We recently had the latest Heidegger scandal, and now we have Louis Menand on the increasingly bizarre case of Paul DeMan, whom Menand plausibly describes as a "sociopath" rather than simply a Nazi collaborator and anti-semite, given his many years of fraud, misrepresentations, and lies. Of course, Menand has another aim, namely, to defend DeMan's work in literary theory, to defend (remarkably) its "rigor." At moments like this, one realizes that even words like "rigor" require indexicals attached, since "rigor a la Menand" has nothing to do with what you might have thought the word meant, as anyone who has read DeMan's "rigorous" misreadings of Nietzsche will know. In any case, a somewhat less forgiving account than Menand's of DeMan's bizarre life is here.
They are: Eva Kittay (Stony Brook) and L.A. (Laurie) Paul (North Carolina).
UPDATE: I missed that John Palmer, a distinguished scholar of ancient philosophy at the University of Florida, Gainesville, also won a Guggenheim (he was listed under "Classics," though his appointment is in Philosophy). (Thanks to Dan Ferguson and Gene Witmer for flagging this omission.)
This is quite bizarre. As Tad Brennan (Cornell) wrote to me, "Does anyone have any idea what he is talking about? What bit of Schopenhauer could he possibly have in mind? And did Schopenhauer actually advocate it, as well as describing it?" My guess is that since his piece is full of Rand-speak, Ayn Rand probably makes this charge against Schopenhauer, but that's just a guess. Readers, any ideas? (Schopenhauer certainly was good at polemics, though many of them were directed at Hegel, a "collectivist" on Planet Koch.)
Here. Our earlier coverage was here. Special thanks to all those who took the time to write to the RIT Administration, your efforts have produced a good result!
UPDATE: Professor Torcello writes:
I am confident that your letter and the letters of other supportive academics proved an important counterbalance to the conservative campaign of harassment. I have no doubt that such letters helped give my administration the appropriate encouragement they needed to take a stronger stand.
One reason I think a statement like this is so important is that if universities were to routinely issue a public acknowledgment of the scientific consensus on climate change in response to faculty harassment it would remove some of the incentive deniers have to instigate their campaigns in the first place. Universities still hold a significant level of institutional authority in the mind of many citizens so such statements affirming the existence of scientific consensus are meaningful in the public sphere. It is my hope that this new statement will get some attention in academic circles as an example of the sort of full-throat statement appropriate for universities to make in defense of faculty targeted by conservative propagandists. I hope some people will write thanking the RIT for taking a stronger stance. I have no doubt that some conservatives will be writing in again offering the opposite view.
ANOTHER: Philosopher Brian Schroeder at RIT shares this excellent statement sent to the faculty by the Dean of Arts & Sciences, James Winebrake.
Dear COLA Faculty and Staff:
You may have seen this morning’s email from President Destler regarding a recent essay by Dr. Lawrence Torcello (Department of Philosophy) on the academic sight The Conversation. I am including President Destler’s email below my signature in case you missed it [ed.-see above]. Larry’s essay has generated numerous harassing communications from people outside the RIT community. These communications were triggered by the misrepresentation of Larry’s work in various media outlets and websites.
While the college cannot effectively prevent those outside our institute from misrepresenting the work of individual faculty, we do have an obligation to defend academic freedom and our faculty's right to freedom of expression. We will not tolerate actions by others who use threatening, obscene, or harassing communications to intimidate our faculty in an attempt to restrict this academic freedom. In such cases, college resources will be accessed to defend and protect our faculty’s safety and rights.
The purpose of this communication is to first and foremost state explicitly that we stand by Dr. Torcello’s right to freedom of expression. This communication also informs other faculty to reach out to my office for assistance if you ever feel that external communications related to your academic work become intimidating or harassing. I am currently in communication with Dr. Torcello, the provost, and several others regarding hosting a panel discussion next fall about these types of situations and how faculty, administrators, staff and others (e.g., Public Safety, University News, Legal Affairs, etc.) may best handle these types of situations. More information on this panel discussion will follow at a later date.
RIT and its Administration deserve kudos for this robust response to the harassment of a faculty member for his scholarly work. All Universities should follow RIT's example.
The new service I noted last week is now live, courtesy of Bourget & Chalmers. I gave them permission to incorporate the appointments information collected so far on this blog for this academic year. Because PhilJobs now works with the APA, one major aim of the joint initiative with the APA is to collect systematic demographic information on new hires.
Going forward, I will certainly continue to post news about senior hires, since those are often of immediate relevance to prospective students and the PhilJobs site will not, of course, include any editorial commentary on the significance of particular moves. I will continue to run the tenure-track hiring thread for the rest of this season as well; at some point, I'll take a poll of readers to see whether it is worth continuing to run such a thread here. One possibility is just to open it late in the season for placement directors to post summaries of their placements for the year.
A propos an earlier item, philosopher Bryan Frances (Fordham) writes: "I agree with the post about the non-career-oriented value of philosophy. Nevertheless, loads of students ask about careers and philosophy, as you know." Professor Frances kindly shared two "prezis" he made about philosophy and careers: a long version and a short version, the latter of which he says is "better for the classroom."
Anna Christina Ribeiro (Texas Tech) argues that it is. (Thanks to Miguel Dos Santos for the pointer.) Lots of areas of philosophy are under-represented in the leading departments, of course, in the sense that many departments have no specialists. Examples woudl include philosophy of law, mathematical logic, medieval philosophy, philosophy of religion, and 19th-century European philsophy. The latter neglect strikes me as particularly appalling: this is a century that includes Hegel, Schopenhauer, Marx, and Nietzsche, all major figures by almost anyone's accounting. Of the top ten departments (for 2011), Rutgers, MIT, and North Carolina have no one specializing in any of these figures; only NYU, Stanford, and perhaps Pittsburgh have specialists in at least two of these major 19th-century figures. Is that not as serious an omission? What do readers think? How do we evaluate the areas good philosophy departments must cover? Signed comments will be strongly preferred: full name and valid e-mail address.
The full list is here; philosophers recognized are Katherin Koslicki (Alberta) with a new Tier 1 Chair in "Epistemology and Metaphysics" and Margaret Cameron (Victoria) with renewal of her Tier 2 Chair in the "Aristotelian Tradition."
This is well-said, by Scott Samuelson, who teaches philosophy at Kirkwood Community College in Iowa:
Thinking of the value of the humanities predominately in terms of earnings and employment is to miss the point. America should strive to be a society of free people deeply engaged in "the pursuit of happiness," not simply one of decently compensated and well-behaved employees.
A true liberal-arts education furnishes the mind with great art and ideas, empowers us to think for ourselves and appreciate the world in all its complexity and grandeur. Is there anyone who doesn't feel a pang of desire for a meaning that goes beyond work and politics, for a meaning that confronts the mysteries of life, love, suffering and death?
I once had a student, a factory worker, who read all of Schopenhauer just to find a few lines that I quoted in class. An ex-con wrote a searing essay for me about the injustice of mandatory minimum sentencing, arguing that it fails miserably to live up to either the retributive or utilitarian standards that he had studied in Introduction to Ethics. I watched a preschool music teacher light up at Plato's "Republic," a recovering alcoholic become obsessed by Stoicism, and a wayward vet fall in love with logic (he's now finishing law school at Berkeley). A Sudanese refugee asked me, trembling, if we could study arguments concerning religious freedom. Never more has John Locke—or, for that matter, the liberal arts—seemed so vital to me.
I'm glad that students who major in disciplines like philosophy may eventually make as much as or more than a business major. But that's far from the main reason I think we should invest in the humanities.
While Prospect Magazinedoes its thing, I thought it might be interesting to ask readers of this blog to vote on the same question concerning only philosophers, namely which ones are "engaging most originally and profoundly with the central questions of the world today." You can vote here.
I've included all those Prospect included, and a bunch of others, no doubt omitting some sensible choices, but also including some that Prospect inexplicably omitted. I've included plenty whom I manifestly do not think are meritorious, but others may disagree!
UPDATE: Whoops, Charles Taylor a (now obvious) omission from my list!
AND MORE: Another reader suggests Thomas Pogge. And yet another points out that Nick Bostrom was on the Prospect list, but I apparently missed it.
Philosopher Barbara Montero at the City University of New York writes:
Some of my undergraduates are interested in engaging in online philosophy discussions and would like a recommendation as to where to go. As I am untraveled in the blogosphere, I was wondering if you might post a request for recommendations.
Comments are open for suggestions--please say a bit about the websites suggested.
From PKP's press release (which does not appear to be on-lline yet):
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Jonathan Schaffer and Jessica Wilson are the 2014 honorees of the Martin R. Lebowitz and Eve Lewellis Lebowitz Prizes for Philosophical Achievement and Contribution for their symposium titled “Grounding in Metaphysics.”
The Lebowitz Prizes offer significant, tangible recognition for excellence in philosophical thought. An honorarium of $30,000 will be awarded to each winner.
Both of the honorees are celebrated philosophers and published authors in the field. Schaffer, a professor at Rutgers University, defends a distinctive posit of grounding as needed to characterize metaphysical dependence, while Wilson, an associate professor at the University of Toronto Scarborough, argues that ordinary metaphysical relations are better suited for this work.
As part of the award, Schaffer and Wilson will present their work highlighting contrasting viewpoints on grounding in metaphysics. Their symposium will take place at the Eastern Division American Philosophical Association meeting December 27-30 in Philadelphia, PA. Awarded by the Phi Beta Kappa Society in conjunction with the American Philosophical Association, the Lebowitz Prizes are made possible by a generous bequest from Eve Lewellis Lebowitz, honoring her late husband, Martin R. Lebowitz.
I knew Ms Charlotte Coursier, formerly Ms Charlotte Marklew, since 2008 at the University of Edinburgh. In June 2011, on graduation, she emailed me, “you are still the person who saved my life and my degree!". I applied to Oxford in 2011, she in 2012. During her time in Oxford, concerns about her welfare were reported to the Faculty, but, as far I as know, were ignored. Following her suicide in June 2013 after her boyfriend ended their relationship, Oxford conducted an inquiry into her death which concluded in October 2013. At that time the University told my College that my involvement in the matter was a minor affair, and the Coroner's office had provided repeated assurances (until a week before the inquest) that my name would not be mentioned.
However, behind the scenes a group of graduate students, including some of the signatories of the Open Letter of 5 March 2014 [link added by BL], had been campaigning the University to have my contact with students suspended and me fired. My supervisions were reassigned, my seminars were postponed and then reassigned to my College, with the lead author of the Open Letter boasting about this on Facebook. My wife complained to a College Principal about the distress and intimidation she felt her family were being subjected to.
From late 2013, Oxford proceeded with a prosecution, involving failures of due process and proportionality, despite the support I received from my College and several members of the Faculty. The prosecution ignored my evidence, detailed email documentation, a police incident note concerning an assault against me, application records, and eleven witness statements, covering the period November 2008 up to the present. As of mid April 2014, I am terminated from Oxford. The reasons stated amount to this: that I told a student to stay away from me and then responded to her refusal to do so; that I pointed out to a witness at Oxford her harassment of me while it was happening; and that I complained to Oxford of false allegations being made against me.
For the time being, I do not intend to comment further on the case.
I will post statements from others who have information about or care to comment about this matter.
UPDATE: An Oxford philosopher writes:
I'm writing to you about the statement you've just posted by Jeff Ketland. I want really seriously to urge you to reconsider your decision to "post statements from others who have information about or care to comment on this matter." I'm concerned that this is a very bad idea. I'm someone who could post a response; so are various grad students, including the ones he accuses of smearing him here. If we don't respond, the implication may be that his side of the story is the whole truth. If we do, I just honestly can't see any good coming of it - just a horrible public mud-slinging session that will surely lead to further demoralizing the students involved.
I say this obviously partly based on my knowledge of the case, but I think I'd say the same a priori. I very much respect you using your blog to discuss questions of policy, due process, etc, in harassment cases but I am not at all convinced that it's a good forum for a battle over the facts of a case.
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)