Jonathan Strassfeld, an intellectual historian completing a PhD at the University of Rochester on the history of American philosophy, is seeking help with research for his dissertation that involves using text mining to examine the development of analytic philosophy in the mid-twentieth century. Part of the work calls for using a classification algorithm to identify analytic and non-analytic texts. To do this, one must 'train' the computer what analytic philosophy looks like by giving it a sample of of representative texts. Jonathan would like to put the question to the readers: what works should be included in a list of texts meant to exemplify philosophical analysis? He requests you restrict suggestions to journal articles published between 1930-1980.
Signatories include, besides Sarkar, John Dupre (Exeter), Paul Griffiths (Sydney), Samir Okasha (Bristol), Alex Rosenberg (Duke), and Rob Wilson (Alberta), among others. The letter offers a variety of considerations, some political, some practical/logistical. I am opening this for (substantive) discussion.
UPDATE: The composition of the current Committee on the Status of Women is different than what is reported below: see here.
Michael Tooley (Colorado) writes (regarding the data below the fold):
I was looking over the membership of the Board of the APA, and of their "Current Initiatives and Task Forces" committees. These committees look to me to be very unbalanced.
Are men less able to discuss "best practices", or to formulate a code of conduct?!
Is anyone speaking out about this?
I've opened comments, in any case anyone does want to comment. One possibility, of course, is that men are less interested in volunteering for these committees. More worrisome, to my mind, is not the gender imbalance, but that some of the people on these committees have, through their past actions and words, demonstrated poor judgment and contempt for other important professional values. (Not being an APA member, I do not, however, get too exercised about these things, but APA members may feel differently.)
Here is the breakdown and analysis Professor Tooley sent along:
A couple of readers pointed out, regarding the prior poll, that this is the only philosophy-related blog they read. Michael B., for example, wrote, "Would you consider adding an option for 'no other blogs'? Yours is the only one I read and it'd be interesting to see for what proportion of readers this is also true." And journalist Robert McGarvey wrote: "You also forgot to put in NONE. I know I don't, and I know a number of very senior philosophers (tenured at top 25 schools) who also read only Leiter Report. Yes, if something especially insane is coming down I'll look at DailyNous, Feminist Philo, etc but not on a regular basis." Since I can't add entries after a poll starts, here's a separate one addressing this issue. (I'd have to answer this one "yes," so don't be shy!)
I'm flattered and pleasantly surprised that fully a third of readers here do not frequent any other philosophy-related blogs regularly; I would not have expected that. I'll try to continue to deserve your loyalty!
UPDATE: Whoops, I forgot to include Philosophers' Cocoon. Sorry!
ANOTHER UPDATE: So there were nearly 2300 votes cast, though since this poll allowed multiple votes, I'm guessing this represents the reading habits of the 600+ readers who read this blog and others. Unsurprisingly, given its similarity (New Infantilism excepted!), Daily Nous is also read by 32% of respondents. After that, the most popular other philosophy-related blogs among readers here are Feminist Philosophers (12%), the Philosophy Metablog (or MetaMeta, or whatever it is now) and Philosophy Smoker (both 7%), and then Crooked Timber (6%). I was a bit surprised by the result for Philosophy Smoker, given that it seems fairly moribund.
What other philosophy-related blogs do you read regularly (e.g., two or three times per week)? Check as many as apply.
A longtime member of the Department of Philosophy at Georgia State University, which he helped develop into one of the leading MA programs in the country, he was perhaps best-known for his work on Wittgenstein. There is an obituary here.
Alexander Dietz, a PhD student at the University of Southern California, kindly calls to my attention this initiative. As I told Mr. Dietz, I am a bit skeptical of undertakings like this, for the simple reason that most human misery has systemic causes, which charity never addresses, but which political change can address; ergo, all money and effort should go towards systemic and political reform. Mr. Dietz tells me that this project does not rule out donations in support of political change.
BL COMMENT: It's a bit amusing that the only books Brandom recommends that he didn't write are by the one important philosopher who adopts an anti-representationalist view like his (Huw Price at Cambridge), plus one colleague and two former students. Oh philosophy!
Behind a paywall, alas, but very detailed, with extensive quotes from Ludlow and the student.
UPDATE: A philosopher elsewhere writes: "Why don’t you open comments? Much of what has been posted has been shown to be wrong. People should face up to that. FP hasn’t linked to it and Justin W is trying to bury it." I haven't really followed coverage on other blogs (though it would not be surprising if my correspondent's allegation were accurate), but I will open comments. No naming names of students and I will edit for relevance.
...since, after all, if your views are offensive, you are not entitled to be employed, right? Peter Singer is, by my lights, a pernicious presence in philosophy, but my lights or the lights of disability activists are irrelevant to whether he should be employed. This is what academic freedom means: academics can hold views that you think are appalling, stupid, worthless. Maybe you are right, and maybe you are not. But the lifeblood of the academy is insulation from such outbursts of indignation.
This latest outburst doesn't really matter, of course--Singer has weathered worse. But it is symptomatic of something dangerous.
The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, the major, publicly funded research agency in Germany) has just given a major grant to a group of nine philosophers from Hannover and Bielefeld chaired by myself (and co-chaired by Martin Carrier from Bielefeld University) for the purpose of creating a graduate research group ("Graduiertenkolleg") on the topic of "Integrating Ethics and Epistemology of Scientific Research". The project is initially authorized for 4,5 years and can be extended if successful. For these initial 4,5 years, we are being granted a total of €3.17 million. Durig this period, we are going to be able to accept and give salaried positions to 15 PhD students altogether, plus two PostDocs.
Funded PhD programs in philosophy are a rarity in Germany, so we are very excited to be able to create one, and also to combine the strengths of the Universities of Hannover and Bielefeld in philosophy of science by creating a joint program (the two cities are a mere 50 minutes train ride apart).
The program will be directed at overcoming the divide between theoretical philosophy (epistemology and metaphysics) and practical philosophy (ethics and political philosophy) of science. It will primarily focus on research questions that require serious attention to both areas. The status of policy advice on the basis of computer simulations in climate science, the balancing of research goals and ethical aspects of medical treatment in clinical trials, the appropriate role of intellectual property in science, or the prospects of social scientific research on the basis of social network data are just a few examples of topics that ought in our view be treated by drawing on the resources of theoretical and practical philosophy and taking both equally seriously.
Thomas Baldwin (York) asked me to share the following:
At the end of September 2015 the editorship of Mind will move from Thomas Baldwin (York) to Adrian Moore (Oxford) and Lucy O'Brien (UCL). In order to ensure that this change is straightforward, the York editorial team are working to ensure that only a small number of papers are in the process of being considered for publication at the time of the changeover. However it will be difficult to achieve this goal while new papers continue to be submitted, especially because submissions to Mind have recently increased by 30%. As a result we have decided to introduce a four-month moratorium on the acceptance of new submissions from July 1 2015 until 31 October 2015.
...at CHE. Jason tells me that he donated his fee from CHE, and is donating all of the royalties from his recent book on propaganda, to the Prison Policy Initiative, with which he is involved. Please take a moment to check out the PPI and the work it is doing to counter our inhumane incarceration practices.
One is left with the misgiving that this was a work conceived and executed with an eye only to Kant’s famous example (‘7+5=12’), which subsequently had to be hedged and qualified as soon as an expert critic drew attention to Gödelian incompleteness (for, surely, any epistemology for arithmetic must be able to deal with quantified sentences).
Readers of this journal are unlikely to be persuaded by this brand of empiricist apriorism, interesting though the prospects for some account of that kind might be. The details of execution are neither adequate nor convincing. The author observes that ‘The approach I am advocating does not seem to have been considered before’ (p. 199). If her account, as here executed, turns out to be the only possible one of this kind, then we have an explanation, perhaps, as to why it has not been considered before....
...because of his views on killing the disabled (the article is in German, I'm opening comments if someone has time to translate more of it). This is, as I recall, not the first time Singer has had trouble in Germany, where, given the history, they are more sensitive than the typical utilitarian to the implications of such views.
Professor Emeritus at Boston University, he was especially well-known for his philosophical work in philosophy of religion, where he was a defender of atheism. (He also wrote one of the only books in English on American and Scandinavian legal realism.) There is an obituary here.
Here. It's an open question, of course, whether the Philosopher's Annual is really neglecting this area (it is admittedly a small subfield) or whether these papers are as strong as the "top ten" that PA comes up with. Other subfields might do something similar, not so much because they are being "neglected" by PA, but because it might be useful to have some notable papers identified each year by experts in the various subfields.
ADDENDUM: Because the FP blog is hosted in the United Kingdom, and this item was posted by a resident of the United Kingdom, its postings are subject to English libel law, which includes takedown provisions and is much less friendly to defamation than US law. If, in fact, the allegations by Ms. Olivarius are false, then we should expect Prof. McGinn to take legal steps to have it removed.
Here’s a depressing thought that sometimes occurs to me: someone I teach may, one day, end up in a position of elected power. It’s not an unreasonable fear. The Houses of Parliament are stacked with former Oxford PPE students, shiny-faced and slick of hair, trumpeted by the University as proof of our continuing excellence. Many of our students seem halfway there already, constitutionally incapable of taking any stand on a position that matters. How long before one of them makes the journey from my tutorials to elected office?
Prime amongst the ‘transferable skills’ so lauded by philosophy’s proselytisers are those of drawing careful distinctions, of paying attention to small but subtle differences between cases.
The development of these skills is thought to be central to a philosophical education. (‘Oxford Philosophy: training tomorrow’s thinkers today.’) And when used effectively, they allow a clarity of thought shocking in its brilliance and precision.
But they sometimes lapse into institutionally sanctioned pedantry. And when they do, they have analogues in a particular kind of self-deception, that involved in rationalising our bad behaviour. It is easy for a philosopher, trained in the making of distinctions, to distinguish lying from reticence, as Kant did, when writing to a suicidal correspondent. Lying is contrary to the moral law, he claimed; reticence on the other hand…
Here is one use for philosophical thinking: to draw distinctions that make one’s immoral conduct seem permissible, even praiseworthy. It is the kind of thinking which justifies claiming light bulbs on expenses or pressuring one’s spouse into taking one’s speeding points.
It is as if philosophy provides the tools which enable us to do all that we do whilst looking in the mirror and saying: yes, you’ve done good.
When Colin McGinn was forced to resign from the University of Miami, I can still recall Sally Haslanger's cry of victory on Facebook and shout-out to UM President Shalala; the lawyer for the victim does not see it that way, it turns out:
Feminist lawyer Ann Olivarius, who is representing the alleged student victim of sexual harassment in the McGinn case, says there's another side to Shalala's legacy. Olivarius compares Shalala's exit to the way the Catholic Church kept silent and moved its pedophilic priests instead of addressing the situation.
“For centuries, the standard way Catholic bishops handled child sexual abuse by priests was to move them quietly to a new job and keep mum,” she says. “Donna Shalala doesn’t quite look like a Catholic bishop, but I am astounded how much she seems to have borrowed from their playbook in steering the University of Miami after one of its graduate students.”
In 2012, after the student Olivarius is representing submitted explicit emails and text messages from her professor as part of a sexual harassment complaint, Shalala made sure the tenured and prominent professor was removed from the university. Shalala rerouted the proper firing protocol for a tenured professor by strong-arming the accused professor into resignation for “failure to report a consensual, romantic relationship” and avoiding a faculty senate hearing.
The student claims that as soon as the professor left, Shalala stopped caring about her well-being even though she had been complaining of retaliation as a series of blog posts sprouted up on the professor’s personal blog. She also says that having McGinn cop to a lesser offense allowed her alleged harasser to continue to claim that their relationship was consensual and romantic.
Olivarius contends that Shalala offered McGinn the “plea bargain” and a dignified exit to “avoid a long and ugly Faculty Senate trial that would have generated terrible headlines for UM. Shalala and other University officials threw the student under the bus knowing full well that McGinn had harassed her,” Olivarius says.
A senior philosopher at another top program (not Michigan) e-mailed an interesting question about attrition; she writes:
[Y]our most recent post raises a question that might be worth discussing, namely whether all grad school attrition is a bad thing, and how to tell good from bad if not. I think US News etc. have done a huge disservice to academe by suggesting that the higher the completion rate the better at the undergrad level, and I wouldn't like to see the same assumption become unquestioned at the graduate level. Some people are better off doing something else, especially when there are not going to be enough jobs for all qualified candidates, and it's often in everyone's interest for them to find that out before completion -- though the how and when is always tricky, and most departments don't handle it well. And of course from an applicant's point of view a high attrition rate is always reasonably taken as a bad sign.
I am inclined to agree with my correspondent. Readers?
You've linked to two articles by Todd Gitlin recently. Both indicate troubling characteristics of college students that are possibly (at least in part) attributable to the influence that capitalism exerts on American culture (e.g. freshmen are now in general more interested in great financial success than "develop[ing] a meaningful philosophy of life," while in 1974 the latter was more strongly valued than the former - perhaps this is explicable in terms of changes in the college population, but from what I understand (uniquely capitalistic) economic forces may well be to blame). Then there are larger worries about growing depression among Americans (Gitlin speaks to this in one of the articles that you posted), which is sometimes vaguely explained as a product of an empty consumer culture that allegedly breeds nihilism. (A more expansive list of cultural problems supposedly produced by capitalism is offered by Terry Eagleton in Why Marx was Right: "Alienation, the ‘commodification’ of social life, a culture of greed, aggression, mindless hedonism and growing nihilism, the steady hemorrhage of meaning and value from human existence . . . .")
In light of the foregoing, my question is this: Are there any good, and relatively recent, books or articles that argue that capitalism has deleterious effects on American (or, more broadly, Western) culture? If there are, I've had little success in finding them. The Frankfurt School is clearly relevant here, but Adorno, Horkheimer, and Marcuse were (obviously) engaged with a world substantially different from the current one, and the modern representatives of the Frankfurt School (e.g. Habermas and Honneth) repeatedly strike me as far too gentle with contemporary culture, possibly for fear of seeming too pessimistic.
Habermas basically abandoned the original critical/Marxian/Freudian aspects of Critical Theory in favor of a return to Kant. But the question posed is a good one. What would readers recommend by sociologists, historians, political theorists, philosophers etc.?
MOVING TO FRONT FROM YESTERDAY, AN INTERESTING DISCUSSION IN THE COMMENTS; MORE CONTRIBUTIOSN WELCOME
Stefan Sciaraffa (McMaster) calls my attention to a striking item by philosopher Elizabeth Barnes (Virginia); an excerpt:
I have sat in philosophy seminars where it was asserted that I should be left to die on a desert island if the choice was between saving me and saving an arbitrary non-disabled person. I have been told it would be wrong for me to have my biological children because of my disability. I have been told that, while it isn’t bad for me to exist, it would’ve been better if my mother could’ve had a non-disabled child instead. I’ve even been told that it would’ve been better, had she known, for my mother to have an abortion and try again in hopes of conceiving a non-disabled child. I have been told that it is obvious that my life is less valuable when compared to the lives of arbitrary non-disabled people. And these things weren’t said as the conclusions of careful, extended argument. They were casual assertions. They were the kind of thing you skip over without pause because it’s the uncontroversial part of your talk.
Now, of course, no one has said these things to me specifically. They haven’t said “Hey, Elizabeth Barnes, this is what we think about you!” But they’ve said them about disabled people in general, and I’m a disabled person. Even just thinking about statements like these, as I write this, I feel so much – sadness, rage, and more than a little shame. It’s an odd thing, a hard thing, to try to take these emotions and turn them into interesting philosophy and careful arguments. My first reaction isn’t to sit down and come up with carefully crafted counterexamples for why the views I find so disgusting are false. My first reaction is to want to punch the people that say these things in the face. (Or maybe shut myself in my room and cry. Or maybe both. It depends on the day.) It’s a strange thing – an almost unnatural thing – to construct careful, analytically rigorous arguments for the value of your own life, or for the bare intelligibility of the claims made by an entire civil rights movement....
Sally Haslanger once told me to trust my anger. That was some of the best advice anyone’s ever given me. I’m trying to learn how to take my anger and use it as motivation to keep writing, especially on those days when the thought of using philosophical arguments to push back against the status quo feels somewhere between overwhelming and pointless. And while feeling this way can be exhausting – in a way that writing about, say, metaphysical indeterminacy never was – it can also make the end result deeply special and meaningful in a way I wouldn’t have anticipated.
Thoughts from readers on the issues raised by Prof. Barnes?
Available here. Attrition appears to be much lower than when I was at Michigan in the late 80s and early 90s. In my class of nine (seven men, two women), the two women did not complete the program, but all seven men did eventually--and that was a good year. The following year, as I recall, only one or two students out of eight or so completed the program, and attrition of half or more of the class seemed to be the norm for the preceding years. A lot has changed in the interim: Michigan now offers better financial aid for all admitted PhD students than it did then; and the Department was a pretty ferocious place at that time (Peter Railton is alluding to this briefly in his Dewey Lecture); I think it is less so now.
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)