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Andrés Ruiz

"Since some philosophers think of philosophy as essentially conceptual analysis using formal logic and/or ordinary language, and since most philosophy in the analytic tradition is done in English, they might also think that doing conceptual analysis well requires being proficient in English. Now, if they also think that non-native English speakers do not (or cannot) attain the requisite level of proficiency, they might harbor prejudice against non-native English speakers."

Wouldn't this only be a good explanation if there were many non-native speakers with PhDs in the market while Phil. departments were disproportionately white? I don't know the statistics, but there don't seem many of us non-native speakers pursing the discipline in the first place.

Moti Mizrahi

That's an alternative explanation that can potentially apply to any underrepresented group; that is, members of group G are underrepresented in discipline D because few members of group G pursue careers in D. But then the obvious question is why few members of G pursue careers in D.

elisa freschi

Could not the solution just be that it is easier to succeed in the field of mathematics or of laboratory-biology than in the field of philosophy, given that the language of the country one is working in is not her mother-tongue? In the two examples mentioned one's skills can be expressed even in a non-linguistical way (through formulas and through laboratory-experiments), whereas this would be much more difficult in the case of philosophy.

Speaking about the experience of my friends and colleagues (me included) who do not have English as mother-tongue, most of them complain about the following facts:
1. writing in English takes longer
2. writing in English is often expensive, since one needs to have one's writings read by a Native Speaker
3. speaking in English at conferences, etc., is easier for the ones who have English as their mother-tongue. Thus, they appear more confident and smarter, without additional efforts.

Moti Mizrahi

I am not at all sure that writing skills are any less important in the natural sciences than in philosophy. After all, scientists have to write and publish papers, too.

It may very well be true that native English speakers “appear more confident and smarter, without additional efforts,” than non-native English speakers do. But then it may also be the case that (at least some) native English speakers merely *appear* smarter than non-native English speakers when in fact they’re not. In other words, we would then have a problem with an unreliable indicator of philosophical talent.

elisa freschi

Yes, this was exactly my point. Philosophers (as well as historians, scholars of literature, etc.) who have English as their native language have an undeniable advantage. It is no one's fault, it is just a state of affairs. I would not say that the same applies to natural scientists, since laboratory and formulas have more weigth in their case.

Vincenzo Politi

Some of the comments above seem to suggest the following argument:

Philosophers who are native English speakers have an undeniable advantage over philosophers who are not native English speakers,


non-native English speaker philosophers are underrepresented in USA.

Such an argument, HOWEVER, does not explain another interesting factor: why do papers and books authored by native English speaker philosophers tend to be much more cited than papers and books published in the same international journals/publishers but authored by non-native English speaker philosophers?
The point is: if a paper or a book by a non-native English speaker is published by an international peer-reviewed journal or publisher, it means that it is indeed a good piece of philosophical work which meets all the standards of the (anglophone-dominated) international publications. (It also means that the author is not *that* disadvantaged with respect to the native English speakers when it come to linguistic skills.) So why do people with non-Anglophone names get cited less than their more obviously Anglophone colleagues?

If you are looking for data supporting my claim, read the paper "European Humanities in Times of Globalised Parochialism" by Gereon Wolters (who is a German philosopher, in case you wonder).

Speaking of biases, in his paper Wolters also offers ample evidence suggesting that NOT having non-native English speakers in philosophy conference organised in US and Canada is the norm rather than the exception.

It is unbelievable (and a bit funny) how some native English speaker philosophers speak about the native English speaker philosophers' bias against some under-represented groups of native English speaker philosophers, and yet all these native English philosophers together seem so blind toward the biases against non-native English speaker philosophers.

Enzo Rossi

There might be an easy way to test some of the hypotheses made here: are there more papers by non-native speakers in formal philosophy journals as opposed to all other philosophy journals?

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