Kieran Setiya (ethics), Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh, has turned down a tenured offer from the Department of Philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin. Pittsburgh has recently warded off several attempted raids on its "value theory" faculty: Stephen Engstrom (Kant, ethics) and Michael Thompson (ethics, political philosophy, action theory) were retained in the face of offers from the University of Chicago.
...probably speaks the truth about how the allegedly prudent wing of the Republocrat Party is handling the current crisis of capitalism:
From the beginning of the recent crisis, starting with Bear Stearns, I have emphasized that nearly all of the financial institutions at risk of insolvency have enough liabilities to their own bondholders to fully absorb all probable losses without any loss to customers or the American public. The sum total of the policy responses to this crisis has been to defend the bondholders of distressed financial institutions at public expense.
Note that in the example balance sheet above, 30% of the liabilities of the institution represent debt to the company's own bondholders. It is these individuals – not homeowners, not the American public – that are being defended by the promise of trillions of dollars in public money.
For example, while Citigroup has approximately $2 trillion in assets, those assets are financed not only by customer deposits, but also by nearly $600 billion in debt to Citigroup's own bondholders. It is these private bondholders who provided the funds for Citigroup to acquire questionable assets.
The bondholders of distressed financial institutions – not the American public – should bear responsibility for the losses of those institutions. This can be accomplished, without harm to customers or the broader financial system, in one of two ways:
1)The bondholders could voluntarily agree to move a portion of their claims lower down in the capital structure, swapping debt for equity (preferred or common), allowing the bank to have a larger cushion of Tier-1 capital, avoiding insolvency, and hopefully allowing the bank to recover by its own bootstraps , preferably assisted by debt restructuring on the borrower side (via property appreciation rights and the like). Alternatively;
2) The U.S. government could take receivership of the financial institution, defend the customer assets, change the management, wipe out the stockholders and a chunk of the bondholders claims entirely, continue the operation of the institution in receivership, and eventually sell or reissue the company to private ownership, leaving the bondholders with the residual. Indeed, this is how the largest bank failure in history – Washington Mutual – was handled so seamlessly last year that it was almost forgettable. This is not Argentina-style “nationalization,” but receivership – a form of “pre-packaged bankruptcy” that protects the customers and allows the institution to continue to operate, followed by re-privatization. This would fully protect all of the customers and depositors at no probable expense to the public.
What should not be done is what was allowed in the case of Lehman Brothers – a disorderly failure, by which the company was allowed to fail with no conservatorship of the existing business. It was not the failure of Lehman per se, but the disorder resulting from its piecemeal liquidation, that caused distress to the financial markets.
That said, it is true that the bondholders of major banks include pension funds, insurance companies, mutual funds, foreign investors and other holders that would be adversely affected by a writedown in bond values. But this is part of the contract – when one lends money to a financial institution, one also assumes the risk and responsibility of bearing the losses. Congress always has the ability to mitigate the losses of some parties, such as pension funds, if it is agreed that this is in the public interest. But to defend all bondholders of financial institutions at public expense is to commit the future economic output of innocent citizens to cover the losses of mismanaged financial institutions. As a result of the intervention by the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Treasury, even the bondholders of Bear Stearns stand to receive 100% repayment of both interest and principal on their bond investments. This is absurd.
The State Board of Education on Friday passed science curriculum standards that members described as a compromise between those who are critical of teaching evolutionary theories without scrutiny and those who feared attacks on evolution would lead to the teaching of creationism in Texas schools.
After the 13-2 vote, it was social conservatives on the board who were doing most of the celebrating while scientists expressed concerns.
The new standards remove current requirements that students be taught the "strengths and weaknesses" of scientific theories. Instead, teachers will be required to have students scrutinize "all sides" of the theories.
Teaching "all sides" is just code, of course, for teaching schoolchildren lies about biological science cooked up by religious zealots. And, of course, the leading front for the Intelligent Design conmen was elated:
The Discovery [sic] Institute, which encourages teaching that the universe is the product of an intelligent designer, called the vote "a huge victory for those who favor teaching the scientific evidence for and against evolution."
By requiring students to evaluate the evidence for major evolutionary concepts such as common ancestry, natural selection and mutations, the institute said in a statement, "Texas today moved to the head of the class."
"Texas has sent a clear message that evolution should be taught as a scientific theory open to critical scrutiny, not as a sacred dogma that can't be questioned," said John West, a senior fellow at the institute.
Of course, there is no scientific evidence "against evolution," but this would not, of course, give a pathological liar like John West any pause. The creationist Board of Education Chairman Don McLeroy (with whom I discussed these issues many years ago---alas, to no avail) is also clear about the meaning of the new language:
[B]oard Chairman Don McLeroy, R-College Station, said the new wording...gets the point across...that it requires students to analyze and evaluate evolution's explanation for both the complexity of cells and the sudden appearance and lack of change in species in the fossil record....
Texas Freedom Network...President Kathy Miller said the standards are now "a road map that creationists will use to pressure publishers into putting phony arguments attacking established science into textbooks."
The curriculum "still has plenty of potential footholds for creationist attacks on evolution to make their way into Texas classrooms," Miller said.
What a disgrace and a tragedy for children in Texas (and probably elsewhere, given the leverage Texas has over the textbook market).
Last fall, I gave a paper on "Moral Skepticism and Moral Disagreement in Nietzsche" at the annual NYU History of Modern Philosophy conference, and then posted a revised version on-line here. Here is the abstract of the paper:
This essay offers a new interpretation of Nietzsche's argument for moral skepticism (i.e., the metaphysical thesis that there do not exist any objective moral properties or facts), an argument that should be of independent philosophical interest as well. On this account, Nietzsche offers a version of the argument from moral disagreement, but, unlike familiar varieties, it does not purport to exploit anthropological reports about the moral views of exotic cultures, or even garden-variety conflicting moral intuitions about concrete cases. Nietzsche, instead, calls attention to the single most important and embarrassing fact about the history of moral theorizing by philosophers over two millennia: namely, that no rational consensus has been secured on any substantive, foundational proposition about morality. Persistent and apparently intractable disagreement on foundational questions, of course, distinguishes moral theory from inquiry in the sciences and mathematics (perhaps in kind, certainly in degree). According to Nietzsche, the best explanation for this disagreement is that, even though moral skepticism is true, philosophers can still construct valid dialectical justifications for moral propositions because the premises of different justifications will answer to the psychological needs of at least some philosophers and thus be deemed true by some of them. The essay concludes by considering various attempts to defuse this abductive argument for skepticism based on moral disagreement and by addressing the question whether the argument "proves too much," that is, whether it might entail an implausible skepticism about a wide range of topics about which there is philosophical disagreement.
A post about the paper at my Nietzsche blog generated an excellent set of comments and questions from Justin Clarke-Doane, an obviously extremely talented grad student at NYU doing fascinating work on disagreement in mathematics (among other topics). I replied to these comment in two separate posts: here and here. In each case, Mr. Clarke-Doane was kind enough to reply in the comment sections, and in some cases I and other readers of my Nietzsche blog weighed in. I would like to invite other philosophers interested in metaethics and the significance of disagreement more generally to join the discussion at any of the preceding links.
Having done what I have done Having done good or ill well or poorly Having done until exhausted by time and circumstance Now then what am I doing here after all
What am I doing And what are you doing Have you added up the days and hours When the doing did nothing When your absence would have made no difference
When what you seemed to be doing affected no one Was turned inward or was trivial or irrelevant Or a duplicate of a thousand days Equally ineffective inconsequential And only nightfall stopped the emptiness for sleep
So what are we doing here now and soon Can it be explained to a sensible child Imagine that child asking, "What are you doing here?" Not "What do you do?" which permits The great evasion a recital of occupation That mask wrapped around a putative doing which When removed reveals nothing nothing at all
Don't tell what your job is Tell what you're doing with this precious life And if you can not explain this to a child Change your life
I've recently been talking to Journal editors in various fields, who all lament the difficulty of securing quality referee reports.Certainly, authors can often be heard voicing the same complaint, and one wonders if this is implicated in the dearth, alleged in the recent Chronicle article, of Journal submissions by senior academics (who often have "invited" placement options).My impression is that the amount of refereeing people do varies wildly, and it occurs to me that it might be useful to attempt articulating some disciplinary norms in philosophy, to help people determine what would count as "pulling one's weight."To take an arbitrary example, an appropriate workload might be 3 a year for untenured people, and 6 a year for tenured people, with standard administrative workloads. But for all I know the number should be lower, or higher (perhaps the latter is more likely, at least for tenured people).
So: How much refereeing do people *actually* do, and how much do they think people *should* do in a typical year?
Because I have edited a journal since 2000 (Legal Theory until recently, Oxford Studies in the Philosophy of Law currently), I probably do less refereeing than some, since I already have a lot of referee work connected to my editorial duties. Still, I probably do 2-3 referee jobs for other journals each year. I have no idea what the norm is. Comments are open; signed comments preferred, but you must at least use a real e-mail address (which will not appear)--if you don't want to sign the name, at least indicate something about your professional position (e.g., 'full professor,' 'assistant professor,' that kind of thing).
Anthony Gillies (philosophy of language, formal semantics, epistemology, philosophical logic, decision/game theory) at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor has accepted a tenured offer from the Department of Philosophy at Rutgers University at New Brunswick.
At the time of this writing, exactly one week has passed since the Supreme Court of the State of California decreed that homosexuals have a "basic civil right" to marry someone of the same sex. Whether these Golden Gate solons will follow up their remarkable finding with a ruling to the effect that an ass is the same as a horse, it is too early to say; but they have already gone well beyond the sophistical orator of Plato's dialogue in "confoudning good with evil," not to mention reason with insanity....
[T]he most important thing to know about the belief that God exists is not that most citizens happen (for now anyway) to share it, that it tends to uphold public morality, and so forth. The most important thing to know about it is that it is true, and demonstrably so. Similarly, the most important thing to know about "same-sex marriage" is not that it has been lawlessly imposed by certain courts even though a majority of citizens happen (again, for now anyway) to oppose it. The most important thing to know about it is that the very idea is a metaphysical absurdity and a moral abomination, and (again) demonstrably so. It is no more up to the courts or "the people" to "define" marriage or to decide whether religion is a good thing than it is up to them to "define" whether the Pythagorean Theorem is true of right triangles, or whether water has the chemical structure H2O. In each case, what is at issue is a matter of objective fact that it is the business of reason to discover rather than democratic procedure to stipulate.
The "demonstration" consists in recycled Thomist arguments (with no meaningful attention to their now familiar refutations and the repetitive rhetorical trope that everyone [except Professor Feser] has failed to grasp the real import and nuances of these arguments) and some premodern Aristotelian metaphysics, recycled through the lens of Professor Feser's sad obsession with where sperm ends up. The publisher of this strange "philosophical" tome: St. Augustine's Press in South Bend, Indiana. It is not, I should add, uninteresting as a sociological and psychological document, and it does throw a somewhat clear light on the distinctive features of 'modernity' that are so frightening to those still living in the "dark ages."
ADDENDUM: For motivated readers, pp. 132-153 are particularly remarkable, and might be useful for those wanting a good example of bad philosophy in the service of religious dogma.
So the earlier poll, with more than 500 votes, is now complete. The results struck me as fairly sensible. Oxford University Press was the hands-down winner, and Cambridge University Press was a distant, but clear, second. Blackwell came in third, and Harvard University Press fourth. Three presses were fairly close to each other in the poll, but distant fifths from Harvard: MIT Press, Routledge, and Princeton University Press. Then there was another drop in votes before Cornell University Press and University of Chicago Press, which were very close. Yale University Press was a somewhat distant 10th, with Kluwer/Springer not far behind.
Some readers pointed out that Oxford may get an advantage from the fact that it publishes more philosophy than any other press--though the fact that OUP publishes leading work in every sub-field of the discipline probably ought to count in OUP's favor. But Oxford certainly has a much larger catalogue than most of the others. PUP, which may have the smallest catalogue, also, in my opinion, may have the highest 'per capita' quality. OUP, CUP, MIT, and Routledge all publish work in Continental philosophy quite regularly. Harvard is an unusual case, and not just because their catalogue is small, but because, as one friend put it to me, their catalogue actually has "a philosophical position" (roughly anti-naturalist, and whatever is on the agenda at Harvard and Pittsburgh, plus some ethics): this means Harvard publishes important books within the "party line," but nothing at all in many of the most lively areas of current research.
Thoughts from readers on the results? Signed comments only, meaning a full name and an e-mail consistent with that.
David Chalmers (philosophy of mind and language) at the Australian National University has accepted a half-time post at New York University, where he will teach each fall for the next three years; the rest of the year, he will be at the ANU (because of the differing academic calendars, this is tantamount to a regular post at the ANU). Chalmers has also declined the senior offers from Princeton and Rutgers, and still has a full-time offer outstanding from NYU.
I usually don't cover junior lateral hires, except in unusual cases (like Knobe), but a lot of folks have e-mailed me about these folks, so they are probably in the same category ("unusually high-profile junior philosophers likely to get tenure soon" or something like that), and should be flagged for prospective students: David Manley (metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of language and mind), Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southern California, has accepted a tenure-track offer from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor; and Seth Yalcin (philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, formal epistemology), Assistant Professor of Philosophy at New York University, has accepted a tenure-track offer from the University of California at Berkeley. Manley is a Rutgers PhD, Yalcin an MIT PhD.
The poll is here. It is limited to presses that publish a significant amount of original philosophy work in English; thus, presses that publish mainly textbooks or editions of classic works are not listed. This poll will run through next Wednesday.
UPDATE: Kluwer merged with Springer, so the listing for Kluwer should be thought of as Kluwer/Springer books. Sorry about that error.
Based on anecdotal evidence, I have the impression that the nature of financial aid awards to new PhD students varies quite dramatically from school to school. I thought it might be useful, both for departments and students, to collect these anecdotes in one place. Two kinds of posts are welcome here. Faculty, who must sign their name, can post the financial aid awards in their department, e.g.:
University of [insert name] offers each year two Fellowships (three years, no teaching, 18K/year plus 3K summer money, full tuition remission), and 5-7 TAships (15K per year, some summer teaching available, 80% tuition remission, typically involves marking or leading discussion with 40 students per term). Support is available for up to seven years; those on Fellowship are eligible for TAships after Fellowship support runs out.
Alternatively, students (who must post a real e-mail, it won't appear) can post the financial aid awards they have received from particular programs, e.g.:
[insert name] University offered me a University Fellowship, five years of guaranteed support of 22K per year, plus summer support (5K) for three summers; full tuition remission; must teach in the 2nd and 4th years. No support guaranteed thereafter.
MOVING TO FRONT FROM MARCH 13--this poll is also open for a few more days.
This poll includes some of the top journals from the earlier survey that regularly publish in moral and political philosophy, as well as many of the specialized journals in this general area.
The plan is to run some more surveys next week for some other areas, like history and philosophy of the sciences and mathematics.
UPDATE: I'll probably need to do a run-off version of this poll, to add some of the journals whose omission has been called to my attention, such as Hastings Center Report, Hypatia, and Politics, Philosophy, & Economics.
MOVING TO FRONT FROM MARCH 12: This poll is still open and will be a couple of more days.
This topic comes up quite a lot, especially in correspondence, and especially from graduate students and younger philosophers trying to figure out where to publish. We have touched on the issue before, but I've created a poll for readers on the subject to see whether any consensus emerges. I have listed 29 journals, which readers can rank order (with ties, of course), and you can also express 'no opinion.' I'll let this run till the middle of next week. Hopefully this new poll will prove useful.
NOTE: At least on my brower, the counter for "votes cast" went back to zero after some 120 votes had already been cast--though the votes were preserved, clearly, in the results. No idea what happened, but if the total votes cast at the top seems inconsistent with the results, below, that's why.
UPDATE: So with about 400 votes cast, this ranking seems to have become fairly stable:
1. Philosophical Review (Condorcet winner: wins contests with all other choices)
2. Journal of Philosophy loses to Philosophical Review by 214–99
3. Nous loses to Philosophical Review by 239–91, loses to Journal of Philosophy by 190–141
4. Mind loses to Philosophical Review by 245–85, loses to Nous by 167–152
5. Philosophy & Phenomenological Research loses to Philosophical Review by 282–64, loses to Mind by 242–101
6. Philosophical Studies loses to Philosophical Review by 199–28, loses to Philosophy & Phenomenological Research by 239–89
7. Analysis loses to Philosophical Review by 304–53, loses to Philosophical Studies by 192–133
8. Australasian Journal of Philosophy loses to Philosophical Review by 308–42, loses to Analysis by 159–156
9. Philosophical Quarterly loses to Philosophical Review by 297–42, loses to Australasian Journal of Philosophy by 167–121
10. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society loses to Philosophical Review by 309–34, loses to Philosophical Quarterly by 220–84
11. Philosophers' Imprint loses to Philosophical Review by 183–21, loses to Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society by 105–87
12. Philosophical Perspectives loses to Philosophical Review by 289–20, loses to Philosophers' Imprint by 135–116
13. Tied: American Philosophical Quarterly loses to Philosophical Review by 305–30, loses to Philosophical Perspectives by 108–80 Pacific Philosophical Quarterly loses to Philosophical Review by 323–17, loses to Philosophical Perspectives by 147–114
15. The Monist loses to Philosophical Review by 308–27, loses to American Philosophical Quarterly by 156–116
Just outside the "top 15" are Canadian Journal of Philosophy, European Journal of Philosophy, Philosophical Topics, and Ratio. I am surprised by Journal of Philosophy's strong hold on #2, and that Philosophers' Imprint didn't have an even stronger showing (though it is far and away the youngest jounral in the the top 20), but otherwise there are, I imagine, no surprises here. Anyway, I expect this is a useful list for many young philosophers to have. We'll see if things change over the next few days.
I suppose the right's standards have fallen so low that this shouldn't come as a surprise: Ross Douthat --- some of whose foolishness is chronicled here and here --- will be the new conservative columnist for the NYT. The amusing thing is that, since he's replacing the world-historical abomination that is William Kristol, this might actually be an improvement.
He also shares this amusing link about Mr. Douthat. I have to confess that, apart from Krugman, I never read any of the columnists, since they are all either trite or case studies in "the less they know, the less they know it."
UPDATE: He gets beaten up here too for his ignorance of philosophy (though be forewarned that a notorious humanities blog troll, John Emerson, clutters up the thread--he may know even less about philosophy than Mr. Douthat). (Thanks to Mike Otsuka for the pointer.)
WOW!!! "Not too smart" and "dishonest" doesn't begin to capture this!
The poll is now closed; with 600 votes cast, here are the results for "the top 40":
1. Ludwig Wittgenstein (Condorcet winner: wins contests with all other choices)
2. Gottlob Frege loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 261–160
3. Bertrand Russell loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 280–137, loses to Gottlob Frege by 218–156
4. John Stuart Mill loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 280–135, loses to Bertrand Russell by 204–178
5. W.V.O. Quine loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 291–150, loses to John Stuart Mill by 214–198
6. G.W.F. Hegel loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 290–130, loses to W.V.O. Quine by 214–210
7. Saul Kripke loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 314–138, loses to G.W.F. Hegel by 224–213
8. Friedrich Nietzsche loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 290–117, loses to Saul Kripke by 209–207
9. Karl Marx loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 359–95, loses to Friedrich Nietzsche by 254–138
10. Soren Kierkegaard loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 358–124, loses to Karl Marx by 230–213
11. Rudolf Carnap loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 345–90, loses to Soren Kierkegaard by 245–194
12. John Rawls loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 379–80, loses to Rudolf Carnap by 212–175
13. David K. Lewis loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 352–92, loses to John Rawls by 211–166
14. G.E. Moore loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 362–59, loses to David K. Lewis by 188–152
15. Donald Davidson loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 342–50, loses to G.E. Moore by 171–158
16. Martin Heidegger loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 351–63, loses to Donald Davidson by 188–161
17. Edmund Husserl loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 336–51, loses to Martin Heidegger by 169–140
18. Hilary Putnam loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 338–51, loses to Edmund Husserl by 148–138
19. William James loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 347–42, loses to Hilary Putnam by 151–146
20. Charles Sanders Peirce loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 333–40, loses to William James by 145–109
21. Alfred Tarski loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 323–55, loses to Charles Sanders Peirce by 132–109
22. J.L. Austin loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 346–29, loses to Alfred Tarski by 131–126
23. P.F. Strawson loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 339–42, loses to J.L. Austin by 137–127
24. Karl Popper loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 344–47, loses to P.F. Strawson by 135–127
25. G.E.M. Anscombe loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 326–35, loses to Karl Popper by 137–128
26. Jean-Paul Sartre loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 355–54, loses to G.E.M. Anscombe by 145–139
27. John Dewey loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 344–28, loses to Jean-Paul Sartre by 138–134
28. Wilfrid Sellars loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 348–29, loses to John Dewey by 123–116
29. Arthur Schopenhauer loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 352–30, loses to Wilfrid Sellars by 129–117
30. Henry Sidgwick loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 302–29, loses to Arthur Schopenhauer by 108–105
31. Alfred North Whitehead loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 333–24, loses to Henry Sidgwick by 108–86
32. Michel Foucault loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 357–31, loses to Alfred North Whitehead by 123–121
33. Bernard Williams loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 337–29, loses to Michel Foucault by 128–127
34. Gilbert Ryle loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 347–23, loses to Bernard Williams by 113–110
35. Maurice Merleau-Ponty loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 329–32, loses to Gilbert Ryle by 112–107
36. Franz Brentano loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 326–26, loses to Maurice Merleau-Ponty by 111–100
37. Michael Dummett loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 343–26, loses to Franz Brentano by 106–92
38. Jurgen Habermas loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 340–22, loses to Michael Dummett by 115–97
39. Hannah Arendt loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 336–29, loses to Jurgen Habermas by 107–98
40. Simone de Beauvoir loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 336–30, loses to Hannah Arendt by 110–100
I do hope some sociologist is prescient enough to hold on to these results; I imagine they will look both startling and revealing to the philosophers of 2059--though I'd expect some of "the top ten" to be the same (e.g., I'd imagine that Wittgenstein, Nietzsche, Mill, and Marx will be there--perhaps even Hegel, Frege and Russell). I was surprised by Kierkegaard's climb in the last few days. It is also interesting to see how much better Kripke fared than Lewis when we switched from first-past-the-post to Condorcet.
Comments are open for post-mortem assessments; signed comments only. Post only once.
Good to know, and certainly no surprise (plus, at the preceding link, you get an entertaning talk by philosopher John Corvino [Wayne State] on the morality of homosexuality). Of course, it's a bit sad that it's not more like 100-1.
Brian Barry, a leading political philosopher, died earlier today. He was an Emeritus Professor at both Columbia University and the London School of Economics. I will post links to memorial notices as they appear.
Reader Anne Nester calls my attention to the major loss of original cultural documents due to a building collapse in Cologne; among the lost documents are works by philosophers, including Hegel and Marx. They are now seeking help from anyone with scans or digital images of lost documents. There is more information about how to help here.
I am repeatedly asked various questions by graduate students, undergraduates and junior colleagues about writing. These questions might be condensed into the following single question: why do some people write (and publish) so much more than others? The two most obvious answers, institutional support for research (including teaching load) and intelligence, don't stand up to scrutiny.If the top institutions have the lion's share of highly productive people, I think that the causality runs the other way (i.e., they got to those places because they were productive). I think that the "answer" has more to do with habits such as writing every day. I would be curious to hear what you and others think.
Interesting question; comments are open. Post only once; you must post with a real e-mail address (which won't appear). As always, comments reviewed for relevance!
But a reader alerted me to a site that allows one to construct Condorcet polls, which are much more informative than the first-past-the-post polls we ran last week. So here is it is: Who is the most important philosopher of the past 200 years? 53 choices, and you can rank them (or express "no opinion"). 53 is the default rank, you must choose 'no opinion' if you don't want to penalize a philosopher's ranking. Have fun!
UPDATE: So with 300 votes cast, here are the results so far:
1. Ludwig Wittgenstein (Condorcet winner: wins contests with all other choices)
2. Gottlob Frege loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 156–98
3. Bertrand Russell loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 172–90, loses to Gottlob Frege by 129–108
4. John Stuart Mill loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 171–77, loses to Bertrand Russell by 137–103
5. Friedrich Nietzsche loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 170–82, loses to John Stuart Mill by 120–119
6. W.V.O. Quine loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 185–74, loses to Friedrich Nietzsche by 129–120
7. G.W.F. Hegel loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 188–55, loses to W.V.O. Quine by 130–110
8. Karl Marx loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 195–50, loses to G.W.F. Hegel by 123–89
9. David K. Lewis loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 186–63, loses to Karl Marx by 109–107
10. Saul Kripke loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 194–53, loses to David K. Lewis by 113–92
11. John Rawls loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 205–48, loses to Saul Kripke by 115–107
12. Rudolf Carnap loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 199–46, loses to John Rawls by 116–102
13. G.E. Moore loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 208–40, loses to Rudolf Carnap by 101–99
14. Donald Davidson loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 214–28, loses to G.E. Moore by 121–82
15. Martin Heidegger loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 205–37, loses to Donald Davidson by 111–109
16. Edmund Husserl loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 210–29, loses to Martin Heidegger by 110–84
17. William James loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 217–26, loses to Edmund Husserl by 99–94
18. Hilary Putnam loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 217–29, loses to William James by 105–102
19. Charles Sanders Peirce loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 213–22, loses to Hilary Putnam by 95–90
20. Soren Kierkegaard loses to Ludwig Wittgenstein by 210–24, loses to Charles Sanders Peirce by 85–83
Alas, the myopia of the present (and of Anglophone philosophy). Some sociologist should save these results. Marx "loses to Hegel by 123-89." Oh, the indignity!
I wouldn't know whom to vote for myself. Think of this as asking: which of these folks brings the most disrepute on to our discipline by being associated with it?
UPDATE: Wow! Philosophers really loathe Ayn Rand. With over 300 votes cast, it's 71% for Rand, 24% for Derrida, and 4% for Strauss.
ANOTHER: Tad Brennan (Cornell) writes: "I think the disproportionate turnout for (against!) Rand is just a function of the recent week's news (with republican congressmen reading "Atlas Shrugged", utterly unproductive rich people "threatening" to remove their non-productive selves from the economy by "going John Galt", etc.). If you had asked this question during the run-up to the Iraq War, when the neo-cons were basking in the Intellectual Seriositude of being the descendants of that brilliant philosopher, Leo Strauss, then the numbers would have tipped the other way. It's just a reflection of what's in the press at the time." Perhaps that's right.
A FINAL UPDATE (MARCH 14): So, with some 1500 votes cast, it's Ayn Rand by a landslide (75% of the vote), following by Derrida (21%), and then Strauss (4%). Of course, it would be nice if the media just stopped referring to any of them as philosophers. For Rand: "novelist" or perhaps "libertarian crank." For Derrida: "literary theorist." For Strauss: "political science professor" or "well-known academic cult leader."
Certainly relevant to our topic du jour is this essay by Alex Byrne (MIT). A taste:
The classic contemporary work [on the question of God's existence] is J. L. Mackie’s The Miracle of Theism, whose ironic title summarizes Mackie’s conclusion: the persistence of belief in God is a kind of miracle because it is so unsupported by reason and evidence. The failure of arguments for God’s existence need not lead straight to atheism, but philosophers often seem to find this route tempting. In his contribution to Philosophers Without Gods, a collection of atheistic essays by twenty prominent philosophers, Stewart Shapiro observes that “among contemporary philosophers, the seriously religious are a small minority.” Dean Zimmerman, a notable member of the minority, has ruefully remarked that “although numerous outspoken Christians are highly respected in analytic circles, many of our colleagues still regard the persistence of religious belief among otherwise intelligent philosophers as a strange aberration, a pocket of irrationality.”
The world was very different when a distinguished philosopher could say, as St. Thomas Aquinas did, “the existence of God can be proved in five ways.” Contemporary Christian philosophers often content themselves with pulling up the drawbridge and manning the barricades, rather than crusading against the infidel. Alvin Plantinga, perhaps the most eminent living philosopher of religion, devotes the five hundred pages of his Warranted Christian Belief to fending off objections to either the truth or rationality of belief in traditional Christian doctrines. He does not argue for the existence of God, and still less for the truth of Christianity; rather, his main question is whether a reasonable person who finds herself with firm religious convictions should change her mind. Plantinga is not trying to persuade Dawkins and company to change their minds.
Keith DeRose (Yale) has initiated an interesting discussion of the topic here--brought to the fore, I suspect, by the recent debates, going on here and throughout the philosophy blogosphere, about religious institutions that discriminate against gay men and women. Keith also found an interesting blog discussion of the whole topic from several years ago, with comments by him, Michael Rea, Fritz Warfield, and even me (I'd totally forgotten this).
The APA is a diverse association marked by deep pluralism. Its members can rightly expect that the APA will respect the deep differences among them in judgments about how it is reasonable for individuals to live and for communities to organize themselves, and it is far from clear that the suggested change in course does respect those differences. It has been correctly claimed by some who argue for the change in policy that any such respect has its limits: the APA of course would not respect colleges the common life of which was built on racist norms. In our view the appeal to this argument highlights what is involved in excluding or marking as bigoted the job advertisements from these Christian colleges. There is no serious reasoned disagreement on racist norms; the APA can rightly feel free to speak on behalf of its members to condemn any such. What would be involved in changing the APA’s policy with respect to these Christian colleges is that the APA would be taking an official stand, speaking on behalf of all of its members, on what are still matters of deep and reasoned controversy among them: whether so-called traditional marriage has any privileged normative status, and whether sexual activity outside such marriage is thus morally suspect. For the APA to take such a stand would be a grave error and an injustice.
Professor Murphy is right that there is some "controversy" within the APA membership over these issues, but the worry is that it is not "reasoned controversy," even if some very able philosophers have, on occasion, taken it upon themselves to offer embarrassingly bad arguments on the subject. (Without exception, these arguments are proferred by adherents of religious traditions which disfavor or condemn homosexuality or homosexual behavior; the arguments are, to all the world, obviously post-hoc rationalizations for the religious convictions.) The APA, having already included discrimination based on sexual orientation among forbidden practices, has also already taken a stand on this issue, notwithstanding the fact that the religious beliefs of some APA members lead them to believe this is not pernicious discrimination.
I won't open comments here, but Professor Murphy is soliciting feedback at the site linked above.
UPDATE: When I first posted this item yesterday, there was a parenthetical comment about the crank Ed Feser, author of the counterpetition. Apparently Feser sets his homepage to my blog, since the fact that I deleted the parenthetical a couple of hours later (since it was tangential and made the sentence in which it appeared unwieldy) immediately caught his attention, leading him to post lengthy ripostes on at least two different blogs to a parenthetical comment that lasted all of two hours on this site. I would like to assure Professor Feser that I do indeed think he is a crank--how could one not? The latter link supplies some evidence for thinking he is a liar too, but on that question I'm agnostic: I'm happy to believe that his religious zealotry has so wrecked his mind, that he is noncuplable for his false statements about the nature of universities and the like. And like so many other intellectual lightweights who populate the blogosphere, Professor Feser also doesn't know what an "ad hominen" is: this grad student offers some help. I'm sure that within 24 hours, there will be several more cyber-treatises from Professor Feser. Yawn.
Based, of course, on the top vote getters in the prior rounds--and, yes, the top vote getters here will then go head-to-head with the historical greats of the more distant past! And, then, at last we'll have an official canon. Have fun! (And, again, other philosophy blogs are welcome to link to this.)
UPDATE: I fear some folks are taking this way too seriously. This is just some amusing sociological data, which tells me more about the readership of the blog then it does about the greatness of philosophers! Please, just have fun with it or let it pass in silence.
ANOTHER: So with 1200 votes cast, here are the results:
1. Ludwig Wittgenstein (16%)
2. Friedrich Nietzsche (13%)
3. John Stuart Mill (12%)
4. Gottlob Frege (11%)
4. Bertrand Russell (11%)
6. G.W.F. Hegel (10%)
7. David K. Lewis (8%)
8. Martin Heidegger (5%)
9. Karl Marx (4%)
9. W.V.O. Quine (4%)
9. John Rawls (4%)
So two "anti-philosophical" figures are #1 and #2, two extravagant metaphysicians are #6 and #7, with more conventional figures tucked in at 3-5. More than anything, this list, and the failure of anyone to get even a clear plurality, is testimony to the fact that "philosophy" as people conceive it is more art than science.
Anyone who has applied for fellowships or other competitive support or awards will find this item of interest. An excerpt of the findings:
In deliberations, many panelists admit to forming alliances with like-minded scholars to back or oppose proposals, and to using "strategic" voting, in which they may go along with one grant to win support for another. Many admit to "high balling" proposals that they like, giving them ranks that are higher than deserved, as a means of keeping a proposal alive in the competition. But relatively few would admit to "low balling" and there appears to be a general consensus against it....
[One] timing issue involves the inevitable plane to catch. One panel Lamont observed simply didn't award all the fellowships it could have because the reviewers wanted to leave for the airport....
[W]hen it comes to an affinity for work that is similar to their own or that reflects personal interests having nothing to do with scholarship, many applicants benefit in a significant way. In a passage that may be one of the most damning of the book, Lamont writes: "[A]n anthropologist explains her support for a proposal on songbirds by noting that she had just come back from Tucson, where she had been charmed by songbirds. An English scholar supports a proposal on the body, tying her interest to the fact that she was an elite tennis player in high school. A historian doing cross-cultural, comparative work explicitly states that he favors proposals with a similar emphasis. ... Yet another panelist ties her opposition to a proposal on Viagra to the fact that she is a lesbian....
When peer reviewers talk about excellence in their deliberations, Lamont writes, they frequently link their opinions on applicants' character to their proposals (without much link to what grant competitions claim to be about). For example, she writes that there are frequent attempts to bolster proposals from "courageous risk-takers," or to reject ideas from "lazy conformists." People also reference, in positive ways, such qualities as "determination," "humility" and "authenticity," she writes....
Julian Wuerth (Kant, early modern philosophy, ethics), Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Cincinnati, has accepted a tenured offer from the Department of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University, where he will start this fall.
APOLOGIES to those who voted the first time earlier today (there were about two dozen votes)--there was a problem with the poll, which had to be fixed. You'll have to vote anew.
And while we're settling once and for all the only true and proper ranking of 20th-century philosophers, let's get to work on the 19th-century:
UPDATE (4 PM CST): Here are the results after about 530 votes: 1. Mill (31%); 2. Nietzsche (22%); 3. Hegel (21%); 4. Pierce (7%); 5. Marx (5%); 6. Sidgwick (4%). I expect if Schopenhauer had not pulled in 2% of the vote, Nietzsche would have a bigger lead over Hegel. I realize, now, that I accidentally omitted Kierkegaard, who might, of course, have pullled votes from both Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. So much for polling science.
UPDATE MARCH 4 (11 AM CST): With more than 1400 votes cast, here are the results:
1. John Stuart Mill (28%)
2. G.W.F. Hegel (21%)
2. Friedrich Nietzsche (21%)
4. Karl Marx (7%)
4. Charles Sanders Peirce (7%)
6. William James (4%)
6. Henry Sidgwick (4%)
8. Arthur Schopenhauer (2%)
Bentham, Brentano, Emerson, and Meinong each garnered 1% of the vote, and Comte, Feuerbach, Green, and Spencer even less. Kierkegaard would have performed, I would guess, at least the Schopenhauer level, maybe a bit better. Alas, we'll never know.
I included everyone who polled 3% or more in the earlier survey, plus I added Frege and Husserl, since many folks felt they should be included, even though they straddle the 19th- and 20th-centuries. Please do not link to this unless you run a philosophy blog!
UPDATE (4 PM CST): Here are the results after about 750 votes: 1. Wittgenstein (27%); 2. Bertrand Russell (15%); 3. David Lewis (14%); 4. John Rawls (11%); 5. Frege (9%); 5. Heidegger (9%); 7. Quine (8%). There is a drop-off after Quine.
UPDATE MARCH 4 (11 AM CST): With nearly 1700 votes cast, here's where things stand:
1. Ludwig Wittgenstein (27%)
2. Bertrand Russell (14%)
3. David K. Lewis (12%)
4. John Rawls (11%)
5. Martin Heidegger (10%)
6. W.V.O. Quine (9%)
7. Gottlob Frege (8%)
8. Edmund Husserl (3%)
9. Michel Foucault (2%)
9. Karl Popper (2%)
I do think the Lewis and Rawls results reflect the myopia of the present, and both are aided greatly by the fact that so many of their students (and students of their students) are no doubt among those reading this blog!
MOVING TO FRONT FROM YESTERDAY: I really would be grateful for reader input!
Once again, I am one of the nominators for The Philosopher's Annual, and would be interested in hearing reader thoughts on the best papers that appeared in 2008. Others are soliciting nominations in areas like epistemology, and since areas like philosophy of mind, epistemology, decision theory, philosophical logic and philosophy of language are well-represented among the nominators, I am likely to focus on identifying the best work in (broadly) value theory and history of philosophy, especially, but not only, 19th- and 20th-century European philosophy. Suggestions welcome, with some explanation of the particular importance or value of the paper being especially useful. Thanks.
1. So it turns out that there are people out there who aren't happy if you call folks like Francis Beckwith, who think their religion excuses their bigotry towards gay men and women, "bigots." One such person is Chris Shears (no idea who he is), who sent me the following enlightening missive:
Chris Shears [mailto:email@example.com] > Sent: Thursday, February 26, 2009 4:07 PM > To: Leiter, Brian > Subject: Your a hypocrite and a bigot. > > I've been reading your law and philosophy reports for years but I'm > tired of your bigotry towards the positions of those you call bigots > so I'm done reading your blogs. I can get 99% of what you offer > elsewhere. In the unlikely event that your thoughtful and sensitive > of others, specifically your readers, view of you I thought I should > let you know. If not then carry on with your unhappy, arrogant self.
I suggested to Mr. Shears that a moral objection to bigotry was not properly characterized as itself an instance of "bigotry," but he did not handle that suggestion well. Alas.
2. Via Professor Hermes, I learn that the 'counterpetition' is the creation of Edward Feser, whom we encountered long ago, after this remarkably unhinged screed. He is also the author of this book (which seems to be in the same nonsensical genre as this one, i.e., "black is white" and "war is peace" and "squares are round"). His webpage does assure us, however, that The National Review deems him one of "the best contemporary writers about philosophy." One can be sure that is a judgment on the merits of his writing, and not on his ideology.
3. The signatories to the "counterpetition" include three faculty from Texas (Daniel Bonevac, J. Budziszewski, Robert Koons), three from Notre Dame (John Finnis, Alasdair MacIntyre, Alvin Plantinga), as well as Linda Zagzebski (Oklahoma) and Roger Scruton, among other notables. (Budziszewski is, to be sure, a complete philosophical hack, unlike the others--his main appointment is in Government at Texas. [Addendum: someone thought I mentioned Professor Budziszewski's main appointment as evidence that he is a hack, which wasn't at all the claim--my point is that I have friends in the Philosophy Department at Texas who are embarrassed both by this counterpetition and by his showing up as a Phil Dept signatory--I just wanted to make clear that the UT Department is not, as it were, infested with these 'counterpetition' folks. The evidence that Professor Budziszewski is a philosophical hack is his work.]) One "anonymous" signatory to the counterpetition probably makes what is perhaps the strongest point on its behalf (stronger certainly than the petition's own statement which, as others have noted, is pretty thin, intellectually and otherwise):
Do we really want the APA to push out all the conservative religious educators at a time when there are only 23 jobs listed in the latest JFP? The relationship between individual sexual freedom and freedom of religious belief is very complex and we should not attempt to squelch all disagreement on the topic through schismatic APA policies.
The APA, however, has already adopted a "schismatic" policy, namely, one prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, and the original petition simply calls for enforcement of the policy or its explicit repeal. Academic freedom would continue to protect the right of philosophers to debate the issue and to disagree about it. And all of this is quite independent, as Ralph Wedgwood, among others, noted on an earlier thread, of whether or not principles of religious liberty and freedom of association require us to tolerate the existence of institutions committed to religious traditions that sanction bigotry and pernicious discrimination. No one, and certainly not the petition, has challenged that point.
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)