Not your old APA

I spent some of the final days of 2007 at the American Philosophical Association eastern division meeting in Baltimore.  What a change from years past.  There were some very good sessions, including one on the history of philosophy with attention to difference, featuring Robert Bernasconi, Eduardo Mendietta, and Penny Deutscher.  There were several feminist panels and a very good SPEP presentation by Kelly Oliver with a response by Tina Chanter.  The new eastern division president is Anthony Appiah and the next one will be Seyla Benhabib.  Altogether, it’s possible to discern a shift in the leadership and the program to things that, I think, matter. Moreover, the mood was very different — perhaps because the interviewing took place in a different hotel and because the meeting was in Baltimore. It was simply more laid back.  What a nice change.

By Noelle McAfee

I am professor of philosophy at Emory University and editor of the Kettering Review. My latest book, Fear of Breakdown: Politics and Psychoanalysis, explores what is behind the upsurge of virulent nationalism and intransigent politics across the world today. My other writings include Democracy and the Political Unconscious; Habermas, Kristeva, and Citizenship; Julia Kristeva; and numerous articles and book chapters. Edited volumes include Standing with the Public: the Humanities and Democratic Practice and a special issue of the philosophy journal Hypatia on feminist engagements in democratic theory. I am also the author of the entry on feminist political philosophy in the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and well into my next book project on democratic public life.


  1. There was wine at the reception?! I must have gotten there too late.

    I must say that I have never had such a good time at the APA, and it’s entirely due to the concerted efforts of those philosophers who worked hard to put on multiple sessions of the sort Noelle describes, on difference, feminism, transgressive topics, and the future of the profession. And here I wanted to skip the APA entirely — glad I didn’t!

  2. I was a member of the APA for about 20 years, and resigned about 5 years ago. The reason I resigned was a man named Morris Judd.

    Morris Judd was a young philosophy professr at the University of Colorado. In 1950, he was fired for being somehow subversive. He was never allowed to see the evidence against him. He spent his life managing the office in a junkyard owned by his family.

    Morris Judd is now in his early 90’s, and though he has not said it in so many words, I think he would very much like to be recognized by the APA. Nobody thinks the APA is at all responsible for what happened to him, but a statement that the profession regrets the loss of his career would cost nothing and mean a lot. So would a session of some kind.

    Various committees of the national APA and of Eastern Division have had this brought to them a total of between two and four times. I have never done it myself, but rely on what others have informed me that they intended to do so.

    Typically, they think it is a no-brainer (which it is); but then they report back to me that when they brought it up in the actual meeting, their proposals were not only not accepted–they were brushed aside without serious consideration.

    When the APA decides to do something for Morris Judd, I will believe there is a “new APA.” But not before.

  3. Mr. McCumber, thank you for your comments about Morris Judd. I’ve known him my whole life as our families were good friends in the town in Colorado where he moved after losing his job (and career) at Colorado University. He was an honorable, kind and intelligent man who did not respond bitterly to a situation which certainly would have justified such a response. Sadly Mr. Judd passed away this week. He would have very much appreciated your sentiments.

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