Publishers and/or authors kindly sent me the following books this month:
Justifying Intellectual Property by Robert P. Merges (Harvard University Press, 2011)
Heidegger, Art, and Postmodernity by Iain D. Thomson (Cambridge University Press, 2011)
Publishers and/or authors kindly sent me the following books this month:
Justifying Intellectual Property by Robert P. Merges (Harvard University Press, 2011)
Heidegger, Art, and Postmodernity by Iain D. Thomson (Cambridge University Press, 2011)
This author is basically making my point, though more gingerly. Krugman's column today is also relevant, though the issue isn't that the Republicans are "extreme" (though they are, even by the conservative standards of the U.S.) but that their extremism involves an ugly mix of moral depravity and ignorance.
A reader writes:
Do you think this portends a better job market this year in Philosophy? I would think "yes" as it means universities are starting to hire more, but I'm not sure.
The linked article concerns the increase in jobs in the political science market during the 2010-11 academic year, after several years of declines. My sense based on this and a lot of other more anecdotal information is that we will see an increase in the total number of jobs advertised this year, but that it will not be nearly enough to compensate for the dramatic declines of the past couple of years and the large number of unemployed or underemployed (including those in temporary positions) job seekers. So I am hopeful this will be a somewhat better job market, but it will still be super competitive. Do readers know of other indicators that are more specific to the philosophy market?
An apt excerpt:
[M]y Salon colleague Glenn Greenwald has expertly documented the current supremacy of transpartisan consensus. Setting aside the Third Party Fetishists' platitudes about "polarization," Glenn uses the only empirical evidence there is in politics -- congressional votes -- to show how on everything from war, to civil liberties, to budget cuts, to financial deregulation, to high-income tax cuts, to Supreme Court nominations, to assaults on public education, to executive power grabs, a transpartisan consensus all but dominates the federal government -- and to a historically unprecedented degree.
You don't need look far to see that consensus in action -- just check out the current debt ceiling brouhaha. Paraded around by carnival barkers as supposed proof of unprecedented division and rancor, the moment's manufactured crisis in Washington actually exemplifies all the hallmarks of transpartisan consensus, as the Democratic president and the Republican congressional leadership essentially agree that Social Security and Medicare should be slashed, corporate taxes should be cut, taxes on the wealthy shouldn't be significantly raised and defense spending should face only minimal reductions. The only real "debate" is about the specific numbers -- not about whether such an extreme set of priorities is the proper way to balance a budget.
A graduate student at the University of Oregon wrote to me (and two faculty members there subsequently confirmed) that:
1. Although Oregon is "Strongly Recommended" in the so-called "Pluralist [sic] Guide" for its "Climate for Women";
2. There is a faculty member suspected of being a serial sexual harasser, and it was graduate students who had to raise a stink about it, due to departmental and administrative lethargy on the matter; and
3. A feminist philosopher on the faculty urged quiet about this incident lest it cost the department an award for being "women-friendly."
Bonnie Mann, Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oregon, now enters the fray to confirm all the particulars (including that she encouraged silence), though for reasons perhaps known only to her, she thought this was a rejoinder, and showed, for example, that I had "defamed" Linda Alcoff. (That accusation is itself defamatory, but we won't get hung up on legal details here!) Jamie Dreier (Brown) summed up (in comments at the FP blog) Professor Mann's curious "reply" as follows:
You think your department belongs on the list of philosophy departments that are Strongly Recommended for women, even if there is a man on your faculty who regularly harasses women students and has sexually assaulted a woman student during office hours, because you cannot imagine that this doesn’t happen in all philosophy departments.
That's basically her argument, with one addition: they also teach lots of feminist philosophy at Oregon, so that's why it's also a women-friendly department, sexual harassment notwithstanding. And then there's her underlying epistemic principle (here I quote Professor Mann): "The point is that feminists are competent to make these judgments [about which departments are women-friendly], and to make recommendations to students based on them, no matter how uncomfortable this claiming of epistemological authority is for those who are used to having it all to themselves."
I've already heard from some feminist philosophers disturbed by this display, and I am inclined to agree that public statements like this disserve both feminist philosophy and the situation for women in the profession. And perhaps we can remember that the primary objecton to the "Climate for Women" section of the so-called "Pluralist [sic] Guide" is that it disserves female students (recall Professor Kukla's comments and the discussion that ensued).
A philosophy graduate student writes:
How much do philosophers tend to earn through their publications? Until recently I had assumed that journal articles never yield any direct financial reward whereas popular books can be quite lucrative, with things like less popular books, contributed chapters, erudite newspaper articles and LRB reviews falling at various points somewhere in between, but I have realised that I actually have very little idea how these things work and in particular no concrete information whatsoever. As a graduate student currently making the transition to young academic, I thought it important to rectify this and am rather embarrassed by my ignorance - does everyone else already know this stuff? If you don't think it suitable, thank you anyway for your time in considering my request and thank you very much also for your blog - it's brilliant, and the only one I read regularly.
My guess is most graduate students do not know much about this side of professional life, so it's worth opening up for discussion.
Here's the bottom line: the only publication on which philosophers make significant income are very widely used textbooks (i.e, ones widely assigned in undergraduate courses). Irving Copi's old logic textbook is a classic example (I am told he made hundreds of thousnads of dollars on it over the years), but there are probably other textbooks that generate 10-20K for their authors every year.
The amount earned on most other philosophical publications is very modest. A philosophy monograph that sells 1,000 copies is doing quite well; standard royalty rates are 8-12% (usually increasing as certain sales thresholds are reached), so one might earn a couple of thousand dollars on one's book over three or four years. "Popular" books in philosophy are pretty rare, and I am not aware of any big sellers, except Harry Frankfurt's On Bullshit, which wasn't even written as popular philosophy. Even classics of philosophy in the modern era, like Rawls's A Theory of Justice, have purportedly sold only about a quarter-million copies over several decades, and one can count on one hand works in that category.
The Times Literary Supplement standardly pays about 500 GBP for an essay, and less or nothing for reviews (I am going on memory, I have not reviewed for them in awhile). Philosophers rarely write for newspapers, but perhaps some who have can comment on what compensation is like: again, I'm guessing pretty modest.
Thoughts and additional information and anecdotes from readers?
MOVING TO FRONT FROM JULY 18 in view of all the positive feedback this thread has gotten; I hope some other readers will contribute.
A student now thinking about PhD work writes:
A lot of undergrads and grad students read your blog everyday. It's very insightful, but sometimes it can make the decision to be a philosopher sound rather awful. I think it's very important that the profession talk about, for example, the issues of sexism that have lately been getting due and belated recognition. But sometimes, and perhaps other blogs are more guilty of this than your own, I begin to lose sight of how wonderful philosophy is and get lost in an haze of inept administrators, sadistic philosophy smoker encounters, dead-end adjunct positions, and chauvinistic old boy clubs. Perhaps, for the sake of those of us who are trying to keep up the enthusiasm to make it into grad school in the first place, you might find a time to request your readers mention things that they love about their job, or about pleasant colleagues and competent administrators? My BA experience was one of unmitigated pleasure and happiness in a very functional and supportive department, and I can't imagine I'm the only one. Blogs sometimes bring out complaints more readily than praise, and while I value realistic advice about my chosen field, it would be nice to have a balance.
So readers: let's hear the positives, we know there are many.
Here's an illuminating piece. (Thanks to Laurie Paul for the pointer.)
Philosopher Anita Allen (Penn), who is listed on the Advisory Board, writes:
As a general matter, I strongly support efforts to increase the subject matter, methodological and demographic diversity of academic philosophy. But since I was not involved in the design or execution of the Pluralist Guide, I cannot specifically endorse it.
I received an email from Professor Linda Martin Alcoff in March 2010 requesting that I complete a survey. I do not recall completing the survey. On the contrary, I replied by email dated April 2, 2010 stating that “I do not feel qualified to judge departments other than my own. Is there another way I could help?” It is possible that I made an effort to complete the survey based on my limited knowledge of the philosophy department at my university, in which I have only a secondary appointment ( I am tenured in Penn’s law school) and for which I do only undergraduate teaching.
I just learned this morning that I am listed as an advisor to the Pluralist Guide in the category of Feminist Philosophy and Gender Issues. I do not recall agreeing to be an advisor. I do not recall providing any advice to this project or promising to be available for such advice in the future. This morning I scoured my old incoming email and found one dated October 29, 2010 addressed to me and a few dozen others in which Linda Martin Alcoff wrote: “We will be listing all of your names on our [Pluralist Guide] website, along with our four other Advisory Boards. Now is your chance to decline… You need only email me back if you wish not to be included.” I don’t recall reading or responding one way or another to this well-meaning but arguably presumptuous “consent-by-failure-to-opt-out” email.
In light of Professor Allen's helpful e-mail, I renew my earlier request: it would be nice if some of the philosophers who were allegedly surveyed for the "Climate for Women" guide, and who presumably did not anticipate the travesty it would turn into, will begin to speak out, either by e-mailing me or some of the other blogs that have been posting information about this affair. Knowing some of these philosophers, I am sure they did not realize how this would turn out, but now is the time to speak up--and especially if it turns out that, like Professor Allen, they did not even act in an advisory capacity, despite their being so listed.
A technical legal piece by Penn law professor Tobias Wolff, but quite readable and informative for U.S. readers who have been following this issue.
(Note: I posted this last week, with the wrong link, but was travelling so couldn't fix it until now.)
Posted by Brian Leiter on July 24, 2011 at 03:21 PM in Personal Ads of the Philosophers (and other humor), Philosophy in the News | Permalink
The basic fact is this effort has nothing to do with "pluralism" so just drop it--call it the "Anti-PGR" or "A Guide to Other Parts of Philosophy" or, even better, just call it what it really is, namely, the SPEP/SAAP Guide to Graduate Programs in Philosophy. (And a note to others: just because the SPEP/SAAP folks want to misappropriate the positive valence of "pluralism" for their effort doesn't mean anyone in the philosophical community is thereby obligated to accede to that misuse of language: have some courage, folks, and refer to it as the "SPEP/SAAP Guide" or the "Pluralist [sic] Guide".)
Now the SPEP/SAAP label isn't quite right about the section on philosophy of race, which, as best I can assess, is the only part of the guide that could actually be recommended to a student otherwise utilizing the PGR (though with the caveat that it usually makes more sense to choose an otherwise strong program with one or two people in your definite area of interest, than to choose an otherwise weak program just because it has more faculty in your area--so, e.g., places like Harvard, Princeton, and MIT would be better bets than many, though not all, of the "strongly recommended" programs in terms of getting a good philosophical education and having prominent faculty working on philosophical issues related to race).
Finally, and most importantly, disentangle the project from the "Climate for Women" section, which is a fraud and a disgrace and seriously undermines the credibility of everything else. (For an overview of the problems, see here, here, here and here.)
ADDENDUM: Here's a perfect caveat for the "Climate for Women" section of the SPEP Guide, due to J.W. Showalter, in a comment here:
We are a purely self-selected, very probably non-representative group of people interested in which programs are the best for women in a number of vaguely-defined respects. Though our numbers are small, at least one among us has come to a consensus on which programs are relatively good. That consensus may or may not change, and that may or may not be reflected in later versions of this guide. But anyway, for what it's worth, this is pretty well what I or we came up with. Please don't take it too seriously: we didn't actually ask any of the people at many of the schools how they felt. But, if enough people are interested in getting a sense of how I and maybe some other people think about all this, this guide could be a wonderful starting-point to a superb conversation.
Joking aside, this section will hopefully be taken down soon, and those responsible will apologize to the community at large for their irresponsible behavior.
ANOTHER: As several readers have pointed out over the past few days, it would be nice if some of the philosophers who were allegedly surveyed for the "Climate for Women" guide, and who presumably did not anticipate the travesty it would turn into, will begin to speak out, either by e-mailing me or some of the other blogs that have been posting information about this affair. Knowing some of these philosophers, I am sure they did not realize how this would turn out, but now is the time to speak up.
MOVING TO FRONT FROM JULY 15, SEE UPDATE.
Professor of Philosophy at Carnegie-Mellon University, he was well-known for his work in formal epistemology, philosophical logic, and decision theory. There is a brief notice at the Choice & Inference blog, which invites remembrances from friends and colleagues. I will post links to memorial notices as they appear.
UPDATE: CMU's memorial notice, including funeral information.
ANOTHER: If you scroll towards the end of the comments here you will find some really splendid and moving poems (by Hesse and Borges) that his friends read at his funeral.
A graduate student in philosophy at one of the programs "Strongly Recommended" by the SPEP/SAAP Guide to philosophy programs writes:
As a member of one of the "SPEP departments" which is valorized for its "women-friendly climate", I feel compelled to relate a little detail of how considerations such as this work out locally.
Our department was recently involved in a major scandal concerning a male professor who [it was alleged] repeatedly made sexual advances towards undergraduate students and even groped a young freshman in his office during his office hours. The department response to these allegations came not from the departmental faculty, or Affirmative Action, but from the graduate students (including myself), who were appalled by such conduct as well as the seeming lack of concern from the departmental and university administration. This disconnect prompted us to compose an open letter effectively forcing the issue and listing our remedial demands.
No only were many faculty members (with a few notable exceptions) hostile to this, but a feminist faculty member actually expressed concern that, were this matter to become public, it would hurt our reputation as a feminist and "women-friendly" department—for which we were, at the time, up for an award.
We won the award, but this faculty member remains in his place, is still the "director of undergraduate studies", is still teaching required classes, and is still holding office hours in the privacy of his own office.
This should tell you all you need to know about such rankings.
Many people have now called upon Linda Alcoff to remove this misleading garbage from the web--as I said originally, it is the one part of the new SPEP Guide to philosophy programs that is really scandalous and irresponsible, as all the information since has suggested. I am loathe to start publishing the names of some of the "strongly recommended" departments in the SPEP Guide that are, in fact, rife with sexual harassment and other problems (as I've learned during the past week), but at least my sources are actually faculty and students at the programs, as opposed to the hearsay on which Professor Alcoff and her partners in crime have relied.
UPDATE: I have now been contacted by a faculty member at the Department described by the graduate student, above, who confirms the allegations, which concern the University of Oregon, a SPEP department "strongly recommended" by Alcoff et. al. for its "Climate for Women" and which also received recognition from SWIP UK for being women-friendly (though I believe SWIP UK has now realized the mistake, and will revoke the award).
Elected as Fellows are Cecile Fabre (Oxford), Raymond Geuss (Cambridge), and Jeremy Waldron (Oxford); elected as a Corresponding Fellow is Will Kymlicka (Queen's U, Canada). A big year for political philosophers at the British Academy!
Given the three main examples in the philosophy blogosphere--Philosophers Anonymous, Philosophy Smoker, and Feminist Philosophers--the answer would seem to be pretty clearly 'no.' As far as I can tell, it's an 'open secret' who the main proprietors of the first and third are, and God knows lots of folks are sure they know about Mr. Zero, Jaded Dissertator, and the others at PS. By and large, folks seem to be fairly discreet with this information--I've yet to see any of it on-line, though it may well be out there somewhere--probably because both PS and FP try to keep the worst aspects of anonymous blogging and commenting in check (PA is a bit more of a free-for-all, but it's not in the habit of harassing individuals by name...except Billy Joel!). I think it's to the credit of the philosophy blogosphere (and the proprietors of the blogs in question) that its anonymous and pseudonymous blogs are both substantive and (mostly) civilized. I don't know how that really compares to other fields with significant blog presences, but I have the anecdotal impression this is less true outside philosophy.
UPDATE: Oh no, I've been outed. A reader writes:
You know, "Brian", I have often admired the dexterity with which you preserve your pseudonymity, despite running the most high-profile blog in Philosophy.
The creation of this entire "Brian" persona designed to throw off conjectures--it's clever! A brilliant exercise in misdirection, complete with ostensible personality traits, exaggerated likes and dislikes, entirely at odds with your own real identity. No one who knows you would ever think that you were the author of the "Leiter Blog", nor would anyone who reads that blog ever think that you, of all people, were its author. The disguise is masterful!
But your post today struck me as extremely bold, très provocateur. By posing the question "Is pseudonymous/anonymous philosophy blogging possible?", you were tweaking the discipline's collective nose, flaunting your success in remaining hidden, almost begging to be exposed! This is flirting with disaster, n'est-ce pas?
Mais ne vous inquiétez pas, mon cher Bernard--I shall not expose you. No one will learn from me that Bernard Henri-Levy plays such silly games as to write pseudonymously a blog as an American philosopher!
best wishes, Jean-Paul
("Jean-Paul" is, in fact, the pseudonym of Tad Brennan.)
Female graduate students in philosophy at Rutgers have shared with me the following "open letter" to Professors Alcoff et al. regarding the "Pluralist [sic] Guide" section on the "Climate for Women," which singled out originally four departments (now only three, since Oklahoma made enough "improvement" in the space of last week to be removed from the list!) as "needing improvement," including Rutgers. We now know, of course, that the "methodology" for evaluating programs in this category was wholly unreliable to the point of being irresponsible, and this letter certainly drives the point home. The open letter follows:
We, female graduate students at Rutgers, were surprised and disappointed to see Rutgers singled out in your assessment of department climates for women as one of only four philosophy departments initially classified as “Need Improvement”, and one of only three remaining on the list. While every department has room for improvement--for example we would love to see a higher percentage of female faculty--we think that this special treatment is unwarranted.
We believe that Rutgers is an excellent place to be a female graduate student. Although we do not know the details of the basis for the assessment, you have informed us that according to your survey results there were numerous negative comments and few positive ones. We feel that our experiences as graduate students here have been overwhelmingly positive, and so we would like to share some of what it is like to be a female graduate student at Rutgers with you.
We are fully integrated members of the Rutgers community. We are active participants in seminars, reading groups, colloquia, our graduate talk series, and conferences. We are also full members of the Rutgers graduate student social life. In numbers we are still the minority (36% in 2010-2011), although it does not feel that way. Many of us remember visiting Rutgers as prospectives, expecting what is evidently still the perceived climate for women here, only to be amazed by the strong female presence in Rutgers’ intellectual and social life. For many of us, our decision to come to Rutgers was in no small part a decision to be in a place with other motivated, involved women, where we did not have to be the only woman in the room asking a question, or still talking about the week’s colloquium late into the evening. Rutgers is the kind of place we were looking for.
We and our work are taken seriously. We receive the same generous support from our faculty as our male peers. Our faculty encourage us and give us the criticism that is vital to becoming good philosophers. We know that their efforts are out of respect for us and our work, and their conviction that we can contribute to our fields. We hope to prove them right. Many of us are well on our way to doing so. Of the nine current Rutgers students who received either a post-doc or a teaching position in 2011, five were women, one of whom received a tenure-track position at USC, and one of whom received a tenure-track position at Notre Dame. One woman, who will move on to a tenure-track faculty position next year, was pregnant and had a baby during her time as a graduate student, and another graduate student is currently pregnant. The department has been extremely supportive of these women and their decisions, offering encouragement and advice, while continuing to treat them as full members of the philosophical community.
We have equal access to all of the sub-fields represented at Rutgers. No department is strong in all sub-fields of philosophy. While it is true that feminist philosophy is not well-represented here, we do not think that in order for a philosophy department to be a good department for women it must be a good department for feminist philosophy. What is important is not what area of philosophy is practiced, but that women in any area of philosophy have equal opportunity to contribute, and to take advantage of the institution’s resources. We feel that at Rutgers all areas of philosophy are equally available to us, and we are respected and valued for our philosophical contributions regardless of subject matter.
We support each other. We are proud of the vibrant community of women that we have here, and take care to sustain and develop it. Every year we organize a welcoming event so that new female graduate students can get to know the other female graduate students, and we get together periodically throughout the year. Most of the time, however, we do not have to do anything official. We are just friends, and we support each other as friends, both intellectually and personally.
We support our undergraduates. We are proud to be visible role models for women and minority students. Besides being active in our normal teaching responsibilities, many of us are involved in other ways to support undergraduates, such as participating in Rutgers’ Summer Institute for Diversity in Philosophy or presenting our work to the undergraduate philosophy club. Also, this year we organized a women-in-philosophy community dinner for undergraduate women at Rutgers, so that they could get to know female graduate students and faculty. We received enthusiastic support from the department and plan to have more such events in the future.
Hopefully it will be evident to you by now why we are so surprised at your assessment of the climate for women in the Rutgers philosophy department, and disappointed at the apparently still widespread misconceptions about our department. We feel that the assessment is quite inaccurate, and are puzzled as to how you could have received the survey responses that you did.
As you write in your FAQ (#5), one of the main purposes of the guide is to inform prospective Ph.D. students about good and bad environments in which to pursue philosophical study. However, as you also write in your FAQ, the advisory board for the Climate for Women in Philosophy guide was the same as the board for the Feminist Philosophy guide. Not a single female graduate student was contacted to provide her opinion about the climate for women graduate students at her department. As those who actually inhabit Rutgers’ climate, we believe we are valuable sources of information about it and do not understand why our perspective was not taken into consideration.
It would be very sad, and against the mission of the guide, if prospective students did not apply to our department or visit it as prospectives because they had the erroneous conception that this is not a good place for women. We hope that in order to counteract misperception of our department you will consider removing Rutgers from the “Needs Improvement” list, or at least post a disclaimer on the report’s page indicating that many of the female graduate students strongly disagree with the assessment.
Lee-Sun Choi, eighth-year
Heather Demarest, fifth-year
Allison Hepola, Ph.D. 2011
Lucy Jordan, second-year
Stephanie Leary, second-year
Karen Lewis, Ph.D. 2011
Katy Meadows, 2009-2011 (transferred with Alan Code to Stanford)
Lisa Miracchi, third-year
Jenny Nado, Ph.D. 2011
Carlotta Pavese, fourth-year
Mary Salvaggio, fourth-year
Meghan Sullivan, Ph.D. 2011
Carrie Swanson, Ph.D. 2011
Una Stojnic, second-year
Jenn Wang, sixth-year
UPDATE: A senior female philosopher elsewhere writes: "I must say, in the end I kind of think this whole thing might have turned out to be productive, insofar as it eroded the credibility of a certain clique of people and gave people a forum to have productive conversations and to advertise some programs that are doing well by women. We will see. It is kind of amazing to me that there's been no formal retraction or anything even close at this point."
A pretty dramatic development. One suspects that the choice was between resignation or facing termination proceedings. In many ways, a very sad tale.
A reader points out that all the program recommendations, in all categories, are no longer on-line, including the fraudulent "Climate for Women" section, as well as the SPEP recommendations for Continental philosophy programs. Even the most useful section, on philosophy of race, appears to be off-line.
CORRECTION: It apparently depends on the browser one is using, it works from some, not others. Without explanation, they've also removed Oklahoma from the "Climate for Women" section list of departments that "need improvement." That was a quick improvement!
ANOTHER: As several readers point out, Linda Alcoff now admits that the "Climate for Women" section was not, in fact, based on any first-hand reports from women at the programs deemed to have unsuitable climates. Amazing. And there's still no indication how many responses were received for each program deemed either "strongly recommended" (75% of which are SPEP program, unsurprisingly) or "needing improvement."
A philosopher writes:
I'm a young philosopher just starting to publish and referee papers.
It's becoming clear that different journals select referees in very different ways. Some seem to go out of their way to select referees who are knowledgeable about the specific topic of the paper. Others seem to pick referees from among the authors cited in the paper.
Others seem to simply pick referees who work in the same area of philosophy as the one to which the paper belongs.
It'd be nice to know how common each of these procedures is, and perhaps which journals employ which procedures. The way I'd frame a paper for submission would really depend on whether I thought it'd be read by others working on the topic, or merely others working in the same general area of philosophy. Anyway, if any editors, referees, or paper-submitters out there would be willing to weigh in on this, I'd find that very helpful. Thanks!
Any comments from current or former journal editors on this subject?
(Thanks to Ken Feinstein for the pointer.)
UPDATE: A cautionary note from my colleague Michael Kremer, who has examined these audiobooks more carefully than I have: "They're amateur readers and the quality varies a lot. Moreover for non-English sources the translations are often not the best -- I think they will only read things in public domain."
Anonymous and pseudonymous commenters are largely the bane of cyberspace--purveyors of falsehoods, malice, and often cruelty--but even if that generalization is true, there are honorable exceptions. I would just like to say a public 'thank you' to a commenter who uses the moniker "Bizarre," who I first encountered in connection with the Synthese scandal, and now more recently in connection with the discussion of the new SPEP/SAAP Guide to philosophy programs. Thank you for your contributions and your good sense. For those who've been following the latest tempest in a teapot, here's a great comment from "Bizarre" that appeared at the New Apps blog, commenting on the SPEPPie self-pity fest:
They've dropped the "test site" from the URL, so none of the links in prior posts work now. However, if you click on the link, and then remove the "test site/" bit, you will get to the intended page.
...threatening everyone." In this case, the whole world is correct.
I think it is important to reiterate again--especially in light of testimony from actual insiders who have put their name to their comments--that the section of the SPEP Guide on "The Climate for Women" is worse than preposterous, it is irresponsible and destructive.
On its face, it is obviously suspicious that, of the 21 programs "strongly recommended" for their "climate for women," only one is a top 50 PGR department (MIT), while 75% have strong SPEP ties. (MIT does have, by all accounts and evidence, a good climate for women, but it's not the only department of which that is true, and it is plainly absurd to suggest that only MIT and a large number of SPEP departments are suitable for women.) Even more bizarrely, the list includes one SPEP department that has been sued for discrimination and another that imploded over unaddressed sexual harassment scandals a few years ago. This is such obviously self-serving bullshit by the SPEP crowd that it deserves ridicule.
Add to all this the fact that the four departments singled out--on the basis of no evidence (not even any indication of who provided information: faculty or students at these programs? at competitor programs? former faculty or students? others?)--for "need[ing] improvement" are all non-SPEP departments, and include three of the top four departments in the PGR, two of which (as Fritz Warfield noted) graduate a steady stream of women who have fared extremely well on the job market. Moreover, non-SPEP dartments that have significant numbers of female faculty and graduate students, and which are regularly reported (by current and former students) to have an excellent climate for women (North Carolina and Arizona come to mind as the most obvious examples, but there are many others) are nowhere mentioned.
The explanation for these bizarre inclusions and exclusions must surely lie first, in the fact that this is, as noted previously, the SPEP Guide to philosophy programs, not a pluralist guide, and so is meant to deliver the message that if you're a woman, you should gravitate towards the SPEP universe of programs; and second, that if they in fact surveyed faculty and students, they did so so selectively as to make the results worse than worthless.
So what is the response of those responsible for this travesty to the criticism? The Feminist Philosophers blog reports the following response from Linda Alcoff (who is the current SPEP candidate to be the next President fo the Eastern APA, by the way):
Much of the criticism is going to the climate for women report, which reports problems at a few top depts. I knew this would generate heat, but what are we to do when we get very negative reports on these depts? Ignore them? I felt a responsibility to report the information we received when it was numerous enough to warrant concern. We will update at least every other year, so depts have a chance to change their rating. That’s the best we can do. The responses are confidential—I don’t even know who reported what, though I know who I asked and who sent in a response.
"That's the best we can do"??? A commenter, fortunately, calls out this absurd response:
Alcoff sets up a false dichotomy: either the Guide must brand the departments (without any sort of transparency) or ignore very negative reports on those departments. Since ignoring would violate a responsibility, branding the departments (with annual updates) is “the best we can do.” This is exactly what people are objecting to, that branding the departments, without any transparency as to who were the responders or to which specific questions they were responding to, is “the best” that could be done. To me, anyway, it seems like if we follow Alcoff’s line of reasoning, the Guide should name not just departments but also individuals. After all, “What are we to do when we get very negative reports on these sexists? Ignore them?”
The good news is that the earlier thread has generated a lot of constructive ideas about how to collect information on the "climate for women" that might be meaningful, as opposed to obviously nonsensical. If responsible parties--i.e., not the SPEP Guide folks--want to try to initiate a process, I will be happy to publicize it on the blog. I am afraid I am stretched too thin to undertake, however, another massive data gathering project. But I will be glad to facilitate, whether that means links to surveys or other announcements.
This is an interesting read; an excerpt:
[T]he growth in the ranks of administrators (85 percent) and associated professional staff (240 percent) has far outstripped the increase in faculty (51 percent) between 1975 and 2005. "Generally speaking," he [Benjamin Ginsbrg, the author] writes, "a million-dollar president could be kidnapped by space aliens and it would be weeks or even months before his or her absence from campus was noticed.”
Ginsberg lays at administrators’ feet a host of perceived ills: the increased curricular focus on vocational education instead of one grounded in the liberal arts; an emphasis on learning outside the classroom in lieu of core academic disciplines; the transformation of research from an instrument of social good and contributor to human knowledge to an institutional revenue stream; and the limiting of tenure and academic freedom.
The larger result, he argues, is that universities have shifted their resources and attention away from teaching and research in order to feed a cadre of administrators who, he says, do little to advance the central mission of universities and serve chiefly to inflate their own sense of importance by increasing the number of people who report to them. "Armies of staffers pose a threat by their very existence," he wrote. "They may seem harmless enough at their tiresome meetings but if they fall into the wrong hands, deanlets can become instruments of administrative imperialism and academic destruction."
Here. I haven't read it yet, though will teach a seminar on it next year with Martha Nussbaum. Reactions from readers who have? Signed comments only.
As I said in my original posting, I think it's actually a good thing for philosophers involved with SPEP to have set out systematically how the philosophical world looks to them; I just expressed the wish that they be much clearer about what they've done. A couple of readers asked for more information about why I dubbed it the "SPEP Guide," so let me say a bit more.
The SPEP Guide is the creation of three philosophers: Linda Alcoff (Hunter College/CUNY), a former co-director of SPEP; William Wilkerson (Alabama/Huntsville), a current member of SPEP's Sexual Diversity Committee; and Paul Taylor, a philosopher who is not a member of SPEP, but who does teach at Penn State, one of the leading departments in the SPEP universe since its inception. Professor Taylor, given his expertise, probably had the most influence on the contributions to the sections of the SPEP Guide on philosophy of race, which no doubt explains why it is the least SPEP-tinged section of the guide (and probably the most useful). By contrast, at least 90% of the "Advisory Board" for Continental philosophy are SPEP members, with the result that almost all the best-known scholars of 19th- and 20th-century Continental philosophy in the Anglophone world had no input at all into this listing--none of the distinguished scholars at NYU, Princeton, Cornell, Columbia, Chicago, Brown, UC Riverside, Indiana, Georgetown, and Illinois, for example, were asked their opinion. That's fine, of course; the PGR surveys relatively few of the SPEP philosophers (it does survey some). But what that means, of course, is that this is a "SPEP Guide" to where to study Continental philosophy, and that kind of guide, while no doubt useful for some students, is fraught with dangers, noted originally.
The section on Feminist Philosophy has a more mixed Advisory Board (about half are SPEPPies), and yet the results, when compared to the PGR results for the same category, suggest once again that the SPEP view of the philosophical universe largely ruled.
The section on American Philosophy was produced by an Advisory Board made up of Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy (SAAP) members. If folks want to call this new Guide, the SPEP/SAAP Guide, that would seem equally apt too!
One thing that concerns and disappoints me about the new SPEP (or SPEP/SAAP Guide) is that some good "analytic" philosophers interested in gender and race seem to have thrown their lot in with some very weak philosophers who self-identify with Continental philosophy. It is hard not to interpret this as contempt for or indifference towards those of us who take the Continental traditions in philosophy seriously. What a shame.
Thom Brooks (Newcastle), who has skillfully managed and edited the journal since its inception (I am on the editorial board), has the good news.
Philosopher Rebecca Kukla (Georgetown) writes:
It seems to me that there are lots of reasons to be deeply suspicious of the area rankings here. BL and FW point out plenty of weirdnesses, and one could cite way more. Since there are no faculty lists published, one can't judge how accurate the starting data was, and there are reasons to suspect that some of the information used is not very current. For example, the advisory board contains dead people, and some of the rankings are only comprehensible if you assume that out of date information about who is in a department and available to supervise students was used. Lack of transparency makes it impossible to check for this type of source of error.
But I am much more concerned with the 'climate for women' rankings. We have no idea who answered these questions, how many responses there were for each department, exactly what questions they were asked, why we should believe the people who answered them had any good basis for an opinion, or why we should think, if they do have a strong opinion about a department, that they can serve as impartial judges of it. Nor, again, do we have any faith that the information they were working from was current.
This matters a lot because (a) the climate for women matters a lot, and (b) there is no obvious competing source of information. When it comes to departmental quality, we can each consult the Gourmet Report (and weight it how we like), or check the faculty list ourselves and do some strategic googling and reading. But when it comes to something as amorphous as 'climate for women' all we can really do is look at this list, or draw upon the lived experience that comes with being in a department for a long time.
There's a substnatial risk to female students if a department is listed as recommended, but in fact has real problems that respondents didn't know about or weren't willing to admit to. The potential damage to departments listed as problematic is obvious, and we just can't tell how strong the evidence for that listing was. There's also what I think is a serious and unfair risk to departments that may have a really good climate for women, and may be struggling very hard to attract female grad students, that get left off the list altogether just because the respondents didn't happen to have the kind of personal relationships it takes to know what's going on there.
To give just one example: My institution (Georgetown) isn't mentioned at all on this list, as either good or bad. In fact, I have been in several departments during my career and I am amazed at how wonderful the climate is for women here. We have 8 women on the faculty, 7 of whom are tenured senior faculty. We have a thriving community of female grad students, and regular course offerings on feminist and feminist-friendly topics. We have regular workshops and working groups on gender issues in philosophy - and many men in the department voluntarily make it a priority to participate in and even organize those. Collaborative work - often across traditional subdisciplinary boundaries - is exceptionally common in the department, and routinely includes women. The department is remarkably harmonious, supportive, and friendly. Our retention rate is good, faculty-student interaction is high, mentoring is taken seriously both formally and informally, and people are just generally happy.
But we are not on the list, and I suspect this is just because, quite understandably, none of the people who happened to be asked to rate departments were in any position to know what life is like on the ground here. And why should they? No Georgetown people were asked to give their opinion. On the other hand, I know of plenty of examples of women who have found the climate challenging at various departments on the 'recommended' list.
In sum, I think this list is not only untrustworthy but potentially damaging. I hope that people will subject it to critical scrutiny and not just let it earn some sort of status as official information.
Thoughts from other readers about the section on 'climate for women'? Signed comments only: full name in the signature line, plus valid e-mail address.
(Thanks to Jerry Dworkin for the pointer and the characterization!)
Posted by Brian Leiter on July 12, 2011 at 08:07 AM in Of Cultural Interest, Personal Ads of the Philosophers (and other humor) | Permalink
...from the Society for Women in Philosophy. The Sheffield press release is here.
It's called the "Pluralist's Guide," but that's quite misleading: this is basically how philosophy in North America looks to faculty and departments associated with the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy (SPEP), a group that represents roughly a dozen PhD-granting programs in the U.S. (Stony Brook, Penn State, Vanderbilt, New School, DePaul, Duquesne, Emory, Oregon, Villanova, Memphis, Boston College and a few others--basically most of the ones the site recommends "strongly" for "Continental" philosophy).
I think it's useful for SPEP philosophers to have compiled this guide, though I think it would be cleaner advertising to make clear what it really is. SPEP itself has nothing to do with "pluralism," or I would join! (No one is more pluralistic than me--I enjoy and teach and write about Nietzsche, Marx, Foucault, Freud, Quine, Hart, Hume, Mill, Rawls and Thucydides; as well as epistemology and metaethics and social theory and historical materialism and social psychology; and so on.) SPEP represents a group of philosophers in the U.S. who strongly identify with a certain conception of philosophy, most traceable to Heidegger (I have called it Party-Line Continentalism), and which identifies philosophy more closely with the kind of stuff that goes on in English Departments and cultural studies, than with the natural sciences, linguistics, history or psychology. These are generalizations, but as Nietzsche often remarks, the rule is usually more interesting than the exception.
One important caveat about the generalization: in this case, the SPEP folks have also allied with philosophers involved with the Society for for the Advancement of American Philosophy. This alliance is political, not intellectual: like the SPEPPies, the SAAPies, feel marginalized from the dominant tendencies in the profession.
So the first thing for students to note is this: if you follow the SPEP Guide, you are limiting your employment prospects to SPEP departments. That includes the departments noted above, plus some liberal arts colleges and other undergraduate institutions. You can quickly garner which ones by consulting the placement records of these programs. Some are no doubt attractive places to teach, but as a purely practical matter, you have to realize that following the SPEP guide is going to circumscribe your professional universe quite significantly.
There is also an intellectual point to be made. The quality of philosophy and scholarship at the recommended SPEP Guide programs in continental philosophy is generally inferior to that at programs either ignored or not recommended that have offerings in the same areas. This is a judgment on the merits of work, a judgment based on considerations like argumentative and dialectical sophistication and perspicuousnes, historical and cultural erudition, and knowledge of the history of philosophy. Consider the fact that the University of Chicago, one of the two or three best places in the English-speaking world to study post-Kantian Continental philosophy (a result reflected in the PGR long before I came to Chicago), is merely "recommended" in the SPEP Guide, while more than a dozen SPEP programs are "strongly recommended" in this area--though it's, in fact, inconceivable that an elite research university would hire a graduate of these programs, and some of them seem to do a strikingly bad job training their graduates. In any case, prospective students would be well-advised to pick up, say, any book by Babette Babich (Fordham), David Krell (DePaul), or Hugh Silverman (Stony Brook), on the one hand, and any book by Maudemarie Clark (UC Riverside), Michael Forster (Chicago), or Michael Rosen (Harvard), on the other, and then decide what they want out of a philosohical education and a scholarly career. If the 'style' of the former appeals more than the latter, then the SPEP Guide will prove useful.
Now there is one bit of the new SPEP Guide that I do think is pretty outrageous, namely, the section that purports to be about the "Climate for Women in Philosophy," which is essentially an anonymous slur, without any evidence adduced, on four departments. Even more ridiculous, the only departments deemed to have a suitable "climate" for women are SPEP departments, with one striking exception of a top ten PGR department that had a faculty member involved with this 'assessment.' (At one time, the SPEP Guide listed the evaluators, but now that list appears to be gone.) This is both absurd and shameful, and I hope they will remove this nonsense.
Fritz Warfield (Notre Dame), who first alerted me to the site, shared the following apt comments on it:
Here's a fun "fact" about continental philosophy:
At Duquesne, there are "indications that graduate students will be encouraged and supported to pursue work in this area, will find a supportive community of scholars and mentors, and will be able to write a state of the art dissertation in continental philosophy."
At Notre Dame on the other hand, there are "indications that graduate students will be encouraged and supported to pursue work in continental philosophy" but apparently no indications that students will find a community of scholars and mentors and be able to write a state of the art dissertation in continental philosophy.
Apparently *actual dissertations* produced recently under the supervision of well recognized scholars don't give sufficient "indication" that students will be able to do this.
MIT is in the wonderful category with Depaul and Oregon [for feminist philosophy], I guess because of Sally Haslanger's presence (and not because of any actual PhDs completed in the area); Michigan on the other hand, is only in the "encouraging" category -- apparently one can't write a state of the art dissertation with Liz Anderson. Who knew?
4 schools are listed as "needing improvement" with respect to the climate for women. Nothing is said about the alleged nature of the problem for women at the schools. At 3 of the 4 perhaps the problem is the overwhelming job placement success of women at such schools in recent years. But that is mere speculation.
ADDENDUM: A reader points out that the site is labelled a "test site," despite its being public, and despite its having been public like this for several months now; it has attracted attention in various quarters, and been brought to my attention more than once. If, in fact, the "final" Guide chooses to rectify some of the issues noted, above, I will be happy to take note of that fact.
UPDATE: Another philosopher writes: "It might also be worth noting that the 'Pluralist's Guide' lists DePaul as a 'Strongly Recommended' department for the climate for women in philosophy, despite lawsuits about race and gender discrimination in tenure and promotion. I think this says something about the methodology of the study." It does indeed.
AND ANOTHER: Having now found the Advisory Board lists, it strikes me that the one that has the least connection to either SPEP or SAP is the one for critical philosophy of race.
Georgia Warnke, well-known for work in political philosophy and 20th-century Continental philosophy, and a longtime member of the Department of Philosophy at the University of California, Riverside will be moving her appointment to the Department of Political Science, where she will take up a Distinguished Professorship.
A student in Scotland writes with this and other questions:
I am a Scottish student who hopes to apply to graduate programs in philosophy in the United States. I am finding the application process a little daunting because, as an international student, I am not entirely sure how to compare myself with American students. I have been informed from some sources, that a first class honours from a British university is automatically counted as equivalent to a 4.0 GPA, yet on the other hand I have also been told that my GPA will be calculated in some detail (which would be worrying, as in Scotland our grades aren't 'counted' for the first two years of study.) I am also entirely unsure as to how Scottish universities are regarded in the United States. I have heard that some competitive graduate programs take the 'pedigree' of an applicant's undergraduate institution very seriously - but I am not sure how these programs would regard foreign institutions. I was wondering if it would be possible for you to post this on your blog, as I would be interested to see if anyone has any suggestions of resources for foreign students considering applying to philosophy grad school in the states. I am aware of no websites or forums which address international students in particular.
I'm opening this for comments from readers--especially on the GPA issue, since I don't know if there is a standard way U.S. programs have of handling this. I think several of the Scottish programs are quite well-known and recognized in the U.S.: St. Andrews and Edinburgh most clearly, but also, I would venture, Glasgow and Stirling. And now that Catherine Wilson has moved to Aberdeen and Crispin Wright has located his Northern Institute of Philosophy there, I would expect that program's international profile will also rise. But thoughts on that question from faculty with admissions experience will also be welcome.