1. Jerry Fodor (Condorcet winner: wins contests with all other choices)
2. Daniel Dennett loses to Jerry Fodor by 123–93
3. Hilary Putnam loses to Jerry Fodor by 137–85, loses to Daniel Dennett by 117–110
4. David Chalmers loses to Jerry Fodor by 143–92, loses to Hilary Putnam by 124–112
5. Donald Davidson loses to Jerry Fodor by 141–72, loses to David Chalmers by 132–98
6. Gilbert Ryle loses to Jerry Fodor by 157–69, loses to Donald Davidson by 103–100
7. Thomas Nagel loses to Jerry Fodor by 153–65, loses to Gilbert Ryle by 108–101
8. John Searle loses to Jerry Fodor by 162–56, loses to Thomas Nagel by 109–95
9. Ned Block loses to Jerry Fodor by 167–44, loses to John Searle by 113–93
10. Noam Chomsky loses to Jerry Fodor by 156–55, loses to Ned Block by 102–99
11. David K. Lewis loses to Jerry Fodor by 160–47, loses to Noam Chomsky by 101–93
12. Fred Dretske loses to Jerry Fodor by 171–37, loses to David K. Lewis by 95–90
13. Jaegwon Kim loses to Jerry Fodor by 170–39, loses to Fred Dretske by 92–84
14. Frank Jackson loses to Jerry Fodor by 171–36, loses to Jaegwon Kim by 91–82
15. Tyler Burge loses to Jerry Fodor by 173–36, loses to Frank Jackson by 90–86
16. David Armstrong loses to Jerry Fodor by 171–36, loses to Tyler Burge by 93–75
17. Paul Churchland loses to Jerry Fodor by 181–30, loses to David Armstrong by 88–85
18. Wilfrid Sellars loses to Jerry Fodor by 172–37, loses to Paul Churchland by 93–83
19. G.E.M. Anscombe loses to Jerry Fodor by 166–48, loses to Wilfrid Sellars by 93–75
20. Patricia Churchland loses to Jerry Fodor by 179–34, loses to G.E.M. Anscombe by 99–93
The top ten still living philosophers of mind from this poll are Fodor, Dennett, Putnam, Chalmers, Nagel, Searle, Block, Chomsky, Kim, and Jackson, and Burge.
I confess to being surprised that Ruth Millikan and Stephen Stich were not in the "top 20," they were just a bit outside. I would not have expected such a strong showing for Ryle, whose views, I thought, had aged badly.
Thoughts from readers about what this reveals about the sociology of the profession and/or the philosophical interst of the results?
MOVING TO FRONT FROM JANUARY 17--THE POLL WILL RUN FOR ABOUT ANOTHER 24 HOURS
Here's a new poll for your amusement. I used age 50 as the cut-off for living philosophers of mind. I checked various sources, including SEP, to make sure I had a reasonably complete list. There is obviously some line-drawing between philosophy of mind and language, and I realize not all the choices are obvious. Have fun!
UPDATE: Three unfortunate omissions from the poll: Akeel Bilgrami, Alvin Goldman, Evan Thompson.
Jenny Saul (Sheffield) declared Prof. Jennings "a professional data guru." How professional? This exchange between her and David Wallace (Oxford) is instructive. Prof. Wallace starts by quoting Jennings's attempt to attack me with her data:
...but in keeping with the juvenile dishonesty and dissembling with which we've all grown familiar in the philosophy blogosphere, Jenny Saul (Sheffield) and Justin Weinberg (South Carolina)both frames it that way (Saul, of course, without posting a link to the actual discussionsabout PhD programs that should probably close, since that degree of courtesy and honesty would be too difficult). Their purported source is Carolyn Dicey Jennings (UC Merced), who both links to my discussion and makes clear that her "provocative" question was not my question:
"How many of the programs" show up? Ironically, of the 40 programs she lists based on percentage of non-white graduates, just three were on the lists of PhD programs whose rationale for existing I queried, while of the 41 programs she listed based on percentage of female graduates, only seven were on my list. The fact that some mediocre PhD programs enroll significant numbers of women and minorities ought, in a rational world, be all the more reason to be concerned, since to "better serve" underrepresented populations it is not enough to enroll them, one must give them good educations and launch them on the path to securing the gainful academic employment that the vast majority of them no doubt seek. So the answer to Prof. Jennings's "provocative" question is easy: PhD programs that actually "better serve" their students, including women and minorities, should not be closed, but there's no evidence any of the programs on her list are such programs.
What does all this tell us? It tells us, of course, that discussing the fact that there are too many PhD programs in philosophy in the U.S. touches a nerve, so much so that certain people will seize the opportunity to distort the discussion in any way possible.
UPDATE: David Wallace (Oxford) called out Saul's slimy dishonesty in the first comment, and she has now made a slight edit to the original misleading framing.
Professor Wolff has posted the first two of these newly recorded lectures, here and here. The focus of the first lecture is primarily Mannheim, though with a nice transition towards Marx in the final part. I have not yet viewed the second lecture. I can report that the lecture is quite accessible to non-philosophers.
MOVING TO FRONT FROM JANUARY 13--LOTS OF INTERESTING COMMENTS, MORE WELCOME
Almost everyone agrees there are too many PhD programs in philosophy in the Anglophone world, and perhaps especially in the United States. In a prior post, we mentioned nine programs whose offering a PhD didn't seem to make much sense: three used to be very good terminal MA programs that converted to PhD programs (Arizona State, South Carolina, Texas A&M); the six others mentioned were Kansas, Michigan State, Tulane, Emory, Oregon, and Villanova. Faculty from Arizona State and Tulane responded constructively to the questions raised, making a fair case for their programs. A graduate of one of the programs mentioned (not Arizona State or Tulane) made a particularly striking comment on the earlier thread (I verified the identity of the commenter and all of his/her claims are accurate):
As a recent graduate of one of the programs called out by name, I would like to add my (quick) thoughts. First, Brian is correct to call it out: outside of one specialized area, no one other than myself has achieved a TT job in years. Had I understood the terrible placement track record and the way in which the school is assessed by other philosophers, I would have left after the MA. And I have a TT job!
The difficulty of seeing your program called out is nothing compared to that of watching talented colleagues struggle year after year to get an academic job. Attempting to overcome a program's negative reputation is nearly futile given how many other candidates are on the market. And, one should question the amount of job-search support you'll get from a program that is so accustomed to not placing students (and of covering over that information).
Here are some other PhD programs whose existence, again, seems hard to justify in current conditions. The State University of New York system offers four different PhD programs: at Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo, and Stony Brook. Buffalo and Stony Brook each have a niche to fill: Buffalo with its more clearly "analytic" orientation and a number of strong faculty, Stony Brook with its niche in the SPEP universe of departments. Albany used to have a terminal MA program, and one recommended in past iterations of the PGR; it is not clear that they should be offering a PhD. Binghamton, despite having hired a number of good younger faculty in recent years, also seems ill-suited to offering a competitive PhD.
So with not quite 400 votes in the poll, here are the "top 26" (after #26, rather than #20, there was a bigger drop-off in the votes):
1.W.V.O. Quine (Condorcet winner: wins contests with all other choices)
2. Alvin Goldman loses to W.V.O. Quine by 131–100
3. Roderick Chisholm loses to W.V.O. Quine by 145–90, loses to Alvin Goldman by 117–90
4. Wilfrid Sellars loses to W.V.O. Quine by 142–80, loses to Roderick Chisholm by 110–106
5. Timothy Williamson loses to W.V.O. Quine by 148–100, loses to Wilfrid Sellars by 122–118
6. Ernest Sosa loses to W.V.O. Quine by 152–95, loses to Timothy Williamson by 123–107
7.Tied: Fred Dretske loses to W.V.O. Quine by 156–78, loses to Ernest Sosa by 121–90 Edmund Gettier loses to W.V.O. Quine by 160–78, loses to Ernest Sosa by 114–105
9. Donald Davidson loses to W.V.O. Quine by 158–53, loses to Fred Dretske by 120–93
10. William Alston loses to W.V.O. Quine by 164–70, loses to Donald Davidson by 99–96
11.Tied: Laurence BonJour loses to W.V.O. Quine by 164–64, loses to William Alston by 88–82 Nelson Goodman loses to W.V.O. Quine by 163–50, loses to William Alston by 98–96
13. Robert Nozick loses to W.V.O. Quine by 169–52, loses to Laurence BonJour by 102–90
14. Gilbert Harman loses to W.V.O. Quine by 176–41, loses to Robert Nozick by 94–90
15. John McDowell loses to W.V.O. Quine by 168–58, loses to Gilbert Harman by 95–89
16. Tyler Burge loses to W.V.O. Quine by 170–49, loses to John McDowell by 91–88
17. Alvin Plantinga loses to W.V.O. Quine by 173–62, loses to Tyler Burge by 99–73
18. Barry Stroud loses to W.V.O. Quine by 173–39, loses to Alvin Plantinga by 95–78
19. Keith Lehrer loses to W.V.O. Quine by 175–42, loses to Barry Stroud by 81–78
20. Crispin Wright loses to W.V.O. Quine by 183–34, loses to Keith Lehrer by 84–76
21. Keith DeRose loses to W.V.O. Quine by 179–41, loses to Crispin Wright by 82–78
22. Robert Audi loses to W.V.O. Quine by 176–42, loses to Keith DeRose by 81–72
23. David Armstrong loses to W.V.O. Quine by 179–28, loses to Robert Audi by 70–67
24. Paul Boghossian loses to W.V.O. Quine by 179–40, loses to David Armstrong by 74–66
25. Richard Feldman loses to W.V.O. Quine by 175–47, loses to Paul Boghossian by 75–72
26. Philip Kitcher loses to W.V.O. Quine by 176–33, loses to Richard Feldman by 74–72
Hilary Kornblith, Susan Haack, and Richard Jeffrey were not that far off the "top 26."
As with the earlier poll on moral & political philosophers, the poll has mainly sociological--and only partly philosophical--interest. On the one hand, it seems to me clearly right that Alvin Goldman is the preeminent living epistemologist, though I, personally, would have ranked him ahead of Quine, whose strong showing can't be based on the wide influence of his conception of "naturalized epistemology" except as a target that others attack! The strong showing of Chisholm, Sellars, Sosa, Williamson, Gettier, and Dretske is also what I would have, more or less, expected. After that, I'm too uninformed to have a strong view either way.
Alas, there were some omissions from the pool. Carnap's contributions to what is now known as formal epistemology were in the post-WWII period (I failed to realize that), though in general poll responents didn't favor formal epistemology (Jeffrey got the most votes, and did not make the "top 26"). The youthful-looking John Hawthorne is, in fact, over 50, and he likely would have made the top 20 had he been included. (Yale's Keith DeRose did the best of younger philosophers over 50 included in the poll.) A couple of readers pointed out that David Lewis's "Elusive Knowledge" was an important paper in stimulating contextualism, and that he also wrote significant papers for the development of formal epistemology. This is indeed true, but it is fair to say that Lewis was not "primarily" an epistemologist, and there is always a risk that "David Lewis" (like "W.V.O. Quine" perhaps) would simply rise to the top in virtue of his singular importance in Anglophone philosophy of the post-war period.
Comments are open for comments on the sociological and philosophical aspects of the results.
Inspired by this comment (#9) about the earlier poll about moral & political philosophers, here's one about epistemologists (broadly construed to include decision theorists/formal epistemologists) whose main work was done since 1945. I've lowered the age for living epistemologists to include those 50 or older who might rank in the top 20. I hope there aren't too many egregious omissions this time around; I consulted a variety of sources to try to avoid that. Of course, you should only vote if you have knowledge!
ADDENDUM: Note that many prominent contributors to contemporary epistemology (e.g., Hawthorne, Lackey, Kelly, Pryor, Stanley, Elga, Pritchard et al. do not make the age cutoff [unless I'm mistaken!]).
MOVING TO FRONT FROM DEC. 18--ADDITIONAL FEEDBACK ON WHICH JOURNALS TO INCLUDE WELCOME
Reader David Greenwood (Aberdeen) wondered if I would run a poll about the best journals for work in ancient philosophy (here's an example of an earlier poll about journals publishing in history of philosophy). I'm happy to run such a poll in the New Year, but I'd like to pin down the journals that should be included. I take it the four major specialist journals are generally thought to be Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy, Phronesis, Apeiron, and Ancient Philosophy/. But generalist history journals like Journal of the History of Philosophy also publish in ancient, as does, for example, Philosophical Review. Should publications like Classical Quarterly be included? What other philosophy-specific journals regularly publish important papers in ancient philosophy. Comments are open for suggestions and comments.
The poll, recall, was limited to philosophers who did their most important work in the post-War period and, with respect to living philosophers, those sixty or older. With over 300 votes cast in the second iteration of the poll, here are the results:
1. John Rawls (Condorcet winner: wins contests with all other choices)
2. Bernard Williams loses to John Rawls by 186–56
3. Derek Parfit loses to John Rawls by 189–49, loses to Bernard Williams by 135–96
4. G.E.M. Anscombe loses to John Rawls by 195–45, loses to Derek Parfit by 137–85
5. Thomas Nagel loses to John Rawls by 210–25, loses to G.E.M. Anscombe by 105–101
6. Philippa Foot loses to John Rawls by 210–28, loses to Thomas Nagel by 103–89
7. H.L.A. Hart loses to John Rawls by 209–18, loses to Philippa Foot by 100–85
8. Robert Nozick loses to John Rawls by 217–18, loses to H.L.A. Hart by 98–95
9. Peter Singer loses to John Rawls by 205–27, loses to Robert Nozick by 115–88
10. T.M. Scanlon loses to John Rawls by 220–9, loses to Peter Singer by 97–87
11. Ronald Dworkin loses to John Rawls by 221–11, loses to T.M. Scanlon by 102–76
12. G.A. Cohen loses to John Rawls by 219–13, loses to Ronald Dworkin by 96–76
13. Amartya Sen loses to John Rawls by 219–16, loses to G.A. Cohen by 98–87
14. Joseph Raz loses to John Rawls by 206–21, loses to Amartya Sen by 97–76
15. Judith Jarvis Thomson loses to John Rawls by 218–16, loses to Amartya Sen by 97–84
16. Martha Nussbaum loses to John Rawls by 210–19, loses to Judith Jarvis Thomson by 94–91
17. Isaiah Berlin loses to John Rawls by 214–18, loses to Martha Nussbaum by 91–83
18. Christine Korsgaard loses to John Rawls by 218–13, loses to Isaiah Berlin by 95–78
19. Alasdair MacIntyre loses to John Rawls by 212–25, loses to Christine Korsgaard by 93–86
20. R.M. Hare loses to John Rawls by 213–16, loses to Isaiah Berlin by 88–78
Falling just outside the top twenty were Harry Frankfurt, Joel Feinberg, J.L. Mackie, Charles Taylor, and Allan Gibbard.
MOVING TO FRONT FROM YESTERDAY--IF YOU'RE A STUDENT OR TEACHER OF MORAL & POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY, PLEASE VOTE!
This includes roughly the top 40 from the first poll (which got about 380 votes), plus not quite 20 additions, who should have been included the first time around. Only philosophers who did their most important work in the post-war period are included, and for living philosophers, only those 60 or older. Go for it! Only the results for the top 20 will be posted here for discussion subsequently.
Striking account of a new book. The bit about the GRE obsession does not ring true to me for philosophy. I'm curious what those who have recently served on PhD admissions make of it. You may post anonymously, but use a valid e-mail address (which will not appear). And indicate something about the relative status of your PhD program.
The German Research Foundation DFG will fund a new Research Unit whose aim it is to investigate the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN from an integrated philosophical, historical and sociological perspective, in close collaboration with theoretical and experimental particle physicists. The overall funding volume will be 2.5 million euros for an initial three years, with the possibility to extend the project for another three years. Under the common perspective of unification, foundational change, and complexity, the Research Unit’s six projects will investigate (i) the formation and development of the concept of virtual particles, (ii) the hierarchy, fine tuning, and naturalness problems, (iii) the relationship between the LHC and gravity, (iv) the impact of computer simulations on the epistemic status of LHC data, (v) model building and dynamics, and (vi) the strategies of producing novelty and securing credibility at LHC.
The collaboration’s center will be the University of Wuppertal in Germany with philosopher of science Gregor Schiemann as spokesperson; the Principal Investigators of the six interconnected projects are Robert Harlander (Physics, RWTH Aachen), Rafaela Hillerbrand (Philosophy, KIT Karlsruhe), Michael Krämer (Physics, RWTH Aachen), Dennis Lehmkuhl (History and Philosophy of Science, Caltech), Peter Mättig (Physics, Wuppertal), Martina Merz (Science Studies, AAU Klagenfurt), Gregor Schiemann (Philosophy, Wuppertal), Erhard Scholz (Mathematics, Wuppertal), Friedrich Steinle (History of Science, TU Berlin), Michael Stöltzner (Philosophy, University of South Carolina), Adrian Wüthrich (History of Science, TU Berlin) and Christian Zeitnitz (Physics, Wuppertal).
Here. I want to say that I agree with everything Wood says: his advice seems to me sound and realistic. All job seekers should read this. (You may infer from what Prof. Wood says why he would have been involved in the PGR for so many years as both Advisory Board member and evaluator.)
ADDENDUM: By the way, if Wood's piece is typical of the new fare at the APA blog, then it will be very useful indeed!
The inaugural post is here. Given that it is the blog of a (still largely dysfunctional and highly politicized) organization, the APA, there will be some pressure towards blandness I expect, but time will tell. It certainly makes sense for the APA to enter this form of social media, so kudos to Amy Ferrer, the Executive Director, who I suspect was responsible for this initiative.
Inspired by this poll last year, several readers asked for one specifically about moral and political philosophers, so here it is. I included any moral and political philosopher whose major work was done post-1945, and I included any influential living moral and political philosophers who are at least 60 years old. No doubt there were omissions (you can write in candidates, but please observe the preceding rules); the poll will generate only a "top 20" list and I'll open it for discussion when the results are in. Have fun!
ADDENDUM: Note that because write-ins are (currently) permitted (there have already been some good additions, including Anscombe who was in my notes, but failed to get transcribed to the list!), every choice appears with a rank of #1. In order to make your vote count you will need to choose a lower rank (unless you want to rank that philosopher first) or "no opinion" for every choice permitted.
The passing of the following philosophers was noted on the blog this year: Aldo Antonelli, John Arras, Robert L. Arrington, Claudia Card, Leigh S. Cauman, Keith Donnellan, Richard Flathman, John Forrester, Roger Gibson, Jaakko Hintikka, Georg Kreisel, Michael L. Martin, Peter Menzies, William L. Rowe, Irving Singer, Alan Wertheimer.
Last month's fake controversy du jour--complete with false accusations and selective presentation of evidence ("Lebron-gate" for short)--included an appearance of the weirdest trope to infect philosophy cyberspace over the last couple of years, a variation on "think of the children!" This is the idea that criticizing a graduate student (even if you didn't intend to, and even if you didn't use his name!) is a line that can not be crossed in the minds of some putatively "professional" philosophers. One aspect of this I find puzzling is that in academic law and its associated social media, no such norm is recognized by anyone (I realize it's not recognized by most philosophers either, but the question is why philosophy social media behaves so differently). So, for example, right-wing law professor David Bernstein (George Mason)--an always reliable apologist for Israeli crimes and punishment of anti-Israeli speech--here chastises by name a law student at the University of Texas at Austin who disrupted a speech by an Israeli. (As a sidenote, I think universities should prevent these kinds of disruptions, and not just of Israelis.) Academic law blogs did not erupt in horror (real or feigned) that Prof. Bernstein had criticized a "mere" student. And Bernstein did this on a much bigger platform, a blog nominally hosted by the Washington Post.
Maybe academic philosophy is just more of a hotbed of New Infantilism and faux-sensitivity than academic law? That's probably true, but I think there are some other factors at work; in no particular order:
(1) There is no culture among law students of feeling "vulnerable" and in need of "protection," whereas there clearly is in philosophy cyberspace (recall the bizarre letter from some Harvard PhD students regarding the Marquette case).
(2) There is more respect for free speech norms among law students and professors than among philosophers; this is not surprising, given the strong libertarian tendencies of American free speech law. As a result, there is more skepticism about the idea that certain topics can't be broached (and especially when it is something as odd as "not criticizing a student").
I've enjoyed a lot of correspondence about this paper over the last year; for those who are interested, it's now out in Philosophical Issues (the supplement to Nous) in a special issue on "Normativity" edited by Ram Neta. A lot of interesting-looking papers, though I think most of the other contributors are "true believers," as it were. I hope some of the defenders of non-naturalist realism about normativity will have something to say about the criticisms I put forth.
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)