A colleague asked about this, and I drew a blank, apart from Karl Marx, who, of course, doesn't use the concept of human dignity. Any recommendations of philosophical work on this topic in the past 50 years or so? Thanks.
...Michelle Bachmann and Mitt Romney are unelectable--the former because her deranged ignorance and ideological excesses will scare off the so-called "independent" voters (the ones who decide U.S. elections), and the latter because his Mormonism will scare off evangelical Christians, an essential part of the vote for a Republican victory in any national election. God Bless America!
ADDENDUM: On the other hand, there's still the risk that the whack job Governor of Texas will enter the Presidential race, though he is also likely to send the "independents" fleeing.
The reason I'm writing was to solicit your reccomendations on how best to go about learning the basics of analytical philsophy. I was a philosophy minor in college, from which I graduated two years ago, but never got a chance to take many classes in logic and dabbled mainly in older continental thinkers and simple applied ethics. I'm not a huge math person and I have to admit that some of the more technical aspects of the early analytical thinkers turn me off, but I'd like to get a sufficient background in the subject so that I might read later thinkers such as Quine, Putnam, and Davidson, who do seem to have some very interesting things to say. I really would value your advice!
A reader thinking about grad school in philosophy writes:
I am an undergrad looking to apply to philosophy departments for Fall 2013. Is there any reason for me to take the old GRE for what would be a year early? Is there reason to believe that professors who review applications would put more weight on an old GRE score compared to a new one? Is it advisable to take both?
Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Southern California, his main philosophical work was in aesthetics, though he was best-known to the world at large as the first Libertarian candidate for President, in 1972. There is a brief obituary here.
Sorry for the dearth of material lately, some pressing family matters, plus a conference, have left me little time. Thanks to those who have e-mailed material, I am still catching up on e-mail as well. I hope to have more over the course of the weekend.
Carla Fehr (philosophy of biology, feminist epistemology & science studies), currently Associate Professor of Philosophy and an affiliate faculty member of Women's Studies at Iowa State University, has accepted the Wolfe Chair in Science and Technology Studies at the University of Waterloo.
Frederick Stoutland (St. Olaf) concludes his very illuminating introduction to this new volume of essays on Anscombe by contrasting the "two pictures" of Davidson and Anscombe. He writes (p. 19):
In the Davidsonian picture, the fundamental relations human beings as such--as knowing the world and acting intentionally in it--have to the world are causal. We know the world because it affects our senses and thus causes us to have various perceptual beliefs that constitute knowledge of the world if they are internally coherent. We know the objects and events in the world, not directly but through their causaing beliefs in us that are about them. Our acting in the world is similarly indirect. We act when our beliefs and desires cause bodily movements that cause events outside our body The movement of our fingers causes the switch to flip, which causes the light to go on, and so on.
By contrast, on Anscombe's picture,
The knowledge we gain through percetual experience is of the world directly without the mediation of beliefs: the causal relations that underlie such experience enable it to be direct rather than constitute it as indirect. Action is also direct. To act is not to have one's bodily movements caused by one's beliefs and desires; it is to exercise the power to move one's body directly and intentionally. Further, to exercise that power is not primarily to cause events outside one's body; it is to perform actions that extend beyond one's body and its movements. Walking, running, eating, drinking, pounding, skiing, greeting, writing--ordinary bodily activities all--do not consist of bodily movements plus events they cause; they are our moving our bodies in ways that extend beyond them. We can run or walk only on a surface, that is, only in a world outside ourselves that also acts on us....To us a hammer is not to cause it to move, and to ski is not to cause skis to move: those are extended bodily movements. All these bodily activities require that the bodily movements occurs as constituents of a structured activity that is more than the sum of the movements.
Professor Stoutland then sums this all up, quite aptly it seems, as follows (pp. 19, 20):
The Davidsonian picture has its roots in the Cartesian revolution, which conceived of the physical world as consisting only of what plays a role in the new physics, a physics purified of the teleological, intentional, and normative terms of Aristotelian physics....
Anscombe's conception of the physical world is not physicalist, and hence her conception of agents, which she took to be physical beings, is not simply physicalist either. This allows the relations of agents to their world to be much closer and richer than causal relations....
What Stoutland does not say directly, but certainly implies, is that Anscombe's world is the world of "Aristotelian physics," one rich in teleologies.
There may be some mostly cosmetic changes before publication, but otherwise this is the essentially final version, which will appear in Oxford Journal of Legal Studies next year. The core argument remains the same as in the earlier version from last year, though there have been some significant revisions to portions of the paper in light of useful comments from an OJLS referee and from participants in the McMaster "Nature of Law" conference. This version can be quoted and cited.
I queried philosopher Lionel McPherson (Tufts)--whose earlier remarks prompted a lively and often revealing discussion--about some of his experiences being solicited to apply for jobs as part of putative "diversity" and "outreach" efforts by leading philosophy departments. He gave me permission to share this correspondence, from which he has removed the departmental names. Professor McPherson sent the following e-mail in response to an e-mail soliciting his application for a position in the department:
Dear [Member of top 10 dept.],
In response to your email, I am suggesting my name, though I would not formally apply without further information. Please let me explain.
I have grown skeptical in general about affirmative action/equal opportunity notices from leading philosophy departments, at least regarding minority candidates. In short, I believe that such notices stigmatize minority candidates, mislead non-minorities about the prevalence of minority hires and hiring attempts, and provide false cover against the charge of lack of faculty diversity--while rarely making an ultimate difference to actual hiring practices.
I can cite examples from my own experience. [ ] put out a similar notice a few years ago. Although I was aware of [ ]'s JFP ad for an ethics job, I did not have a special interest in the department and did not originally apply. Only after [ ] advised me that [ ] was actively soliciting minority candidates did I apply, after which I heard nothing at all. I made my displeasure known through a third party who had contact with the acting chair, which led to an exchange that revealed: 1) the notice wasn't really an affirmative action call but merely an attempt at outreach; 2) I was immediately disqualified from consideration since I do not work on ethics exclusively but also have substantial research interests in political philosophy; 3) the department already had an excellent candidate in mind (a white woman); 4) the department persisted in considering the notice a success since candidates such as me would not have applied otherwise. I had different but related experiences with [ ] and [ ]. (In a letter I found online, [ ]’s then-chair wrote to the administration of the department's considerable but failed efforts to recruit minority faculty. The explanation: a lack of available, qualified minority candidates. My application to [ ] did not yield an interview or any other response.)
The widespread perception among whites that affirmative action is alive and unfairly effective doubly stigmatizes underrepresented minorities in philosophy. First, there is the standard view that if blacks were qualified/as qualified, affirmative action would not be necessary. Second, and more perniciously, this standard view is seemingly confirmed by the paucity of black philosophers, especially in leading departments--after all, if we cannot get hired and tenured despite affirmative action, we really must not be qualified.
A mere outreach effort (see [ ]) is insulting. It suggests that minority candidates might lack the common knowledge that would lead them to look at JFP, for instance. If outreach almost never factors into the hiring practices of leading philosophy departments, it has no point for minorities--though I understand that departments want to appease themselves and their administrations that the paucity of minority faculty is beyond their immediate control. Of course, if leading departments continue to construe philosophy or positions with the typical bias against value areas or in some other, narrow way, there will indeed be a paucity of excellent minority candidates.
I trust that you know I am not criticizing you personally. Yet I would like to make a recommendation: affirmative action or outreach for minorities could be done, especially at leading departments, only through casual, below-the-radar queries to members of other leading departments. (Maybe you are doing this.) After all, departments such as [ ], [ ], [ ], and even [ ] are unlikely to hire junior candidates from programs outside the top 25; there are very few minority candidates and those interested are likely to apply, anyway. So the affirmative action/equal opportunity boilerplate in ads and active soliciting of minority candidates seems unnecessary and unnecessarily stigmatizing--except perhaps in those rare cases where a department is committed both to encouraging minorities to apply and actually to hiring (and tenuring) well-qualified candidates.
All of that said, let me reiterate my interest in the [ ] job. I realize that there are no guarantees and do not expect any, for myself or any other minority. Nor, though, do I want to become a perpetual applicant, let alone one who naively answers calls for minority applicants.
Professor McPherson adds: "[A] post mortem about [this] letter might be helpful. For months, I received no response. Only after indirectly querying a different, prominent faculty member of that department did I receive a reply from the search committee chairperson I had written. The response: such outreach 'strategies' designed 'to attract women and minority candidates' were 'standard' and 'customary,' and were necessary so that the university's 'Equal Opportunity Committee' did not 'block' the department from hiring whomever it wanted. [emphasis added by BL]. (When I wrote back that I was 'dismayed and surprised' by this response, the reply was to wonder whether it was 'your intention to offend' since it 'sounds like you are insulting me.' I replied that my intention was certainly not to offend.)"
In another case, Professor McPherson discovered that another "top 30" department had posted on the Internet a report naming him as the "unworthy" candidate they had considered as part of a "diversity" initiative. Professor McPherson wrote:
I am writing to request that the [ ] Philosophy Department remove, or at least remove my name, from its "Philosophy Department Diversity Plan Progress Report." This report can currently be found on the Internet, via a search using my name.
As written by [ ], the report claims that a committee "was created to research promising African-American political philosophers we might be able to approach for our open position in political philosophy. (Note: this committee did result in our bringing to campus Prof. Lionel McPherson for an interview this winter, though the Department ultimately voted to make an offer to a different candidate.)" The report goes on to claim, "The chief obstacles we face to increasing diversity in our department is that philosophy has traditionally been a discipline that...produces relatively few faculty of color. We have appreciated being offered 'special opportunity' funds to try to recruit such faculty."
Thus the report leaves the impression that despite the Department's earnest "diversity initiatives," which included a special search and special funding, it could find no (qualified) minority candidate--including the one candidate that it did interview, namely, me. This impression could be further substantiated, in the minds of observers of the profession, by the fact that the Department hired a white male who has published almost exclusively in ethics, not political philosophy.
In short, the report is offensive in a way that is typical of philosophy departments, as I have learned from both observation and experience. The [ ] Department's report, however, sets a new low in identifying me as the rejected candidate.
I do not expect that most members of your department will be sympathetic to my complaint. So let me conclude by stating simply that I do not appreciate being a poster boy, let alone a public one, for any department's "diversity initiatives" that must be deemed a failure.
There is a lot for philosophers and departments to reflect on in these incidents, and I thank Professor McPherson for being willing to share his experiences, which are no doubt eye-opening for most readers.
Several readers sent this item, which overstates the importance of Nozick (certainly relative to Hayek, who is dismissed with some silly ad hominems), presumably because the author then wants to tear it down. Some bits of the essay are interesting enough.
I only discovered this post recently, but it does a fine job on a rather sad piece of work by people who, except for their religious commitments, would know better. One of the authors of the article being critiqued is actually a PhD student in philosophy at Princeton, like Chappell!
UPDATE: Here are some things that really "betray the vocation of philosophy": (1) making horrendously bad arguments, and doing so repeatedly, despite patient and decisive refutations; (2) failing to acknowledge honestly the role that conclusions predetermined by religious dogma play in your purported philosophical inquires; and (3) accusing your critics of "name-calling," when you know full well that names have descriptive and referential content, and the only question is whether an accusation of bigotry is warranted or not.
The poll is closed, and with more than 600 votes, the winners, in order, are: New APPS, Philosophy Smoker, Philosophers Anonymous, Certain Doubts, and Feminist Philosophers, though with strong showings of support for many of the others in the pool. I wouldn't assign much credence, needless to say, to the ordinal ordering, since all of the top five enjoyed lots of #1 rankings from their fans. New Apps and Philosophers Anonymous are my own two favorites from the top five, though I do read all of them periodically (as well as Brooks Blog, Think Tonk, Philosophy Et Cetera, Ethical Werewolf, Experimental Philosophy, and a few others). Certain Doubts is to be commended for being the only one in the top five to be primarily a blog for substantive philosophical discussion, something that is hard to sustain in the blog forum. (New Apps does some of that too.) Unsurprisingly, blogs do better for discussing professional issues than for sustained philosophical argument and reflection.
Congratulations to all the proprietors of the 18 quite valuable and successful blogs that were part of this poll.
Heather Douglas (philosophy of science), Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Tennessee at Knoville, has accepted the Wolfe Chair in Science and Society at the University of Waterloo, effective January 2012.
It's not every blogger who makes the "enemies list" of the Bush White House! (I tried to check his blog to see if he had anything to say about this, but it's not loading, probably due to overwhelming traffic from the frontpage NY Times story.)
UPDATE: Professor Cole's comments, though it will take a long time to load. He's, of course, right that the CIA denial is meaningless. Since the actions in question are unlawful and go to the heart of free speech in a democratic society, one hopes there will be real legal consequences.
What a great idea: philosophers Carrie Figdor (Iowa) and Robert Talisse (Vanderbilt) discuss new philosophy books with their authors. The first podcast is up, featuring Eric Schwitzgebel (UC Riverside) discussing his book Perplexities of Consciousness (MIT Press, 2011).
Here's another measure of overall research university quality: membership in the National Academy of Sciences, whose election procedures appear to be somewhat less corrupt than those of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. But NAS membership is primarily a measure of distinction in the natural sciences, plus some aspects of the social sciences. Any campus with a medical school is at a big advantage, since there are several categories of membership that are largely filled by medical school faculty. (An example: UT Southwestern Medical School in Dallas has even more NAS members than the entire UT Austin campus, which has no medical school. UC San Francisco is another example.) Universities without a medical school are marked with an * (as one can see, Harvard and Stanford lead Berkeley and MIT primarily because of the medical school difference). Universities with very top medical schools, besides Harvard, Stanford and UC San Francisco, include Washington/Seattle, Johns Hopkins, Penn, Duke, and Wash U/St. Louis.
1. Harvard University (168)
2. Stanford University (134)
*3. University of California, Berkeley (133)
*4. Massachussetts Institute of Technology (117)
*5. Princeton University (78)
*6. California Institute of Technology (71)
7. University of California, San Diego (69)
8. Yale University (60)
9. Columbia University (48)
10. University of Washington, Seattle (45)
11. University of Chicago (42)
12. University of Wisconsin, Madison (41)
13. Cornell University (40)
13. University of California, Los Angeles (40)
13. University of California, San Francisco (40)
16. Rockefeller University (32)
*17. University of California, Santa Barbara (31)
18. New York University (28)
18. University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (28)
18. University of Pennsylvania (28)
21. Johns Hopkins University (24)
21. University of California, Irvine (24)
21. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (24)
24. Duke University (22)
*25. Rutgers University, New Brunswick (20)
25. University of California, Davis (20)
27. Northwestern University (19)
28. University of Colorado, Boulder (18)
28. University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (Dallas) (18)
30. Washington University, St. Louis (17)
*31. University of Maryland, College Park (16)
*31. University of Texas, Austin (16)
33. University of Minnesota, Minneapolis-St. Paul (15)
34. Pennsylvania State University (13)
34. University of Florida, Gainesville (13)
36. University of Southern California (12)
37. University of Arizona (11)
*38. Arizona State University (10)
38. Indiana University, Bloomington (10)
38. Ohio State University (10)
38. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (10)
Some other selected schools (not a complete list): Brandeis University (9); State University of New York, Stony Brook (9); University of California, Santa Cruz (9); Brown University (9); University of Rochester (9); University of Utah (8); Boston University (7); Carnegie Mellon University (7); University of Oregon (7); Michigan State University (6); Florida State University (5); Texas A&M University (5); University of California, Riverside (5); University of Georgia (5); University of Missouri, Columbia (5); Vanderbilt University (5); University of Iowa (4); University of Virginia (4); Emory University (4); Purdue University (3); Rice University (3); University of Pittsburgh (3); Dartmouth College (2); Georgetown University (1).
The latest news here. There was a long period of time when USC was known mainly as an undistinguished, but expensive private school for kids who couldn't get into UCLA. That has changed quite a bit over the last thirty years, but really picked up momentum since the start of the new century. The Philosophy Department, as readers will know, has been one beneficiary of that change, but across the university, USC has been making high-profile appointments in a variety of fields, offering both highly competitive salaries and enormous housing subsidies. (Unlike NYU, which has pursued a similar strategy for the past twenty years, USC does not have substantial housing of its own to offer as enticements for faculty.) With the continuing neoliberal assault on the public sector, and USC's growing wealth, I would expect this trend to continue. While the school still has a long way to go before breaking into the top 20 research universities in the U.S. (NYU has already managed that, despite relatively weak natural sciences), I would expect they will do it over the next generation.
William G. Lycan (philosophy of language and mind, epistemology) will be teaching in the fall semesters of 2012, 2013, and 2014 at the University of Connecticut, Storrs, while on leave from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he will continue to hold a Chaired professorship.
Take the poll. 18 choices--I tried to pick reasonably popular philosophy-related blogs that also post items fairly regularly. Apologies to deserving candidates accidentally omitted; all those included are, by the mere fact of inclusion, "winners"! I've omitted this blog, to elimiante the most obvious bias in the results. Any of the nominated blogs that links to this will be automatically excluded from the results.
UPDATE: So both Philosophy Smoker and Feminist Philosophers linked to this poll, before realizing that was against the rules, and then taking the post down. Hopefully that inadvertent 'cheating,' now rectified, will wash out with more votes.
ANOTHER: I now see that Feminist Philosophers has an item on twitter soliciting votes, as does one of the New APPS bloggers. I'm afraid I may have to exclude some of these blogs from the poll. Simple rules, folks! Twitter links will also get your blog knocked out!
[I]t's hard to know who's more to blame, the men or the women. There's plenty of culpability to go around. In general, though, women usually follow the lead of men. Feminism would have gone nowhere if not for overwhelming male support. While at late night adoration in a chapel near a state university, I had the misfortune to overhear the rituals of a frat party at a nearby residence. The men and women were chanting various obscenities back and forth, with the women promising to do all kinds of colorful favors for the men, which I will not describe here in this very public space. These, I recalled, are America's finest, destined to be the best educated 27% of American adults, the future leaders of the free world. The vulgar, barbarian women who now dominate our culture were largely created by vulgar, barbarian men who thought they would benefit from the situation. The more I think about it, the more obvious it seems that feminism is an illusion, the creation of a minority of powerful men - "alphas", if you will - who will stop at nothing to secure the "benefits" of female volatility, rootlessness and discontent. Liberal thinking may, in practice, result in absolving women of all moral culpability, but in theory it proposes that women and men are equal moral agents. The traditionalist understanding is quite different: women are morally responsible, to be sure, but men are the primary moral agents of the human race. Women follow. If this rule often falters in individual cases - an intentional phenomenon that helps give it cover - the rule is absolutely iron-clad in the aggregate. Feminism would come to an end immediately if even a minority of powerful men demanded it.
Lydia McGrew (also of anti-Muslim bigotry fame) also posts at this blog. On Mr. Culbreath's view of things, this would seem to suggest her husband, philosopher Tim McGrew (Western Michigan), gets the real blame for her moral depravity.
So with over 1100 votes cast, here's how things are breaking down: 53% think it a "terrible" idea (the negative vote), while only 21% deem it a "wonderful" development (the positive vote); 27% are neither positive nor negative, and await more information. That's overall, but broken down by region, the differences are striking:
American British Other
Positive 11% 6% 4%
No opinion 17% 3% 7%
Negative 13% 24% 16%
Thoughts from readers? Signed comments will be very strongly preferred.
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)