Queer Philosophy: Presentations of the Society for Lesbian and Gay Philosophy [henceforth SLGP], 1998-2008 eds. Halwani, Quinn and Wible, is a selective anthology of essays from the SLGP academic society. These essays address a wide range of issues relevant for Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual persons in civil society. The book is written predominantly by philosophers and legal scholars who identify with these sexualities and/or participate in research relating to these communities. This collection contains a few articles reflecting on the late 1990s-2000s political zeitgeist in the USA and some philosophical examination of topics such as ‘outing’ and the ethical status of dignity in same-sex relations.
The essays are versions of presentations from the SLGP. Some of the essays acknowledge the efforts of specific individuals Richard D. Mohr and Mark Chekola in their efforts not just in their academic work on Lesbian and Gay philosophy but also towards building a philosophical community around these issues. The anthology contains essays which form pedagogical discussions how resources on sexuality should be taught and included in university courses to students.
As an anthology, this book serves more purposes than overviewing topics that reflect the state current research. One stream of articles for instance discusses the role of professional societies (such as the American Philosophical Society) and professional philosophers in relation to the public and their students. Card’s essay “Responding to Hate Crimes” highlights one such role. Another notable paper that acknowledges the negative consequences for students being taught about Queer theory is “On my Reluctance to Defend a Queer Point of View” (Quinn).
One point that I have to raise, that one could deem unfair in some respects considering that I’m using more contemporary sensibilities to judge a collection of articles that were from 1998-2008, is that there’s no discussion of transgendered persons or the status of those who refuse to associate with a gender identity. I cannot use the LGBTQ+ label to refer to the issues of the book as the ‘T’ would be redundant. There is one article acknowledging queer discourses but it is clear that the authors of these papers are coming from a different place as Lesbian and Gay philosophers than the contemporamous catch-all LGBTQ+ more familiar to a 2014 reader.
Perhaps in defense of this privation I might say that this collection goes for depth on issues rather than breadth, and that it would be impossible to represent everything in an overview anthology of under 400 pages.
There is a distinctly activist edge to this text in the sense that some of the papers have a specific commitment to addressing contemporary and historic social issues. An example of this is “The Special Obligation of Gay Men to Fight HIV and Abroad” (Wible) and Romaya’s paper on Drag Aesthetics. As such, a few of these papers do not read as specifically philosophical, and could be read by an audience who don’t necessarily have a philosophy background.
There are a couple of papers, by contrast, that are distinctly relevant for philosophers but not would be limiting to see them only in a sexuality context. The essays on the role of philosopher as a public intellectual could and should be read wider. Nussbaum’s superb essay “Moral Expertise?”, concerns a distinction between one good way a philosopher can be involved in public debate, and one bad way following her own experience. Gracia’s address of “Minorities and the Philosophical Marketplace” is another example of an issue for philosophers of an issue that has not had enough attention within the philosophical community. As an issue, the status of minorities in academic philosophy (or academia simpliciter) really does need to be read by as wide an audience in the academic community as possible.
The selection of topics distinctly goes over sexuality topics, as such, the necessarily overlapping issue of gender is acknowledged to a significantly lesser extent. The essays ‘Is it a Choice?’ (Wilkerson) and ‘Catholics and Evangelical Protestants on Homoerotic Desire’ (Nunan) highlight the particularly unique insight that philosophers can have on the issues relating to Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Queer sexualities.
Some of the essays read in a way that can be read by a general reader and don’t require too much prior knowledge. There are some papers which are more typically philosophical in that they are technical in nature and could be tricky for a general reader without a background in philosophy to get their head around. Because of the mix of technical philosophy papers and accessible articles I am confounded on whether this should be recommended to a general audience.
Of other note is that this is an anthology of papers that does not come from the critical theory or more familiar queer theory veins of academic literature and many of the authors are from a philosophy (and law) background. This might come to a refreshing surprise to show that there are varied disciplinary approaches (even within academic philosophy itself) on how to tackle Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual political, social and philosophical issues.
As far as works of philosophy are concerned, the language of the essays are written in a largely accessible way. As far as works on sexuality and gender are concerned which can involve just as much jargon as a work of metaphysics, the essays are written in an extremely accessible way. Terminology is introduced as it is required. I think that some prior knowledge might be helpful but not necessary of some essays and titles that are continually referred to, such as Mohr’s ‘Gay Ideas’ collection of essays and his controversial view of ‘outing’.
© 2014 Michael Pereira
Michael Pereira has an MA in Philosophy and a BSc in Sociology and Philosophy. Michael has given talks on various topics from Kant's philosophy of science to the philosophical underpinnings of ecology. Michael's main blog is 'Noumenal Realm'. Michael's academic areas of interest are Kant's theoretical philosophy and Kant's (supposed) relevance to contemporary philosophy of science.