As last week's comment threads showed, the best and most interesting discussions took place not on the "open thread" but on those with particular, focused topics. So going forward, that's probably what I'll do, though I'll try to do a couple each week, time (for moderating) permitting. I may, of course, do some future threads on some of the topics that tend to produce the more heated responses (e.g., gender and hiring), but I do fear the open threads tended to become obsessively focused on that to the exclusion of other more important topics.
[The student's] long-term boyfriend, Benjamin Yelle—a fifth-year graduate student in the department—described some of the correspondence [from McGinn], including several passages that he said were sexually explicit. Mr. Yelle, along with two professors with whom the student has worked, described one message in which they said Mr. McGinn wrote that he had been thinking about the student while masturbating.
Mr. McGinn once wrote to the student that they should "have sex three times in my office over the summer when no one else is around," Mr. Yelle says. He also says the professor once suggested that the student should wear shorts more often because he thought her legs were attractive.
Mr. McGinn says he never suggested to the student that they should have sex. He also says he merely told the student that her legs were "muscular." He is unwilling, however, to share the e-mails he sent to the student.
"Professor McGinn harassed, stalked, and preyed upon" the student, the summary of the complaint says. The professor touched her hands and feet, told her "you are mine," and proposed they have sex, the document says. The student, it continues, felt "hounded, suffocated, and trapped by his constant barrage of communications and need."
Officials at Miami ignored the student’s complaints and charged Mr. McGinn with violating its relationship policy as a way to get him out the door fast and to avoid further fallout, the summary of the complaint says. In that way, it says, officials "hijacked" the grievance process "to save UM a public scandal, rather than provide a fair accounting of Professor McGinn’s misconduct."
And some more here regarding Prof. McGinn's propensity to attack and defame anyone who doesn't adopt his version of events in its entirety. (Addendum to the last lilnk: I'm no longer confident there aren't First Amendment issues with the way some schools are interpreting "retaliation" under Title IX.)
Two questions (one general, one specific) regarding publishing at the terminal-Masters graduate level.
(1) Is it possible and encouraged to publish as a terminal-Masters graduate student?
(2) If one's first journal publication is in their secondary area of interest (e.g., say one publishes in ethics or aesthetics while their primary AOI is in philosophy of chemistry) would this in any way complicate their chances at admission into a PhD program whose strengths were in one's primary AOI?
My own views are: (1) there is no need to publish as an MA student, and it is probably not wise to invest energy in that as opposed to learning as much philosophy as possible and polishing written work to use in graduate applications; (2) I don't think it matters at all. If one publishes a good piece of philosophy (and that's an important *if*), it will count in your favor regardless of your interests. Thoughts from others?
MOVING TO FRONT (originally posted April 21)--MANY INTERESTING COMMENTS, MORE WELCOME
This question, from the open thread, deserves separate notice and discussion:
Could we start a discussion on what philosophers have found to be the most surprising positives and surprising negatives of becoming a professional philosopher (or PhD grad)? It may help me, and perhaps others, with my decision to apply to PhD programs or not. If there is a similar thread with many comments, a link would suffice. (I'm aware of the poor job market, so hopefully there are other comments.)
I was just sent a copy of the appellate court's opinion, concerning this case, and it turns out the earlier news article misdescribed the trial court's decision rather badly, making it sound as though the judge thought the article admitted of an "innocent construction" because the "sting" of allegedly groping someone was the same as the "sting" of being accused of rape. That was a terrible argument, which suggested bias on the part of the judge against the plaintiff. But based on the appellate court's decision, that wasn't the "innocent construction" argument at all: rather, the articles admitted of an innocent construction because they did not name Ludlow (or the student for that matter), and so could not constitute defamation per se. That is a very different, and actually more plausible, argument, at least given American libel law which, as we have noted before, is more friendly to defamers than libel law in any other democracy.
UPDATE: Weinberg has uploaded a copy of the opinion here.
More than half the respondents--56%, or about 300--report that the social media presence of job candidates has affected their job prospects. And more than half of those reported the effect was usually negative, with another third saying "sometimes positive, sometimes negative."
On the positive side, a bit more than half reported that social media use either had no impact or a positive one.
It might be interesting if faculty who responded to the poll could say a bit about the kinds of things they have seen on social media that have helped and/or hurt candidates.
Reader Robert McGarvey sent along this piece, and added the following all too apt observations:
No real news here...but the rise of adjuncts plainly is the most toxic force in higher ed in a generation. It is gutting the protection of tenure (although most profs seem too narcissistic and/or dumb to see it), it is trivializing the education of kids, and it is turning graduate education into a kind of Ponzi scheme.
The elite Ivies and similar seem to be immune to the PTL plague...but just about everybody else is a victim.
Is there any point to running these open threads? Last week was an all-time low, only 9 comments, earlier on, 90 comments or so were common, the last several weeks, more like two dozen. Perhaps I should just open comments on more threads with particular topics?
Here. Princeton average salaries are the most notable here, since Princeton has neither a business nor law school, both of which raise the averages significantly (note how high the free-standing New York Law School rates, and it is not even one of the top law schools in the country).
...in order to cut costs, dodge the faculty union, etc. The University of Warwick has one of the best philosophy departments in the UK. A move like this will so damage the university's reputation it seems it could only have been cooked up by clueless bureaucrats. (Thanks to the several readers who forwarded this in the last 24 hours.)
Do any readers know more about this? Is there any explanation for why the University would do this that does not reflect poorly on its motives? Comments are open.
A student investigating terminal MA programs writes:
At Ohio University every student does a thesis (there is no non-thesis track). Texas A&M almost every student does the thesis track over non-thesis; Western Michigan is the opposite with almost all students doing non-thesis track. Texas Tech less than half do the thesis track, the rest do a non-thesis track and are examined on their best term paper. I am unsure about the programs at Brandeis, Tufts, Georgia State, and others.
They all boast placement with funding in PGR-ranked top 20 schools. What surprises me is that though their tracks differ quite widely, they all have very similar placement records -- in no way predictable on the basis of how they structure their tracks.
Given that some admissions committees do not necessarily even give preference to MA over students applying straight out of undergrad, I am doubtful the difference between MA tracks is significant.
What are your thoughts? Perhaps you could ask this question on your blog?
It would be interesting to hear from faculty at the MA programs, faculty who have recently done PhD admissions and had experience with terminal MA programs, and graduates of MA programs about their experiences.
As a grad student trying to publish before I get my PhD, I've noticed something strange that happens every time I submit a paper to a journal. Every time I submit, I get a hit on academia.edu that day. My academia.edu profile is pretty sparse and seldom gets hits, so this could be a coincidence, but that seems unlikely. I also tend to get hits shortly after my paper changes from "Submission Approved" to "Editor Assigned." It's possible that this is mere paranoia on my part, but it also seems possible that some of the journals I'm submitting to (about six or so) aren't as blind as they claim to be.
This isn't something that an established philosopher would necessarily notice, as I'm sure you guys get hits all the time. But I'm wondering if other grad students and junior philosophers have noticed this phenomenon. It would be interesting to see if my guess has any merit.
Readers? Have others have had similar experiences?
I was corresponding with a philosopher elsewhere about yet another cyber-example of the pathetic identity politics/language police, whom my correspondent described as an SJW, or "social justice warrior." I had not heard the term before, but my correspondent's explanation of it is worth sharing:
Functionally defined, "SJW" designates someone who monitors cyberspace for slights or miscues that reveal bias, and then exploits the various tools of social media to shame the offender, express outrage, and summon the digital mob, whilst achieving for themselves a righteous fame that ties their identities and their actions to the heroes and achievements of the civil rights movement, the landmark moments of which preceded their adulthood. SJWs divide the world, GWB-like, into the evildoers ("shitlords") and the oppressed, with the possible, but problematic remainder, being allies, whose status is ever tenuous and usually collapses into shitlord. SJWs do not distinguish between major and minor offenses -- unintentionally using "transgender-ed" instead of "transgender" is as unforgivable as any other act of oppression -- nor do they distinguish repeat and systematic from first-time offenders. They employ a principle of interpretation that is something like the opposite of charity. (If the utterance gives offense under one interpretation, that interpretation is correct.) It is a harsh "justice".
Indeed, it's unclear whether SJWs do not fully grasp the cruelty and inhumanity of their cybermob shame tactics, the anguish it causes, typically to the socially clueless and ASD spectrum types (itself a form of ableism), or just people with older, less plastic, brains, who are unable to keep pace with the rapidly shifting pronoun and non-slur requirements, or whether this is fully grasped, and indeed the retributive point of the exercise. In any case, the SJW hallmark is cruelty in the name of compassion. (And creating incredibly dangerous environments in the name of "safe space".)
Well, as a Nietzsche scholar, I can hardly tell you anything you don't already see better here. The difference between the Christian slave revolt and this one is that with Christianity at least, there is forgiveness.
The irony, of course, is that the SJW squanders his or her efforts on matters that rarely have anything to do with justice.
ADDENDUM: A reader in the UK writes:
I wanted to send you a quick note with regard to your most recent post on "social justice warriors". Whilst I am entirely sympathetic to your criticisms of the online mobs, vague identity politics, etc. I thought that seeing as you hadn't heard the term before you might want to be made aware that it originated and still continues to be used almost exclusively (to the best of my knowledge) as a pejorative by so-called 'Men's Rights Activists' (read: genuinely horrible and regressive misogynists) to describe anyone with a liberal or progressive disposition. Without impugning your correspondent, I am immediately suspicious when the term is used as it suggests (and originated from) an entirely different and also toxic version of identity politics. I think the most mainstream use of the term so far has been in the 'Gamergate' movement, which many (myself included) think was a thinly veiled attempt by the same misogynists to create an aura of legitimacy around their sending of rape and death threats to relatively benign (if sometimes mistaken) critics of video game tropes/culture.
Anyway, given the amount of baggage the term carries, I worry that you might (unintentionally) be, or be seen to be, lumping yourself in with a line of thought that is altogether more horrible than your actual political and moral beliefs. A google search of social justice warrior, or especially SJW, will demonstrate that its still very much the preserve of a nasty sort.
Though of course you could still agree with the definition given by your correspondent without necessarily endorsing all the horribleness associated with the term, I think there are some worrying signs in the definition itself (like the move towards claiming victimhood on neurosciencey terms) which are suggestive of additional beliefs on your correspondent's side, and of course the term itself is still used exclusively as a slur by a particular sort.
All news to me (I had never even heard of "Gamergate," though have now looked it up)! I'm quite sure my correspondent had nothing to do with any of this, far far from it in fact. It still seems to me an apt term for describing a kind of facile and superficial cyber-posturing.
ANOTHER: Some readers disputed the genealogy of the SJW term, though I don't think its etiology matters. See also this comment just submitted to the open thread.
Post your comment only once, it may take awhile to appear. Let me suggest as one possible topic an earlier thread on the empirical literature on implicit bias and stereotype threat. What I took from that thread is that the evidence for stereotype threat is quite weak, but the evidence for implicit bias is quite strong. On the other hand, the evidence that implicit bias operates when people engage in careful review of scholarship is weak. Are these correct take-aways? Citations and references welcome.
I wonder if I could persuade you to write a blog post that would help European letter writers do well by their students? (Please don't identify me though - not least because I don't want my student to be able to identify herself.)
I recently wrote my first round of letters for the US PhD applications market, for a student whom I rate very highly. Since I am working at a major European university, the standard of students that I teach is outstanding; and among this cohort the student for whom I wrote is one of the best. I thought that I had represented this fact accurately when, in the sections of the reference letters asking me to rank students relative to their cohort, I rated her in the top 10%-25% for most of the areas asked (and in top 1% for one or two others). Given that our graduate students are likely as good as those at most major US universities, I thought this was high praise indeed. However, an American colleague has recently told me that any ranking outside the top 5% is generally likely to kill the application of a student.
This strikes me as both crazy and unfair, but since I want to do the best by my students, I'll reluctantly play whatever games it takes to see that they get the chances they deserve. For the benefit of non-US letter writers, though, perhaps it would be good to canvas opinions here. How highly must students be ranked to be considered by strong programs? And what percentages of competitive applications are described as being in the top 1% of even very strong MA or undergraduate programs?
Some guidance here would be very much appreciated!
What do readers think? If you post anonymously, at least indicate something about your experience in these matters (e.g., faculty member at a PhD program, recommender, etc.).
With almost 725 responses to our earlier poll, here are the ten most pressing issues in the profession identified by readers:
1. Bad job market, decline of tenure-track faculty positions, increasing reliance on adjuncts (Condorcet winner: wins contests with all other choices)
2. Declining state support for higher education loses to Bad job market, decline of tenure-track faculty positions, increasing reliance on adjuncts by 460–158
3. Hyper-specialization and/or increasing irrelevance of philosophy to public/culture at large loses to Bad job market, decline of tenure-track faculty positions, increasing reliance on adjuncts by 552–104, loses to Declining state support for higher education by 451–176
4. Erosion of tenure loses to Bad job market, decline of tenure-track faculty positions, increasing reliance on adjuncts by 597–35, loses to Hyper-specialization and/or increasing irrelevance of philosophy to public/culture at large by 301–294
5. Prestige bias in hiring and/or publication decisions loses to Bad job market, decline of tenure-track faculty positions, increasing reliance on adjuncts by 569–66, loses to Erosion of tenure by 307–264
6. Sexual harassment and discrimination against women loses to Bad job market, decline of tenure-track faculty positions, increasing reliance on adjuncts by 584–60, loses to Prestige bias in hiring and/or publication decisions by 300–233
7. Lack of appreciation for academic freedom outside and sometimes inside the academy loses to Bad job market, decline of tenure-track faculty positions, increasing reliance on adjuncts by 581–54, loses to Sexual harassment and discrimination against women by 274–262
8. Underrepresentation of ethnic and racial minorities in the profession loses to Bad job market, decline of tenure-track faculty positions, increasing reliance on adjuncts by 582–60, loses to Lack of appreciation for academic freedom outside and sometimes inside the academy by 272–262
9. Vindictive, intolerant "groupthink" mentality in parts of the profession loses to Bad job market, decline of tenure-track faculty positions, increasing reliance on adjuncts by 556–83, loses to Underrepresentation of ethnic and racial minorities in the profession by 276–272
10. Underrepresentation of women in the profession loses to Bad job market, decline of tenure-track faculty positions, increasing reliance on adjuncts by 587–55, loses to Vindictive, intolerant "groupthink" mentality in parts of the profession by 280–269
Just outside the top ten were "erosion of intellectual standards in the field for political reasons," which lost to "underrepresentation of women in the profession" 281 to 245; and "implicit bias," which lost to "erosion of intellectual standards" by 261 to 239.
Overall, not an unreasonable list. I was struck that quite general issues that affect everyone--e.g., the state of the job market, and erosion of tenure and of support for public universities--were rated more highly than the diversity issues we hear a lot about on the blogs, though those were recognized as well. The strong showing of worries about "prestige bias" surprised me since whether it is a "bias" or a sensible proxy is debatable, but it's clear many readers are in the former camp.
I was surprised to see that you did not include any reference to people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or otherwise part of the LGBTQ community. This surprised me for three reasons. First, like the aforementioned issues in our profession, these are pressing. Second, in the country at large, LGBTQ equality is among the most important civil rights issues of our time. Third, you have repeatedly gone to bat for LGBTQ equality on your blog--something that I and many other readers have truly appreciated.
This is a fair point, and was clearly an oversight on my part, due in some degree to the fact that (1) LGBTQ philosophers have been less vocal about continuing discrimination on social media in my experience, and (2) my sense that the profession has done better by LGBTQ philosophers than some other groups (for example). But it should have been included as a category for voting purposes, for which my apologies.
IHE has the details. The averages understate the possible differentias, obviously. Most state university salary data is now on-line via newspapers in most states, if one wants to do even more specific comparisons.
MOVING TO FRONT FROM LAST YEAR (SINCE TIMELY AGAIN--originanlly posted March 6, 2009)
Applicants to PhD and MA programs are now receiving offers of admission and, if they are lucky, are beginning to weigh choices between different departments. I want to reiterate a point made in the PGR, namely, that students are well-advised to talk to current students at the programs they are considering. There are often things you will want to know that you won't glean from familiarity with the excellence of the faculty's work, even if that remains the most important, if defeasible, reason for choosing a particular department. Here are some examples of information that no ranking, no departmental brochure, and no "official" departmental representive will tell you about; all of these are drawn from stories I've heard from students over the last few years about ranked departments (the departments will remain unnamed, obviously). You can think of them as representing "types" of problems you should be aware of before enrolling. I've tweaked some of the details to protect identities.
The Absent Faculty: Are the faculty who look so good on paper actually around and interested in working with students? I heard a story about a key senior person in one department who is an alcoholic, and who simply ignores his students. In another department, almost all the graduate students had to sign an open letter to the faculty a few years ago protesting the failure of faculty to return graded papers and their general lack of interest in mentoring the students. In yet another department, a well-known senior member of the faculty spent so much time travelling and lecturing around the world, that he rarely had time to review or discuss work carefully with students.
The Sexual Predator Faculty: Are women treated as young philosophers and aspiring professionals, or do faculty regularly view them as a potential source for dates and sexual liasons? It's a bit shocking to realize that this is still a live issue in some departments, but, sadly, it is. Are faculty-student sexual relations common in the department? What happens when the relations end? Are there repeated cases of sexual harassment complaints against faculty in the department? Do they ever result in discipline? I suppose it is possible this could be an issue for male students, but all the reports I've gotten over the years have been from women victimized by male faculty.
The Nasty Faculty: Talented philosophers and scholars often differ, dramatically, in how pleasant they are personally and professionally. I recall the story of one department where a member of the faculty was known to reduce students to tears in seminar. In another department, a faculty member regularly refuses to work with students, even those interested in his areas; he works only with those he deems "worthy," and there are not many of them! In another department, faculty openly express doubts about the competence of the graduate students and their ability. Make sure the philosophers who seem most interesting to you don't fall into these categories!
The Factionalized Faculty: Many faculties are "factionalized," in the sense that there are sub-groups that rarely see "eye to eye" about departmental issues, from appointments to admissions. Where this becomes worrisome, though, for a prospective student is when certain members of the faculty who share interests and approaches control all the key resources--fellowships, resources for speakers etc.--and use that control to define "in" and "out" groups of faculty and students: students with the "wrong" philosophical interests or who express an interest in the "wrong" faculty members are denied access to important perks and support. This kind of ugly factionalization is less common, but it exists.
I wish it were possible to meaningfuly measure and evaluate faculties along these important dimensions, but, alas, it is not. I have no doubt there are many programs that are really exceptional for how pleasant they are as places to do graduate study, and the way for a prospective student to discover them is to talk to lots of current students.
It has been a mantra of those calling for Marquette political science professor John McAdams to be sanctioned for his blog criticisms of a philosophy teacher and graduate student, Cheryl Abbate, that as a student, Ms. Abbate was uniquely "vulnerable." Thus, the letter sent to Marquette by some number of Harvard philosophy graduate students stated:
Universities owe their graduate students—who are among the most vulnerable members of their communities—a guarantee of protection from this kind of treatment. But at Marquette, we were recently disturbed to learn, Cheryl Abbate was put in a position where her best option was to transfer out of her doctoral program.
We call on Marquette to articulate a clear policy for protecting its graduate students from abuses by more powerful members of its community.
As I noted at the time, the idea that universities have an obligation to protect teachers from criticism of their pedagogy by other members of the university is unworkable. But what I want to remark on here is the assumption that Ms. Abbate was "vulnerable" and Prof. McAdams was the "more powerful member" of the community. As a generalization, it is true that graduate students are more vulnerable to various professional and other setbacks than tenured faculty. But it wasn't true in this case, as should now be clear: It is McAdams who now faces the full might of the university as it tries to end his career, while Ms. Abbate has had the good fortune to move on to a much better PhD program, where she will hopefully flourish and move on into her own academic career. Assumptions about "vulnerability," like other stereotypes, may sometimes belie a more complex situation. And "protection of the vulnerable" can not, in any case, trump all other values, for when it does we end up with injustices like that at Marquette.
MOVING TO FRONT FROM LAST YEAR, SINCE TIMELY AGAIN (thanks to Prof. Inglis for the reminder):
Students admitted to graduate school have until April 15 to respond. You can't be made to respond sooner--let me know of schools violating that rule!--but if you can respond sooner that helps a lot of people! Philosopher Kristen Inglis (Pittsburgh), for example, writes:
Because many prospective philosophy graduate programs read this blog, I’d like to reiterate Anthony Laden’s and Keith DeRose’s suggestions that prospective graduate students aim to decline admissions offers in a timely way. As the chair of an Admissions committee, I agree with DeRose that nearly every program appreciates knowing as early as possible that an admitted student is declining an offer. Most importantly, declining an offer early greatly helps waitlisted students who are otherwise in the tricky position of having to decide whether to accept an offer or to wait to get off the waitlist at a better program.
Of course, no one is suggesting that prospective students decline offers before they’ve had the chance to gather the relevant information, think the decision through, and discuss the decision with their advisors. Still, if one knows before April 15 (most schools’ decision deadline) that she will decline an offer from school X, then she can do a good service by declining the offer from X before April 15.
MOVING TO FRONT FROM FEBRUARY 25--AN INTERESTING DISCUSSION IN THE COMMMENTS--SEE ESP. #25 FROM A COLLEAGUE OF MINE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS
Alan Patten, the editor of PPA and a professor of Politics at Princeton, kindly offered to answer some questions about editorial practices at PPA. My questions to him are bolded, his answers are in regular font.
PPA is unusual in that the Editor and Associate Editors do almost all the reviewing of submitted work. How and why does PPA use this model? And is the reviewing blind nonetheless?
When Marshall Cohen, Tom Nagel and Tim Scanlon founded the journal in 1971 they did not, I think, see themselves as creating a professional journal to serve or represent an already well-established subfield of philosophy. Rather, the journal was started in order to encourage members of several disciplines to publish work that reflected rigorously and critically about urgent public problems of the day, and in order to create a venue in which the exciting new work of the time in moral, political and legal philosophy could be published. The P&PA editorial model has its origins in the ferment of this time, in which, for better or worse, some of the questions of professional ethics in journal editing that we debate today were overshadowed by the urgent public problems of the day, and by the sense that the journal should encourage both established and younger scholars to take the intellectual and professional risks involved in contributing to what was essentially a new literature.
Over time, as the journal settled into its niche in the profession, questions about fairness in the editorial process came to loom more largely. After he took over from Marshall Cohen in 1999, Charles Beitz made blind reviewing a required part of the editorial process. Other editorial practices were revised under Beitz’s tenure, and I have continued to review and adjust them since I took over as editor in 2010. The journal’s website contains a statement on our editorial practices.
As you note, a distinctive feature of the journal is that much (although not all) of the reviewing of submissions is done by our group of associate editors. Because most reviewing is handled by this small group of people, who are distinguished scholars in their respective fields, the journal is able to maintain high and fairly uniform standards. The journal’s editorial model also encourages articles that are well written and that are not narrowly specialized or highly technical in character. And the fact that the Associate Editors have agreed in advance to handle much of the reviewing for the journal helps to speed up the decision-making process.
Someone wrote me alleging that in volumes 37 through 41, there were 57 papers, with the following characteristics: “Of those 57 papers, 17 had at least one author who received their doctorate from the same institution as the current Editor, Oxford. Another 13 were written by authors whose doctorates were from Harvard, where a number of editorial staff work or studied. The next most common place for authors to have received their doctorate is Princeton, where the journal is based. Of the ten papers in those five volumes published by authors who were last year employed by institutions in the western United States, four are by members of the editorial staff, three are by former visitors at Princeton, where the journal is based, and two are by people who were supervised by members of editorial staff. Only one of the ten has an author with no obvious links with editorial staff.” What should readers make of patterns like this? Are they worrisome? Should they be?
I`ve looked carefully at the first cluster of allegations about Harvard/Oxford/Princeton authors. Since your correspondent connects them with the current editor`s doctoral institution (Oxford), it makes more sense to look at volumes 38-42 (the years I have been editor) rather than 37-41. (I`ll briefly comment on 37-41 afterwards).
Out of the 57 articles in volumes 38-42, 25 had at least one author with a highest degree from either Harvard (13) or Oxford (12). This contrasts with the figure of 30 out of 57 arrived at by your correspondent. It’s also worth noting that 25 of the 62 authors were from Harvard or Oxford, so by this metric Harvard/Oxford accounts for 40% of our authors rather than the 53% figure generated by the previously reported measure. Moreover, the third most common PhD institution of P&PA authors in this period was Berkeley (6), not Princeton (4) which was tied with NYU for fourth.
The proportion of Harvard/Oxford authors (25 out of 62 (or 57)) is substantial so it’s worth trying to look deeper into the data. Right from the start of this discussion, I’ve worried that that the multi-disciplinary character of P&PA was being overlooked. Throughout the journal’s history a significant fraction of the articles were authored by people whose highest degree was not in philosophy. Political theorists, lawyers, and (to a lesser extent) social scientists of various stripes have been frequent contributors to the journal.
This multidisciplinarity matters in several ways to this discussion. For one thing, it makes it harder to believe that all of the people coming from a particular institution belong to the same network. I think we all recognize how important disciplinary boundaries can be for shaping networks. The second point is mainly about political theory, though I suspect a version of it may apply to academic law as well. Philosophers should not underestimate the plurality of ways in which political theory is approached, especially in the United States. Many major political theory programs don’t have a substantial presence in the kind of normative analytic political theory that tends to be published in P&PA.
Of our 62 recorded authors, 22 have their highest degrees in a discipline other than philosophy. This proportion is strikingly different, however, for Harvard and Oxford authors. Only 6 of the 13 Harvard authors have philosophy PhDs and only 5 of the 12 from Oxford took their DPhils in philosophy. If one were just comparing P&PA authors with philosophy PhDs, there really isn’t much of a difference between Harvard and Oxford and other leading institutions of our authors. The differences that there are can, I think, be explained by variation in the size, quality, and (especially) the intellectual focus of the different programs.
The main factor explaining the Harvard/Oxford numbers are the political theory authors we published with PhDs from these institutions. Harvard and (especially) Oxford are among a fairly small group of strong graduate programs that have consistently over the years trained political theory students who do the sort of analytic and normative work that the journal tends to publish. Of course, Harvard and Oxford are not the only political theory programs meeting this description. Princeton is another such program. But I take it that the people who think there is some kind of bias problem at P&PA are not complaining on behalf of Princeton Politics graduates, since this is the institutional home of the current and previous editor. Indeed, the dearth of publications by Princeton Politics authors during this period is an embarrassment to the bias hypothesis. More generally, if one just thinks about the papers authored by political theorists, the outsized presence of Harvard/Oxford doesn’t strike me as especially surprising if one factors in size, quality, intellectual focus, pluralism in the subfield, and the noisiness entailed by looking at only five years of data.
If one were to look at volumes 37-41 (as your correspondent does), then the Oxford number does indeed go up to 17 (although, by my count, the denominator goes up to 59). But the same basic explanation of the numbers still apply. 4 out of 5 of the 2009 Oxford authors have their doctorates in politics, a result that is comprehensible if one considers the size, quality, and distinctive intellectual focus of Oxford`s political theory program in the preceding decades. Moreover, if one looks at an even longer stretch of time, Vols 36-42, something like the pattern discernible in 38-42 reappears. The proportion of Harvard/Oxford authors is 40% and the proportion of papers with at least one Harvard/Oxford author is 46%.
Years ago, Marshall Cohen told me that PPA did have a policy of publishing pieces submitted by those on the editorial board with rather de minimis review. Is that still the policy? If not, do you know when it changed?
Submissions by people on our masthead have been fairly unusual while I`ve been editor – around ten in total I would guess (a number of which we did not publish). (We did appoint some associate editors and members of the editorial board who were previous authors in the journal, but I doubt that anybody would object to that).
Submissions by members of the editorial board are subjected to the same procedures as everyone else and enjoy no more presumption of acceptance than anything else we receive. Submissions by associate editors are slightly more complicated since these individuals do the lion`s share of reviewing for the journal.
There is some discussion of how we handle submissions by our associate editors in the statement on editorial practices. In general, these submissions are handled in the same way as other submissions (e.g. they are fully anonymized) except that, as a rule, at least one of the reviews is done by somebody who isn`t a current associate editor.
These are the editorial practices I inherited from my predecessor in 2010. I`ve made some minor adjustments in the procedures and may tend to rely even more than Beitz on outside readers when handling associate editor submissions. These special safeguards are something our associate editors want. When they do manage to publish something in the journal they don`t want blog commentators questioning whether their achievement is tainted somehow by our reviewing practices. Since they work together closely as journal colleagues, they also don`t appreciate being put in the awkward position of having to evaluate one another`s work.
How do you see PPA’s role in the profession as compared to Ethics, the other major journal publishing in similar areas?
I`d like to think that P&PA hasn`t completely lost touch with the original vision of the founders of the journal. We still aspire to publish work that is of the highest philosophical quality but that also engages directly or indirectly with important questions of public concern. We still anticipate publishing articles by authors from a range of different disciplines, and we still prefer articles written for a fairly broad audience rather than narrow and technical contributions to specific debates in some corner of the field. We don`t aspire to be the main journal representing a particular field or subfield, although we do recognize that publication in the journal has implications for professional opportunity and advancement and we are therefore committed to assessing all submissions in a way that is fair and unbiased.
I'm opening comments for further discussion, but I will moderate with a somewhat heavier hand. Since Prof. Patten has been kind enough to answer these questions, please engage the responses in a similar spirit and stick to substance. Thanks.
MOVING TO FRONT, GIVEN THE LIVELY DISCUSSION OF THE ADJUNCT ISSUE. MUCH OF THE DISCUSSION OF MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES APPEARS TO HAVE MIGRATED HERE.
In light of Peter Railton's important lecture that everyone is discussing, may I suggest that one topic worthy of discussion is mental illness, and the experiences of faculty and students in dealing with it, what support they have found from universities and their departments, and related issues. And whatever other issues arise, please, let's also take a hiatus from bashing the FP blog.
With over 1500 responses, more than 60% of respondents reported some diagnosis for mental illness, with almost one in four respondents mentioning depression in particular. There is substantial co-morbidity between depression and the various anxiety disorders, as there are among the anxiety disorders, so, e.g., the 24% that report depression may also include some of the 5% that checked social anxiety disorder or the 4% that chose OCD. I assume in a poll like this, people are not so perverse as to vote "strategically" or otherwise try to muck up the results. So I think we can conclude from this that the majority of faculty and students in philosophy have confronted some kind of mental illness in their lives. I've opened comments if readers have other thoughts about these sobering results.
Philosophy faculty and students: which, if any, psychological disorders have you been diagnosed with? Check all that apply.
...than the moderation on this blog already brings about:
If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind. Were an opinion a personal possession of no value except to the owner; if to be obstructed in the enjoyment of it were simply a private injury, it would make some difference whether the injury was inflicted only on a few persons or on many. But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.
Apart from purging apparent defamation and gratuitious insult and abuse, I am approving almost all comments in a Milllian spirit.
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)