Joshua Smart, a PhD student at the University of Missouri, invited me to share with readers this interesting new service he created:
While advisors and committees are important, it can be incredibly helpful to discuss one’s work with peers in a lower-stakes environment, and it can be particularly enlightening to do so with those who take a different approach or have a different focus. Not only that, but there is evidence from psychological research that thinking about problems in relation to persons who are geographically distant can increase creativity. Virtual Dissertation Groups are a way to capture some of these benefits.
Here’s the basic setup. Interested students can fill out the contact form below, and at the beginning of each semester participants will receive the information for their three-membered group. Each full month of the semester, one member of the group will submit some of their in-progress dissertation work to the others. Those other members will then email comments in response, hopefully generating some fun exchanges in the process. I’ll send out email reminders when it’s time to circulate work and return comments.
Editors: Patrick Grim, Paul Boswell, Daniel Drucker & Sydney Keough
Nominating Editors: Rachel Barney, J.C. Beall, Ned Block, Ben Bradley, Tyler Burge, David Chalmers, Andrew Chignell, David Christensen, Gregory Currie, David Danks, Keith DeRose, Cian Dorr, Lisa Downing, Julia Driver, Adam Elga, Branden Fitelson, Owen Flanagan, Stacie Friend, Tamar Szabo Gendler, Ned Hall, Elizabeth Harman, Verity Harte, Gary Hatfield, Benj Hellie, Christopher Hitchcock, Des Hogan, Brad Inwood, Simon Keller, Tom Kelly, Josh Knobe, Jonathan Kvanvig, Marc Lange, Brian Leiter, Neil Levy, Martin Lin, Peter Ludlow, Ishani Maitra, Shaun Nichols, Paul Noordhof, Derk Pereboom, Jim Pryor, Greg Restall, Geoff Sayre-McCord, Richard Scheines, Mark Schroeder, Laura Schroeter, Ted Sider, Michael Slote, Scott Soames, Roy Sorensen, Peter Spirtes, Johan van Benthem, Mark van Roojen, Peter Vranas, Ted Warfield, Eric Watkins, Sam Wheeler, Jim Woodward, Gideon Yaffe.
[BL comment: I was pleased that two papers I nominated [Neuhouser, Ypi] were chosen! Congratulations to all the philosophers whose work was recognized.]
ADDENDUM: Author affiliations are R.M. Adams (emeritus, UCLA, Yale, and UNC-Chapel Hill; currently part-time at Rutgers); A. Bacon (Southern California); JC Beall (U Conn); M. Caie (Pittsburgh); K. Fine (NYU); M. Kotzen (UNC-Chapel Hill); M. Lange (UNC-Chapel Hill); F. Neuhouser (Barnard/Columbia); I. Phillips (UCL); L. Ypi (LSE).
ANOTHER: This seems a bit myopic; there are many areas underrepresented in the PA, especially relative to their importance in the discipline--history of philosophy, most obviously, though PA has gotten a bit better on that score over time; aesthetics; philosophy of law; and so on. Obviously if you pick just ten articles, you miss a lot. Historically, as I've noted before, PA has a pretty good track record of picking significant articles (look back twenty years, and scroll through the choices), but it is inevitable the picks will be under-inclusive with respect to important articles across multiple fields.
CHE account here. CHE quotes philosopher Hilde Lindemann (Michigan State) as follows:
Hilde Lindemann, a professor at Michigan State University who heads the philosophical association’s Committee on the Status of Women, says professors at East Carolina should have taken the charges into consideration, even though Mr. McGinn wasn’t found responsible for sexual harassment.
"It does seem there is a preponderance of evidence that suggests Colin McGinn is not trustworthy around women who have less power than he does," says Ms. Lindemann. "The fact that nothing has been proved, if anyone thinks that means the evidence should be discounted, then I would respectfully disagree."
She adds: "Until we can fix the climate so that it becomes unthinkable to harass a grad student, we will end up with more departments like East Carolina who feel unless you can prove this sinner has sinned, we’re going to hire him."
I am curious what other philosophers think about this. I would prefer signed comments, but at a minimum comments must have a valid e-mail address. Keep them substantive.
So with not quite 2,000 votes, 9% of readers thought feminist philosophy a "central, foundational part of the discipline," while another 20% deemed it a "major area of research," and a further 26% thought it "useful when integrated wiht traditional philosophical questioins in epistemology, ethics, political philosophy, etc."--so 55% of readers chose the most favorable options. Another 15% thought it a "minor area of research," while 30% chose the most dismissive option, making feminist philosophy better liked than X-Phil, but almost as disliked as metaphysics. It's worth noting that more than two-thirds of the readership recognized feminist philosophy as a legitimate area of research in our discipline, something I doubt would have been true in a similar, and more representative, poll 15 or 20 years ago.
Interesting piece, from the preface to a forthcoming Chinese edition of his 1981 book The Idea of a Critical Theory; an excerpt:
The academic reflection of the massive social and economic changes that took place between 1970 and 1981 could be seen in the gradual marginalization of serious social theory and political philosophy—and of “leftist” thought in particular. The usual story told about the history of “political philosophy” since World War II holds that political philosophy was “dead” until it was revived by John Rawls, whose Theory of Justice appeared in 1971. This seems to me seriously misleading. The Forties, Fifties and Sixties, after all, saw the elaboration of major work by the Frankfurt School (including Marcuse’s One-Dimensional Man), a rediscovery of Gramsci, various essays and books by Sartre, Camus, de Beauvoir and Merleau-Ponty, Debord’s La Société du Spectacle, early pieces by Foucault—all works roughly speaking “on the Left.” Meanwhile, Popper, Hayek, Leo Strauss and Oakeshott (to name only a few) were active “on the Right.” If Anglophones took no notice of this material it was not because serious work in political philosophy failed to exist, but for some other reason. To those engaged (in 1971) in the various and diverse forms of intense political activity which now collectively go under the title of “the Sixties,” Rawls’s Theory of Justice seemed an irrelevance. I completed and defended my doctoral dissertation in the spring of 1971, and I recall my doctoral supervisor, who was a man of the Left but also an established figure and full professor at Columbia University in New York, mentioning to me that there was a new book out by Rawls. In the same breath, he told me that no one would need to read it because it was of merely academic interest—an exercise in trying to mobilize some half-understood fragments of Kant to give a better foundation to American ideology than utilitarianism had been able to provide. Many will think that that was a misjudgment, but I think it was prescient. I cite it in any case to give contemporary readers a sense of the tenor of the 1970s.
Rawls did in fact eventually establish a well-functioning academic industry which was quickly routinized and which preempted much of the space that might have been used for original political thinking. He was one of the forerunners of the great countermovement, proleptically outlining a philosophical version of what came to be known as the “trickle-down” theory. Crudely speaking, this theory eventually takes this form: “Value” is overwhelmingly produced by especially gifted individuals, and the creation of such value benefits society as a whole. Those who are now rich are well-off because they have contributed to the creation of “value” in the past. For the well-off to continue to benefit society, however, they need to be motivated, to be given an incentive. Full egalitarianism will destroy the necessary incentive structure and thus close the taps from which prosperity flows. So inequality can actually be in the interest of the poor because only if the rich are differentially better-off than others will they create value at all—some of which will then “trickle down” or be redistributed to the less well-off. Rawls allows people who observe great inequality in their societies to continue to feel good about themselves, provided that they support some cosmetic forms of redistribution of the crumbs that fall from the tables of the rich and powerful. The apparent gap which many people think exists between the views of Rawls and, say, Ayn Rand is less important than the deep similarity in their basic views. A prison warden may put on a benevolent smile (Rawls) or a grim scowl (Ayn Rand), but that is a mere result of temperament, mood, calculation and the demands of the immediate situation: the fact remains that he is the warden of the prison, and, more importantly, that the prison is a prison. To shift attention from the reality of the prison to the morality, the ideals and the beliefs of the warden is an archetypical instance of an ideological effect. The same holds not just for wardens, but for bankers, politicians, voters, investors, bureaucrats, factory workers, consumers, advisers, social workers, even the unemployed—and, of course, for academics.
1. New York University (570 citations, 14 faculty)
2. Princeton University (378 citations, 9 faculty)
3. City University of New York Graduate Center (292 citations, 6 faculty)
4. University of Pittsburgh (208 citations, 5 faculty)
5. Columbia University (202 citations, 4 faculty)
6. University of Texas, Austin (187 citations, 6 faculty)
7. Yale University (185 citations, 6 faculty)
8. Rutgers University, New Brunswick (176 citations, 5 faculty)
9. Oxford University (167 citations, 4 faculty)
10. Massachussetts Institute of Technology (163 citations, 4 faculty)
11. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (160 citations, 4 faculty)
12. Harvard University (153 citations, 3 faculty)
13. University of Southern California (150 citations, 4 faculty)
14. Stanford University (142 citations, 4 faculty)
15. University of Notre Dame (137 citations, 3 faculty)
16. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (128 citations, 3 faculty)
17. University of California, Berkeley (117 citations, 2 faculty)
18. Australian National University (110 citations, 3 faculty)
19. Duke University (102 citations, 2 faculty)
19. University of California, Los Angeles (102 citations, 2 faculty)
What this means, I don't really know. Certain areas are high-citation areas in SEP because of large numbers of entries: e.g., Language/Mind/M&E, Logic, Feminist Philosophy. Others seem to be less so. Kripke accounts for about 40% of the CUNY cites, but even noting that, CUNY still does really well thanks to Devitt, Priest, Godfrey-Smith, Papineau, and Prinz. Some departments would no doubt have made the list if Schwitzgebel had counted beyond the top 266. At Chicago, Martha Nussbaum, with 94 citations is almost in the top 20 all by herself, but after her the most cited Chicago faculty (using Schwitzgebel's methodology) did not make the top 266 (J. Lear with 16, Leiter with 11, and Pippin with 9). If we credited departments for smaller fractional appointment than half-time, NYU, Rutgers and Harvard would all get a Parfit boost, and UCSD, with N. Cartwright (who is there one quarter per year), would have made the top 20 (along with cites to Brink and Arneson).
Here. If "analytic" philosophers (let alone physicists) knew more about intellectual history, they'd realize this whole "debate" (such as it is) is just a re-play of one in the 19th-century, spearheaded by Ludwig Büchner, the 19th-century apostle of "philosophy is dead, long live science." His Kraft und Stoff is still a very entertaining read, and was, reportedly, the best-selling book in 19th-century Europe after the Bible!
Here. (Thanks to Lorna Finlayson for the pointer.)
My own view is that it is not reasonable, or desirable, to expect Israeli academic institutions to adopt positions on questions of national policy (the boycott calls for a "refusal to associate with Israeli academic institutions that have not explicitly condemned the occupation"); the same is true in the U.S. What is known as "the Kalven Report" from 1967, after its lead author, Harry Kalven, a prominent First Amendment scholar at Chicago, got it right:
The instrument of dissent and criticism is the individual faculty member or the individual student. The university is the home and sponsor of critics; it is not itself the critic. It is, to go back once again to the classic phrase, a community of scholars. To perform its mission in the society, a university must sustain an extraordinary environment of freedom of inquiry and maintain an independence from political fashions, passions, and pressures. A university, if it is to be true to its faith in intellectual inquiry, must embrace, be hospitable to, and encourage the widest diversity of views within its own community. It is a community but only for the limited, albeit great, purposes of teaching and research. It is not a club, it is not a trade association, it is not a lobby.
Since the university is a community only for these limited and distinctive purposes, it is a community which cannot take collective action on the issues of the day without endangering the conditions for its existence and effectiveness. There is no mechanism by which it can reach a collective position without inhibiting that full freedom of dissent on which it thrives. It cannot insist that all of its members favor a given view of social policy; if it takes collective action, therefore, it does so at the price of censuring any minority who do not agree with the view adopted. In brief, it is a community which cannot resort to majority vote to reach positions on public issues.
Unfortunately, then, this call for boycott seems to me misconceived, at least as regards academic institutions. The case for an economic boycott of Israel for its crimes is as strong as it has ever been, and only an economic boycott endorsed by significant trading partners will have the desired effects.
With over 1400 votes cast in our most recent poll on phenomenology, 12% thought it a "central, foundational part of the discipline," 17% deemed it "a major area of research," and 27% agreed it was "useful when integrated with mainstream philosophy of mind and cognitive science"--so a majority chose the most positive options. Another 27% though it a "minor area of research," while 23% went with the dismissive Deleuzian option, deeming it "modern scholasticism" and "pointless attention to trivialities."
Eric Schwitzgebel (UC Riverside) sends along his latest interesting data compilation: most cited authors born after 1900 in SEP. Take note of his methodology before e-mailing him with alleged corrections! It would be interesting to know how SEP articles divide up in terms of coverage, which might explain some of the surprising results. (Eric may undertake that, in which case I'll post a link.)
...meaning the use of empirical methods to test claims about intuitions. With nearly 1900 votes (over the weekend no less!), 42% chose the most dismissive option, while 28% thought it "useful when integrated with traditional philosophical problems and methods." 3% thought it "central, foundational," and 7% deemed it a "major area of research," with another 20% thinking it a "minor area of research." The substantial minority expressing hostility is not surprising: after all, if the X-phil approach is right, then a lot of what many philosophers do is based on a bogus and disreputable methodology. Those fond of that methodology might take some offense!
CORRECTION: The original title ran together two separate events: PhilPapers is incorporating the Philosophers Research Index, which is not the same as the Philosopher's Index (news to me!). The post by the Princeton librarian below concerns the choice of subscribing to PP or PI. Apologies for the confusion!
Wayne Bivens-Tatum, the Philosophy and Religion Librarian at Princeton University, calls my attention to this blog post, and writes to explain:
As you may be aware, the open access site PhilPapers launched a subscription drive a few months ago trying to get institutions that grant philosophy degrees to subscribe because its initial grant ran out. For Princeton, as I suspect with Chicago, this subscription won't be onerous, but for a number of libraries around the country the choice will come down to paying for PhilPapers or for the Philosopher's Index. I wrote the brief comparison for librarians with selection duties in philosophy who might not know much about either resource, and I suspect that they would also be interested in the opinions of professional philosophers about whether dropping a subscription to the Philosopher's Index would be worthwhile in order to pay for PhilPapers. If you think your readers would be interested in contributing to that discussion, I would appreciate you writing about the matter on Leiter Reports.
The chart below summarizes the reader poll conducted over the past month or so--all got between 1200 and 1700 responses, roughly. Readers can scroll through to find the precise wording, but in each case there were five choices: a "central, foundational" part of the discipline; a major area of research; "useful when" either integrated with pertinent sciences (e.g., metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, language, mind) or integrated with contemporary philosophcial questions (e.g.,. logic, history).
Major research area
Philosophy of Language
Philosophy of Mind
Ethics (theoretical, not applied)
History of Philosophy
Judging from hiring patterns, it would seem that top-ranked PhD programs take a different view of what is central and foundational than the readership as a whole--not surprising, given that the readership is much broader than faculty and grad students at top PGR departments. What do readers make of the results? (I'll be running some more polls, on more specialized sub-fields [e.g., X-phil, phenomenology, feminist philosophy etc.] soon.)
Because I am on the road, comments may take awhile to appear--please post them only once.
...expressing the hope that his students and their friends and families are not among the victims of the violent conflict in Gaza and the surrounding areas. The Dean at Bar-Ilan, whose reaction is quoted at the link, is a disgrace.
A curious discussion going on in the bowels of cyberspace apparently launched by an atheist radio personality. I would think the answer is pretty clearly "yes," given that a number of important metaphysical and epistemological issues are raised in the context of philosophy of religion, both contemporary and historical, though it is certainly true that too much of it now functions as Christian apologetics.
There is a news account here; I have not seen the opinion, so am only going on this account (though it strikes me as plausible, given what I know about the local judiciary). The result is a case study in what is wrong with American defamation law, and helps explain why our media, including our cyber-media, are such cesspools of falsehoods and garbage.
Consider: a student accuses Jon of groping her breasts and buttocks; Jon's behavior is both wrongful and illegal--it is both tortious and criminal. The newspapers, however, report that Jon is accused of "rape," which is defined in most jurisdictions as non-consensual penetration of the vagina or anus of another person, or non-consensual contact between the genitals of one person and the mouth, vagina or anus of another (this is not, however, the precise definition in Illinois, which probably helped the defendants here). Legal definitions aside, everyone knows that being accused of non-consensual groping is not as heinous as being accused of rape. Even the defendants know that, since they revised their original misdescription of the allegations and removed the word "rape"!
So what really explains this outcome? Two things: first, American libel law provides enormous cover for egregious misrepresentations of any topic that might be deemed of "public" interest" (in almost every other Western democracy whose libel law I am familiar with, Ludlow's case against the newspaper would have been a slam dunk); and second, and this is really crucial, the local judges in the Chicago state courts are, I have been told, mostly graduates of non-elite law schools and have contempt for elite academics. Judge Flanagan, who handed down this decision, graduated from John Marshall here in Chicago, a regional school that ranks well behind other very good regional schools in Chicago like Loyola/Chicago, Chicago-Kent and DePaul. I do not know Judge Flanagan, but I am familiar with the general problem. A couple of years ago, I was considering bringing a defamation action that would have to be filed in the local state courts in Chicago (rather than the federal courts), but I was advised by a Chicago lawyer with considerable experience in these matters that the local Chicago judges would view with skepticism and contempt any such lawsuit by a University of Chicago professor. I am, like any experienced lawyer, a legal realist, that is, I know that non-legal factors have a significant influence on outcomes in the court. This is yet another case in point.
I should emphasize, given the general level of insanity surrounding this whole issue, that everything I have written above about Ludlow's lawsuit against the newspapers is correct even if every actual allegation against Ludlow by the student is correct.
UPDATE: I respect the important work philosopher Heidi Lockwood has done to assist victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment, and have benefitted in the past from her knowledge of Title IX. Her intervention on this particular issue is, however, confused and irrelevant. Rape is always a kind of sexual assault, but not all sexual assaults are a kind of rape, and this is true even in jurisdictions that do not use the term "rape" but define sexual assault in terms of degree, with rape always being first-degree (i.e., not all sexual assaults are first-degree sexual assault). The latter is the only issue here, not the former. More to the point, Illinois defines rape as "criminal sexual assault" involving "sexual penetration," the latter defined as follows:
Means any contact, however slight, between the sex organ or anus of one person and an object or the sex organ, mouth, or anus of another person, or any intrusion, however slight, of any part of the body of one person or of any animal or object into the sex organ or anus of another person, including, but not limited to, cunnilingus, fellatio, or anal penetration. Evidence of emission of semen is not required to prove sexual penetration.
There was never an allegation of sexual penetration against Ludlow by the undergraduate student, so there was never an allegation of criminal sexual assault, i.e., rape. Defendant Sun-Times recognized this once contacted by Ludlow's attorney: that is why they revised their headline, removing the word "rape" and replacing it with "sexual assault." In other words, defendant newspaper recognized the meanings were different. Judge Flanagan, according to the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, found that the "the defamation and false light claim...fail on the basis of the fair-report privilege":
That privilege protects a publisher of defamatory matter when the matter fairly and accurately summarizes statements in public documents or proceedings at official public meetings, such as court documents or hearings.
“There is a fair abridgment of a proceeding where the sting of the defamatory statement in the proceeding is the same as a sting of the defamatory report,” Flanagan wrote. “The hallmark of the privilege is the accuracy of the summary, not the truth or falsity of the information being summarized.”
The only question, in other words, is whether the "sting" of being accused of rape is the same as the "sting" of being accused of sexual assault (not criminal sexual assault). The Sun-Times did not think so, but the Judge did. The most plausible explanation I can think of for so finding is bias against the plaintiff on the part of the judge--a bias consistent with what I have been told by a lawyer with twenty years of experience of litigating defamation cases in Cook County courts (where Judge Flanagan sits). More generally, American libel law tends to err on the side of sacrificing the plaintiff's reputation in the alleged interest of the "public"--the fair-report privilege, as applied in this instance, is an example. That line of law began with New York Times v. Sullivan in 1964, but it was Sullivan's progeny that adopted the foolishly capacious approach to "public figures" and "public interest." (Interestingly, when I ran a poll of law faculty on the 50th anniversary of Sullivan, the vast majority thought Sullivan itself rightly decided, but a majority thought its legacy had not been a good one, which is my own view as well.)
ANOTHER: Prof. Lockwood's additional reply. Most of the latter is non-responsive, so I will keep it brief. That some victims of sexual assault experience it as being as bad as rape (undoubtedly true) is irrelevant to Ludlow's defamation action, unless it were the case that the population generally shares that view (undoubtedly false). For unless both kinds of sex crimes are viewed as equally heinous generally, being falsely accused of rape will still constitute per se libel. In addition, as pointed out here, Prof. Lockwood has misrepresented one of her central examples, the law in Ohio.
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)