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.