Do male and female philosophers reason differently?

There is no statistically significant gender difference in the types of arguments used by contemporary male and female philosophers frequently cited in their papers, according to a new study that uses corpus linguistic analysis to search their works of “indicator pairs” of words capable of differentiating between deductive, inductive and abductive arguments.

In “Gender Gap and the Argumentative Arena of Philosophy: An Empirical Studyto be published in Synthesis, Moti Mizrahi (Florida Institute of Technology) and mike dickinson (University of Illinois) look at the work of the 32 most-cited contemporary men and 32 most-cited contemporary women in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and conclude:

Our results suggest that both male and female philosophers present arguments in their published works. Specifically, our data reveal no statistically significant difference between the types of arguments advanced in published works written by male philosophers and the types of arguments advanced in published works written by female philosophers. In fact, male and female philosophers consistently use the three types of arguments we researched, namely deductive arguments, inductive arguments, and abductive arguments, with no statistically significant differences in the proportions of these arguments relative to the whole of the work of each philosopher. .

Are the results useful, as Mizrahi and Dickson believe, for testing a hypothesis about the gender gap in academic philosophy (proposed by Marilyn Friedman, among others), that the mode of argument prevalent in philosophy, long dominated by men, deters or alienates women? Mizrahi and Dickinson explicitly acknowledge an objection that supports a negative answer to this question: that their sample of women is not representative, due to “survivor bias”:

we have selected women philosophers who have managed to succeed in academic philosophy despite the “logic chopping” and “paradoxical” nature of argument in academic philosophy… There are many other women who have struggled in “ the argumentative arena”. ‘ (Alcoff 2013) of academic philosophy but did not survive.

Still, they think their study can testify to the credibility of the hypothesis. Here is the relevant part (given their findings) of their response:

If we were to find no significant difference in argumentative patterns between highly cited male philosophers and highly cited female philosophers, then such findings might suggest that female philosophers may be equally concerned with arguments, and all as philosophically argumentative as men philosophers. are so called.

That won’t be enough. “That women philosophers can to be equally preoccupied with argument and equally philosophically argumentative” does not tell us whether the dominant modes of doing philosophy alienate or deter or make things more difficult for women. in general. If we’re looking for clues about what might be problematic with the status quo, it’s hard to understand why we would focus exclusively on those for whom the status quo doesn’t seem to be a problem.

That said, I don’t think this “preoccupied with arguments” hypothesis for the gender gap – understood as something that could be tested by counting the number of arguments people make and whether they are deductive, inductive or abductive – either within plausible distance.

Plus, it seems like a misrepresentation of the complaints about the philosophy it’s meant to capture. The complaints about philosophy that Mizrahi and Dickinson cite to motivate the hypothesis characterize philosophers not only as people who argue, or argue a lot, or who use one type of argument more than others, but rather as people who are “fair logic-choppers and paradox-mongers” and who are “concerned only with argument. »

The complaint is not about the presence or degree of argumentation, but rather, it seems, about the argumentation primarily detached from life as we know it, Where detached from the contexts in which his problems arise. That said, I have no idea if the “degree of detachment” in philosophical work varies by gender, or if a hypothesis about the gender gap in philosophy that more accurately represents this complaint of detachment has evidence at all. ‘support. Maybe someone could figure out how to empirically test these things.

And maybe there’s also an interest in this: if there are differences in the way men and women argue or if there are differences in the way men and women to argue.

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