MOVING TO FRONT FROM YESTERDAY--PLEASE TAKE A MOMENT TO VOTE IF YOU HAVEN'T ALREADY!
These posts vary quite a bit--from students seeking advice about programs and applications, to faculty seeking advice about publishing, and so on. They've been a feature of the blog going back to near the beginning. They are also posts that always feature open comment sections, since reader input is being sought.
As a reader of the blog, how important to you is coverage of "philosophy in the news," e.g., links to interviews with philosophers, popular articles about philosophers or philosophical topics, and the like?
Very important, one of the main reasons I read the blog
MOVING TO FRONT FROM YESTERDAY: PLEASE VOTE, IF YOU HAVEN'T, I'LL LET THIS RUN THROUGH THE EVENING
UPDATE: So with over 900 votes, here are the results:
As a reader of the blog, how important to you is political commentary and related links?
Very important, one of the main reasons I read the blog
Importnat, I like/enjoy the political commentary and related links
Unimportant, I read the blog for other reasons
This is useful information me--there is a higher level of interest in the political blogging than I would have anticipated. I trust those with no interest in that find it easy enough to skip or ignore it.
As I mentioned awhile back, I am going to be polling the readership to get a sense of which content is particularly important to readers. This first poll concerns postings about "faculty news," such as hires, moves, awards and the like. (There will be a separate poll for links to articles by philosophers, interviews with philosophers etc.--this poll just concerns things like who is moving from where to where, who is retiring, who received an important prize etc.) My old polling service seems to have disappeared from the web, so I'm trying a new service for this first one.
UPDATE: So over 700 readers voted during the last 12 hours (you other 8-9,000 free riders still have a chance!), and here's the results:
Very important, one of the main reasons I read the blog
Important, I like to have this information
Unimportant, I read the blog for other reasons
I'll let this run another day, but this is a useful response, confirming what I suspected based on earlier polls about how many readers were in academic philosophy, and how many not. Thanks!
Unsurprisingly, philosophy was the primary academic field of readers (with over 700 votes, accounting for not quite two-thirds of the responses). 5% come from law (59 votes), while 14% are neither faculty nor students (135 votes). 3% (33 votes) study or teach English, Comparative Literature or foreign languages & literatures, while 2% (28) come from Political Science or Public Policy. The 1% in many other fields conceals differentials in vote totals, ranging from 17 votes in each of History, Medicine, and Psychology/Cognitive Science, to just 6 in Computer Science. I'm pleased that the blog is of interest to a significant number from other academic disciplines, as well as to those outside the academy.
It's now on-line, and will be taking me to to the cities/towns of Hamilton, Vienna, Belgrade, Toronto, Syracuse, Tel-Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem, Durham (North Carolina), Iowa City, and Ann Arbor, among other places--sometimes to law faculties, sometimes to philosophy, sometimes both. I look forward to meeting readers I may not have met previously! Please introduce yourselves.
A couple of weeks back, I had the privilege of visiting Springfield, Missouri, for a public lecture on "Why Tolerate Religion?", and then meetings with students at the three colleges there: Missouri State University; Drury University; and Evangel University. (As a sidenote, it was the Templeton Foundation and the Institute for Humane Studies that made my visit possible, plus the excellent organizing of Prof. Brandon Schmidly from Evangel. And if you're in Springfield, make sure to go to Bruno's, great linguine & clams, and apparently everybody else enjoyed their pizzas, calzones etc. [thanks to Daniel Kaufman from MSU for taking us there!].)
I'll be on Gurvey's Law tomorrow (Saturday) from 2-3 pm Pacific time, 790 KABC talk radio. Not sure whether it is live-streamed. I had an enjoyable conversation with Mr. Gurvey, who studied philosophy as an undergraduate Brown (wrote a senior thesis with Dan Brock I learned on omissions and consequentialism) before becoming a lawyer. We cover a lot of territory, from Nietzsche to legal positivism and more.
On Facebook, I've got, broadly speaking, three "kinds" of friends: academic lawyers, academic philosophers, and regular people (the latter category including some lawyers, relatives, neighbors etc.). The FB habits of these three groups are strikingly different.
Regular people use FB the way I thought it was supposed to be used (and the reason I joined): to post photos of kids and pets, recent vacations, occasionally a bit of personal or professional news. Academic philosophers do a little of that, and so do academic lawyers, but for most of them, that's only a small portion of their posting.
Academic philosophers increasingly treat FB like a blog, a forum for pontification about everything from real politics to academic politics. Until I realized I could "unfollow" people without "unfriending" them, I dumped a fair number of academic philosophers because their pontifications were so tiresome. My advice: get a blog! Anyone who wants to read me pontificating, can come here, but I don't impose it on my FB friends.
Academic lawyers do a fair bit of pontificating too, though not nearly as much as the academic philosophers, and theirs is almost always confined to real politics. The really revolting aspect of some academic philosopher behavior on FB is its "high school with tenure" quality: back-stabbing, preening and posturing, endless displays of righteousness and "pearl clutching", faux solidarity with all the oppressed and "wretched of the academy" (less often the actual wretched of the earth), and so on. An awful lot of academic philosophers on FB come across as teenagers desperately seeking approval and affirmation. I've managed to "unfriend" most of the offenders, but it was really a kind of depressing and sickening spectacle while it lasted.
It's evidence of how little I know about blogs that I didn't realize there wasn't an option for subscribing to a "feed" for this blog. Now there is here. You can also get to it via the link, "Subscribe in a reader" in the left hand column, below all the ads and links.
A couple of readers have inquired about the Sitemeter stats, which now report this blog as having over 100,000 hits per day (compared to about 9,000 hits per day before it went mad, which is still above average for summer). The recent Sitemeter reports are inaccurate, and we still can't figure out what happened. For those interested, Statcounter appears to be giving accurate reports--click on "Public Stats" in the lower left column.
Bear that in mind the next time you hear talk of the right-wing "Chicago School." Even David Bernstein (George Mason), right-wing defender of the Jews against everyone (including other Jews), has noted our political diversity (scroll down to the update of his latest rant).
11% of readers are adjunct faculty, while 27% are tenure-stream. I was struck by the large number of readers in other professions, such as law and computing. I'd be curious to hear what some of the readers who chose "none of the above" do. Comments are open.
I'm interested to hear how some of the "none of the above" would describe their political ideology or outlook. I note the results aren't that different from a similar poll about 4 1/2 years ago--slight decline in fascist readers, though!
MOVING TO FRONT (POLL ORIGINALLY POSTED FEBRUARY 7) AND OPENING COMMENTS FOR DISCUSSION (AT REQUEST OF VARIOUS READERS)
Report only your income from all sources (stipends, teaching, royalties, investments, etc.); if you have no income of your own (e.g., because you are supported by parents or a spouse) then choose the first option.
UPDATE: So with almost 1700 votes, here are the results:
No annual income: 8% (135)
Less than $20,000: 19% (326)
$20,001-$30,000: 14% (236)
$30,001-$40,000: 7% (123)
$40,001-$50,000: 5% (92)
$50,001-$75,000: 16% (270)
$75,001-$100,000: 12% (200)
$100,001-$150,000: 8% (138)
$150,000-$200,000: 3% (58)
$200,001-$300,000: 3% (50)
$301,000-$500,000: 1% (22)
Over $500,000: 2% (38)
Put differently (and assuming, perhaps wrongly, that all income levels responded proportionately to the poll): 26% of readers earn between $20,000 and $50,000, and 16% of readers earn more than $100,000.
Choose the category below that best fits your religion (or non-religious) beliefs/commitments:
(UPDATE: I made an error below for the Muslim choices: "Shia Muslin" should have been "Sunni Muslim." If you identify as a Shiite Muslim, choose that one, and if you identify as a Sunni Muslim please chose "Shia"--sorry about that, but once the poll starts, I can't edit it without losing all the votes.)
UPDATE: So with over 1500 votes cast since Friday, 89% of respondents were male, 11% were female. About 16% of tenure-stream faculty are female (at least in the US), though my impression is a higher percentage of current graduate students are female. It would be interesting to know the gender breakdown at other blogs. (Far more than 11% of commenters here are female, interestingly.)
...both the Law School and Philosophy Department for having me out the last few days, I had a great time in both places, and not only because of the lovely weather! I got excellent questions and feedback at both units on two different papers, and was grateful for the terrific hospitality on top of that. I also had a chance to have a long talk with my co-editor, Brit Brogaard, about the future of the PGR, and we should have some announcements before too long about plans going forward.
Students and colleagues periodically pointed out that my academia.edu site was several years out of date; I finally got around to updating it with a current CV and a list of recent and upcoming talks, for anyone who is interested.
...but I've been on the road (in California) first here and then here.
Visiting the wonderful UCR Department, as I've been fortunate to do several times in recent years, prompts some reflections on our field and also on the interests in the Continental traditions that I share with many others. There are, fortunately, lots of good places in the U.S. these days for students interested in Kant and post-Kantian European philosophy--Columbia, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Brown, BU and, in many ways, Chicago--but UCR is as good as any of them, and may be the best. It's not just that they have a first-rate group of scholars working on Kant and post-Kantian European philosophy (Clark, Keller, Reath, Wrathall)--and an impressive group of grad students as well--but that everyone in the Department is interested in philosophy, meaning that those with primarily "Continental" interests are conversant with "analytic" philosophy and other parts of the history of philosophy, and vice versa.
The term "pluralism" has, alas, been debased to the point that everyone now knows it is usually a code word for "crappy philosophy is welcome here." But if it had not been devalued, then it would apply to UCR, though I think the more appropriate appellation is that UCR is an actual philosophy department, in which everyone is interested in philosophy, even if different figures or themes are more important for some than others. When I left UT Austin some six years ago, part of the reason was that it had ceased to be a department of philosophy and had become something more like a "Department of Logic & Metaphysics," where that meant recent logic and metaphysics. That's fine, UT Austin has become a leading Department of "Logic & Metaphysics" in the recent 'analytic' tradition. I am (to the annoyance of my critics) a fan of the "analytic" tradition, but mostly I am a fan of philosophy, and most of the really important philosophy is not, by my lights, to be found in "recent logic and metaphysics".
The field needs more places like UCR. (The world needs more places with decent weather, but that's a separate issue!)
UPDATE: One current PhD student at UT Austin not working in M&E/Language/Mind/Logic wrote to say he felt the department was more supportive of his work than my commentary would suggest. I am happy to hear that, and I hope other students feel the same way.
The good, the bad, and the ugly. (This is a comment on the quality of the reviews, not the verdicts they reach!) You would think a very clear, 185-page book would generate more consistently competent reviews, but the topic of religion, alas, seems to be an obstacle.
Two years ago I took part in panel in a conference on progress in
philosophy. (The contributions of me,
Jennifer Nagel and Dave Chalmers are still online -- I had a tech fail in recording Pettit’s contribution). My view was and is that philosophical
progress is robust – the growth is Fibonacci (think of a tree branching). Just speaking from what I’ve seen in areas of
philosophy that I am familiar with, the grown and development has been astounding
over the last thirty years.
Fibonacci growth is impressive, but is it enough? The second part of my talk was that it is not
Many people are familiar with Kurzweil’s thesis about the
exponential growth in technology leading to a kind of technological
singularity. Singularity happens when you hit the elbow in
the exponential curve and the curve effectively shoot straight up (or appears
to). If that is right, then the
technological curve is pulling away from the philosophy curve very rapidly and
is about to leave it completely behind.
What that means is that our technology is going to leave our critical
thinking skills behind. You may think
that is already happening, and I agree: I’m just saying the problem is about to
get much worse.
It doesn’t have to get worse. The only reason that technology grows
exponentially is that we keep feeding it resources. The only reason philosophy doesn’t is that we
starve it for resources (we don’t have enough bodies to throw at philosophical
problems). I say we need to seriously
think about redistributing resources away from technological development and
into philosophy, and allow philosophy departments to grow new programs that
focus on new technologies and their development. Why would anyone do this? Well, someone needs to make vivid what can go
wrong if we don’t. One idea is that if
we don’t understand technology we become alienated from it – a view that I floated
So here are some questions for discussion. Is philosophy making the kind of progress I
believe it is? Is technology pulling
away from us as Kurzweil believes it is?
Is this a problem? Can we fix
it? If so, how?
A journal recently sent me an automated request to referee a manuscript, which, unfortunately, I could not do within the parameters offered. From the salutation, I learned how the editors keep track of me:
Of course, I don't know if particular groups responded at differential rates. But on the assumption this is a representative sample, 68% of respondents are in philosophy, as faculty or students; 39% of readers are academic faculty in one field or another (40% are teachers of some kind); and the non-academic readership is somewhere around 10-15%. I appreciate all the comments from readers, especially those who chose 'other,' and I find it very gratifying that these readers find a way to stay connected with philosophy via this site.
I'm also opening comments. No need to sign your name, though please use a distinctive 'handle,' so we don't have a thread full of "anons" (e.g., "Indiana undergrad in philosophy," or "Jerry B" etc.). Feel free to offer a bit more detail than the poll above permits (esp. if you check 'other') and/or to say what you mostly come here to read. Thanks.
This blog is, remarkably, ten years old today. It's the most widely read philosophy blog in the world, as best I can tell, with nearly 23 million visits and more than 30 million page views during its decade of life (I recall how surprising it was the first time it got 200 hits in one day way back in 2003! Now, even in the summer, it's running an average of 10,000 hits per day). Issues raised here have made it into The New York Times, The Guardian, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Education, The Boston Globe, and many other traditional media. My thanks to all you readers for making it a success and making it worth continuing.
Here's three things I never would have guessed way back in 2003:
1. The extent to which blogs would become part of the mainstream of the profession.
2. The extent to which academic philosophers, though overall a more enlightened group, would still have representatives of every political and moral pathology of the United States. (I shall have to do another survey of the readership like this one from a few years ago.)
3. The extent to which airing on the Internet the kind of moral and political views I express all the time to friends and colleagues would make me an object of widespread cyber-vilification--yes, in retrospect, I realize that was naive. Cyberspace, alas, enables an extraordinary amount of shameless defamation by people with political or philosophical axes to grind; and American libel and cyber-law mostly gives them cover.
I've posted some reflections at various milestones in the past, but the realization that ten years have passed inspires more verbosity. I've put most of it below the fold, to spare those of you who are not interested.
...either because of this or this, not sure which. Money quotes:
"[O]ne of the most troubling and intellectually discreditable books by a serious American scholar in some time."--Family Research Council
"Students and scholars likely will be citing Leiter's clear and powerful arguments for many years."--Choice
(For non-US readers: Choice is widely used by libraries in deciding what to purchase; the Family Research Council is the main policy arm of the far right Christian movement in the U.S.)
UPDATE: My thanks to Brandon Conley for posting a sensible reply at the FRC blog. Still, I am trying to persuade PUP to use the FRB blurb, above, in promotional materials!
ANOTHER (May 5): There was a second comment pointing out the obvious, that the FRC author had not read the book, but that comment has disappeared. So just in case, here is Mr. Conley's comment from the FRC site, which, happily, is still there:
This review willfully misrepresents Leiter's aim as one of criticizing freedom of religious practice without persecution when Leiter's actual target is the idea that religious practices should receive preferential treatment by being exempted from laws designed for the common good. Here's a quote from an honest synopsis of the book displaying the kinds of questions it tackles:
" Why, for example, can a religious soup kitchen get an exemption from zoning laws in order to expand its facilities to better serve the needy, while a secular soup kitchen with the same goal cannot? Why is a Sikh boy permitted to wear his ceremonial dagger to school while any other boy could be expelled for packing a knife? Why are religious obligations that conflict with the law accorded special toleration while other obligations of conscience are not?"
In other words, Leiter is arguing for equal treatment of all claims of conscience, whether secular or religious. Since by far the most persecuted religious affiliation in the U.S. is atheism (in many states it is illegal for an atheist to hold public office), these questions are important to ask. The FCR is employing the all to common tactic of painting an argument against special treatment as an argument for persecution.
...I want to confirm that I have withdrawn from consideration for the vacant position in Rome.
UPDATE: Michael Otsuka (UCL) writes: "Since the last pope had a twitter account, I think the next pope will be a blogger. And you could have declared that everything you post is ex cathedra, in order to shut up Vatican censors."
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)