The Humanities-writ large initiative at Duke University is responsible for allowing me to work full time this entire academic year to produce the first season of Hi-Phi Nation. I have done nothing but this project, and since it is most likely very different from the daily work flow of professional philosophy, I thought I would share the production process for those interested.
From start to finish, each episode oh Hi-Phi Nation takes about 3 months to complete. I record about 20 hours of raw tape for each 40 minute episode.
Step 1: Read philosophical and other academic work, contact philosophers. Wait for responses for availability.
Step 2: Seek out the subjects of the story; using methods learned in investigative reporting bootcamp; and then contact them.
Step 3: Write out a long list of questions for all subjects, philosophers, and academics.
Step 4: Travel to different location to interview subjects/philosophers, or hire a professional producer to do a tape-sync, or last resort, do a Skype call (quality of audio is everything).
Step 5: Transcribe all interviews with time-stamps every 2min.
Step 6: Take 200 pages of transcriptions/episode, highlight quotable lines. Cut and paste quotables into one document. Code each quotation by theme, topic, and arrange "Tom Cruise-Minority Report" style.
Step 7. Delete all "ums" "uhs" false starts, and gaps in audio clips.
Step 8. Write a script around the story, around the philosophy, and organize the audio around the script.
Step 10: Get wife to listen to draft, redo with her notes.
Step 11:. Sit and listen to 20-30 music tracks. Select tracks, mix, cut, and loop for scoring, soundtracking, and soundscaping. Insert into episode at strategic moments of wonder, reflection, curiosity, outrage, etc.
Step 12: Adjust EQs for each voice, adjust loudness meters and compression for whole episode.
Step 13. Go home, bathe toddler, sing her to sleep.
Step 14. Write the show notes for upload by midnight.
Step 15: Repeat x10 for Season 1.
What a mix looks like. This is the opening to Episode 4:
One thing that philosophy seems to struggle with is wider public influence and understanding. How do we get people before they get to college or independent of college to know about and appreciate philosophy?
Given that information, one might wonder how many Congressmen were or are associated with the Boy Scouts America (BSA). A BSA list for the 113th Congress provides the following totals: youth members (174), Eagle Scouts (28), and adult volunteers (57). According to Congressional Research Service report there were 432 men in the 113th Congress, which means 40% of men in Congress were in the BSA with 13% active as adults.
If you want to increase early knowledge of philosophy AND possibly have lawmakers with some passing familiarity, then get philosophy into Scouting, both Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts.
When I started driving home to Poughkeepsie from Hershey, PA after a two-day trip for what ended up being Episode 1, I said to my assistant, "Am I taking the side of a bunch of corrupt millionaires against a group of poor orphans?" Sometimes the implications of your philosophical views end up surprising you.
Producing a program that is both story-driven and philosophy has been a lot like doing a Fitch-style proof in intro logic. You can work backwards from the conclusion, or forward from the premises. This season I often found the philosophy first, and sought out a story whose conflict is the philosophical issue I wanted to talk about. But in the episodes, I usually run the story first and philosophy second. This was the case with Episode 1, on the case of the Hershey fortune and the possibility of posthumous harm. I had for years puzzled over the question of how testation and the right to control posthumous wealth could be justified. I wanted to find that one legal or historical case that would bring out all of the philosophical questions behind this issue. I went through many different legal cases involving conditional bequests, charitable trusts, and dynasty trusts, and settled on the Hershey story.
Seeking stories after you know what philosophy you want to present is harder than coming to a story that just invites philosophy (Rachel Dolezal and racial ontology, or my Episode 4 story on Larycia Hawkins). Human stories are not neatly packaged like philosophical thought experiments. They have nuance and complexity precisely of the kind philosophers like to abstract away from to make arguments. I went into the episode wanting to find a story where the state's enforcement of dead-hand control led to a kind of absurdity that almost any impartial observer, no matter the political or philosophical leanings, would say, "well, okay, that's unjust." I thought I found it with the Hershey story, but in reality, the story kept getting more and more complicated, and it started departing from the nice neat little example I wanted to use to make the case for my philosophical thesis. The Board of Managers of the Hershey trust have essentially been trying to evade the laws requiring them to abide by Hershey's wishes, while the Orphan Army (the episode explains who they are) have been fighting the state to uphold the original Milton Hershey deed. I was trying to argue against the justifiability of perpetual posthumous control of wealth, placing me in alliance with the millionaires spending money on golf courses and against the orphans who just wanted to serve more orphans! That's my example of injustice? But, then, if you heard the episode, there was yet another turn to the story. How to manage the philosophy in the presence of an out of control story?
From this experience, I learned that what you lose in tidiness you gain elsewhere, as long as you're up to the challenge of confronting rather than asking your audience to abstract away from the complexity. Complexity in story can be valuable in making a listener desire to think longer and harder about the connection between the the turns of the story and the philosophy, and just desire to know how to resolve the philosophical issue. The intro books on documentary audio production look a lot like rules for intro-writing rules: make sure there is signposting. But just like in print, if there is too much signposting and hand-holding, your reader can lose the valuable experience of making the connections on their own, and wanting to work toward the conclusion. Maybe this can be more valuable in terms of outreach than the outright assertions of connections and clarity of sign-posting we're used to in analytic philosophy, at least if the form of outreach is bridging narrative storytelling with philosophy.
Analogy lovers (or anyone who's befuddled by techie-things but embarrassed to admit it) might be interested in this tech dictionary that uses analogies to explain tech terms and concepts. Here's a sample...
2-Factor Authentication: It's like being a spy. You need to prove your identity to a contact but they are paranoid and demand something in addition to the password to prove who you are.
API: It’s like a LEGO brick. An application without an API is like a LEGO brick without nodules (are they called nodules?) – it’s not much fun and you can’t build anything new with it.
Does Philosophy have a dictionary like this? If it does, then direct me to it!
Over the last few weeks I have had the pleasure to talk with Chronicle of Higher Education reporter Robin Wilson on a couple of occasions about promoting philosophy and the role of faculty senates on campus. She has a nice three part series titled “Avoiding the Ax.” All are behind a pay wall, but they include: An interview with APA director Amy Ferrer, a discussion about avoiding elimination where my colleague and former department chair, Grodon Pettit, is interviewed, and three suggestions on supporting philosophy.
Some of these topics may seem familiar to regular readers of the Leiter Reports from some of my previous posts over the last two years. Here are just a few that readers who missed them might find instructive.
I am using Rod Girle’s Modal Logics and Philosophy (second edition) this semester. I find it to be a really nice introductory text for those students who want to study modal logic, but may not have much formal logic background, which isn’t uncommon in a small program.
The main issue with the second edition concerns the printing errors that slipped past the original editing process. For anyone who would like to have an errata page, I am asking you to join with me in crowdsourcing it. You can comment below, email me, or Professor Girle to help create an errata page. When completed, we will ask the publisher, McGill-Queen’s, to host it on their website.
Additionally, I recently contacted Professor Girle and he kindly gave me a workbook he uses with the text; it is extremely useful. If we can get the errata page completed and hosted, then perhaps Professor Girle could be encouraged to make the workbook available via the publisher’s site as well.
I released an episode today about norms of gender that begins with the story of the opening up of combat arms to women under Obama. I use the story to explore the view that militaristic cultures and their need for self-sacrificial protectors engaged in war help to explain certain norms of masculinity and femininity. The episode arose out of interesting conversations I had with Professor Graham Parsons about the positive reception to feminist philosophy in his courses at West Point, an institution that is around 80% male for students, and likely higher for faculty.
In the process of production for this episode, I had to make a decision about whether and how much I wanted to raise the issue of sexual assault in the military. There were competing considerations that made it difficult for me to be confident in whatever decision I ultimately made. For one, the issue has loomed large in the press for a long time. Reforms have been slow, and on the eve of the release, we had the Marine online photographs scandal. In light of this, how could I make an episode about gender issues in the military without a mention of the issue of sexual assault? The competing consideration is that many military women I talked to and read have expressed consternation that all that ever gets covered in the press about women in the military is related to sexual assault. Their other challenges, achievements, and the day-to-day experiences, namely the things that make up 95% of their lives, make up 5% of what people talk about when they talk about them at all. Moreover, because of the big public relations concerns of large institutions such as DOD, the Army, and USMA, the subjects of the episode had very real concerns about how they would be portrayed, even in a start-up podcast. The considerations pulled me in opposite directions, but ultimately I had to make a decision, one that others might have made differently.
This is a theme that will reoccur as I post this week. As philosophers, we aren't always in direct contact with people who stand to be affected by the philosophy that we produce. The same has not been true of producing Hi-Phi Nation. When subjects of the stories agree to talk to me, that does not mean they are necessarily agreeing that their experiences be premises in a philosophical argument, their lives examples in a thought experiment, or their story fodder for a take-down of some competing view. But these are central practices of philosophy, so how do you connect story to philosophy without them? In the kind of philosophy I'm doing for the public, I am trying to make connections back to the lives of people, but this raises some very tricky ethical concerns I hadn't anticipated.
In hindsight, it shouldn't be surprising to me that a Hi-Phi Nation episode on popular music would be the fastest growing and most popular. If my goal was to bring people to philosophy who otherwise didn't know or didn't care about it, why not follow in the footsteps of the philosophy and (insert pop culture phenomenon here)? But during the pre-production and post-production of the episode, I had the most doubts about this one in terms of its potential success in the mission, which is to weave philosophy with story successfully, rather than just pay lip service to each, and to do it without fluff.
Philosophy of music is one of those areas that just cries out for audio rather than print, so I had to do it even though I didn't know much about it. But what musical genre to pick, and what to say about it? The decision ended up being fortuitous rather than planned. Because of the budgetary constraints on a one-person operation, I had to limit myself to day trips by car, and it turned out two mashup scholars lived in the same town about 3 hours from Durham, NC, musicologist Christine Boone and philosopher Chris Bartel. I was surprised too, mashup scholars? This is what I love about academia.
Ultimately, the thought that mashups were the musical equivalent to the hot-dog stuffed-crust pizza was what drove the central aesthetic issue of the episode and it came to me late, in the week leading up to the release. But the idea that the genre emerged first as a form of musical vandalism, and then as a critique of the social divisions involved in popular music, came out of my discussions with the actual artists themselves, as well as from a long extended discussion I had with Christine Boone about the Beyonce-Andy Griffiths mashup. Christine was worried that our amusement comes at the expense of Beyonce, with the theme to the Andy Griffiths show representing all that is ideal about America, in its wholesomeness and whiteness, whereas I saw it the other way around, the most iconic, popular, and admired pop artist of this entire generation paired with all that is lame about the idealized America of the past.
In the pre-production stage, I tried to get various famous mashup artists for the show. This was my first time dealing with professional publicists and all that is awful about media. They don't train you for that in graduate school. Ultimately, DJ Earworm was gracious enough to agree to a Skype interview within days of contact, and he is a trained musicologist in addition to being a famous mashup artist. Steve Stein aka Steinski was a great interview also, and to be honest 80s hip-hop was music I was actually familiar with going in. I'm actually a little on the old side for mashups. We met in a NYC hotel room while I was preparing for, of all things, a Sanders Foundation meeting. (Talk about switching gears quickly!) While this episode may not be the most timeless of season one, as generations older and much younger will probably just not get it, I think it ended up satisfying the mission well; bringing philosophy to people who just didn't care about it in the first place.
Data gleaned from an interesting interactive chart at CHE (behind a paywall) shows that from the end of 2007 (just before the financial crisis) to the end of 2016, many universities with huge endowments did not get richer in inflation-adjusted dollars. Harvard, for example, went from an endowment of over forty billion to one less than thirty-five billion dollars (again, adjusted for inflation)--a loss of 14% over the ten-year period! Yale lost not quite a billion dollars on its endowment during this period, representing about a 3% decline.
Several schools were basically flat during this ten-year period, including my own (Chicago), despite running a capital campaign during this time. Stanford and Princeton posted modest gains, but the really big winners included the University of Texas and Texas A&M University Sytems, which increased their endowments by roughly a third to, respectively, over 24 billion dollars and over 10 billion dollars--but per student, given the huge size of these systems, the value is much less than at the rich private schools. Among the latter, the big winners were the University of Pennsylvania, which grew its endowment by 39% (!) during this time, to nearly 11 billion dollars, and Northwestern University, which increased its endowment 27%, to just under 10 billion dollars.
Last time around I wrote about elevator pitches (there are some really great comments on this post that you may find useful), and this time Barry Lam is sharing some really cool stuff he’s doing at Hi-Phi Nation (I’ll definitely be adding this to my bag of tricks). So, now seems like a good time to share a story about philosophy on a plane.
But first…like a lot of people I’ve been moping since the election. I can frequently be heard saying things like, “Oh my God! We need philosophy now more than ever!” Really what I mean is more people who aren’t philosophers need to know a little philosophy and be better critical thinkers. I’ve even said that philosophers may have a moral duty to push back against poor reasoning, to which my philosopher husband replied we’d first need to define moral duty (I rolled my eyes). Be that as it may, I still think “the people” need philosophy.
From my pitch post, it was clear that not all philosophers share my enthusiasm for spreading the good word. Luckily, people like Barry Lam, Stephen West, and countless others make sharing philosophy easy...
I recently took a transcontinental flight (in the middle seat). I usually refuse Kantian recognition to my seatmates, but on this particular flight I made an exception. The guy to my right moved furniture for a living--that he did physical labor was no surprise, judging from the size of his biceps. He spouted numbers at me: pounds lifted in a day, a week, a month. He was quite chatty. I learned of his new girlfriend who was driving an hour to pick him up, that he had an irreverent sense of humor, and that he sometimes liked to play online poker. With all that frenetic energy, I surmised he might benefit from a little Existential Philosophy (Schopenhauer is my homeboy).
I asked him if he liked listening to podcasts, to which he replied yes. I then asked him if he liked Philosophy, and while he wasn’t sure what I meant, he said…maybe. I pulled up Episode #79: Kierkegaard on Anxiety from Philosophize This! on my iPhone and handed it to him along with my headphones. It was just a hunch, albeit a good one. He listened to the podcast in full and even jotted down quotes.
Sure, it was just one podcast, and he was just one guy, but that’s how we do it! That’s how we make better thinkers--one podcast at a time. Well, that and a philosophy class. Seriously, though, talk to people (outside of the classroom and conferences) about philosophy, and meet them where they are--Existentialism seems like an easy place to start. I mean, who isn't endlessly fascinated by themselves?
The National Basketball Association (NBA) has some famous athletes who are expressing the belief that the Earth is flat, with Dr. Shaquille O’Neil being one of them.
Kyrie Irving who made the game winning shot for the Cleveland Cavaliers in game 7 of the NBA finals last year believes the Earth is flat. Kyrie Irving did attend Duke University for one year. You might think this is a great argument against the one-and-done rule for the NBA, but that doesn’t explain Shaq's beliefs.
Dr. Shaquille O’Neil, who has an Ed.D. from Barry University, recently defended Kyrie Irving and the belief that the Earth is flat by claiming the Earth is flat.
Luckily falsely believing the Earth is flat doesn’t have the same consequences that anti-vaxxers false beliefs have, but we should still be worried that famous, successful, public figures have such a basic false belief. Why? Because they vote!
This is illuminating. As Dworkin notes early on, the dialectically feeble anti-gay bigotry and other sectarian prejudices of his supervisor John Finnis should not be imputed to Gorsuch, and while the book does not license much in the way of predictions about he will decide cases, it is not a persuasive argument on its own merits.
Tomorrow will mark the release of the 8th episode out of 10 for Hi-Phi Nation, which is my attempt at bridging many different genres with philosophy; documentaries, journalism, narrative storytelling, and sound design. As a guest blogger this week, I'm going to talk about the backstory behind the making of some of these episodes, as well as the interesting challenges I faced as a trained academic philosopher trying to create something so different from what we're trained to create (essays not audio, arguments not narratives.)
Episodes 2 and 3 were the first pieces I produced a little over a year ago. When I first met Major Ian Fishback in Ann Arbor, I already recorded with Jeff McMahan, Helen Frowe, Michael Robillard, and many faculty at USMA at West Point on just war and revisionist just war theory, as well as Mike's work on moral exploitation. But because the show wasn't just going to be a highly-produced piece of audio philosophy, I needed a good story. You can't "turn stories into ideas" without story. I knew Ian's story from the archived media reports about his whistle-blowing in the Army, so I assumed that I was coming into a story about a man who opposed torture, and we were going to have a show about torture in war. But that made up less than a third of what we ended up talking about. Ian and I spoke on tape for over three hours. The real story behind his military career was almost a perfect snapshot of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, from the hopeful and almost easy days of the early push against Al Qaeda and the Taliban (remember the Northern Alliance?) to the chaos in the initial years in Iraq, all the way to the height of the surge and the limited successes and ultimate failure of the counterinsurgency campaign, leading to the rise of ISIS. If you haven't already listened, the bonus content for the episodes is just gold, I wish I could've included them. Ian's story and current philosophical reflections on his experiences did not disappoint. How could a philosopher who spent over a decade of his life in combat not have interesting things to say about the ethics and law of war? My conversations with Ian and the pieces that were finally released set the structure for how I approached the rest of the season.
Even though it was my first and certainly not the most polished piece, I knew from it that story-driven philosophy could be something special.
At my university a decade long enrollment decline has reached a crisis point, and for twenty months (and counting) Illinois has operated without a state budget. The university is now focusing on increasing both enrollment and non-state funding, but this effort has done little to quell faculty unrest from some administrative decisions—namely layoffs.
During this tumultuous time, I have been Faculty Senate Chair. One thing that has been made abundantly clear to me is that the vast majority of faculty do not know what’s happening on campus—I call them free-riders. Free-riding faculty take little responsibility for anything beyond their classes and research. They don’t understand that student recruitment and retention is part of the job—that, in fact, our survival depends upon it.
With little faculty input, the day to day running of the university is left to administrators (often career non-academic administrators). Faculty, however, should be proactive rather than reactive to administrative decisions with which they disagree. Naturally, it is difficult to impress this upon colleagues in boom times when growth is good, and we rarely think of lean times (lay-offs, downsizing, and budget cuts).
Exacerbating the problem is a faculty tendency to forget the ideal of shared governance. Faculty must help govern the university else we become subject to administrators who may not understand the value of philosophy as a major or as part of general education curriculum.
Don’t be a free-rider:
Understand your university’s curriculum and philosophy’s place in it.
Actively participate in faculty governance.
Know the external forces that impact the health of your college or university.
Promote a positive image of faculty in your community.
A new paper that might be of interest to some readers; the abstract:
What are the “obligations” of judges in democracies? An adequate answer requires us to be realistic both about democracies and about law. Realism about democracy demands that we recognize that electoral outcomes are largely, though not entirely, unrelated to concrete policy choices by elected representatives or to the policy preferences of voters, who typically follow their party based on “tribal” loyalties. The latter fact renders irrelevant the classic counter-majoritarian (or counter-democratic) worries about judicial review. Realism about law requires that we recognize that judges, especially on appellate courts, will inevitably have to render moral and political judgments in order to produce authoritative resolutions of disputes, one of the central functions of a legal system in any society. That means it is impossible to discuss the “obligations” of judges without regard to their actual moral and political views, as well as the moral and political ends we believe ought to be achieved.
Hennepin County prosecutors dropped all charges Thursday against a University of Minnesota professor accused of raping and stalking an ex-girlfriend.
Francesco Parisi, 54, had been in the Hennepin County jail for the past three weeks after prosecutors charged him with first-degree criminal sexual conduct and stalking....
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"Efforts to corroborate or verify a number of specific allegations against the defendant that were made to the Minneapolis Police Department and the Hennepin County Attorney's Office were unsuccessful," Assistant County Attorney Justin Wesley wrote in a court filing. "Considering all of the evidence that we have now, the charges are no longer supported by probable cause and are hereby dismissed in the interests of justice...."
"If the prosecutor had taken a few minutes to look, just five minutes of due diligence, it could have prevented an enormous embarrassment to all parties involved and a gross abuse of the legal system," said one of Parisi's attorneys, John Braun.
Braun said Parisi intends to sue the woman and possibly the county attorney's office for defamation.
MOVING TO FRONT FROM APRIL 22, 2016--I HOPE WE WON'T SEE REPEATS OF THIS BAD BEHAVIOR THIS YEAR!
A prospective graduate student asked me to share her, shall we say, "unusual" experience during the recently concluded admissions cycle. Here's how it started (prior to April 15):
I am a prospective graduate student currently considering offers for the following academic year. It has come to my attention that, in an attempt to gage the interest of wait listed students, some institutions may be inadvertently violating the rules set out by the APA -- that students should have until April 15th to accept or reject financial offers. On your blog, you have encouraged prospective students to report these violations. I have sent a brief sketch of this situation to the APA, and I thought it could be helpful to discuss this in the philosophical community.
I experienced the following scenario this afternoon: I am wait listed at a highly ranked institution. The GDS called me and asked, "If I were to give you an offer right now, would you accept it?" I felt strongly that if I were to say yes, an offer would be given to me instantly, and I would be bound to accept it (on April 11th). However, this institution is not my first choice, and as a result I was put into the awkward position of rejecting what I perceived to be a conditional offer, the condition being my immediate acceptance. I would still like an offer from this institution, but I would also like the courtesy afforded to me by the APA, which is to have until the end of the 15th to decide. I am on other wait lists, and wish to see how that comes out before making a final decision. However, I worry that I may have lost out on an offer that would have been mine as a result of this exchange.
I think that this experience should perhaps encourage the APA to investigate this notion of a verbal offer—or the promise of one—conditioned on acceptance prior to April 15th. Does this seem to you as it does to me to be against the rules? Or do you think I'm reading too much into a DGS' attempt to gage interest in my likelihood of acceptance?
I think this kind of conditional offer violates the APA rules. It's one thing to ask a candidate about their level of interest, it's another to frame an inquiry as reported here. In the end, the student went elsewhere, but with yet another wrinkle:
Interestingly, before I declined, they placed me in yet another cart-before-the-horse situation. This program guarantees a semester of fellowship and I had been told so on multiple occasions. However, they provided me an offer without any, and when I asked about it I was told that they had sent out more offers than fellowships, and that they would give them to those who accepted the soonest while supplies last. Perhaps this is less worrying than the earlier issue, but it still seems fishy that they would require me to sign a contract of the offer *without* a fellowship listed in order to potentially obtain said fellowship. Again, it seems rather against the spirit, if not the letter, of the APA deadline to take away previously guaranteed fellowship to those who execute their right to wait until the end of the day on April 15th.
I sincerely hope this does not occur in the future to others. It makes this more difficult and stressful for all involved.
UPDATE: J.D. Trout, a distinguished philosopher of science at Loyola University, Chicago, writes:
When I was fresh out of graduate school and on the philosophy job market, I received a call from a dean at a small rural college where I had interviewed. After exchanging pleasantries, the dean explained that they wanted to make a hiring decision soon, that they had winnowed the list down to two candidates, and that I was their top choice. He then asked, “What would you say if I were to make you an offer?” implying that I would get the real offer if I said yes to the hypothetical one. I explained that I still didn’t know; he hadn’t made me an actual offer. I told him that I would think differently about the attractions of a job if I had an actual rather than an imaginary offer. At the time, I think I was mainly interested in letting the dean know that I recognized his question as a low-rent hustle; they didn’t want to waste time on a candidate’s offer that might not be accepted (potentially losing their other candidate in the process). The dean made an actual offer and told me I had four days to decide. I took another job.
The national security state that Obama inherited and broadened, and has now passed on to Trump, is so thoroughly protected by secrecy that on most occasions concealment will be an available alternative to lying. Components of the Obama legacy that Trump will draw on include the curtailment of the habeas corpus rights of prisoners in the War on Terror; the creation of a legal category of permanent detainees who are judged at once impossible to put on trial and too dangerous to release; the expanded use of the state secrets privilege to deny legal process to abused prisoners; the denial of legal standing to American citizens who contest warrantless searches and seizures; the allocation of billions of dollars by the Department of Homeland Security to supply state and local police with helicopters, heavy artillery, state-of-the-art surveillance equipment and armoured vehicles; precedent for the violent overthrow of a sovereign government without consultation and approval by Congress (as in Libya); precedent for the subsidy, training and provision of arms to foreign rebel forces to procure the overthrow of a sovereign government without consultation and approval by Congress (as in Syria); the prosecution of domestic whistleblowers as enemy agents under the Foreign Espionage Act of 1917; the use of executive authority to order the assassination of persons – including US citizens – who by secret process have been determined to pose an imminent threat to American interests at home or abroad; the executive approval given to a nuclear modernisation programme, at an estimated cost of $1 trillion, to streamline, adapt and miniaturise nuclear weapons for up to date practical use; the increased availability – when requested of the NSA by any of the other 16 US intelligence agencies – of private internet and phone data on foreign persons or US citizens under suspicion.....
How did America pass so quickly from Obama to Trump? The glib left-wing answer, that the country is deeply racist, is half-true but explains too much and too little. This racist country voted for Obama twice. A fairer explanation might go back to the financial collapse of 2008 when Americans had a general fear and were shocked by what the banks and financial firms had done to us. ‘In an atmosphere primed for a populist backlash’, as John Judis wrote, Obama ‘allowed the right to define the terms’. The revolt of 2008-9 was against the financial community and anyone in cahoots with them, but the new president declined to name a villain: when he invited 13 CEOs to the White House in April 2009, he began by saying he was the only thing standing between them and the pitchforks, and ended by reassuring them that they would all work together. No culprit would be named and no sacrifice called for. Trump emerged early as an impresario of the anger, a plutocrat leading the people’s revolt against plutocracy. The most credible explanation for the popular turn to the right – there are plenty of examples of people who voted twice for Obama but then for Trump – was offered by the Italian legal scholar Ugo Mattei. As he sees it, the resemblances between Trump and Berlusconi run deep, and in both cases the appeal derives from popular cynicism more than credulity. The voters have come to understand that the big banks, along with investment companies like Goldman Sachs and transnational corporations, are sovereignties as powerful as states and in some cases more powerful. By vesting a billionaire with extraordinary power, therefore, the voters are going straight to the relevant authority and cutting out the middle man – the politician....
This is not going to make him a popular fellow in the current environment, but it's good that he's articulating a different perspective that those who support such bans can now argue against. (My law school has such a ban, and it seems to me to have been salutary, but the dynamics in law schools were always different to begin with.)
A specialist in philosophy of religion, especially in the post-Kantian Continental traditions, she was Professor of Modern European Philosophy of Religion at Oxford at the time of her death. There is a brief memorial notice from Oxford here.
I'm delighted to welcome three guest-bloggers next week: two familiar voices--Darlene Deas and Christopher Pynes--plus a new guest-blogger, philosopher Barry Lam from Vassaar, who will be blogging about his Hi-Phi Nation podcast project. I'll probably have a couple of items next week too, but these three will be the main attractions!
I've been hearing these rumors for weeks, but now it's official! Past Schock Prize winners include Derek Parfit, Hilary Putnam, Michael Dummett, Saul Kripke, and W.V.O. Quine, among others. This prize is probably as close to a "Nobel Prize" analytic philosophy has.
As a prospective graduate student weighing offers between schools in the UK and the US, I was wondering if you (or your readers) could answer a question. I have seen read on various blog posts comparing UK and US grad programs that UK programs train their graduates to be much more research-oriented, whereas US programs are more focused on teaching. Does this seem accurate to you? Since publishing is such an important factor in getting a job, it would be an important consideration to make.
It seems right that UK programs are more exclusively research-focused than US programs, but there is considerable variation in US programs, with many wealthy private universities requiring very little teaching over the course of a 5-6 year degree. But it would be useful to hear from students and faculty about some of the pertinent differences for students thinking about UK vs. US doctoral programs.
MOVING TO FRONT FROM APRIL 14, 2011, SINCE THE ISSUE IS COMING UP AGAIN SOON!
We all know the APA rule is that students can not be asked to decide until April 15 on admissions and financial aid offers. But does that mean they can't be asked to decide before 5 pm? Is there an APA rule on this? A philosopher elsewhere asked about this, because he is confronted with a number of students who have multi-year Fellowship offers, and he is wondering whether he can ask them to notify the department by noon tomorrow--obviously with an eye to being able to offer the Fellowship to others in a timely way, before they are forced to accept other offers. Thoughts from readers? How do departments handle this? Is there a clear APA rule?
CORRECTION:This piece is written by Prof. Knobe's co-author, Jonathan Phillips, who took a PhD in philosophy and psychology at Yale, and is a currently a post-doc at Harvard. (Thanks to Bob Gamboa for the correction.)
MOVING TO FRONT FROM LAST YEAR, SINCE TIMELY AGAIN (originally posted two years ago):
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 any case, the new rankings are out, and the 2017 edition includes a "world" ranking for philosophy, based on some meaningless, non-academic factors, but several putatively academic considerations. We noted several years ago the disreputable method by which QS rounded up evaluators, but things appear to have gotten better in the interim. I have filled out these surveys several years running now, including this year. QS still uses a foolish methodology, in which evaluators are to name top programs in the specialty, meaning the ultimate rank is determined by the dumbest evaluator (e.g., the one who forgot to list NYU among the top 10 or 15 programs in the field). The resulting academic reputation scores are a weird artifact of (1) some actual knowledge on the part of evaluators; (2) pure halo effect (e.g., Oxford has an academic reputation score of 90.2, Cambridge 89.0, even though Oxford is dramatically stronger than Cambridge, and Cambridge is not better than, e.g., Princeton [see below]); and (3) the geographic and institutional distribution of evaluators, which QS still does not disclose, which is absurd. Here is the "academic reputation" of the top 20 U.S. programs according to QS:
1. University of Pittsburgh (100)
2. New York University (92.5)
3. Rutgers University, New Brunswick (92.4)
4. Harvard University (88.7)
5. University of California, Berkeley (86.2)
6. Princeton University (85.8)
7. University of Notre Dame (84.0)
8. Stanford University (83.4)
9. Yale University (82.8)
10. University of Chicago (79.7)
11. Columbia University (79.6)
12. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (79.1)
13. University of California, Los Angeles (77.9)
14. Massachussetts Institute of Technology (77.8)
15. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (76.1)
16. City University of New York (71.6)
17. Boston University (70.6)
18. Boston College (69.2)
19. Cornell University (66.5)
20. University of California, San Diego (64.9)
While in the past, NYU and Rutgers did not do well in the academic reputation component, that has changed, correctly. I infer from the results that QS got a high response rate from philosophers in Germany--thus programs with faculty with a strong presence in Germany (like Pittsburgh [e.g., Robert Brandom], Chicago [e.g., Robert Pippin[, and BU [e.g., Manfred Kuehn] did surprisingly well. (German programs also score quite highly, which confirms my suspicion.) Throughout large parts of the world, the local Catholic or "Pontifical" University is often a major center of research excellence, and so I surmise many evalautors are solicited from those schools--which would explain the surprisingly strong showings of Notre Dame and, especially, Boston College. Obviously top and somewhat narrowly "analytic" programs like Michigan and UCLA do not do as well as they should, presumably because they lack visibility in other parts of the world.
Even weirder are the results for "citations per paper":
MOVING TO FRONT FROM LAST YEAR (SINCE TIMELY AGAIN--originally posted March 6, 2009)
Applicants to PhD and MA programs are now receiving offers of admission and, if they are lucky, are beginning to weigh choices between different departments. I want to reiterate a point made in the PGR, namely, that students are well-advised to talk to current students at the programs they are considering. There are often things you will want to know that you won't glean from familiarity with the excellence of the faculty's work, even if that remains the most important, if defeasible, reason for choosing a particular department. Here are some examples of information that no ranking, no departmental brochure, and no "official" departmental representive will tell you about; all of these are drawn from stories I've heard from students over the last few years about ranked departments (the departments will remain unnamed, obviously). You can think of them as representing "types" of problems you should be aware of before enrolling. I've tweaked some of the details to protect identities.
The Absent Faculty: Are the faculty who look so good on paper actually around and interested in working with students? I heard a story about a key senior person in one department who is an alcoholic, and who simply ignored his students. In another department, almost all the graduate students had to sign an open letter to the faculty a number of years ago protesting the failure of faculty to return graded papers and their general lack of interest in mentoring the students. In yet another department, a well-known senior member of the faculty spent so much time travelling and lecturing around the world, that he rarely had time to review or discuss work carefully with students.
The Sexual Predator Faculty: Are women treated as young philosophers and aspiring professionals, or do faculty regularly view them as a potential source for dates and sexual liasons? It's a bit shocking to realize that this is still a live issue in some departments, but, sadly, it is. Are faculty-student sexual relations common in the department? What happens when the relations end? Are there repeated cases of sexual harassment complaints against faculty in the department? Do they ever result in discipline? I suppose it is possible this could be an issue for male students, but all the reports I've gotten over the years have been from women victimized by male faculty.
The Nasty Faculty: Talented philosophers and scholars often differ, dramatically, in how pleasant they are personally and professionally. I recall the story of one department where a member of the faculty was known to reduce students to tears in seminar. In another department, a faculty member regularly refuses to work with students, even those interested in his areas; he works only with those he deems "worthy," and there are not many of them! In another department, faculty openly express doubts about the competence of the graduate students and their ability. Make sure the philosophers who seem most interesting to you don't fall into these categories!
The Factionalized Faculty: Many faculties are "factionalized," in the sense that there are sub-groups that rarely see "eye to eye" about departmental issues, from appointments to admissions. Where this becomes worrisome, though, for a prospective student is when certain members of the faculty who share interests and approaches control all the key resources--fellowships, resources for speakers etc.--and use that control to define "in" and "out" groups of faculty and students: students with the "wrong" philosophical interests or who express an interest in the "wrong" faculty members are denied access to important perks and support. This kind of ugly factionalization is less common, but it exists.
I wish it were possible to meaningfuly measure and evaluate faculties along these important dimensions, but, alas, it is not. I have no doubt there are many programs that are really exceptional for how pleasant they are as places to do graduate study, and the way for a prospective student to discover them is to talk to lots of current students.
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)