The Denigration of Black Women Philosophers and “Fields People of Color Specialize In”

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 19/06/2018 - 4:42pm in

Anita L. Allen, the Henry R. Silverman Professor of Law, professor of philosophy, and vice provost of faculty at the University of Pennsylvania, and the next president of the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association, speaks about her experiences as a black woman philosopher in an interview in The New York Times.

The interviewer, philosopher George Yancy (Emory), asks:

I recall asking [Adrian Piper] about some of the obstacles that black women face in philosophy, and she was rightly critical of what she saw as a racist and sexist perception of black women in philosophy as “maids or prostitutes.” Do black women in philosophy continue to be stereotyped in such denigrating ways?

Professor Allen responds:

Adrian Piper and I were colleagues at Georgetown University in the late 1980s and close friends for longer. I shared with her my stories of denigration, which may have contributed to what she said to you.

My dissertation chairman was Richard Brandt. Once after I had earned the doctorate and was meeting with him, he stood over me, lifted my chin toward him and remarked that I looked like a maid his family once employed. Around the same time, early in the Ronald Reagan administration, an effort was made to rid Washington of the sex trade and shops that flourished along the 14th Street corridor a few blocks from the White House. I worked in nearby McPherson Square at the National Endowment for the Humanities and, as a volunteer at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. One day I was walking near my office with a white male friend, a philosopher at an Ivy League university. We were stopped by the police, who profiled us as a hooker and john. I had to answer questions and show ID.

Is the denigration of black women philosophers a thing of decades past? Are we beyond being asked to fetch coffee for department chairs and worse? Regrettably, no. In October 2017 a very senior Harvard-educated white male philosopher, whose wife is also an academic, wrote to me seeking feedback on an op-ed he hoped to submit to The New York Times or The Washington Post. He did not like my feedback. He ended an email lamenting his failure to get anything more than “duncical shit” as feedback on his work by letting me know that he had recently imagined seeing my face in the photographs he used in masturbation! Incredible, right? I wrote back to explain why I was offended and to sever ties. I assume that if such a thing could happen to me, some very, very serious harassment and racism must be happening to young women in the field…

This happened right about the time Harvey Weinstein fell from grace. It was the last straw. For years I put up with demeaning comments from this individual. I should have communicated my true feelings and kept a distance. Ironically, although he came to me for help, when I was an assistant professor he had discouraged me from philosophy, doubting to my face that I had “enough candle power (i.e., intellect) for philosophy” but opining that I had “too much juice (i.e., sensuality) for philosophy.”

Unable to achieve intellectual domination, he attempted sexual domination to preserve the upper hand. The lack of respect for me and my marriage was infuriating. The lack of respect for his own marriage disturbed me, too. Cunning and disloyal, he had copied his wife and another senior woman philosopher on the original email asking for my help, but did not copy them on the defeated email in which he referenced his masturbation practice.

In another part of the interview, Professor Yancy asks about what philosophy departments can do to recruit and retain African-American women. Yancy says, “To do so, it seems to me… requires a shift in philosophical themes that reflect many of the social and political realities of black women. I think that this is what my African-American undergraduate female students are getting at regarding the desire for black feminist thought appearing more on the philosophical syllabus, as it were.”

Professor Allen replies:

Philosophy departments can become more inclusive if they take time to learn about emerging and emergent trends, advertise positions for fields people of color specialize in, and expand curricula to incorporate what black philosophers do. During the past 60 years, new fields of specialization have emerged—philosophy of race, African-American philosophy, Africana philosophy, black feminist/womanist thought, and so on. These have appeared in tandem with an increase in the number of professionally trained philosophers of black descent. Among the A.P.A.’s estimated 10,000 Ph.D-trained philosophers in the United States today, an estimated 125 are black, 38 are black women. Twenty-five years ago, Adrian Piper and I attempted to invite the Ph.D-trained black women in philosophy to join a professional association. We identified about eight eligible philosophers.

Back when I was a graduate student teaching assistant, a black student approached me and asked why I didn’t teach black philosophy. I gave the then standard answer that philosophy addresses universal themes applicable to everyone. But it has proven really hard for undergrads to see why Plato’s allegory of the cave, or Leibniz’s windowless monads or even Rawls’s theory of liberal justice matter enough to make philosophy their majors or life’s work….

Most contemporary African-American philosophers write about topics directly related to race or other aspects of the African-American experience. Indeed, at some point in their careers, most African-American philosophers seem to have found themselves deeply engaged in “social analysis” that deals with what M. L. King, as he sat in jail in Birmingham, referred to as “the hard, brutal facts of the case.” 

I am curious to hear what others—especially people of color who are professors or graduate students working in philosophy—think about this part of the interview.

Professor Allen is certainly right about the increase in racial and gender diversity in the profession. I have no reason to doubt her when she says that “most contemporary African-American philosophers write about topics directly related to race or other aspects of the African-American experience” and that “fields people of color specialize in” picks out a distinctive subset of philosophical fields—those she lists. Still, there are questions about how departments should make use of this information, if at all, in their admissions, curricula, and hiring, and I’d welcome opinions on this matter.

Let me state unequivocally that I’m of the opinion that these topics and areas are philosophically important and fruitful and that the increased amount of attention to them by more and more people in the profession is a welcome evolution of the discipline.For the purposes of keeping the discussion here from being derailed, I’m asking commenters to refrain from debating that point. Thank you. (If you disagree with it, you can just refrain from commenting on this post, or you can stipulate it for the sake of argument. Also, please, no discussion of this request. No buts. Thanks.)

Relatedly, four years ago, I posted a query from a reader looking for suggestions of “topics that are more likely to be of interest to women than other topics.” The response was not favorable, to put it mildly—check out the comments—and I put up an apology for posting it the way I did. “Philosophical topics of interest to women: Philosophical topics of interest,” ran a common type of reply.

So there’s at least the appearance of a tension between attitudes towards the acceptability or accuracy or usefulness of the kinds of generalizations Professor Allen offers, and attitudes towards the acceptability or accuracy or usefulness of the kinds of generalizations my curious reader sought. It could be that there really is no puzzle there—that there are relevant differences between the kinds of generalizations, or that I have a skewed perception of people’s attitudes about them—but if someone wants to take a crack at explaining how to think about all of this, I’m all ears. Thank you.


*I’m also aware that some readers will find this declaration extremely annoying because they will see it as condescending, while other readers will find it extremely annoying because they will see it as virtue signaling. I’m glad my writing can have such a unifying effect in this age of increased polarization.

Julie Mehretu, “Dispersion”

Comments Policy

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Philosophers Appointed To High-Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 19/06/2018 - 1:04am in

The European Commission (EC), which proposes and administers European Union (EU) law and policy, has created a new High-Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence, the aim of which is to advise on the crafting and implementation of the EU’s strategy on artificial intelligence.

Among the 52 experts are several people who work in philosophy. They are:

  • Mark Coeckelbergh, Professor of Philosophy of Media and Technology at the Department of Philosophy of the University of Vienna
  • Luciano Floridi, Professor of Philosophy and Ethics of Information at the University of Oxford
  • Eric Hilgendorf, Professor of criminal law, criminal procedure and legal philosophy at the University of Würzburg
  • Thomas Metzinger, Professor of Theoretical Philosophy at the Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
  • Aimee van Wynsberghe, Assistant Professor in Ethics and Technology, TU Delft

The tasks of the group, according to the EC, are:

  1. Advise the Commission on next steps addressing AI-related mid to long-term challenges and opportunities through recommendations which will feed into the policy development process, the legislative evaluation process and the development of a next-generation digital strategy.
  2. Propose to the Commission draft AI ethics guidelines, covering issues such as fairness, safety, transparency, the future of work, democracy and more broadly the impact on the application of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, including privacy and personal data protection, dignity, consumer protection and non-discrimination
  3. Support the Commission on further engagement and outreach mechanisms to interact with a broader set of stakeholders in the context of the AI Alliance, share information and gather their input on the group’s and the Commission’s work.

You can read more about the group here.

Bubo the Mechanical Owl


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Dutilh Novaes from Groningen to VU Amsterdam

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 19/06/2018 - 12:31am in



Catarina Dutilh Novaes, currently Professor of Theoretical Philosophy at the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Groningen, will be moving to Vrije Universiteit (VU) Amsterdam

Prof. Dutilh Novaes specializes in history and philosophy of logic, philosophy of mathematics, social epistemology, among other interests. She will be taking up her new position in July 2018.

This move also means that the 1.7-million euro European Research Council Consolidator Grant that Prof. Dutilh Novaes won in 2017 (previously) to support a project on the social epistemology of argumentation will move to the VU. The project will last for five years, also starting in July 2018 (for which two 3-year postdocs and two PhD students will be brought on).

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Online Philosophy Resources Weekly Update

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 18/06/2018 - 9:42pm in

Here’s the weekly report of new entries in online philosophical resources and new reviews of philosophy books. 

We recently added a new section to the weekly update: “Reviews of Philosophy Books in the Popular Press”. This section contains links to recent reviews of books by academic philosophers that are published in non-academic venues, such as newspapers, magazines, literary websites, etc. Since there are many such possible venues, your assistance in noticing relevant reviews would be much appreciated: if you see something, please send in the link. Thanks!

The new section joins the rest of our weekly survey of online philosophy resources, which includes the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP), Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (IEP), Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews (NDPR), 1000-Word PhilosophyWireless Philosophy (Wi-Phi), and occasionally some other sites.


New: Ø


  1. Moral Dilemmas, by Terrance McConnell (North Carolina-Greensboro).
  2. Aristotle’s Ethics, by Richard Kraut (Northwestern).
  3. Robert Nozick’s Political Philosophy, by Eric Mack (Tulane).
  4. Schopenhauer’s Aesthetics, by Sandra Shapshay (Indiana).
  5. Zeno’s Paradoxes, by Nick Huggett (Illinois-Chicago).
  6. Tropes, by Anna-Sofia Maurin (Göteborgs).


1000-Word Philosophy Ø

Wireless Philosophy Ø


  1. Steven Levine (Massachusetts-Boston) reviews The Legacy of Kant in Sellars and Meillassoux: Analytic and Continental Kantianism (Routledge), by Favio Gironi (ed.).
  2. Samuel Guttenplan (Birkbeck College-London) reviews Mind, Language and Morality: Essays in Honour of Mark Platts (Routledge), by Gustavo Oritz-Millan, and Juan Antonio Crus Parcero (eds.).
  3. Christian Fermüller (Technische Universität-Wien) reviews Fuzzy Logic and Mathematics: A Historical Perspective (Oxford), by Radim Belohlavek, Joseph W. Dauben, and George J. Klir.
  4. John A. Tucker (East Carolina) reviews The Bloomsbury Research Handbook of Contemporary Japanese Philosophy (Bloomsbury), by Michiko Yusa (ed.).
  5. Frisbee C. C. Sheffield (Cambridge) reviews Plato on the Value of Philosophy: the Art of Argument in the Gorgias and Phaedrus (Cambridge), by Tushar Irani.
  6. Pär Sundström (Umeå) reviews Primitive Colors: A Case Study in Neo-pragmatist Metaphysics and Philosophy of Perception (Oxford), by Joshua Gert.

Recent Philosophy Book Reviews in Non-Academic Media

  1. Slavoj Zizek, Frank Ruda, and Agon Hamza’s Reading Marx, and Mike Davis’ Old Gods, New Enigmas: Marx’s Lost Theory, reviewed by Bruce Robbins at the Boston Review.

Compiled by @MichaelGlawson (University of South Carolina)

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New Site: Encyclopedia of Concise Concepts by Women Philosophers

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 16/06/2018 - 1:32am in


philosophy, Women

The Center for the History of Women Philosophers and Scientists at Paderborn University has launched a new site: the Encyclopedia of Concise Concepts by Women Philosophers.

The site is intended to be a “living, growing work” that comprehensively lists and briefly describes “the ideas women philosophers have developed.” There are around 100 entries already, with more to be added every few months. Here are some of the entries:

The site is edited by Mary Ellen Waithe (Cleveland State) and Ruth Hagengruber (Paderborn).


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Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 15/06/2018 - 10:00pm in


Links, philosophy

Here’s the latest Mini-Heap: 10 recent items of interest to philosophers (and others interested in philosophy) from the Daily Nous Heap of Links

(The Heap of Links consists partly of suggestions from readers; if you find something online that you think would be of interest to the philosophical community, please send it in for consideration for the Heap.)

  1. Swedish university libraries will stop their subscriptions to Elsevier journals as of June 30th — the publisher refuses to meet the open-access demands of the library consortium (via Sebastian Lutz)
  2. The Aristotle Menu — developed by gastronomy professor Giorgos Palisidis, it has been served at 17 places in the Chalkidiki area of Greece
  3. What is public philosophy, anyway? — “It should be philosophy, in that it uses philosophical techniques, methods, and concepts. It should also be in the public interest, in that it addresses issues of civic import and in ways that are accessible to the general public.”
  4. “A deeper knowledge of philosophy would have lessened the need to go through some of the experiences I did to learn what I learnt. It would have made me better at my job.” — a soldier on how philosophy can help in battle and its aftermath
  5. The Stanford Prison Experiment was a sham — undisclosed acting and coaching in one of the most famous psychology experiments
  6. Hans Sluga (UC Berkeley) has been blogging — here’s one entry on political philosophy as a “diagnostic practice”
  7. Google needs help with the metaphysics and ethics of causation — Ryan Jenkins (CalPoly) in The Washington Post
  8. The luxury philosophy weekend getaway — for people interested in talking philosophy during “sangria brunches, sundowners under the pear tree, and nightcaps by the fireplace”
  9. The Time Project — a collection of essays on time by painters, sculptors, musicians, filmmakers, curators, and a neuroscientist, to be published in Nautilus over the next month
  10. More evidence that philosophy is “in”: you’ll be able to verbally spar with Socrates in the new Assassin’s Creed “Odyssey” game — “We wanted to make him feel different than every other quest-giver in the world because he did treat people differently and he thought very differently”

The post Mini-Heap appeared first on Daily Nous.

Philosophy’s Plagiarism Patrol

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 14/06/2018 - 10:17pm in

The body of published scholarship in my discipline—academic philosophy—suffers from a host of authorship violations, including plagiarism, undisclosed pseudonyms, and duplicate publication. These problems appear to be largely unknown to many in the field, even though some of the most egregious cases have appeared with the top presses.

That’s Michael Dougherty, Professor & Sr. Ruth Caspar Chair in Philosophy at Ohio Dominican University, in an interview at Retraction Watch. Since 2009, he has identified and reported on dozens of instances of plagiarism and other authorship violations in philosophy. He currently has a queue of 10 open cases. It is a time consuming task:

Preparing retraction requests to send to journals and publishers (with extensive documentation) can be tedious and time-consuming, and cases can take years to be resolved. I typically spend several hours per week working on plagiarism cases. However, I find the work to be important: I want my students and my colleagues to have a trustworthy body of published scholarship. My wife jokes that over the course of my career I’ll have gotten more publications retracted in my field than I have personally contributed through my own scholarship. Perhaps that is ok: there are various ways to contribute to the betterment of one’s field.

It’s also typically a thankless, if not professionally dangerous job. Earlier this year the employer of a plagiarist Professor Dougherty caught tried to cast aspersions on him. Another time, he notes, editors at a Taylor & Francis journal “wrote to a senior administrator at my university—on the journal’s letterhead—to complain that my retraction requests constituted a waste of my university’s time and that ‘the ethical basis for those actions is highly questionable.'”

Professor Dougherty doesn’t just identify plagiarism cases; he also keeps track of institutional responses to them. See, for example, this post from last year on his work on how publishers have dealt with plagiarism.

Asked whether philosophy has a particularly bad plagiarism problem, Professor Dougherty responds:

I am not sure. But I can say that solving the plagiarism problem in philosophy is more difficult than doing so in other fields for at least three reasons. First, an article in a philosophy journal generally has a longer shelf-life than, say, an article in an oncology journal. This means that citable literature can go back very far, and that defective articles can have a long-lasting destructive influence. Second, the basic tools for maintaining a reliable record of the scholarly literature in other disciplines are not currently available to philosophy. Much of the scholarship in philosophy is not citable through a DOI. This means that it cannot be discussed on the excellent DOI-based post-publication review venue PubPeer. Third, unlike the MEDLINE database for the biomedical disciplines, the two major databases in philosophy, The Philosopher’s Index and PhilPapers, do not update their entries to indicate when articles have been retracted or subject to a published correction (e.g., corrigendum, erratum, or expression of concern). So, in short: post-publication review in philosophy is more difficult, and even if a publisher issues a correction, it isn’t reflected in the standard databases of the field. Working on retractions in philosophy is not for the faint-hearted; even if one succeeds in getting a plagiarized article retracted, the retraction might remain unknown in the field. It is very common to see retracted articles in philosophy still cited in the downstream literature.

The full interview is here.

Rebecca Stuckey, “Uso Della Parete”

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Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 12/06/2018 - 10:32pm in


Links, philosophy

10 recent items of interest to philosophers (and others interested in philosophy) from the Daily Nous Heap of Links. That’s right, it’s time for Mini-Heap!

(The Heap of Links consists partly of suggestions from readers; if you find something online that you think would be of interest to the philosophical community, please send it in for consideration for the Heap.)

  1. The aesthetics of music usually is focused on the listening, but what about the playing? — Mary Beth Willard (Weber State) on how “there’s just something gorgeous about the feeling when the fingering, after lots of practice, becomes natural.”
  2. Friedrich Nietzsche or Janelle Monáe? — can you guess who said what? (via Jean Kazez)
  3. On productivity and types of careers in philosophy — Schliesser replies to Aboulafia
  4. “I would still say to anyone who might be considering getting a philosopher as a father, don’t do it!” — philosophers on fatherhood, in the NYT
  5. “Our political divisions… now run so deep as to subvert our attempts to explain the dangers they pose” — Robert Talisse (Vanderbilt) on why “we ought to give up the idea that there is such a thing as fake news”
  6. There has been more forced “eugenic” sterilization recently than you might think — and the chair of a philosophy department signed off on some of it. Robert Wilson (La Trobe) explains.
  7. DN readers can get 20% off tix for the big HowTheLightGetsIn philosophy festival — just use the code “DNous20” at checkout
  8. “The hand of Kant lies behind both Bohr and Kuhn.” and it’s Kant who “pulled off the grandest intellectual hocus-pocus in scholarly history” — Tim Maudlin (NYU) reviews a pair of popular books on science and philosophy
  9. Business Ethics Quarterly issues “Expression of Concern” over self-plagiarism case (via Michael Dougherty)
  10. “Neither a victory for the right wing nor a tragedy for the left wing, but a call to both sides of the culture wars to cool off and do better.” — John Corvino (Wayne State) on the gay wedding cake case decision (via What’s Wrong)

The post Mini-Heap appeared first on Daily Nous.

Tahko from Helsinki to Bristol

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 12/06/2018 - 10:23pm in


Jobs, philosophy

Tuomas Tahko, currently University Lecturer in Theoretical Philosophy at the University of Helsinki, will be moving to the University of Bristol.

Dr. Tahko specializes in  metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of science, and philosophical logic. He will be taking up his new position, as Reader in Metaphysics of Science, in September, 2018.

This move also means that the 2-million euro European Research Council Consolidator Grant that Dr. Tahko won in 2017 (previously) to support a project on the metaphysical unity of science, will move to Bristol. The project will last for five years, also starting in September 2018 (for which three 4-year postdocs and a PhD student in the areas of metaphysics and philosophy of science will be brought on).

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An Open Letter on Jordan Peterson and Stefan Molyneux

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 12/06/2018 - 8:01pm in



I received a polite email gently critiquing the tone of my ‘hit pieces’ (I accept the characterisation) on Stefan Molyneux and Jordan Peterson. There was some concern about the effect this might have on my academic reputation. I wrote this reply to try to explain my MO, such as it is. I’m posting it here for general interest:

Dear X,

Thanks for this thoughtful email, and for reading my blog posts.

I should explain my motivations for writing them. First, I was moved by the hurt and frustration many of my female friends had expressed about being forced into unpleasant debates by followers of characters like Molyneux and Peterson. I thought I’d cheer them up with a bit of mocking invective, and some told me that they were cheered up. Second, I wrote both pieces when I was at home on a Saturday night and felt like producing some light entertainment to pass the time.

As far as my reputation in the world of philosophy goes, if I have one at all I’m confident it’s for my research on early modern philosophy, the history of logic, and the philosophy of economics. In that professional capacity, I try very hard to maintain a scholarly attitude. You’ll find some criticisms of other scholars in my published work, but never gratuitous insults like I have on my blog. My aim in any case is not to criticise but to contribute to research, by producing translations and analyses of lesser-known materials, by interrogating the logical foundations of macroeconomic models, and so on. This work can be dull, but I hope it’s helpful to somebody.

Peterson and Molyneux deserve none of that sort of attention. I see them as mere charlatans. I’d never write about them in my capacity as a professional academic. I’m happy to make a few jokes at their expense; I have no interest in engaging beyond that point.

My blog is mostly just for fun. If it affected my academic reputation, I’d be sorry for that. But I think most academics in my field see it as nothing more than an eccentric hobby. Some of them tell me they enjoy the joke. Others probably don’t. But none seem to confuse those posts with my professional research, no more than they would a food blog or an Instagram page of amateur photography.

The last thing I want to do is create the impression that I’m engaging with someone like Peterson as a peer. I don’t see him as one. I’d never mention him in an academic journal article. His critique of Marx, for example, is a joke, and it deserves only jokes in reply. By instructive comparison, one of my favourite economists, Joan Robinson, made what I think is a decisive case against some of Marx’s arguments. Her knowledge of Marx’s literature is formidable, and she substantiates every single claim she ascribes to Marx with careful citations from his published and unpublished writings, weighted appropriately. Peterson, by contrast, doesn’t seem to have read any Marx; he constantly just makes things up with no textual basis. Yet he keeps telling people how he has spent decades studying this material. The same goes for his critiques of ‘postmodern’ philosophy.

Molyneux on logic just humiliates himself. And frankly it’s irritating to have spent years of hard study trying to master some elementary logic and then have some pontificating fraud claim the right to lecture others without doing any work at all. Similarly, I haven’t written much on Marx because I haven’t been able to master the complex implicit models in classical economics that underlie his arguments. Peterson rides straight in without even trying, and that, to me, violates a sacred contract among academics.

These men are too intellectually lazy to deserve my respect, not that they want it. Their whole swindle is based on an insultingly simple trick. They make outrageous claims about what their opponents supposedly hold, on the basis of no research at all. Then they make easy, valid inferences from those claims. If you criticise them for reaching their conclusions, they accuse you of not following the form of the inference. But I don’t say that the arguments are invalid. I say that they’re unsound. The premises are unsupported and usually false. In practice, this reply goes nowhere, because their followers are too committed to the conclusions to care. I don’t need to waste my time with that, so I write some insults to amuse my friends instead.

Is this sneering down from the ivory tower? Perhaps, but I always give the time of day to anyone who is willing to put in a bit of intellectual effort. You can ask my students. It’s just laziness that I can’t abide.

Of course everyone is lazy sometimes, including me, very often. But I would never claim to have researched topics in depth that I haven’t researched at all. I’m often ashamed to discover gaps in my knowledge, even about the main topics of my research. Peterson and Molyneux are impervious to this shame. Yet their acolytes seem to regard them as a genuine intellectuals with some actual body of knowledge. I find that embarrassing, and I think that pointing it out is a kindness.

In the same way, I would tell a friend if he had a tear in the back of his trousers. Better to hear it from me than to keep looking silly.