I expanded my earlier posting, for those who might be interested, but let me correct a few mistakes about the decision I've been seing on social media from other philosophers:
1. The decision does not hold that corporations are people with free exercise rights. It holds that closely held corporations, e.g., the family-owned businesses who brought the legal challenge, have free exercise rights. General Motors has no cause of action against anything after today's decision.
2. The decision does not deprive employees of access to contraception. The Court accepts that the government has a compelling interest in insuring such access, and notes that the government had already found a way to insure that such access was met while allowing religious not-for-profit organizations (e.g., the University of Notre Dame) to opt out of paying for it: namely, requiring that the insurers cover the entire cost of such contraceptive coverage for employers with religious objections. The Court points out the same alternative is available for closely held corporations whose owners have religious objections to contraception.
3. The decision was not a constitutional decision; it was based on a federal statute, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. RFRA is a bad law, and as readers of my book know, I oppose such carve-outs for religion; but given RFRA, the Court's decision is not wholly surprising.
4. It's contentious, but not ridiculous, to argue that closely held corporations can be "persons" for purposes of RFRA. The Court gives some fairly sensible reasons for thinking they can be in the opinion.
5. The major error in the Court's reasoning occurs at p. 36 of the majority opinion (Justice Ginsburg notes this problem at pp. 21-22 of her dissent). The Court has long held that it will not adjudicate whether religious beliefs are sensible, only whether they are religious and sincerely held. But that does not mean that the Court must defer to the religious person's beliefs about whether the law substantially burdens their religion: that is a question for the Court. In this case, it strains credulity to suggest that Smith's sincere religious belief that life begins at conception and that therefore the "morning after" pill is akin to murder is somehow "burdened" because Smith must pay for health insurance which an employee might use to seek medical services of which Smith disapproves. The Court should have found there was no "substantial burden" on Hobby Lobby in my view.
Several readers have sent this, but since it doesn't control for frequency of publication, or the size of each volume, its results are worthless. For example, Journal of Philosophy publishes about 24 articles per year; Synthese in recent years has published 150 articles or more per year. (That Phil Studies comes in 2nd is more impressive, since while they publish more articles than J.Phil., it is only by a factor of two, if that.)
UPDATE: Several readers point out that I miscounted on Phil Studies, which also publishes on the order of 100 articles per year.
UPDATE: Philosopher Piers Turner (Ohio State) writes: "In light of your post on Bentham on sexual liberty, I thought you might be interested in this often-missed entry from a diary J.S. Mill kept for a few months in 1854 (when he thought he might die soon and wanted to see 'what effect is produced on the mind by the obligation of having at least one thought per day which is worth writing down') :
As I probably shall have no opportunity of writing out at length my ideas on this and other matters, I am anxious to leave on record at least in this place my deliberate opinion that any great improvement in human life is not to be looked for so long as the animal instinct of sex occupies the absurdly disproportionate place it does therein; and that to correct this evil two things are required, both of them for other reasons, viz., firstly, that women should cease to be set apart for this function, and should be admitted to all other duties and occupations on a par with men; secondly, that what any persons may freely do with respect to sexual relations should be deemed to be an unimportant and purely private matter, which concerns no one but themselves. If children are the result, then indeed commences a set of important duties towards the children, which society should enforce upon the parents much more strictly than it now does. But to have held any human being responsible to other people and to the world for the fact itself, apart from this consequence, will one day be thought one of the superstitions and barbarisms of the infancy of the human race." [Collected Works, XXVII, 664]
A number of readers and friends have expressed puzzlement about how Ludlow can sue a colleague and a student for defamation regarding statements they made reporting alleged sexual harassment and related wrongdoing by Ludlow. In cyberspace, I've seen a number of people assert that such statements are "privileged," and so the makers of those statements can't be sued. Alas, the matter is somewhat more complicated than that. Several correspondents asked that I explain on the blog what I have told them individually. So here goes (with the caveat that I am not an expert on these matters, but am reasonably confident I understand the legal issues. This, by the way, is a pretty solid overview of Illinois defamation law for those who are interested. And none of what follows constitutes legal advice!)
There are two kinds of "privileges" that can attach with respect to false statements that are defamatory. The "absolute privilege" attaches to statements made in judicial proceedings (e.g., any statements made by a witness, whether in court or in a deposition or in an affidavit) and "quasi-judicial" proceedings (e.g., in Illinois, a complaint filed with the disciplinary commission of the State Bar alleging misconduct by an attorney enjoys an "absolute privilege"). In these cases, the maker of the statement can not be sued for defamation, even if the maker of the statement acted maliciously or recklessly (e.g., made the statements knowing they were false).
One important threshold issue in the Ludlow case is whether the proceedings of a university's sexual harassment office constitute a "quasi-judicial proceeding" under Illinois law. My guess is they do not (if I'm mistaken, please e-mail me any relevant case law). So, for example, in the course of finding that an arbitration proceeding was a quasi-judicial proceeding, an Illinois court said:
Under Illinois law, a tribunal is quasi-judicial when its possesses powers and duties to (1) exercise judgment and discretion; (2) hear and determine or ascertain facts and decide; (3) make binding orders and judgments; (4) affect the personal or property rights of private persons; (5) examine witnesses, compel the attendance of witnesses, and hear the litigation of issues on a hearing; and (6) enforce decisions or impose penalties [citations omitted]. A quasi-judicial body need not possess all six powers; however, the more powers it possesses, the more likely the body is acting in a quasi-judicial manner.
University sexual harassment offices lack #5, and have quite attenuated versions of #2, #3, #4 and #6 (attenuated because, among other things, their decisions are not binding on actual judicial proceedings).
Even if that is correct, statements made to a university's sexual harassment officer clearly enjoy what is called a "qualified privilege," since there is a strong public interest in preventing and punishing sexual harassment as reflected, for example, in the fact that faculty who learn of sexual harassment have a legal obligation to report it to appropriate university officials. The crucial difference with a "qualified privilege" is that if it is abused, it does not apply. So if Jane Doe reports what she sincerely believed to be conduct by Prof. John Smith constituting sexual harassment to an appropriate Dean, she can not be sued by Prof. Smith even if it turns our her report of the conduct is inaccurate. But if Jane Doe acts recklessly or maliciously, then she can be sued: for example, if Jane Doe reports Prof. Smith to the Dean, even though she knows full well that Prof. Smith did not act as she claims, she can be sued for defamation.
Even if Jane Doe enjoys the qualified privilege if she non-maliciously reports the alleged misconduct to the appropriate university official, she does not enjoy even the qualified privilege if she makes those statements to others who have no connection to enforcing the university's sexual harasssment policies. So, for example, if she tells fellow students or friends at other universities that Prof. Smith sexually harassed her, and that is false, she can be sued for defamation for those statements.
The crucial allegations in Ludlow's complaint in this regard are paragraphs 58-60.
Paragraph 58 alleges that the "false statements during the 2014 investigation impute to Plaintiff a want of integrity in the discharge of his duties, criminal conduct and prejudice Plaintiff and impute a lack of ability in his trade." Translation: the statements, if false, are defamatory per se, that is, damage is presumed. (It is hard to prevail in any defamation action, but if you also have to prove how the false statements harmed you, the plaintiff's burden can be impossibly high.)
Paragraph 59 alleges that the defendants "publicized these statements without privilege." Translation: they made these false statements to others not involved with the process (so no qualified privilege) or they made these statements maliciously or recklessly, so lost the qualified privilege.
Paragraph 60 alleges that the defendants "made these statements knowing they were false." Translation: they acted maliciously, so enjoy no qualified privilege.
I assume that, among other things, some of the defendants will move to dismiss the complaint on grounds that the statements were, in fact, privileged. Whether they are privileged will be a question for the court. If these allegations survive a motion to dismiss, then the plaintiff, Ludlow, will be entitled to discovery to determine, e.g., to whom the allegedly false statements were made and what the makers of the statements knew at the time they made them.
Another issue lurking in the background here is also whether Ludlow is a "public figure" or "limited purpose public figure" for purposes of defamation. My guess is that with respect to the allegations of sexual harassment and related misconduct, he is not. If, by contrast, he were suing defendants who made allegedly false statements regarding his cyber-activism, then he would almost certainly count as a public figure. The significance of this in American law is very substantial, since the burdens on a public figure plaintiff to recover for defamation are much higher (see this earlier discussion).
I realize that the earlier call for corrections should have been clearer about the meaning of this category, so let me set out more explicitly the rules for inclusion and exclusion that we've used for a number of years:
1. Cognate faculty are faculty at the university (not elsewhere) who are available to work with PhD students in philosophy and actually do so. (In some rare cases--e.g., U Mass/Amherst-- we have made an exception for faculty who teach at liberal arts colleges in the same town with the PhD-granting program, whose colleges have a formal relationship with the PhD department, and who otherwise meet the criteria and who, of course, do not have obligations to PhD students at their own department.)
2. Cognate faculty can be philosophy PhDs or not: the question is whether they are willing to work with PhD students and whether they actually do so. The latter is good evidence of the former! (A good local example is Chris Kennedy in Linguistics here at Chicago: not a philosophy PhD, but he works very significantly with philosophy PhD students in philosophy of language.)
3. Cognate faculty, unlike those listed under "faculty," do not have tenure in the Philosophy Department or do not vote on Philosophy Department affairs. This is a crude proxy, obviously, for degree of involvement, but easier to determine than the alternatives. (Another local example: at Texas, I was actually in the odd position of having a non-tenured courtesy appointment in Philosophy and voting rights, but Chicago doesn't even have courtesy appointments in Philosophy; still, as I did at Texas, I serve on lots of philosophy dissertation committees.)
4. Emeritus faculty from other universities can count as cognate faculty if they have formal teaching duties at the university where they are claimed as cognate. There are a handful of cases like this, mostly in the UK and Canada.
5. Departments from which "cognate faculty" have typically come include linguistics, psychology, law, politics, and math. But in all cases, the faculty in question actually work with PhD students in philosophy on a fairly regular basis--at least in graduate seminars, and typically on dissertation committees.
6. I am worried that some departments are beginning to pad their "cognate" lists. Sometimes I have followed up with e-mails to cognate faculty to confirm, with mixed results. But more generally, there is, I am quite sure, no advantage to padding the cognate lists with non-philosophers, since a long list of unrecognizable names does not help.
I hope these guidelines are helpful. Departments that want to revise their cognate lists in light of the preceding can e-mail me directly, since the aim is not to embarrass any departments--I now realize the criteria were unclear.
With over 1600 votes cast, only 20% chose the most favorable option regarding philosophy of language (a central, foundational part of the discipline), though another 29% did deem it a "major area of research," and another 24% thought it "useful" when suitably integrated with cognitive science and linguistics--so overall, nearly three-quarters were on the positive end of the spectrum. 7% deemed it only a "minor area," while 19% chose the most hostile and dismissive option.
Times have changed since the 1970s!
BL COMMENT: David Chalmers thinks I inadvertently "upped" the ante here for the first category:
The first option in the poll raised the bar by saying that philosophy of language is "first philosophy". That's usually understood as the Dummettian claim that the philosophy of language has priority over all other areas of philosophy. One can reject that claim while still thinking that philosophy of language is a central and foundational part of our discipline. I'm sure that many respondents to the poll, like me, hold that combination of views and chose the second option rather than the first for that reason.
Maybe that's right, though I would have urged him to choose the first option anyway since if you think philosophy of language is "a central, foundational part of the discipline" that's closer to thinking it's "first philosophy" than thinking it's a "major area of research." But I'm curious to hear whether other philosophers of language had this reaction? Comments open, signed comments please.
John Manchak (philosophy of physics & science), Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Washington, Seattle, has accepted a tenured offer from the Department of Logic & Philosophy of Science at the University of California, Irvine, effective January 2015. (Manchak earned his PhD at Irvine, under the supervision of David Malament, who is now retired.)
ADDENDUM: John gave me permission to share the fact that as an undergraduate interested in philosophy of physics, he only discovered UC Irvine thanks to the PGR. And it obviously worked out happily!
Philosopher Kathleen Wallace (Hofstra) calls my attention to this unfortunate item which lumps philosophy majors with religion majors, and then claims that they have poor employment outcomes during the recession. As Professor Wallace writes:
The graphic lumps philosophy and religion majors together, and shows them as doing the very worst of all the majors included in the graphic. However, other sources, in which philosophy majors are separated out from religion majors indicate that philosophy majors do considerably better than religion majors.
For example, The Wall Street Journal recently published an article based on payscale.com data (which does separate philosophy majors from religion majors) that showed that midcareer salaries for philosophy majors were actually quite a bit better than many majors, including ones that are presented here as doing much better than philosophy. The results for mid-career salaries could, of course, be different from at study looking at the specific issue of graduating into a recession. My only point is that philosophy looked at independently of religion might tell a rather different story.
No other majors in the graphic are lumped together like that (except for Music & Drama, but I can't speak to the appropriateness or not of that pairing). Most philosophy training and programs now, at least at secular institutions, are so different from religion programs that to lump them together is an anachronism.
I've written to the authors of the (unpublished) study to ask if they couldn't do a more refined study with philosophy majors separated out from religion.
UPDATE: Professor Wallace wrote to the authors, and Professor Joseph Altonji, an economist at Yale, kindly gave his permission to share his reply:
Dear Professor Wallace,
Thank you for your email.
We work with multiple data sets and are constrained in how much we can disaggregate fields of study by the fact that most of them do not provide detailed college major. (We use 50 or so majors). The aggregate called "philosophy and religious studies" combines philosophy, religious studies, theology, and religious vocations. It is almost certainly the case that philosophy majors earn more than those in a religion or theology major that is oriented toward career as a cleric. I don't have a clear sense of whether philosophy majors do better than "arts and sciences" religious studies majors.
I have taken the liberty of attaching a 2012 paper that I wrote with Erica Blom and Costas Meghir that sheds some light on this issue. In that paper we report results separately for "philosophy and religious studies" and "theology and religious vocations" using a data set called the 2009 American Community Survey. The group at Geogetown headed by Anthony Carnevale has also made use of this data. It is one of several date sets that Lisa Kahn, Jamin Speer, and I use, and it has more detailed major categories. Unfortunately, it does not separate philosophy and religious studies. Supplemental Table 3 reports regression estimates of the relationship between the natural logarithm of the hourly wage and college major, with controls for whether the person has obtained an advanced degree and a few demographic variables. The coefficients on the majors are relative to a "general education" major---not the average major. Results are reported seperately for women and men. For women, the coefficient of 0.08 on Philosophy and Religious studies implies an 8% advantage over general education majors. The coefficient on Theology and religious vocations is much lower-- -0.242. The corresponding coefficients for men are -.003 and -.304. The numbers imply that men who major earning in "Philosophy and Religious Studies" earn about the same as general education majors, while men who earn major in Theology and religious vocations earn about 25% less. These results strongly suggest that combining philosophy majors with the other majors leads to an understatement of the labor market prospects of philosophy majors.
Kahn, Speer, and I are in the process of revising our paper for publication. We can't disaggregate further by college major, but will make sure that the label we give to the category containing philosophy indicates that it is a broad category. We should also probably avoid that category when illustrating our results.
Finally, you mention the Paycheck website. It is an interesting data source, but at this point, it is hard to know what population that site represents.
Thanks again for you email.
Joseph Altonji Thomas DeWitt Cuyler Professor of Economics Yale University
He had some pretty good political reasons for being skeptical, though in different places and at different times they might not hold. Compared, however, to the stupefying tedium of baseball and American football--both of which have many of the vices Borges associated with soccer in Argentina--one can only be grateful that soccer rules the rest of the world!
My friend the philosopher Andrew Sepielli (Toronto) asked me to share this information about a family friend in need of help. If you fit the profile, or know someone who does, please take a moment to click the link. (There is also a Facebook page here.) Thank you.
UPDATE: Dr. Roger Albin, the Anne B. Young Collegiate Professor of Neurology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, writes:
For Americans interested in bone marrow donation, the best avenue is the National Marrow Donation Program, which operates an exemplary registry, Information about the program is at bethematch.org. Signing up is easy and involves no blood draws. I donated marrow a few years ago and found their process to be efficient and conducted with the highest professional standards. As a former donor and as a physician who occasionally sees recipients of marrow donation, I can testify that this is a remarkably meritorious activity. Most potential donors will never be contacted, but if you are, you may actually save a life with only a very modest amount of effort and discomfort. I strongly encourage your readers to participate in the registry.
Here. (Thanks to Rik Hine for the pointer.) An excerpt:
TC: You started your career at one of the high points of English-speaking, analytic, Anglophone philosophy. What’s your view of the state of philosophy at the moment?
JS: I think it’s in terrible shape!
TC: Go on, tell me!
JS: Well, what has happened in the subject I started out with, the philosophy of language, is that, roughly speaking, formal modeling has replaced insight. My own conception is that the formal modeling by itself does not give us any insight into the function of language.
Any account of the philosophy of language ought to stick as closely as possible to the psychology of actual human speakers and hearers. And that doesn’t happen now. What happens now is that many philosophers aim to build a formal model where they can map a puzzling element of language onto the formal model, and people think that gives you an insight. I mean a most famous current example of this is the idea that you will explain counterfactuals – for example, if I had dropped this pen, it would have fallen to the ground – by appealing to possible worlds. And then you have a whole load of technical stuff about how to describe the possible worlds. Well I won’t say that’s a waste of time because very intelligent people do it, but I don’t think it gives us insight. It’s as if I said: Well the way to understand the sentence, ‘All ravens are black’, is that what it really means is that all non-black things are non-ravens. You can get a mapping of one sentence onto other sentences where each side has the same truth conditions, but that is not, in general, the right way to understand the sense of the original sentence. And it’s a philosophical question of why you don’t get the insight.
And this goes back to Russell’s Theory of Descriptions. You see, Russell gets uniqueness of reference by going through a whole domain, but that is logically and psychologically unrealistic. I think the notion of an object already contains the notion of uniqueness. I think this was a fatal move to think that you’ve got to get these intuitive ideas mapped on to a calculus like, in this case, the predicate calculus, which has its own requirements. It is a disastrously inadequate conception of language.
And this is pervading other areas of philosophy. Formal epistemology seems to me so boring. I’m sure there’s some merit in it, but it puts me to sleep. The requirements on formal modeling are that you must have something that’s difficult to do. There must be a right and a wrong way to do it, it must be objective, you must be able to teach it to graduate students, and you have to be able to tell who’s good at it and who isn’t. So those are the four features of formal modeling in philosophy, and I think they lead nowhere. That’s my main objection to contemporary philosophy: they’ve lost sight of the questions. It sounds ridiculous to say this because this was the objection that all the old fogeys made to us when I was a kid in Oxford and we were investigating language. But that is why I’m really out of sympathy. And I’m going to write a book on the philosophy of language in which I will say how I think it ought to be done, and how we really should try to stay very close to the psychological reality of what it is to actually talk about things.
I get reports intermittently of department homepages that list retired and departed faculty many months (sometimes longer) after their departure. Most of these cases are probably just cases of inefficiency, but in the Internet age, students depend on on-line information and departments ought to make sure that their on-line information is accurate and not out of date.
...for defamation (and related tortious wrongdoing) and (in the case of the University) gender discrimination in violation of Title IX. A copy of the complaint, with the names of students (and other information identifying them) removed, is here: Download Complaint Stamped some names removed
Note that some formatting may be a bit off, due to conversion from a PDF to a format in which student names could be removed.
If and when the Answer of defendants is available, I will post that as well.
Simon Marcus, who did his MA in philosophy at NYU, writes about two recent TED talks: "Ruth Chang (Rutgers) talks about what makes hard choices hard, and Kwame Anthony Appiah (NYU) talks about the very idea of religion. The talks were delivered at a salon at the TED offices in NYC I organized."
Set aside for the moment that this decision lacks any evidentiary basis. Another judge might have heard the same parade of witnesses and reached a different conclusion.
Bear in mind that the case will be appealed to a higher court, and will continue to be appealed until there is no higher court.
It is not unreasonable to believe that the California Teachers Association might negotiate a different tenure process with the Legislature, perhaps a requirement of three years probationary status instead of two.
The one thing that does seem certain is that, contrary to the victory claims of hedge fund managers and rightwing editorial writers, no student will gain anything as a result of this decision. Millions more dollars will be spent to litigate the issues in California and elsewhere, but what will students gain? Nothing. The poorest, neediest students will still be in schools that lack the resources to meet their needs. They will still be in schools where classes are too large. They will still be in buildings that need repairs. They will still be in schools where the arts program and nurses and counselors were eliminated by budget cuts.
If their principals fire all or most or some of their teachers, who will take their places? There is no long line of superb teachers waiting for a chance to teach in inner-city schools. Chetty and Kane blithely assume that those who are fired will be replaced by better teachers. How do they know that?
Let’s be clear. No “grossly ineffective” teacher should ever get tenure. Only a “grossly ineffective” principal would give tenure to a “grossly ineffective” teacher. Teachers do not give tenure to themselves.
Unfortunately, the Vergara decision is the latest example of the blame-shifting strategy of the privatization movement. Instead of acknowledging that test scores are highly correlated with family income, they prefer to blame teachers and the very idea of public education. If they were truly interested in supporting the needs of the children, the backers of this case would be advocating for smaller classes, for arts programs, for well-equipped and up-to-date schools, for after-school programs, for health clinics, for librarians and counselors, and for inducements to attract and retain a stable corps of experienced teachers in the schools attended by Beatriz Vergara and her co-plaintiffs.
Her whole blog has quite a lot on this latest salvo by billionaire busybodies out to destroy public schools.
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)