What Canadian Philosophers Won’t Do

Someone could easily come up with a host of things that Canadian feminist philosophers would, predictably, refuse to do, including invite a “gender-critical” feminist philosopher to keynote at an annual CSWIP conference and promote (on social media and elsewhere) a philosopher who is a notorious sexual harasser of his philosophy graduate students. No group of philosophers is obligated to extend an invitation to a gender-critical feminist or to promote a sexual harasser.

Nevertheless, there are some things that Canadian feminist philosophers apparently won’t do but, in the interests of social justice, should do. In this post, I spell out some of the practices that Canadian feminist philosophers in particular and Canadian philosophers in general won’t enact but should enact.

Consider this: Philosophers (including feminist philosophers) in Canada will not criticize the ways that other philosophers in Canada continue to produce the ableism, ageism, and prestige bias in hiring that have destroyed the careers of (most of) their own graduate students and precariously-employed colleagues.

The Canadian philosophical community is relatively small and its remarkably homogenous (nondisabled, white, US-educated) membership of permanently employed faculty pay their dues to it through a self-regulating system of guarded cooperation and tacit complicity. Indeed, the unspoken agreement to tolerate glaring inequities in the “community,” particularly with respect to disabled philosophers, is palpable at large gatherings of Canadian philosophers such as CSWIP and the CPA, especially given that most CPA program chairs don’t seem to have gotten the memo about “inclusion and diversity” but rather continue to operate according to some nebulous standard of “high-quality work”.

(Remember: no Canadian philosophy department has hired a disabled philosopher of disability, nor advertised for a job in philosophy of disability, and there are few Black philosophers in Canada.)

Insofar as Canadian (feminist) philosophers will not explicitly and directly challenge each other on the systemic and structural injustice that their hiring practices perpetuate, they individualize the nature of these practices in ways that effectively conceal the systemic and structural character of this injustice.

For example, insofar as no Canadian (feminist) philosopher has publicly questioned the fact that the York and Western philosophy departments have each recently hired an additional white (almost certainly)nondisabled woman philosopher with a degree from an American university–50% of the hires made in Canada this year–these hires will be understood as separate and unique events rather than as multiple instantiations of the same set of systemic and structural problems in Canadian philosophy and, importantly, rather than as historically continuous extensions of these problems from previous hiring cycles.

Indeed, Canadian (feminist) philosophers–almost invariably nondisabled and with PhDs from the US–actively work to cover over the historical (eugenic) legacy of the injustices in Canadian philosophy that they simultaneously perpetuate and decry in a variety of contexts, including in journals, at conferences, on social media, and in the mainstream press; that is, they will not acknowledge their own material participation in the reproduction of ableism, ageism, and prestige bias in Canadian philosophy, nor will they address challenges–such as this post–to their participation in these forms of injustice, though, as I can vividly attest, they do exact significant punishments for the latter critical interventions.

Because the systemic and structural character of the ableism, ageism, and prestige bias of Canadian philosophy is covered over in these (and other) ways, this injustice has been incredibly difficult to identify and analyze as injustice, as structural, as contingent, and as remediable.

Nevertheless, I have persistently tried to do so. In fact, no philosopher has done more work than me to research and write about the nature of exclusion that disabled philosophers confront in Canadian philosophy and elsewhere. To date, however, most Canadian (feminist) philosophers refuse to recognize these efforts and their insights, let alone respond to them by re-evaluating and revising their current practices.

Throughout the pandemic, for example, I have received multiple invitations from American and European academics (philosophers and non-philosophers) to present my work on the apparatus of disability, ableism in philosophy, nursing homes, Foucault and disability, and Canadian legislation on assisted suicide. Yet I have received only one invitation from a Canadian philosophy department to present my work. EVER. That invitation came recently from Amandine Catala, another disabled philosopher.

Are you a Canadian philosopher? Do you know a Canadian philosopher? Do you engage with (other) Canadian philosophers on social media? If so, why not ask them about their department’s exclusionary hiring practices, especially with respect to disabled philosophers? Or, do you worry that they will in turn ask you about the exclusionary hiring practices of your own department?

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