...while a self-driving car kills its driver (maybe intentionally?) Joking aside, as I was discussing with Markus Gabriel recently at the Bonn Summer School on the "Hermeneutics of Suspicion," there is something very odd about sci-fi fantasies about domination by robots occupying philosophers when there is actual domination by states and ruling economic elites throughout the developed world. Imagine if equivalent intellectual energy were expended on the actual issues? (Earlier discussion.)
I was happy to be invited to contribute this to the inaugural issue of the Indian Journal of Legal Theory. The paradox is twofold: on the one hand, philosophy has no "results" it can report to the public that would guide its conduct; on the other hand, the public, including the supposedly "elite" sectors of the public, is quite clearly indifferent to the sorts of distinctions to which philosophers draw attention. The one thing philosophers do offer is "discursive hygiene," which, as lawyers show, sometimes matters to what public institutions do, though philosophers might learn from lawyers the importance of rhetoric (once upon a time, philosophers did know that!).
Courtesy of Clifford Sosis, as always. Prof. McNaughton, a Brit, is currently Professor of Philosophy at Florida State University; this part of his interview was quite amusing:
Most Americans I meet are delightful, and I love their positive attitude. I hugely enjoy the vast amount of classical music concerts in Tallahassee. And Jan and Feb can be nice. But the rest of the year it is a tropical hell-hole, crawling with alligators, poisonous spiders and snakes, disease-laden mosquitos, ticks, etc. One third of the US population believe either that Obama is the anti-Christ, or that he may be. Trump is hugely popular. The country is obsessed with guns; the crime rate is appalling, and the penal system barbaric. Plus, you don’t have any historical places to speak of and you have to travel vast distances to see nice landscape. The UK also has many faults (some of which have surfaced dramatically in the last week) but the countryside, climate, and culture make up for it. Plus, the things I dislike are at least familiar rather than alien. One thing I have learned in my years in USA is that, just because we share a language and a history, one should not assume we are culturally akin. I feel more at home in most parts of Western Europe than in the USA.
This proto-punk band out of Michigan in the late 1960s has always had a bit of a cult following ("kick out the jams, motherfuckers!"), though this later number is less-known (though apt for the Independence Day weekend in America, where the ruse even has a Presidential candidate the MC5 couldn't have conjured):
And for those wanting a more typical MC5 number, here's a live 1970 performance of "Ramblin' Rose":
Michael Rescorla (philosophy of mind & psychology, philosophy of language), Professor of Philosophy at the University of California at Santa Barbara, has accepted a senior offer from the Department of Philosophy at the University of California, Los Angeles.
This does guarantee "post-doc" funding to those who finish the PhD program in 5 years.
The overall changes to graduate funding at Notre Dame that included as one component this post-doc program were *not* good for Philosophy PhD students. As far as I know, every active PhD supervisor in the Notre Dame department who took a stand on the overall package of changes opposed the changes. So did the current PhD students in philosophy.
There's nothing inaccurate in what was posted nor in the links to the Notre Dame information about the post-docs. But there weren't changes that were good for philosophy.
August will be the last month of reduced summer rates due to reduced blogging; there is still one top spot ($300) available that month.
Rates go back to normal in September ($700/$600/$500); there is one top, one second from the top, and one third still available. Top spots are sold out for October, but there is one second and one third from the top still available. There is also still one top spot in each of November and December available, as well as some lower level spots.
Alexander Guerrero (political and legal philosophy), who is currently Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Law at the University of Pennsylvania, has been voted a tenured offer from the Department of Philosophy at Rutgers University, New Brunswick.
UPDATE: Guerrero has accepted the offer from Rutgers, to start September 1.
Politician Ron Johnson and columnist Christian Schneider have claimed that assault weapons don't need to be banned because they already are. They say this to deflect attention from the AR-15-style weapons used by the Orlando murderer, since his weapon was a semiautomatic, and since it shares the same kind of reloading mechanism used in many other kinds of rifles that are primarily used for sport — target or hunting — and does not deserve the pejorative "assault" adjective.
Weapons are tools of intent. Black-powder muzzle loaders are obviously weapons used with the intent to hunt, and to do so with particular skill, given opportunity. Bull-barrel blowback semiautomatic pistols are intended to hit targets accurately without reloading after every shot (I own one). Blowback and recoil-operated shotguns with tube magazines are intended to allow better chances to kill waterfowl in flight (as improved over older double-barrels).
And then there's a lightweight, gas-operated, rapid-fire semi-or-fully automatic that fires high-powered but small-bore cartridges, complete with high-capacity magazine and (usually) a field hand-grip/sight first designed by the U.S. government for the single-minded purpose of what is genially called "anti-personnel field combat." What would you call that?
If that murderer in Orlando had used a classic Gatling gun, it would not have been automatic or semiautomatic by contemporary parlance. It is a single-fire rapid-repeating mechanically driven weapon that, using the vocabulary of Johnson, et al, would not have been an "assault weapon."
Shame on them for using mere words to try and wash away obvious truths about what should be public policy.
All the best suggestions for improving the PGR have come, without exception, from those who contributed to it over the years. Almost all the other criticisms were on the spectrum from self-serving to silly. The PGR was a fabulous resource, unlike anything else in any field, that let prospective students in on the secret sociology of the hierarchy in the profession. I hope it can continue, but the “slave revolt” in philosophy exacerbated by the Internet is now a real obstacle.
Could you explain the term "slave revolt" for folks unfamiliar with Nietzsche?
By “slave revolt,” I’m alluding to Nietzsche’s idea that our Judeo-Christian morality arose from an inversion of previous values, an inversion that was self-interested, but in the interest of the “slaves,” literal and otherwise. I do think what’s happened in the last few years is that people who aren’t very good at philosophy and/or feel otherwise marginalized in the profession have taken to the Internet, and under various high-minded sounding moralized banners—equality, fairness, inclusiveness and so on—have launched an attack on the idea of philosophical excellence and smarts.
Now along comes the latest example, a presentation on "Prestige: The first and final hurdle for a more inclusive philosophy," though it might just as well have been called, "Excellence: The first and final hurdle for a more inclusive philosophy." The author, philosopher Helen De Cruz, has a PhD from the University of Gronignen, and is, I am guessing, concerned that those, like herself, from non-prestige departments are unfairly excluded from professional opportunities in philosophy. Now she herself is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Oxford Brookes University (not part of Oxford, but a separate institution in the same town), so she has done well, but might, of course, be doing better were if not for the supposed "prestige" bias.
Since I know nothing about her work, it may well be that Professor De Cruz is someone who has been a victim of pernicious "prestige" bias. Pernicious prestige bias is when someone thinks that because someone got a PhD from Fancy Pants University they must be competent (or, the reverse). That's bullshit and pernicious, of course, and the PGR upset that apple cart a long time ago. But what most cyber-complainers call "prestige bias" is that hiring departments prefer candidates from well-regarded departments. That's plainly true, but perhaps well-regarded departments are so-regarded because they are actually departments with very good faculty and very goods student? Prof. De Cruz never fairly considers that possibility. Non-pernicious prestige bias is simply a rational and time-saving heuristic for identifying candidates with excellent qualifications trained by excellent faculty, attributes that, in the PGR era, are well-tracked by what's now called "prestige." As Prof. De Cruz notes, "prestige" bias is a feature of academic hiring in all disciplines; the difference in philosophy is that it no longer simply tracks "brand name" universities, but now reflects where the strongest clusters of philosophers and students actually are. (In what other academic field does everyone know that two of the very best programs are at NYU and Rutgers? There is none.)
"Excellence" doesn't, in reality, exclude any demographic groups, except the mediocre.
[Hume] was...deeply and systematically concerned with issues and problems of religion -- especially as they concern the corruption of both philosophy and morality. These themes and issues inform much of what motivates and directs Hume's thought. They constitute, moreover, the strong, sturdy spine of Hume's thought and his intellectual achievement. The whole body of Hume's thought, like the Treatise itself, is to a considerable extent shaped, animated and directed by these core concerns and issues. Harris's study systematically obscures and distorts these features of Hume's fundamental motivation and thought and, as such, to use Harris's own language, does "harm" and poses a real "danger" to our understanding and appreciation of Hume's life, work, and achievement.
It's a bit astonishing that Cambridge University Press would publish something so misguided.
UPDATE: It has been pointed out to me that Professor Harris wrote a complimentary but critical review of Paul Russell's book on Hume making the case for the centrality of religion, and critique of religion, to Hume's corpus. That review is not, alas, on-line, but can be found in Philosophical Books 50 (January 2009): 38-46. So this is clearly a fault line in Hume scholarship, though the Russell position seems to me the more compelling, but readers interested in this debate should consult Prof. Harri's review of Russell. (Recall also this earlier review notice.)
He collects some useful links, and more or less makes the crucial point that the Brexit vote is a symptom of the dysfunctionality of the neoliberal model of capitalism (though without drawing very clearly the connection between racism and xenophobia and the latter).
Manuel Vargas, Professor of Philosophy at the University of San Francisco and a leading contributor to the philosophy of action (esp. issues about free will) as well as Latin American philosophy, has accepted a senior offer from the Department of Philosophy at the University of California, San Diego, to start in summer 2017 (Vargas also has interests in philosophy of law). With Vargas and Dana Nelkin, UCSD will become a leading choice for students interested in issues in philosophy of action and free will.
In 1964, the Republican Party made a fateful decision to “go hunting where the ducks are” in Barry Goldwater’s (in)famous words. Goldwater’s opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and that of some of his supporters may have been based on the sincere libertarian conviction that government should not tell businesses who they must serve and who they must consider hiring. Nevertheless, Goldwater and his allies were well aware that the vast majority of persons who opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and related measures did so because they supported a racist status quo. The end result was the modern Republican Party, an alliance of elites and interests who advanced intellectual respectable justifications for policies that the mass base of the party supported because they buttressed longstanding racial, religious and gender hierarchies....
These observations explain why the drive to have mainstream Republicans repudiate Trump is besides the point. The real issue is will Republicans repudiate Trump supporters and no longer hunt where those ducks are. The answer seems already clear. Trump is to be repudiated only because he speaks too directly and not because he is mobilizing the most bigoted forces in American politics. Republicans want to mobilize those forces as well. They have been doing so for years. But Republican political operatives want the more respectable forces in the party to lead the crusade through language that will, without making the direct bigoted appeals that turn off more affluent Republicans supporters, again signal an unwillingness to challenge existing status hierarchies. Should this happen, the repudiation of Donald Trump will have no lasting significance. A political culture in which a quarter to a third of the electorate is moved by race, gender and religious prejudice is a political culture headed towards a train wreck, regardless of the Supreme Court and regardless of the Constitution.
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!].)
ADDENDUM: The YDN piece suggests that five full professors in the Yale Department did not sign; they are clearly counting all those with courtesy appointments in philosophy (some of those did sign, as it happens, but several didn't--they may not even have known of it, I do not know). But of those whose tenure home is Philosophy, only two did not sign: Gendler (for legitimate reasons noted originally) and Karsten Harries (for reasons unknown).
Via Weinberg, I learn that the Chair in Philosophy of Religion at Rutgers, supported in part by a grant from the Templeton Foundation, is now official. Taking a somewhat longer view, this is an interesting development. William Alston, a philosopher of language and epistemologist who eventually became a leading figure in the "Analytic Christian Mafia" in philosophy (besides Alston, Alvin Plantinga, Robert Adams, Richard Swinburne, William Rowe, William Wainwright, George Mavrodes, and others were major players), taught at Rutgers in the early 1970s, though spent most of his career at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and Syracuse University. When Rutgers catapulted to the top ranks of philosophy departments in the late 1980s it was with the appointments of resolutely naturalistic and non-religious philosophers like Jerry Fodor and Stephen Stich. The renaissance in Anglophone metaphysics in the 1990s and afterwards, which often went hand-in-hand with philosophy of religion, reached Rutgers in the 2000s when, at one time, John Hawthorne, Ted Sider, and Dean Zimmerman were all members of the faculty. Zimmerman remains, and has become the anchor for the strong philosophy of religion presence at Rutgers as well.
I agree with John Martin Fischer (UC Riverside) about the reasons why, even from a non-theistic perspective, philosophy of religion is of interest. Alston (as well as Platinga, Adams et al.) were apologists for religious belief, of course, so one may hope that this new Chair will honor Fischer's vision of the importance of the field, and that philosophers of religion who do not only do apologetics will be considered.
Story here (with a link to the letter). One notable absence among the Yale faculty signatories is philosopher Tamar Gendler, who is also a Dean, and so presumably not in a position where she can take a public position on what may become a disciplinary matter under her jurisdiction. (I was not aware of this letter until this morning, though it is consistent with points I've already made.)
ANOTHER: A couple of readers point out that Prof. Mercer's affidavit consists mostly of "hearsay," i.e., she is reporting what others asserted. (Formally, hearsay is an "out-of-court statement offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted," as distinct from live testimony from a witness with personal knowledge of the matter.) That is certainly correct. But hearsay evidence is relevant evidence, and sometimes highly probative, especially when it comes from someone like Prof. Mercer well-placed to have had access to those with reliable knowledge. One might discount a single piece of hearsay evidence, but here there are multiple pieces of such evidence, conjoined with a fact, namely, that Prof. Pogge was sanctioned by Columbia for some kind of sexual misconduct. (In most jurisdictions, where judges are triers of fact, hearsay is much easier to admit into evidence than in the U.S.--though even in the U.S., hearsay is frequently admitted--because it is assumed that professional jurists will know how to discount the weight of such evidence when appropriate. In this instance, given the source and the variety of instances, the hearsay evidence is clearly probative.)
I should note, since some have inquired, that I have not signed the letter (initially, I didn't realize new names could be added). I've already made clear here my views about the allegations on more than one occasion. In addition, I was put off by the fact that a quarter of the initial signatories were repeat players with a track record of reckless accusations who will sign anything, regardless of the merits; this is unfortunate, given that enough allegations in this instance are meritorious. Finally, the most significant fact about the letter was that it was signed by all but two of Professor Pogge's tenured colleagues in the Philosophy Department (one of whom, Gendler, had very good reasons for not signing, as noted originally); others signing at this point (when there are already 700 signatures or thereabouts) seems to me just piling on for no real purpose. The condemnation by his colleagues who are closest to what has transpired is sufficiently damning in my view.
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)