I've had a lot to say about Trump, not much about the Trump-Russia sideshow that's been raging in Washington, which has seemed to me either a non-story or a distraction. Trump's admiration for Putin is easy to explain purely in terms of his psychological disturbance, without recourse to any of the tall tales circulating. Of course, the Russia issue may finally turn some Republicans against Trump, which would be salutary, but that's a separate matter.
In any case, philosophy PhD student Philippe Lemoine (Cornell) has undertaken a rather detailed examination of the allegations and the evidence for them; here's his summary with links:
I've not read all of this, but what I have read is interesting and usefully documented. You can comment at Mr. Lemoine's blog on his analysis. Refreshingly, he writes elsewhere on his blog, "I don’t believe that I should be protected from criticism for what I say by the fact that I’m a graduate student."
Some of this ugly and stupid behavior is the pleasure in power of petty tyrants in their little bureaucratic realm, otherwise powerless individuals who now find others at their mercy and whim. But it is surely exacerbated by the signals sent by the Idiot in Chief. One important takeaway: academics on tourist visas in the U.S. can receive honoraria. (Thanks to Benj Helli for one of the pointers.)
I'd be curious to hear what experiences readers may have had coming into the U.S. since Trump took office and began his immigration rampage.
A number of friends and colleagues have been sharing this brief essay from the NYRB. The Nazi horror looms large over any discussion of fascism/authoritarianism for obvious reasons, and the author is right about the role exploitation of terroristic violence can play in authoritarian reversions, as happened in Nazi Germany. The essay omits mention of two rather important points, however, about the Nazi experience. First, the German Constitution had a clause specifically authorizing the suspension of all civil liberties, which was invoked after the Reichstag fire. The American Constitution has no such general clause, though Congress can suspend the right of habeus corpus (in the face of "rebellion" or "invasion" to protect "public safety"), which would be very serious. But Congress can not suspend freedom of speech, assembly and the press. (Note, however, that courts can decide that the state has a compelling reason to violate those individual rights, though it is very rare for them to do so. But this makes it more cumbersome for a would-be authoritarian to violate civil liberties.) Second, and this is also crucial, one can not forget the complicity of the German President, Hindenburg, in all this. For he alone had the stature with the military and the public at large to put a stop to Hitler, yet he aided and abetted Hitler's seizure of power at every turn. There is no one with similar stature in the American system, and there is every indication that the leading military figures, including those serving under Trump, believe in democracy, unlike Trump.
Two of my constitutional law colleagues, Tom Ginsburg and Aziz Huq, have examined how constitutional democracies slip into authoritarian regimes in comparative perspective (this is a shorter version of a longer academic paper to which they link in their essay).
I (Eleni Manis) conducted these interviews after leaving my job as a philosophy professor to work in government and the political arena. The Phil Skills website was built by Jitendra Subramanyam, a fellow Michigan philosophy PhD who runs his own IT consulting company. Stephanie Wykstra, who works on open science and data-sharing, contributed two interviews.
Moby Grape was the San Francisco/psychedelic band overshadowed by the Jefferrson Airplane, Grateful Dead, and Quicksilver Messenger Service, among others, but they produced two very fine albums in 1967 and 1968 (and to the extent they are remembered it's for this tune from the debut album, "Omaha"). But here's a great number from their second album:
How different are the standards for publishing in popular venues and trade publications from the standards for publishing in academic journals? For example, are submissions to multiple venues acceptable if the publication doesn’t explicitly prohibit this? Or do the standards vary too widely for this question to be useful?
One reason I ask is that The Chronicle of Higher Education said in October that they would publish a book review I submitted to them. I waited patiently, inquired a few times, and most recently the editor has said that she thinks the moment of the piece has passed (indeed!). This would never happen in an academic journal. I have little experience publishing in such venues…is this normal? (I recognize that you might not know because you don’t send out unsolicited work).
Mass media publications, even fairly specialized ones like CHE, are certainly very sensitive to the timing of pieces. I recently had occasion to send an unsolicited opinion piece about the Supreme Court; I was advised by someone with experience not to do simultaneous submissions. I had the advantage of having, through colleagues, an editorial contact at each publication. The first rejected it (they were deluged with pieces), but did so promptly. The second newspaper took the piece, but is holding it until the Gorsuch hearings are set to begin. That seemed smart to me, since the days after his nomination were awash with pieces, and the content of this piece makes it apt for the start of the hearings. So that is my experience with unsolicited submissions.
But it would be useful to hear from others about their experiences, and their answers to the posed questions.
There is a serious point underlying these parodies: Trump is barely literate, he makes George W. Bush look like a world-class orator. Trump is a bad human being, who wants to do many bad things, but those observing him have to resist over-analyzing his oral expressions: we are dealing with an inept middle school student when it comes to the spoken word.
A colleague elsewhere writes: "We’ve had two full-timer admins for 6 years. One was assigned centrally to the day-to-day operations of the graduate program. That admin left for a better paying job, and we were denied a request to hire a replacement. The Dean’s judgment is that we do not need a second admin." This philosopher wondered what the norm was. To make this more concrete, this is a PhD program with about 15 full-time faculty, several lecturers, around 30 PhD students at any given time typically, and not quite 100 undergraduate majors. For those working in PhD programs, what are the norms where you are--please give rough estimates about the size of the program along the lines of the preceding, as well as noting how much administrative support is available.
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.
UPDATE: So with over 600 votes, here's what readers had to say:
As a reader of the blog, how important to you are the "readers seeking advice" threads with open comment sections?
Very important, one of the main reasons I read the blog.
Here's a compilation of some reported incidents that should be alarming. One assumes that in most or all these cases there were no repercussions for the speech, but the idea that they would even be reported and scrutinized is bizarre.
This is a pretty significant revision of a draft paper I first posted in 2013. It gives a good bit of attention to the reactive attitude of "revenge" that polite philosophers usually ignore. The abstract:
This is a substantial revision (especially in its second half) of a paper first posted in 2013. I offer an interpretation of Nietzsche’s striking idea of “the innocence of becoming” (die Unschuld des Werdens), and a partial defense of its import, namely, that no one is ever morally responsible or guilty for what they do and that many of the so-called “reactive attitudes” are misplaced. I focus primarily, though not exclusively, on the arguments as set out in Twilight of the Idols. First, there is Nietzsche’s hypothesis, partly psychological and partly historical or anthropological, that the ideas of “free” action or free will, and of responsibility for actions freely chosen or willed, were introduced primarily in order to justify punishment (“[m]en were considered ‘free’ so that they might be judged and punished”). Call this the Genetic Thesis about Free Will. Second, there is Nietzsche’s claim that the moral psychology, or “psychology of the will” as he calls it, that underlies this picture is, in fact, false — that, in fact, it is not true that every action is willed or that it reflects a purpose or that it originates in consciousness. Call these, in aggregate, the Descriptive Thesis about the Will. (Here I draw on earlier work.) Finally, there is articulation of a programmatic agenda, namely, to restore the “innocence of becoming” by getting rid of guilt and punishment based on guilt — not primarily because ascriptions of guilt and responsibility are false (though they are), but because a world understood as “innocent,” one understood in terms of “natural” cause and effect, is a better world in which to live. I focus in particular on a reactive attitude often ignored by philosophers, but of crucial importance for Nietzsche, namely, revenge. I aim to explain and defend Zarathustra’s recommendation: “Enemy’ you shall say, but not villain; sick you shall say, but not scoundrel; fool you shall say, but not sinner.” Nietzsche’s views are contrasted with those of important modern writers on these topics, especially P.F. Strawson and Derk Pereboom.
A psychiatrist responsible for the DSM definition says he does not, but the reasons given are not very good ones. (See an earlier discussion of this topic here.) He claims that Trump does not suffer distress and impairment connected to his personality traits (note that the psychiatrist does not deny he manifests those traits). He appears to confuse the fact that money and lawyers shield him from the worst consequences of his psychological peculiarities with the fact that he does not appear to be severely impaired in his profession. But the impairment is apparent in other ways: he doesn't appear to have real human relationships (he's on his third purchased wife), his relations with others are wholly instrumental, and despite inheriting a huge fortune and investing in New York real estate in the 1970s, he was never able to become a real player in the New York real estate market because others avoided him because of his problems. (This bears emphasizing: he was never one of the top ten developers in New York, and those folks would not deal with him. Anyone familiar with the NYC real estate market knows this!) We have less evidence about the distress he suffers, but it is hard not to interpret the bizarre tweeting and other outbursts as signs of serious distress, which he then tries to mend via public displays of various kinds.
Psychiatry is an epistemically feeble discipline, and the connotations of "mental illness" complicate things further. Let's drop the question of whether his narcissistic personality disorder is a mental illness. What's useful about the personality disorders, when they are useful at all, is that they do identify stable patterns of behavior that some people do exemplify. Trump is one. Having a narcissistic personality disorder may or may not be incompatible with being President--so far, the evidence is that he's quite impaired in his ability to govern, but that's all to the good given the mischief he would otherwise pursue were he more competent.
Besides being a massive violation of academic freedom, it's almost certainly unconstitutional for a state university to mandate this kind of political balance (which would require, among other things, an unconstitutional invasion of the privacy of faculty to elicit their political affiliations). I assume it won't be passed, and that if it is passed, it will be enjoined by a court right away and then struck down.
(Thanks to Michael Swanson for the pointer.)
UPDATE: More from CHE. There's already pushback in the legislature on this nonsense. Apparently the bill would rely only on voter registration records, exempting from consideration those not registered.
This is interesting, and far more real than fantasies about our robot overlords (as opposed to our actual capitalist overlords). What do readers know about these developments? (Thanks to Phil Gasper for the pointer.)
A philosopher elsewhere wrote seeking advice for an undergraduate student of hers interested in "conservative" political philosophy, but neither in the libertarian nor Thomist traditions. She explains:
My student is interested in exploring a kind of conservatism of which Burke is just one example – other examples might be John Kekes, maybe Roger Scruton, John Gray. His thinking is decidedly anti-liberal, but he is interested in constructive conservative thinking rather than mere anti-liberal critique. My student’s conservatism is not grounded in religion, so a Catholic-heavy institution might not be the best fit. Political science programs are not out of the question, but he’d be looking for programs where one can do serious political philosophy.
My sense is there isn't a lot of interest in Burke in philosophy departments with PhD programs, but correct me if I'm mistaken. Suggestions welcome; signed comments (full name) strongly preferred. And give some details/reasons, please, for the programs you recommend!
A new account at IHE of a familiar trend. But let's remember the context. Too bad, though, to see students flocking to the pseudo-science of economics at some colleges. Let them study real sciences at least!
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
In 1969, Humble Pie had one quite famous member (guitarist and vocalist Steve Marriott, formerly of the Small Faces) and one later to be very famous member (Peter Frampton), but their debut album, of which is the title song, enjoyed a lukewarm reception (though I commend the whole thing to any fans of this series):
...it would appear. His Facebook remarks are largely factually false, but his ignorant extramural rant is plainly constitutionally protected and so his university has no grounds for sanctioning him, as I trust they will not. But what a knuckle-head!
Timothy O'Connor (metaphysics, philosophy of action and mind, philosophy of religion), perhaps best-known as a leading contemporary defender of a libertarian account of free will, has accepted appointment as Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Baylor University, to begin this fall. That's a major catch for Baylor.
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)