Three are new awardees: Ingo Brigandt (Alberta), Marc-Antoine Dilhac (Montreal), and C. Kenneth Waters (Calgary). One is a renewal of an existing Chair, to Brad Inwood, currently at the University of Toronto but moving next year to Yale.
MOVING TO FRONT FROM LAST WEEK IN LIGHT OF NEW COMMENTS--MORE WELCOME
A student in the UK writes:
I am applying for PhD programs this cycle but find it almost impossible to find useful resources on how to write a high-quality proposal specifically for political theory/political philosophy programmes. I am applying to UK universities. Could you recommend any resources or give any advice?
Six hundred and three people completed a survey measuring perceptions of traditional areas of philosophical inquiry and their relationship to empirical science. The ten areas studied were: aesthetics, epistemology, ethics, history of philosophy, logic, metaphysics, philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, philosophy of science, and political philosophy. For each area, participants rated whether it is currently central to philosophy (centrality), whether its centrality depends on integration with science (dependence), and whether work in the area is sufficiently integrated with science (integration). Centrality judgments tended to be high. Participants viewed nine of the ten areas as central to philosophy (the exception being aesthetics), although they made this judgment more confidently for some areas. Dependence judgments were more varied, ranging from clear disagreement (for logic and history of philosophy) to clear agreement (for philosophies of science, mind, and language). Integration judgments were also varied but exhibited more uncertainty. Some areas whose centrality depended on integration were judged to be well integrated (philosophies of science and mind), but a central tendency for all other areas was ambivalence. Demographic factors had small but statistically significant effects on all three sorts of judgment. Higher age predicted higher centrality judgments and higher integration judgments. Higher socioeconomic status predicted lower dependence judgments and higher integration judgments. Men recorded higher integration judgments.
Horgan: What’s your opinion of the recent philosophy-bashing by Stephen Hawking, Lawrence Krauss and Neil deGrasse Tyson?
Rovelli: Seriously: I think they are stupid in this. I have admiration for them in other things, but here they have gone really wrong. Look: Einstein, Heisenberg, Newton, Bohr…. and many many others of the greatest scientists of all times, much greater than the names you mention, of course, read philosophy, learned from philosophy, and could have never done the great science they did without the input they got from philosophy, as they claimed repeatedly. You see: the scientists that talk philosophy down are simply superficial: they have a philosophy (usually some ill-digested mixture of Popper and Kuhn) and think that this is the “true” philosophy, and do not realize that this has limitations.
Here is an example: theoretical physics has not done great in the last decades. Why? Well, one of the reasons, I think, is that it got trapped in a wrong philosophy: the idea that you can make progress by guessing new theory and disregarding the qualitative content of previous theories. This is the physics of the “why not?” Why not studying this theory, or the other? Why not another dimension, another field, another universe? Science has never advanced in this manner in the past. Science does not advance by guessing. It advances by new data or by a deep investigation of the content and the apparent contradictions of previous empirically successful theories. Quite remarkably, the best piece of physics done by the three people you mention is Hawking’s black-hole radiation, which is exactly this. But most of current theoretical physics is not of this sort. Why? Largely because of the philosophical superficiality of the current bunch of scientists.
Horgan: You have written about the Greek thinker Anaximander. Who was he, and why do you find him interesting?
Rovelli: He is the guy who understood that the Earth is a stone that floats in the middle of the Sky without falling down. He understood that the Sky is not just above out head: it is also under our feet. It surrounds us in every direction. He is the only one in the history of our planet who understood this, and convinced everybody else that this is the case. In fact, he has done much more than this, but this is his greatest achievement. I find him immensely interesting because he represents one of the main steps in the development of scientific thinking. He is a giant.
An important contributor to metaphysics, philosophy of language and logic, Prof. Sommers, who passed away yesterday, held the Harry A.Wolfson Chair in Philosophy at Brandeis University before his retirement in 1993. His son, the philosopher Tamler Sommers (Houston), writes that, "The service will be Monday October 6 at 1 PM at Ohev Sholom Synagogue, 1600 Jonquil Street, NW Washington, DC 20012. It is open to all. My brother and I, and my stepmother Christina Hoff Sommers, will sit Shiva all of next week at his home."
I will add links to additional memorial notices as they appear.
The grant will support yearly Summer Seminars in Neuroscience and Philosophy (beginning in 2016) led by Duke philosophers Felipe De Brigard and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong. There is more information here.
Joseph Heath (Toronto) comments. Unlike Templeton, Koch money often seems to come with way too many ideological strings attached.
UPDATE: A senior philosopher elsewhere writes: "Thanks for the link to Joseph Heath's short piece on Koch money in academics. I remember you opened comments on a piece a few years ago on IHS funding of graduate students. I for one would be keenly interested to see what experiences others have had, with Koch and conferences. An option for anonymous posting would encourage openness."
I've opened comments, and will permit anonymous comments, but include a valid e-mail (I never disclose those to anyone and it will not appear).
In eleven years of blogging, I've only once received a serious threat of legal action for something posted here--serious, not in the sense that the claim had any merit, but in that the person making the claim had a real lawyer and there was a real prospect of a nuisance lawsuit being filed. The case involved jeweler and self-styled metaphysician David Birnbaum, whose curious case we noted last year, and whose story was then picked up by CHE. The trouble did not start, however, until almost six months later when The Guardian contacted Mr. Birnbaum for a story they subsequently ran about him. From that reporter Mr. Birnbaum discovered my original post about the allegations of academic identity theft from Prof. Hagberg. This posting agitated him, so he phoned me up at the office.
The conversation didn't get off to a good start because within the first twenty seconds he used the word "defamatory"; I cut him off and said to him, "If you call up a law professor and start throwing around the word defamatory, then the conversation is over." This sobered him up and we had a pleasant chat and he assured me the whole matter with Prof. Hagberg was a misunderstanding, that he had documents to prove it, that my post was very upsetting to his children, etc. It was an odd ramble. I said to him if he could send me documents proving it was a misunderstanding, then I would revise or remove the post accordingly. I told him to e-mail me the evidence.
Mr. Birnbaum didn't, in fact, have any real evidence, but he did e-mail me. He also cc'd his lawyer, which meant our correspondence was at an end. This was a litigator with a major New York law firm; my best guess is that this lawyer represents Mr. Birnbaum in disputes involving his high-end jewelry business, where there is probably hundreds of thousands (or millions) of dollars at stake. But I think as part of the cost of keeping his client, he also has to handle Mr. Birnbaum's vanity litigations (Birnbaum apparently made similar threats against Bard College as well, though in the end did nothing).
Fortunately, I have the best lawyer in the United States (truly!), a friend I went to law school with years ago. It's not just that he's really smart and a person of extraordinary integrity, it's that he has impeccable and shrewd judgment, and knows how to handle people--a huge part of successful lawyering is understanding how to get people to do what the law requires without actually having to bring suit (though bringing suit is, of course, the final recourse for certain wrongs). Over the years, my lawyer has recovered bonuses and security deposits wrongfully withheld, secured revisions to factually inaccurate statements in a book put out by a major publishing house, and assisted me in dealing effectively with sundry cyber-crazies. In none of these cases was a lawsuit ever filed (though in one, as I recall, a draft of the complaint did motivate the miscreant to do the right thing).
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)