The top left advertising spot is still available for August, now at the discounted rate of $200. (It would take the place of the current "Advertise on Leiter Reports" icon.) In addition, at least one spot is available each month this fall. There are more details on advertising rates and site traffic here. Even this summer, the site has been averaging around 5,000 hits per day and, more importantly, the average visit length is often close to two minutes. Please e-mail me if you're interested.
It is refreshing indeed to find a moral philosopher capable of
expressing such elementary, yet widely ignored truths as "our moral
beliefs are simultaneously relative to our evolutionary history and our
cultural background, but at the same time objectively true" (p. 291).
Why objectively true? Because our moral beliefs are just as much a
material force in the world as our capacity to metabolize nutrients,
and truth in this case means exists.
One hopes that this was not Professor Alexander's preferred explanation of the point.
Let me record, however, my high regard for Gintis, even if he seems a tad muddled about philosophical matters. Bowles and Gintis on Schooling in Capitalist America is still a brilliant piece of work. (There is a nice overview of the book here.)
Currently, young faculty and grad students can find it to be very difficult to get published in top journals since so many of these journals can take so long (one journal took 18 months to get back to me with a rejection!). On the other hand, in my experience with A-level journals, Phil and Public Affairs and Nous have been incredibly efficient. Phil Studies and Journal of Political Philosophy - journals with medium reputations - have also been pretty efficient.
As you've pointed out before, for junior faculty this puts us in a real bind. We can always pull our submissions after N months and submit it somewhere else, but that could have two drawbacks. First, it could burn bridges. Second, suppose I think I have a reasonable chance at getting a paper published in a top journal -- ought I to wait it out or should I go for a less-than-top journal just because they have a quick turnaround time? The latter might get me an extra line on my CV but in most cases, one publication in a top journal is better than, say, three in a middle tier journal (e.g., because a piece in a top journal is more likely to be read by others).
So, I wonder if you would put out the following proposal for comment:
All authors would be *released* from the commitment not to submit their essays to other journals if the initial journal does not respond with a summary judgment (R, R&R, CA, or A) on the paper within 90 days of submission. The author would NOT be responsible for informing the editor of his/her decision to submit elsewhere.
Rather, because of the poor editorial and refereeing efficiency, the author would be free to start shopping his/her paper to another journal without having to tell anyone (including the second journal, since that would prejudice the editorial process against the author).
If this seems unworkable because it requires an honor system amongst those submitting the essay, note that the *entire* blind review system depends upon an honor system, namely the referees honoring their commitment to referee in a timely fashion. Unfortunately, many referee DO NOT referee in a timely fashion. So, the honor system as it is currently constructed, is failing.
Thoughts? Signed comments strongly preferred, and post only once, comments may take awhile to appear.
Peter Simons, a leading figure in metaphysics at the University of Leeds, has accepted a Chair in Philosophy at Trinity College Dublin, starting February 1, 2009, where he will also become Head of Department. That's a major loss for Leeds (which will continue to have a strong metaphysics group, however), and a significant addition for TCD.
In a week, the XXII World Congress of Philosophy will begin in Seoul, South Korea. I'm going to give a talk in sessions organized by the Korean Philosophy Association, and try to attend as many as I can of the more than 1500 talks. On the assumption that I will learn something interesting about philosophical communities with which I am unfamiliar, I will write something about it when I return.
Graham Parkes (Heidegger, Nietzsche, Asian philosophy), a longtime member of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Hawaii, is moving to the Department of Philosophy at University College Cork in Ireland, where he will be Head of Department.
Regarding the previous item, I received the following note from Alex Kafka, a Deputy Editor at the Chronicle, who gave me permission to post it here:
Thanks for your interest in, and careful reading of, The Chronicle Review. Please send essays, ideas, story tips, etc. any time (please see guidelines here). We are always seeking knowledgeable, articulate, and varied voices for our pages.
I hope some philosophers will submit suitable items!
UPDATE: Fritz Warfield (Notre Dame) writes:
I'd certainly welcome thoughtful well informed philosophers contributing to the Chronicle. And I'm happy that the deputy editor who replied to your Open Letter would too.
But this would not address the main problem we have right now. The Chronicle has shown via a long string of *very* bad essays about philosophy (almost all by outsiders who know little about the field) that it almost certainly can't tell the good from the bad in this area. It can't even tell the "routinely bad" from the "truly awful" --- though one might argue that the steady publication of the *truly awful* suggests that they *can* tell it apart from the merely bad; they
can tell it apart and they prefer it to the merely bad.
The Chronicle needs not only to be open to informed work about philosophy (which I believe they are), it has to stop publishing ignorant rubbish!
Bernard Kobes (Arizona State) calls my attention to the latest travesty about academic philosophy to stain the pages of the Chronicle of Higher Education, this one by Russell Jacoby whose qualification for the task--brace yourselves--is that he is a "Professor in Residence" in the History Department at UCLA. This item is not quite as perniciously ignorant as work by Carlin Romano, or as lazily ignorant as Alan Wolfe writing about Mill, but it is ignorant and misleading nonetheless, and does now raise a real question about editorial oversight at the Chronicle: why are you folks letting people with no discernible knowledge of the subject write about academic philosophy?
Now, to be fair, Mr. Jacoby also wants to savage economics and psychology departments. Here's how he starts:
How is it that Freud is not taught in psychology departments, Marx
is not taught in economics, and Hegel is hardly taught in philosophy?
Instead these masters of Western thought are taught in fields far from
their own. Nowadays Freud is found in literature departments, Marx in
film studies, and Hegel in German. But have they migrated, or have they
been expelled? Perhaps the home fields of Freud, Marx, and Hegel have
turned arid. Perhaps those disciplines have come to prize a scientistic
ethos that drives away unruly thinkers. Or maybe they simply progress
by sloughing off the past.
This is a quite breathtaking opening, especially because Hegel, Marx, and Freud were, all three, committed to a scientific ethos--Marx and Freud precisely in the modern sense (picked out by the pejorative "scientistic") of trying to construct theories, respectively, of history and the mind that passed muster by the standards of the natural sciences. One of many reasons little sound scholarship on Hegel, Marx, or Freud emanates from the departments Mr. Jacoby singles out is that those fields too often lack anything resembling a commitment to Wissenschaft, to rigorous methods and standards of evidence.
There is a further irony here, which is that the phenomenon in question is not a recent one, something one might have expected an historian to know. Hegel is taught far more often in philosophy departments now than he was in Germany in the 1870s and 1880s, when the combination of the popularity of Schopenhauer's anti-Hegelian polemics, the rise of German Materialism, and the "back to Kant" turn in German philosophy left Hegel out in the cold. And surely Mr. Jacoby must realize that in the heyday of behaviorism in psychology in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, Freud was not exactly a welcome presence in academic psychology departments where any reference to conscious beliefs and desires in the explanation of behavior was itself thought suspect.
So part of what is completely untenable about this framing of the issue is that it assumes, falsely, that these disciplines, including philosophy, are "static," that because a thinker at time T self-identifies with a discipline that necessarily any discipline bearing the same name at time T+100 must be the same. But as the story of Hegel's neglect in Germany just a generation or so after his death rather dramatically illustrates, the assumption has no merit.
Of course, I have yet to raise a question about the factual assumption underlying Mr. Jacoby's critique, namely, about what is actually taught. Here's what he tells us:
A completely unscientific survey of three randomly chosen
universities confirms the exodus. A search through the
philosophy-course descriptions at the University of Kansas yields a
single 19th-century-survey lecture that mentions Hegel. Marx receives a
passing citation in an economics class on income inequality. Freud
scores zero in psychology. At the University of Arizona, Hegel again
pops up in a survey course on 19th-century philosophy; Marx is shut out
of economics; and, as usual, Freud has disappeared. And at the
University of Wisconsin at Madison, Hegel does not appear in philosophy
courses, Marx does not turn up in economics, and Freud is bypassed in
I assume that most historians have more regard for the use of evidence than is evident in Mr. Jacoby's completely absurd sampling method, one made even more suspect by facts that are quite easy to confirm on-line but omitted by Mr. Jacoby. The Department of Philosophy at the University of Kansas, for example, has a full-time, tenure-stream young scholar who wrote his PhD thesis on Hegel, and who teaches and writes regularly (and intelligently) about both Hegel and Nietzsche. (Did it occur to Mr. Jacoby that the on-line course descriptions might be outdated?) This is all the more notable given that the Kansas department is relatively small. The University of Wisconsin at Madison also has a full-time, tenured member of the faculty (Ivan Soll), who has written one book on Hegel, and many articles on Hegel, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, among others. So much for Mr. Jacoby's report of his random sampling.
Here, off the top of my head, is a list of tenure-stream faculty who teach and write about Hegel in just the top 20 philosophy departments in the U.S. (I assume that will qualify as the "scientistic" mainstream for Mr. Jacoby's purposes): Beatrice Longuenesse at NYU; Robert Brandom at Pittsburgh; Allen Wood at Stanford; Frederick Neuhouser at Columbia; Karl Ameriks at Notre Dame; Michelle Kosch at Cornell; Michael Forster and Robert Pippin at Chicago; Kathleen Higgins at Texas; Michael Hardimon at UC San Diego. That's not to mention, of course, all the faculty at these departments who regularly teach and write about Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud, among others.
Aquinas, Epicurus, Duns Scotus, Hobbes, Reid, and Spinoza--among other major historical figures--aren't nearly as well-represented as Hegel, I'm afraid. Where is Mr. Jacoby's anger about this fact?
And should one be angry about it? Hegel is but one figure in the history of philosophy, regarded by some as of seminal importance, by others (like Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, for instance) as worthy mainly of ridicule. A typical philosophy department, even one with a PhD program, may have only fifteen or so faculty lines, with which it must cover the whole history of philosophy (ancient Greek and Roman, medieval, early modern, Kant and 19th-century philosophy, 20th-century analytic and Continental philosophy--and perhaps even the history of non-Western philosophical traditions) as well as areas of contemporary research in moral, political, and legal philosophy; philosophy of the sciences and mathematics; philosophy of language and mind; metaphysics and epistemology; and perhaps still others (logic, philosophy of religion, aesthetics, etc.).
Why, oh why, should the historical treatment of one figure, Hegel, take precedence over every other major historical figure or important contemporary topic? That's the actual question that Departments confront. And given the actual situation, it is rather striking that Hegel fares as well as he does compared to other figures in the history of philosophy.
Mr. Jacoby, however, has a real axe he wants to grind: namely, what he takes to be the anti-historical or a-historical nature of his target disciplines. (Imagine that: an historian is mad that other fields don't pay enough attention to his!) Here is his hugely ironic critique of psychology on this score:
[T]he ruthlessly anti- or nonhistorical
orientation that informs contemporary academe encourages shelving past
geniuses. This mind-set evidently affects psychology. The American
Psychological Association's own task force on "learning goals" for
undergraduate majors makes a nod toward teaching the history of
psychology, but it relegates the subject to an optional subfield,
equivalent to "group dynamics." "We are not advocating that separate
courses in the history of psychology or group dynamics must be included
in the undergraduate curriculum," the savants counsel, "but leave it to
the ingenuity of departments to determine contexts in which students
can learn those relevant skills and perspectives." The ingenious
departments apparently have dumped Freud as antiquated. A study by the
American Psychoanalytic Association of "teaching about psychoanalytic
ideas in the undergraduate curricula of 150 highly ranked colleges and
universities" concludes that Freudian ideas thrive outside of
The irony, of course, is that contemporary academic psychology shares the same "scientistic" commitments of Freud: namely, to discover truths about the mind that can pass muster by the evidential standards that have served us well in the natural sciences. Physics and Chemistry departments do not spend a lot of time on the "history" of their disciplines, and psychology departments, even if they were now dominated by Freudians, would not either. Perhaps the fact that psychology is a "soft" science (to put it nicely) should give them pause about such an approach; but, ironically, Freud would not have been an ally on this point.
After then attacking economics, Mr. Jacoby turns to philosophy:
Compared with economics, philosophy prizes the study of its past and
generally offers courses on Greek, medieval, and modern thinkers.
Frequently, however, those classes close with Kant, in the 18th
century, and do not pick up again until the 20th century. The troubling
19th century, featuring Hegel (and Kierkegaard and Nietzsche), is
omitted or glossed over. General catalogs sometimes list a Hegel course
in philosophy, but it is rarely offered. Very few philosophy
departments at major universities teach Hegel or Hegelian thought.
We've already noted that this is partly false (many of the leading philosophy departments in the country have Hegel specialists on their faculties) and partly misleading (lots of historical figures are taught irregularly, there is always a question of resources). But Mr. Jacoby continues:
Philosophy stands at the opposite pole from psychology in at least
one respect. In most colleges and universities, it is one of the
smaller majors, while psychology is one of the largest. Yet, much like
psychology, philosophy has proved unwelcoming for thinkers paddling
against the mainstream. Not only did sharp critics like Richard Rorty,
frustrated by its narrowness, quit philosophy for comparative
literature, but a whole series of professors have departed for other
fields, leaving philosophy itself intellectually parched.
That is the argument of John McCumber, a scholar of Hegel and
Heidegger who himself decamped from philosophy to German. His book Time in the Ditch: American Philosophy and the McCarthy Era
(Northwestern University Press, 2001) savages the contemporary American
philosophical profession and its flight from history. He notes, for
instance, that 10 years after the 1987 "breakthrough anthology" Feminism as Critique,
not one of its contributors, from Seyla Benhabib to Iris Marion Young,
still taught in a philosophy department. The pressures that force — or
tempt — big names such as Rorty and Martha Nussbaum to quit philosophy,
McCumber observes, exert equal force on those outside the public eye.
He charges, for instance, that senior editors dispense with peer review
and run the major philosophy journals like private fiefdoms, and that a
few established professors select papers for the discipline's annual
conferences. The authoritarianism and cronyism drive out mavericks.
Professor Kobes, in his note to me, put it well: "This is a grotesque distortion of the state of our discipline. It is
simply not true that the major philosophy journals dispense with peer
review and are run like private fiefdoms. And I suspect it is at least
misleading to suggest that people like Martha Nussbaum 'quit
philosophy' (sic) because the discipline is unwelcoming to people
paddling against the mainstream." Indeed: I am quite sure Martha Nussbaum, when she joined the University of Chicago Law School a dozen years ago, was "quitting philosophy" as little as I am today. Benhabib didn't "quit" philosophy either: she simply found the grass greener in Political Science Departments, where the top departments were keen to hire her when top philosophy departments were not. The reason, I'm afraid, is pretty simple, but one would actually have to know something to know this: Benhabib's work on Hegel and the Frankfurt School just is not as good, philosophically, as the best work on these thinkers by Allen Wood, Michael Forster, Raymond Geuss, Michael Rosen, Frederick Beiser, Robert Pippin, and others.
And finally--alas--if Mr. Jacoby had asked around he would have learned rather quickly that no one (not even the leading scholars of Hegel and Heidegger) considers Professor McCumber an authority on, or even a reliable guide to, contemporary philosophy. (Professor McCumber does teach in the German Department at UCLA which may explain why he looms so large on Mr. Jacoby's horizon.) For example, only Journal of Philosophy could be reasonably charged with being run like a "private fiefdom," as our earlier discussion of the topic brought out. In fact, philosophy is notable for the large number of high-profile journals run meticulously and utilizing blind peer review. Maybe this is driving out "mavericks" (like Professor McCumber?), or maybe it is driving out mediocrities and poseurs? The evidence on offer is, alas, compatible with both possibilities. It would take a lot more argument, and knowledge, to establish Mr. Jacoby's preferred reading.
Mr. Jacoby, sadly, is not done smearing a field he obviously has little knowledge of, for he continues:
Philosophy nods toward its past, but its devotion to
language analysis and logic-chopping pushes aside as murky its great
19th-century thinkers. Polishing philosophical eyeglasses proves futile
if they are rarely used to see.
Some philosophers, no doubt, "chop logic," just as some historians apparently "shovel bullshit," but we would, in either instance, do well to refrain from judging the state of a discipline by its weakest exemplars. It is true that philosophy that utilizes formal logic is harder for intellectual tourists like Mr. Jacoby to read, but I am afraid this does not establish its value. "Language analysis" is also, as every reader of this blog knows, contested and in some quarters abandoned as central to philosophical methodology. But what contemporary philosophers have in common is not "language-analysis and logic-chopping," but rather what they share with almost every other philosopher in history, namely, an interest in understanding--in "polishing philosophical eyeglasses" in order "to see"--the nature of knowledge, reality, truth, mind, meaning, morality, goodness, art, etc. Hegel is "murkier" than Quine, and also murkier than Hume. But murkiness has never been an obstacle to philosophical importance, from Leibniz to Hegel to Husserl to Dummett.
There is a lot right and a lot wrong with academic philosophy in the
United States these days. But to even get at the field's virtues and
problems one has to actually know something about the discipline, about
what work is actually being done, what methods are used, what topics and thinkers are being genuinely neglected, and which ones flourishing even though they are unlikely to bear fruits. There are, without a doubt, departments that are parochial and narrow-minded, whose faculties are under-educated and under-informed, sometimes about the field's history, sometimes about its contemporary contours, sometimes, remarkably, both. For my money, I would rather see much more history of philosophy (though not, I confess, much more Hegel), and less intuition-pumping ethics and metaphysics, which may well align my sympathies with Mr. Jacoby's. But the question is why my preferences, or his, ought to be treated as a pertinent benchmark for the direction the field moves? If the SPEP folks had not tainted the word "pluralism" a generation ago by using it as the fig leaf for bad philosophy, one might even say that what some departments now need is more "pluralism." The truth is, however, that most departments do rather well in covering philosophy, a remarkably capacious discipline, with unclear boundaries, and a rich and variegated history that permits of many different tellings.
As Professor Kobes wrote to me: "The Chronicle is widely read by deans and other university decision
makers. I am not aware of it publishing on a regular basis any better
informed commentator on philosophy than Carlin Romano and Russell
Jacoby." The solution is clear: philosophers need to write clearly and understandably about their work, how it relates to the work philosophers have always done, how it contributes to interdisciplinary projects in linguistics, computer science, biology, psychology, etc., and then submit those articles to the Chronicle. I doubt very much that malice against philosophy explains the embarrassing run of ignorant pieces CH has been publishing. I suspect, instead, it is lack of anything else available to fill the pages. For obvious reasons, intellectual tourists like Mr. Jacoby and Mr. Romano will regularly volunteer their amateurish musings about philosophy to CH, since they aren't going to appear in any forum in which the editors know something about the subject. That makes it even more imperative for philosophers to present their work and their discipline to a non-specialist audience.
Via Chris Bertram (Bristol), I learn of this pleasing excorciation of the remarkably silly and pernicious "philosopher" of science (now a sociologist) Steve Fuller, who is also a shill for Intelligent Design.
The list of new electees is here. Roger Scruton is the only philosopher elected among the "Ordinary Fellows," while three philosophers are elected as "Corresponding Fellows" this year: Martha Nussbaum (University of Chicago), Dan Sperber (CNRS-Paris), and Bas van Fraassen (San Francisco State University).
The debate about Experimental Philosophy is usefully compared with debates elsewhere in the human sciences about intuition gathering. As it happens, in syntax, the time-honored tradition of "armchair linguistics" is facing a similar challenge, although at a considerably lower decibel rate. On this score, I've found this paper by Colin Phillips quite useful. Some choice quotes:
Although the typical 'Armchair linguist' does not systematically test his generalizations using large sets of example sentences and many naive informants, empirical claims nevertheless undergo extensive vetting before they attain the status of 'widely accepted generalizations'. If a key judgment is questionable, this is likely to be pointed out by a colleague, or by audience members in a talk, or reviewers of an abstract or journal article. If the questionable generalization somehow makes it past that point, then it will still be subjected to widespread scrutiny before it becomes a part of linguistic lore. In our lab we frequently conduct controlled acceptability judgment studies...We have to run the judgment studies in order to convince skeptical reviewers that we are investigating real phenomena, but the results are rarely surprising...in our experience, carefully constructed tests of well-known grammatical generalizations overwhelmingly corroborate the results of 'armchair linguistics'.
And bearing more directly on what has emerged in the comments thread about Machery, Mallon, Nichols, and Stich's work on Kripke:
Acceptability contrasts that are clear when using the much maligned 'ask a couple of friendly linguists' method generally remain clear when testing a large number of non-expert informants. If the larger sample makes the contrast seem less clear, this is just as likely to reflect experimenter error (misleading instructions, poorly matched examples, etc.) as distortion of facts by linguists.
In a recent paper, one of Kripke’s many empirical arguments against the description theory in Naming
and Necessity has been challenged. This example concerns a fictional
scenario in which someone named “Schmidt” in fact was the first to prove
Godel’s incompleteness theorems; Machery, Mallon, Nichols, and Stich argue that speakers in Hong Kong think that “Godel” then refers to Schmidt. If correct, this is a good contribution, since it would give us information about which claims in a certain branch of semantics are most robust. But it is hard to see any kind of broader significance here. First, the case is one that
Kripke himself regarded as pretty shaky (Kripke writes “But it may seem to many
of you that this is a very odd example”), which is why he immediately follows
up the fictional case by providing an actual case – the case of “Peano”
(Machery, Mallon et. al. do not even attempt to argue that
mathematicians in Hong Kong think that “Peano” refers to Dedekind). And indeed even if we
abandon all cases, fictional and actual, of the “Godel”-“Schmidt” variety,
Kripke still provides an overwhelming case against the description theory of
names in Naming and Necessity. In forthcoming work, Mallon, Machery et. al. go on to argue
against what they call “The Method of Cases” (basically appeals to speaker
intuitions about truth-conditions) solely on the basis of their one experiment
about “Godel”-“Schmidt”. This is an argument directed against the entire
methodology of linguistic semantics. To base a case against a branch of
science, practiced in the main by people completely ignorant of philosophy, on
a single experiment about a rather insignificant claim made by a philosopher thirty
years ago seems a bit odd, a bit like rejecting the entire methodology of
chemistry because of a single false claim made in a largely true article in one area of the subject.
Update: As Justin Sytsma points out below, I messed up a bit in the original post, because in the original paper the study was of an English-speaking group of Hong Kong residents - so the experiments were uniformly in English. I have adjusted the post accordingly.
Update: To see the newer comments, please press 'next' at the bottom of the thread.
I received an e-mail the other day from Yasuhiko Tomida, a philosopher at Kyoto University in Japan, who is translating the last volume of Rorty's collected papers into Japanese. A chapter in that volume discusses my introduction to The Future for Philosophy volume, in which I describe a "split," as it were, between "quietists" and "naturalists" in philosophy (Rorty agrees there is the split, but sides, unsurprisingly, with the former). Anyway, Professor Tomida wrote to me because, "In the Japanese text we Japanese must write your name with special characters ('katakana'). Therefore, could you let me confirm the pronunciation of your last name 'Leiter'? Is it pronounced like a German name? Or is it pronounced as 'later'?" (It's pronounced as it would be in German.) I must say I found this conscientious attention to a rather minor detail (to put it mildly) very impressive! May all translators be as responsible and careful as Professor Tomida!
This is very grim news for people who would like to enter the profession. Your observation that "a lot of faculty who might have been thinking about retirement in the coming year are going to postpone given the huge losses most will have suffered" [in the stock markets] seems correct. This raises seriouis ethical questions for tenured faculty. Since keeping one's position and not retiring is likely to directly cause the unemployment/underemployment of young philosophers, it is wrong to postpone one's retirement past a certain age? If so, at what age should one retire? I don't have answers to these questions but would like to see them discussed on your blog.
Pharyngula--the wickedly funny science blog run by Minnesota biologist Paul Myers, a blog that I am happy to take some credit for promoting early on in its career (its traffic now dwarfs mine)--is under attack from the Catholic League, a quasi-fascistic group that--like its Islamic counterparts (which are more often in the news these days)--regularly tries to terrorize, threaten, and silence anyone and anything deemed offensive to its particular (and often peculiar) version of its religion, Catholicism; in this case, they apparently want Professor Myers fired for his speech. (We've been therebefore!)
Professor Myers is obviously correct to draw the comparison between the Catholic League's response and Islamic fundamentalists. The issue here is not, however, one of "academic freedom" per se, but rather the First Amendment. What Bill Donohue of the Catholic League does not appear to understand is that the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prohibits the state of Minnesota from punishing Professor Myers for his speech. (I know, it's a tricky concept.) In the United States, which is currently not a theocracy, Professor Myers does not have to be polite about Catholicism; he does not have to be respectful; he does not have to give a hoot about the sensibilities of Catholics or Mr. Donohue. The Catholic League is similarly free to criticize Professor Myers as harshly as they want, but in calling on his employer and the state legislature to punish him for his speech, Mr. Donohue and his group betray their basic affinity with all religiously motivated authoritarians, from the Texas Taliban to Osama bin Laden.
I assume that counsel will have already advised the University of Minnesota to do nothing about Professor Myers's protected speech. I'll post more if this witch hunt goes further.
Stewart Cohen, a leading figure in epistemology at Arizona State University, has accepted a senior offer from the Department of Philosophy at the University of Arizona (where he took his PhD in the 1980s), where he will start full-time in fall 2009 (though will visit this fall). That's a big blow for ASU, and a notable addition for Arizona.
I am alone I confess it A secret closely held And all but little Celia (Who tells me I am lonely) Give it not a thought
Yet today in the market Among the vegetables Two beautiful little girls The first in a shopping basket Whom I invite to smile Who almost does A second tiny in a carrier Pressed close to her mother Who worries over to tell me That she's shy I beg to differ Cooing at them both
Two more on line a bit older Gaily dressed Each with a Mylar balloon For their parents' anniversary I ask if they will be good to Daddy And Mommy too one adds Have I met the perfect children
Finally in the parking lot A young mother Struggling to unload A brimming basket Of groceries and a pair of girls Wait till you have three I joke To which she says It's not going to happen (Pausing) ask me another day But they are so lovely I observe And she in agreeing says Perhaps I should perhaps I should
I depart smiling From this garden of possibility Nor lonely either now
A few weeks ago, I gave a short talk at a conference celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of W.V. Quine. Each of us had less than 10 minutes to speak. My purpose was two-fold. First, I wanted to write something that would be accessible to philosophically interested humanists not in philosophy. Secondly, I wanted to make it clear that philosophers have not been logical positivists for quite some time.
I've opened comments, not in search of criticism, but to give people the opportunity to say what they think of Quine's influence on philosophy, right after the 100th anniversary of his birth.
Students and especially job seekers, I fear, need to be prepared for weak job markets this year and next, if not longer (depending, of course, on how severe the economic downturn is, whether Bush & his bestiary of madmen start another war, and so on). Not only will state universities likely be doing less hiring, but the catastrophic June in the stock markets means that a lot of faculty who might have been thinking about retiremement in the coming year are going to postpone given the huge losses most will have suffered.
But how to "prepare"? If you can delay a full search, do so (searching selectively may make good sense, i.e., targetting jobs for which you are a perfect 'fit'). Do not defend your dissertation until a job offer is in hand--PhDs "go stale" quickly, and you don't want to be a 2008 PhD who, because of general market trends, is still looking for a tenure-stream position in 2011. (I must say this is a really crazy aspect of the job market: everyone knows the market is tight, that most philosophers are, in one sense or another, "under-employed" in their first position [even when it is tenure-stream!], and that multiple searches over multiple years are the norm--yet still there is a tendency to draw unfavorable inferences when the job seeker has a PhD that is several years old, and no tenure-stream job.) And think ahead in terms of funding possibilities that will sustain your time in graduate school. The economic indicators remind me, at least, of the job market in the early 1990s, not the relatively robust market of recent years (and even that, as job seekers well know, was no cake walk). In the early 1990s, there were 2.3 candidates per job advertised (this presents an unduly rosy picture, for reasons I've discussed before); by the early 2000s, that was down to 1.4. I expect we will be back at 2.3 before long, if we are not there already.
...and apparently has no idea what it is, though this does not prevent the author from writing a good deal "about" it and offering lots of opinions. Someone patient should enter the comments over there to try to set this individual straight.
(Thanks to Matthew Silverstein for the pointer.)
UPDATE: Robert Skipper (Cincinnati) has spoken (in the comments, above): "Experimental philosophy is an embarrassment to the discipline. It’s not at all clear that, done right, experimental philosophy would move philosophy forward. It’s utterly clear that most of the philosophers doing it have no idea how to do even the most rudimentary social psychological (or anthropological) study." So there you have it, no need for anyone else to comment. Also sprach Skipper!
(Thanks to an anonymous X-philosopher for the tip about Professor Skipper's insight.)
ANOTHER: Having gone away for a few days, I now see that various juvenile jackasses have cluttered up the comments thread, though there is some substantive discussion. Alas. If anyone knows who R.A. or any of the others are, let me know. At least Professor Skipper signs his name to his asinine remarks.
So reports The Virtual Stoa. I taught his and Adorno's The Dialectic of Enlightenment in a graduate seminar last year, the first time I had ever had occasion to teach it. It is alternately brilliant and strange. The analysis of "the culture industry" ought to be required reading for schoolchildren, before the culture industry consumes what is left of their sensibilities.
When we landed in Geneva about a month ago, our driver, who knew that we would be driving also to Italy, France, and Spain, offered the following memorable observation about drivers in Southern Europe: "The Italians are unconscious, and the French are sadistic maniacs."
The Swiss drivers, on the other hand, are exactly as you would have expected: obedient, predictable, and sensible. Switzerland, I must say, is a spectacularly beautiful country, something I had never realized before driving through much of it. Italian drivers are, indeed, a bit unconscious, but not malicious. For those of you who are also New Yorkers, think: the Belt Parkway when it is not rush hour (but minus the hatred). You can really fly on Italian highways, and unlike New York (or Texas) drivers, cars pass only on the left, never on the right. But there are no speed limits to speak of on the main highways, and the left lane is not for the timorous. But one does make good time!
The French are a bit nastier, as our Swiss driver implied. During the nearly 3000 km I drove in Southern Europe last month, I got the finger from other drivers only twice, both times in France: once for failing to get out of the left lane quickly enough for a psychopath flashing his lights at me (while I was going 145 km/hour!) and once for flashing my lights at a driver going merely 120 km/hour in the left lane when I wanted to pass.
The Spanish, by contrast, are close to being the Swiss of Southern Europe--though I gather this is a somewhat recent development as the government has cracked down on Italian-style lawlessness. But the Spanish are sensible drivers, and less prone to the bizarre tail-gaiting at 140 km/hour that is so characteristic of the Italians and the French.
The worst part of driving in Southern Europe is not the highways, which are generally in good condition and move quickly (though there are far too many stops for exorbinant tolls in France). What is really hair-raising is driving in the cities, not because of the cars, but the motor bikes (when gas costs about eight U.S. dollars per gallon, you can understand why there are so many motor bikes!). The motor bikes do not observe lanes, and they weave in and out, without regard to the rather serious damage a car weighing thousands of pounds might do to their flimsy scooter, not to mention their flesh and bones.
All that being said, driving in Southern Europe was a fine experience...but I'm a New Yorker, so this may not be for everyone.
We received lots of great travel tips from readers, for which my sincere thanks. Here's some tips of our own:
1. In Florence, the San Gallo Palace (where NYU put up many conference participants) is quite nice, though about a 20-minute walk from most tourist attractions--a burden and a blessing, of course. For families, ask for rooms 115-116, which can be connected and turned into a large suite and a have a huge outdoor terrace. On the square next to the San Gallo, are two attractive restaurants: Alfredo's is simple and family-friendly, good for pizza and pastas; Perseus is carnivore heaven, with excellent Florentine beefsteak, among other delights. Be forewarned that during peak tourist season, the major Florence museums now have really huge lines (much worse than 15 years ago). The Da Vinci museum was a hit with our children.
2. The Methis Hotel in Padua was very nice and a reasonable walk to the center of town--the Giotto frescoes are in a church a bit farther (still walkable), but they are really quite spectacular. (David Owen [Ariziona] said they were the best frescoes in Italy, and that may well be true.] The train to Venice is fairly quick from Padua.
3. Tossa de Mar on the Costra Brava proved pleasant, but the cuisine is uneven. The two big winners for dining are Bahia and Castell Vell. You'll need sea shoes for the beach in Tossa!
4. In Barcelona, Gaudi's Casa Batllo is wonderful for both adults and children. It was not open when we were last there in 1997, but we were very glad to see it this time.
The Ryskamp Fellowship from the ACLS supports the research of untenured faculty, while the Burkhardt Fellowship supports those who are recently tenured. Winning a Ryskamp Fellowship this year is Stephen Finlay (Southern California) for a project on "A Confusion of Tongues: An Analysis of Evaluative Discourse." Winning a Burkhardt Fellowship this year is Aaron James (UC Irvine) for a project on "Fairness in the Global Economy."
Varol Akman (Bilkent) kindly calls to my attention that The Nation has a page listing all its articles related to "philosophy." As a left publication, The Nation clearly feels an obligation to cover a lot of bullshit philosophy because it has a pseudo-left appearance. Alas. Still there are some interesting pieces by serious authors and reviewing serious books.
Francis Jeffrey Pelletier (philosophy of language, ancient philosophy) will resign (effective January 1, 2009) from his Canada Research Chair at Simon Fraser University to return to the University of Alberta, where he took emeritus status upon taking up the CRC at Simon Fraser. He will now be a regular Visiting Professor at Alberta, teaching two courses per year and, according to the Department, involved in "graduate supervision and mentoring."
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)