A group of researchers, led by Ron Eglash, from the field of Science Studies (STS) have written this petition to 4S (Society for Social Studies of Science) to adopt a resolution that STS scholars should advocate that science should not be misrepresented in class-rooms in public schools, i.e. evolution should be taught in public schools, and that 'intelligent design' and 'creationism' misrepresent evolution.
Again from Portraits of American Philosophy, Judith Jarvis Thomson writes:
[W]hich nonphilosophical beliefs are such that a philosopher tries to explain what makes them true? Moore had invited us to take the beliefs to include that there are living human bodies, which have been in contact with or near the surface of the earth since they were born, that some events had occurred before others, and that there are human beings like oneself in having experiences. But that is an awfully short list...[T]here is nothing normative on the list, and, in particular, no moral directives to the effect that such and such a person ought or ought not do such and such....It seemed to me clear that there are moral directives that are as obviously true as that there are a lot of living human bodies currently near the surface of the earth. (pp. 54-55)
First Law of Cyber-dynamics: any unmoderated comment thread will reduce the total amount of knowledge and understanding in the world in proportion to its length.
Second Law of Cyber-dynamics: any unmoderated comment thread on a post touching on politics, race or gender will degenerate into vile idiocy within the first ten comments.
Third Law of Cyber-dynamics: no off-hand comment is too trivial to not generate thousands of words of cyber-commentary.
Fourth Law of Cyber-dynamics: no off-hand comment is too benign to fail to generate offense somewhere else in cyberspace.
Fifth Law of Cyber-dynamics: any comment thread on a blog with an ideological identity will give expression to the most extreme version of that identity within the first ten comments. (The Law of Cyber-Group Polarizaton--Brit will be shedding some light on this next week).
...but it's not just the feminist bloggers and tweeters who are withdrawing. I know of male philosophers who have withdrawn for a similar reason--the main difference, of course, is that threats of sexualized violence are rarely directed at men in cyberspace. But round-the-clock abuse, and threats of non-sexual violence, are a constant for anyone who takes positions that are at all controversial or non-mainstream. The pathology of cyberspace and the ugly behavior it elicits warrants more attention from the law than it has yet received.
OUP's Katie Stileman points me to the extracts being posted at the OUP site, and writes:
As it happens, author Timothy Williamson will be doing a live Twitter chat in the character of Bob tomorrow (March 6th) from 2-3pm GMT, so if the extract raises any questions then feel free to Tweet them to him via @TetralogueBook. If you don’t have twitter you can leave questions on the blog post or ask someone else to – we’ve had some great questions in already, so it looks to be a good discussion. We’ll be running Twitter Q&As for each of the characters every Friday throughout March.
MOVING TO FRONT FROM LAST YEAR, SINCE TIMELY AGAIN (thanks to Prof. Inglis for the reminder):
Students admitted to graduate school have until April 15 to respond. You can't be made to respond sooner--let me know of schools violating that rule!--but if you can respond sooner that helps a lot of people! Philosopher Kristen Inglis (Pittsburgh), for example, writes:
Because many prospective philosophy graduate programs read this blog, I’d like to reiterate Anthony Laden’s and Keith DeRose’s suggestions that prospective graduate students aim to decline admissions offers in a timely way. As the chair of an Admissions committee, I agree with DeRose that nearly every program appreciates knowing as early as possible that an admitted student is declining an offer. Most importantly, declining an offer early greatly helps waitlisted students who are otherwise in the tricky position of having to decide whether to accept an offer or to wait to get off the waitlist at a better program.
Of course, no one is suggesting that prospective students decline offers before they’ve had the chance to gather the relevant information, think the decision through, and discuss the decision with their advisors. Still, if one knows before April 15 (most schools’ decision deadline) that she will decline an offer from school X, then she can do a good service by declining the offer from X before April 15.
In her contribution to Portraits of American Philosophy, she writes:
A way of understanding what philosophy is came to seem to me increasingly plausible. I had already come to think that philosophy consists in a battery of problems; back at Barnard again, I came to think that the main, central problems consist in efforts to explain what makes certain pre-philosophical, or nonphilosophical, beliefs true. Which beliefs? Philosophers differ in their interests, but the ones that have interested philosophers, generally, in generation after generation, are those that we rely on in ordinary life. Not surprisingly, it was Moore, not Wittgenstein, who struck me as the leader. (I suspect that I could have said Aristotle instead of Moore.) I still think that way of undersanding what philosophy is roughly right. (p. 54)
A view like this probably accounts for the generally conservative cast of most Anglophone philosophy in the past century.
Philosopher Berit Brogaard (Miami) will be guest-blogging here about her research on the group polarization phenomenon. I'll be recuperating from some outpatient surgery (alas) and may have some new posts too, not sure just yet (I have prescheduled a number of items for next week). But there won't be an "open thread" next week. In any case, I'm sure readers will find Professor Brogaard's work extremely interesting.
MOVING TO FRONT FROM FEBRUARY 25--AN INTERESTING DISCUSSION IN THE COMMMENTS--SEE ESP. #25 FROM A COLLEAGUE OF MINE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS
Alan Patten, the editor of PPA and a professor of Politics at Princeton, kindly offered to answer some questions about editorial practices at PPA. My questions to him are bolded, his answers are in regular font.
PPA is unusual in that the Editor and Associate Editors do almost all the reviewing of submitted work. How and why does PPA use this model? And is the reviewing blind nonetheless?
When Marshall Cohen, Tom Nagel and Tim Scanlon founded the journal in 1971 they did not, I think, see themselves as creating a professional journal to serve or represent an already well-established subfield of philosophy. Rather, the journal was started in order to encourage members of several disciplines to publish work that reflected rigorously and critically about urgent public problems of the day, and in order to create a venue in which the exciting new work of the time in moral, political and legal philosophy could be published. The P&PA editorial model has its origins in the ferment of this time, in which, for better or worse, some of the questions of professional ethics in journal editing that we debate today were overshadowed by the urgent public problems of the day, and by the sense that the journal should encourage both established and younger scholars to take the intellectual and professional risks involved in contributing to what was essentially a new literature.
Over time, as the journal settled into its niche in the profession, questions about fairness in the editorial process came to loom more largely. After he took over from Marshall Cohen in 1999, Charles Beitz made blind reviewing a required part of the editorial process. Other editorial practices were revised under Beitz’s tenure, and I have continued to review and adjust them since I took over as editor in 2010. The journal’s website contains a statement on our editorial practices.
As you note, a distinctive feature of the journal is that much (although not all) of the reviewing of submissions is done by our group of associate editors. Because most reviewing is handled by this small group of people, who are distinguished scholars in their respective fields, the journal is able to maintain high and fairly uniform standards. The journal’s editorial model also encourages articles that are well written and that are not narrowly specialized or highly technical in character. And the fact that the Associate Editors have agreed in advance to handle much of the reviewing for the journal helps to speed up the decision-making process.
Someone wrote me alleging that in volumes 37 through 41, there were 57 papers, with the following characteristics: “Of those 57 papers, 17 had at least one author who received their doctorate from the same institution as the current Editor, Oxford. Another 13 were written by authors whose doctorates were from Harvard, where a number of editorial staff work or studied. The next most common place for authors to have received their doctorate is Princeton, where the journal is based. Of the ten papers in those five volumes published by authors who were last year employed by institutions in the western United States, four are by members of the editorial staff, three are by former visitors at Princeton, where the journal is based, and two are by people who were supervised by members of editorial staff. Only one of the ten has an author with no obvious links with editorial staff.” What should readers make of patterns like this? Are they worrisome? Should they be?
I`ve looked carefully at the first cluster of allegations about Harvard/Oxford/Princeton authors. Since your correspondent connects them with the current editor`s doctoral institution (Oxford), it makes more sense to look at volumes 38-42 (the years I have been editor) rather than 37-41. (I`ll briefly comment on 37-41 afterwards).
Out of the 57 articles in volumes 38-42, 25 had at least one author with a highest degree from either Harvard (13) or Oxford (12). This contrasts with the figure of 30 out of 57 arrived at by your correspondent. It’s also worth noting that 25 of the 62 authors were from Harvard or Oxford, so by this metric Harvard/Oxford accounts for 40% of our authors rather than the 53% figure generated by the previously reported measure. Moreover, the third most common PhD institution of P&PA authors in this period was Berkeley (6), not Princeton (4) which was tied with NYU for fourth.
The proportion of Harvard/Oxford authors (25 out of 62 (or 57)) is substantial so it’s worth trying to look deeper into the data. Right from the start of this discussion, I’ve worried that that the multi-disciplinary character of P&PA was being overlooked. Throughout the journal’s history a significant fraction of the articles were authored by people whose highest degree was not in philosophy. Political theorists, lawyers, and (to a lesser extent) social scientists of various stripes have been frequent contributors to the journal.
This multidisciplinarity matters in several ways to this discussion. For one thing, it makes it harder to believe that all of the people coming from a particular institution belong to the same network. I think we all recognize how important disciplinary boundaries can be for shaping networks. The second point is mainly about political theory, though I suspect a version of it may apply to academic law as well. Philosophers should not underestimate the plurality of ways in which political theory is approached, especially in the United States. Many major political theory programs don’t have a substantial presence in the kind of normative analytic political theory that tends to be published in P&PA.
Of our 62 recorded authors, 22 have their highest degrees in a discipline other than philosophy. This proportion is strikingly different, however, for Harvard and Oxford authors. Only 6 of the 13 Harvard authors have philosophy PhDs and only 5 of the 12 from Oxford took their DPhils in philosophy. If one were just comparing P&PA authors with philosophy PhDs, there really isn’t much of a difference between Harvard and Oxford and other leading institutions of our authors. The differences that there are can, I think, be explained by variation in the size, quality, and (especially) the intellectual focus of the different programs.
The main factor explaining the Harvard/Oxford numbers are the political theory authors we published with PhDs from these institutions. Harvard and (especially) Oxford are among a fairly small group of strong graduate programs that have consistently over the years trained political theory students who do the sort of analytic and normative work that the journal tends to publish. Of course, Harvard and Oxford are not the only political theory programs meeting this description. Princeton is another such program. But I take it that the people who think there is some kind of bias problem at P&PA are not complaining on behalf of Princeton Politics graduates, since this is the institutional home of the current and previous editor. Indeed, the dearth of publications by Princeton Politics authors during this period is an embarrassment to the bias hypothesis. More generally, if one just thinks about the papers authored by political theorists, the outsized presence of Harvard/Oxford doesn’t strike me as especially surprising if one factors in size, quality, intellectual focus, pluralism in the subfield, and the noisiness entailed by looking at only five years of data.
If one were to look at volumes 37-41 (as your correspondent does), then the Oxford number does indeed go up to 17 (although, by my count, the denominator goes up to 59). But the same basic explanation of the numbers still apply. 4 out of 5 of the 2009 Oxford authors have their doctorates in politics, a result that is comprehensible if one considers the size, quality, and distinctive intellectual focus of Oxford`s political theory program in the preceding decades. Moreover, if one looks at an even longer stretch of time, Vols 36-42, something like the pattern discernible in 38-42 reappears. The proportion of Harvard/Oxford authors is 40% and the proportion of papers with at least one Harvard/Oxford author is 46%.
Years ago, Marshall Cohen told me that PPA did have a policy of publishing pieces submitted by those on the editorial board with rather de minimis review. Is that still the policy? If not, do you know when it changed?
Submissions by people on our masthead have been fairly unusual while I`ve been editor – around ten in total I would guess (a number of which we did not publish). (We did appoint some associate editors and members of the editorial board who were previous authors in the journal, but I doubt that anybody would object to that).
Submissions by members of the editorial board are subjected to the same procedures as everyone else and enjoy no more presumption of acceptance than anything else we receive. Submissions by associate editors are slightly more complicated since these individuals do the lion`s share of reviewing for the journal.
There is some discussion of how we handle submissions by our associate editors in the statement on editorial practices. In general, these submissions are handled in the same way as other submissions (e.g. they are fully anonymized) except that, as a rule, at least one of the reviews is done by somebody who isn`t a current associate editor.
These are the editorial practices I inherited from my predecessor in 2010. I`ve made some minor adjustments in the procedures and may tend to rely even more than Beitz on outside readers when handling associate editor submissions. These special safeguards are something our associate editors want. When they do manage to publish something in the journal they don`t want blog commentators questioning whether their achievement is tainted somehow by our reviewing practices. Since they work together closely as journal colleagues, they also don`t appreciate being put in the awkward position of having to evaluate one another`s work.
How do you see PPA’s role in the profession as compared to Ethics, the other major journal publishing in similar areas?
I`d like to think that P&PA hasn`t completely lost touch with the original vision of the founders of the journal. We still aspire to publish work that is of the highest philosophical quality but that also engages directly or indirectly with important questions of public concern. We still anticipate publishing articles by authors from a range of different disciplines, and we still prefer articles written for a fairly broad audience rather than narrow and technical contributions to specific debates in some corner of the field. We don`t aspire to be the main journal representing a particular field or subfield, although we do recognize that publication in the journal has implications for professional opportunity and advancement and we are therefore committed to assessing all submissions in a way that is fair and unbiased.
I'm opening comments for further discussion, but I will moderate with a somewhat heavier hand. Since Prof. Patten has been kind enough to answer these questions, please engage the responses in a similar spirit and stick to substance. Thanks.
This book, edited by Steven Cahn, contains essays by a number of prominent American philosophers, all past "Dewey Lectures" at the APA. Some of the essays are quite revealing, perhaps not always in ways their authors realize. I will be running a few excerpts over the next week to ten days, mainly from the lectures by Judith Jarvis Thomson and Harry Frankfurt, but I may get to some others as well.
Russ Shafer-Landau (ethics, metaethics), Professor of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, has accepted a senior offer from the Department of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he will also be the Director of the Parr Center for Ethics. This will solidify UNC's status as one of the top choices for students interested in value theory.
News item here. The comment from Salaita's lawyer is exactly right. They may get some claims dismissed, as noted before, but enough of the lawsuit will survive the motion to insure that Salaita may begin the process of "discovery," i.e., collecting evidence relevant to his claims from Illinois.
A distinguished mathematical logician, he taught for more than twenty years in the Department of Philosophy at Stanford University, among other academic appointments. I will add links to memorial notices when they appear.
11% of readers are adjunct faculty, while 27% are tenure-stream. I was struck by the large number of readers in other professions, such as law and computing. I'd be curious to hear what some of the readers who chose "none of the above" do. Comments are open.
MOVING TO FRONT FROM FEB. 21, 2015--PETER ASKED ME TO REPLACE THE INITIAL VERSION WITH A VERY SLIGHT REVISED ONE (BELOW--MOSTLY FIXING SOME HISTORICAL DETAILS)
Many readers have written to me about this lecture, and Peter kindly agreed to share a draft of the lecture (which will be revised, and still needs references and the like): Download Dewey Lecture-drs-rev1
ADDENDUM: It is a rich, engaging, deeply humane lecture, do read it.
John Haldane, Professor of Philosophy at the University of St Andrews and a leading "Analytical Thomist" working across metaphysics, ethics, philosophy of mind, philosophy of religion and medieval philosophy, has accepted a senior offer from the Department of Philosophy at Baylor University, where he will begin this fall.
A leading contributor to metaphysics and philosophy of science, especially to the literature on causation, Professor Menzies was Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Macquarie University and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities. I will add links to memorial notices when they appear.
MOVING TO FRONT, GIVEN THE LIVELY DISCUSSION OF THE ADJUNCT ISSUE. MUCH OF THE DISCUSSION OF MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES APPEARS TO HAVE MIGRATED HERE.
In light of Peter Railton's important lecture that everyone is discussing, may I suggest that one topic worthy of discussion is mental illness, and the experiences of faculty and students in dealing with it, what support they have found from universities and their departments, and related issues. And whatever other issues arise, please, let's also take a hiatus from bashing the FP blog.
With over 1500 responses, more than 60% of respondents reported some diagnosis for mental illness, with almost one in four respondents mentioning depression in particular. There is substantial co-morbidity between depression and the various anxiety disorders, as there are among the anxiety disorders, so, e.g., the 24% that report depression may also include some of the 5% that checked social anxiety disorder or the 4% that chose OCD. I assume in a poll like this, people are not so perverse as to vote "strategically" or otherwise try to muck up the results. So I think we can conclude from this that the majority of faculty and students in philosophy have confronted some kind of mental illness in their lives. I've opened comments if readers have other thoughts about these sobering results.
Philosophy faculty and students: which, if any, psychological disorders have you been diagnosed with? Check all that apply.
...than the moderation on this blog already brings about:
If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind. Were an opinion a personal possession of no value except to the owner; if to be obstructed in the enjoyment of it were simply a private injury, it would make some difference whether the injury was inflicted only on a few persons or on many. But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.
Apart from purging apparent defamation and gratuitious insult and abuse, I am approving almost all comments in a Milllian spirit.
Continental Philosophy Farhang Erfani, a philosopher at American University, provides a useful set of links to news, events, interviews, reviews, videos, etc. related to "Continental philosophy" (broadly construed)