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.
Philosopher Erin Kelly (Tufts) invited me to share her experience when she was a prospective graduate student:
Spring 1984 I visited Columbia University as a prospective graduate student. TP showed me the campus and encouraged me to come. After I left he followed up with a phone call. I told him I planned to enroll in the fall. He questioned me about my plans for the summer and, to my astonishment, he invited me to travel with him to Europe or South America. He also invited me to stay in his apartment prior to the beginning of the semester while I looked for an apartment. I declined both offers, but he insisted on sending me his keys.
I wanted to attend graduate school in philosophy and decided not to let TP’s inappropriate behavior prevent me from attending. I enrolled at Columbia and TP did not persist with any further invitations.
I know that many readers are concerned that, after the massacre of degenerate young people in Orlando by a 2nd-Amendment-freedom-lover affiliated with ISIS, there is a real risk that normal Republicans and Christians could be affected by the proliferation of Instantaneous Laser Incineration (ILI) technology. Obviously, the Framers of the Constitution were concerned with the threat of tyranny involved in state regulation of ILI. Thomas Jefferson,, for example, wrote in 1772:
If King George could have banned ILI, the cause of the American Patriots would have been lost.
Chief Justice Marshall of the U.S. Supreme Court, in the first major incineration decision after the War of Independence, concluded:
ILI weapons guarantee our liberty, as long as they aren't turned on the Supreme Court.
It is true, of course, that none of the Founding Fathers anticipated all the ways in which the "arms" protected by the 2nd Amendment might evolve. But even James Madison wrote in 1777:
There may come a time when the musket will be replaced by the mega-musket, a weapon that might not only obliterate the English army in New England, but obliterate England, and any of its allies. But that is the price of freedom. Even so, the ILI would be a step too far.
The wisdom of Jefferson and Madison should be respected, so I propose a reasonable solution to the current crisis involving the proliferation of ILIs:
(1) no members of ISIS or Al-Queda should be allowed to acquire Laser Incineration technology; and
(2) No convicted mass murderers should be allowed to acquire Laser Incineration technology.
There would, of course, be an exception for the Republicans leaders of the House and the Senate.
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.
I'm particularly pleased to report that my colleague Martha Nussbaum is the winner of the 2016 Kyoto Prize for "Thought and Ethics," previously awarded to Charles Taylor, Jurgen Habermas, W.V.O. Quine, and Karl Popper, among others.
A nicely done item from the Boston Globe. If you live in Ohio, Arizona, North Dakota, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, or North Carolina, the article makes it easy to send the article via social media to your Senator.
His unfavorable rating hits a new high (while Clinton's improves), and his poll numbers are collapsing, with Clinton now having a 12% lead. One thing about most Americans, they are nice and polite people, and Dopey Donald Chump is neither.
We realize he's the nominee of a freak show of a party--did you ever read AEI's Norm Ornstein?--but he's also the clearest threat to what remains of democracy in the American plutocracy. He's also a narcissistic sociopath, clown, and life-long fuck-up: ask anyone in the real estate business in New York over the last forty years. If he farts, you can ignore it. If he tweets, you can ignore it.
You should do so before civilization ends. We've just concluded the first election cycle in my lifetime in which an honest person who actually supports regular people has garnered millions of votes. That wasn't Hillary Clinton, and that wasn't Dopey Donald Chump. That humane candidate lost, alas. Hillary Clinton is reprehensible, a war-mongerer worthy of George W. Bush, a Nixon Republican, an empty vessel like her husband Bill. But at least the Clintons are parochially decent and mildly prudent plutocrats, unlike the mentally ill ignoramus whose opinings you report.
There's only one serious question about Dopey Donald Chump, the proto-fascist and narcissistic ignoramus worth contemplating. But it would not be polite to write about it here. So, please, just ignore him.
Tamar Schapiro (ethics), Associate Professor of Philosophy at Stanford University, has accepted a tenured offer from the Department of Philosophy at the Massachussetts Institute of Technology, where she has been a visiting professor during 2015-16.
From the victim and from the convicted assailant's mother. They are both worth reading. I guess I am more sympathetic to the view that the six-month sentence was light given the jury's findings, but I think far more ominous is the move to recall the judge for acting well within his legal discretion to take into account the defendant's past history. Such a move will only result in more harsh sentencing by more judges, which is not what America, the world leader in incarceration, needs.
Let me begin by thanking all the people who signed the Change.org petition to save the WIU philosophy major. Though I have signed quite a lot of petitions, I used to think signing them was silly, and now I know they are broadly ineffective. But what I didn’t anticipate was the feeling of emotional and psychological support the kind words of friends and strangers from across the globe could provide. So, thank you.
It will come as no surprise to those paying attention that the Board of Trustees has voted unanimously to authorize the elimination of philosophy and three other programs at Western Illinois University, but readers may be interested in how this happened so quickly over the last two weeks.
Gun control advocates contend that semiautomatic weapons like the AR-15 are a logical choice for mass shootings because of their ability to rapidly fire multiple high-velocity rounds. Defenders of the firearm [i.e., delusional morons] say it is misguided to blame a gun that is used by millions of owners across the country in a responsible manner.
The rifle is legal to buy in most states, including Florida. In 1994, Congress passed an assault weapons ban that prohibited manufacturing AR-15 for civilian sale with large-capacity magazines, bayonets or pistol grips. The ban limited, but did not end, sales of AR-15s. The weapons ban expired in 2004.
In a video taken by a bystander, more than 20 rounds can be heard being fired in rapid succession. This would indicate that the weapon had a magazine with a capacity commonly used in military service.
Like most states, Florida does not restrict the capacity of magazines. State bans have been ineffective: the shooters in San Bernardino used high capacity magazines despite California’s ban on semiautomatic rifles with magazines with more than 10 bullets.
I'm hopeful that Professor Pynes will post more about what's going on and what this vote will mean. There are three philosophy faculty, including Professor Pynes, though theirs is also a unionized faculty, which provides more protection in a situation like this. However, it is possible that those with less seniority may lose their positions as well.
Johnny Brennan at the ACLS has kindly sent alone the results of the latest competitions:
As our current competition season has come to an end and all fellows have been announced, I wanted to let you know of the 11 philosophers who were awarded one of our fellowships for their outstanding work. I thought you and your readers would be interested to know of their impressive accomplishments:
Roger Ariew, Professor, University of South Florida (with Erik-Jan Bos, Independent Scholar) ACLS Collaborative Research Fellowship A New Critical Edition and Complete English Translation of the Correspondence of René Descartes
Lauren Ashwell, Associate Professor, Bates College Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowship for Recently Tenured Scholars (for residence at Harvard University) Projection and Desire
Brendan de Kennessey, Doctoral Candidate, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship Joint Practical Deliberation
Joy Gordon, Ignacio Ellacuría, S.J. Chair in Social Ethics, Loyola University Chicago ACLS Fellowship Perfect Injustice: The United Nations Security Council and the Question of Legitimacy
Tyler Huismann, Doctoral Candidate, University of Colorado Boulder Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship Aristotle on Accidental Causation
Mary Kate McGowan, Luella LaMer Professorship of Women’s Studies and Professor of Philosophy, Wellesley College ACLS Fellowship Just Words: Speech and the Constitution of Harm
Andrew J. Mitchell, Associate Professor, Emory University (with Kevin C. Karnes, Professor of Music, Emory University) ACLS Collaborative Research Fellowship Wagner and the Subject of Redemption: Politics, Erotics, and Religion in the Music Dramas
Samuel Reis-Dennis, Doctoral Candidate, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship I Do Blame You: Responsibility in Real Life
Julia Staffel, Assistant Professor, Washington University in St. Louis ACLS Fellowship Unsettled Thoughts: Reasoning, Uncertainty, and Epistemology
Daniel Ludwig Sutherland, Associate Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago ACLS Fellowship Kant's Philosophy and the Question of Mathematical Knowledge
ADDENDUM: The list Mr. Brennan sent omitted one other recipient of a Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship, to Adriana Solomon, a PhD student in the History and Philosophy of Science program at the University of Notre Dame working on Newton. (Thanks to Graham Clay and Mousa Mohammadian for flagging this for me.)
...at IHE. There are a number of dubious claims in the article. None of what is happening is a conspiracy by the Board of Trustees; the leadership comes from President Robert Zimmer, a mathematician, who has a definite vision, and who has been, by all accounts I've heard, the real decision-maker who enjoys strong support from the Board. It is reasonable, in retrospect, to wonder whether all the building was a good investment, though I think it probably was. More controversial, and debatable, was the decision to make a massive investment during the past five years in an Institute for Molecular Engineering, a field where the University of Chicago had no investment previously. The cost of a couple of dozen faculty, many senior, and their labs must have been tens of millions of dollars. The IHE article also misstates the budget: the budget of the university (including the medical school but excluding the hospital) is about $2.6 billion. (The hospital actually makes a profit.)
A philosopher and historian of ideas, Professor White spent the bulk of his academic career at Harvard University and then the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton; the IAS memorial notice is here. His 1949 book Social Thought in America: The Revolt Against Formalism was probably his most important and influential, enjoying a wide audience among intellectual historians, legal scholars, and others.
This is an excellent book. Garrett provides a comprehensive yet concise introduction to Hume's thought that should be accessible to newcomers to Hume, including upper-level undergraduates. It is not especially ground-breaking; much of the book is based on work Garrett has published in papers over the past two decades and in his 1997 book, Cognition and Commitment in Hume's Philosophy. Nonetheless, even those already familiar with his work will find it illuminating to see how interpretations that were previously published separately fit into his unified interpretation of Hume's thought.
You can get your copy here! (And, yes, this is in the series I edit, so I am not an impartial observer.)
Let me introduce myself - I am Esmat Zeerak, a high school student based in Kabul, Afghanistan. I am really interested in learning and reading philosophy. I started reading philosophy books at an early age, around 11 years old, starting with the ancient texts of Aristotle and dialogues of Plato, from books that my brother had brought back from his college years in the U.S. Though I have learned a lot, and have immersed myself in these books, I know that I still have a lot more to read and understand.
The problem however is that I need guidance and recommendations and someone who I can regularly discuss the topics that I am reading with. I was hoping if you could be the person I could ask for guidance. I know that you might be a very busy person, and you may not have the time to have these discussions with me, however I would really appreciate it if you could share this email with your students or anyone who might be interested to have these discussions and provide guidance.
Please let me know and I would gladly answer any questions you may have!
I corresponded with Mr. Zeerak, and got his permission to post this. You may contact Mr. Zeerak at email@example.com (which is a great e-mail address!). I hope some readers will reach out to him.
Philosopher Brian Powell (Western Illinois) asked me to share this statement he wrote, and I am happy to do so:
In Defense of Philosophy
I first discovered philosophy in a public library in Kansas. I was wandering the stacks looking for something; I didn’t know what. All I knew was that I did not feel at home in the world—I didn’t care about the same things that the people around me cared about. I found Plato’s Republic and it saved my life. I’m here to testify that this sort of thing happens all the time: philosophy saves people’s lives. My best friend from Grad school found philosophy at a community college in rural Virginia. Having been introduced to Plato, Aristotle, Nietzsche, Marx, and Sartre, he stopped doing drugs and counted these, the great thinkers, as his new community—the community of scholars in which one lives the life of the mind.
Western Illinois University’s administration has recommended the elimination of the philosophy major. The Board of Trustees will vote on the matter Friday, June 10. I write in defense of the philosophy major.
As a philosophy professor at Western Illinois University, I have the privilege of introducing hundreds of students to philosophy each year. Most of these students didn’t know there was such a thing as philosophy before entering my class, and many of them leave transformed. In the philosophy classroom they are lead to think more deeply and rigorously than they have ever done before. Some of these students find philosophy so transformative that they decide to pursue it as a major. These students, the majors and non-majors alike, become better thinkers and more reflective people. That’s what we do—philosophy professors—we show people how to think better and deeper and become more reflective people.
Philosophy is about asking the most fundamental questions: How should I live? What is justice? What is truth? How can we tell science from pseudoscience? In this way, we follow Socrates. After asking these questions we pursue the answers with the rigorous methods of careful reasoning. Good reasoning—that’s our real expertise—the study of good reasoning is called logic, and Aristotle was its most important ancient practitioner.
All of this has always been central to the academy. The academy even gets its name from the study of philosophy. It was the name of Plato’s school. Still today the highest degree conferred by any university is the Ph.D.—the doctor of philosophy. The university, higher education, the academy, the life of the mind—these began with philosophy. This is why the Provost’s Academic Enhancement Task Force identified philosophy as one of six foundational disciplines for Western Illinois University in the fall of 2015. A university that turns against philosophy appears to turn against its very foundation. This is why many of WIU’s most prominent emeriti professors have come out publicly against the elimination of the philosophy major.
Please consider contacting those listed below and asking them to retain the philosophy major at WIU.
Crain's has the basic facts, and notes (in an earlier piece linked in the new one) that the new cuts come on top of earlier ones. The article attributes the cuts to the building spree on the U Chicago campus, which has added a lot of attractive new facilities, though other sources around campus say much of this results from the huge investment in the new Institute for Molecular Engineering, a field in which the University previously had no presence at all. The Social Science Division is also facing an 8% cut as well.
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)