Best-known for his scholarship on Hegel and on Aristotle, Prof. Brinkmann taught for two decades at Boston University. He passed away last month. There is a brief memorial notice from the BU Department here.
So 22% were pleased, at least in some measure, with the awards, while 61% were displeased, at least in some measure, with the allocation. Of course, the more significant question is why those who voted responded as they did. As a philosopher elsewhere wrote to me while the poll was going on:
Given how the results of the poll are going, it may be interesting to ask why people are not happy with how the money is being awarded. My assumption would be that 7/9 of the projects, if not 8/9 or 9/9 depending on why they supported the comedy conference and non-academic jobs database, are pretty firmly situated within the realm of identity politics and "advances the discipline of philosophy" in a very narrow way (and in the same narrow way).
That's a plausible suggestion, and it may be that those who voted favorably think that "diversity and inclusion" are the primary issues the APA needs to be addressing right now. In any case, it would be good to hear from readers who voted favorably and unfavorably about their reasons.
The full list is here. Like last year, the awards are a bit puzzling, but it's hard to know how to interpret them without information about who else applied. Five of the seven programs receiving awards under the heading "Small Grants" seem to be related to "diversity and inclusion," for which there are two separate grants so listed as well. The total amount for these seven programs is nearly $35,000. I assume most of the money for these projects comes from a combination of dues and registration fees at the APA conferences. Please take a moment to look over the list of projects awarded money, and then respond to the following poll regarding your opinion of how the APA is awarding money.
While sometimes unavoidable, anonymity in online posts should be used judiciously.
In what possible sense is anonymity "sometimes unavoidable"? One can either post using one's name or not. And what constitutes "judicious" usage of anonymity? Surely, for example, a blog like Feminist Philosophers with many pseudonymous posters operating for years under their pseudonyms--e.g., "Philodaria," "Monkey," "Magical Ersatz," "Lady Day," "Prof Manners"--are not using anonymity "judiciously" but continuously, effectively shielding themselves from being accountable for what they write. And such anonymity is clearly avoidable, as others (for example, the philosophers Anne Jacobson and Jennifer Saul) post under their own names at the very same blog.
According to the Times article, Rorty thought that when his prediction came true, some of the blame would go to academics, who would be at least partially to blame because "in universities, cultural and identity politics replaced the politics of change and economic justice." If academics do bear some responsibility for Trump's election, it must be because adherents of "cultural and identity politics" in the universities have some influence on the agendas of the political activists and candidates who overlooked what Trump saw. Perhaps they do. But if so, this raises the questions why so much of political philosophy -- in which questions of equality and distributive justice have been the focus of intense interest since the publication of A Theory of Justice -- has had so little impact and of how it might have more.
I have some idea of how ideas get translated into agendas and policies through a network of think tanks on the right. At a time when what passes for the left in American politics is trying to figure out how to speak to the discontent Rorty described, is there an opportunity for political philosophy to contribute? And if so, how? Perhaps philosophy's lack of influence is explained, in part, by the fact that I and many others have no idea how to answer these questions. But it would be interesting to hear from people who do.
A couple of observations of my own, but comments are open for reactions and thoughts about Prof. Weithman's question. First, I'm not sure Rorty's causal hypothesis is accurate: the cultural and identity politics rampant in parts of the academy in the 1980s (and now having even reached academic philosophy) had a separate life outside the academy, and a pre-history outside the academy, with, e.g., civil rights movements for women, African-Americans and gays. Second, what has been influential with right-wing think tanks has not been normative political philosophy, but certain economic theories, which presented themselves as identifying means for purportedly uncontroversial ends. Of course, the triumph of "Chicago school" economics in the Reagan era had more to do with the fact that it matched the short-term interests of the ruling class, not with its intellectual merits. Third, there are few if any examples I can think of where normative political philosophy had a direct impact on policy, but perhaps some readers will have examples. Again, other responses to the issues raised by Prof. Weithman are welcome.
More here. I think it's worth noting, given the APA's recent bad behavior, that Prof. Audi has had nothing to do with the absurd turn things have taken at that benighted organization. (Examples of the recent bad behavior include this, this, this, and this.)
I'd be curious to hear from readers about the "other fields not mentioned" (it occurs to me religion or theology may have been a common one). Natural sciences accounted for 26% of the responses, social sciences for 22%, and the humanities for 25%. English got the most votes (14%) followed by Law (12%) (the latter result may be skewed by my readership, which may be higher among law & philosophy faculty and students than some other subfields, though this is just a guess). I strongly suspect that if we looked only at faculty at top PGR-ranked departments, we would find the skew in favor of natural sciences even higher, but that's just based on what I know about many but not all faculty at those departments.
Thoughts from readers? Those who chose "other fields," what fields? Comments may take awhile to appear (busy day), so please submit them only once. Thanks. (UPDATE 2 pm CST: Typepad has been having problems today, so if you've been unable to submit a comment, please try again a bit later.)
The recent interview with Prof. Moss--in which she noted "I was a math major in college and was all set to go to math grad school"--reminded me of a familiar pattern in Anglophone philosophy, namely, that it appears to be full of almost mathematicians and physicists: hence this poll. Please only answer if you are presently a philosophy faculty member or philosophy PhD student at an English-speaking program. If you hadn't gone into philosophy (either as an undergraduate or graduate student), what field would you have pursued? So, e.g., if you majored in philosophy undergraduate, but almost went to law school, choose 'law.' If you were going to major in physics, but then majored in philosophy, choose "physics." If you were a math major before getting a PhD in philosophy, choose "math." If you in fact pursued a double major, or a double PhD, or a PhD and another postgraduate degree, choose the other field (e.g., I would choose law). And so on.
The book was Gellner's scathing attack on ordinary language philosophy, Words and Things (1959), which included criticism of Ryle. Bertrand Russell, who had written a preface for the book, wrote to The Times protesting Ryle's decision, which sparked many letters in reply, including from Ryle. They are all collected here. The series culminates with an editorial about the dispute:
I'm on vacation in Turkey for a couple of days. I tried to read your blog from here, but it has been banned by the government.
Congratulations! I guess this means that it is really influential! I asked a friend to translate the text on the attached screenshot; it seems that the Turkish government is using the same type of firewall as the government of China.
It may be that Turkey is doing what China did a number of years ago, namely, blocking all "typepad" accounts. Comments are open if anyone has insight.
And here's the screen shot the philosopher in Turkey sent:
Various readers have sent this silly list of anti-American, anti-free speech faculty, or something like that. We've seen these lists before, and they fade away fairly quickly because, "Who cares?" The organizers of this one are especially stupid: when it first appeared, they had both my colleagues Eric Posner and Judge Richard Posner on the list--Eric for noting that private schools can regulate student speech, and maybe some schools should since their students are children; and Richard...well, there are so many possible reasons. But now they're gone from the list, I guess someone told the ding-dongs that, "Those guys are on the right," or something like that. Here's what I suggest: ignore it. It's a badge of honor to be on it, of course, but it's just a publicity stunt by pathetic right-wingers. And if you can't ignore it, self-nominate!
Unsurprisingly, some philosophy teachers think so, but that's just self-serving nonsense. Anyone who spends a little time studying philosophers under Nazism, including all the Kantians who came out for National Socialism, will realize right away that, to quote Nietzsche, philosophers "are all advocates who do not want to be called by that name, and for the most part even wily spokesmen for their prejudices which they baptize 'truths'" (Beyond Good and Evil, sec. 5)
(Thanks to Michael Swanson for the pointer.)
UPDATE: You can get a sense of the irrelevance of philosophers by looking at how some are rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic as a putative "response." I have a radical suggestion: how about philosophy teachers design their curriculum and syllabi with an eye to making sure students master the subject-matter? Altering the curriculum because of Trump is as pointless as altering it to pander to this or that supposed constituency.
ANOTHER: One adult philosopher has some more concrete suggestions (see Prof. Wolff's blog generally for others, as well as sensible analysis and commentary).
I apologize for doing less philosophy-related blogging lately, but the gallows does indeed "concentrate" one's mind. I will return to pertinent philosophy-related news, though given the catastrophe in the U.S., I have less appetite for commenting on the ridiculous American Philosophical Association, the posturing, preening wankers in our "profession," my stalkers etc. What we are up against now is deadly serious and frightening, notwithstanding the fact that there is no reason to think most Americans support Trump. That hardly matters. What matters is that Trump and his fascist allies are, or are about to be, in power. But I realize that we may survive this, and that students and faculty are still looking for information relevant to planning their academic affairs, and other readers are looking for interesting philosophy-related material and the like, so I will resume relevant posting and I am committed to finish the academic year 2016-17 with philosophy-related blogging. I will continue to offer some political news and commentary as well, but not as frequent as since the electoral catastrophe. Thanks for reading.
MOVING TO FRONT: ORIGINALLY POSTED MAY 11, 2016--folks keep sending me this quote, which is circulating again
Jerry Dworkin calls my attention to this NYRB piece on Donald Chump, which includes this:
I recalled a remark that the philosopher Richard Rorty made back in 1997 about “the old industrialized democracies…heading into a Weimar-like period.” Citing evidence from “many writers on socioeconomic policy,” Rorty suggested that:
members of labor unions, and unorganized unskilled workers, will sooner or later realize that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported. Around the same time, they will realize that suburban white-collar workers—themselves desperately afraid of being downsized—are not going to let themselves be taxed to provide social benefits for anyone else.
At that point, something will crack. The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for—someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots….
One thing that is very likely to happen is that the gains made in the past forty years by black and brown Americans, and by homosexuals, will be wiped out. Jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion…. All the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet.
Let's hope Rorty sticks to his track record, and is wrong about this too.
Best-known for his important work on Wittgenstein, Hume, and philosophical skepticism, he taught for most of his career at Yale University and Dartmouth College. There is an obituary here, and I will post links to other memorial notices as they appear.
Philosopher David Wallace (Southern California) notes a couple of others, beyond the attack on the contractual and constitutional rights of faculty:
1) The Code of Conduct has this sentence: “Beyond this, teachers should take positive measures both to overcome their own implicit biases and to protect students from the effects of negative stereotypes”. But the replication crisis in psychology has not been kind to either theory: in both cases there have been some large-scale meta-analyses that have found little or no effect. So I’m rather surprised to see the APA adopting this into policy when at the least it’s highly contested science.
2) The Code of Conduct notes that the APA “rejects as unethical all forms of discrimination based on race, color, religion, political convictions, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identification, or age, whether in graduate admissions, appointments, retention, promotion and tenure, manuscript evaluation, salary determination, or other professional activities in which APA members characteristically participate.” From which follows in particular that the APA rejects as unethical discrimination based on religion in graduate admissions or appointments. But then the Code goes on to say that “it is not inconsistent with the APA’s position against discrimination to adopt religious affiliation as a criterion in graduate admissions or employment policies when this is directly related to the school’s religious affiliation or purpose, so long as these policies are made known to members of the philosophical community and so long as the criteria for such religious affiliation do not discriminate against persons according to the other attributes listed in this statement.” That looks straightforwardly false: an inconsistent pair of statements can’t be made consistent merely by declaring them to be. I assume this is poor drafting: what they mean to say is that they regard discrimination as unethical *except* in this particular circumstance.
Although I am not a member, it has come to my attention that the American Philosophical Association has adopted a very unusual Code of ethical conduct, quite unlike that adopted by other disciplines such as the Modern Language Association, the American Historical Association, or the American Psychological Association. None of these other codes purport to proscribe extramural speech beyond one's campus, let alone speech that might constitute what is capaciously defined as "bullying and harassment"; they focus instead on actual professional obligations in dealings with faculty colleagues, students, and research subjects.
Yet the APA purports to proscribe "bullying and harassment" quite generally, meaning, inter alia, "verbal agression...spreading malicious rumors; calling someone conventionally derogatory names or using derogatory stereotypes to describe them...'cyber-bullying' through email, text messages, or social media...subjecting an individual to repeated, unsolicited criticism, except when this is clearly limited to a matter of scholarly dispute; subjecting a person to public ridicule..."
Most of these terms admit of considerable interpretation, meaning the reach of the Code may be very broad. As the sociologist Randall Collins has noted, there has been massive inflation of the term "bullying" over the last generation so that it encompasses more and more ordinary interactions in which one party says something critical about another. By incorporating this inflation into the APA Code, you purport to expand the APA's authority over matters no other professional organization purports to regulate.
Philosopher Michael Loughlin from MMU Cheshire writes:
[P]hilosophy is one of a number of academic subjects currently offered on the Cheshire campus of Manchester Metropolitan University. The whole campus is potentially facing closure as part of a commissioned "review" of its "financial sustainability" by a team of management consultants. The board of governors is considering options that include the survival of the campus with a significantly reduced range of academic provisions on offer to students, and its outright closure. In that event, a key provider of education in the Cheshire region for over 100 years would be lost and while some academic staff might be relocated to a city campus in Manchester, many academics - and many more support staff - could be facing redundancy.
We are trying to persuade the board of governors to consider less drastic options, arguing that campus closure would be a disaster for the local region and contrary to the university's commitment to "widening participation" - the region has been identified as an area with "a low density of HEIs" and we're concerned the students that commute from the local community may no longer be able to access university if the campus is closed. Too many academic provisions are being lost across the UK as universities 'streamline' their offerings, and this tendency represents a serious concern for those of us who believe that a traditional academic education should be an option for people from a broad range of backgrounds - social, geographical and economic. There is a case for a sustainable future for this campus, and in support of that case we're trying to get as many people as possible to sign a petition calling on the board to consider seriously the alternatives to closure. The petition can be accessed here:
The comments that many of our former students who have already signed are instructive, and we hope members of the board will read them - but they are more likely to do so if the petition has many supporters. So please consider clicking on the link and signing.
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)