ADDENDUM: A reader sends along this sophomoric prattle; The Monist must have fallen on hard times to be publishing material like this. The abstract alone will probably be enough for most readers, but do press on, it gives one real insight into the nether regions of the 'profession' where no actual intellectual standards prevail. Imagine, an entire paper organized around an alleged "conflation" that any smart undergraduate would avoid!
Rightly so, do read the whole thing. From the conclusion:
In my view, in this book Fuller lends support to some dicey propositions, including creationism and intelligent design, the ideas of Teilhard de Chardin, neurotheology, and transhumanism, not to mention an epistemology of divine psychology. By itself that would not trouble me. What troubles me -- I should say, annoys me -- is that he just avers these things. There is very little argument in this book. In place of it are obsessive self-citations to the author's other publications. That annoyed me because I had time and occasion to read his new book, only to find out that I cannot understand it without reading twenty others by the same author, including maybe even his dissertation. Without studying the earlier books, I can't understand the point of this one, yet nothing in this one makes me want to read those others.
One does begin to wonder whether Fuller is really bonkers, or whether this is all simply to be chalked up to narcissistic stupidity.
I, myself, thought Frankfurt's observation reasonable--there's certainly some nice work being done here and there, but nothing agenda-setting comparable to the figures Frankfurt mentions--but unsurprisingly, lots of younger philosophers dissented from the proposition that their field is in the doldrums. So what do readers think? I'll open a discussion afterwards.
A leading figure in bioethics, Professor Arras was, at the time of his death, a professor at the University of Virginia. You can read more about his work here. I will add links to memorial notices when they appear.
(Thanks to Harold Langsam for the information.)
UPDATE: A memorial notice from the Hastings Center (thanks to Robert Crouch for the pointer).
A colleague in Germany calls my attention to the latest development in the wake of the most recent revelations about Heidegger's anti-Semitism. He observes:
Apparently, the university and department in Freiburg want to give up Husserl's and Heidegger's chair and replace it with a Junior Professorship (probably not even tenure-track!) for logics and analytical philosophy of language. This would be the most provincial move possible given their structure, as the article points out....[T]his scandal will certainly trigger a lot of resistance in Germany. It is just ridiculous to sell out phenomenology and hermeneutics in Freiburg as a side-effect of petty department dynamics (which ultimately lies behind this).
From his contribution to Portraits of American Philosophy:
I believe that there is, at least in this country, a more or less general agreement among philosophers and other scholars that our subject is currently in the doldrums. Until not very long ago, there were powerful creative impulses moving energetically through the field. There was the work in England of G.E. Moore and Bertrand Russell and of Gilbert Ryle, Paul Grice, and Herbert Hart, as well as the work of various logicial positivsts. In the United States, even after interest in William James and John Dewey had receded, there was lively attention to contributions by Willard Quine and Donald Davidson, John Rawls and Saul Kripke. In addition, some philosophers were powerfully moved by the gigantic speculative edifice of Whitehead. Heidegger was having a massive impact on European philosophy, as well as on other disciplines--and not only in Europe, but here as well. And, of course, there was everywhere a vigorously appreciative and productive response to the work of Wittgenstein.
The lively impact of these impressive figures has faded. We are no longer busily preoccupied with responding to them. Except for a few contributors of somewhat less general scope, such as Habermas, no one has replaced the imposingly great figures of the recent past in providing us with contagiously inspiring direction. Nowadays, there are really no conspicuously fresh, bold, and intellectually exciting new challenges or innovations. For the most part, the field is quiet. We seem, more or less, to be marking time. (pp. 125-126)
...can be posted at the PhilJobs site, so I won't be collecting them here. If there's interest from placement chairs, I can run a thread in late March or early April for departments to post the results for their candidates.
A group of researchers, led by Ron Eglash, from the field of Science Studies (STS) have written this petition to 4S (Society for Social Studies of Science) to adopt a resolution that STS scholars should advocate that science should not be misrepresented in class-rooms in public schools, i.e. evolution should be taught in public schools, and that 'intelligent design' and 'creationism' misrepresent evolution.
OUP's Katie Stileman points me to the extracts being posted at the OUP site, and writes:
As it happens, author Timothy Williamson will be doing a live Twitter chat in the character of Bob tomorrow (March 6th) from 2-3pm GMT, so if the extract raises any questions then feel free to Tweet them to him via @TetralogueBook. If you don’t have twitter you can leave questions on the blog post or ask someone else to – we’ve had some great questions in already, so it looks to be a good discussion. We’ll be running Twitter Q&As for each of the characters every Friday throughout March.
MOVING TO FRONT FROM FEBRUARY 25--AN INTERESTING DISCUSSION IN THE COMMMENTS--SEE ESP. #25 FROM A COLLEAGUE OF MINE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS
Alan Patten, the editor of PPA and a professor of Politics at Princeton, kindly offered to answer some questions about editorial practices at PPA. My questions to him are bolded, his answers are in regular font.
PPA is unusual in that the Editor and Associate Editors do almost all the reviewing of submitted work. How and why does PPA use this model? And is the reviewing blind nonetheless?
When Marshall Cohen, Tom Nagel and Tim Scanlon founded the journal in 1971 they did not, I think, see themselves as creating a professional journal to serve or represent an already well-established subfield of philosophy. Rather, the journal was started in order to encourage members of several disciplines to publish work that reflected rigorously and critically about urgent public problems of the day, and in order to create a venue in which the exciting new work of the time in moral, political and legal philosophy could be published. The P&PA editorial model has its origins in the ferment of this time, in which, for better or worse, some of the questions of professional ethics in journal editing that we debate today were overshadowed by the urgent public problems of the day, and by the sense that the journal should encourage both established and younger scholars to take the intellectual and professional risks involved in contributing to what was essentially a new literature.
Over time, as the journal settled into its niche in the profession, questions about fairness in the editorial process came to loom more largely. After he took over from Marshall Cohen in 1999, Charles Beitz made blind reviewing a required part of the editorial process. Other editorial practices were revised under Beitz’s tenure, and I have continued to review and adjust them since I took over as editor in 2010. The journal’s website contains a statement on our editorial practices.
As you note, a distinctive feature of the journal is that much (although not all) of the reviewing of submissions is done by our group of associate editors. Because most reviewing is handled by this small group of people, who are distinguished scholars in their respective fields, the journal is able to maintain high and fairly uniform standards. The journal’s editorial model also encourages articles that are well written and that are not narrowly specialized or highly technical in character. And the fact that the Associate Editors have agreed in advance to handle much of the reviewing for the journal helps to speed up the decision-making process.
Someone wrote me alleging that in volumes 37 through 41, there were 57 papers, with the following characteristics: “Of those 57 papers, 17 had at least one author who received their doctorate from the same institution as the current Editor, Oxford. Another 13 were written by authors whose doctorates were from Harvard, where a number of editorial staff work or studied. The next most common place for authors to have received their doctorate is Princeton, where the journal is based. Of the ten papers in those five volumes published by authors who were last year employed by institutions in the western United States, four are by members of the editorial staff, three are by former visitors at Princeton, where the journal is based, and two are by people who were supervised by members of editorial staff. Only one of the ten has an author with no obvious links with editorial staff.” What should readers make of patterns like this? Are they worrisome? Should they be?
I`ve looked carefully at the first cluster of allegations about Harvard/Oxford/Princeton authors. Since your correspondent connects them with the current editor`s doctoral institution (Oxford), it makes more sense to look at volumes 38-42 (the years I have been editor) rather than 37-41. (I`ll briefly comment on 37-41 afterwards).
Out of the 57 articles in volumes 38-42, 25 had at least one author with a highest degree from either Harvard (13) or Oxford (12). This contrasts with the figure of 30 out of 57 arrived at by your correspondent. It’s also worth noting that 25 of the 62 authors were from Harvard or Oxford, so by this metric Harvard/Oxford accounts for 40% of our authors rather than the 53% figure generated by the previously reported measure. Moreover, the third most common PhD institution of P&PA authors in this period was Berkeley (6), not Princeton (4) which was tied with NYU for fourth.
The proportion of Harvard/Oxford authors (25 out of 62 (or 57)) is substantial so it’s worth trying to look deeper into the data. Right from the start of this discussion, I’ve worried that that the multi-disciplinary character of P&PA was being overlooked. Throughout the journal’s history a significant fraction of the articles were authored by people whose highest degree was not in philosophy. Political theorists, lawyers, and (to a lesser extent) social scientists of various stripes have been frequent contributors to the journal.
This multidisciplinarity matters in several ways to this discussion. For one thing, it makes it harder to believe that all of the people coming from a particular institution belong to the same network. I think we all recognize how important disciplinary boundaries can be for shaping networks. The second point is mainly about political theory, though I suspect a version of it may apply to academic law as well. Philosophers should not underestimate the plurality of ways in which political theory is approached, especially in the United States. Many major political theory programs don’t have a substantial presence in the kind of normative analytic political theory that tends to be published in P&PA.
Of our 62 recorded authors, 22 have their highest degrees in a discipline other than philosophy. This proportion is strikingly different, however, for Harvard and Oxford authors. Only 6 of the 13 Harvard authors have philosophy PhDs and only 5 of the 12 from Oxford took their DPhils in philosophy. If one were just comparing P&PA authors with philosophy PhDs, there really isn’t much of a difference between Harvard and Oxford and other leading institutions of our authors. The differences that there are can, I think, be explained by variation in the size, quality, and (especially) the intellectual focus of the different programs.
The main factor explaining the Harvard/Oxford numbers are the political theory authors we published with PhDs from these institutions. Harvard and (especially) Oxford are among a fairly small group of strong graduate programs that have consistently over the years trained political theory students who do the sort of analytic and normative work that the journal tends to publish. Of course, Harvard and Oxford are not the only political theory programs meeting this description. Princeton is another such program. But I take it that the people who think there is some kind of bias problem at P&PA are not complaining on behalf of Princeton Politics graduates, since this is the institutional home of the current and previous editor. Indeed, the dearth of publications by Princeton Politics authors during this period is an embarrassment to the bias hypothesis. More generally, if one just thinks about the papers authored by political theorists, the outsized presence of Harvard/Oxford doesn’t strike me as especially surprising if one factors in size, quality, intellectual focus, pluralism in the subfield, and the noisiness entailed by looking at only five years of data.
If one were to look at volumes 37-41 (as your correspondent does), then the Oxford number does indeed go up to 17 (although, by my count, the denominator goes up to 59). But the same basic explanation of the numbers still apply. 4 out of 5 of the 2009 Oxford authors have their doctorates in politics, a result that is comprehensible if one considers the size, quality, and distinctive intellectual focus of Oxford`s political theory program in the preceding decades. Moreover, if one looks at an even longer stretch of time, Vols 36-42, something like the pattern discernible in 38-42 reappears. The proportion of Harvard/Oxford authors is 40% and the proportion of papers with at least one Harvard/Oxford author is 46%.
Years ago, Marshall Cohen told me that PPA did have a policy of publishing pieces submitted by those on the editorial board with rather de minimis review. Is that still the policy? If not, do you know when it changed?
Submissions by people on our masthead have been fairly unusual while I`ve been editor – around ten in total I would guess (a number of which we did not publish). (We did appoint some associate editors and members of the editorial board who were previous authors in the journal, but I doubt that anybody would object to that).
Submissions by members of the editorial board are subjected to the same procedures as everyone else and enjoy no more presumption of acceptance than anything else we receive. Submissions by associate editors are slightly more complicated since these individuals do the lion`s share of reviewing for the journal.
There is some discussion of how we handle submissions by our associate editors in the statement on editorial practices. In general, these submissions are handled in the same way as other submissions (e.g. they are fully anonymized) except that, as a rule, at least one of the reviews is done by somebody who isn`t a current associate editor.
These are the editorial practices I inherited from my predecessor in 2010. I`ve made some minor adjustments in the procedures and may tend to rely even more than Beitz on outside readers when handling associate editor submissions. These special safeguards are something our associate editors want. When they do manage to publish something in the journal they don`t want blog commentators questioning whether their achievement is tainted somehow by our reviewing practices. Since they work together closely as journal colleagues, they also don`t appreciate being put in the awkward position of having to evaluate one another`s work.
How do you see PPA’s role in the profession as compared to Ethics, the other major journal publishing in similar areas?
I`d like to think that P&PA hasn`t completely lost touch with the original vision of the founders of the journal. We still aspire to publish work that is of the highest philosophical quality but that also engages directly or indirectly with important questions of public concern. We still anticipate publishing articles by authors from a range of different disciplines, and we still prefer articles written for a fairly broad audience rather than narrow and technical contributions to specific debates in some corner of the field. We don`t aspire to be the main journal representing a particular field or subfield, although we do recognize that publication in the journal has implications for professional opportunity and advancement and we are therefore committed to assessing all submissions in a way that is fair and unbiased.
I'm opening comments for further discussion, but I will moderate with a somewhat heavier hand. Since Prof. Patten has been kind enough to answer these questions, please engage the responses in a similar spirit and stick to substance. Thanks.
This book, edited by Steven Cahn, contains essays by a number of prominent American philosophers, all past "Dewey Lectures" at the APA. Some of the essays are quite revealing, perhaps not always in ways their authors realize. I will be running a few excerpts over the next week to ten days, mainly from the lectures by Judith Jarvis Thomson and Harry Frankfurt, but I may get to some others as well.
A distinguished mathematical logician, he taught for more than twenty years in the Department of Philosophy at Stanford University, among other academic appointments. I will add links to memorial notices when they appear.
MOVING TO FRONT FROM FEB. 21, 2015--PETER ASKED ME TO REPLACE THE INITIAL VERSION WITH A VERY SLIGHT REVISED ONE (BELOW--MOSTLY FIXING SOME HISTORICAL DETAILS)
Many readers have written to me about this lecture, and Peter kindly agreed to share a draft of the lecture (which will be revised, and still needs references and the like): Download Dewey Lecture-drs-rev1
ADDENDUM: It is a rich, engaging, deeply humane lecture, do read it.
A leading contributor to metaphysics and philosophy of science, especially to the literature on causation, Professor Menzies was Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Macquarie University and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities. I will add links to memorial notices when they appear.
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)