A propos this earlier discussion, Professor Bonevac has explained his reasons in detail. Some dubious factual claims are involved, and some even more dubious implicit claims about cause-and-effect. But the basic mistake is in thinking that Trump means what he says, and so is an instrumentally rational choice given Professor Bonevac's stated objectives.
Professor Emerita at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Professor Bartky was an early pioneer in feminist philosophy. A informative memorial notice from philosopher Kate Norlock (Trent) is at the FP blog.
Professor David Buller (Northern Illinois) asked me to share this memorial notice:
Tomis Kapitan, Distinguished Teaching Professor Emeritus at Northern Illinois University, passed away October 12 in London, where he had been living since his retirement in 2014. He was 66. Professor Kapitan was a member of the Philosophy Department at NIU for 23 years, during which time he served as a model philosopher, teacher, and colleague, enriching the life of the department and inspiring generations of students through whom his example and influence live on.
Professor Kapitan, who studied with Hector-Neri Castenada at Indiana University, Bloomington, published many articles on topics in philosophy of language, metaphysics, and philosophy of logic, and also wrote extensively on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
MOVING TO FRONT (ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED SEPTEMBER 13, 2016)
Back in the old days (from 1989 through the late 1990s), the PGR consisted in my assessement of professional opinion about the quality of graduate programs in the form of an annual guide to prospective PhD students in philosophy in the Anglophone world. This was my assessment of professional opinion, not my own opinion about quality. I was sufficiently good at that that the PGR became hugely influential throughout the profession, so much so that faculty at departments not doing so well began protesting back in 2001. I gradually shifted to more systematic measurements--elaborate on-line surveys of senior and junior faculty--which just amplified the influence of the PGR. The results were not very dissimilar from when I was doing it from the armchair, but the evaluations of particular areas of specialization were clearly improved.
Brit Brogaard's plan is try to undertake new PGR surveys in fall 2017, but that doesn't obviate the need for some updated guidance. What follows is my best judgment as to how the faculty changes in the interim should lead prospective PhD students to think about the relevant hierarchy of PhD programs in the U.S. and elsewhere compared to the 2014 survey results. Rather than offer a guestimate about an ordinal rank, I put the PhD programs into "clusters" of what I think should reasonably be considered "peer" programs among which students should choose based on considerations other than "overall prestige." But I generally think it's reasonable to choose between programs in adjacent peer groups based on other considerations (financial aid, location, particular faculty, specialty strength etc.). I'll try to update the "specialty rankings" in the coming weeks. (Note: there are other moves that may transpire: e.g., Stanford is trying to recruit Philip Pettit and Victoria McGeer from their half-time posts at Princeton [they are also half-time at the ANU, which would not change]; Berkeley is trying to recruit Sally Sedgwick from Illinois/Chicago. I'll update things accordingly during the year.)
An * indicates a program that arguably belongs in the next highest peer grouping.
Group 1 (1) Anglophone Programs outside the U.S.
New York University
Group 2 (2-8)
Princeton University *Oxford University
*Rutgers University, New Brunswick
University of California, Berkeley
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
University of Pittsburgh
University of Southern California
Group 3 (9-15)
Columbia University University of Toronto
Massachussetts Institute of Technology
University of Arizona
University of California, Los Angeles
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Group 4 (16-22)
Brown University Cambridge University
City University of New York Graduate Center Australian National University
University of California, San Diego
University of Chicago
University of Notre Dame
University of Texas, Austin
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Group 5 (23-27)
*Cornell University University of St. Andrews/University of Stirling Joint Program
Duke University University of Edinburgh
Indiana University, Bloomington King's College, London
University of California, Irvine University College London
Washington University, St. Louis University of Sydney
Here (in response to events we referenced here). (I don't find the anti-Semitism bit at the end very helpful, but that's minor.)
UPDATE: At the link, above, Dean Zimmerman (Rutgers), a very prominent Christian philosopher who has made major contributions to metaphysics, writes:
I know firsthand, having been his colleague for quite a few years, that Jason is highly sensitive to the fact that Christians are something of a minority within philosophy. There were several Christian graduate students at Rutgers while Jason was here, and with whom he interacted frequently, and I am confident that none of them ever felt disrespected by Jason because of their faith. To the contrary, in my experience Jason seems to optimistically and automatically think well of his Christian colleagues and students — as though he could count on serious Christians to exemplify the virtues we profess. I’m grateful that he doesn’t lump us all in with political conservatives who are hijacking religious language, some of whom will apparently use any means to inflict psychic damage upon those they perceive as their “enemies”. Thank you, Jason.
With over 565 responses to our earlier poll (limited, recall, to living philosophers over age 60), we now know whom readers think are the ten most deserving candidates:
1. Saul Kripke (Condorcet winner: wins contests with all other choices)
2. Noam Chomsky loses to Saul Kripke by 245–142
3. Derek Parfit loses to Saul Kripke by 260–113, loses to Noam Chomsky by 197–164
4. Thomas Nagel loses to Saul Kripke by 278–98, loses to Derek Parfit by 173–148
5. Martha Nussbaum loses to Saul Kripke by 272–110, loses to Thomas Nagel by 176–130
6. Jurgen Habermas loses to Saul Kripke by 273–108, loses to Martha Nussbaum by 154–141
7. Daniel Dennett loses to Saul Kripke by 282–98, loses to Jurgen Habermas by 150–145
8. Jerry Fodor loses to Saul Kripke by 292–64, loses to Daniel Dennett by 148–139
9. John Searle loses to Saul Kripke by 294–63, loses to Jerry Fodor by 142–124
10. Amartya Sen loses to Saul Kripke by 288–81, loses to John Searle by 148–121
Timothy Williamson and John McDowell were runners-up for the top ten. Allowing for the Anglophone bias of the readership here, these results aren't surprising and certainly seem defensible. I was, I confess, surprised how poorly Charles Taylor fared, even allowing for the Anglophone bias.
Rob Hughes, a young moral, political and legal philosopher teaching in the Wharton School at the University of Pennslyvania, writes:
Having read Richard Swinburne's recent argument about the ethics of homosexuality, both the version he published in 2007/2008 and the version he presented in his talk at the SCP meeting, I can confirm your belief that his argument is awful. There is no need to discuss Swinburne's dubious moral premises. The argument clearly fails because it relies on a false and unjustified empirical assertion. Here it is, in Swinburne's own words (from the text of his recent talk posted on First Things, pp. 12-13):
"The evidence seems to me to indicate clearly that genes and environment (nature and nurture) both play a role in determining sexual orientation; and also that this orientation is sometimes to a considerable extent reversible. So if there was a general recognition in society of an obligation to abstain from homosexual acts, that would prevent homosexual behaviour being presented as an option for young people of equal value to the heterosexual one which makes possible procreative marriage. That would deter the young from wondering whether they are really homosexual when previously it would not have occurred to them, in consequence experimenting with homosexual sexual acts, getting accustomed to such behaviour and so developing a homosexual orientation."
Swinburne asserts here that sexual experimentation in adolescence or adulthood influences people's sexual orientation. This assertion is not an off-hand remark; it is crucial to his argument that God has a reason to prohibit homosexual conduct. (Swinburne does not think that natural law prohibits homosexual conduct; indeed, he nicely dispatches this view in one sentence on p. 8.) Swinburne's assertion is at odds with the evidence that a person's future sexual orientation is determined before school age and possibly much earlier. He provides no evidence for his assertion that sexual experimentation influences orientation, either in his 2007 book Revelation, or in his 2008 reply to critics, or in the text of his recent talk.
Swinburne claims to have provided evidence that adults can change their sexual orientation, but to call his evidence shoddy would be too generous. His 2007 book cited a study purporting to show that some people had changed their sexual orientation through "reparative therapy." The study's author, Robert Spitzer, retracted the study in 2012 and said that its methodology had a "fatal flaw." Swinburne's recent SCP talk acknowledges this retraction. The talk instead cites Michelle Wolkomir's 2006 book Be Not Deceived as evidence that "the sexual orientation of some, but perhaps not most, homosexuals can be changed to a significant degree." (19) The book is an ethnographic study of two small groups of gay and "ex-gay" Christians and their self-understanding. Treating this study as evidence that people can change their sexual orientation is a mistake for the same reason Spitzer's study was flawed: we have no way to establish that subjects who reported changed sexual desires were sincere and not deceiving themselves. The large number of ex-ex-gays gives us reason to suspect that people are either insincere or deceiving themselves if they claim to have altered their sexual orientations (including their desires as well as their behavior).
We touched on this briefly last week, but as so often happens, it's taken on a life of its own on various right-wing websites. Briefly, the usual "high-school-with-tenure" crowd on Facebook was reacting to the brouhaha about Richard Swinburne's anti-gay bigotry (discussed here). Jason Stanley (Yale), on his Facebook-page-cum-blog responded with a "fuck off" and then a reaffirmation and, shall we say, "elaboration" of the "fuck off" aimed at Swinburne and his ilk. Rebecca Kukla (Georgetown) (another regular in this crowd, whose FB "tough talk" we've encountered before), chimed in with the suggestion that the anti-gay bigots "suck my giant queer cock." There are two reasonably calm accounts of events here and here, both of which include slightly different (and somewhat odd) explanations from Stanley about what transpired. Meanwhile, a right-wing website called "Georgetown Academy" has been pursuing Kukla, claiming that her "message to Catholics" was "suck my giant queer cock." That isn't quite right: at best, that was her "message" to Catholics who are anti-gay bigots. Meanwhile, Jason has, wisely I suspect, removed his Facebook account, to deprive the enemy of further ammunition (though my recollection of his FB page was that it was mostly an extended exercise in "enough about me, what do you think about me?").
I will note that my own comments on L'Affaire Swinburne--"Swinburne offered the usual awful arguments for anti-gay bigotry that "natural law" theorists and Christian philosophers usually trot out. No one outside the sect takes the arguments seriously, because they aren't serious arguments, but put that to one side. This talk was given inside the "sect": should anyone have been surprised that a keynote address at a Christian philosophy conference included familiar arguments rationalizing anti-gay bigotry? Many self-identified Christian philosophers reject such arguments, but many others plainly do not"--didn't provoke nearly as strong a reaction, no doubt due to the absence of vulgar abuse aimed at Swinburne. It's testimony to the power of vulgar words that they can provoke such a strong reaction by contrast. My suggestion, were either Professors Stanley or Kukla taking my advice, would be to apologize for the unfortunate choice of language (everyone, after all, is allowed to have a visceral reaction, and there's nothing wrong with harsh language), but reaffirm the substance of their opposition to anti-gay bigotry, even when it masquerades as philosophy. (You know things are getting weird in philosophy cyberspace when I'm the one giving cyber-etiquette advice! But seriously, having been through right-wing cyber-shitstorms, I think this is a good way to defuse them.)
ADDENDUM: Just to be clear, think of this as a prize for philosophical excellence, however you understand that. There are no further constraints, as there appear to have been with the Berggruen (e.g., relevance to public life).
ANOTHER: Two readers have already pointed out one error of omission, Gilbert Harman. Unfortunately, once the poll starts, I can't add names.
ALAS: Two more omissions: Harry Frankfurt, Judith Jarvis Thomson (sigh). Would any of these folks made the top ten? Hard to say.
The first winner is--yawn--Charles Taylor, who has previously received the Kluge Prize, the Templeton Prize, and the Kyoto Prize, among others. (This isn't as peculiar a choice as the first Kluge Prize, however, far from it!) But, seriously, was it necessary to give one million dollars to an already rich apologist for Catholicism who has a somewhat uneven reputation among professional philosophers (see, e.g., here)? (Taylor was independently wealthy, even before his other millions in prizes.) The prize is supposed to recognize "a thinker whose ideas are of broad significance for shaping human self-understanding and the advancement of humanity. It seeks to recognize and encourage philosophy in the ancient sense of the love of wisdom and in the 18th Century sense of intellectual inquiry into all the basic questions of human knowledge. It rewards thinkers whose ideas are intellectually profound but also able to inform practical and public life across the range of world civilizations." The funder, Nicolas Berggruen, is quoted as observing that, "Ideas have had a greater impact on human history than anything else. We still live in a world that was shaped by Socrates, Confucius, Jesus Christ, Mohamed and Karl Marx, to name a few." That is a very weird list of names for a philosophy prize, though the inclusion of two religious figures whose influence is due not to their philosophical contributions but mass movements (and, if Nietzsche is right, certain kinds of psychological malaise) is perhaps telling, and may help explain why the first awardee is best-known as a nuanced opponent of naturalistic modernity and an apologist for religion. And what is the evidence that Taylor has had any influence on "practical and public life across the range of world civilizations"? He has played an important role in the public life of Canada, to be sure, but elsewhere?
The distinguished historian and philosopher of science, she spent most of her career teaching in the HPS program at Cambridge University. A memorial notice from Cambridge HPS is here. I will add links to obituaries as they appear.
This interview gives a useful précis of Prof. Haslanger's distinctive sense of "ideology" that figures in her work about the social construction of race and gender (it also includes some interesting autobiographical details). (I should say I found the interviewer a bit annoying at times: he interjected too much I thought.) From a Marxian point of view, it's an unusual conception (as I've noted before), in three respects in particular: first, it doesn't necessarily involve beliefs which can be false, but seems to be centrally concerned with what Haslanger calls "practical consciousness" and "know-how"; second, its genesis does not matter (though it shares, loosely, with the Marxian sense the idea that an ideology has the functional property of supporting certain kinds of [oppressive] social relations); and third, there is no special explanatory role for economic relations in understanding ideology. The first attribute is particularly connected, I take it, to Haslanger's emphasis on concrete, practical interventions to change our "ways of interacting" and to do so "together" in particular communities (she even mentions academic disciplines as one locus for this activism). I was surprised to learn from another interview that Prof. Haslanger was brought up as a Christian Scientist, though left that sect in high school. That sect's emphasis on healing echoes, however, in some of her remarks later on the interview.
A philosopher elsewhere writes with an amusing reaction to this week's melodrama:
This shit makes me want to retire.
I already don't "go out" in the philosophy blog-o-sewer, and maybe I'll stop going to conferences too.
Many of these people are not able enough to both do good philosophy and engage constantly in sanctimonious, and often quite nasty, moral police work. Many of them seem to be getting paid a lot to do mediocre scholarly work and spend 80% of their working hours on Facebook.
Obviously, it is embarrassing that educated people would vote for Trump, but it isn't that hard to explain. Dan Bonevac and Rob Koons--my former colleagues at Texas (with whom I had a very enjoyable reading group back in the 1990s)--are both conservative Christians, though of different denominations. Trump's invisible running mate, Mike Pence, the former Indiana Governor, is a very conservative Christian, and many people suspect that given that Trump is a narcissist with a short attention span, that his VP would really govern. I am hardly surprised my former colleagues are supporting Trump under those circumstances.
USC's Scott Soames, whom I do not know except through his work, is a more puzzling case, though I had long heard that he was on the political right (now that is confirmed!). My guess is that his "reasons" are not unlike the reasons proferred by the handful of right-wing law professors supporting Trump, like Stephen Presser (emeritus, Northwestern) and Ronald Rotunda (Chapman). This is perhaps worth emphasizing: there are a lot of conservative and libertarian law professors (whereas there are few philosophy professors, proportionally, in those camps). Most are not supporting Trump: some are voting for Gary Johnson, the libertarian candidate; most seem to be sitting out the election; and another large group are voting for Clinton, for a simple reason, that reflects their legal knowledge: domestically, the President operates under various constraints, but in terms of foreign policy, there are almost no meaningful limits to what the President can do. Entrusting that power to a psychologically unbalanced narcissist isn't a good bet, obviously.
Your readers might be interested in this anecdote about Paul Weiss.
I have a close male friend going back to high school whose mother I knew quite well; she was my friend for many years. She was an English Professor who had a great interest in philosophy. She was very pleased when I decided to study philosophy. But she was surprised and disappointed to learn that I didn’t know anything about Paul Weiss and hadn’t read anything that he wrote. She praised Weiss’s teaching in extravagant terms and told me the following story. Around 1940, she was a student at Bryn Mawr. She took a course with Weiss. Weiss told the students that philosophy involved the radical questioning and examination of all our important beliefs. He said that his students needed to examine all of their important beliefs and that they needed to actively question and suspend their most cherished beliefs as part of their work for the class. She took Weiss to mean that students shouldn’t continue to act on their moral and religious beliefs before examining them. Dutifully following Weiss’s instructions, she stole a vase from an antique’s store. She was almost immediately stricken with guilt and after suffering considerable anguish she returned to the store with the vase hidden under a large coat. She awkwardly returned the vase and ran out of the store.
Weiss had powerful influence on many of his students. Many impressionable young women at Bryn Mawr were very attracted by what my friend described as Weiss’s tough New York street-wise persona that was foreign to most of them. Weiss was very notable as a teacher and for his role in founding The Review of Metaphysics, which was a very major journal while he was its editor. Hardly anyone reads him any more and I don’t think that he was ever an important figure in mainstream philosophy.
Brand Blanshard deserves praise for his role in hiring Weiss at Yale. But many people think that his role in helping to deny Charles Stevenson tenure (because of his disdain for Stevenson’s emotivism) reflects very poorly on him.
I thank Professor Carson for permission to share this great story!
The other keynote speaker controversy making the rounds concerns a talk by philosopher of religion Richard Swinburne (Oxford) at a regional meeting of SCP at Evangel University in Missouri. This appears to be a sympathetic account of what transpired from someone in attendance. Briefly: Swinburne offered the usual awful arguments for anti-gay bigotry that "natural law" theorists and Christian philosophers usually trot out. No one outside the sect takes the arguments seriously, because they aren't serious arguments, but put that to one side. This talk was given inside the "sect": should anyone have been surprised that a keynote address at a Christian philosophy conference included familiar arguments rationalizing anti-gay bigotry? Many self-identified Christian philosophers reject such arguments, but many others plainly do not. As philosopher Chris Swoyer (Oklahoma) noted:
A substantial portion of Christians hold views like those attributed to Swinburne and do so on the basis of their understanding of Christianity. So it's surely not surprising for him to express such views in the setting he did.
That is surely right, and poses a difficult question for those Christian philosophers who repudiate such views about whether they want to be in that "setting" as it were.
In the case of the other keynote speaker controversy du jour, Professor Shelby was asked by a Black woman in his Q&A why he had not cited or discussed any Black feminist authors; Professor Shelby, unsurprisingly, was dismissive of the question, calling it a request for a "bibliography" and indicating he was just trying to do philosophy. He, correctly, supposed that a question of the form, "Why didn't you mention authors with particular racial and gender attributes?" is not a serious philosophical question, in contrast to, say, the question, "Why didn't you address the following argument by author X [who is also a Black feminist]?", which is an appropriate question. (Readers should review the full statement by the aggrieved audience member at the end of this post.) Other audience members shared this aggrievement as well. The organizing committee, instead of taking the opportunity to educate the aggrieved philosophy graduate student about the intellectual norms of the profession she plans to enter instead sent out a missive to all those who attended the conference stating that,
In particular, we apologize for the effects of the Saturday keynote address [by Prof. Shelby] and for our failure to do more about a situation in which SAF members felt personally and collectively hurt. When members identify effects including the erasure of Black women’s bodies and words, then we have to do better. What was said was wrong, and inappropriate at a feminist conference, and we take responsibility for our roles in the events that took place.
So one initial difference between the two cases is that Professor Swinburne's views really are a philosophical embarrassment, whereas Professor Shelby's views and his response to an inappropriate question were not. Indeed, the philosophical embarrassment is that the organizing committee of a philosophy conference caved in to meritless aggrievement by someone who apparently does not know what constitutes an appropriate philosophical question. The other difference involves the "official" SCP response to the Swinburne talk. Michael Rea (Notre Dame), the President of SCP, made the following public statement in the wake of attention being called to the Swinburne talk:
I want to express my regret regarding the hurt caused by the recent Midwest meeting of the Society for Christian Philosophers. The views expressed in Professor Swinburne's keynote are not those of the SCP itself. Though our membership is broadly united by way of religious faith, the views of our members are otherwise diverse. As Preisdent of the SCP, I am committed to promoting the intellectual life of our philosophical community. Consequently (among other reasons), I am committed to the values of diversity and inclusion. As an organization, we have fallen short of those ideals before, and surely we will again. Nonetheless, I will strive for them going forward. If you have thoughts or feedback you would like to share with me, I would welcome hearing from you via email or private message.
Like the SAF conference organizers, Prof. Rea rebukes the speaker to the extent of feeling the need to apologize for the effects of the talk (both statements apologize for "hurt"). Unlike the SAF conference organizers, Prof. Rea at least does not pronounce "what was said" to be "wrong" and verboten "for a Christian conference," which would, for the reasons noted by Prof. Swoyer, be a difficult position to defend in this "setting." Prof. Rea's response would have been better had it just consisted in the statement that "The views expressed in Professor Swinburne's keynote are not those of the SCP itself. Though our membership is broadly united by way of religious faith, the views of our members are otherwise diverse." If he'd left it at that, this would not be notable at all.
Q: To what extent did Yale teach you the art of critical thinking?
DC: Any critical thinking that I got from Yale was in my undergraduate courses, maybe in the true sense of the term, from the great Paul Weiss, Sterling professor of philosophy. Paul Weiss taught his class Socratically, asking to have questions fired at him, and he never failed to take down any five students simultaneously, if he needed to. I later put him on television, on the Jack Paar Tonight Show, and then I had Paul Weiss on my own show, as I did William F. Buckley, [whose] faculty advisor was Paul Weiss.
Weiss, by the way, was the first Jew hired with tenure in philosophy at Yale. (The episode is described in Neil Gross's biography of Richard Rorty: basically, Brand Blandshard championed the appointment, but it met with opposition from his anti-semitic colleagues and administrators, but Blandshard prevailed.) Fifty years on, the former Sterling Professor of Philosophy at Yale is now barely known or read.
The comical sanctimony of certain segments of the philosophy "profession" is a regular topic of conversation and head-shaking among adults, but the insulting treatment of philosopher Tommie Shelby (Harvard) after his keynote at the meeting of the Society for Analytic Feminism (SAF) sets a new low. Justin Weinberg (South Carolina), who always has his finger on the racing pulse of the hyper-sensitive, offers this account:
At the SAF, some members of the audience found the keynote talk by Tommie Shelby (Harvard), drawn from his forthcoming book Dark Ghettos, highly objectionable. My understanding (which may not be entirely accurate) is that the controversy concerned some remarks in the talk about procreative ethics, how (as he puts it in an earlier article), “basic duties are not suspended or void because one is oppressed,” and whether what he said was disrespectful to poor, black women. Some attendees apparently thought that an apology was in order, perhaps from the organizers. (UPDATE: two days after the SAF conference ended, its organizers sent an email to the participants issuing an apology, and requesting feedback from them regarding the event and future conferences.) (UPDATE 2: further details regarding Shelby’s talk can be found in the comment below from “a poor black woman who was there.”)
I suppose Professor Shelby (and everyone else) has learned an important lesson here, namely, that the meeting of the Society for Analytic Feminism is not really a philosophical conference, but one in which failure of ideological purity (which is marked by giving "offense"--heavens!) is verboten and results in an "official" repudiation by the organization.
Again, if we were dealing with professionals--it appears we are not--then we would expect SAF to issue an apology to Prof. Shelby for this shameful treatment at what was supposed to be a philosophical event. (I should add that the sins of SAF should not be visited on those who work in feminist philosophy, though there is, of course, some overlap in the two groups. But I guess if I were a job candidate, I would get SAF off my CV, lest the sins of the SAF organizers be visited on the innocent.)
UPDATE: Philosopher Kate Norlock (Trent) tells me that Professor Weinberg's account is not accurate, and therefore the inferences I have drawn from it are not warranted. She writes:
Tommie Shelby spoke to an attentive and quiet audience without interruption.the question-and-answer period afterward involved many members of the audience providing substantial and critical comments and questions to him. I can attest, since I was there, that their objections were not to the notion that the oppressed can have moral duties.
Interestingly, one of the more unfortunate moments in the discussion period was a moment when Shelby attempted to deflect a robust criticism with the comment that he was "just doing philosophy." Since the unfortunate implication of this ill-chosen deflection is that his questioner may not be trying to do the same, I found myself asserting, as I closed the event, that I appreciated the extent to which we all, including our keynote speaker, remained engaged and did philosophy together. It is therefore disappointing to read your statement that "the meeting of the Society for Analytic Feminism is not really a philosophical conference."
Presentations at our conference included the works of philosophers from 30 different states and 3 countries. I provide you the link to our program so that you may be better informed as to the philosophical content of our conference:
I know you care about truth and fact more than your post indicates. I believe that you wish to be accurate and right. Your post about SAF is neither. It is not reflective of actualities and instead seems to merely echo Justin Weinberg's likewise uninformed post at Daily Nous. Your recommendation that my organization should not appear on a philosopher's CV may be well-intended but is predicated on misunderstanding on your part.
Last, please provide me with any proof that I or my organization officially repudiated Tommie Shelby or owes him an apology. Proof should include more than your repetition of Justin Weinberg's gossip. That the blogs cite each other does not constitute proof. Again, I know that you know this, or would ordinarily know this.
I appreciate the additional detail, but I am, I confess, still puzzled. I am surprised that Prof. Weinberg's posting would remain uncorrected on these points after more than a day and despite dozens of comments including from members of SAF. (UPDATE: Prof. Weinberg's post was updated to reflect this point after I posted this.) I have asked Prof. Norlock for the apology e-mail organizers allegedly sent to members; Prof. Norlock's message to me was silent on tHis. When I have more information, I will post more.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Another SAF meeting attendee has forwarded me the e-mail sent out by the organizers, which confirms the crucial part of Prof. Weinberg's original account:
We write to all participants in the SAF 2016 conference so that those of us not on Facebook or social media have the same access to our acknowledgement of the harms some participants have already identified, and opportunities to participate in addressing them.
In planning this conference, we wanted to create a safe and nurturing space for feminist philosophers and feminist philosophies. We recognize that this was not the case for everyone present, and for that we apologize. In particular, we apologize for the effects of the Saturday keynote address [by Prof. Shelby] and for our failure to do more about a situation in which SAF members felt personally and collectively hurt. When members identify effects including the erasure of Black women’s bodies and words, then we have to do better. What was said was wrong, and inappropriate at a feminist conference, and we take responsibility for our roles in the events that took place.
...yes, I'll get to that one too, but today is the first day of the quarter, so there's work to be done, and I've already spent too much time on the earlier brouhaha. The details of this one are available here. I'lll just note the comment of philosopher Chris Swoyer (Oklahoma) at Prof. Rea's FB page:
A substantial portion of Christians hold views like those attributed to Swinburne and do so on the basis of their understanding of Christianity. So it's surely not surprising for him to express such views in the setting he did.
Following up on last week's post: of course, the first standpoint epistemologist in the contemporary, "inverted" and unMarxian sense was Lukacs who, in the 1920s, proposed that, in fact, the proletariat, in virtue of their class position, had special epistemic access to the pathologies of capitalism. The pedigree of that idea--an unabashed Left Young Hegelian who later became an unabashed Stalinist--would perhaps give one pause, but since most analytic philosophers, in their blissful historical ignorance, don't know anything about the pedigree, the unhappy history of 20th-century standpoint epistemology does not arise as a concern.
(Last week, I was in Vienna for a conference on relativism in German-speaking philosophy in what Martin Kusch (Vienna) calls, aptly enough, "the long 19th-century," roughly from Herder through the 1930s. Among the things I learned, thanks to an excellent paper by Johannes Steizinger (also at Vienna), is that the Nazis, and their philosophers (there were a lot of them!), were also (in a way) standpoint epistemologists, though for them the relevant standpoint was defined by the racial group, with each racial group having its own epistemic criteria. Since the Nazis also believed in an objective hierarchy of races, this required some philosophical gymnastics to square that with their epistemic relativism!)
It was Marx and Marxists who were the inventers of "standpoint epistemology," the idea that one's "social" position--for Marxists, "class," for later writers, race, gender, and so on--exercises an important, sometimes decisive, influence on a person's beliefs. For Marxists, the key thought was that the "standpoint" resulted in distortion of one's knowledge, because it was tainted by the interests associated with one's social position. In the Marxist version of standpoint epistemology, the working classes did not have any special epistemic access to the actual facts about their situation--to the contrary, their understanding of the actual state of affairs was distorted by the ideology propagated by a different, dominant class, which systematically distorted social reality in its own interests. Marxists, like Marx, assumed (correctly) that there is an epistemically superior description of social reality that is not tainted by standpoint, and which can serve as a check on the ideological delusions promoted by dominant groups.
By contrast, in recent bourgeois academic philosophy--that is, philosophizing by well-to-do professors who never challenge the prerogatives of the capitalist class, which is basically almost all of current philosophy in the Anglophone world--standpoint epistemology has, ironically, been turned on its head. Now the social position of the purported "knower"--usually "race" or "gender" or "sexual orientation"--is not taken to be a distorting influence on cognition, but rather an epistemic advantage, one which even demands epistemic deference by others. We have travelled rather far from Marx.
(I thank Clifford Sosis for a stimulating e-mail exchange on this topic, though the ideas are strictly my own!)
What matters in the narcissistic world of late capitalism is not what you think or do but how you feel. And since how you feel can’t be argued against, it is conveniently insulated from all debate. Men and women can now stroll around in continuous self-monitoring mode, using apps to track their changes of mood. The brutal, domineering ego of an older style of capitalism has given way to the tender self-obsession of the new....
What Davies recognises is that capitalism has now in a sense incorporated its own critique. What the system used to regard with suspicion – feeling, friendship, creativity, moral responsibility – have all now been co-opted for the purpose of maximising profits. One commentator has even argued the case for giving products away free, so as to form a closer bond with the customer. Some employers have taken to representing pay increases they give to their staff as a gift, in the hope of extracting gratitude and thus greater effort from them. It seems that there is nothing that can’t be instrumentalised....
Happiness for the market researchers and corporate psychologists is a matter of feeling good. But it seems that millions of individuals don’t feel good at all, and are unlikely to be persuaded to buck up by technologies of mind control that induce them to work harder or consume more. You can’t really be happy if you are a victim of injustice or exploitation, which is what the technologists of joy tend to overlook. This is why, when Aristotle speaks of a science of well-being, he gives it the name of politics. The point is of little interest to the neuroscientists, advertising gurus or mindfulness mongers, which is why so much of their work is spectacularly beside the point.
The intellectual historian Peter Gordon (Harvard) offers an informative review of the new biography of Habermas. Among other things, I was struck by the irony that Habermas--always an admirable critic of post-Nazi complacency in Germany, as Gordon emphasizes--secured his habilitation and first academic post thanks to the influence of the disgusting Nazi and lifelong anti-semite Gadamer! (I wonder if Habermas knew? For a long time, Gadamer was quite good at keeping it under wraps.) Gordon, in my view, significantly overstates Habermas's philosophical importance (in contrast to his invaluable role as a public intellectual holding post-War Germany to moral account). When Marxism returns, as it no doubt will, in something more like Marx's form, Habermas will be remembered mainly as taking the philosophically feeble (and irrelevant) attack on instrumental reason that began with Horkheimer and expanding it to the point that so-called "Critical Theory" collapsed into precisely the kind of bourgeois moral theorizing Marx loathed. (For anyone interested, I discuss this in a bit more detail here.)
The APA has released the 2016 edition of this document. I haven't had a chance to look carefully at it, so do not know how useful it is or isn't.
UPDATE: A reader who earned a B.A. and M.A. in philosophy from state universities writes:
I’m a daily reader of your blog and I very much appreciate your services to the profession (philosophical news, the PGR, academic freedom watchdogsmanship, and so forth). Anyway, I hold an MA from one of the so-called Leiterific programs and turned down a PhD spot to go into the real world job market. Naturally I noted the APA post on careers outside of philosophy that you linked to with great interest, but was disappointed to see the backgrounds of the folks they profiled: Yale Law; Princeton and Columbia; Chicago, Berkeley, Cambridge; Harvard. I think it’s great that the APA has decided to take alt-ac careers seriously (since so many PhD students don’t complete the degree), but in a field that is already so hierarchical and pedigree conscious, it struck me as especially snooty for them to exclusively highlight individuals with such prestigious backgrounds. I only mention it because many of those people trying to make it in the world with a Philosophy degree are not coming from Harvard or Princeton, and if they were, they would not be having some of the difficulties that they are. As someone who attended state schools and already feels like the professional elites in philosophy think my kind are deplorable morons (since after all, pedigree is a quick heuristic for intelligence and whatnot), it just seems especially tasteless for what was putatively a community service project to read more like a who’s who of alt-ac royalty. Anyway, I know you aren’t even a member of the APA, but if they ever ask for your two cents, perhaps you could mention that many of us wish their research ventures would take them outside of the ivory tower more often. Thanks again for everything you do!
Just to be clear, I'm sure no one in philosophy thinks a student with an MA from Northern Illinois or Wisconsin/Miwaulkee or Georgia State or any of the other excellent terminal MA programs at public schools is a "deplorable moron," but the mindless pedigree effect outside those "in the know" is real enough.
This is an interesting response from a political theorist to the unfortunate piece by Professors Garfield and van Norden we discussed some time ago. It is true that much, but not all, of Western philosophy can be traced back to Plato, more or less, but I suppose Garfield & Van Norden would just say, "OK, then call philosophy departments 'Departments of Philosophy After Plato,'" an even more misleading title than the one they proposed! Why should lineage to Plato get special claim to the field? And what about the pre-Socratic philosophers? There's a reason they get called philosophers too! And just because styles of argument in some non-Western traditions are different (some are not different at all however!), the concerns are often recognizably similar.
Still, there is something to be said for disciplinary expertise and depth, and a department of philosophy can't be all things to all people. It is true that many wise and deep writings are not philosophy--it would be remarkable to suggest otherwise!
David Shoemaker (Tulane) calls my attention to the fact that Peasoup, the long-running ethics blog, has a new home and a new sponsor, the Prindle Institute of Ethics at DePauw University under the direction of Andrew Cullison. Prof. Shoemaker and David Sobel (Syracuse) will continue as the editors, and Shoemaker tells me they will be moderating comments a bit more actively to insure quality discussion.
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)