As last week's comment threads showed, the best and most interesting discussions took place not on the "open thread" but on those with particular, focused topics. So going forward, that's probably what I'll do, though I'll try to do a couple each week, time (for moderating) permitting. I may, of course, do some future threads on some of the topics that tend to produce the more heated responses (e.g., gender and hiring), but I do fear the open threads tended to become obsessively focused on that to the exclusion of other more important topics.
I will be starting my MA (terminal) programme in Philosophy in the Fall of this year, in Europe. I don't have a background in the subject and want to spend the few months before the session begins, in reading several works in the subject.
Could you please give (or ask on your blog or, perhaps, direct me to any pre-existing link) a list of "25 (or so) Must Read Books before starting Graduate School in Philosophy"?
Since I am only beginning to explore the various fields of the subject, I don't want to limit myself to any particular areas of interest.
This is a tough one, since many important books in philosophy are surely not profitably read on one's own; and what will count as "must read" will not be indifferent as between "fields of the subject." Even allowing for that, what would readers recommend? It might be particularly useful to say something about whether or not the book (or article) can be approached by someone without a background in philosophy.
[The student's] long-term boyfriend, Benjamin Yelle—a fifth-year graduate student in the department—described some of the correspondence [from McGinn], including several passages that he said were sexually explicit. Mr. Yelle, along with two professors with whom the student has worked, described one message in which they said Mr. McGinn wrote that he had been thinking about the student while masturbating.
Mr. McGinn once wrote to the student that they should "have sex three times in my office over the summer when no one else is around," Mr. Yelle says. He also says the professor once suggested that the student should wear shorts more often because he thought her legs were attractive.
Mr. McGinn says he never suggested to the student that they should have sex. He also says he merely told the student that her legs were "muscular." He is unwilling, however, to share the e-mails he sent to the student.
"Professor McGinn harassed, stalked, and preyed upon" the student, the summary of the complaint says. The professor touched her hands and feet, told her "you are mine," and proposed they have sex, the document says. The student, it continues, felt "hounded, suffocated, and trapped by his constant barrage of communications and need."
Officials at Miami ignored the student’s complaints and charged Mr. McGinn with violating its relationship policy as a way to get him out the door fast and to avoid further fallout, the summary of the complaint says. In that way, it says, officials "hijacked" the grievance process "to save UM a public scandal, rather than provide a fair accounting of Professor McGinn’s misconduct."
And some more here regarding Prof. McGinn's propensity to attack and defame anyone who doesn't adopt his version of events in its entirety. (Addendum to the last lilnk: I'm no longer confident there aren't First Amendment issues with the way some schools are interpreting "retaliation" under Title IX.)
Two questions (one general, one specific) regarding publishing at the terminal-Masters graduate level.
(1) Is it possible and encouraged to publish as a terminal-Masters graduate student?
(2) If one's first journal publication is in their secondary area of interest (e.g., say one publishes in ethics or aesthetics while their primary AOI is in philosophy of chemistry) would this in any way complicate their chances at admission into a PhD program whose strengths were in one's primary AOI?
My own views are: (1) there is no need to publish as an MA student, and it is probably not wise to invest energy in that as opposed to learning as much philosophy as possible and polishing written work to use in graduate applications; (2) I don't think it matters at all. If one publishes a good piece of philosophy (and that's an important *if*), it will count in your favor regardless of your interests. Thoughts from others?
...and he's also mystified why a serious journal is devoting an issue to it. If other parts of philosophy had as clear Wissenschaftlich standards as philosophy of language/linguistics does, there' be more protests of this kind.
(Thanks to Peter Ludlow for the pointer.)
UPDATE: I've heard from one well-known philosopher and one well-known psychologist telling me that things are not quite as simple as they appear. The psychologist, for example, wrote:
Re the Hornstein post, you're way overestimating the degree of agreement among linguists (I don't know about philosophy of language) re standards of evidence, argumentation, what counts as progress, which issues have been resolved or are open, etc.
The book in question addresses many issues that remain contentious in modern linguistics. The author apparently takes positions that Hornstein deeply opposes. I have not read the book and do not know if the arguments are any good, but the questions are valid ones, and matters of ongoing debate. The journal in question is at least as credible as the others he mentions, and less parochial, so airing the disagreements is a reasonable thing to do--assuming the book is not poorly done, not merely at variance with NH's personal views. The Language editorial board includes many outstanding scholars—including ones who compare favorably to Hornstein I would say. It is not heavily weighted to the traditional MIT/generative grammar side of the field, however. But the current MIT department doesn’t seem to be either!
Norbert is a keeper of the Chomskyan faith. That approach and set of beliefs has faded in prominence and acceptance, mainly because it got overtaken by progress achieved by other approaches. The fate of Chomsky's proposals about language (structure, origins, acquisition, brain bases) will be a great case study in the history of ideas. Pinker's popularizations bought the approach some extra time, but most of the important claims turn out to have been wrong (e.g., that language is an "instinct," that there is a "language organ", that language is unrelated to other types of cognition, or to other forms of communication, etc.).
It's been amazing to watch how the events have played out over the past 40 years, since I got into it.
You can now expect to receive responses to the effect that these comments are as worthless as that book. The line between intensive intellectual debate and trolling is a thin one.
(1)....If a professor fails to attain a minimum threshold of performance based on the student evaluations used to assess the professor’s teaching effectiveness, in accordance with the criteria and rating system adopted by the board, the institution shall terminate the professor’s employment regardless of tenure status or contract. (2) The names of the five professors who rank lowest on their institution’s evaluation for the semester, but who scored above the minimum threshold of performance, shall be published on the institution’s internet site and the student body shall be offered an opportunity to vote on the question of whether any of the five professors will be retained as employees of the institution. The employment of the professor receiving the fewest votes approving retention shall be terminated by the institution regardless of tenure status or contract.
The first provision is bad enough--a legislatively authorized breach of contract and due process--but the second is just vicious and insane.
(Thanks to Chris Surprenant for the pointer.)
UPDATE: Reader Prabhu Venkataraman calls to my attention that this nasty piece of legislation has been killed in committee.
MOVING TO FRONT (originally posted April 21)--MANY INTERESTING COMMENTS, MORE WELCOME
This question, from the open thread, deserves separate notice and discussion:
Could we start a discussion on what philosophers have found to be the most surprising positives and surprising negatives of becoming a professional philosopher (or PhD grad)? It may help me, and perhaps others, with my decision to apply to PhD programs or not. If there is a similar thread with many comments, a link would suffice. (I'm aware of the poor job market, so hopefully there are other comments.)
I was just sent a copy of the appellate court's opinion, concerning this case, and it turns out the earlier news article misdescribed the trial court's decision rather badly, making it sound as though the judge thought the article admitted of an "innocent construction" because the "sting" of allegedly groping someone was the same as the "sting" of being accused of rape. That was a terrible argument, which suggested bias on the part of the judge against the plaintiff. But based on the appellate court's decision, that wasn't the "innocent construction" argument at all: rather, the articles admitted of an innocent construction because they did not name Ludlow (or the student for that matter), and so could not constitute defamation per se. That is a very different, and actually more plausible, argument, at least given American libel law which, as we have noted before, is more friendly to defamers than libel law in any other democracy.
UPDATE: Weinberg has uploaded a copy of the opinion here.
...though as with recent years, there is more diversity in institutions whose faculty were recognized. Here they are by total faculty elected this year (those with an unusually large number relative to recent years are marked with an *; those with an unusually low number are marked with an #)
Harvard University (10)
Stanford University (10)
Massachussetts Institute of Technology (8)
New York University (7)
Yale University (7)
University of California, Berkeley (6)
Columbia University (5)
University of Chicago (5)
*Emory University (4)
University of California, Los Angeles (4)
California Institute of Technology (3)
Cornell University (3)
*Indiana University, Bloomington (3)
#Princeton University (3)
University of California, San Francisco (3)
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (3)
*University of Texas, Austin (3)
Brown University (2)
Duke University (2)
#Northwestern University (2)
*Florida State University (2)
*Ohio State University (2)
University of California, Davis (2)
University of California, San Diego (2)
*University of Maryland, College Park (2)
#University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (2)
#University of Pennsylvania (2)
University of Washington, Seattle (2)
The following schools all had one faculty member each elected this year: University of Arizona; Texas A&M University; Johns Hopkins University; University of Minnesota; Rice University; Pennsylvania State University; Georgetown University; George Washington University; University of Oregon; #University of Wisconsin, Madison; Washington University, St. Louis; Arizona State University; University of Hawaii; Michigan State University; Boston University; University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center; University of California, Santa Barbara; University of Virignia; University of California, Irvine; Rutgers University, New Brunswick; University of California, Santa Cruz.
Election to the Academy is a curious process; I'll write a bit more about it in a subsequent post that will explain why the rich get richer, and why sometimes the elections sometimes seem to be governed by the principle "friends of friends."
They are: Marilyn McCord Adams (currently affiliated with Rutgers, emerita at North Carolina and UCLA), David Albert (Columbia), Sally Haslanger (MIT), John MacFarlane (Berkeley), Tim Maudlin (NYU), Hans Kamp (Stuttgart & Texas), and Johann van Benthem (Amsterdam & Stanford). In addition, Patricia Smith Churchland (UC San Diego) was elected in the Neurosciences section.
(Past posts on the AAAS here [and follow the links].)
The top spots in May are taken, but there is still one 2nd and one 3rd from the top available. The top spots in June are also taken, and some top and 2nd spots are taken later in the summer. Recall that summer rates are discounted more than usual, as I won't be blogging quite as regularly: $300 for top spots, $250 for 2nd spots, $200 for 3rd spots. (I would expect summer traffic in the 5-6K visits/day range, compared to 10K visits/range now).
I should also mention that some September and October spots have also been taken (top and 2nd from top), but there is still at least one top spot available each fall month, as well as lower spots
...two chimps may get legal standing in New York. Two points to note: (1) the "Supreme Court" in New York is the trial court, not the highest court of the state; (2) the judge's order is not a finding that the chimps are persons, legally or otherwise, but only that the University must justify holding them. It is possible that after hearing the university's arguments, the judge will rule that the chimps must be released, but that's still a way off. (Judge Jaffe has only been on the bench since 2010, but beyond that I know nothing about this judge.)
More than half the respondents--56%, or about 300--report that the social media presence of job candidates has affected their job prospects. And more than half of those reported the effect was usually negative, with another third saying "sometimes positive, sometimes negative."
On the positive side, a bit more than half reported that social media use either had no impact or a positive one.
It might be interesting if faculty who responded to the poll could say a bit about the kinds of things they have seen on social media that have helped and/or hurt candidates.
Jeff McMahan (Oxford) calls my attention to his latest post at the Practical Ethics blog. Alas, the bulk of the comments following the post are disgracefully idiotic; hopefully, they will be removed, and an adult discussion might ensue.
Now you know what I'm working on this evening. Here it is in brief: Marx thought technological innovation under capitalism would produce a falling rate of profit for capitalist enterprises, but he thought this because he accepted the labor theory of value, which is false. Yet at the limit technological innovation under capitalism will produce a falling rate of profit because the elimination of human labor will reduce the total pool of consumers. Is there a good discussion of this in the economic literature? Thanks.
The top 10 private names are familiar: Harvard University ($42.8 billion in cash and investments in fiscal 2014), Stanford University ($31.6 billion), Yale University ($25.4 billion), Princeton University ($21.3 billion), Massachusetts Institute of Technology ($15.2 billion), University of Pennsylvania ($11.9 billion), Duke University ($11.4 billion), Northwestern University ($10.4 billion), Columbia University ($9.9 billion) and University of Notre Dame ($9.5 billion).
Lists like this give a slightly misleading impression because they don't mention the size of the student body and, most importantly, the presence or absence of professional schools (which are expensive, especially Medicine). The wealthiest university on this list, in reality, is Princeton, which has neither Law, nor Medical, nor Business Schools. MIT doesn't have Law or Medicine. Notre Dame doesn't have Medicine. All the others have all three.
The wealthiest "public" is the University of Texas system, with over 36 billion (including law, medical, and business schools--in some cases more than one!). It serves somewhere in the vicinity of 160,000 students. Princeton, with its mere 21.3 billion, serves about 8,000 students.
I take it these figures also don't include real estate. Columbia's endowment, given its location, is rather non-competitive with Harvard, Stanford, Princeton et al., but Columbia's real estate holdings (including housing for faculty) are huge. I don't know of a source for those figures.
UPDATE: Roger Albin, a professor of medicine at Michigan, notes that, "Academic medical centers generally (and have to) pay for themselves via clinical income," rather than through endowments. He also offers some interesting detail I was completely unaware of regarding Harvard:
The situation is somewhat different for institutions that are involved in academic medical centers but don't own their hospital systems. The most important case is Harvard, which does not own its teaching hospitals. These are financially separate systems which employ Harvard appointed faculty. The Partners system (Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham & Womens) and Boston Children's, to name the most important, actually pay for most of the faculty at the Harvard Medical School, and have their own separate endowments. The enormous Harvard endowment covers fewer faculty than you might think, one of the reasons they can afford to pay relatively high salaries in many fields. There are also some negative examples in this category. The very fine Baylor College of Medicine used to staff the Methodist Hospital system in Houston. Baylor and Methodist had a falling out over finances and split, leaving Baylor in a very challenging financial situation.
Interesting how much stronger the effect on religiosity of communist rule in China was than in the former Soviet Union. (Amusingly, the Washington Post informs us that China also instilled materialism in its people as well. I thought that had only happened in Australia.)
Johnny Brennan from the ACLS kindly writes with news about philosopher winners in the last ACLS competitions:
Jacob Beck, Assistant Professor at York University, “Beyond Language” How the Mind Represents the World”
Tim Maudlin, Professor at New York University, “Space-Time and the Theory of Linear Structures”
Christia Mercer, Professor at Columbia University, “Feeling the Way to Truth: Women, Reason, and the Development of Modern Philosophy”
Collaborative Research Fellowship
Derrick Darby, Professor at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (in collaboration with John L. Rury, Professor of Educational Leadership & Policy Studies at the University of Kansas), “The Color of Mind: Why the Origins of the Achievement Gap Matter for Justice”
Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship
Arash Abazari, PhD Candidate at Johns Hopkins University, “Hegel’s Logic of Essence as the Ontology of Power in Capitalism”
Robert Steel, PhD Candidate at the University of Pittsburgh, “Planning for Failure”
Denise Vigani, PhD Candidate at CUNY Graduate Center, “Construing Character: Virtue as a Cognitive-Affective Processing System”
Our Public Fellows program is currently still in review. This program seeks to match recent PhDs in two-year staff positions with partnering organizations in government and the non-profit sector. It is a great way for fresh humanities PhDs who are considering careers outside of academia to make the transition. It is growing rapidly in popularity among graduate students as well as organizations who are quickly realizing the benefits of staffing humanities PhDs. We hope to announce the fellows in late May. If there are any philosophers in the cohort I’ll be sure to let you know.
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)