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Competition in philosophy is a feminist issue


Ben Kilby

Monash University, AU
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The role of competition in philosophy is not just a pedagogical concern, but also a feminist concern. Competitive philosophy in schools is intrinsically linked to Janice Moulton’s feminist critique of academic philosophy referred to as ‘The Adversary Method’. She argues that dialogue that emphasises adversarial methods of argumentation promote dominant notions of masculinity. Many philosophers and educators argue that this traditional ideal of masculinity and the adversarial mode of communicating are problematic for a variety of reasons. There has also been a broad array of empirical research demonstrating gender differences in classroom dialogue, including girls feeling targeted by teachers and boys due to the culture established with competitive-type dialogues. There is a direct link between this research and the espousal of masculine Reason in education. More, this kind of Reason is one that is overemphasised in competitive dialogues, such as debates or competitive philosophy. There are three primary concerns for competitive philosophy. Firstly, that it disadvantages girls in particular by over-emphasising masculine attributes. Secondly, that it disadvantages all students, regardless of sex, by over-emphasising masculine attributes. And thirdly, that it undermines the values of the Philosophy for/with Children and the Community of Inquiry approach by, again, over-emphasising masculine attributes. Therefore, the concern for competition in philosophy is not just about pedagogy, it is about justice.

How to Cite: Kilby, B., 2022. Competition in philosophy is a feminist issue. Journal of Philosophy in Schools, 9(2), pp.90–113.
Published on 19 Oct 2022.
Peer Reviewed


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