Stewart Cohen (Arizona), editor of Philosophical Studies, writes with a request of general applicability:
The most important and the most difficult part of my job as editor of Philosophical Studies is finding highly qualified referees.I understand that people are sometimes too busy to take on the time-consuming task of refereeing a paper.In the email I send to prospective referees, I ask them to suggest some alternative referees, should they decide to decline.I put this in bold letters.But less than half comply.This makes my job more difficult, and increases the turnaround time for the author.We all benefit when journals operate efficiently.It should take only a few minutes to come up with some suggestions for referees in one's area of specialization.So I'm asking you to cooperate with journal editors and assist them in this important task of finding well-qualified referees.Thank you.
We've discussed in the past how to accelerate time-to-decision for refereed journals, and here's something everyone who is asked to referee can do to help. I'm actually surprised to learn that Professor Cohen gets suggested alternatives from only half of those he contacts. How hard can it be to suggest some other good people in your field as referees? Philosophers shouldn't be so lazy!
Chris Cordner, Convenor of the Philosophy Program at the University of Melbourne, writes:
Things are improving for the philosophy program at the University of Melbourne. We now have firm approval for two new positions, one in M and E and the other in Political, and provisional approval for a third position in Continental Philosophy. There is an agreement in principle for further positions to rebuild the program back to its former strength over the next 5 years, even if the significance of this agreement is unclear. But although there are still financial concerns and further battles to be fought along the way, this reversal is very heartening indeed.
We’d like to sincerely thank the many concerned colleagues who took the time to write letters to the Vice Chancellor explaining the importance of rebuilding the philosophy program. We’re very grateful indeed for their efforts and we’d like to let everyone know that the campaign has contributed very significantly to turning around the situation.
By the end of my undergraduate career, I realized that, to pursue my philosophical interests in much more depth, it would help to have a deeper background in contemporary physics. I took many excellent courses in the history of philosophy, metaphysics, logic, and philosophy of language from an incredible group of professors. I'm still interested in these topics, but my focus has shifted to philosophy of science.
This puts me in a bit of a predicament (or, at least, it seems to): on the one hand, I could apply to programs that emphasize philosophy of science, with little chance of being admitted, due to the (relative) dearth of physics in my background (I took only one pure physics course as an undergraduate). And, even if I were to be admitted, I might have to make an impossible push to catch up in scientific competence in the short years before I had to write a dissertation.
On the other hand, I could try to get in to some other programs that have broader emphases. But in that case, I would sacrifice my focus for a ticket of admission. And I would still face the problem from before of making up lost time in studying science.
So, my question to the philosophers who read your blog: is there a good way for a student with a broad background in many of the traditional M/E subjects to switch to studying philosophy of science/physics? I can think of several options:
(a) Just apply to a PhD program, and try to pick up as much as you can when you get there.
(b) Apply to a MA or MPhil program known for easing this transition. (Does such a place exist?)
(c) Take a year or two of physics and math courses back at an undergraduate institution before moving on.
Also: Are all three ok, but one a more rigorous path than the others? And, can (b) and (c) be pursued without paying enormous amounts?
I realize that graduate school is long enough to accommodate some change in interests. However, this change seems severe enough, and it seems to require enough technical background that my worry about preparation seems warranted.
It would be helpful to hear from faculty at and graduates of (or current students at) programs strong in philosophy of science and especially philosophy of physics. Submit your comment only once, they may take awhile to appear.
The latest statistics from the American College Health Association suggest that swine flu peaked a few weeks back in many campuses in the South and Southwest, while it is now on the rise in New England and much of the Midwest. School, of course, generally started earlier at campuses in the South and Southwest. Pediatric deaths from H1N1 have, according to the CDC, already topped 100 since August (in a typical flu season, in its entirety, there might only be 50-75 pediatric deaths--most deaths are among the elderly), but I have seen reports of only a handful of deaths among college students.
How are your campuses coping with H1N1? Comments and links to stories welcome.
How many scholarly stakes in the heart will we need before Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), still regarded by some as Germany's greatest 20th-century philosopher, reaches his final resting place as a prolific, provincial Nazi hack? Overrated in his prime, bizarrely venerated by acolytes even now, the pretentious old Black Forest babbler makes one wonder whether there's a university-press equivalent of wolfsbane, guaranteed to keep philosophical frauds at a distance.
Pretty tough language, especially coming from someone who is, himself, a fraud, but put that to one side. Is there an actual argument here? The answer, perhaps unsurprisingly given the author, is "no." Mr. Romano relies wholly upon a recent book by Emmanuel Faye, Heidegger: The Introduction of Nazism into Philosophy. But as Iain Thomson, an actual Heidegger scholar at the University of New Mexico, points out in the first comment:
It took Faye's supporters a long time to get this book published in English, because it was rejected by unbiased scholars as the irresponsible hatchet job that it is. (It has been almost universally panned in France.) Faye's book concludes by calling for the criminalization of the teaching of Heidegger -- not exactly a resounding defense of freedom of discussion! (Dare we say, closer to the fascism Faye confidently denounces?!) Faye's book begins, worse, by quoting from my book (Heidegger on Ontotheology: Technology and the Politics of Education), in a totally reductive and misleading way. I'm embarrassed to be mentioned in it. The whole thing is a tissue of mostly already well-known details plus tendentious guilt-by-association attacks.
Certainly there's nothing Romano adduces from the book that contradicts that assessment. Heidegger was a very bad man, with disgusting moral and political judgment, who spent the rest of his career whitewashing his romance with Nazism: but everyone knows this. What does any of this have to do with his philosophy? That really is the question, and there is literally only one sentence in Romano's silly piece that could be taken as trying to answer that question: "Faye's leitmotif throughout is that Heidegger, from his earliest writings, drew on reactionary ideas in early-20th-century Germany to absolutely exalt the state and the Volk over the individual, making Nazism and its Blut und Boden ("Blood and Soil") rhetoric a perfect fit." OK, so how do these "reactionary ideas" about exaltation of "the state and the Volk" figure in the main themes of Being and Time? I have no idea, and Mr. Romano apparently has none either, or at least none that he shares with the readers. That argument might be interesting, if it could be made out, but there isn't even the pretense of such an argument in Romano's hatchet job. Even if one is no fan of Heidegger (I am not, since I think most of what is interesting is highly derivative of earlier figures in German philosophy), it is hard not to agree with the assessment in the comments of another philosophical scholar of phenomenology, Taylor Carman (Barnard College/Columbia University) who remarks:
It's scandalous that the CHRONICLE could publish this kind of ill-informed and intellectually empty rant. Romano clearly has no idea what he's talking about. ...Romano's juvenile performance here is unworthy of a respectable academic journal. The editors should be ashamed.
There is something worthwhile to be written about relations between Heidegger's Nazism and his philosophical work--George Steiner took an interesting stab at it in a short book on Heidegger he wrote in 1978, and Iain Thomson offers a more philosophically ambitious account in his book, mentioned above--but Romano's "ill-informed and intellectually empty rant" obviously isn't it. There is also something interesting to be written about the ways in which the Heidegger cult and its temporal and cultural kin, the Strauss cult, have operated in similar, quasi-fascistic, "in group" vs. "out group" ways: esoteric terminology, hostility towards dialectic engagement, worship of the master, and so on. But that exercise in the sociology of the pathologies of German academic culture in the second quarter of the 20th-century wouldn't license the crackpot dismissals in Romano and Faye, and they would not touch the efforts of many philosophers since to engage dialectically and philosophically with Heidegger's ideas, in ways that Heidegger himself, to be sure, did not encourage. The ideas that Heidegger's books should be banned and that anyone who studies Heidegger is a Nazi sympathizer are so ludicrously offensive as to defy belief--it's the kind of puerile crap one would expect to find on the website of some obscure crank, not in the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Here's a funny anecdote about Romano's earlier travesty about Rorty: asked to appear at an APA memorial session for Rorty, Romano began by noting my (apt) characterization of his piece ("total ignorance of philosophy is no obstacle to opining about Rorty") and then proceeded to deliver the exact same set of remarks! Only someone who is deeply unserious could see no need to revise his remarks after their incompetence is exposed. I also have to note that my little commentary was a model of generosity by comparison to what several philosophers who listened to his repeat performance at the APA had to say about it afterwards.
Which returns us to the original question: why is CHE permitting this intellectual lightweight to write about philosophy? And one other suggestion for the CHE editors: perhaps it is also time, at least for the sake of the Philosophy Department at the University of Pennsylvania, to prohibit Mr. Romano from using a by-line that describes himself as teaching "media studies and philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania." As far as I can gather, Mr. Romano has an undergraduate degree in philosophy and a law degree, and has some kind of affiliation, but not a regular academic appointment, at the Annenberg School of Communications at Penn. This wouldn't matter if his writing were less incompetent, but under the circumstances, some truth in advertising seems warranted.
Case in point, of which this quote summarizes the problem: "A report in 2007 by the lobbying group Privacy International placed Britain in the bottom five countries for its record on privacy and surveillance, on a par with Singapore."
Steve Stich (Rutgers) asked me to share this interesting new bit of experimental philosophy with readers:
In collaboration with Joe Henrich and Taylor Davis at the University of British Columbia, I’m conducting a study on philosophers’ views about normative judgments. Joe, Taylor and I would be very grateful if you would participate in our study.
Participation should take 30 minutes or less, and it involves responding to a 20-item questionnaire.In developing the questionnaire, we found that many respondents find consideration of the issues involved interesting and engaging. The research has been approved by UBC’s Behavioral Research Ethics Board and is open to all faculty and graduate students in philosophy.
Mark Lance (Georgetown) takes issue with the letter (but not the spirit) of the recent petition about the proposed "impact" standard for research funding in the U.K.:
I'm a bit bothered by the rhetoric of this petition. It doesn't just urge that funding be a function of excellence, but that it be a function "solely" of excellence. Now I don't think anyone could believe that taken literally. Equally excellent philosophy and physics research should be funded equally when the latter costs many orders of magnitude more? But even if we suppose that to be rhetoric and the point to be to eliminate "impact" assessment, do we really want to say that one should fund equally for a bit of medical research that would cure cancer and for a really really good re-interpretation of Proust? Doesn't the social good count for anything? Is there no reasonable way to take that into account?
I don't doubt that this is being done in a heavy-handed and irrational way, and used to simply bludgeon humanities, arts, and other valuable pursuits. But the petition seems sufficiently overstated as to be counter-productive. To simply act as if there is nothing at all to assessing how valuable a bit of research is to society makes academics look frivolous, and to the non-academic world sounds like turf-defense.
I'd much prefer a more nuanced response, not that I really have a vote since I'm not in the UK.
Thoughts from readers and/or petition signatories? Signed comments preferred, as usual. Submit your comment only once, they may take longer than usual to appear due to my limited computer access currently.
Donald Hubin, the political and moral philosopher at Ohio State University, writes:
Many years ago, in the early 80s, I think, I taught an honors class that I think of as having the title: “It Usually Begins with Ayn Rand”. (That’s the title of a now-back-in-print book by Jerome Tuccille. I haven’t read it since the 70s but, as I recall, it’s a pretty entertaining romp through the lunatic fringe movements of an earlier era. Since I see it’s now back in print with a 25th anniversary edition, I might have to pick up a copy and read it again to see if my memory serves me well.) My working assumption was that many of the high school students who were intrigued by Ayn Rand were both smart and independent thinkers. Some of them, I thought, were drawn to Rand because they didn’t know what good philosophy was. So, I thought I’d try to grab some of these students and bring them into the light.
I assigned Atlas Shrugged to be read in the first week. (Yep, all 900 or so pages.) Then I took her arguments (presented there and in a number of essays I assigned for the next week) seriously and critiqued them in the way we would a serious philosopher’s arguments. I tried to be respectful of her rather than dismissive because I didn’t want the students who thought of themselves as Randians to “put up the shields”. But, of course, even a charitable interpretation doesn’t turn out to be very plausible. But I used her for a springboard into Murray Rothbard (we read his For a New Liberty). We spent a little time on him and other libertarian economists. Then we went to Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia, which we read closely along with some of the early criticisms of it.
It was actually a great course to teach—a lot of fun. I have a soft spot for those who went through a Randian phase, provided they were fairly young when they did it and they are now fully recovered.
Useful update on the situation across the nation. The injectable version of the vaccine started becoming available (for children and high-risk groups) in Chicago just yesterday. The nasal mist version has been available on some college campuses since last week, as I understand it. If college students are less dumb than Rush Limbaugh and Bill Maher, we will hopefully be spared an unpleasant flu season on campus.
MOVING TO FRONT FROM SEPTEMBER 30--UPDATED WITH MEMORIAL LINKS
John L. Pollock, Regents' Professor at the University of Arizona and a leading contributor to epistemology and cognitive science over the last four decades, passed away last night after a long illness. I will post links to memorial notices as they appear.
Ask a student to name philosophers from history, and she will probably rattle off Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Locke, and Kant. The cliché that philosophy is the study of dead white men persists for a reason. If women have trouble finding a female role model in their departments, then they will have even more trouble searching for one in the canon.
The predicament is more acute when we turn to what great philosophers have to say about women. Take, for instance, Aristotle's claim that women exist to do household work so that men can participate in political life. Locke, who was considered radical in his day for arguing that parents ought to share authority, nonetheless undercuts this when he says that a wife should subordinate her judgment to her husband, who is "abler and stronger." Rousseau insists on natural equality, yet claims that women are to be dependent upon men. He also tells us that women are simply not that interesting: "Women in general do not love any art, are not knowledgeable in any, and have no genius." Nietzsche praises Napoleon's statement that women ought to stay out of politics. As if that were not enough, he also complains that women are bad cooks who have "delayed human development."
Putting to one side the sophomoric cariacture of Nietzsche (on this issue, see the important paper by Maudemarie Clark), I wonder how plausible readers find this explanation. That women are among the most important contemporary scholars writing on Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Locke, and Kant (and Nietzsche: vide Clark)--indeed, sometimes the most important scholars--obviously isn't incomptabile with the hypothesis in question, namely, that an overwhelming male historical canon, combined with sexist remarks by many of these philosophers, put off female students from the field. But is the hypothesis a plausible explanation? Signed comments (full name in the signature line) will be strongly preferred, but students who use a valid e-mail address may post without a full name in the signature line.
His early months in office have been "very disappointing."
Obama is "a frightened man," who won't take on corporate power.
Obama is "conflict averse" - and a "harmony ideology type," who's being taken advantage of by the sharks in Congress, of both parties.
He's "Bush-Cheney redux" when it comes to military and foreign policy, "albeit with better speeches" to the Muslim world. Given Obama's handling of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Nader wonders in amazement: "And they gave him the [Nobel] Peace Prize?"
Andy Egan (philosophy of language and mind, metaphysics) at Rutgers University at New Brunswick and Stewart Cohen (epistemology) at the University of Arizona will both take up quarter-time posts as Professorial Fellows at the Arche Center at the University of St. Andrews, beginning in January 2010. These are five-year appointments, and although they do not involve formal teaching duties, Professorial Fellows participate in Arche's collaborate research projects and graduate supervision.
So with over 600 votes cast in the earlier poll, the percentages have held pretty steady: around 69% favor noting faculty who are 70 or older, while about 31% favor only noting faculty who are 75 or older. Of course, that question supposed an answer to an earlier question, which I might as well pose explicitly: should the faculty lists used for the PGR surveys note age at all? The reasons for doing so were noted in the earlier post.
UPDATE: So with about 450 votes cast over the last 24 hours, the percentages are holding pretty steady: 84% favor noting faculty age (either 70 or 75), 16% are opposed to noting age at all.
So Brian Leiter is now on it, and I appear to be late to the game. What I like about it is that you can upload a current CV there quite easily. I notice a lot of grad students use it, but also a growing number of faculty. Check it out.
[T]his passage is mostly unobjectionable. If you read what the passage actually says, it notes that the "official role" of this philosophy is to discredit scientific knowledge and elevate religion. It does not say a thing about the subjective intentions of any of the individual logical positivists, many of whom of course were very much partisans of science in a personal way, and atheists or opponents of religion. That does not change the fundamental problem with logical positivism in regard to either science or religion, which is its enforced agnosticism concerning the objective, independent existence of the external world, which mystifies science by rendering absurd the relation between that world and the progressively expanding body of scientific knowledge, and which leaves a door open for religion.
For many years, the faculty lists presented to evaluators for the PGR surveys have placed an asterisk next to the name of faculty who were turning 70 in the year following the survey. The reason, of course, is that the PGR is trying to provide forward-looking information, and while 70 is no longer the mandatory retirement age, it is still the case (or seemed to be) that faculty over 70 were less likely to be available to a student for the full course of a 5-7 year course of study. In reviewing both memorial notices on the blog, and retirement patterns of prominent philosophers, it seems to me that increasingly philosophers are teaching well into their 70s. This has led me, and some correspondents, to wonder whether it wouldn't be more sensible to note the age of 75, rather than 70, since the number of philosophers teaching full-time to the age of 80 and beyond is very small indeed, while it seems at least some are now are active in student supervision into their early 70s at least. Ultimately, this issue will be decided by the Advisory Board of the PGR, but I thought it would do no harm to poll readers of the blog. Obviously there will be some self-serving voting in this poll (but perhaps the most sensible policy coincides with what is in the interests of some respondents!), but if enough readers respond, it may help gauge how students and faculty think about this issue. Thanks.
UPDATE: So with almost 300 votes cast, about 2/3rds favor leaving things as they are--an * for every faculty member over the age of 70--while about 1/3rd favor the switch to just noting those faculty over 75. These rough proportions have held steady over the last couple of hours, though we'll see if sentiment change over the next day or so.
...and other orchestrators of war and terror, the wholly meaningless Nobel Peace Prize has now gone to Barack Obama. Would it not have been simpler to just issue a statement saying, "Thank God the war criminal and moral monster Bush is out of office"?
I'm told by various correspondents that it is, in fact, on-line now, and has about 140 ads, though less than half of those are for tenure-track jobs. (I haven't seen the October JFP myself.) If one counts the web ads as well, then there are over 250 positions advertised, but that is still only about half of last year (of course many of those advertised last year disappeared due to budget troubles). This is obviously bad, as expected. I haven't done a systematic study, but my guess (based partly on info we've discussed in the past) is that this is probably one of the worst October JFPs in several decades. There are only two positive notes here that I see: first, most schools, in response to the economic crisis, have been erring on the side of extreme caution in their budgeting, meaning the odds are good that the jobs now advertised will actually be filled, rather than disappear; second, the anxiety about budgetary issues may also mean that November will be more important than in prior years (though November almost always contains a decent number of new jobs), as departments may not have secured their hiring authorizations until later than usual. So we won't have the full picture until November.
But the bottom line is that this is going to be a very tight year on the job market, compounded, of course, by the repeat job seekers from last year who met with disappointment in another very bad job market.
Comments are open for additional data, information, more precise tallies of what's in the October JFP, etc.
ANNOUNCEMENT-APA Website Construction. The APA National Office is in the midst of transitioning our website and its services to a new hosting facility. Due to the transition, the APA website may be temporarily down for a few days. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may cause our members and the philosophical community and we’d like to thank everyone for their on-going patience while we continue with our new construction.
Since the October JFP was due to come out tomorrow, this is, needless to say, very upsetting to a lot of already very reasonably anxious job seekers. Surely the APA can do better! As one young philosopher wrote to me:
You probably received the email from the APA saying that the site will be down for a few days.This seems to be causing mass panic among those looking for jobs.I'm wondering if you might be able to convince the powers that be that they should use the same email lists that is causing the mass panic to distribute the jfp in pdf form to end the mass panic.
This is an eminently reasonable suggestion. Can someone with control over these matters please confirm in the comments below that the APA will take this sensible step?
UPDATE: Chris Tucker, in the second comment, reports a second message from the APA saying that JFP should not be affected by the website transition. Let's hope that's right!
The latest creationist scam, though, oddly, the Discovery [sic] Institute doesn't seem to be directly involved.
UPDATE: A philosophy graduate student writes:
I actually showed the promotional video of that Creationist scheme to my logic students this week, because it was so densely packed with fallacies. By my count, in that segment, he employs at least these popular ones: guilt by association (Hitler, etc.), virtue by association (by appealing to renowned scientists as somehow on their side), ad hominem (twice), straw man, and some illustration of how a person loses credibility by so bizarrely characterizing the view opposed to his.
To do all that in 100 seconds or so is, in some perverse way, real talent.
But how many, I don't know, since the RSC's website is not up to date! But I do know that among the philosophers elected for 2009 are Robert Batterman (philosophy of science, physics, and mathematics) and John Bell (logic, philosophy of mathematics) at the University of Western Ontario. Please send me links to more notices of philosophers elected to the RSC this year.
UPDATE: Two philosophers at the University of Alberta were also elected: Jeffrey Pelletier (philosophy of language and logic, cognitive science, ancient philosophy) and Robert A. Wilson (philosophy of mind and biology, cognitive science).
AND A FINAL ONE: Also elected: Claude Panaccio (medieval Philosophy) at Université du Québec à Montréal. A complete list of new fellows is here. (Thanks to Samantha Brennan for the pointer.)
The NY Times item is here. (Bizarrely, the Times piece includes a photo of the hack philosopher Ayn Rand, who would indeed be unemployable in any serious philosophy department!) The comments on the Times piece are a curious mix, though do see the comments of Benjamin Hellie (#22). Others adduce another hack, Judith Butler, as evidence that the "analytic" bogeyman drives away "talented" [sic] female philosophers. Perhaps they should read what a competent female philosopher and scholar has to say about Butler.
The original item that inspired the Times piece is here, which quotes some female philosophers in the U.K. suggesting that the aggressive, argumentative style of philosophy drives women out. A female philosopher, who found this latter explanation (quite correctly) demeaning to women, calls my attention to a discussion of the issue of women in economics and in philosophy by a sociologist here.
UPDATE: Helen Beebee (Birmingham), one of the philosophers quoted, kindly wrote to clarify her remarks:
There is nothing intrinsically aggressive about philosophy. It is sometimes (particularly in seminar situations) pursued in an aggressive style. So it was not 'the aggressive ... style of philosophy' that I was suggesting drives women out, but the aggressive manner in which philosophical discussion is often carried out. Indeed, part of the point was to make that very distinction: to be good at philosophy, you have to be prepared to tolerate (and indeed welcome) robust criticism; that's not at all the same as being prepared to tolerate people presenting said robust criticism in an unnecessarily aggressive way. This latter may -- *may* -- be something that women tend to have a lower tolerance for than men do. I don't see that there's anything demeaning to women in that suggestion; it seems to me that an aversion to unnecessary levels of aggression is an entirely healthy and desirable character trait. (And of course neither I nor the other women quoted in the original article meant to suggest that other attempts to explain the absence of women in professional philosophy are all false; doubtless there are many factors at work and so many non-competing but individually incomplete explanations.)
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)