The petition is here. (Thanks to philosopher Joel Pust [Delaware] for organizing this.) The background statement hedges a bit more than is really necessary in my view, crediting claims by the college that are nonsensical and won't stand up in court. But the basic text of the statement is good and I urge all members of the academic community to sign the petition. Here's the key text:
We the undersigned, as members of the community of scholars, protest the apparent termination without due process by Dickinson College of Professor Crispin Sartwell, a TENURED associate professor of philosophy, contrary to Dickinson's own Academic Handbook, AAUP guidelines, and the customary standards of tenure.
Unless the College can produce a formal letter of resignation by Professor Sartwell or evidence that he accepted a separation agreement, we call for Professor Sartwell to be reinstated immediately and for the administration of Dickinson College to act in accordance with Dickinson's Academic Handbook and accepted AAUP standards in all subsequent dealings with Professor Sartwell.
UPDATE: The petition was released April 21, and garnered about 100 signatures in its first five days. In the last 24 hours, since this post went up, more than 80 additional philosophers and academics in other fields have signed--thank you! But I hope even more readers will join them as signatories. Ned Block, Jeff McMahan, John Gardner, Neil Tennant, Keith Whittington, Alex Byrne, Peter Vallentyne, Richard Moran, and C.D.C. Reeve are among the distinguished senior scholars who have signed in the last day: please join them! Colleges hate unfavorable attention to their bad behavior. Legal remedies are being sought, but the academic community can make known its concern with what has transpired.
An interesting tale from nearly a century ago. Note the (correct) description of Bergson's extraordinary reputation at the time, a reputation which now appears to us (also correctly) as mysterious (and not just in the Anglophone world). A cautionary note for today's "famous" philosophers!
UPDATE: A reader who teaches philosophy to undergraduates writes with two objections that deserve a response:
First, I detect from the tone of your post, perhaps wrongly, the implicit view that there is something crazy about undergrads giving professors advice about what to include on syllabi in the first place. If that's your view, I disagree. I think it's awesome for students to give respectful, constructive criticism to their teachers—and I think what Taylor writes certainly counts as that—as long as it's allowed to be a two-way conversation, and professors have the courage to defend what they teach, as well as of course the ultimate right to make the decisions. Would we really rather have students who always just passively accept our curricular choices? To me criticism can be a sign that students are taking responsibility for their own education. Our role should be to take their criticism seriously, help them to articulate it better, and then respectfully disagree—or, if appropriate, to take their advice! We should be trying to encourage this sort of conversation, rather than shut it down. If we were more committed to actually teaching students how to have this sort of debate well, maybe we would end up with (a) better, more interesting philosophy courses and (b) fewer puerile, easy-to-dismiss lists of demands. A win-win! (I certainly don't mean to lump Taylor's piece in with the latter category, by the way.)
Of course, we already have a way of getting feedback from undergraduates, namely, course evaluations, and student evaluations, at all levels, are useful I've found, especially if one pays attention to recurrent criticisms or worries. The value of feedback from undergraduates has nothing to do with whether a professional association's blog should provide a platform for advice that is based simply on speculation about the effects of "diversifying" the syllabus for which there is no known empirical support.
The David K. Lewis Papers include his extensive correspondence with other philosophers and scholars. There are approximately sixteen thousand pages of Lewis’s correspondence, both incoming and outgoing. There is significant volume of correspondence with David Armstrong, J.J.C. Smart, Frank Jackson, Willard Van Orman Quine, Hugh Mellor, Max Cresswell, Allen Hazen, and John Bigelow; as well as smaller amounts of correspondence with R. B. Braithwaite, Peter van Inwagen, Paul Benacerraf, William Alston, Iris Murdoch, Jonathan Bennett, Anthony Appiah, John P. Burgess, Paul Churchland, D. C. Dennett, Gareth Evans, Philippa Foot, Margaret Gilbert, Sally Haslanger, Jaakko Hintikka, David Kaplan, Saul A. Kripke, Colin McGinn, Thomas Nagel, Derek Parfit, Steven Pinker, Alvin Plantinga, and many others. Lewis’s letters are often very detailed, as he maintained ongoing conversations regarding many philosophical topics with his colleagues through regular correspondence. Lewis’s writings include drafts of published articles and books, often along with publishing correspondence, reviews, and notes related to each publication. A smaller amount of reviews and unpublished or posthumously published writings are also present, as well as some of Lewis’s undergraduate and graduate student writings, course materials, and notes, including notes from graduate seminars with Donald Williams and others at Harvard and elsewhere, and research files and reports from Lewis’s time as a researcher at the Hudson Institute in the 1960s.
A propos our poll of significant moral philosophers: T.M. Scanlon officially retires the end of this academic year, and Harvard is organizing a conference in his honor. Allan Gibbard retired at the end of the last calendar year, and Michigan is also hosting a conference about his work coming up in May. (Both these impending retirements were noted in the fall 2014 PGR, so I've not included them in the recent updates.)
With over 420 votes in our most recent poll (and despite some bad attempted strategic voting behavior), here's the top 20
1. Bernard Williams (Condorcet winner: wins contests with all other choices)
2. Derek Parfit loses to Bernard Williams by 145–117
3. Philippa Foot loses to Bernard Williams by 182–79, loses to Derek Parfit by 161–94
4. Thomas Nagel loses to Bernard Williams by 183–60, loses to Philippa Foot by 128–110
5. T.M. Scanlon loses to Bernard Williams by 180–67, loses to Thomas Nagel by 121–92
6. G.E.M. Anscombe loses to Bernard Williams by 187–73, loses to T.M. Scanlon by 126–106
7. Christine Korsgaard loses to Bernard Williams by 206–50, loses to G.E.M. Anscombe by 130–94
8. Peter Singer loses to Bernard Williams by 191–62, loses to Christine Korsgaard by 121–102
9. Alasdair MacIntyre loses to Bernard Williams by 193–52, loses to Peter Singer by 111–110
10. R.M. Hare loses to Bernard Williams by 202–44, loses to Alasdair MacIntyre by 111–89
11. Martha Nussbaum loses to Bernard Williams by 202–39, loses to R.M. Hare by 96–94
12. Judith Jarvis Thomson loses to Bernard Williams by 195–50, loses to Martha Nussbaum by 96–87
13. Harry Frankfurt loses to Bernard Williams by 206–37, loses to Judith Jarvis Thomson by 99–93
14. Allan Gibbard loses to Bernard Williams by 201–38, loses to Harry Frankfurt by 89–88
15. J.L. Mackie loses to Bernard Williams by 201–37, loses to Allan Gibbard by 89–82
16. Stephen Darwall loses to Bernard Williams by 207–35, loses to J.L. Mackie by 93–85
17. Peter Railton loses to Bernard Williams by 208–34, loses to Stephen Darwall by 85–73
18. Simon Blackburn loses to Bernard Williams by 206–42, loses to Stephen Darwall by 89–78
19. Samuel Scheffler loses to Bernard Williams by 207–25, loses to Peter Railton by 85–77
20. John McDowel loses to Bernard Williams by 208-27, loses to Samuel Scheffler by 110-97
Runners-up for the top twenty included Onora O'Neill, Shelly Kagan, Susan Wolf, and Jeff McMahan. Recall that among living moral philosophers, only those over age 60 were included. I think the results aren't wholly surprising, though it certainly would not have been my personal "top 20" list. Comments from readers? Signed comments will be strongly preferred.
My part-time colleague Richard Epstein (he teaches each Spring Quarter here, the rest of the year at NYU) asked me to share information about the post-docs at his Institute at NYU. Applications from philosophy PhDs are very welcome, as long as your work has some law connection (you do not need to have a law degree). (As a sidenote, Richard studied philosophy with Ernest Nagel as an undergraduate at Columbia.) The terms of the post-docs are extremely attractive, check it out.
A prospective graduate student asked me to share her, shall we say, "unusual" experience during the recently concluded admissions cycle. Here's how it started (prior to April 15):
I am a prospective graduate student currently considering offers for the following academic year. It has come to my attention that, in an attempt to gage the interest of wait listed students, some institutions may be inadvertently violating the rules set out by the APA -- that students should have until April 15th to accept or reject financial offers. On your blog, you have encouraged prospective students to report these violations. I have sent a brief sketch of this situation to the APA, and I thought it could be helpful to discuss this in the philosophical community.
I experienced the following scenario this afternoon: I am wait listed at a highly ranked institution. The GDS called me and asked, "If I were to give you an offer right now, would you accept it?" I felt strongly that if I were to say yes, an offer would be given to me instantly, and I would be bound to accept it (on April 11th). However, this institution is not my first choice, and as a result I was put into the awkward position of rejecting what I perceived to be a conditional offer, the condition being my immediate acceptance. I would still like an offer from this institution, but I would also like the courtesy afforded to me by the APA, which is to have until the end of the 15th to decide. I am on other wait lists, and wish to see how that comes out before making a final decision. However, I worry that I may have lost out on an offer that would have been mine as a result of this exchange.
I think that this experience should perhaps encourage the APA to investigate this notion of a verbal offer—or the promise of one—conditioned on acceptance prior to April 15th. Does this seem to you as it does to me to be against the rules? Or do you think I'm reading too much into a DGS' attempt to gage interest in my likelihood of acceptance?
I think this kind of conditional offer violates the APA rules. It's one thing to ask a candidate about their level of interest, it's another to frame an inquiry as reported here. In the end, the student went elsewhere, but with yet another wrinkle:
Interestingly, before I declined, they placed me in yet another cart-before-the-horse situation. This program guarantees a semester of fellowship and I had been told so on multiple occasions. However, they provided me an offer without any, and when I asked about it I was told that they had sent out more offers than fellowships, and that they would give them to those who accepted the soonest while supplies last. Perhaps this is less worrying than the earlier issue, but it still seems fishy that they would require me to sign a contract of the offer *without* a fellowship listed in order to potentially obtain said fellowship. Again, it seems rather against the spirit, if not the letter, of the APA deadline to take away previously guaranteed fellowship to those who execute their right to wait until the end of the day on April 15th.
I sincerely hope this does not occur in the future to others. It makes this more difficult and stressful for all involved.
UPDATE: J.D. Trout, a distinguished philosopher of science at Loyola University, Chicago, writes:
When I was fresh out of graduate school and on the philosophy job market, I received a call from a dean at a small rural college where I had interviewed. After exchanging pleasantries, the dean explained that they wanted to make a hiring decision soon, that they had winnowed the list down to two candidates, and that I was their top choice. He then asked, “What would you say if I were to make you an offer?” implying that I would get the real offer if I said yes to the hypothetical one. I explained that I still didn’t know; he hadn’t made me an actual offer. I told him that I would think differently about the attractions of a job if I had an actual rather than an imaginary offer. At the time, I think I was mainly interested in letting the dean know that I recognized his question as a low-rent hustle; they didn’t want to waste time on a candidate’s offer that might not be accepted (potentially losing their other candidate in the process). The dean made an actual offer and told me I had four days to decide. I took another job.
MOVING TO FRONT FROM YESTERDAY--IF YOU HAVEN'T VOTED YET, PLEASE DO SO IF YOU HAVE VIEWS ABOUT MORAL PHILOSOPHY
Here. When I started these polls earlier in the year, I aggregated moral & political philosophy, but in response to suggestions, I thought I'd try disaggregating them (and also adding a few philosophers who were omitted last time). I used the prior poll as a benchmark, so have not included every moral philosopher included last time, but have included most. Rawls is always a tricky case, but I'm going to leave him for the political philosophy poll, which will come. Have fun!
UPDATE: Unfortunately, the aggressive and transparent strategic voting for Fred Feldman (U Mass/Amherst) will require eliminating him from the results. I'm sorry, since I am a fan of his work.
One week ago, I received an email from APA Development Director Robert Audi asking me to donate to the APA, and I posted about it here. Commenting on that post, Joshua Smith, gave some reasonable and constructive advice on the APA’s email practices. Another commenter Curt as well as Brian Leiter made important comments to the APA about donation requests.
The email, which I will provide in full below the fold for context, had the subject line: Help Expand Philosophy’s Influence.
If you have been reading my guest posts, you will know that I am all about expanding the influence of philosophy. The problem I have with this email request from the Executive Director is that the email doesn’t explain what the funds are going to support or how it is going to expand philosophy’s influence. Supporting work that is relevant to philosophers and supporting the work of philosophers is not the same thing as expanding philosophy’s influence. I would suggest that no matter the development goal, tell people what that money is going to support. How are the funds going to “expand” philosophy’s influence or “represent” philosophy in the public arena? If it’s just to support another newsletter, conference, or maintain current activities, then that’s not enough of an explanation. It certainly doesn't justify a second request so soon after Audi's.
Is it too much to ask the Executive Director of the APA to provide a vision for expanding philosophy’s influence before asking for money? I don’t think so. Full letter below. Comments are open.
From the usually excellentNotre Dame Philosophical Reviews (which frequently falls short in this particular area, alas, I am guessing because one can't get serious philosophers to review stuff like this):
As the Anglophone reception and appreciation of François Laruelle's work grows, it is worth reminding ourselves of the radicality of its ambition to be a thoroughgoing non-representational style of theorising and thinking. Carried out in the name of the destruction of onto-theology, the overcoming of metaphysics, the excess of the Real, or the deconstruction of presence, the attempt to think outside of traditional representational categories and to do so by means of novel philosophical styles or gestures is, of course, typical of much twentieth-century European philosophy, particularly that coming out of France. It may be tempting, therefore, to view Laruelle's writing as simply one further, albeit idiosyncratic in the extreme, example of philosophical and stylistic invention that places its impossible object of thought in excess of thought itself. Yet, as Laruelle has consistently argued at least since the early 1980s, philosophy has never gone, nor can ever go, far enough in its suspension, destruction or deconstruction of representational thought. Notions of radically withdrawn, ungrounded Being, of transcendence or alterity that would be otherwise than Being, or of difference that would detach philosophy and ontology from all logic of foundation or totality and place the very notion of Being itself under erasure simply do not, for Laruelle, go far enough. For in the end such notions remain conceptual and representational if only because they represent being as withdrawn, as transcendence or alterity, or as difference in excess of ontological foundation or ground. For Laruelle, any kind of ontology, be it differential, negative, or given in the mode of an exacerbated apophasis, does not and cannot do justice to the radical immanence of the Real.
PhilJobs seems to be collecting most of the tenure-track hires this year, and I encourage those who secured jobs to submit their information there. I still get occasional requests to post junior hiring information. Christopher Peacocke, the Chair at Columbia, for example, wrote to report two new tenure-track hires there:
Melissa Fusco (UC Berkeley) as Assistant Professor of Philosophy from July 1 2016
Una Stojnic (Rutgers) as Assistant Professor of Philosophy from July 1 2017.
Una Stojnic is deferring for a year to take up a Bersoff Postdoctoral Fellowship at NYU.
In the event, Department Chairs or Placement Chairs would like to post such information (often aggregated information from a single department is usueful), I'll leave comments open here. Otherwise, job seekers, please submit your information at PhilJobs.
Via Weinberg's "heap" comes this bizarre listing of philosophers with at least 1,000 followers on Twitter listed by how well their books have been selling on Amazon! I've no idea what this means; I'm guessing "nothing," though one must marvel at someone undertaking to compile this!
MOVING TO FRONT--ORIGINALLY POSTED APRIL 9 (UPDATED, AND UPDATED AGAIN ON APRIL 12, APRIL 14)
Professor Sartwell reports this development on his blog, though he has also shared with me the documentation confirming that this is, indeed, what has transpired. (Our earlier coverage of his case.) I have assisted him in finding a suitable Pennsylvania lawyer to vindicate his contractual rights of tenure and academic freedom, which the College appears to have violated. Legal representation is expensive, and the College has all the advantages here. I urged Prof. Sartwell to create a "GoFundMe" page to assist with his legal expenses, and I have donated myself and urge others to do so. I can not emphasize enough how serious this incident is: a tenured professor, engaging in lawful extramural speech on his blog, was first removed from his classes mid-term and now informed that he is no longer an employee--without any process or hearings whatsoever. Prof. Sartwell is entitled to fair legal process to vindicate his contractual and other legal rights, and I hope the community will support him.
UPDATE: Philosopher Joel Pust (Delaware) kindly calls to my attention a highly selective account in the Dickinson newspaper about recent events. Basically, the College, after removing Sartwell involuntarily from his classes and from campus, is trying to treat statements by Prof. Sartwell on various social media as tantamount to his having resigned his position, even though the College had sent him a termination agreement, which he never signed and explicitly rejected. (Some of the statements, in context, were clearly assertions that the College planned to terminate him, an asessment that proved correct; others, in context, express Sartwell's anger about how he is being treated.) The fact remains that Sartwell was removed from his classes without any kind of hearing or process, and the College has now informed him that he is no longer a faculty member without any hearing or process, even though he declined to sign the proposed termination agreement and rejected its terms.
APRIL 12 UPDATE: The AAUP has now written to Dickinson College about the Sartwell case: Download AAUP Letter to President Roseman 4-12-16. I want to add two additional comments about some of the bizarre claims made by Dickinson and that I've even seen reiterated on social media by people clearly not very knowledgeable about law. First, posting a country music video, "Time to Get a Gun," a song which itself contains no death threats, is not itself a death threat. Making a death threat is a crime in most jurisdictions, and yet no criminal charges have been filed against Prof. Sartwell, and for obvious reasons: he committed no crime. Second, notice the hypocrisy in Dickinson's position in this matter: on the one hand, they demanded that Prof. Sartwell receive a psychiatric evaluation; on the other hand, they now want to assert that e-mails and social media comments by the person they deemed in need of psychiatric evaluation constitute resignation from the faculty, even though at the very same time he rejected, more than once, proposed termination agreements. The more I learn about this case, the more appalling Dickinson's behavior appears. Thank you to those who have donated in support of assisting Prof. Sartwell to get a fair hearing for his legal rights.
APRIL 14 UPDATE: Thanks to all those who have donated to Prof. Sartwell's legal fund. He's closing in on the $5,000 goal; I hope others will contribute. Small amounts matter too! It's important for Dickinson to see that the academic community objects to this treatment of a tenured faculty member.
A nicely written essay by Zena Hitz (St. John's College, Annapolis). It offers an interesting defense of a decidedly Christian understanding of the "interiority" and "dignity" of humanistic reflection (also a Platonic one, though as Nietzsche said, "Christianity is Platonism for the people") against the neoliberal ("the humanities produce people who are useful for capitalism") and liberal ("the humanities make people good democratic citizens") defenses of humanistic study. As Nietzsche notes in the Genealogy, the "slave revolt" in morality made human beings interesting, giving them interior lives. And the humanities (here understood capaciously to include the cognitive sciences generally) are, when done well and seriously (e.g., not Badiou studies!), are precisely those that help one become a human being who is "interesting." That concern has no resonance for the neoliberal or liberal defenses of the humanities. Since our age is still neoliberal to its core, that means humanistic study is doomed in the neoliberal countries. But it will likely return elsewhere.
What do readers think of Prof. Hitz's interesting essay?
Four faculty have won Guggenheim Fellowships: Victor Caston (Michigan), Anjan Chakravartty (Notre Dame), Daniel Garber (Princeton), and Richard Kraut (Northwestern). Caston, Garber, and Kraut are primarily historians of philosophy, Chakravartty is a philosopher of science.
One recent study found that adding more women to the syllabus didn't make much difference, which is what I would have expected. Anecdotally, I have had the impression that sexual harassment has been a major deterrent for female students, though lower levels of tolerance for this misconduct may help change that. But a senior female philosopher elsewhere writes with an interesting and different take:
My assessment of the undergrad women in philosophy thing: undergrad women get sick of being talked over and strawmanned by their peers in and out of the classroom, and get sick of classes where the male students endlessly hold forth about their own thoughts. Relatedly, they find many thought experiments overall less compelling perhaps because, (a) women may start out in philosophy feeling less impressed with a priori speculation in general, perhaps because of confidence issues and the topics, and more importantly (b) they are less able to receive credence for their thoughts about the thought experiments when they try to engage with their peers, and (c) a lot of it seems like just more blowhard bullshitting by a bunch of dudes, on esoteric topics that they aren’t really allowed to engage in fully (see (b)). (Metaphysics is really a lot like that. Trad epistemology too.)
I will say that over two decades of teaching, it has seemed to me that the students who speak out of proportion to what they have to say are overwhelmingly male. Maintaining control of the classroom, and creating a welcoming environment for all student contributions, can probably go some distance to rectifying this--but that, of course, supposes levels of pedagogical talent and sensitivity that many philosophy faculty probably lack. But I'm curious what readers make of this diagnosis.
...and they are A.W. Moore (Oxford) and Lucy O'Brien (UCL); their initial editorial is here and indicates their intention to broaden Mind's coverage, which would be welcome given its very narrow conception of philosophy in recent decades. Mind still has a poor reputation for the efficiency of its editorial process, and hopefully the new editors will rectify that as well.
On your blog, you supplied a link to a NYT story about the likely fate of the West Antarctic ice sheet. As the article points out, it looks as though many of the world’s coastal cities (New York, Shanghai, Miami, Vancouver, etc.) will disappear within a century or so. Because of climatic effects like this Rajendra Pachauri, former head of the IPCC, has stated that climate change poses a threat to the “very social stability of human systems.” And yet many of us working on Climate Philosophy are struck by the fact that so few philosophers seem interested enough in the problem to turn their philosophical attention more pointedly to it. The overwhelming majority of scientists seem to think that civilization is truly on the brink, so what does it say about our discipline that only a small minority of us are writing about this? Aren’t we—along with the scientists, the artists, and many others--the keepers of civilization? Or is our relative silence here evidence that we have abandoned this role? I’d be eager to hear what other philosophers have to say about this.
I think Prof. Williston raises an interesting question, and I'll state my own view, which will no doubt be thought idiosyncratic (though won't be surprising to those who periodically read the papers of mine I link to!). First, with respect to many issues, including climate change, philosophers have almost nothing to add: in broad outline, it's clear what ought to be done to avert catastrophe (e.g., it's not like those ignoring the issue think it would be good for civilization to end!), and to the extent the details aren't clear, the questions needing answers are technical/instrumental ones about which philosophers typically have no competence. Second, philosophical arguments won't produce the needed action, since philosophical arguments are notoriously inefficacious in moving people, let alone governments, to moral action. Third, it has been the norm for Anglophone moral and political philosophy in the capitalist democracies to focus on topics unoffensive to capitalist imperatives, and indeed, to focus often on moral trivia (cf. my discussion of bourgeois normative theory at pp. 9 ff. here, and especially the discussion of "moral trivia" [like promises by college students concerning sex] at 20-22). So the fact that philosophers ignore climate change--even assuming that issue can be meaningfully discussed independent of the realities of global political economy--is hardly surprising.
I invite readers to comment on the questions raised by Prof. Williston, especially since I assume most do not share my views on these issues.
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)