Everyone agrees there is “a” problem, and nobody is claiming that philosophy’s problem is the worst of all academic fields. So what’s left is whether philosophy has a *bad* problem.
Massimo points out that there is no evidence that philosophy has a particularly bad problem, and leaves it at that. And it’s also true that the existence of male majorities can be the result of societal pressures (i.e. sexist attitudes in the world at large) rather than sexist hiring practice, which Massimo also leaves there.
What we’ve got here is a lecture about the nature of evidence. Thanks very much. The implication, of course, is that since there is no evidence that philosophy has a particularly bad problem, then nothing special need be done about it except deal with individual cases if they come up and wait umpteen generations for the old men of the academy to die off and be replaced by a few more women.
But Massimo is overlooking something crucial. Saul has been surprised by the feedback she’s got on this. Surprise indicates that the problem is worse than suspected. It means that it’s a hidden, invisible problem. There’s more of it than expected. Where before you might have encountered the odd case over decades, sometimes well handled, sometimes badly, now you have lots of cases coming to light – some of which have never been dealt with.
That ought to be pause for thought. It ought to make some in a position of power think, “hmm, I didn’t expect to see all of this, this needs a bit more attention”.
Confronted with a new set of surprising information, it is not enough to resort to the “no evidence of a particular problem” line. The correct response is “ooh, this is evidence of a surprisingly widespread and hitherto invisible problem, this needs investigating”. In other words, there is enough there that if you don’t have any data then you ought to be getting some data rather than merely pointing out that the data doesn’t exist.
If you’re out having a picnic and someone says “there’s a wasp! I don’t want to sit here!”, then you can say, “I’ll deal with the wasp, but it’s just one wasp, we don’t need to move.” If someone shouts “argh there’s a veritable cloud of wasps come out of nowhere! we’ve got to move!”, then rather than saying, “there is no evidence that there are more wasps here than anywhere else”, you should be checking whether you’re sitting on a wasp’s nest. Alternatively, insert a better analogy here.