The book is framed around the contrast between Lockean empiricism and Cartesian nativism. Locke held that the contents of the mind are more-or-less veridically impressed upon it from without. McGinn devotes considerable time to arguing that this is untenable, on a variety of grounds. The mind is not, and cannot be, a blank slate. It has structure, resulting from the unfolding of a genetic program. But of course no contemporary empiricist denies this. Almost everyone now allows that our sensory systems embody implicit knowledge of the structure of the world. Indeed Fodor (1981, 2008), whose nativism is in many respects even more extreme than McGinn's, grants to the empiricist what McGinn claims as his own crowning contribution to nativism: that structure-determining sensory systems and primitive sensory concepts are innate. The contemporary disputes are mostly about the nature of the processes that take one from sensory content to the rest of the mind's contents.
(Interestingly, Fodor is not mentioned once in McGinn's book. McGinn asserts, furthermore, "None of the central figures of twentieth-century philosophy had anything much to say about the question [of innateness]." [p.90.] One can deduce that McGinn doesn't take Fodor to be a major figure. I disagree.)
In fact much of the debate between contemporary nativists and empiricists concerns the nature of learning. All agree that the basic structure of the mind is innate (including mechanisms of learning), and most agree that most of the contents of the mind are learned. (Fodor is an exception.) The disagreements are about whether learning is all a matter of general-purpose statistical or probabilistic inference of some sort, or whether it involves structured domain-specific learning mechanisms (somewhat like the language-faculty, on a Chomskian view of the latter). Other debates concern whether there is "core knowledge" of particular domains outside of our sensory faculties, structured out of innate concepts. (For articles that engage with both sets of debates from a broadly nativist perspective, see the papers collected in Carruthers et al., 2005, 2006, 2007.) There are extensive literatures on these topics that McGinn would need to take account of in order to contribute usefully to 21st century nativism, but he does not.
None of this would matter if McGinn were intending only to offer an assessment of the disagreements about nativism that took place early in the modern era. But he isn't. His aim is to convince us that nativism is true, and then to convince us that it is deeply mysterious how it can be true. But to do either of these things he would first have to frame the nativist hypothesis to be consistent with what we already know about the structure of the mind and the course of its development, and he would then need to engage with the controversies that remain. But he does neither of these things.
As for McGinn's mysterianism about the innate mind, this is more asserted than argued for. Indeed, it is quite demanding to demonstrate that something cannot in principle be explained, but McGinn doesn't even make the attempt....
The latest sexual harassment scandal in academic philosophy has, predictably, brought the usual know-nothing pontificators out in force, busy signaling their rectitude while actually harming the interests of the complainant against Pogge. Let me explain.
is rightly considered a pillar of civilised society. But people have a tendency to over-apply it in irrelevant cases. The presumption of your innocence means that the state can't punish you for a crime unless it proves that you committed it. That's it. It has nothing to do with how one individual should treat or think about another, or whether an organisation should develop or continue a relationship with an accused individual. The presumption of innocence doesn't protect you from being unfriended on facebook, or shunned at conferences, or widely thought by other people to be a criminal. It just protects from being criminally convicted.
Why is the "presumption of innocence" considered "a pillar of civilized society"? Presumably because there is moral value in avoiding sanctioning the innocent, and we can avoid sanctioning the innocent if we shift the burden of proof to the accuser. That moral value exists outside the legal context, though it is particularly important in the legal context because the sanctions are very serious. But even when the sanctions are less serious, the moral value of the presumption remains. Think of it this way: the First Amendment protection of free speech prevents the state from sanctioning you for the content of your speech (except under very special circumstances), but that doesn't mean "freedom of speech" has no value, and deserves no moral weight, in contexts other than the exercise of state power. I do not suggest that there should be a legal remedy for "unfriending" on Facebook or for swarmy pontificators and shunners like Ichikawa et al., but I do think it obvious that a "presumption of innocence" plays a useful role in regulating our informal dealings with others, even if it is a defeasible assumption (and is defeated in this case, about which more in a moment).
Princeton philosopher Delia Graff Fara writes about her own " unpleasant experience" with Professor Pogge (which she kindly gave me permission to share):
I had a mildly unpleasant experience with Pogge when I was a senior undergraduate at Harvard and he was a visiting professor who stayed in my "house", Harvard's equivalent to residential colleges at Princeton and Yale. (I lived in Cabot House.)
In brief, I was having a meeting with Pogge during and after dinner in our dining hall to talk about Rawls and Rousseau, the subjects of my senior thesis. He kept me talking for longer than I felt comfortable with. It was night and the dining hall had long since emptied out. I finally ended the meeting when he started rubbing my thigh, by just saying that it was late and that I needed to leave.
Over that decade, nearly one hundred women have been awarded PhDs in philosophy from just three schools, two mediocre and one a joke: the University of Memphis, the University of Oregon, and the California Institute of Integral Studies. Indeed, of the ten programs that graduated the highest percentage of women during this decade, just three are leading and serious PhD programs: MIT, North Carolina, and Minnesota. Those concerned about the representation of women in the profession should be greatly alarmed by these facts. As we've noted before, women are hardly well-served by getting PhDs from weak (or worse) programs.
One of the items in Pogge's defense struck me as odd; namely, the use of a "polygraph" as defense. While I am not sure what the current status of polygraphs in the American legal context is, but in science&technology studies the technology counts largely as debunked and - outside of people who write spy stories for television - isn't taken seriously (I just accepted a paper on polygraphs in fiction, for a special issue on how science fiction and science mutually influence each other). It's not permissible in Germany in legal contexts to the best of my knowledge. So, is Pogge's use of the device a "publicity stunt" or does it have bearings on any legal or Yale's regulatory procedures?
Polygraph test results are generally not admissible as evidence in American courts (the state of New Mexico is an exception). The exclusion dates to a court decision from the 1920s, but almost all American courts, state and federal, continue to follow that approach. The reason is that we know that some serial liars are very good at passing these tests, and some totally truthful witnesses regularly fail them. Polygraph tests try to pick up typical biomarkers of being untruthful, but the correlation is imperfect. If, in fact, Professor Pogge passed a polygraph test, as he asserts, nothing would preclude Yale from considering that, but it would not be admissible were the matter adjudicated in federal court or state court in Connecticut. Given the unreliability of such tests, there is no reason a complainant should subject herself to one.
UPDATE: Professor Pogge's response has moved from a Yale site to his personal site; the link, above, has been fixed.
(Thanks to various readers who sent this along. I was teaching my last class of the quarter this afternoon, so have not read it yet, but wanted to share it. I may have additional comments once I digest its content.)
ADDENDUM: From the story:
“It breaks my heart to have to say it,” said Christia Mercer, a former colleague from the Columbia philosophy department, “but it’s clear that Thomas uses his reputation as a supporter of justice to prey unjustly on those who trust and admire him, who then — once victimized — are too intimidated by his reputation and power to tell their stories.”
MAY 22 UPDATE: Professor Pogge responds to the allegations. Given his denials, he ought to bring a libel action, at least against the author of the fundraising site which accused him of rape and attempted rape. Since I agree with Professor Pogge that cyberspace is a poor forum for adjudicating these matters, this would also provide a formal setting for adjudicating these very serious, and, if false, defamatory, allegations. It may be that the statute of limitations has expired on the defamatory per se allegations, but if so, then one wonders why no legal remedy was sought in a timely way. (I can imagine reasons, but libel per se, where there is no need to prove damages, is the strongest kind of defamation claim.)
In his statement, Pogge claimed Lopez Aguilar’s assertions had already been disproven: “One version of her allegations was thoroughly investigated in quasi-judicial proceedings by a Yale committee of five faculty members and one Federal judge, who found her charges of sexual harassment to be not credible.”
The panel’s actual finding was that there was “insufficient evidence” with which “to corroborate either Ms. Lopez’s or Mr. Pogge’s differing accounts.”
Pogge also pointed to “enthusiastic emails,” which were included in the BuzzFeed News investigation, that Lopez Aguilar wrote him after the Chile trip.
Pogge derided the claim that he had “attacked” Lopez Aguilar during her senior year. That appears to be a reference to language from a public fundraising plea written by a friend of Lopez Aguilar’s. Lopez Aguilar herself did not allege inappropriate physical contact until after graduation.
Story at IHE, with some particularly interesting remarks by philosopher Talbot Brewer (Virginia); an excerpt:
For Talbot Brewer, professor and chair of philosophy at the University of Virginia, the liberal arts need saving in part from the “black mirrors” so many of us are glued to each day. Cellular phones, computers and, especially for children, television, facilitate a kind of “reverse-Weberian,” late capitalistic assault on our collective attention, he said. The effect is that we no longer know how to interact with the meaningful, valuable media that take time and effort to understand— that is, the bulk of what makes up the liberal arts.
Calling attention a “vital resource,” Brewer described it as “the medium of passion, of friendship, of love. The sign of our presence to one another, both in intimate spaces and in public. The antidote to listlessness and heedlessness.”
It’s also the prerequisite “for any concerted activity, including the activities of reading, viewing, critical thinking, writing and intensive conversational exchange that are central” to the liberal arts, he said.
So amid the clamor of “manipulative messages when there suddenly appears something quite different, something called literature, or art or philosophy, it is not easy to open ourselves to this newcomer,” Brewer continued. “The attentional environment has not encouraged the traits required for properly appreciate engagement — the habit of devoted attention, and of patience and generosity in interpretation, the openness to finding camaraderie and illumination from others in the more treacherous passages of human life [and] the expressive conscience that insists upon finding exactly the right words for incipient thoughts.”
Digging through my draft but unused posts, I found this funny one:
Last August, after I posted a link to the Illinois boycott statement organized by John Protevi, he sent me the following interesting e-mail:
From: John Protevi [email@example.com]
Sent: Wednesday, August 20, 2014 9:30 AM
To: Leiter, Brian
Subject: Thanks for the link
Brian, many thanks for the link to the boycott pledge. Despite our differences and my own often admittedly sophomoric reactions to them, I have never hesitated in thanking you for your solidarity on many important issues, and so I’ll do so here and on Facebook and Twitter.
John does seem to have a lot of time on his hands for stuff, both important and trivial, but it's nice to know that even he is aware of his "own admittedly sophomoric" propensities.
John hasn't gotten less sophomoric in the interim, but he's at least a trooper on behalf of academic freedom!
Herman Cappelen (PI), Øystein Linnebo, Camilla Serck-Hanssen has received a $3.6 million grant for a 5-year project on Conceptual Engineering. The funding is given by The Norwegian Research Council’s Toppforsk program. The project is hosted by ConceptLab (http://www.hf.uio.no/ifikk/english/research/projects/cl/ ) at the University of Oslo.
Brief description of the project:
In any inquiry, whether scientific or practical, we use concepts to frame questions about reality. An obvious way in which the inquiry can be successful is by yielding answers to the resulting questions. A far less obvious form of success has to do with asking the “right” questions, formulated using the “right” concepts. It is clear that many great leaps in human insight and understanding have been associated with the forging of “better” concepts, which has enabled us to ask “better” questions: in physics, the differentiation of weight and mass; in mathematics, the Cantorian notion of “size” or number; in economics, the articulation of the present concept of money; in social science the concept of gender, as opposed to sex. These are illustrations of how conceptual progress has been made in the past.
Our project has three parts: one part aims to develop a general theory of conceptual engineering, another focuses on the engineering of formal concepts, and a third is concerned with social/political concepts such as ‘combatant’ and ‘privacy’.
MOVING TO FRONT FROM MAY 12--MR. STRASSFELD WELCOMES MORE FEEDBACK
Jonathan StrasSfeld, a PhD student in History at the University of Rochester working on an interesting project on the history of American philosophy in the mid-20th-century (especially the fates, respectively, of phenomenology and analytic philosophy), asked me to share this data on philosophy faculty at the leading graduate programs 1930-1979 (corrected list from a few hours ago): Download Philosophers 1930-1979 corrected
Mr. Strassfeld explains:
As part of my dissertation research, I have assembled a database of information about philosophers at America's leading philosophy departments in the mid-20th century. It includes every Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and Professor (not including visiting or emeritus faculty) in the philosophy departments of Berkeley, Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Princeton, Stanford, UCLA, and Yale, from 1930-1979.
I am making a limited version of this dataset available on this blog both because it may be of interest or use to philosophers, and in the hope that others will be able to spot errors or misidentifications. Most importantly, I have attempted to classify each philosopher as working in analytic philosophy, non-analytic philosophy, or the history of philosophy, allowing for combinations of these categories. Because of the number of philosophers involved - 492 in total - this assessment is necessarily cursory; and these categories are, of course also, not clear cut. Thus, I will be particularly grateful for any help finding misidentifications: please email corrections and suggestions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I hope readers will help Mr. Strassfeld out and, in any case, enjoy the snapshot of the American philosophy faculties of yesteryear!
ADDENDUM: An explanation from Mr. Strassfeld of the departments studied:
I determined which departments to survey recursively, defining the "leading departments" as those whose graduates comprised the faculties of the leading departments. Focusing on the period of 1945-1969, when universities were growing explosively, I found that there was a group of eleven philosophy departments that essentially only hired graduates from among their own ranks and foreign universities - that it was virtually impossible for graduates of any American philosophy departments outside of this group to gain faculty positions at these "leading departments." Indeed, between 1949-1960, no member of their faculty had received a Ph.D. from an American institution outside of their ranks. There were, of course, border cases. Brown, Rockefeller, MIT, and Pittsburgh in particular might have been included. However, I judged that they did not place enough graduates on the faculties of the other leading universities, particularly during the period 1945-1969, for inclusion. This list also aligns closely with contemporary reputational assessments, with ten of the eleven departments ranking in the top 11 in a 1964 poll (Allan Murray Carter, An Assessment of Quality in Graduate Education).
Note, of course, that MIT, Pittsburgh, and Rockefeller only became major PhD programs in philosophy in the 1960s.
It is related to the incidents mentioned here. The allegations in this new case are, from what I can gather, much more serious than in prior cases. The interesting question will be how the university involved responds to a light being shone on events.
...and a somewhat odd interpretation of it by Prof. Schwitzgebel, but it could be I am misunderstanding the data presented. Looking at data on PhDs awarded to women in philosophy, engineering, and physical sciences, he writes:
The overall trend is clear: Although philosophy's percentages are currently similar to the percentages in engineering and physical sciences, the trend in philosophy has flattened out in the 21st century, while engineering and the physical sciences continue to make progress toward gender parity. All the broad areas show roughly linear upward trends, except for the humanities which appears to have flattened at approximately parity.
But what the chart shows is that engineering and physical sciences started well below philosophy in percentage of PhDs earned by women, and the physical sciences have finally caught up to philosophy, while engineering still lags behind philosophy, but has improved over the time period examined. Only if engineering and the physical sciences continue to award more PhDs to women going forward would Schwitzgebel's interpretation make sense. As of now, it may be that all three fields have or will plateau in the 25-30% range. Am I misreading his data?
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.
...and I'm sure at least Professor Van Norden knows that all too well. Huge stretches of European philosophy--from Hegel to the present, say, or in the 12th through 14th-centuries--are also neglected in many of the top 50 PhD programs. Most of the top 50 PhD programs do not have any faculty teaching American philosophy of the 19th-century. What unites the curricula at these programs is not a commitment to "European and American philosophy" but a commitment to a style of doing philosophy, that derives from some British philosophers, some Continental European ones, and some American ones (it's also a style that is increasingly popular in parts of Asia, by the way)--and it's a style whose leading practitioners now include Asian-Americans, Hispanics, and African-Americans. I empathize with the desires of Professors Garfield and van Norden to see their fields less neglected--I'd like to see my own fields less neglected too! But playing the "diversity card" in this context is a dangerous game to play, that will lead to changes in the field that I'm quite sure Prof. Van Norden won't welcome (I know Prof. Garfield less well, so can offer no opinion about how he might view the ramifications).
It's hard to escape that conclusion after reading this account. And there's a sad lesson here, which is don't walk into a meeting with a former prosecutor hired to do an investigation by your university without having your own attorney present. What a shame that an apparently devoted teacher should be smeared by her institution.
(Thanks to several readers for sending this on; I'm sorry I only just got to read it.)
ADDENDUM: Some readers appear to have drawn the wrong inferences from this brief comment of mine and the link to Prof. Wolff. Allen Wood's book on Marx is terrific; Allen was my first choice to write the volume on Marx for my Routledge Philosophers series, but he was then working on Kant, so declined. He famously defended in the 1970s the (correct) view that Marx did not criticize capitalism for its injustice. But all that being said, his remarks in the quoted interview are vulnerable to the criticism leveled by Prof. Wolff.
...in NYRB. Interestingly, since I chided NYRB for its inadequate coverage of philosophy a few years back, there seems to have been a bit more in its pages: I note just in the last year, for example, philosophical essays and reviews by Samuel Freeman, Tamsin Shaw, Peter Singer, Rebecca Goldstein, John Gray, and Jeremy Waldron. Cause and effect? Who knows? What's still the case is that Boston Review still publishes more philosophy, and more high quality philosophy across more topics, than NYRB.
...at 3AM. The interview gives a nice, synoptic account of his (revisionary) account of Kant's ethics in particular. As always, Allen also offers fierce and bracing judgments on matters philosophical and political. Three examples from this interview (I disagree with them to varying degrees, but that's not the point). First, on utilitarianism (vide "effective [sic] altruism"):
The problem I see with utilitarianism, or any form of consequentialism, is not that it gets the wrong answers to moral questions. I think just about any moral theory, worked out intelligently, and applied with good judgment, would get just about the same results as any other. Mill developed utilitarianism with great humanity and insight. Perhaps that is why many utilitarians (those with less humanity, insight and judgment) say he is not a true utilitarian. I have said to two of my friends: David Lyons and John Skorupski — both excellent philosophers, who have made a deep study of utilitarianism — that they are my favorite utilitarians. The reaction of both was the same: “But I am not a utilitarian!” To this my reply was: “Ah, so that explains it.”
Consequentialist theories begin with a very simple and undoubtedly valid point: Every action aims at a future end, and is seen as a means to it. (This is precisely Kant’s conception of action.) So one rational standard of action is how well it promotes the end it seeks. Another standard is whether it aims at ends which are good. Both of these, but especially the former, depend on judgments of fact. Utilitarians are usually empiricists who think they can solve every problem by accumulating enough empirical facts. They do not realize that thinking as well as experience is necessary to know anything or get anything right.Philosophy is about getting the facts right, but it is also about thinking rightly about them. Philosophy is more about the latter than the former. That’s why empiricist philosophy always tends to be anti-philosophy (and is often proud of it). People are often most proud of precisely those things of which they should most be ashamed. (The rightward side of American politics illustrates this very well.)
The big problem for consequentialism is that facts of this last form are hard to obtain except for a few determinate ends in the fairly short run. Consequentialist theories pretend that we can set some great big ends (the general happiness, human flourishing), provide ourselves with definite enough conceptions of them to make them the objects of instrumental reasoning, and then obtain enough reliable information about what actions will best promote them that we could regulate our conduct by these considerations alone. In fact people do not know enough about themselves and what is good for them to form a sufficiently definite conception of the general happiness (or whatever the end is) to establish definite rules for its pursuit.
Further, we cannot predict the effects of our actions, especially our collective actions over generations or centuries, to use instrumental reasoning toward these big final ends to tell us what we ought to do. As a result, it is possible to use the simple point that it is rational to choose the right means to your ends to develop very elegant abstract formal theories of rational choice, and then turn these into what look like moral theories. Philosophers tend to be ravished by the formal beauty of such theories, and they don’t pay much attention to the fact that our human limitations make them pretty useless in practice, while the simple point about instrumental reasoning is too shallow to be of much real moral interest.
When consequentialist theories are developed in terms of an equally shallow psychology of the good — such as a crude form of hedonism — the results can sometimes strike sensible people as revolting and inhuman. People can be reduced to simple repositories of positive or negative sensory states, and their humanity is lost sight of entirely. When people think that moral problems can be solved by some simple strategy of calculation, that sets them up for ghastly overreaching. They think they can turn everything into a “science” the way mechanics was turned into a science in the seventeeth century. They want to turn everything over to technocrats and social engineers. They become shortsighted or simplistic about their ends, and they disastrously overestimate their ability to acquire the information they need to make the needed calculations. Utilitarians of the caliber of Mill and Sidgwick do not do these things, at least on particular moral issues about which they reflect as human beings.
Interesting piece, which helps explain why universities there seem to perform so much better than others in Spain. In our part of the academic world, we've seen this recently with the philosophers Carl Hoefer and Genoveva Marti, who recently moved to the University of Western Ontario, but are now returning to Barcelona.
The data and various charts are here. What I can't tell from this data is what is "held constant" when the authors say that women are more likely than men to get permanent posts all else equal. For example, does this analysis "hold constant" the quality of the PhD program from which the graduates come? I'm not sure. If more women are graduating from strong programs, proportionally, than men, then the result wouldn't be surprising. Comments are open for anyone who can clarify what's going on here.
An interesting essay by journalist Andrew Sullivan, who even works in some Plato, not implausibly. As with everything by Sullivan, the substance is mixed, but there are, as one of the several readers who sent this to me today said, some "gems." Herewith a few excerpts:
Could it be that the Donald has emerged from the populist circuses of pro wrestling and New York City tabloids, via reality television and Twitter, to prove not just Plato but also James Madison right, that democracies “have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention … and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths”? Is he testing democracy’s singular weakness — its susceptibility to the demagogue — by blasting through the firewalls we once had in place to prevent such a person from seizing power? Or am I overreacting?
1. John Rawls (Condorcet winner: wins contests with all other choices)
2. G.A. Cohen loses to John Rawls by 214–26
3. Robert Nozick loses to John Rawls by 217–17, loses to G.A. Cohen by 122–93
4. Ronald Dworkin loses to John Rawls by 227–8, loses to Robert Nozick by 103–97
5. Joseph Raz loses to John Rawls by 217–13, loses to Ronald Dworkin by 103–80
6. Amartya Sen loses to John Rawls by 228–17, loses to Joseph Raz by 111–89
7. Martha Nussbaum loses to John Rawls by 225–38, loses to Amartya Sen by 111–107
8. H.L.A. Hart loses to John Rawls by 221–16, loses to Martha Nussbaum by 112–110
9. Isaiah Berlin loses to John Rawls by 223–21, loses to H.L.A. Hart by 107–88
10. T.M. Scanlon loses to John Rawls by 229–6, loses to Isaiah Berlin by 112–84
11. Thomas Nagel loses to John Rawls by 229–5, loses to T.M. Scanlon by 95–82
12. Jeremy Waldron loses to John Rawls by 229–12, loses to Thomas Nagel by 98–81
13. Philip Pettit loses to John Rawls by 233–10, loses to Jeremy Waldron by 84–79
14. Charles Taylor loses to John Rawls by 225–13, loses to Philip Pettit by 101–79
15. Brian Barry loses to John Rawls by 231–7, loses to Charles Taylor by 91–80
16. Joel Feinberg loses to John Rawls by 230–8, loses to Brian Barry by 87–70
17. Michael Walzer loses to John Rawls by 226–10, loses to Joel Feinberg by 83–80
18. Joshua Cohen loses to John Rawls by 233–5, loses to Michael Walzer by 94–69
19. A. John Simmons loses to John Rawls by 232–6, loses to Joshua Cohen by 69–67
20. Charles Beitz loses to John Rawls by 235–2, loses to A. John Simmons by 70–59
Runners-up for the top 20 include Susan Okin, Samuel Scheffler, Iris Young, and Gerald Gaus. There appears to have been a late surge of some strategic voting for Nussbaum, who was in the top ten even before that (one indication is that 38 people ranked her ahead of Rawls, compared to, say, 17 who ranked Nozick or Sen ahead, or the 8 who ranked Dworkin ahead--though that she came out behind Sen is, to my mind, surprising). But as with all these polls, the precise ordinal rank is less revealing than the broader picture (the top 5, the top 10, the top 20). In that regard, the results seem, yet again, fairly reasonable. There were, alas, some unfortunate omissions from the poll, including David Miller, Jean Hampton, and Gregory Kavka. And recall that among living political philosophers, only those over age 60 were included. (Some that did poorly in earlier iterations of these polls were not included.)
Authors and/or publishers kindly sent me these new books this month:
Wondrous Truths: The Improbable Triumph of Modern Science by J.D. Trout (Oxford University Press, 2016).
Aristotle, Metaphysics, translated with introduction & notes by C.D.C. Reeve (Hackett, 2016).
Applicative Justice: A Pragmatic Empirical Approach to Racial Injustice by Naomi Zack (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016).
Victims' Stories and the Advancement of Human Rights by Diana Tietjens Meyers (Oxford University Press, 2016).
The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Literature edited by Noel Carroll & John Gibson (Routledge, 2016).
Moral and Intellectual Virtues in Western and Chinese Philosophy: The Turn Toward Virtue edited by Chienkuo Mi, Michael Slote & Ernest Sosa (Routledge, 2016).
On Obama by Paul C. Taylor (Routledge, 2016).
Plotinus, Ennead IV.7: On the Immorality of the Soul trans. with intro. & commentary by Barrie Fleet (Parmenides Publishing, 2016).
Debates in Nineteenth-Century European Philosophy: Essential Readings and Contemporary Responses edited by Kristin Gjesdal (Routledge, 2016).
Philosophy Coms to Dinner: Arguments about the Ethics of Eating edited by Andrew Chignell, Terence Cuneo & Matthew C. Halteman (Routledge, 2016).
Markets Without Limits: Moral Virtues and Commercial Interests by Jason Brennan & Peter M. Jaworski (Routledge, 2016).
Philosophy for Graduate Students: Metaphysics and Epistemology by Alex Broadbent (Routledge, 2016).
Good Neighbors: The Democracy of Everyday Life in America by Nancy L. Rosenblum (Princeton University Press, 2016).
Values and Vaccine Refusal: Hard Questions in Ethics, Epistemology, and Health Care by Mark Navin (Routledge, 2016).
I want to add a special plug for Prof. Broadbent's book, which I've been reading around in for the last week. What Martin Kusch (Vienna) says on the dustjacket is exactly right, so let me just quote Martin:
This is the kind of book I wish I had had access to when starting off as a graduate student in philosophy. Broadbent gives wonderfully clear accounts of the central topics in contemporary epistemology and metaphysics Every graduate student in the field will benefit from it--as will advanced undergraduates (and their teachers).
Let me add that singling out Broadbent is not to denigrate any of the other books this month--I just haven't gotten a chance to read any of the others, but was sufficiently impressed by the value of what Broadbent has done, that I wanted to flag it.
Now that we've done the moral philosophers, here's the political philosophers. To be included, the political philosophers had to have done most of their important work after WWII and, for those who are still living, they have to be age 60 or older in 2016. I also tried to make sure to include anyone who had a chance of being in "the top 20." Have fun!
UPDATE: Two unfortunate omissions (surprised no one flagged them in earlier iterations): David Miller and the late Jean Hampton.
Following up on last week's post about the latest AAAS elections, I thought I'd take a look at the institutional affiliations of five years' worth of elections. A quick note about how the AAAS process works (I owe most of this to the late Ruth Marcus, perhaps things have changed a lot in the last few years, that I do not know, but I will surely be corrected if so). Briefly, only current members can nominate new candidates for membership; nominees are vetted by a selection committee for each sub-field, which consists of four or five current members; nominees are then submitted to the entire membership for a vote (this means, e.g., that those outside philosophy can vote for nominees in philosophy); voting is on a scale, and if one gives the lowest score to a nominee (as I imagine Ruth did more than once!), you have to submit a written explanation with the negative vote; the vote of the entire membership, however, is not binding on the selection committee, which based on the vote, recommends new members (there is always some negotiation about how many each field is allowed to recommend for final membership each year--philosophy usually has at least five). Because the members of the selection committee in a given year is not a matter of public record, and since their influence on the final outcome is enormous, there are sometimes surprises in the results. That being said, patterns do become clear: e.g., after X is elected one year, one or two of his prominent students are elected a year or two later; after Y is elected one year, one or two of her colleagues are elected in the next couple of years. I've seen clear patterns of elections over a period of a few years involving, e.g., Christian philosophers, Kant scholars and Kantian moral philosophers, epistemologists, philosophers of physics, members of a particular department, and so on. At the end of the day, the main fault of the AAAS tends to involve sins of omission rather than inclusion (more on that in another post).
Although the list of new members 2012-2016 by institutional affiliation correlates fairly well with a ranking of leading American research universities based on reputation surveys, there are clear outliers at both ends (e.g., NYU, Northwestern, Cal Tech, Michigan, Texas). In the case of NYU, the explanation is probably that they have recruited senior superstars in various fields, but with a handful of exceptions (like philosophy), they have mostly been superimposed upon otherwise weak departments. In other cases, it may be that the faculties are really stronger than given credit for in reputational surveys (esp. the shoddy ones conducted by U.S. News). Finally, in some cases I expect the 'friends-of-friends' aspect of the AAAS either helps or hinders the school's performance.
Finally, note that there are fields or "sections" of the AAAS that are specific for law, for engineering, and for medicine: any school with these fields will be at an advantage in terms of potential electees.
1. Harvard University (56)
2. Stanford University (43)
3. Massachusetts of Institute of Technology (42) (no medical or law school)
4. University of California, Berkeley (35) (no medical school)
4. Yale University (35)
6. Princeton University (33) (no medical or law school)
7. University of Chicago (29) (no engineering)
8. New York University (26)
8. Northwestern University (26)
10. University of California, Los Angeles (24)
11. Columbia University (22)
12. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (17)
13. University of Pennsylvania (15)
14. Cornell University (14)
15. University of California, San Diego (12) (no law school)
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)