Thursday, August 07, 2014

Citation of Women and Ethnic Minorities in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

I've just posted a list of the 267 contemporary authors (born 1900 or after) who are most cited in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Unsurprisingly, given the state of the discipline, the list is dominated by white men. How much so?

I count 27 women on the list: 10% of the total. There is only one woman in the top 50 (Martha Nussbaum, ranked 9th), and seven in the top 100 (Nussbaum, Korsgaard, Anscombe, Anderson, Annas, Thomson, and Young).

Impressionistically, it has seemed to me that female philosophers have been more likely to go into ethics, political philosophy, or history of philosophy than into metaphysics, epistemology, mind, logic, or language; and some of Josh Rust's and my data (from five U.S. states) partially support that generalization (28% of sampled ethicists were women, vs. 17% of non-ethicist philosophers). So I coded each philosopher as ethics/political/history or not, based on where their primary influence has so far been. (There were a few close calls, but mostly it was pretty clear.) My impression was strikingly confirmed: 16/27 (59%) of the women had their primary influence in ethics, political philosophy, or history of philosophy, compared to 77/240 (32%) of the men (Z = 2.7, p = .006).

I'm not sure what the explanation for this is, assuming that my analysis here is correct. I welcome your thoughts.

We can also examine gender distribution by age. I was able to find birth year data for most of the philosophers on the list, and I estimated the remaining 45 based on year of bachelor's degree, PhD, or first publication. I created four age groups: birth year 1900-1929, 1930-1945, 1946-1959, 1960-present. Women constituted 5/58 (9%) of the oldest generation, 5/102 (5%) of the depression-war generation, 15/88 (17%) of the pre-1960 baby boomers, and 2/19 (11%) of the youngest group. This suggests some increase in the representation of women over time, but hardly an overwhelming shift. (To put some inferential statistics on it: mean male birth year 1939 vs. mean female 1945, t = -2.3, p = .03.)

How about ethnic minorities? That's much harder to judge. The list looks very white, but names and physical appearance can sometimes be misleading. Also ethnic categories are somewhat labile, and it's not clear how to think about mixed-ethnicity cases. Among the top 100, there's only one person I'd be inclined to think of as other than non-Hispanic white: the Korean-American philosopher Jaegwon Kim, tied for 61st. [Updated Aug. 8: Due to a transcription error, I left one name out of the top 100, and that shifted Sorabji down to 101.] (Please correct me if I've missed someone!) The rest of the list isn't a whole lot more diverse -- maybe seven members of ethnic minorities total among the whole 267 (3%)? (If you have specific knowledge about people on the list who identify as ethnic minorities, I'd be interested to hear.)

Summarizing these estimates, then:

Top 50: 2% female, 0% minority,
Top 100: 7% female, 1% minority,
Top 267: 10% female, 3% minority.
I regard these data as broad confirmation of what we all already knew -- perhaps a little more systematic and depressingly specific. At the highest levels of visibility in contemporary mainstream Anglophone analytic philosophy (as measured by citation in the discipline's leading reference source), men vastly outnumber women, and ethnic minorities are virtually absent. The effect appears to be larger the greater the visibility. The effect might also be larger among our older and recently deceased contemporaries than it is in the younger generations, but even if that is so, it remains very large in all groups.

[Updated Aug. 8 - Aug. 14]

17 comments:

Jeremy Goodman said...

Richard Sorabji is in the top 100.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Thanks for that catch, Jeremy! I'll correct straightaway.

Anonymous said...

Would be nice (but difficult!) to see the numbers on the socio-economic status of cited philosophers as well.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Anon 11:15: Yes, information on socioeconomic backgroudn could be very interesting! Far beyond my capacity, though. I doubt such data are readily attainable for the majority of authors on the list.

Richard Cordero said...

I don't suppose there's any hope of an analysis like this to show the numbers of disabled philosophers, is there? Especially considering the fact that so many disabilities are invisible.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Richard: I agree that would be really interesting! But I don't think that information is readily available for most of the authors on this list, especially if you consider invisible disabilities. My guess would be the percentage of people on this list with serious disabilities would be lower than the incidence in the general population (perhaps with the exception of high-functioning autism-spectrum disorder and/or major depression).

Gabriele Contessa said...

I did a quick count of philosophers whose first language is not English and, according to my count, it's 2 in the top 50 (4%) and 6 in the top 100 (6%). With the exception of Kim (who was born in 1934) they were all born before 1930.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Interesting, Gabriele! One possibly relevant consideration is the early connection between Anglophone philosophy, Wittgenstein, and the Vienna Circle. It has always struck me as evidence of something askew that so few of the most highly visible recent contributors to the field are not native English speakers.

Gabriele Contessa said...

I agree, Eric. By my count there is only one under-70 ESL philosopher in the top 200 (i.e. Thomas Pogge) and no ESL philosopher under-60. It's also interesting to note that the ESL philosophers on the list tend to work in formal areas (where linguistic proficiency is arguably less central). I find this troubling and I think we should start to have a conversation about the possible causes of this...

Enzo Rossi said...

I'd second Gabriele Contessa's point on ESL. There are studies showing that foreign accents are less likely to be believed:

http://psychology.uchicago.edu/people/faculty/LevAriKeysar.pdf

Reliance on intuition pumps is likely to exacerbate the problem.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Yes, interesting observations, Gabriele and Enzo. I'm inclined to agree that implicit bias is part of that. Part of the phenomenon of "seeming smart", I think, in this subculture, involves having a dialect or accent of a certain few privileged types. Not to mention that once it's taken as a given that philosophy of this style is to be conducted in English, anyone who isn't a native English speaker will have to master another language and overcome other sorts of social obstacles, some subtle, some not at all subtle.

Roberto Mordacci said...

I support Gabriele's and Enzo's comments and I would dare to add that Analytic-Anglo-Saxon philosophy tends to be extremely self-referential, to say the least. It may be that logic, epistemology and philosophy of language received much more attention in the analytic tradition, but how about ethics? There is a huge amount of ethics and a number of moral philosophers in the non-analytic tradition which had an enormous influence in the discipline and yet hardly appear on the list. Sartre appearing at position 133 is an example, Foucault not entering the list, as you noticed, another. Heidegger (a philosopher I totally disagree with, to be clear) is another, incredibly missing. I think ESL philosophers should think about a certain amount ot "provincialism" which affects them (as well as their French colleagues, to tell the truth). There was a time when European philosophy was a unitary and cross-national enterprise (think about XVIII century philosophy, with Kant reading Hume and Smith as much as Leibniz and Wolff). It is ironic (and sad) that in the era of internet communication and globalised culture, the dominant community of philosophers takes almost no account of philosophy made by non Anglo-Saxon authors. Please note that French, Germans, Spanish and Italians cannot be considered "ethnic minorities" in Europe. And that nowadays lots of philosophers from these countries publish in English in highly rated journals and for good publishers. The fact seems that ESL philosophers simply do not take them into account. Is it just because they are not WASPs? To put it crudely: do ESL philosophers think that only WASPs are entitled to count as philosophers?

Zara said...

Thanks for this illuminating post. Some things:

1. What about numbers for people who are both women and ethnic minorities (or more specifically racialised as non-white)? Even if the answer is "none", let's acknowledge that, since representation in the data is as essential as it is in the field.

2. Seconding Rich's point, what about numbers for people who identify as disabled or chronically ill, from any group? Same point as above, and as much as issues around disclosure can render this complicated, it would be nice to see this category included even just to acknowledge the difficulties in speaking to numbers concretely.

3. Same again for queer-identifying or LGBTQIA.

All that aside, this is thought-provoking stuff. Many thanks for compiling and publishing.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Roberto: I agree with you, though I don't think most Anglophone philosophers are explicitly prejudiced against non-native speakers. It is a strange and regrettable institutional situation. For clarity, Heidegger was excluded from the analysis because he was born before 1900.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Zara:

On 1: I think there might be one female ethnic minority, but I hesitate to name names because I'm not certain how she identifies.

On 2: Yes, maybe I should have raised that issue up front in the post. There really are very few highly visible philosophers who are widely known to be disabled or chronically ill, unless the disability or illness arose after they had already achieved prominence (esp. in old age).

On 3: I'm unsure about queer-identifying. Judith Butler and David Hull seem like pretty obvious cases, and Kwame Appiah is pretty out. I've heard tell of a few more from this list, though I'm not sure how out they are. Turing is of course a famous case, too, though by my methodology he doesn't quite make the list (19 entries), despite his spectacularly high visibility in philosophy of computation.

[comment updated Aug 13]

Richard said...

This might be too late to note but Ernest Gellner was disabled.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Thanks, Richard. Not too late! I want this post to be accurate so that people may refer back to it, and I might do an updated version in another few years. So I welcome your and others' continuing observations and corrections.

Gellner is not among the 267, but it is nice to have him as an example. Another prominent example not among the 267, but appearing in quite a few SEP entries, is Anita Silvers, the wonderful long-serving Secretary-Treasurer of the APA's Pacific Division.