There's a really interesting post over at Go Grue! on (1) how our discipline identifies the "core" areas of philosophy (i.e. metaphysics & epistemology), (2) ascribes particular prestige to these areas, and finally (3) how the white-male-domination of these fields results in white males being conceived as working in "core" areas and conferred higher prestige, and people who work in other areas (women and minority philosophers) being conferred less prestige on account of working "outside the core" (viz. ethics, aesthetics, feminism, etc.). The post is really interesting because it suggests that philosophy's demographic problem (i.e. the shockingly low numbers of black philosophers, etc.) is not distinct from an issues problem (viz. affording undue prestige to issues dominated by white male philosophers and lesser prestige to issues/areas that receive more attention from non-white/non-males).
There's a lot of good stuff in the post -- too much for me to comment on very well. But let me say a few things. First, as the author notes, there is something a bit odd in identifying metaphysics and epistemology as "core" areas of philosophy, but then denying that ethics, aesthetics, feminism, etc., are core areas. After all, people who do ethics, aesthetics, feminism, etc. typically are engaged in metaphysics and epistemology (e.g. moral metaphysics and epistemology, feminist metaphysics and epistemology, etc.). It seems to me that the only way to maintain that "traditional M&E" should be conferred greater prestige is to hold that the issues in "core" M&E areas are (1) more philosophically important than M&E done in other areas (moral M&E, feminist M&E, etc), and (2) done in a philosophically more competent way than M&E done in other areas.
Notice that I asserted a conjunction here. I don't think it is enough to show that "core" areas of M&E are done more competently than "non-core" M&E to justify assigning greater prestige to than the former. The "core" areas of M&E must also be philosophically more important. After all, all kinds of unimportant things are hard to do well. It is hard to put together million-piece puzzle-pictures, but we do not pay people to do this or ascribe prestige or value to it. If "core" M&E are to be worth ascribing so much value and prestige to, it had better not just be done competently; they had better be philosophically more important than "non-core" areas.
And it is here that I -- and, I think, many ethicists, political philosophers, feminists, and critical race theorists -- demur. Look, it's not unimportant whether Billy's rock broke the window or Suzy's rock, or whether Billy's throw preempted Suzy's rock, or whatever. It's also not completely unimportant whether one hair turns a non-bald man bald, or whether "Godel" refers to Godel. But, I have to confess: I don't see how these are more important issues than issues of ethics, political philosophy, aesthetics, feminism, etc.
Now, of course, these are just my views. I'm a moral and political philosopher by trade -- so is it any real surprise that I think these areas of philosophy are particularly important? Again, I didn't mean to suggest that "core" M&E are unimportant (though sometimes I do wonder about spending so much time on lumps, statues, rocks, and singular names). All I mean to do is raise the following worry: should we really attach so much more value and prestige to "core" areas of philosophy (viz. the metaphysics of composition or counterfactuals) when other areas of philosophy (ethics, aesthetics, etc.) deal with issues so much more central to human life. Plato didn't privilege metaphysics and epistemology over ethics and political philosophy. He treated them all as roughly equally important. And so, I think, should we. Metaphysics is important. So is epistemology. But so is aesthetics. And so is feminism. So is critical race theory. Etc. All of these areas examine metaphysical and epistemological issues relevant to human life, and all should be afforded care, interest, and prestige.
Or so say I. What say you?