PROFESSOR OF PHILOSOPHY, Sally Haslanger, a scholar widely respected for her work on the metaphysics of gender and race, has received highest honors from two prestigious associations in philosophy. She has been named the 2011 Carus Lecturer, an honor presented bi-annually by the American Philosophical Association (APA), and she has been selected Distinguished Woman Philosopher of 2010 by the Society for Women in Philosophy
Individually and together, these awards recognize Haslanger’s significant contributions to metaphysics and social-political philosophy; to feminist theory and the philosophy of race; and to the growth and resilience of the global community of women in philosophy.
"I'm deeply honored to receive these awards," Haslanger said. "I’m especially pleased to be recognized in philosophy as a philosopher and a feminist who is making a difference in how philosophy is done and also, in who is doing it."
Carus Lecturer for 2011
Haslanger is the first scholar working primarily in feminist philosophy and critical race theory to be invited to deliver the Carus lectures. She praised colleague Judith Thomson, MIT professor of philosophy, emeritus, as an inspiration. Thomson won the Carus award in 2003. “I’m very honored to follow in Judy’s footsteps,” Haslanger said.
Four women philosophers have been invited to deliver the Carus lectures since they were established in 1925. Two—Thomson and Haslanger—are MIT faculty. The Carus lectures began in 1925, when the first set of lectures was delivered by John Dewey. Other prominent Carus lecturers over the years have included Arthur Danto (2001) and W.V.O. Quine (1972).
The Carus lectures began in 1925, when the first set
of lectures was delivered by John Dewey. Other lecturers
have included Arthur Danto and W.V.O. Quine.
Passionate philosophy that makes a difference in people's lives
Haslanger credits the “absolutely fantastic” Department of Linguistics and Philosophy within the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences as a significant influence on her own work. The Institute and the School foster an “environment in which researchers are encouraged to work collaboratively to solve problems," she said. "It places great weight on creativity. I think of this approach as gathering the best people to put their heads together to build a better mouse trap."
Richard Holton, Professor of Philosophy and head of the Philosophy section, said "I am delighted that Sally has received these awards. She is a passionate philosopher: passionate about the subject; about doing it well and honestly, and passionate that it can make a difference in peoples’ lives."
Haslanger is currently studying how gender and race are socially constructed: how ideas of gender and race are made real through social practices, and how this raises questions of moral and political justice.
As a Carus honoree, Haslanger will present three lectures at the annual APA meeting in 2011 discussing issues in social ontology (including methodological individualism), and on the basis for critique of social norms.
Haslanger is "very honored" to follow in the footsteps
of Judith Thomson, MIT Professor of Philosophy, emeritus,
who won the Carus lecture award in 2003.
Aristotle, ethics, feminist theory
Haslanger began teaching in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences in 1998. Her recurring classes focus on metaphysics, ethics, ancient Greek philosophy (Aristotle in particular), and feminist theory.
“I love traditional philosophical questions," she said. "They are so rich and so profound that you can think about them forever. I also love the fact that once you get the hang of philosophy, you can raise philosophical questions about anything and everything."
In addition to teaching undergraduate and graduate philosophy courses, Haslanger directs the Women and Gender Studies Program (WGS) in SHASS. Since coming to MIT, she has served on the SHASS Gender Equity Committee and the MIT Committee on Campus Race Relations.
Distinguished Woman Philosopher of 2010
The Society for Women in Philosophy named Haslanger a 2010 Distinguished Woman Philosopher shortly after the APA invited her to present the Carus lectures.
The Society for Women in Philosophy (SWIP) citation describes Haslanger as one of the very best analytic feminists in the country, lauded for both her work in feminist epistemology and for her work on critical race theory. As Distinguished Woman Philosopher, Haslanger will present one lecture on her work. Ceremonies will take place late in 2010.
The SWP also recognized Haslanger for embodying feminist activism within academia. Its citation highlighted her founding of the Society’s Task Force for Women in Philosophy and her initiative in guiding MIT culture towards greater ‘woman-friendliness’ generally.
Simone de Beauvoir, feminist philosopher and social theorist
(1908-1986) is among of Haslanger's predecessors
"Haslanger is one of the very best analytic feminists
in the country, lauded for both her work in feminist
epistemology and for her work on critical race theory."
— Society for Women in Philosophy
Helping guide philosophy and MIT culture toward "woman-friendliness"
Seizing a brief Socratic moment, Haslanger asked, “And how did I manage to start the Women in Philosophy Task Force last year?” Answer: “I received funds from the MIT School of Science for co-leading a series of faculty workshops on race and gender.
“How did I invest that money?” Answer: “I used it to bring 25 women philosophers from the US, UK and Canada together to organize a systematic effort to change the profession. Today, the Task Force is flourishing.”
Encouraging scholarship to flourish, especially among women, is classic Haslanger, according to Wyn Kelley, WGS faculty affiliate and lecturer in literature. “She’s a dynamic leader and an unwavering advocate of students of all backgrounds. I have found her an inspiring role model, a keen critic, and a pure dynamo of energy, humor, and warmth.”
Haslanger cites MIT, the School, and the Women and Gender Studies (WSG) program for sustaining her. “The WGS program is a wonderful source of community and inspiration," she says. "It provides a place for feminist scholars and researchers to collaborate, to bring their cutting-edge research to students, and to support the creativity and stamina this requires. A model of interdisciplinary cooperation, it keeps me stretching in new directions." •
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Department of Linguistics and Philosophy
Women and Gender Studies
MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
American Philosophical Association
Society for Women in Philosophy
founded in 1972
Writer/reporter: Sarah Wright
Editor/art director: Emily Hiestand