Jason links to the latest New York Times article on the PGR, which is mainly about how well Rutgers did. I spoke months ago to the reporter. He didn't mention he was going to include this piece of self-serving bullshit in his article:
Dr. McLaughlin said that Rutgers is better in analytic philosophy — things like philosophy of the mind and language — while Princeton excels in more historic areas.
Some universities known to have good departments, like Penn State, Stony Brook and Vanderbilt, do not participate in the ratings.
“Schools like Rutgers and N.Y.U. emphasize analytic philosophy, and most of the evaluators emphasize that, so schools like Vanderbilt and Northwestern and Penn State, which don’t, aren’t going to do as well,” said John J. Stuhr, a philosophy professor at Vanderbilt. “It’s like asking about the best painters of all time. If you asked Cubists, you would get a list of Cubists; Impressionists, the same thing. I’m sure Rutgers has a good department. It just doesn’t emphasize what we do.”
I'm sure Brian McLaughlin didn't say anything as ridiculous as he is represented as saying here (it was probably something closer to Rutgers ranked better in areas like mind & language), but what is more appalling is the nonsense about Penn State, Stony Brook, and Vanderbilt. First of all, they don't have good departments, they have weak departments overall (with honorable exceptions etc. etc. etc.)--certainly relative to other PhD-granting departments--and that's true whether you're interested in philosophy of language or ancient philosophy or Continental philosophy. Second, it is simply false that "they do not participate in the ratings." Each of them have been included in the ratings, and each time they fared quite poorly overall, even if they each have some areas of strength.
But most breathtaking is John Stuhr's idiotic comment that Rutgers "doesn't emphasize what we do," where "we" means Vanderbilt. It is true that Rutgers doesn't much emphasize history of philosophy or Continental philosophy (that's why NYU is #1, and Rutgers #2), but how could that explain why Vanderbilt has never been close to the top 50 and barely rates in any historical areas? The difference between Rutgers and Vanderbilt isn't "emphasis": it's that Vanderbilt has a weak faculty for a PhD program, even in most of the areas it purports to "emphasize" like post-Kantian Continental philosophy. (Rutgers, by the way, is obviously much stronger in the history of ancient and early modern philosophy than Vanderbilt; only in American pragmatism does Vanderbilt have an edge.) One would need only ask the dozens of philosophers specializing in those areas who completed the PGR surveys, after all.
I realize that journalists think that being even-handed means quoting self-serving dissemblers to get their "perspective." And I realize that Professor Stuhr, confronted with a university administration that has realized its Philosophy Department has been selling it a fraudulent bill of goods, must say whatever is necessary to preserve the status quo. Even so, it's a bit much for a reporter to "report" that some universities are "known to have good departments" when there is no evidence that this is true.
Professor Wilshire's characteristically sniping comments warrant separate comment, though I shall simply quote what I've written previously about his longstanding hostility to philosophy:
[I]n conversation with various philosophers, it has become apparent to me that most–-even those interested in Continental philosophy–-have almost no idea how utterly weird are the interests of Professor Wilshire & co. Many philosophers seem to take at face value the assertion of the "pluralist" clique that they represent Continental philosophy, when what they really represent is a quite strange infatuation with an idiosyncratic version of phenomenological practice that is everywhere else (including in most of Europe) defunct; an equally idiosyncratic appropriation of American pragmatism (in which James looms large, and Peirce almost vanishes); and an affection for "New Age" flakiness (see, e.g., Professor Wilshire on Native American mysticism in Fashionable Nihilism, or the commitment to the importance of shaman healing practices in The Primal Roots of American Philosophy). This strange brew is then superimposed upon a sophomoric understanding of all the rest of philosophy, both historical and contemporary.
Professor Wilshire's "scholarship" is a case in point: he completely misreads Nietzsche in to his strange version of phenomenological practice, the one that is defunct almost everywhere outside the SPEP coterie; he accuses analytic philosophers, as a class, with "scientism: the belief that only science can know" (Fashionable Nihilism, p. 51), apparently unaware of the dozens of major, self-described "analytic" philosophers who are critics (far better critics than Wilshire) of scientism in its various forms (Alvin Plantinga, George Bealer, John McDowell, Hilary Putnam, Thomas Nagel, etc.); he laments that "Husserl's hope to stave off nihilism by locating all special studies…in a thematized and honored matrix of prescientific phenomena and meanings was short-circuited, forgotten, or ridiculed" (Fashionable Nihilism, p. 76), showing no awareness of the substantial philosophical critique of Husserlian phenomenology by both Continental and Anglophone philosophers that, justifiably, sealed its grave; he claims "phenomenological description must precede scientific explanation" (87), but offers no argument for that proposition (or any other). This is not philosophy: this is some superficial and dated learning, mixed with name-dropping, dogmatic assertion and avoidance of any philosophical debate through the ruse of always accusing the opposition of succumbing to "fashion" or "bias."
That anyone should think this represents Continental philosophy would be a catastrophe! As Julian Young, one of the leading contemporary scholars of 19th and 20th-century German philosophy, has written, "The Continental tradition contains most of the great, truly synoptic, European thought of the past 200 years." Anyone who read Professor Wilshire would never know, alas, why that is true.
There is, as I know all too well, a lot of pathetic parochialness among self-identified "analytic" philosophers, to be sure, but the alternative isn't to open up "philosophy" to Wilshire's kind of sophomoric nonsense.