...you've no doubt come across the legions of law school bashers in cyberspace, most rather badly informed and not too sharp. (I used to engage this "law school is a scam" crowd, for which my reward was mountains of vile and often defamatory abuse and campaigns of character assassination--they're a charming crowd.) There are real issues about legal education prospective students should consider, but for a more sober perspective I commend the work on the labor economics of legal markets by Michael Simkovic at Seton Hall University; he has posted discussions and summaries of much of it at my law blog.
ADDENDUM: A reader sends along this sophomoric prattle; The Monist must have fallen on hard times to be publishing material like this. The abstract alone will probably be enough for most readers, but do press on, it gives one real insight into the nether regions of the 'profession' where no actual intellectual standards prevail. Imagine, an entire paper organized around an alleged "conflation" that any smart undergraduate would avoid!
I'm sending this email anonymously since, nowadays, being linked to even the mild views that I wish to get your opinion on is grounds for being tossed in the dustbin of "bigotry."
I've seen professional philosophers hint that they have these views, the ones I'm about to express, in places on your blog, but I'm hoping to get them conceretely addressed here.
I fear that the modern left has lost any sense of appropriate boundaries for moral concern and suffers from an obsession with identity recognition that's rapidly undoing the reasonable hierarchy of moral priorities that leftists once had. As this worry implies, I count myself, firmly, among the left. But I can't endorse the shrill, self-destructive ethos rapidly proliferating on this side of the political fence, which might well be an expression of the "Generation Wuss" mentality that you've gestured to at times.
Let me illustrate with an example. I recently read of a stranger's experience, in a Twitter thread that has since been deleted, with a transsexual friend. Having no malicious intent whatsoever, this former individual casually addressed a group of friends, of which the latter person was a part, with the word "guys." His transsexual friend (a woman) informed him sometime later that hearing the word "guys" "triggered" her, induced serious psychological distress, by way of a gender identity conflict that this word brought about. In recounting this story on the internet, the person with the transsexuxal friend stated that he wasn't interested in maintaining a relationship with this person, since he wasn't willing to "walk on eggshells" and self-police his language to accommodate what he perceived to be unreasonable fragility on the part of his transsexual friend. Unsurprisingly, the individual recounting this story was incessantly berated by victim-mongering identity politickers on Twitter, who suggested that he's an "evil bigot" with virtual unanimity.
The belief presumably animating such sickening moralizing strikes me as utterly perverse, where, by "belief", I mean the view that those who cause any offense to some vulnerable individual are morally required to take every step necessary to rectify the caused--and, in the future, avoid causing--offense. Is there no obligation on the part of "offended" persons to accept that not everything they hear will reflect the reality that they desire, and to develop some, dare I say, resilience in the face of this reality? And where will it end? Are we all to avoid speaking in public about the persons we find physically attractive, for fear that some self-aware, unattractive person will be psychologically traumatized by the experience? Though I've asked many people those questions, I'm yet to encounter a principled reason to care so deeply for the offense of "misgendering" transsexual people, while caring not at all for the exclusion that is part and parcel of recognizing that some are beautiful and others ugly. The "reasons" offered typically amount to nothing more than handwaving about how gender "matters more", as if identity politickers can, absent contradiction, merely put aside the social harm and isolation that follow from linguistic practices that establish aesthetic pecking orders, while frothing about "misgendering" and demanding radical revision of the features of language thought to be harmful to certain groups, because the latter "matters more." By that logic, it could be argued that we should dismiss (something, by the way, that I do not want to do) trans issues entirely, since trans folk constitute such a small minority of the population and, as such, the harm to them from misgendering is less serious than the harm to black people from racism. Clearly the former (the respose of identity politickers to my question about inclusion of the ugly) is to do with quality of harm while the latter (about racism) is to do with quantity, but the spirit of the notions is the same.
My correspondent gave permission to open this for general discussion. I agree with the main themes of this e-mail, though less so with the last, long paragraph, which I don't entirely understand. The hyper-sensitivity of coddled narcissists masquerading as moral righteousness is, indeed, tiresome, and it also does an injustice to those who actually suffer from PTSD who are entitled, including legally, to accommodation. But what do readers think?
Professor Pessin compared Gazan Palestinians to “rabid pit bulls” who need to be caged. He described the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as a cycle of letting the “snarling dogs” out of their “cage” and then beating them back into it. One person named Nicole commented on the post suggesting the “dogs” be put down. Professor Pessin responded, “I agree.” Professor Pessin directly condoned the extermination of a people. A member of our community has called for the systematic abuse, killing, and hate of another people.
(Thanks to Lukas Slothuus for alerting me to this story.)
ADDENDUM: Prof. Pessin offers an "apology" here, though, oddly, without clearly renouncing the view that Palestinians are "dogs."
UPDATE: IHE now has an informative item on this affair. Prof. Pessin thinks it is a defense of his slurs to report that they were only aimed at Hamas, the elected representative of the Palestinians in Gaza. He also makes the ludicrous claim that this is all an attempt to silence him, an outspoken proponent of Israel (when has an outspoken proponent of Israel ever been silenced in the United States?). On the other hand, students asking the Administration to denounce Prof. Pessin's remarks are wrong to do so: it is not the job of a college administration to police or editorialize about faculty speech.
Grant Ramsey (philosophy of biology, philosophy of science), currently Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, has accepted appointment as BOFZAP Research Professor at KU Leuven, effective July 2016.
Rightly so, do read the whole thing. From the conclusion:
In my view, in this book Fuller lends support to some dicey propositions, including creationism and intelligent design, the ideas of Teilhard de Chardin, neurotheology, and transhumanism, not to mention an epistemology of divine psychology. By itself that would not trouble me. What troubles me -- I should say, annoys me -- is that he just avers these things. There is very little argument in this book. In place of it are obsessive self-citations to the author's other publications. That annoyed me because I had time and occasion to read his new book, only to find out that I cannot understand it without reading twenty others by the same author, including maybe even his dissertation. Without studying the earlier books, I can't understand the point of this one, yet nothing in this one makes me want to read those others.
One does begin to wonder whether Fuller is really bonkers, or whether this is all simply to be chalked up to narcissistic stupidity.
Within two decades, we will have almost unlimited energy, food, and clean water; advances in medicine will allow us to live longer and healthier lives; robots will drive our cars, manufacture our goods, and do our chores.
There won’t be much work for human beings. Self-driving cars will be commercially available by the end of this decade and will eventually displace human drivers—just as automobiles displaced the horse and buggy—and will eliminate the jobs of taxi, bus, and truck drivers. Drones will take the jobs of postmen and delivery people....
Robots are already replacing manufacturing workers. Industrial robots have advanced to the point at which they can do the same physical work as human beings. The operating cost of some robots is now less than the salary of an average Chinese worker. And, unlike human beings, robots don’t complain, join labor unions, or get distracted. They readily work 24 hours a day and require minimal maintenance. Robots will also take the jobs of farmers, pharmacists, and grocery clerks.
Medical sensors in our smartphones, clothing, and bathrooms will soon be monitoring our health on a minute-to-minute basis. Combined with electronic medical records and genetic and lifestyle data, these will provide enough information for physicians to focus on preventing disease rather than on curing it....
The writing is clearly on the wall about what lies ahead. Yet even the most brilliant economists—and futurists—don’t know what to do about it....
[A]t best we have another 10 to 15 years in which there is a role for humans. The number of available jobs will actually increase in the U.S. and Europe before it decreases. China is out of time because it has a manufacturing-based economy, and those jobs are already disappearing. Ironically, China is accelerating this demise by embracing robotics and 3D printing. As manufacturing comes back to the U.S., new factories need to be built, robots need to be programmed, and new infrastructure needs to be developed. To install new hardware and software on existing cars to make them self-driving, we will need many new auto mechanics. We need to manufacture the new medical sensors, install increasingly efficient solar panels, and write new automation software.
And see also this. Unless the productive forces of the world are used for common support, the future will be grim indeed.
UPDATE: See also this essay by sociologist Randall Collins, which starts at p. 27 in the linked volume. (Thanks to Benj Hellie for the pointer.)
Post your comment only once, it may take awhile to appear. Let me suggest as one possible topic an earlier thread on the empirical literature on implicit bias and stereotype threat. What I took from that thread is that the evidence for stereotype threat is quite weak, but the evidence for implicit bias is quite strong. On the other hand, the evidence that implicit bias operates when people engage in careful review of scholarship is weak. Are these correct take-aways? Citations and references welcome.
I, myself, thought Frankfurt's observation reasonable--there's certainly some nice work being done here and there, but nothing agenda-setting comparable to the figures Frankfurt mentions--but unsurprisingly, lots of younger philosophers dissented from the proposition that their field is in the doldrums. So what do readers think? I'll open a discussion afterwards.
Eric Schliesser (early modern philosophy, philosophy of economics), currently at Ghent University, has been offered the Chair in Political Theory in the Political Science Department at the University of Amsterdam. (Schliesser is particularly well-known for his work on Adam Smith, among other topics.) Professor Schliesser tells me he will "almost certainly" accept this position.
Tristram McPherson (ethics, metaethics), Associate Professor of Philosophy at Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University, has accepted appointment as Associate Professor of Philosophy at Ohio State University, effective September 2015.
I wonder if I could persuade you to write a blog post that would help European letter writers do well by their students? (Please don't identify me though - not least because I don't want my student to be able to identify herself.)
I recently wrote my first round of letters for the US PhD applications market, for a student whom I rate very highly. Since I am working at a major European university, the standard of students that I teach is outstanding; and among this cohort the student for whom I wrote is one of the best. I thought that I had represented this fact accurately when, in the sections of the reference letters asking me to rank students relative to their cohort, I rated her in the top 10%-25% for most of the areas asked (and in top 1% for one or two others). Given that our graduate students are likely as good as those at most major US universities, I thought this was high praise indeed. However, an American colleague has recently told me that any ranking outside the top 5% is generally likely to kill the application of a student.
This strikes me as both crazy and unfair, but since I want to do the best by my students, I'll reluctantly play whatever games it takes to see that they get the chances they deserve. For the benefit of non-US letter writers, though, perhaps it would be good to canvas opinions here. How highly must students be ranked to be considered by strong programs? And what percentages of competitive applications are described as being in the top 1% of even very strong MA or undergraduate programs?
Some guidance here would be very much appreciated!
What do readers think? If you post anonymously, at least indicate something about your experience in these matters (e.g., faculty member at a PhD program, recommender, etc.).
With almost 725 responses to our earlier poll, here are the ten most pressing issues in the profession identified by readers:
1. Bad job market, decline of tenure-track faculty positions, increasing reliance on adjuncts (Condorcet winner: wins contests with all other choices)
2. Declining state support for higher education loses to Bad job market, decline of tenure-track faculty positions, increasing reliance on adjuncts by 460–158
3. Hyper-specialization and/or increasing irrelevance of philosophy to public/culture at large loses to Bad job market, decline of tenure-track faculty positions, increasing reliance on adjuncts by 552–104, loses to Declining state support for higher education by 451–176
4. Erosion of tenure loses to Bad job market, decline of tenure-track faculty positions, increasing reliance on adjuncts by 597–35, loses to Hyper-specialization and/or increasing irrelevance of philosophy to public/culture at large by 301–294
5. Prestige bias in hiring and/or publication decisions loses to Bad job market, decline of tenure-track faculty positions, increasing reliance on adjuncts by 569–66, loses to Erosion of tenure by 307–264
6. Sexual harassment and discrimination against women loses to Bad job market, decline of tenure-track faculty positions, increasing reliance on adjuncts by 584–60, loses to Prestige bias in hiring and/or publication decisions by 300–233
7. Lack of appreciation for academic freedom outside and sometimes inside the academy loses to Bad job market, decline of tenure-track faculty positions, increasing reliance on adjuncts by 581–54, loses to Sexual harassment and discrimination against women by 274–262
8. Underrepresentation of ethnic and racial minorities in the profession loses to Bad job market, decline of tenure-track faculty positions, increasing reliance on adjuncts by 582–60, loses to Lack of appreciation for academic freedom outside and sometimes inside the academy by 272–262
9. Vindictive, intolerant "groupthink" mentality in parts of the profession loses to Bad job market, decline of tenure-track faculty positions, increasing reliance on adjuncts by 556–83, loses to Underrepresentation of ethnic and racial minorities in the profession by 276–272
10. Underrepresentation of women in the profession loses to Bad job market, decline of tenure-track faculty positions, increasing reliance on adjuncts by 587–55, loses to Vindictive, intolerant "groupthink" mentality in parts of the profession by 280–269
Just outside the top ten were "erosion of intellectual standards in the field for political reasons," which lost to "underrepresentation of women in the profession" 281 to 245; and "implicit bias," which lost to "erosion of intellectual standards" by 261 to 239.
Overall, not an unreasonable list. I was struck that quite general issues that affect everyone--e.g., the state of the job market, and erosion of tenure and of support for public universities--were rated more highly than the diversity issues we hear a lot about on the blogs, though those were recognized as well. The strong showing of worries about "prestige bias" surprised me since whether it is a "bias" or a sensible proxy is debatable, but it's clear many readers are in the former camp.
I was surprised to see that you did not include any reference to people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or otherwise part of the LGBTQ community. This surprised me for three reasons. First, like the aforementioned issues in our profession, these are pressing. Second, in the country at large, LGBTQ equality is among the most important civil rights issues of our time. Third, you have repeatedly gone to bat for LGBTQ equality on your blog--something that I and many other readers have truly appreciated.
This is a fair point, and was clearly an oversight on my part, due in some degree to the fact that (1) LGBTQ philosophers have been less vocal about continuing discrimination on social media in my experience, and (2) my sense that the profession has done better by LGBTQ philosophers than some other groups (for example). But it should have been included as a category for voting purposes, for which my apologies.
IHE has the details. The averages understate the possible differentias, obviously. Most state university salary data is now on-line via newspapers in most states, if one wants to do even more specific comparisons.
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)