Here is a list of philosophers and historians of philosophy whose passing during 2011 was noted on the blog: Michael Dummett, Bernard Gert, Peter Goldie, Alfonso Gomez-Lobo, Mike Harnish, John Hospers, Gareth Matthews, Ernan McMullin, Sara Ruddick, Bede Rundle, Frederick Stoutland.
You can see a list of prior years' deaths of philosophers here.
Radu Bogdan (Tulane) just alerted me that Professor Harnish, a long-time member of the philosophy and linguistics faculties, as well as the cognitive science program, at the University of Arizona, passed away in October. There is more information about his career and work here.
Certainly the two most widely discussed items from the blog this year pertained to unfortunate incidents involving professional misconduct by philosophers.
First, there was the Synthese scandal, for which those primary responsible, Vincent Hendricks and Johan van Benthem, have yet to apologize or even make amends. I hope philosophers as appalled as I was by this affair will continue to show resolve and refuse to either submit to or referee for this journal.
The Journal of the History of Philosophy has awarded the annual prize for the best book published on the history of Western philosophy in 2010 to Ursula Renz (Klagenfurt, Austria) for Die Erklärbarkeit von Erfahrung. Subjektivität und Realismus in Spinozas Theorie des menschlichen Geistes (Frankfurt: Klostermann, 2010).
Due to a crazy influx of commercial spam comments--which Typepad used to be rather good at weeding out--I've had to add a "word verification" feature for comments. So prior to submitting a comment, going forward, you will have to type an automatically generated set of letters into a box before submitting. Sorry for the extra nuisance, but even without any active comment threads currently, I'm getting a large number of spam comments every day.
Three philosophers have received these competitive, multi-year awards in the 2011 competition: they are Paolo Bubbio (Western Sydney) for a project on "The quest for the 'I': reaching a better understanding of self through Hegel and Heidegger"; Mark Colyvan (Sydney) for "Mathematical explanation"; and Philip Gerrans (Adelaide) for "The emotional construction of self-representation."
This curiously unselfconscious "manifesto" by Clark Glymour (Carnegie-Mellon)--apparently prompted by my passing comment at New Apps that CMU's department is idioscynratic qua philosophy department, but very good at what it does--has generated a good deal of comment, both at the place where posted, but also here and here. While clearly written and certainly offering a distinctive view of the field (though one that doesn't leave much room for most of what philosophers do, which, he dismisses as "cramped and parochial, a subject on the verge of swallowing itself"), Glymour's piece does invite the quip Charlie Huenemann (Utah State) posted on Facebook (which he gave me permission to quote): "He certainly hears his own drummer. It's a wonder that CHE hasn't hired him to cover philosophy." Probably his ill-considered shots at Sartre and Merleau-Ponty (not to mention English Departments) wouldn't make him viable at CHE, though he seems to share the Carlin Romano view of Heidegger! It does seem to me that the idea that the measure of value for philosophy departments is whether they are taken seriously by computer scientists is so manifestly silly that one suspects at least some of the "manifesto" is really meant as Swiftian satire of the parochialism of some formal philosophers.
UPDATE: Hannes Leitgeb (Munich) writes:
I noticed the reference to the "parochialism of some formal philosophers" (embedded in a couple of intensional clauses) in your recent post on your blog. Of course, the existential sentence "some formal philosophers are parochial" is true (as is "some non-formal philosophers are parochial"), but since in some readers' minds this might lead to the wrong implicature that "formal philosophy is parochial" more generally, I thought a good antidote to this might be the following link to the videos of some of the talks at our Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy.
It's an inventory of 80 presentations covering anything from rational belief, belief revision, context change, knowledge, supposition, truth, appearance, chance, causality, ontology, modality, counterfactuals, transmission of justification, computation, Kantian ethics, formalism, history of philosophy, norms, descriptions, coherence, logical truth, self-reference, structural realism, confirmation, theory choice, explanation, reference, vagueness, foundations of probability, to voting and democracy.
This is the outcome of but a couple of months of activity at our center. I hope that in the very near future it will become even clearer that there is nothing "parochial" in general about doing philosophy by logical and mathematical means (which I regard as just one way of doing philosophy).
Many undergraduate students who read your blog may be interested to learn about a significant change in the regulations of the Federal Student Loan Program for Graduate Students. I found the following email in my inbox this afternoon:
"We are writing to advise you of an important change in Federal regulations that affects your ability to obtain a Federal Subsidized Direct Loan. Starting July 1, 2012, the Subsidized Direct Loan will no longer be available to Graduate students. This change was made at the Federal level and will affect all Graduate/Professional students nation-wide not just here at XXXXXX University. .This change in Financial Aid will not effect the Un-Subsidized Direct Loan program. The Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011 (Pub. L. 112-25) was signed into law on August 2, 2011"
Many graduate students rely on loans throughout their graduate careers to supplement the generally low (liquid) incomes they receive. Students considering graduate school in philosophy and who are thinking they may need to take out loans to get by, should pay careful attention this, Unsubsidized loans carry higher interest making them more difficult to repay. I have to say i am quite surprised that I have not heard anything about this change in the regulations previously.
I had also not heard about this. Readers, any more information, links, insight into the consequences of the change, etc.?
No surprise here, but this is pretty vivid evidence: in 2007 (before the economic collapse), there were 57 lateral moves noted on the blog; in 2011, there have been just 27. Even allowing for the fact that some moves may have been missed in both 2007 and in 2011, a 50% drop is not inconsistent with the drop in the number of positions in JFP over this period of time.
...whose new book The Atheist's Guide to Reality has made the cover of The New Republicas "the worst book of the year" in the opinion of--brace yourselves--Leon Wieseltier! (Yes, that guy.) This basically guarantees it will be a best-seller. The review itself, besides the trademark "Leon sneer," doesn't have much by way of an argument, but that's never the point with these displays. Wieseltier objects to "the expansion of scientific methods and concepts into realms of human life in which they do not belong." Why don't they belong there? Who knows?
Alexander Miller (philosophy of language, metaethics), Professor of Philosophy at the University of Birmingham, has accepted appointment as the Chair in Philosophy at the University of Otago, effective June 2012. (There's a fun history of philosophy, including the Chair, here.) That's a great appointment for Otago!
Every year, I write letters of recommendation for students applying to Ph.D. programs. Most programs in the U.S. and Canada have December 31st or January 1st deadlines, but a substantial minority have December 15th deadlines, so that for most applicants I need to have their letters completed by December 15th. This is extremely annoying, because I have to finish up my letters at the same time that I’m wrapping up all of my other work for the Fall semester. This year, both my letters and my grades were due on December 15th. Of course, I managed to do both, and I believe I managed to do both well. But writing a thoughtful letter of recommendation takes some time, and I’d greatly prefer to be able to turn to finishing my letters after the end-of-semester craziness is over. And I suspect that by Dec. 15th some professors haven’t yet received all of the fall semester work from their students, and hence can’t discuss it in their letters for programs with the earlier deadlines. So I’d like to urge all philosophy Ph.D. programs that have control over their application deadlines to move them back to the end of the month. The upsides are obvious, and I don’t see any serious downside. I don’t imagine that many professors spend a lot of time between December 15th and December 31st carefully reviewing applications to their programs.
My guess is that, in some cases, Philosophy Departments are bound by university deadlines, but when that isn't the case, Professor O'Keefe's suggestion seems eminently reasonable.
UPDATE: Laurie Paul (North Carolina) writes:
UNC is a department with a December 15th deadline. Brian Leiter's note about University deadlines affecting the application deadline gets it exactly right. Our graduate school fellowship deadline is set by the Graduate School, and in order for us to put our applicants up for university fellowships and supplemental grants, we need to have our work done by the third week of January at the very latest. We know that the deadline is not ideal, but it would be unfair to our applicants to make it later, since they would miss out on a wide range of fellowship opportunities. So, we do indeed spend a lot of time carefully reviewing applications during the second half of December—in fact, I am deep in the process of reviewing them right now.
UPDATE: And another. The best line though goes to a Facebook friend who wrote that she "will be interested to see whether a second-rate pseudo-contrarian narcissistic gasbag KEEPS ON getting more coverage from his fellow journalists than, say, Vaclav Havel and Kim Jong il."
AND MORE from Greenwald. Hitchens's moral depravity was worse than I realized. (Thanks to Keith DeRose for this link.)
ANOTHER: Roger Albin (Michigan) writes with an interesting set of observations:
Greenwald is very good on Hitchens, Reagan, and the phenomenon of bland public adulation of the recently deceased. Greenwald doesn’t, however, go far enough in his analysis of the public treatment of Reagan’s death. The Reaganolatry phenomenon, of which Reagan’s funeral was a notable example, is largely a reflection of the Right’s need for an iconic, Rooseveltian figure. They have to leave out that Reagan’s great achievement, serving as an interlocutor for Gorbachev, was actually an example of the détente policy despised by the Right, and that Reagan was criticized bitterly for his actions by many of the same people who now pretend to revere him. Reaganolatry demonstrates their essential need for authoritarianism. Since they haven’t been able to produce an authentic charismatic authoritarian leader, they have to invent one. Our media, of course, is too lazy and complaisant to notice inconvenient facts like these.
Many have been made, but Blackwell just informed me this morning that for roughly the next two weeks, no changes can be made to any of their web sites, so the remaining corrections and additions won't take place till after the New Year. Among the changes still due are the addition of Southampton to philosophy of art (error of omission), and the faculty lists evaluators used for the surveys. There are probably still a couple of links that still need fixing. Thanks to the many readers and users of the Report for all their help the past couple of weeks.
Here. Some schools will continue to schedule job interviews well into next week. My first year on the job market (1992-93), I got my best interview (UCLA) on Dec. 22 or 23. Good luck to all those on the market!
...from Barack W. Bush. More here. The only hopeful thing to say is that there are almost certainly six votes on the U.S. Supreme Court to hold this legislation unconstitutional: Breyer, Ginsburg, Kagan, Kennedy, Scalia, Sotomayor; even Roberts may balk at this one. Alito is hard to predict, though I'm not optimistic. And Thomas has indicated in the past his Schmittian deference to the power of the state.)
UPDATE: A useful review of the statutory language here.
CHE has two essays this week attacking philosophy (what else is new from CHE?): one, by Lee McIntyre, says that philosophy "needs to matter", while the other is a thinly veiled advertisement for what members of the philosophy department at the University of North Texas do under the guise of being a philosophy department. (Note: if you can't afford to advertise in CHE, you can always write an advertisement framed as an opinion piece bashing what other philosophers do.) Let "a thousand flowers bloom," including the one blooming at UNT: but why in God's name think that everyone else should be doing that?
I am puzzled though how CHE let pass the claims in McIntyre's piece and the UNT piece about declining enrollments in philosophy. Mark Schroeder (USC) observed on Facebook (he gave me permission to repost this here):
At USC, our majors are up 83% in the last three years. American Studies is down 40%, History down 22%, Religion down 46%, Comparative Literature down 21%. We're a more populat major than Sociology, Anthropology, History, Mathematics, and all of American Studies, Classics, Comp Lit, East Asian Studies, French and Italian, Gender Studies, Slavic Languages, and Spanich combined. I have to admit, our growth is slightly behind that of kinesiology, so we could be doing better. Perhaps that's what they had in mind. It's good to have high standards.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of philosophy and religious studies majors was 8,149 in 1970-71 (.9% of total degrees of 839,730) and 12,444 in 2008-09 (.7% of total degrees of 1,601,368). That is an increase in absolute numbers of majors, even though it is admittedly a decline in terms of percentage of total degrees offered (where big increases in numbers of degrees and percentage of degrees are in areas such as business, biomedical sciences, communications, computer science, visual and performing arts). BUT it is still an increase in the total number of majors. Moreover, in 1998-99 the total number of philosophy and religious studies majors was 8506 (.7% of total degrees of 1, 200, 303) and thus has held steady as a percentage of total degrees since 1998. Moreover, the total number of degrees increased from 1,200,303 in 1998-99 to 1,601,368 in 2008-09 (2008-09 total degrees = 1.33% of 1998-99 total degrees), while the number of philosophy and religious studies degrees had a GREATER RATE of increase: 8506 in 1998-99 to 12444 in 2008-09 (2008-09 phil/relstud degrees = 1.46% of 1998-99 phil/relstud degrees).
Just to put all this in perspective, education, by contrast, has both a decline in absolute numbers and a decline in percentage of degrees offered; it goes from 176,307 in 1970-71 (21% of total degrees of 839,730) to 101,708 in 2008-09 (6% of total degrees of 1,601,368).
CHE editors, where are you?
What's most disheartening about these anti-intellectual pieces is that they represent the American version of what's befallen the British, where every field of intellectual pursuit has to justify its "market" value in virtue of its "practical" applications. It's ironic that in the week a New York Timesblogger is defending the value of law schools producing legal scholarship regardless of its practical utility, we have philosophy teachers calling for philosophy to be subjected to essentially that "cash-value" metric.
What do readers make of all this? Comments on the particulars of these pieces are welcome. Signed comments only: full name and valid e-mail address. Submit your comment only once, it may take awhile to appear.
UPDATE: I apologize for closing comments to this thread, but it has now been infested by people with very different axes to grind (perhaps because of the recent release of the PGR). One of the great virtues of the Internet is that it allows you to draw on the expertise of people in disparate parts of the globe; one of the great vices is that it permits every marginal freak to air their grievances as well. I am disappointed that the many philosophers who wrote to me in outraged terms about these silly columns didn't surface for the discussion.
Here. He quotes me but links, mistakenly, to my philosophy blog, rather than this item from my law school blog. He also gets the emphasis slightly wrong: my point, in the bit he quotes, was about scholarship, not legal education tout court.
They are still in process, though many have now been made and gone live. One important one, worth flagging, concerns the omission of Arizona State University from the list of recommended terminal MA programs. ASU had long been on that list, before they started a PhD program, and then they tended to rank in the top 50 PhD programs in the US. We noted the demise of the PhD program earlier this year (so ASU was not included in this year's survey), but neglected to put ASU back into the list of recommended MA programs, where it certainly belongs given the caliber of the faculty.
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)