EWPG Spring Workshop 2017

We are planning to hold our annual Spring Workshop in April this year!

The theme of this year is “Philosophy of Education (Diversity of Philosophy)”

It will be held on 28th April 2017.

We’ll keep you updated more information very soon.

All the best,

Committee Members




Diversity Reading List

A big thank to Simon Folk  and various section editors for putting together this great Diversity Reading List!

In the Diversity Reading List website, you can find a collection of high quality texts in philosophy written from
under-represented groups.

But there’s more! For each entry you can find a brief summary of the text, specifying its difficulty as well as its possible use, e.g., whether you could use it as introductory reading, or as a specialised reading.

So, next time you are working on a syllabus, you should check this out!

2016 Spring Workshop on The Objectification of Women – Announcement & Call for Respondents

The Edinburgh Women in Philosophy Group is proud to announce its 6th Spring Workshop on The Objectification of Women on Friday 22nd April 2016 at University of Edinburgh.

This year we will be focusing on the general theme of objectification of the women, and how it relates to, for instance, pornography and motherhood. Each talk will be followed by a response from a postgraduate student.

Confirmed speakers are:
Katharine Jenkins (Sheffield, Cambridge, Nottingham)
Kathleen Stock (Sussex)
Fiona Woollard (Southampton)
Aidan McGlynn (Edinburgh)

We invite postgraduate students to submit expressions of interest to respond to the speakers’ talks. To express your interest, simply submit a short statement (max. 300 words) detailing your motivation to do so to the following address:

[log in to unmask]

The deadline for submission is: 1st April 2016

Access Information:
The event will take place in the Appleton Tower, room LT3. This room is fully weelchair accessible. For further information on the venue you can see: http://www.docs.csg.ed.ac.uk/EstatesBuildings/Development/Access%20Guides/Appleton%20Tower%20Guide%20to%20Access.pdf
If you have any specific requirements, please email giada.fratantonio@gmail.com and we’ll do our best to accommodate your needs.

Details will be online soon!

2015 New Enlightenment Lecture

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The 2015 New Enlightenment Lecture will be delivered by Professor Alison Wylie (University of Washington/Durham University) on 14th December 2015.

After a roundtable discussion on issues surrounding underrepresentation in philosophy, Professor Alison Wylie will give a lecture on “What Knowers Know Well: Why feminism matters, for archeology for example”.

*Everyone* is welcome (and encouraged) to attend!!


15:00 – 15:50 Roundtable Discussion
Panel: Prof. Alison Wylie, Prof. Emily Brady, Prof. Susan Brison, Dr. Aidan McGlynn, Dr Suilin Lavelle.
16:00 – 17:30 New Enlightenment Lecture given by Professor Alison Wylie
18:00 Dinner at Hotel Du Vin (for those who have registered online)

Organisers: Anna Ortin Nadal, Giada Fratantonio, Prof. Michela Massimi

The 2015 New Enlightenment Lecture is made possible by the generous financial support of the Scots Philosophical Association, and the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences and the Department of Philosophy.

We need to talk about race. (And sex, and ability, and class and gender, and …)

This post has been corrected. It initially (and mistakenly) stated that there are only 2 (racialised-as-) black philosophers employed in philosophy departments in the UK. It turns out that there are at least 4 who are employed as lecturers or research associates (Dr Mahlet Zimeta, Dr Patrice HaynesDr James Wilson, and Dr Nathaniel Coleman). Of course this doesn’t undermine the point that philosophy has far to go before it can really be considered an inclusive discipline – more stats to support this point here. Thanks to Jules Holroyd for pointing out this mistake, and my apologies to anyone who I inadvertently overlooked.

How many black philosophers were you taught by? How many have you read? Chances are, the answer to both of these questions is ‘none’. Clearly our profession has problems with the underrepresentation of groups other than women. The good news is that the issue of underrepresentation of all minorities – both in philosophy, and in academia more widely – is starting to gain traction in the UK.

Complete equality in philosophy won’t happen overnight, but the efforts of groups like SWIP UK and Feminist Philosophers have shown that a large impact can be made in just a few years. (Take the Gendered Conference Campaign, which has pushed the issue of gender representation to the top of the list of priorities of most conference organisers). Now is the time for all of us to to think about all minorities in philosophy. Think of any undergraduates you know who aren’t white, male, able-bodied, middle-class native speakers… If we start to make changes to redress the balance in our profession now, then by the time they are ready to go on the job market they could be assessed completely fairly, on the basis of their philosophical ability, rather than partially (and implicity, but unfairly) on whether they fit an outdated stereotype of what a philosopher looks like. That would make philosophy better for everyone.

With this in mind, we have two exciting pieces of news for you – one is about the EWPG, and one is about PPLS and the University more widely.

First up, we are very pleased to announce that the EWPG has had our application to become a MAP Chapter accepted. If you haven’t heard of MAP then check out mapforthegap.com – in short, they (we?!) are a group of students who aim to “examine and address issues of minority participation in academic philosophy”. The EWPG are now one of the very first MAP chapters in the UK (scroll down to the bottom of this page to see us alongside Glasgow and KCL). I have no doubt that there will be plenty more joining us, and the dozens of US Chapters, soon.

Historically (and for good reasons) the EWPG has focused mainly on women in philosophy, but as we’ve recently been making an effort to expand our focus to include all underrepresented groups, this partnership with MAP is a great thing.

The second piece of news is that the University of Edinburgh is one of the first universities to apply for the Equality Challenge Unit’s new Race Equality Charter Mark. To earn this award the University will need to identify the barriers to equality that it contains, and to create an action plan to address them. If, or when, an award is made, the University will be required to regularly review and update this action plan. This, too, is a great thing, and should eventually mean greater inclusivity and diversity throughout the University. But it can only make a difference if the University is properly informed about what barriers to equality exist. In order to understand this they need your help, so please do the following three things:

  • Fill out the Race Equality Survey. There are only a few days left to do this, and it just takes ten minutes. Do it now!
  • Keep an eye out for emails inviting you to the PPLS lunchtime workshops on Equality and Diversity. This series is open to all staff and students in PPLS (including faculty, support staff, UGs and PGs), and will address each of the nine Protected Characteristics identified by the Equality Act 2010. The first workshop addressed the characteristic Race, and participants had the opportunity to discuss different “Race Labels”. You can contact Billy Lee for further information.
  • Share this post with your colleagues and (fellow) students, and encourage as many people as possible to fill out the survey and attend the lunchtime workshops.

The EWPG still has a lot to learn, and we hope that by being involved with MAP, and with initiatives that the University run for the Race Equality Charter Mark, we can get better at representing all different groups within philosophy. We need your help to do this as well though. Please talk about what we’re doing with other students and staff, and, as always, if you would like to get involved with the EWPG or the blog in any way, or if you have any suggestions for us, then please feel free to get in touch. We would love to hear from you.

5 Ways to Ask Clear, Confident Questions.

When you first start attending philosophy presentations you are often faced with new and complex ideas. It can be difficult even to maintain your concentration, and so there’s no wonder that many people feel nervous asking questions during the Q&A sessions at the end of talks.

Members of under-represented groups can face additional problems, too. We can suffer from stereotype threat, which can result in physical stress and underachievement in situations where our membership of that group is made salient (eg. being the only woman in a room full of men), and if others in the audience have implicit biases then we risk our contributions being taken less charitably than if they came from someone who isn’t a member of an underrepresented group. If the presentation language is different to your first language too, then this can add another source of stress.*

Generally asking questions gets easier with time, but there are things you can do to help speed up the process. One big thing is to get to know people in the department – you’ll feel more comfortable if you’re not sat in a room full of strangers, and you’ll also be able to share experiences and tips with each other. In the spirit of sharing experiences and advice, here are five things that I have found helpful for asking clear and confident questions:

1. Start with clarificatory questions

Clarificatory questions ask the speaker to explain some argument or concept in more detail. They don’t make a point about the talk, or raise a problem (although sometimes they will lead into one), and so when I first started asking questions I found them a less intimidating option. Then, once I’d got into the habit of speaking during Q&As, some of my nervousness subsided. Just exposing yourself to the experience of asking questions is really important, and asking clarificatory questions allows you to do that without putting yourself under too much pressure. (I also found attending and asking questions at the PG WiP seminar very useful for this, as the audience tends to be mostly postgrads.)

You might feel embarrassed about asking for clarification because you see it as revealing a gap in your understanding, but there are ways to de-emphasise this. By being specific you can demonstrate the understanding you do have, and make it easier for the speaker to answer you. For example, rather than asking “Can you explain the problem with X’s view again?”, aim for something more like: “When criticising X’s view you made a distinction between [concept a] and [concept b], but I’m struggling to see the difference between them – could you go over that again?”.

If you need ideas, then…

2. Listen to other people (and think about phrasing).

This might sound obvious, but I’ve found it really useful to listen to how other, more experienced philosophers ask questions. There are lots of phrases, and ways of structuring questions, that (rightly or wrongly) seem to mark out some questions as ‘good’ and others as less so. Once I made a point of noticing these I didn’t just find that my questions improved, but I started to believe that more of the thoughts I had were question-worthy in the first place.

Here’s an example: A little while ago I attended a talk (outside of Edinburgh) which was on the finer points of a topic, X, that I knew nothing about. The speaker didn’t explain what X was, or why it was important, and so I wasn’t able to get much from the talk. What I really wanted to ask was “Why should I care about X?”, but this didn’t seem like a very ‘good’ question – I thought I’d just demonstrate my own ignorance (not to mention sound rude), and bore everyone else by forcing the speaker to explain the basics to me. In the end, after reflecting on how people who ask ‘good’ questions structure things, I ended up saying something like “I’m interested in the consequences of your conclusion; what other things do we have to believe, or stop believing, if we accept it?”. Not only did this result in an enlightening answer from the speaker, but afterwards several people told me that they had found it useful.

3. Note down potential questions – even if you don’t intend to ask them.

This is a brilliant idea which was passed around the philosophy department at Birmingham when I was studying there (I’m not sure who initially came up with it). The idea is this: imagine you’ve thought of a question, but you’re reluctant to ask it in case it’s not ‘good’ enough (or maybe it’s still only half-formed in your mind). Make a point of writing it down anyway. Then if someone else asks (roughly) the question, you know that at least one other person would have thought your question was a good one if you had asked it. By keeping a record of how often this happens you boost your confidence and increase the likelihood that you’ll raise your hand next time.

I definitely found this strategy useful, even when no-one had asked my question. Once I’d made a point of writing it down, I’d discuss it with another audience member (or sometimes even the speaker) after the talk had finished. I found that this gave me a chance to practice articulating my thoughts, and as long as the other person didn’t have an obvious answer I’d decide that it was a ‘good’ question after all, and push myself to ask something next time.

Sometimes I’d find that someone else asked a question similar to mine, but that there was still something I could add. When that happened I’d try making a follow up (a ‘finger’ rather than a ‘hand’). Again, this means that you get a chance to practice speaking, but there’s less pressure on you (not least because you haven’t had the build-up of nerves waiting in the queue).

Speaking of nerves…

4. Do what you can to reduce physical stress

The physical effects of anxiety or stereotype threat on your body can be a big barrier to speaking up during a Q&A. Luckily there are things you can do to counteract this. This video explains how altering your posture can lower stress hormones and increase confidence. My natural tendency is to avoid taking up space, but I’ve found that making a point of opening up my posture makes a huge difference to how relaxed and confident I am. (Just don’t overdo it and end up invading other people’s personal space…)

You can also take notice of how your location in the room affects you. I find that sitting near the back of the audience makes me feel less involved in the talk, and so less likely to contribute. Sitting closer to the front, especially if I’m amongst friends, makes me more likely to speak, and means that I don’t have to raise my voice as much when I do.

Noting down roughly what I want to say before I speak seems to reduce my stress levels a lot too, as I don’t spend the time leading up to my question desperately memorising what I want to say, and in in what order. This year at the Visiting Speaker Seminar there is a five minute break between the speaker’s presentation and the beginning of the Q&A session, and this is a great opportunity to make those notes.

5. Remember the follow-up

Once you’ve asked your question it can sometimes be such a relief that you end up saying “okay, thank you” to whatever the speaker says. Sometimes this is the most appropriate response and, especially if you’re feeling uncertain, you might prefer to do this anyway. But bear in mind that if your question hasn’t been fully answered and the chair is okay with follow-ups, then you can take the opportunity to ask for further clarification, or to reply to what the speaker has said.

– – –

These five strategies have gradually helped me to feel more confident and ask better questions (although it’s certainly still a work in progress). I hope that others find them helpful too. Do you have other strategies for improving the questions you ask? Please share them in the comments below!

*I study in my first (and only) language so this isn’t something I’ve had to overcome. Speaking to some non-native speakers, one thing that some find useful is thinking about this: although people may make judgements about your philosophical ability on the basis of your questions, very few (if any) will make judgements about the language you use.

Remember that as well as increasing your own confidence, you should consider how your behaviour might affect the speaker, and other audience members. David Chalmers has put together some handy Guidelines for Respectful, Constructive and Inclusive Philosophical Discussion, for exactly this purpose.


We are the Edinburgh Women in Philosophy Group (EWPG), and this is our blog. We’ve started it so that we can stay better connected with you, and raise the profile of under-represented groups at Edinburgh in new ways.

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