Via Weatherson, I see that the irascible (and sometimes idiosyncratic and dogmatic [cf. paragraph 7]) Peter Hacker has a rather savage and critical review of Williamson's The Philosophy of Philosophy. In the hopes of clarifying what's really at issue here, I thought I would single out a substantive criticism from Hacker's review and invite reader comments on its merits. This is from p. 343 of the review:
Having shown to his satisfaction that philosophical truths are not generally about words or concepts, Williamson queries how philosophy might nevertheless still be an armchair activity that aims at conceptual truths. Since confinement to an armchair does not deprive one of one's linguistic competence, perhaps conceptual truths are those that can be achieved merely through reflection on that competence. This might be so, he writes (pp. 50–1), if all, or all core, philosophical truths were analytic in some sense which imposed no constraints upon the world and hence could be known from the depths of an armchair. Williamson suggests that this view was embraced by those analytic philosophers who believed that philosophical truths are linguistic or conceptual. But this is demonstrably false. Among Oxford philosophers who took 'the linguistic turn', the only significant one who thought that all philosophical propositions are analytic was Ayer (at the age of 26). The manifesto of the Vienna Circle followed Wittgenstein in denying that there are any philosophical propositions. Ryle, Austin, Strawson and others did think there are, but nowhere suggested that they are analytic. All insisted that philosophy is a conceptual investigation, but none held that its task is to disclose analytic truths. It is therefore astonishing that Williamson decides to use 'analytic' and 'conceptual' interchangeably (p. 50). So conceptual truths are analytic, according to Williamson. This is not only historically unwarranted, it is also arguably philosophically misconceived. Such philosophical assertions as 'Idealism and materialism are both answers to an improper question' (Ryle), 'Material objects and persons are the basic particulars of our conceptual scheme' (Strawson), or 'There can be no such thing as a "private language" ' (Wittgenstein), are not analytic, and their proponents did not hold them to be. But they are conceptual truths.
Thoughts from readers? Critical reactions must be signed with a full name and matching e-mail address.
"The National Office has not received a sufficient number of employment ads to warrant publishing a May 2009 issue of Jobs for Philosophers, No. 182. Therefore, there will not be a JFP print issue published in May. Web only ads (if any) will continue to be published on-line from May through the summer months."
Thought it might be worth noting on your blog, as it does reflect the overall terrible job market--I must say I'm rather surprised that the May JFP would be particularly sparse, since I thought a lot of places not filling TT slots because of the economy would still be in the market for cheaper adjuncts and the like to teach their classes, and the May JFP often has ads for those sorts of positions.
Also, I'm surprised that the APA would make this decision. Even if the number of ads is low, how much would it cost the APA to send out a 4-page-long total JFP, one newsprint sheet folded in half? They seem to have the money to send out chunky bound copies of Proceedings and Addresses several times a year to all members.
What do readers make of this? Departments that were unable to hire tenure-track faculty this year, how are you meeting your teaching needs? Have departments also been denied temporary and adjunct positions? Signed comments please.
David Shoemaker (ethics, metaphysics), Associate Professor of Philosophy at Bowling Green State University, has accepted appointment as Associate Professor of Philosophy at Tulane University (with a joint appointment in Tulane's Murphy Institute), effective this fall.
I've refrained from commenting on last year's Boston Globe story by Mark Oppenheimer about the PGR and about me, but it still occasionally generates e-mails to me seeking comment--especially since the new PGR came out. So I guess I should say a few things about it, perhaps as a warning to those who may encounter the dishonest and timorous Mr. Oppenheimer in the future. (What did Karl Kraus say: "No ideas and the ability to express them: that's a journalist!")
Mr. Oppenheimer seemed a pleasant enough fellow to chat with initially, though I soon got the impression he was not being particularly forthcoming and that there was something a bit sleazy about him. The final article was about at the level one expects from those who think that there has to be a pro- and con- in every story. The factual part of the story was fine--though it overstates, as is common, my "power"--and it conveys fairly well the constructive role the PGR has played.
A few observations:
1. When Mr. Oppenheimer first contacted me, I asked him directly what the story was about, and he said (this is a direct quote from an e-mail) "the rankings you do, which I understand are widely admired and taken very seriously." This was a lie--welcome to the land of "journalistic ethics"!--since it turned out he also was quite interested in attacking the rankings and, bizarrely, my blog. The former was no surprise, but I was astonished to discover that any attention was accorded the blog since Mr. Oppenheimer never once let on that he wanted to discuss my blog and never once asked me to respond to any of his comments on the blog! Amazing.
Allan Gibbard at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor has become only the fourth philosopher to ever be elected a Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences. Other living philosophers who are Fellows are Brian Skyrms (UC Irvine) and Patrick Suppes (Emeritus, Stanford). Quine was, to my knowledge, the only other philosophy professor ever elected to the NAS. Gibbard may, of course, be best-known to philosophers for his work in ethics and metaethics, but he has also done seminal work in decision theory, social choice theory, and the theory of voting.
CORRECTION: Robin Jeshion and Brian Skyrms have e-mailed me to correct the record on philosophers elected to the NAS. Besides those noted above, the following philosophers were also elected: C.S. Peirce (1877), John Dewey (1910), and Ernest Nagel (1978). So Gibbard is one of just three living philosophers in the Academy, and one of, it appears, just seven ever to be so honored.
ANOTHER: Reader Pier Turner points out that Karl Popper (elected only in the late 1980s!) and Thomas Kuhn (if one counts him as a philosopher) were also elected to the NAS.
The U.S. Center for Disease Control information page, including statistics on confirmed cases. I've not found anything comparable at the WHO site, but please feel free to add links to WHO or to other national health service sites in the comments.
A Slate article offering a plausible hypothesis about why the mortality rate appears so alarmingly high in Mexico, while cases elsewhere are reportedly mild.
More links to good information sources and reports from readers welcome in the comments.
APRIL 29 UPDATE: So we've gone in the US from 45 confirmed cases on April 27, to 64 on April 28, to 91 today. I'm no expert, but that doesn't strike me as an alarming rate of increase, given that now health authorities are testing for swine flu wherever they find symptoms. The New York cluster may be the most worrisome, since it seems to have spread from those who had travelled in Mexico to some who did not. My guess, from what I'm reading, is that within a week we'll have a clearer fix on where this is heading. Warming temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere may help slow the spread, but that may just postpone epidemic or pandemic risk until the fall. It is possible, as I understand it, that a vaccine could be ready by late fall.
ANOTHER APRIL 29 UPDATE: There are reports of a suspected swine flu case in a Chicago elementary school child (had to happen sooner or later), but this quote from another one of our gifted public officials in this state caught my attention: "There's no need to panic at this point," said Dr. Damon Arnold, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health. I'm glad to know that at some point, Dr. Arnold will advise panic!
APRIL 30: CDC reports 109 confirmed cases in the US, up from 91 yesterday.
MAY 6: CDC now reports about 640 cases in the US, though they have loosened up the reporting standards recently, which partly explains the big jump. 640 cases in a country of 300 million obviously isn't particularly significant, though the question is at what rate, and for how long, the case load will continue to increase.
MAY 7: CDC reports 896 cases in the US. That's a ten-fold increase in about a week, some of it attributable, again, to more relaxed reporting standards that have resulted in a lot of back-logged cases now being counted. Will there be 9,000 cases in the U.S. a week from today? We'll see, though I'm inclined to think not.
MAY 8: 1639 cases "officially" as of today in the US. That's almost a doubling in one day. Not good, though perhaps still attributable to confirmation of earlier suspected cases.
MAY 10: Over 2560 official cases in the US, so no more one-day doubling. But if it is now doubling every three days, we'll have over 200,000 cases in the US by the end of the month. If.
MAY 13: 3352 cases, so a doubling over five days, and an increase of only about 30% from three days ago, so a considerable slowing in new cases. Reports from Mexico of cases of swine flu without fever underline the reality that the total number of cases--as opposed to confirmed ones--is probably 20 to 30 times higher, though the fact that they escape detection probably has much to do with their lack of severity.
MAY 15: 4715 CASES confirmed in the US by the CDC, marking a 40% increase in the last two days.
Several readers have e-mailed me about this piece. The author is Columbia religion professor Mark C. Taylor (yes, the Derrida apologist and postmodern "theorist"). Here's a taste of the careless rhetoric:
GRADUATE education is the Detroit of higher learning. Most graduate programs in American universities produce a product for which there is no market (candidates for teaching positions that do not exist) and develop skills for which there is diminishing demand (research in subfields within subfields and publication in journals read by no one other than a few like-minded colleagues), all at a rapidly rising cost (sometimes well over $100,000 in student loans).
In fact, many graduate programs produce PhD graduates who secure tenure-track teaching positions, and many of whom (the majority of whom?) do so without acquiring any debt. There are "Chrysler" PhD programs that should close, but that's no basis for smearing all graduate programs--though perhaps Professor Taylor is inadvertently telling us something about his department (I hope the Columbia Provost takes note!).
Professor Taylor goes on to lament specialization (one can understand why pomo intellectual tourists might do so), though he would do well to read Weber. But he is certainly correct that the size of many graduate programs is dictated more by the needs of universities for cheap labor than by academic considerations:
The dirty secret of higher education is that without underpaid graduate students to help in laboratories and with teaching, universities couldn’t conduct research or even instruct their growing undergraduate populations. That’s one of the main reasons we still encourage people to enroll in doctoral programs. It is simply cheaper to provide graduate students with modest stipends and adjuncts with as little as $5,000 a course — with no benefits — than it is to hire full-time professors.
Professor Taylor concludes with the following recommendations, that range from the juvenile to the perhaps worth experimenting with to the naive and dangerous:
1. Restructure the curriculum, beginning with graduate programs and proceeding as quickly as possible to undergraduate programs. The division-of-labor model of separate departments is obsolete and must be replaced with a curriculum structured like a web or complex adaptive network. Responsible teaching and scholarship must become cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural....
2. Abolish permanent departments, even for undergraduate education, and create problem-focused programs. These constantly evolving programs would have sunset clauses, and every seven years each one should be evaluated and either abolished, continued or significantly changed. It is possible to imagine a broad range of topics around which such zones of inquiry could be organized: Mind, Body, Law, Information, Networks, Language, Space, Time, Media, Money, Life and Water....
3. Increase collaboration among institutions. All institutions do not need to do all things and technology makes it possible for schools to form partnerships to share students and faculty. Institutions will be able to expand while contracting. Let one college have a strong department in French, for example, and the other a strong department in German; through teleconferencing and the Internet both subjects can be taught at both places with half the staff. With these tools, I have already team-taught semester-long seminars in real time at the Universities of Helsinki and Melbourne.
4. Transform the traditional dissertation. In the arts and humanities, where looming cutbacks will be most devastating, there is no longer a market for books modeled on the medieval dissertation, with more footnotes than text. As financial pressures on university presses continue to mount, publication of dissertations, and with it scholarly certification, is almost impossible. (The average university press print run of a dissertation that has been converted into a book is less than 500, and sales are usually considerably lower.) For many years, I have taught undergraduate courses in which students do not write traditional papers but develop analytic treatments in formats from hypertext and Web sites to films and video games. Graduate students should likewise be encouraged to produce “theses” in alternative formats.
5. Expand the range of professional options for graduate students. Most graduate students will never hold the kind of job for which they are being trained. It is, therefore, necessary to help them prepare for work in fields other than higher education. The exposure to new approaches and different cultures and the consideration of real-life issues will prepare students for jobs at businesses and nonprofit organizations. Moreover, the knowledge and skills they will cultivate in the new universities will enable them to adapt to a constantly changing world.
6. Impose mandatory retirement and abolish tenure. Initially intended to protect academic freedom, tenure has resulted in institutions with little turnover and professors impervious to change. After all, once tenure has been granted, there is no leverage to encourage a professor to continue to develop professionally or to require him or her to assume responsibilities like administration and student advising. Tenure should be replaced with seven-year contracts, which, like the programs in which faculty teach, can be terminated or renewed. This policy would enable colleges and universities to reward researchers, scholars and teachers who continue to evolve and remain productive while also making room for young people with new ideas and skills.
Part of what underlies this is the fact that Taylor has no specialty or discipline of his own, and so would like every other unit to follow suit, and "specialize" in intellectual superficiality across many topics. But the proposal regarding tenure is really reckless and naive. Tenure means faculty can be termined only "for cause." Universities are undoubtedly too timid in initiating termination proceedings where they would, in fact, be justified, but the remedy for that problem is not the elimination of tenure, which does, indeed, protect academic freedom (and the First Amendment rights of state university professors), but also acts as an essential form of non-monetary compensation for faculty.
Thoughts from readers on Professor Taylor's article and his proposals? Signed comments only: full name and e-mail address.
There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.
Either top spot (left or right) is still available for May, so we're slashing the price to $300 for each spot. Please contact me ASAP if you're interested.
There is also at least one top spot available for each month for the remainder of the year, including the peak traffic fall months (Sept and Dec have only one spot open at present, Oct and Nov have both spots available).
I will also offer a discount for anyone who takes a top spot for all three summer months (which would ordinarily be $810). Again, contact me for details on the summer discount.
Juan Comesana (epistemology) and Carolina Sartorio (metaphysics, ethics) at the University of Wisconsin at Madison have accepted offers to be Associate Professors of Philosophy at the University of Arizona. That's a major pick-up for Arizona, especially after the loss of L.A. Paul (metaphysics) to North Carolina last year.
I'm finishing up the 2nd year of a program that I expect to finish in 5 years total. I'm married; we've got a young child; and we'd like to have another in the next couple years. As an undergrad, I took out about $15,000 in student loans (which, as I understand things, is about average). But for each of my first 2 years of grad school, I've had to take out a HUGE loan. My wife is well educated and could work a full-time job, but if she were to do so, we'd have to pay for child care. Decent child care is absurdly expensive in this area (and extremely difficult to come by); and even if we could afford it, we'd rather avoid it (for personal reasons). So she works a part-time job, and stays at home during the days with our child. So it's looking like I'll have to take out yet another HUGE loan this summer (and, if conditions remain the same, the summer after that and the summer after that). And by the time I actually earn the Ph.D., we could be looking at student loan debt well into the six figures. I'm at a wonderful, highly-respected program, so I'm confident (relatively speaking) that I'll find a job. But then, from what I hear, my starting gross yearly income might be LESS THAN HALF of what I owe in student loans. I've always heard that student loan debt is "good debt," especially if you're in grad school, but that no longer makes me feel any better.
My questions are these: Is this anywhere close to normal (for other grad students similar situations - married, with children, etc.)? Should I be thinking about possible new career paths, or will that sort of student loan debt be manageable as a philosopher? Any idea what sort of monthly payments I'll have to make?
I'd really, really appreciate hearing some advice, testimony, etc., from others around the discipline ... and I imagine that there are many other grad students that could benefit from such a discussion.
Comments are open; it is OK to post anonymously on this thread, but please include a real e-mail address (it won't appear). Please post only once, as comments may take awhile to appear.
Sean Kelsey (ancient philosophy), Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of California at Los Angeles, has accepted a tenured offer from the Department of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame. Notre Dame has also made a tenured offer to Andrew Chignell (Kant, early modern philosophy, philosophy of religion) at Cornell University.
They are: Karl Ameriks (Notre Dame), Daniel Hausman (Wisconsin), Philip Pettit (Princeton) (elected in the Political Science category), Nicholas Rescher (Pittsburgh), and Stephen Stich (Rutgers). A distinguished group; also nice to see various sins of omission being corrected.
Professor Hoekema's letter (reference in his commenthere) can be found here. I am not going to open comments, since it seems to me that the issues raised in Profesor Hoekema's letter have been dealt with in great detail in prior threads here.
One of my students, Geoff Holtzmann, is running a study on the relationship between personality traits and philosophical beliefs among both laypeople and philosophers. The study involves a 20-minute survey which includes a personality inventory, some demographic questions, and nine philosophical prompts. Would you be able help us recruit philosophers? For the purposes of this study, this means anyone who either holds a Ph.D., a D. Phil, or is ABD. Any help you could provide in helping us recruit would be greatly appreciated. Geoff can be contacted at this e-mail address , and the survey is up and running here.
John Lysaker (philosophical psychology, American philosophy, 19th- and 20th-century Continental philosophy) at the University of Oregon has accepted a senior offer from the Department of Philosophy at Emory University, where he will start this fall.
John MacFarlane (philosophy of language, philosophy of logic) at the University of California at Berkeley has turned down the senior offers from the Departments of Philosophy at New York University and Harvard University. That's a major retention coup for Berkeley!
MOVING TO FRONT FOR THE LAST TIME THIS HIRING SEASON (ORIGINALLY POSTED FEBRUARY 2)
It's that time of year again...I am opening comments on this thread for people to post news about junior, tenure-track hires in philosophy departments, i.e., hires made during this year of new assistant professors who will be starting in fall 2009 (or thereafter). (For schools outside the US, please list new Lecturers who are on presumptively permanent appointments--not temporary lecturers.) Like last year, you may also post information about post-doc appointments, since there are an increasing number of those in philosophy, many quite attractive. No anonymous posts will be allowed. The candidates themselves, dissertation advisors, placement directors, department chairs, or faculty members involved with the hiring or the placement of the candidate may all post information. No hearsay, however: you must have first-hand knowledge of the placement. (Please e-mail me about any errors.)
The format of the postings should be as follows: candidate's name (name of PhD-granting school) hired by [name of school]. AOS: ________; any prior positions (e.g., a postdoc, a lectureship, a visiting asst prof position). In the case of a post-doc, it should say not 'hired by' but 'post-doc at' [name of school].
Here's an example (fictional):
John Smith (Chicago) hired by Kenyon College. AOS: 19th-Century Continental Philosophy. Previously Visiting Assistant Professor at Marquette University.
Remember: tenure-track jobs and postdocs only. I'll move this thread to the front at various intervals until it looks like the hiring season has wound down. Please post only once; postings should appear within 24 hours.
ADDENDUM (2/26): Some readers have expressed concern at the relative dearth of postings on this thread. Obviously this is a bad year on the job market, though I should mention that I know of at least a half-dozen jobs that have been accepted that have not yet appeared here. I imagine some of them will before long. ANOTHER (3/3): Another reader points out that as of March 1, the total number of postings to this thread wasn't much different than at this time last year.
Fundamentally, my view is that the U.S. economy is on very thin ice, and that by focusing on the bailout of corporate bondholders rather than the restructuring of debt, we are courting the risk of a far deeper downturn. Last year, I didn't think it was conceivable that policy-makers would attempt to address this problem by making lenders whole with public funds. This is an ethical abomination, putting the public in the position of absorbing the losses that should properly be borne by those who provided capital to these institutions. It is not sustainable. What it does it place the public in the position of losing first, but it will not, and cannot prevent the ultimate failure of the debt – for the simple reason that without restructuring, the debt can't be serviced.
It is true that insurers, pension funds, and other entities own part of the debt of these financial institutions, but they certainly do not own all of it, and to the extent that it is in the public interest to use public funds to reimburse the losses of various entities, that can and should be part of the political process. But to broadly immunize every bondholder of these institutions with public funds is repulsive. Even the bondholders of Bear Stearns can expect to get 100% of their principal back, with interest.
Aside from the abuse of the public trust inherent in these bailouts, it is also offensive to anybody who devotes a significant portion of their income to charity, because there are so many better uses for trillions of dollars. Think about it. Two of the wealthiest people on Earth, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, after lifetimes of work, will be able to commit a combined total of less than $100 billion to charity if they give everything they have. That figure is dwarfed next to the sums being allocated to protect corporate bondholders from taking a “haircut” on distressed debt, or swapping a portion of it for equity – both perfectly appropriate ways of compartmentalizing the losses of these financial institutions, without public funds, and without receivership or “nationalization.”
This time from Kristof, who is certainly not the most intellectually feeble of their columnists, and he usually seems a humane and well-intentioned person. So perhaps professional philosophers need to think a bit about why stuff like this constitutes the public perception of the field. Writing about the movement in recent decades towards more humane treatment of animals, Kristof notes:
[T]he movement is also the product of a deep intellectual ferment pioneered by the Princeton scholar Peter Singer.
Professor Singer wrote a landmark article in 1973 for The New York Review of Books and later expanded it into a 1975 book, “Animal Liberation.” That book helped yank academic philosophy back from a dreary foray into linguistics and pushed it to confront such fascinating questions of applied ethics as: What are our moral obligations to pigs?
I am not entirely sure what is meant by philosophy's "dreary foray into linguistics," but I assume it means a philosophical interest in the nature of language and meaning. Singer's 1975 book certainly did not do any "yank[ing]" of philosophy away from work on this topic, as anyone familiar with the history of Anglophone philosophy in the last 30+ years knows. Indeed, it was precisely many years after 1975 that philosophy of language came into very close contact with linguistics, which remains a rather lively interdisciplinary field to this day. I admit I find this kind of work "dreary," but I feel the same way about recent work in geophysics: but I actually don't think the geologists should shift their work in the direction of enhancing the quality of life for pigs. "Interest" is in the eye of the beholder, and in matters intellectual it is probably best to let a thousand flowers bloom. Peter Singer is no David Beaver, but undoubtedly Singer's work is more accesible than Beaver's. Why think we need to choose or that philosophers should do one kind of work rather than another?
Why, though, is "our moral obligations to pigs" deeemed a "fascinating" question? What about our obligations not to launch criminal wars of aggression against other countries? Or to prevent vast inequities of wealth and life fortunes? Or to view Palestinians as human beings with equal moral claims on freedom, bodily integrity, and opportunity? Is it that our moral obligations to pigs do not present much threat to the Manhattan bourgeoisie, whereas the other questions would be especially unsettling?
Mr. Kristof continues:
John Maynard Keynes wrote that ideas, “both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else.” This idea popularized by Professor Singer — that we have ethical obligations that transcend our species — is one whose time appears to have come.
Keynes seems right about ideas, but the problem is journalists never have them (dare I quote Karl Kraus yet again? "No ideas and the ability to expres them: that's a journalist"). Why, though, is Professor Singer's idea about "animal liberation"--far more radical than Kristof seems to recognize--an idea whose time has now come? It obviously can't be because of Singer's actual arguments for his views, since his hedonistic utilitarianism also entails the permissibility of infanticide of the severely retarded, to name just one of the views for which Professor Singer is often denounced. Singer and Bentham (as Mr. Kristof note) may both agree, "The question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?," but it is quite clear that most citizens, and most moral philosophers, do not agree.
Query: why do members of the educated public think that it is an objection to philosophical inquiry that it is unintelligible to them (or that it does not have immediate application to the quality of life of pigs, say), whereas no one would think to put such objections against esoteric work in the natural sciences? Are other humanities subjected to this same expectation of "practical relevance and intelligibility"? I am curious to hear what readers think. Signed comments are strongly preferred; post only once, comments may take awhile to appear.
Not surprisingly, Lawrence Summers is convinced that he deserved every penny of the $8 million that Wall Street firms paid him last year. And why shouldn’t he be cut in on the loot from the loopholes in the toxic derivatives market that he pushed into law when he was Bill Clinton’s treasury secretary? No one has been more persistently effective in paving the way for the financial swindles that enriched the titans of finance while impoverishing the rest of the world than the man who is now the top economic adviser to President Obama.
It is especially disturbing that Summers got most of the $8 million from a major hedge fund at a time when such totally unregulated rich-guys-only investment clubs stand to make the most off the Obama administration’s plan for saving the banks. The scheme, as announced by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, a Summers protégé, is to clean up the toxic holdings of the banks using taxpayer money and then turn them over to hedge funds that will risk little of their own capital. At least the banks are somewhat government-regulated, which cannot be said of the hedge funds, thanks to Summers.
It was Summers, as much as anyone, who in the Clinton years prevented the regulation of the hedge funds that are at the center of the explosion of the derivatives bubble, and the fact that D.E. Shaw, a leading hedge fund, paid the Obama adviser $5.2 million last year does suggest a serious conflict of interest. That sum is what Summers raked in for a part-time gig, in addition to the $2.77 million he received for 40 speaking engagements, largely before banks and investment firms....
Summers was a top adviser to the Democratic presidential candidate last year, and that might have enhanced his speaking fees, which seem to have a base rate of $67,500, the amount he received on each of two occasions when he appeared at Lehman Brothers before that company went bankrupt. Lehman had purchased a 20 percent stake in D.E. Shaw while Summers was employed by the hedge fund, and it would be interesting to know if the subject of the overlapping business came up during Summers’ visit to Lehman.
Lehman was only one on an impressive list of top financial firms that consulted Summers during a troubled period. Goldman Sachs was so interested in his thoughts that it paid him more than $200,000 for two talks, even though it soon needed $12 billion in taxpayer bailout funds. Citigroup, which has been going through hard times, managed only a $54,000 fee for a Summers rap. Merrill Lynch could pony up only a scant $45,000 for a Summers appearance last Nov. 12, but that was at a point when Merrill was in deep trouble, with the government arranging its sale. Summers, anticipating an appointment in the administration of the newly elected Obama and perhaps wanting to avoid any embarrassment the fee might bring, decided to turn over the $45,000 to a charity.
Why was someone as compromised as Summers made the White House’s point man overseeing $2.86 trillion in bailout funds to the financial moguls whom he had enabled in creating this mess and many of whom had benefited him financially? Will no congressional panel ever quiz Summers about his grand theory that the derivatives market required no government supervision because, as he testified to a Senate subcommittee in July of 1998: “The parties to these kinds of contracts are largely sophisticated financial institutions that would appear to be eminently capable of protecting themselves from fraud and counterparty insolvencies. … ”
The very same executives that Summers had previously assured us could be trusted without any regulation. Why should we now trust Summers any more than we trust them?....If this was happening in a Republican administration, scores of Democrats in Congress would be all over it, asking tough questions about what exactly did Summers do to earn all that money from the D.E. Shaw hedge fund. As it is, with their silence they are complicit in this emerging scandal of the banking bailout.
Two philosophers have won Guggenheim Fellowships in the 2009 competition: John Campbell (Berkeley) for a project on "Causation in psychology," and Jeff McMahan (Rutgers) for a project on "Self-defense, war, and punishment."
I'm opening comments here, in the event that some in attendance want to post about what takes place, either as it happens or afterwards. (I'm opening the thread now, several hours before the business meeting, so those who might attend are more likely to know of its existence.)
Here. Not quite a 100 philosophers have signed, some of whom signed the earlier Feser counter-petition, but many new philosophers (including many folks whose work I admire) have signed the Murphy letter. The earlier discussion of Professor Murphy's letter is here.
A shame this issue doesn't get more attention, though given the insanely protective legal regime in the U.S. for so-called "commercial speech," it would be hard to combat this ugliness through the law (so turn off the Idiot Box!):
As the United States and the rest of the world enter into an economic free fall, the current crisis offers an opportunity not only to question the politics of free-market fundamentalism, the dominance of economics over politics, and the subordination of justice to the laws of finance and the accumulation of capital, but also the ways in which children's culture has been corrupted by rampant commercialization, commodification and consumption. There is more at stake in this crisis than stabilizing the banks, shoring up employment and solving the housing problem. There is also the issue of what kind of public spaces and values we want to make available, outside of those provided by the market, for children to learn the knowledge, skills and experiences they need to confront the myriad problems facing the twenty-first century....
While the "empire of consumption" has been around for a long time, American society in the last thirty years has undergone a sea change in the daily lives of children - one marked by a major transition from a culture of innocence and social protection, however imperfect, to a culture of commodification. This is culture that does more than undermine the ideals of a secure and happy childhood; it also exhibits the bad faith of a society in which, for children, "there can be only one kind of value, market value; one kind of success, profit; one kind of existence, commodities; and one kind of social relationship, markets." Children now inhabit a cultural landscape in which they can only recognize themselves in terms preferred by the market.
Subject to an advertising and marketing industry that spends over $17 billion a year on shaping children's identities and desires, American youth are commercially carpet-bombed through a never-ending proliferation of market strategies that colonize their consciousness and daily lives. Multibillion-dollar corporations, with the commanding role of commodity markets as well as the support of the highest reaches of government, now become the primary educational and cultural force in shaping, if not hijacking, how young people define their interests, values and relations to others....
What is distinctive about this period in history is that the United States has become the most "consumer-oriented society in the world." Kids and teens, because of their value as consumers and their ability to influence spending, are not only at "the epicenter of American consumer culture," but are also the major targets of those powerful marketing and financial forces that service big corporations and the corporate state....Gilded Age corporations, however devalued, and their army of marketers, psychologists and advertising executives now engage in what Susan Linn calls a "hostile takeover of childhood," poised to take advantage of the economic power wielded by kids and teens. With spending power increasing to match that of adults, the children's market has greatly expanded in the last few decades, in terms of both direct spending by kids and their influence on parental acquisitions. While figures on direct spending by kids differ, Benjamin Barber claims that "in 2000, there were 31 million American kids between twelve and nineteen already controlling 155 billion consumer dollars. Just four years later, there were 33.5 million kids controlling $169 billion, or roughly $91 per week per kid." Schor argues that "children age four to twelve made ... $30.0 billion" in purchases in 2002, while kids aged twelve to nineteen "accounted for $170 billion of personal spending"....
According to Lawrence Grossberg, children are introduced to the world of logos, advertising and the "mattering maps" of consumerism long before they can speak: "Capitalism targets kids as soon as they are old enough to watch commercials, even though they may not be old enough to distinguish programming from commercials or to recognize the effects of branding and product placement." In fact, American children from birth to adulthood are exposed to a consumer blitz of advertising, marketing, educating and entertaining that has no historical precedent. There is even a market for videos for toddlers as young as four months old. One such baby video called Baby Gourmet alleges to "provide a multi-sensory experience for children designed to introduce little ones to beautiful fruits and vegetables ... in a gentle and amusing way that stimulates both the left and right hemispheres." This would be humorous if Madison Avenue were not dead serious in its attempts to sell this type of hype - along with other baby videos such as Baby Einstein, Brainy Baby, Sesame Street Baby, and Disney's Winnie the Pooh Baby - to parents eager to provide their children with every conceivable advantage over the rest. Not surprisingly, this is part of a growing $4.8 billion market aimed at the youngest children. Schor captures perfectly the omnipotence of this machinery of consumerism as it envelops the lives of very young children:
At age one, she's watching Teletubbies and eating the food of its "promo partners" Burger King and McDonald's. Kids can recognize logos by eighteen months, and before reaching their second birthday, they're asking for products by brand name. By three or three and a half, experts say, children start to believe that brands communicate their personal qualities, for example, that they're cool, or strong, or smart. Even before starting school, the likelihood of having a television in their bedroom is 25 percent, and their viewing time is just over two hours a day. Upon arrival at the schoolhouse steps, the typical first grader can evoke 200 brands. And he or she has already accumulated an unprecedented number of possessions, beginning with an average of seventy new toys a year....
For the last few decades, critics such as Thomas Frank, Kevin Phillips, David Harvey and many others have warned us, and rightly so, that right-wing conservatives and free-market fundamentalists have been dismantling government by selling it off to the highest or "friendliest" bidder. But what they have not recognized adequately is that what has also been sold off are both our children and our collective future, and that the consequences of this catastrophe can only be understood within the larger framework of a politics and market philosophy that view children as commodities and democracy as the enemy....
....post-Saddam, but failing to even mention that homosexuality was not a criminal offense during most of Saddam's regime (only near the very end, in 2001, in response to pressure from religious conservatives--the Ed Fesers of Iraq, as it were--Saddam finally criminalized homosexual sodomy, presumably as part of his general effort to court religious support for his previously secular regime). The NY Times, of course, supported the criminal war of aggression against Iraq.
UPDATE: Moving to front from March 26. This is now happening tomorrow!
Alastair Norcross (Colorado) informs me that the following motion (which tracks the petition crafted by Professor Hermes) will be presented at the business meeting at the Pacific APA meeting in Vancouver on Thursday, April 9 at noon (it will take place in the President room, which is on the 2nd floor of the 'Tower'):
Whereas the American Philosophical Association has a clear policy opposing discrimination based on race, color, religion, political convictions, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identification or age; and whereas several institutions that explicitly violate that policy with respect to sexual orientation have recently placed advertisements in Jobs for Philosophers; and whereas more than 1400 members of the American Philosophical Association have signed a petition calling on the APA either to enforce its nondiscrimination policy or to change it; be it therefore resolved that the American Philosophical association (1) enforce its policy and prohibit institutions that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation from advertising in Jobs for Philosophers, or (2) clearly mark institutions with these policies as institutions that violate our anti-discrimination policy, or (3) publicly inform its members that it will not protect gay philosophers and remove its anti-discrimination policy to end the illusion that a primary function of the APA is to protect the rights of its members.
Any signatories who will be attending the Pacific APA are urged to attend the business meeting. You may contact Professor Norcross via e-mail if you would like to discuss logistics or strategy.
Kudos to Professor Norcross for getting this issue before the APA.
Though the title of the piece should really be "the end of moral philosophy," though even then the research he cites does not quite establish that point. It is true that Haidt's research (among others) suggests, as Brooks puts it, that moral judgments often involve "rapid intuitive decisions and involve the emotion-processing parts of the brain" or, as Haidt himself puts it (quoted by Brooks), “The emotions are, in fact, in charge of the temple of morality, and ... moral reasoning is really just a servant masquerading as a high priest.” (Once again, empirical psychology catches up to Nietzsche!) Even Haidt does not claim, however, that reasoning never affects moral judgment, as Brooks eventually mentions. And if reasoning sometime affects moral judgment (surely it sometimes does!), then that might be a reason to do moral philosophy, rather than end it. (And, of course, there are other reasons to do moral philosophy.)
Brooks then goes off on some evolutionary psychology fantasies about the origins of our moral emotions, with a nod, as it were, to Sober & Wilson on the evolution of altruism. But he eventually gets back to his main theme, to which the evolutionary speculations are irrelevant:
The rise and now dominance of this emotional approach to morality is an epochal change. It challenges all sorts of traditions. It challenges the bookish way philosophy is conceived by most people. It challenges the Talmudic tradition, with its hyper-rational scrutiny of texts. It challenges the new atheists, who see themselves involved in a war of reason against faith and who have an unwarranted faith in the power of pure reason and in the purity of their own reasoning.
It's certainly not an "epochal change," given that in various forms something like an "emotional approach to morality" has been a mainstay of moral philosophy since at least Hume. (Haidt, who is often quite confused about philosophical matters, recognizes that.) But it is nice to have the NY Times declare one side of the debate the dominant one of our 'epoch'! The "bookish way of philosophy" is too ambiguous a category to assess: the "emotional approach" may challenge overly rationalist approaches to ethics, like the Kantian, but that is not a specific indictment of books! And nothing in Haidt's research impugns reason per se, just so-called "practical reason," "a special kind of reason," as Nietzsche derisively remarks, "in which one need not bother about reason." Nietzsche is, indeed, a skeptic about the "purity" of motivation of even theoretical reasoning, but nothing in Haidt's research supports that conclusion or suggests that the "new atheists" aren't wholly correct that theoretical reason lends no support to religion.
Reactions from other philosophers are welcome; ALL comments must be signed. Post only once, comments may take awhile to appear.
Chris Fraser, a specialist in Chinese philosophy, who is currently Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, has accepted appointment as Associate Professor of Philosophy at Hong Kong University, effective this summer. (HKU's language of instruction is English.) Chad Hansen, a leading scholar of Chinese philosophy, had recently retired from HKU.
I am particularly sad to report that the distinguished legal philosopher and scholar Neil MacCormick, who was Regius Professor of Public Law and the Law of Nature and Nations at the University of Edinburgh for many years, died today. He was also a leading figure in Scottish politics, representing Scotland for a number of years in the European Parliament. Sir Neil taught part-time at the University of Texas at Austin in the 1990s, and was a treasure as a person and a colleague.
There is some information about his career here and here. I will post links to memorial notices as they appear.
Marilyn Friedman (moral and political philosophy, feminist philosophy) and Larry May (moral, political, and legal philosophy) at Washington University, St. Louis have accepted senior offers from the Department of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University.
Mark Murphy (Georgetown) has posted the final version of his letter to the APA and is soliciting signatures from APA members. I would invite readers to discuss the arguments raised by Professor Murphy's letter below. (My earlier comments on the draft letter are here.) Comments must be signed and substantive. Post only once, comments may take awhile to appear.
Koh, Dean of Yale Law School, has been nominated by Obama as Legal Adviser to the State Department. Because he is not completely bonkers, or a crypto-fascist (he's the proverbial "good liberal"), the right-wing slime-and-smear machine has gone into overdrive about his nomination, for example, here and here.
There are various responses and corrections by law professors and commentators here and here and here. It is sad, but telling, that a key part of the defense to the attacks is to claim that Koh never "cheered on" Nicaragua for challenging the U.S. in the International Court of Justice for its terrorist campaign against Nicaragua, and that he never compared the U.S. to Iran and North Korea as serial violators of international law. But why didn't he? In both cases, that would have been the morally and legally correct postion for a responsible intellectual to have advocated. Alas, there is nothing more fatal in politics than someone taking the morally defensible position.
Personally, I'd rather see Richard Falk or Francis Boyle nominated for the job, but that ain't the world we live in. Harold Koh is the best one can expect, even from a plutocratic empire in decline, and he would no doubt do a decent job. Hopefully he'll weather this smear storm.
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)