Gender Perception as a Habit of Moral Perception: Implications for Philosophical Methodology and Introductory Curriculum

Journal of Social Philosophy 43 (3):347-362 (2012)
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The inclusion of more women’s works on introductory syllabi in philosophy has been suggested as one possible strategy to increase the proportion of philosophers that are female. Objections to this strategy often reflect the assumption that attention to the identity of authors is irrelevant to philosophy and detrimental to other pedagogical goals such as fairly and accurately representing the canon, and offering selections on the basis of their philosophical quality rather than the identities of their authors. I suggest the extent to which one perceives it important to include women on introductory syllabi, one’s “gender perception,” may be affected by one’s largely unconscious, and unchosen, habits of moral perception; I appeal to Peggy DesAutel’s distinction between two types of moral perceiver to suggest that the differences between advocates and critics of more inclusive curriculum are not merely differences in values, but reflect fundamental and unchosen biases which result in receptivity to different considerations as to the reasons to change the way we introduce philosophy to newcomers. I provide evidence that inclusive curriculum may benefit all students, and suggest alternative approaches to representing the importance of those benefits to philosophers whose habits of moral perception may incline them to receptivity to principled rules and fairness rather than affective considerations.



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Kathryn J. Norlock
Trent University

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