Is there ever any license for switching graduate (that is, Ph.D.) programs twice? I transferred from a (barely) unranked program to one in the top 40ish range after two years at the former. I am now in my second year at the latter. Several factors conspire to make me question the wisdom of staying put, however.
First, the new program’s major faculty member in my AOS retired, the possibility of which I was not warned about beforehand. Second, I feel I’ve developed considerably in the past year—for instance, I gave a well-received paper at a graduate conference about my AOS at a top university. Third, I would be deeply unhappy with a non-research job, which is mainly where my program places its Ph.D.s.
What are my options? Having already transferred once, am I tainted in the eyes of the higher-ranked programs I might now like to apply to? Is it tacky of me and disrespectful to my current program to entertain the thought of leaving?
This is a topic on which I have insufficient evidence to even venture an opinion. Readers?
...but the arrival of a decent sushi place (not great, but good enough that one would gladly go back) can not pass unnoted and without a sense of gratitude. Not as fancy (or pricey either) as our two legit high-end restaurants here (Park52 [also relatively new, and good] and La Petite Folie), but a nice alternative to pizza and Harold's chicken. Now if only a decent Chinese restaurant would appear....
I've received word now from a reliable source that the University of Southern Mississippi is eliminating the Religion B.A. and the Philosophy M.A. (though retaining, happily, the philosophy B.A.). More seriously, six out of eleven department members received letters that their appointments were not being renewed after this coming academic year, including tenured members of the faculty. (Let me note that one of the very best graduate students I taught at Texas during my thirteen years there was a graduate of the philosophy program at Southern Mississippi, where he got very good preparation.)
The decision can be appealed. Now would be a good time for alumni and those familiar with the program to contribute their thoughts on its value (click on "what the alumni say").
This is a striking article. I realize I am almost wholly in the dark about how these places operate and whether, and how, they teach philosophy, if they do. I would welcome input from readers with knowledge or experience. Since I don't know whether for-profit colleges safeguard the academic freedom rights of their teachers, I will permit anonymous comments on this thread, but with a valid e-mail please, which will not be published and which will be treated as wholly confidential.
ADDENDUM: The letter I was sent to sign did include discussion of the Islamic Community Center, the letter linked above does not, unfortunately. The one I did sign is slated to appear in The Forward in a few days. Here are the opening paragraphs of that letter:
We, like many, have been disappointed by your refusal to support the unconditional rights of American Muslims who seek to build the Cordoba Community Center in Manhattan. At a time of increasing anti-Islamic and anti-Arab sentiment in this country, your statements are doubly worrisome. Sadly, we've seen time and again bias against Muslims and Arabs used by your organizations as a way to shore up support for Israel, even when Israel itself is acting non-democratically(1). Fueling these sentiments in an attempt to invalidate legitimate Palestinian claims does nothing to help achieve a lasting peace for Israelis and Palestinians.
We are equally concerned by your stance against freedom of worship in Manhattan and by your silence in response to the increasing repression in Israel. We ask you to stand by the values you claim to promote.
150 years ago, a German philosopher observed that,
[T]he class which is the ruling material force of a society is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it.
(As a point of personal privilege, I must note my amusement to see the loathsome Peggy Venable make an appearance in this article as one of the Koch Brothers' stooges. I encountered her years ago in Austin when she was the mouthpiece of the Orwellian "Citizens for a Sound Economy" (another front organization for the Koch Brothers) which was actively allied with the Texas Taliban in lobbying for the destruction of public education in Texas. Once the Law School hosted a forum on the general issue, at which I spoke, and Ms. Venable actually sent a 'spy' to take notes and report back to her on what I said! What I could never figure is whether Ms. Venable was loathsomely dishonest or just loathsomely stupid. In either scenario, she is "what's wrong with America," though I am happy to see her put to good use in explaining the mechanism underlying the phenomenon noted by our 19th-century friend.)
YOU SEEM TO HAVE A TENDANCY TO MUSH THINGS TOGETHER. YOU ARE A MUSHER. PHILOSOPHERS NEITHER 'BORROW' FROM SCIENCE NOR 'BECOME' SCIENTISTS. SCIENCE IS A PREREQUISITE FOR PHILOSOPHY. PHILOSOPHY IS A HIGHER RUNG ON THE HIERARCHY OF KNOWLEDGE. THE PHILOSOPHER INCORPORATES AND TRANSFORMS SCIENCE. THEREFORE, HE IS A SCIENTIST BEFORE HE IS A PHILOSOPHER. THIS IS THE WAY IT HAS ALWAYS BEEN AND IS SUPPOSED TO BE. SO THIS WHOLE DEBATE IS GENERATING UNNECESSARY CONFUSSION THAT YOU HAVE ADDED TO.
There's certainly a good deal of unnecessary confusion, but it's not emanating from Professor Sosa.
Meanwhile, Timothy Williamson's remarks produce the following rebuke of the Wykeham Professor of Logic by "bruce macevoy" at #8:
i find williamson's comments vacuous and self serving. in what specific ways does psychology or any other branch of science differ from "a combination of abstract reasoning and particular examples", if by abstract reasoning we mean scientific theory and by particular examples we intend replicable experiments or naturalistic observations? and how exactly do the "naive inferences" of some investigators evade the critical test of further experiments in the normal conduct of science, or create a predicament that requires philosophical rescue?
the crux here is that philosophy only has one tool and one domain of experiment: talk, words, semantics, definitions. nothing else. to the extent that philosophy begins to address facts, in the specific sense of an experiment -- a distinctive arrangement of facts that will produce a recognizable new fact as an outcome -- then it simply morphs into science. "testable hypothesis" is the clearly drawn boundary between the two.
We get all the way to #5 on my piece before we get "natty bumpo" delivering the typical infantile insult: "I'm always impressed by the former philosophy majors who pour my coffee in the morning." Now, on the plus side, it might be observed that most of the first ten comments on most of the contributions (that's all I surveyed) aren't hopeless, sometimes reflect appreciation of philosophy, and sometimes have a substantive and intelligent point to make. Compared to the comments on the typical "Stone" column at the Times, these comments are really quite good overall. Still, if being insulting and utterly confused about the subject isn't enough to get your comment moderated out of existence at the NY Times, one wonders what is?
I think I'm going to make this a regular feature, in honor of some of the charming specimens of humanity who show up in my in-box.
This one started peacably enough. Mr. Ginns (whoever he is) sent me the following two-line e-mail the other day:
When will the Spanish language version of this book [Naturalizing Jurisprudence]appear? Where can I find readings lists for the courses that you teach?
So I replied:
The Spanish translation should appear this fall from Marcial Pons. I generally do not put my syllabi on-line.
I had assumed from the question "where can I find," that Mr. Ginns was looking for something on-line. I have occasionally had syllabi on-line, but I don't put them on as a matter of course. If I had not been away from the office, I probably would have just sent him one, but I didn't have access.
A couple of hours later, this bizarre missive arrives:
Well professor, you certainly do. I found your Jurisprudence II on line as well as the Jurisprudence course you gave at the University of Texas in 2008. I wasted a little time tracking these documents down, but I had the satisfaction of proving that you are obviously some type of horse's ass. I guess you consider your syllabi a form of "family jewels."
If you are the mother of Mr. Ginns, and are reading this, would you please speak to your son before letting him log on again? Thanks.
Allan Hazlett (epistemology, metaphysics), Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Fordham University, has accepted an offer from the Department of Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh, where he will be Lecturer in Epistemology.
The readership has been generous in the past with restaurant advice, and I plan to offer some here on a more regular basis, starting with this self-proclaimed Catalan tapas place. Having been several times to the Catalan region (Barcelona, Girona, various towns on the Costa Brava), I must admit to being a huge fan of the cuisine in this region. If I ate nothing else for the rest of my life, I'd be "wretchedly content" (as Nietzsche would say). Mercat is a very pale imitation of the original. Their steak and their garlic shrimp are quite good, everything else is middling--sometimes due to ingredients, sometimes to preparation. To make matters worse, the prices are out of sight (the prices on the present website are out of date). How outrageous they are isn't apparent until you see the portions. I never imagined fuet could be cut so thin. On the plus side, the service was attentive and efficient.
If you're desperate for tapas, and on an expense account, this is a reasonable bet. Otherwise....
Professor Mueller, a distinguished scholar of ancient Greek philosophy, science, and mathematics, passed away suddenly last Friday. A professor emeritus here at the University of Chicago, he taught in the Department of Philosophy for more than thirty years. I will link to memorial notices as soon as they appear.
The latest "Room for Debate" feature at the NY Times, with comments by Anthony Appiah, Joshua Knobe, Ernie Sosa, Tim Williamson, Tim Maudlin, and me. Feel free to discuss in the comments here. Signed comments preferred, but not essential; a valid e-mail address is essential (it will not appear).
Alex Rosenberg (Duke) is trying to find out which Departments of Philosophy (like Arizona, UC Davis, and Irvine's Logic & Philosophy of Science Dept.) are housed in social science divisions or colleges.
I thought you and your readership might find the video at the following link quite interesting. It's by the marginally sentient folks at KeepAmericaSafe.com and it might be the finest example of a genuine ad misericordiam fallacy presently in captivity (a rare species one would think). Warning: it might make you physically ill, if you've recently eaten.
I fear for the future not only of our country, but of intelligent discourse, and the human race.
I've been bumped off course by Mark C. Taylor's recent end-of-career proposal to retire the entire institution of tenure along with himself. This has caused me to think about things I would have preferred not to be thinking about, including the oeuvre and career trajectory of Mark C. Taylor himself.
My interest piqued by what struck me as his highly dishonorable proposal to dismantle the very system that had enabled him to thrive, I decided to go back and see what in the way of research this enablement had yielded. Here is a bit of what I read in Taylor's 1987 book, Altarity:
"Altarity" most closely approximates "alterity;" the difference between them is nothing more and nothing less than the difference between an e and an a. A strange, nearly foreign word in English, "alterity" (Latin, alteritatem (sic)-- being outside (sic)) means "the state of being other or different; diversity, otherness." The more common French term alterité, is the contrary of identité and specifies otherness or that which is other. "Altarity" folds into "alterity," even as "alterity" is implicated in "altarity." Though recalling the Derridean gesture of substituting an a for an e, the writing of Altarity is not a simple repetition of the translation of différence into différance. Altarity evokes dimensions of difference and aspects of otherness overlooked, excluded, or repressed by the notion of différance (xxix).
At least it can be said that Taylor seems to be having a good time. While "altarity" would not in the end make its way into the lexicon, in those optimistic days one can understand why an English-speaking deconstructionist would have supposed that there was room for a homegrown misspelled-word-that-is-not-a-word. Taylor's wordplay offers an interesting window into an earlier, in some ways more innocent and carefree period of American Derrideanism, when the style of it had not yet become the butt of so much ridicule, and its exponents were free to play in ways that today they would likely try to avoid for fear of serving up more inadvertent self-parody to their opponents....
I am personally very sympathetic to the analysis of Chomsky and others, for whom a certain variety of philosophical obscurantism results not just from sloppiness or from lack of intellectual rigor, but is indeed an intrinsic part of its proponents' strategy for protecting their racket. The usual line of criticism approaches the phenomenon of French obscurantism with the conceptual tools of analytic philosophy (a measure by which it is doomed in advance), when what is in fact needed is sociology. It has often struck me that much American 'continental' philosophy depends on a total ignorance of the social milieu of the Parisian professoriat, and on a consequent inability to detect that what looks like the difficult expression of difficult ideas in writing is in fact just rarefied sociolect. Now sociolect, whether among carnies or professors, helps a group to cohere, and this helps it to survive. For Parisian professors as for speakers of carnie cant, all the better if outsiders are unable to understand....
(For those keeping track, this is an actual ad hominem.)
This seems right, though just the tip of an iceberg of morally abhorrent behavior by elected representatives. Consider the fact that Congress is populated with members who opposed a morally decent healthcare system or who supported the criminal war of aggression against Iraq.
Have you thought about commenting, or inviting discussion, of the entries in SEP? I’m a big fan of the project, and contributed several pieces, but my RSS feed of recent entries has raised my brows in several cases. The most egregious was the entry on Ayn Rand, but the entries I’ve seen of late don’t seem to be justified by any reasonable standard of topics or people most deserving of entries. I was once an area editor, but had to quit, and faced a number of “volunteer” projects that were sent to me from the central players in the project, many of which I didn’t think should be pursued. They ended up appearing in SEP, and I fear the motivation may be more than a matter of which entries are most deserving of inclusion.
There is no question that SEP is fantastic, but if the recent entries I’ve noted are the new standard, there is an emphasis on something other than the importance of the possible entry that made SEP fantastic in the first place. The entry that set me off was the Ayn Rand one—the bibliography alone is one of the most embarrassing I’ve ever seen: outlets of questionable merit at best, etc.
So I’m venting… And wondering what you might think about this. In my view, SEP is a disciplinary treasure, but the last year of entries have raised too many questions in my mind about what is happening with the project…
You can view a chronological list of recent SEP entries here. My own, tentative view is that it is probably in the institutional interest of the SEP project to cast its net widely in terms of topics, even if some of them are of relatively narrow appeal to professional philosopher or of doubtful philosophical merit. But looking over the list of recent entries, I am less sure than my correpondent that the balance has tipped too much in one direction.
Signed comments will be strongly preferred, but all submissions must have a valid e-mail address (which will not appear). Submit your comment only once, it may take awhile to appear.
MOVING TO FRONT FROM MAY 26: THE DEADLINE IS APPROACHING!
At McMaster University in Hamilton (about an hour from Toronto) next May. I don't usually do these kinds of announcements, but opportunities like this for students in philosophy of law are few and far between, and McMaster has an unusually strong group of students and faculty working in the area.
James Dreier (Brown), "Relativism (and Expressivism) and the Problem of Disagreement", Philosophical Perspectives 23:1, 79-110
Marc Lange (North Carolina), "A Tale of Two Vectors", Dialectica 63:4, 397-431
Jessica Moss (Oxford), "Akrasia and Perceptual Illusion", Archiv fur Geschichte der Philosophie 91:2, 119-156
Jonathan Schaffer (Rutgers/ANU), "On What Grounds What", in David Manley, David J. Chalmers & Ryan Wasserman (eds.), Metametaphysics: New Essays on the Foundations of Ontology, Oxford University Press
Mark Schroeder (Southern California), "Hybrid Expressivism: Virtues and Vices", Ethics 119:2, 257-309
Stewart Shapiro (Ohio State), "We Hold These Truths To Be Self-Evident: But What Do We Mean By That?", The Review of Symbolic Logic 2:1, 175-207
Elliott Sober (Wisconsin), "Absence of Evidence and Evidence of Absence—Evidential Transitivity in Connection with Fossils, Fishing, Fine-Tuning and Firing Squads", Philosophical Studies 143:1, 63-90
Johan Van Benthem (Stanford/Amsterdam), Patrick Girard (Auckland), Oilver Roy (Groningen), "Everything Else Being Equal: A Modal Logic for Ceteris Paribus Preferences", Journal of Philosophical Logic 38:1, 83-125
The volume 29 papers will eventually be accessible on-line here.
UPDATE: Still more ugliness from the Israeli right. Discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has always been much freer and more robust in Israel than the United States, but it looks like the Israeli right would like to put an end to that.
Thanks to Daniel O'Connell for calling my attention to this:
Taylor’s data-free ruminations bear as much connection to the actual world of higher education as Scientology does to particle physics. He’s the fellow that bemoaned per-course salaries “as low as” five grand (!) and basically acts as if you could still arm-chair analyze the academic labor system, which is nearly 80% contingent, as if it were a “market” in tenure-track jobs.
Taylor’s retread analysis is straight outta 1972: “If you were a CEO,” he begins, and races downhill from there. Dunno, Mark: If I was the CEO of my neighborhood… If I was the CEO of my marriage… If I was the CEO of this poker game… If I was the CEO of your church… If I was the CEO of the planet… If my dad were my CEO… If I were the CEO of this one-night stand… If I was the CEO of this classroom… If I was the CEO of this audience at this Green Day concert…
Gosh, Mark. Seems like some social organizations and relationships shouldn’t have CEOs at all.
It turns out, by the way, that the professor launching ignorant broadsides against university education is the co-founder of an organization devoted to marketting online education. I would have thought the NY Times could spot such a transparent conflict of interest.
UPDATE: Someone at the Times wrote to point out that Professor Taylor's online education business is now defunct, which means he doesn't have a current financial interest in misleading the public about higher education. So what is his interest, apart from attracting attention to himself? Hmmm.
Here. This was, to my mind, the most striking bit:
Whatever the problems in Dr. Hauser’s lab, they eventually led to an insurrection among his staff, said Michael Tomasello, a psychologist who is co-director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and shares Dr. Hauser’s interest in cognition and language.
“Three years ago,” Dr. Tomasello said, “when Marc was in Australia, the university came in and seized his hard drives and videos because some students in his lab said, ‘Enough is enough.’ They said this was a pattern and they had specific evidence.”
I hope at some point we will know the names of the students whose intellectual conscience led them to come forward with their concerns.
"No ideas and the ability to express them: that's a journalist," said Karl Kraus. But as a corollary: "No ability to discern good from bad ideas, and the ability to repeat the worst ones: that's a journalist too." And since journalists always enjoy self-hating academics, it is predictable that one has picked up and is now regurgitating Mark Taylor's nonsense.
A feminist philosopher, Professor Warren taught for many years at San Francisco State University, and was especially well-known for widely anthologized and discussed work in bioethics, especially on abortion.
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)