One recent study found that adding more women to the syllabus didn't make much difference, which is what I would have expected. Anecdotally, I have had the impression that sexual harassment has been a major deterrent for female students, though lower levels of tolerance for this misconduct may help change that. But a senior female philosopher elsewhere writes with an interesting and different take:
My assessment of the undergrad women in philosophy thing: undergrad women get sick of being talked over and strawmanned by their peers in and out of the classroom, and get sick of classes where the male students endlessly hold forth about their own thoughts. Relatedly, they find many thought experiments overall less compelling perhaps because, (a) women may start out in philosophy feeling less impressed with a priori speculation in general, perhaps because of confidence issues and the topics, and more importantly (b) they are less able to receive credence for their thoughts about the thought experiments when they try to engage with their peers, and (c) a lot of it seems like just more blowhard bullshitting by a bunch of dudes, on esoteric topics that they aren’t really allowed to engage in fully (see (b)). (Metaphysics is really a lot like that. Trad epistemology too.)
I will say that over two decades of teaching, it has seemed to me that the students who speak out of proportion to what they have to say are overwhelmingly male. Maintaining control of the classroom, and creating a welcoming environment for all student contributions, can probably go some distance to rectifying this--but that, of course, supposes levels of pedagogical talent and sensitivity that many philosophy faculty probably lack. But I'm curious what readers make of this diagnosis.
...and they are A.W. Moore (Oxford) and Lucy O'Brien (UCL); their initial editorial is here and indicates their intention to broaden Mind's coverage, which would be welcome given its very narrow conception of philosophy in recent decades. Mind still has a poor reputation for the efficiency of its editorial process, and hopefully the new editors will rectify that as well.
The Trustee Committee report, in full, is here. It has interesting details both about his accomplishments (including securing the right to vote for women, and the 8-hour workday), his willingness to appoint Jews and Catholics to the faculty, and, of course, his virulent anti-Black racism. I have not read the entire report, I should note. If anyone has time to read it all, comments are open.
Brandeis's motion to dismiss the lawsuit brought by a gay student found to have violated the school's sexual harassment policies was denied; an excerpt from the linked article (which includes further links to the opinion):
A judge rebuked Brandeis University for denying fundamental due process rights to a student who was found guilty of sexual misconduct for a variety of non-violent offenses: most notably, because he had awakened his then-boyfriend with nonconsensual kisses.
The process that Brandeis employed to investigate the matter was "essentially secret and inquisitorial," according to Dennis Saylor, a federal judge who ruled that the accused student's lawsuit against Brandeis should continue.
This is a significant victory for advocates of due process in campus sexual misconduct investigations. It's also an implicit skewering of affirmative consent as official policy. The accused, "John Doe," was found responsible for stolen kisses, suggestive touches, and a wandering eye—all within the context of an established sexual relationship. His former partner and accuser, J.C., did not file a complaint with the university until well after the incidents took place. In fact, J.C.'s participation in Brandeis' "sexual assault training" program caused him to re-evaluate the relationship.
The two began dating in the fall of 2011. They broke up in the summer of 2013. In January 2014, J.C. made a two-sentence accusation against Doe, who was not informed of the nature of the charges against him. He was also denied a lawyer, the opportunity to evaluate evidence against him, and the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses, including his accuser. Brandeis uses the "special investigator" model to handle sexual assault disputes: a single administrator reviews the charges, investigates them, and makes a decision. There was no panel hearing. There was just one person's decision....
On your blog, you supplied a link to a NYT story about the likely fate of the West Antarctic ice sheet. As the article points out, it looks as though many of the world’s coastal cities (New York, Shanghai, Miami, Vancouver, etc.) will disappear within a century or so. Because of climatic effects like this Rajendra Pachauri, former head of the IPCC, has stated that climate change poses a threat to the “very social stability of human systems.” And yet many of us working on Climate Philosophy are struck by the fact that so few philosophers seem interested enough in the problem to turn their philosophical attention more pointedly to it. The overwhelming majority of scientists seem to think that civilization is truly on the brink, so what does it say about our discipline that only a small minority of us are writing about this? Aren’t we—along with the scientists, the artists, and many others--the keepers of civilization? Or is our relative silence here evidence that we have abandoned this role? I’d be eager to hear what other philosophers have to say about this.
I think Prof. Williston raises an interesting question, and I'll state my own view, which will no doubt be thought idiosyncratic (though won't be surprising to those who periodically read the papers of mine I link to!). First, with respect to many issues, including climate change, philosophers have almost nothing to add: in broad outline, it's clear what ought to be done to avert catastrophe (e.g., it's not like those ignoring the issue think it would be good for civilization to end!), and to the extent the details aren't clear, the questions needing answers are technical/instrumental ones about which philosophers typically have no competence. Second, philosophical arguments won't produce the needed action, since philosophical arguments are notoriously inefficacious in moving people, let alone governments, to moral action. Third, it has been the norm for Anglophone moral and political philosophy in the capitalist democracies to focus on topics unoffensive to capitalist imperatives, and indeed, to focus often on moral trivia (cf. my discussion of bourgeois normative theory at pp. 9 ff. here, and especially the discussion of "moral trivia" [like promises by college students concerning sex] at 20-22). So the fact that philosophers ignore climate change--even assuming that issue can be meaningfully discussed independent of the realities of global political economy--is hardly surprising.
I invite readers to comment on the questions raised by Prof. Williston, especially since I assume most do not share my views on these issues.
The specter of the quasi-fascist narcissist looms over everything these days, even outside the U.S.--when I was recently in Rome and Calabria, discussion invariably turned to Trump (and also to the corrosive and destructive effect years and years of Berlusconi had on Italy). Nate Silver has a useful analysis of how things can, and are likely to, go awry for Trump at the convention. Unless the Repugs end up nominating Kasich, the so-called "moderate" (though he appears far to the right of Trump on some issues, assuming one can have any idea what Trump stands for), this is all good news for the Democrats. Cruz will be considerably easier to beat, even for Clinton, than Trump.
Since I know a good number of philosophy undergraduates and graduates think about law school, this piece in The New York Times by my co-blogger at the Law School Reports might be of interest, since it offers a more nuanced look at changes in employment in the legal sector over the last 15 years more or less.
Jason Brennan (Georgetown) on his experience replying to critics (most recently, of his views about the adjunct problem):
The philosophy blogosphere has quite a few people, writing anonymously, who write nasty, angry, and dishonest invective against others, but then faint and cry if anyone says anything back to them in response, even if the responses are moderate.
UPDATE; David Velleman had a funny response to my April Fools' Joke: he wanted to write instead on "Bullying, Mud-Slinging, and other Schoolyard Skills for Philosophers." That would be great! I admit he knows quite a lot about this too (this is the guy, after all, who pioneered the selective publication of other people's private e-mails), and so could do a good job, especially on bullying graduate students. Noelle McAfee, alas, took the joke less well. But I'll put a few additional comments about "Lyin' Noelle" (where did I hear that?) over here, so as not to bore normal people.
There's a lively debate in the comments between Jamie Dreier and others regarding the standard of proof question at the FP blog. I linked in my original piece to the arguments of my colleague Geoffrey Stone, but let me quote his analysis here, since I think it states the case clearly and thus identifies the issues those on the other side of the question need to dispute:
To justify its insistence on the preponderance of the evidence standard, the Department of Education draws an analogy to civil actions in court. In the typical civil law suit for damages, whether the issue is a car accident, a breach of contract, or an assault, the standard is preponderance of the evidence. But this is a bad analogy.
For a college or university to expel a student for sexual assault is a matter of grave consequence both for the institution and for the student. Such an expulsion will haunt the students for the rest of his days, especially in the world of the Internet. Indeed, it may well destroy his chosen career prospects. This is especially likely, for example, for law students.
Moreover, the procedures used in these disciplinary hearings do not come close to those employed in civil actions, which involve judges, juries, rules of evidence, lawyers, discovery, and a host of other procedural protections designed to enhance the reliability of the proceedings. Even at their best, college and university disciplinary proceedings are a far cry from civil actions in terms of fairness to the accused.
Thus, although the Department of Education may well be right that “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” is unnecessary in these circumstances because there is no risk of imprisonment or a formal criminal record, it is completely unfair, in my judgment, for a college or university to suspend or expel a student on the ground that he committed a sexual assault if the institution is only 51 percent confident that he did so.
Branden Fitelson (formal epistemology, logic, decision theory, philosophy of science), formerly Professor of Philosophy at Rutgers University at New Brunswick, has accepted appointment as Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Northeastern University, along with Visiting Professor posts at both the University of Munich and the University of Amsterdam.
In talking with the CHE reporter for the article about Penn State, one question that came up was how seriously philosophy of race was taken at top PhD programs. (This did not make it into the article, alas, but it is perhaps of interest, since Penn State churning out PhDs in the area is not going to have the same impact as top PhD programs investing in the area.) I did a little investigating, and was struck by the fact of how many top PhD programs have added senior faculty in philosophy of race over the last decade: NYU, for example, appointed Anthony Appiah from Princeton; Michigan hired Derrick Darby from the University of Kansas; Harvard Philosophy cross-appointed Tommie Shelby from its African and African-American Studies Department; Columbia hired Robert Gooding-Williams from the Political Science Department here at Chicago; the CUNY Graduate Center hired Charles Mills from Northwestern (Mills also had an offer from Yale) (Hunter College also appointed Linda Alcoff, who works partly in philosophy of race, from Syracuse, and she also now as an appointment at the Graduate Center); and Wash U/St. Louis added Ron Mallon from Utah. A number of PGR-ranked PhD programs also added junior faculty who work in whole or in part in philosophy of race during this period. Prior to this investment, there was relatively little work being done in philosophy of race at top PhD programs: Howard McGary at Rutgers, Bernard Boxill at North Carolina (now retired), Appiah at Princeton, Sally Haslanger at MIT, Michael Hardimon at UC San Diego, and I think that was it.
We may now be at the point where philosophy of race is better-represented at the leading PhD programs in the U.S. than feminist philosophy (let alone Marxist philosophy, itself very telling), an interesting development. Of course, philosophy of race, feminist philosophy, and Marxist philosophy are all dwarfed by the investment of leading PhD programs in, for example, metaphysics! I suspect that, given the shape of the job market, and where the jobs are, that approach is going to prove unsustainable.
ADDENDUM: Elliott Sober (Wisconsin) writes with "an additional detail about philosophy of race": "Many philosophers of biology, myself included, include a discussion of race in their classes on philosophy of biology."
I have been hearing some interesting news about developments in the philosophy of mathematics. Can you do a thread on your blog on the question: "Has the Continuum Hypothesis been Solved? If, so, who solved it? If not, what has been the best attempt?".
The author is not a lawyer, and this shows in the one glaring mistake, which someone not reading carefully might not realize is not a point made either by Catherine Lahmon, the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in the Education Department, or by Prof. Nancy Cantalupo of Barry University Law School, both of whom are quoted in other parts of the post. The author writes:
[I]f Title IX complaints were held to a higher standard than a preponderance of the evidence when other civil rights claims are adjudicated by exactly that standard, then it would follow that complainants would be held to a higher standard, i.e., disadvantaged, on the basis of sex, i.e., they would be subject to sexual discrimination.
As I noted originally, under Title VII, employment discrimination claims are adjudicated by a preponderance of the evidence standard, so it is true that until 2011, Title IX complainants about sexual violence and assault did have to satisfy a higher standard of proof. But it is absurd to suggest that constitutes sex discrimination, since the application of the standard is completely gender neutral, just like Title IX itself. (Men are also victims of sexual violence, after all, and have the same standing to bring Title IX complaints as women.) The difference in standard is justified not on the grounds of the sex or gender of the complainants, but on the grounds that the penalties are much more like criminal penalties than civil damages, especially (but not only) in terms of stigma.
Prof. Cantalupo's piece does not really confront the latter point. She argues that the preponderance standard "is the most equal of all standards of proof" and gives two reasons: first, it "allows [alleged] survivors to prevail on their allegations as long as just over fifty percent of the evidence supports their allegations"; second, the higher "clear and convincing" standard gives a "heavy presumption in favor of the accused." The first point is irrelevant: it just states the preponderance standard (a bit inelegantly: it's not that 50% of the evidence must support the allegations, it's that the allegations must be more likely than not true, regardless of the distribution of evidence), but gives no explanation as to why this kind of equality ("51% equality"!) is relevant or desireable. That it makes it easier for alleged victims to prevail is neither here nor there absent an argument for a presumption in favor of complainants. The second point Prof.Canatalupo makes is correct, but she doesn't consider the reasons why such presumptions in favor of the accused are warranted: namely, when the penalties, including the stigma attached to a finding of fault, are severe. It is, of course, true that Title IX is framed as a civil rights statute, but unless one think definitional choices settle the hard questions, that's irrelevant: the question is whether a finding of fault for sexual assault or violence by a university is more like a civil penalty or more like a criminal one. My law school colleague Geoffrey Stone makes a good case for the higher standard of proof here, and I'm largely in agreement with what he says on this issue.
...if she had lived to see this. Ruth told me years ago that Butler had great difficulty passing the logic requirement in the Yale PhD program in philosophy, and finally, Ruth took pity, and gave her a pass. I had the sense she later regretted that. On Butler, Martha Nussbaum got it right many years ago. Critical Theory has been in a downward spiral for a long time now, but that an obscurantist posturing faker like Butler should be deemed its heir...oy veh.
The article is here. As often happens, it doesn't quite record what I said accurately. I pointed out that a lot of scholarship has been done on the racism of the canonical philosophers, but the value of doing that, which is clear, is a different issue from whether an undergraduate class should spend time on Kant's racism or his views about masturbation: it's the latter that is obviously an absurd waste of pedagogical time. Kant is not worth reading because of his racism or his views on masturbation, and classroom time should be devoted to the aspects of an author's work that make the author worth engaging.
Like many readers of this blog, I am frequently asked to referee journal submissions. Though I recommend acceptance only very rarely, I feel duty-bound to work as hard on something I agree to referee as I would on something I read for my own scholarship, trying to puzzle through the details of the central arguments and to figure out exactly where those arguments go wrong (when they do). As a result, I would guess that I usually spend 3 hours on a paper I'm refereeing, though often enough it is more than that, and I generally find myself with about two single-spaced pages worth of comments. I have never served on an editorial board, and so I have never been in a position to see a large number of referee reports. Reports that I've received on my own submissions suggest a wide variation in the time and effort other people put into refereeing. I'd be interested to hear from journal editors and other readers about what they think constitutes a conscientious effort.
My sense is this sounds like a responsible refereeing effort. But it would be useful to hear what others think.
The full document is available here, though the Executive Summary is quite accurate as to the contents. Apart from a largely irrelevant fixation on the "corporate university," it's an informative report, one that makes clear how the Assistant Secretaries for Civil Rights in the Department of Education have badly overreached their authority since 2011. The report argues, correctly in my judgment, that the OCR had no authority to simply change the standard of proof from "clear and convincing evidence" to "preponderance of evidence." (Note that the latter is the standard of proof in civil litigation, and also in the Title VII employment discrimination context. But without going through the normal "notice and comment" process for substantive changes to administrative regulations, the OCR should not have altered the standard unilaterally. Since findings of fault for sexual harassment and related misconduct is much more like findings of criminal liability, the standard of proof should not have been lowered in my view--especially given that the investigative and adjudication procedures are largely amateur affairs to begin with.)
The other important point the report makes is that the OCR has demonstrated a shocking indifference to First Amendment and academic freedom values in its promulgation of regulations and enforcement actions. We saw this most clearly, of course, in the disgraceful Kipnis affair at Northwestern.
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)