be synthesized to paint a more complete picture of the Who We Are and How We Got Here and to formulate and address pressing questions about What It All Means.

Obviously this all covers a lot of ground, and in practice taking this interdisciplinary angle can be demanding. For instance, doing it right requires that one be conversant in each of the different disciplines on which one is drawing, and able to competently navigate their proprietary concerns, methods, and dialects. It also means taking on the typical dangers associated with pursuing breadth rather than aiming primarily for a narrower depth. But I believe that this kind of integrative and interdisciplinary research is crucial, and so worth the effort and risk.

You can read the whole thing here. Andrea’s editor’s column on emotional intelligence is also a good read, and a helpful introduction to what else is in the issue.


The Normative and the Descriptive

The network theory explains well-being in purely descriptive terms. But well-being is normative. Tim’s well-being is intrinsically valuable for Tim. Can a purely descriptive theory of well-being account for normativity, for the value of well-being?

I’m going to assume that the evidence of science and intuition strongly support the network theory. I hope my arguments so far (or in TGL) have convinced you of this. But if they haven’t, that’s okay. My goal here is to argue for a conditional: If the network theory strongly accounts for the evidence, it can also account for the normativity of well-being. Continue reading The Normative and the Descriptive


Feelin’ Groovy

If you were going to describe someone who has a high degree of well-being, it might go something like this: “Felicity is in a happy and fulfilling committed relationship, she has close and caring friends, she keeps fit by playing tennis, a sport she enjoys, and her professional life is both successful and satisfying.”

The states that comprise Felicity’s well-being are not an accidental conglomeration of happy facts. They build upon and foster one another, forming a kind of causal web or network. Take any fact that is part of Felicity’s well-being. It is likely to be both cause and effect of other facts that make up her well-being.

Your life is going well for you when you’re stuck in a self-maintaining cycle of positive feelings, attitudes, traits and accomplishments. You’re in a positive groove. You instantiate a Positive Causal Network. A PCN isn’t just a success-breeds-success cycle. Scrooge doesn’t have well-being just because he sullenly and mechanically keeps getting richer. A PCN is a success-breeds-success cycle comprised of states you find (mostly) valuable or pleasant or both. Continue reading Feelin’ Groovy


A Fine Mess

Positive Psychology is a theoretical mess. For example, it has no consensus definition. Most scientific disciplines can be characterized in terms of identifiable categories in nature that are their objects of study. Cytology is the study of cells. Kinematics is a branch of mechanics that studies motion. The way experts characterize Positive Psychology is nothing like this. Sometimes they characterize it in fuzzy normative terms. Continue reading A Fine Mess


R – E – S – P – E – C – T

To investigate the nature of well-being, let’s start with the basic respect assumption: Most people with a concept of well-being are generally successful in talking about and identifying instances of well-being. The basic respect assumption isn’t very bold. We can talk about well-being even if we’re quite mistaken about what it is. People who had deeply mistaken or incomplete views about the nature of water, electricity, electrons, atoms, planets, stars, meteors, asteroids, combustion, disease, light (this list could go on and on) were nonetheless able to talk about those things. Continue reading R – E – S – P – E – C – T


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