This is my second post about the APA. Its proximal cause is the draft of the main program of the next Eastern APA, which was released on line recently. Since I am placement officer, I will probably go to the Eastern, and I was curious to find out what sessions I could attend. I was appalled: If I am not mistaken (I'll be happy to publish a correction if I am: see correction below), there is only one session in philosophy of science, with a few submitted papers - one session in the whole Eastern APA! No invited symposium, no author-meets-critics session, no invited lecture with commentators... as if philosophers of science have no published anything noteworthy in recent years.
And it is not only philosophy of science. There is precious little naturalistically oriented philosophy at the next Eastern APA. No experimental philosophy, no naturalistic philosophy of cognitive science, no moral psychology, etc.
This is appalling, but perhaps it would not be worth making a fuss about it if this neglect of philosophy of science or naturalistic philosophy were a one off. But it's not. Although the three divisions vary in this respect (the Pacific, for instance, does better than the Eastern), the program of the next Eastern is merely the culmination of a broader trend.
Indeed, I surveyed some of my colleagues in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, which is widely viewed as one of the best places, if not simply the best, in the world to do philosophy of science. One of my colleagues, Jim Woodward, is a former president of the Philosophy of Science Association, another, Sandy Mitchell, is the next president. And shockingly it turns out that these very senior, very influential philosophers of science are very rarely invited to the APA. Some have not received an invitation in years. And consider recent influential books in philosophy of science, such as Spohn's important book, The Laws of Belief, which won the Lakatos Prize. If I am not mistaken, no author-meets-critics session was organized about this book.
I have complained before about this problem, and I have gotten again and again versions of the same response: It's our fault! It's the fault of philosophers of science and naturalistic philosophers! We should simply run for the key positions at the APA. Or we should just lobby our friends on the program committees!
Really? Do ethicists and epistemologists need to do anything to have invited symposia in ethics and epistemology? Do historians of philosophy need to lobby to have relevant sessions they are inclined to attend? And this is not how the program should be put together. The program committee should attempt to reflect the diversity of philosophy. There should two or three sessions in philosophy of science at every APA meeting, there should be at least one session in experimental philosophy, etc.
And it is not as if philosophy of science is a niche type of philosophy. Every year there are many jobs for philosophers of science, the Philosophy of Science Association meeting attracts hundreds of philosophers, so does the philosophy of biology meeting (ISHPSSB) and the meeting of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology.
What explains the neglect of philosophy of science and naturalistic philosophy? Philosophers of science have lively professional organizations and successful professional meetings, which reduce the need to get involved with the APA.
Furthermore, when philosophy of science is represented at the APA, it tends to be in the form of the metaphysics of science, often of the kind done by leading departments on the East Coast. More scientifically oriented philosophy of science, which cares more about actual science, methodological issues, inferential questions, interpretative problems, etc., is typically ignored, although it dominates the field of philosophy of science.
The APA committees are now entirely composed of philosophers. I am told that the situation used to be different in the 1980s, particularly in the Pacific Division, with non-philosophers being often on the main program. This narrowing of the philosophical horizon is deplorable. Philosophy of science and more generally the kind of philosophy that deals with the empirical sciences counteract the insular tendencies of some branches of philosophy and are often of interest to non-philosophers.
Some philosophers of science don't care about the evolution of the APA. They go to the meetings of the PSA, of HOPOS, SPSP, etc., and they think it is enough. I do not share this opinion. In my opinion, philosophy benefits from the presence of philosophers of science and vice-versa.
Correction: it turns out that there is an invited symposium on computer simulation with Eric Winsberg, Stephan Hartmann, and Paul Humphreys.