Angie Jachim, a philosophy student at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, is working on a senior thesis "research project concerning the moral and political temperature of contemporary American culture. In order to further my research, I have created a survey. [Professor Andrew Youpa] suggested I email you and see if you would be willing to share the link to my survey on your blog website. Any feedback you and your readers could provide would be greatly appreciated."
Here is the survey, which I take it should only be completed by Americans. Its focus is mainly on issues about moral relativism and objectivity, it seems. (The survey may seem at points to run together metaphysical, epistemological and semantic issues, so I can imagine some philosophers finding it a bit tough to answer some of the questions.)
A colleague at my wife's law firm offered us tickets, so I will be taking my son to this event. I will report in due course! Meanwhile, I hope they're making sure the jurors don't read "The Problem of Socrates" chapter from Twilight of the Idols, lest they be prejudiced!
...are out in force because the Political Science Department and several other groups at Brooklyn College are sponsoring two speakers discussing the "BDS" (or boycott, divest, and sanction) movement in response to Israeli crimes against the Palestinians. John Protevi (LSU) has a good summary. And the President of Brooklyn College has made a good, public statement.
...to North Carolina! The "PhD in philosophy" is singled out for derisive remarks by these know-nothings, appraently unaware that UNC has one of the best philosophy programs in the United States. (The irony is William Bennett has a PhD in philosophy, though it didn't do him any good!)
I am an undergraduate student majoring in philosophy at St. Mary's College of Maryland. I'm interested in creating an undergraduate philosophy journal but don't know how to proceed. One of my professors suggested that I email you to ask if you would post my question on your blog, asking for advice from you and your readers. And, in addition to how to get started, I'm wondering what your readers believe are the pros and cons to publishing online rather than in print. Any insight would be much appreciated.
Thoughts from students or faculty with pertinent experience and advice?
We must challenge the thought that philosophy aims to contribute to human knowledge of the world. Its task is to resolve philosophical problems. The characteristic feature of philosophical problems is their non-empirical, a priori character: no scientific experiment can settle the question of whether the mind is the brain, what the meaning of a word is, whether human beings are responsible for their deeds (have free will), whether trees falling on uninhabited desert islands make any noise, what makes necessary truths necessary. All these, and many hundreds more, are conceptual questions. They are not questions about concepts (philosophy is not a science of concepts). But they are questions that are to be answered, resolved or dissolved by careful scrutiny of the concepts involved. The only way to scrutinize concepts is to examine the use of the words that express them. Conceptual investigations are investigations into what makes sense and what does not. And, of course, questions of sense antecede questions of empirical truth – for if something makes no sense, it can be neither true nor false. It is just nonsense – not silly, but rather: it transgresses the bounds of sense. Philosophy patrols the borders between sense and nonsense; science determines what is empirically true and what is empirically false. What falsehood is for science, nonsense is for philosophy.
Let me give you a simple example or two: When psychologists and cognitive scientists say that it is your brain that thinks, then, rather than nodding your head and saying ‘How interesting! What an important discovery!’, you should pause to wonder what this means. What, you might then ask, is a thoughtful brain, and what is a thoughtless one? Can my brain concentrate on what I am doing – or does it just concentrate on what it is doing? Does my brain hold political opinions? Is it, as Gilbert and Sullivan might ask, a little Conservative or a little Liberal? Can it be opinionated? or narrow minded? – What on earth would an opinionated and narrow-minded brain be? Just ask yourself: if it is your brain that thinks, how does your brain tell you what it thinks? And can you disagree with it? And if you do, how do you tell it that it is mistaken – that what it thinks is false? And can your brain understand what you say to it? Can it speak English? – If you continue this line of questions you will come to realise that the very idea that the brain thinks makes no sense. But, of course, to show why it makes no sense requires a great deal more work.
"What is the task of all higher schooling?--To turn people into machines.--"What method is used?"--The student must learn to be bored.--"How is this done?"--Through the concept of duty."Who is the model for this?"--the philologist: he teaches how to grind away at work.--"Who is the perfect human?"--The civil servant.--"What philosophy gives the highest formula for the civil servant?"--Kant's: the civil servant as thing-in-itself set to judge over the civil servant as phenomenon. (Twilight of the Idols, "Skirmises," sec. 29)
The second and third winners (for 2012-13) have been announced: they are Alvin Plantinga (Emeritus, Notre Dame) and Jürgen Mittelstraß (Konstanz). Unfortunately, I have not found an annoucement or details on-line. The first winner was Ernest Sosa (Rutgers).
I'm an undergraduate student of philosophy from Brazil and I would like to ask you some questions if you don't mind. I know the issue I'm going to raise has been discussed at other places, but I really don't know how to proceed in my case. My concern is with to what extent "undergraduate pedigree" affects international students applications. I've read commentaries about this issue, but they are mainly focused within universities in the US and I'm not sure how exactly those considerations apply to international students. I mean, it is not uncommon to find international students under graduate student lists who have graduated in their home country and are now attending ranked PhD programs.
So, my question is: if the so-called "undergraduate pedigree" is so present as some would claim, how come those students get admitted to the programs? I will be applying in the next year and it would be really helpful to hear commentaries on this issue to evaluate on more solid grounds my chances of being admitted.
Advice from readers? It would be particularly good to hear from admissions committee members and from students (there are, indeed, many) who came from abroad to the US for graduate study and with great success. Signed comments preferred, but even anonymous comments must include a valid e-mail address, which will not appear.
The petition is here, and I would urge all readers to sign given the unjust and politically motivated treatment to which he has been subjected. It was prepared by philosophers Alan Hajek (ANU) and Jeff Jordan (Delaware). When you sign, put your institutional affiliation in the comment section.
UPDATE: I hope other bloggers, including those in other academic fields, will publicize this petition.
I wanted to thank you for drawing attention to Abbas Farsani's situation. I hope some good will come of it. My impression of the Iranian philosophy scene is that Kant, Nietzsche, and Heidegger are huge, but that recent Anglo-American authors are being read more and more, even in the seminaries in Qom.
I sometimes receive emails from curious Iranian philosophy students asking how they might make their way to a good graduate program in philosophy. Once I was contacted by a seminary student who loved Steve Yablo's work and was eager to study with him. I suspect that they feel comfortable contacting me because of my Iranian-sounding name. These students often have a remarkably accurate picture of the professional philosophical landscape--which programs are good at which subfields. I can only attribute that to the Phil Gourmet.
(Clarification: NYREOB is the acronym for New York Review of Each Other's Books which, once upon a time, was actually worth reading regularly.)
UPDATE: There's an even more critical review by Peter Godfrey-Smith (CUNY Grad Center) in the current London Review of Books, though it's behind a pay-wall, alas. But here's a choice paragraph:
In an early chapter Nagel summarises his view by saying that naturalism does not give a ‘sufficiently reassuring’ account of our rational capacities. At first I wondered whether he was using this phrase with tongue in cheek, but it appears not. So the question arises: sufficiently reassuring for what? Reassuring enough for us to feel OK, or reassuring enough to be true? There is a big difference. Nagel’s book is driven by a demand for intelligibility and reassurance, an insistence on them. A comparison can be made with William James, writing about these matters a little over a hundred years ago in his book Pragmatism. For James,
who embraced Darwinism, the problem was not materialism’s past, but its future. Physics foretold a future in which all life would eventually die out and all traces of human activity would disappear: ‘Dead and gone are they, gone utterly from the very sphere and room of being. Without an echo; without a memory … This utter final wreck and tragedy is of the essence of scientific materialism as at present understood.’ James hoped for something more, including a different ending to the cosmic story. For his inchoate hoping and his defence of the right to keep hold of such hopes, James is roundly criticised and sometimes ridiculed. James hoped where Nagel insists, but insistence here is hollow.
Why is it that, typically, journal editors know the identity of the authors whose manuscripts they make decisions about?
I know that some journal editors process manuscripts blind, but many do not. Given that referees are always blind, one might wonder whether it matters whether editors are. But as we all know, editors often make important decisions not dictated soley by referee reports. First, editors sometimes decide to reject papers before sending them to referees. Second, editors decide which referees to choose, and how many referees reports to gather. Often, different referees have different personalities that may be known to editors (for example, some may be harsher than others). Third, the editor must decide what to do with they receive conflicting recommendations from referees (which, I hear, is not uncommon). At each of these stages it is possible that that the editor's decision could be influenced, either consciously or subconsiously, by factors that should be irrelevant, such as the prestige of the author's institution, the author's race or gender, the editor's perception of the quality of other papers by the author, whether the editor knows the author personally, etc.
That is the argument in favor of blinding editors. What are the arguments against? I can't think of many, but perhaps that's just because I'm not very familiar with the review process. I would love to hear what others think on this matter. I can see that it would complicate things administratively: there would have to be a way for editors to communicate their decisions to the authors without knowing who they are. But this doesn't seem insurmountable.
AND ANOTHER: Lawrence Jackson, who had to switch from philosophy to sociology because all the philosophy classes were at the same time as football practice! (Thanks to Evan Goodwin for the pointer.)
AND STILL MORE: Philosopher Lani Roberts tells me her former student, Sean Canfield, graduated in philosophy from Oregon State and played for the New Orleans Saints. And Jonathan Hecht points me to tihs story about Vincent Brown (scroll down), who studied philosophy at San Diego State before heading to the NFL.
Best-known for his work in philosophy of physics, Professor Hughes taught for the last quarter-century in the Department of Philosophy at the University of South Carolina and, before that, for a number of years at Yale. An obituary, with information about a memorial, is here.
Gabriel Segal (philosophy of mind and psychology, philosophy of language and linguistics), who taught for many years at King's College, London, where he is presently Visiting Professor of Philosophy, has taken up a half-time post as Professor of Philosophy at the University of Reading.
At least with Springer! Philosopher David Hilbert (Illinois/Chicago) writes:
The email below seems to imply that Springer thinks I wrote a book, the original edition of which was published over 60 years before I was born. Although I'm flattered that they think I have made fundamental contributions to mathematics, I do have some doubts about their ability to successfully do the rights management that seems to be their major business these days. I wonder if they always just email some random person with the same name to obtain rights or if this is a special case.
We are writing today regarding your book The Theory of Algebraic Number Fields (ISBN: 978-3-540-62779-1), and to let you know about our plans for an electronic archive, the Springer Book Archives.
At this point you may be wondering what the Springer Book Archives are all about. The project is an effort at Springer to breathe new life into older books - specifically those published between 1842 and 2005 - by making them available in electronic formats. The archiving project includes about 40 renowned imprints. Many of these titles may even be out-of-print. With this initiative we will enable researchers all over the world to access a wealth of information via their libraries. The individual books will not only be made available digitally, but also in print. The Springer Book Archives affirms Springer's commitment to preserve valuable scholarly content, and your book plays an important role in this effort.
Your author benefits at a glance:
Your book will be digitized and become an eBook, published on SpringerLink, our online platform, and for e-reading devices such as the Kindle or iPad.
Your book can never go 'out-of-print' and will be preserved for future generations of scientists.
You will be provided with free access to the electronic version of your book once it is included in the archive.
You will receive royalties, or can choose to waive them in support of charitable organizations such as INASP or Research4Life, that help provide the developing world with access to scientific research.
Please go to the following website and select your preferred royalty option*: [omitted]
Should you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact our dedicated Author Helpdesk at [email protected].
Peter Hendriks President STM Global Publishing & Marketing
UPDATE: Tad Brennan (Cornell) observes that, "It's a shame that the famous Aristotelian scholar, Hippocrates G. Apostle, died back in 1990. Springer could have given him royalties for the whole Corpus Hippocraticum, and the New Testament as well!"
UPDATE: Longtime reader Ruchira Paul (who grew up in India) writes with some interesting context and further information:
Thanks for the awesome link to the Hindi film with an appearance by Bertrand Russell. The movie was quite a hit at the time.
The leading man of the film was very popular and most of his movies did well at the box office. He was a mediocre but serious actor and was usually cast in soft romantic or socially conscious roles of heroic soldier / doctor / farmer. Also, at the time India was not the unabashedly capitalist nation as it is today. The government was corrupt but still vaguely socialistic with a non-aligned pacifist position in world politics. In 1965 India fought a serious war with Pakistan that shook up the nation. There was also widespread opposition to the escalating US involvement in Vietnam. In 1967 the public mood was very patriotic and "peace" was a valued commodity. The film's title Aman means "peace." The young idealistic doctor played by the lead actor wants to go to Japan to take care of people who are suffering from radiation related illnesses some 20+ years after the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and for that he seeks the blessings of Russell, the venerated advocate of peace.
The theme was a perfect mix of the Indian zeitgeist of the late 1960s, an impressive cast and beautiful Indian actresses cavorting in scenic Japan, some of them cast in the role of Japanese women! The Indian public must have loved it.
Here is a link to the movie's site. Note that Bertrand Russell figures in the film's main cast of actors.
Chris Bertram (Bristol) calls my attention to this analysis of the proposal, which does indeed seem worrisome along all the dimensions noted. How will this affect philosophy? Other perspectives? Comments are open, signed comments preferred.
UPDATE: Philosopher Kent Bach (San Francisco State) writes: "Perhaps your readers would like to know, or be reminded, that in 2001 excerpts from Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus were set to music in a BBC-commissioned cantata by Anthony Powers, entitled 'A Picture of the World'."
Philosopher Jim O'Shea (University College Dublin) raises a question I've heard from many others over the years:
Do philosophy departments with which you are familiar permit PhD dissertations to consist of several independent papers?
And some issues that arise are:
1. Length (i.e. roughly how many articles)
2. Criteria for publishability. Currently PhD examiners have to certify that the thesis they have passed is in part or as a whole publishable.
3. How closely should the articles be interconnected.
Comments from readers--faculty or graduates or current students--with pertinent experience? Feel free to add links to departmental webpages that describe the rules that apply to the "paper" option for a dissertation.
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)