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 Notions of radically withdrawn, ungrounded Being, of transcendence or alterity that would be otherwise than Being, or of difference that would detach philosophy and ontology from all logic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 For in the end such notions remain conceptual and representational if only because they represent being as withdrawn, as transcendence or alterity, or as difference in excess of ontological foundation or ground.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.
...some of whom were involved in the disgraceful Kipnis affair (which they actually have the audacity to revisit and try to rationalize in this new letter--and see also). Here's the letter. I would guess from the content that one of the primary authors was the author of the FP blog post we discussed awhile back. (The letter even cites the FP blog post, and makes clear the author learned nothing from the discussion of it, which is part of what is quite alarming about these zealots.) This crowd has long made clear their contempt for fairness and due process, so their posture in this matter is hardly surprising. I assume the adults at the AAUP will ignore this.
At last, we have a genuine anti-semitic loony-tune in academia, one Joy Karega, Assistant Professor of Rhetoric & Composition at Oberlin College, with a PhD from the University of Louisville. So far, the evidence is she confines her anti-semitic ravings to her Facebook page. After initially defending on academic freedom and free speech grounds her right to be an anti-semite on Facebook, Oberlin now appears to be changing course, which is unfortunate. The College would be well within rights to find out what's going on in her classrooms, but given that she's an assistant professor in a field with no discernible wissenschaftlich standards, it's not clear quite how that would work. In any case, even if Oberlin holds firm and resists punishing her for her Facebook speech, I would expect this to come back to haunt her at tenure time, by which time the media's 30-second attention span will have moved elsewhere.
Predictably, I suppose, some pontificators on social media are mystified that the irresponsible APA statement could be at all controversial. Indeed, philosopher Jenny Saul (Sheffield) has reiterated her view that controversy about the statement reflects badly on the state of the profession. My view is, unsurprisingly, different: the absence of controversy in certain parts of academic philosophy is what suggests the "profession" is populated with people who are not really grown up. The deficiencies of the APA statement are so obvious that it should hardly be surprising that, for example, no group of academic lawyers has promulgated a statement so ridiculous.
Let us recall what the statement said--not regarding the criminal threats and racist abuse suffered by Prof. Yancy--but regarding the lawful anonymous speech on metablogs:
Abusive speech directed at philosophers is not limited to responses by the public to published op-eds. A look at some of the anonymous philosophy blogs also reveals a host of examples of abusive speech by philosophers directed against other philosophers. Disagreement is fine and is not the issue. But bullying and ad hominem harassment of philosophers by other philosophers undermines civil disagreement and discourse and has no place in our community.
I'm not entirely sure why the statement targets anonymous speech, since it seems to me there are many possible examples of speech that runs afoul of the APA statement that was not anonymous. But they all raise the question: what exactly is the "abusive speech" that is now according to a handful of philosophers at the APA forbidden? Consider:
1. Philosopher Rachel McKinnon (Charleston) launched a Twitter tirade against Justin Weinberg (South Carolina), because he had linked to a part of a discussion by Leslie Green (Oxford) of whether Germaine Greer was correct about transgender women. Prof. McKinnon wrote, inter alia, that those she attacked should "suck it up, buttercup," and proudly proclaimed "we're not polite" after denouncing Weinberg for having "fuck[ed] up just now." Indeed, she regularly calls her opponents "philosophy asshat," "fuckwhistles" and tells them to "shut the fuck up" and "fuck off." Surely this speech violate the APA's new policy! If so, what is the APA going to do about it?
2. I have, on multiple occasions, made harsh criticisms of anti-gay bigotry in the philosophy profession, for example, here, here, and here. Does this speech violate the APA's new policy? (Admittedly, if it does, the APA can't do anything about it, since I am not a member.)
3. After I criticized a badly reasoned opinion piece co-authored by Jason Stanley (Yale), he denounced me on his very public Facebook page before hundreds if not thousands of my colleagues, dismissing me as "old, dated, shrill, and frightened." This certainly sounds like ad hominem abuse (though admittedly it did lead dozens of philosophers to friend me on Facebook!). Does this volate the APA's new policy on speech? If not, why not?
My own view is that (a) all of this speech ought to be legal; and (b) none of it should be the object of sanction or opporobium by a purportedly professional organization. Yet all of it appears to fall within the scope of the APA's careless statement. And the reason why professionals in other fields, especially law, don't promulgate statements like this is precisely because such standards are vague and overbroad and thus inconsistent with the values of freedom of expression central to all intellectual and political life. That the APA has been captured by some academics who don't see this should be a cause for concern.
In light of Trump's surprisingly strong showing in a caucus state (Nevada), I think the prospect of his getting the Republican nomination is now very real. It is true I endorsed him early on for this "honor," but the fact that two-thirds of Republican voters overall have continued to prefer someone else (for more than six months now) seemed like it should cause a problem. Unfortunately, the Republican primary system is designed to produce a winner fairly quickly, even in a field where one candidate can't command a majority of the support. Here Trump has been greatly helped by the large field of competitors who have divided the vote. Rubio--whose substantive policy positions are basically the usual insane Republican fare--has failed to win a single contest to date; unless the "anyone but Trump" vote coalesces around him soon (i.e., by next Tuesday, when there are eight primaries!), one wonders how much longer the "big money" will back him. Cruz is simply too much of a narcissistic sociopath--on a par with Trump, though Trump is less of a sociopath--to drop out, especially since he's actually won a primary (Iowa). Of course, if Rubio and Cruz stay in the race to the end, they and others might well have enough delegates to stop Trump at the convention, if they can actually agree on who will get the nod (which seems doubtful).
This means the next exciting issue will be whom Trump chooses as a running mate. I'm guessing it will be one of his sons.
HuffPo has a good summary of the latest dispute among the fake oracles, including the damning observation by James Galbraith that the critics didn't actually bother to examine the analysis they attacked! Astrologists behave better than these folks.
ADDEMDUM: It's a good time to revisit this piece by philosopher Alex Rosenberg (Duke).
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:
Here is a fairly good overview of what transpired. FAU's stated rationale for termination--failure to file reports about his "outside activites"--seems feeble and implausible. What they should have argued is that, given his academic specialty, his conspiracy-mongering suggests professional incompetence--it would be as if a biology professor taught creationism instead of evolution by natural selection, or an astronomy professor taught that heliocentrism was false. This process would have taken longer, but the fired professor's grounds for a breach of contract suit are probably stronger given how the university actually went about terminating him.
He's now slightly ahead of Trump among California Republican voters. I expect he will win Iowa and South Carolina, two of the first three primaries, and that will give him the momentum needed. As with Trump, Cruz is a gift to the Democrats.
These reflections were prompted...by an incident in a seminar I was teaching on ideological critique. The participants were a group of extremely intelligent and widely read graduate students - all impeccably radical. Despite my heroic efforts to focus their attention on particular, concrete examples, such as the controversy that has developed among ethnographers of the northern Kalahari desert, the students persisted in speaking and writing in the most suffocatingly abstract and stereotypical fashion. Things finally blew up when one member of the class, making a class presentation, referred in passing to "racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia." The phrase rolled off his tongue as though the individual words were simply syllables of one great polysyllable - stuck together by some sort of syntactical glue. Everyone in the class was quite comfortable with the phrase. It seemed to me that they found it reassuring, rather in the way little children snuggle down in bed when they hear "Once upon a time." All except a rather abrasive German student who interrupted to protest that she, for one, had nothing against classism. Indeed, she said, she regularly judged people according to their economic class, and thought it quite the right way to go about things. The class came to a dead halt, and no one knew what to say. None of the students had ever heard anyone question the appropriateness of the phrase "racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia," used as a term of opprobrium. It was as though, in the middle of a class preparing little Catholic boys and girls for First Communion, a smart-mouthed trouble maker had piped up and said, "I can take the Father and the Son, but you can keep the Holy Ghost."
...I simply couldn't get the students to see how mind-numbingly banal, how drained of all genuine thought, that phrase had become. I could not even get them to attune their ears to the ugliness of it as language. Freud says somewhere, talking about the dynamics of psychoanalytic therapy, that if there is a single topic that it is not permitted to examine in an analysis, sooner or later the entire analysis comes to be about that topic. I have always found this a profound insight into what happens in the classroom as well. A classroom in which it is socially or pedagogically unacceptable to question the appropriateness of the phrase "racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia" is a classroom in which neither real teaching nor real learning can take place. It is like a classroom at a Catholic university in which teachers are free to explore every conceivable subject - except the legitimacy of abortion. It is like the huge introduction to neo-classical economics at Harvard, presided over by former Chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisors Martin Feldstein, who announced, when he returned from his duties in Washington, that the purpose of the course was to teach that the market works - not how it works, mind you, but that it works.
There are a number of ways in which an orthodoxy can be imposed on a classroom. The most obvious, and hence the least dangerous, is by administrative fiat. Considerably more dangerous, because harder to spot and to confront, is the quiet, tacit social pressure that enshrines certain ways of thinking as correct, stigmatizing deviations as morally reprehensible and unworthy of serious consideration. I have come to think of this as macro-thinking. By one of the ironies of modern discourse, this pre-programming of thought masquerades as ideological critique, when in fact it is the precise opposite.
Brian Bruya, who teaches philosophy at Eastern Michigan University and earned his Ph.D. at the University of Hawaii (specializing in Chinese philosophy), has penned a purported critique of the PGR, which an actual journal, Metaphilosophy, published (readers will see in a moment why this is surprising). Why do I mention these facts about the author? Because the author has reasons to be hostile to the PGR--he plainly feels he and his friends in the profession are undervalued because of the PGR--it should not be wholly surprising that the critique the author produces involves mistakes, shoddy arguments, and fabrications.
This is no longer my headache, but since the article ignores the participation of the Advisory Board in producing the report for the last 15 years, and continually personalizes his critique to me, let me note the following:
1. Bruya asserts (674), falsely, that the "Metaphysics & Epistemology" (M&E) category in the PGR includes 15 sub-specialties, more than "Value Theory" and "History of Philosophy" together. In fact, the M&E category has only 7 specialties listed, compared to 6 for Value Theory and 9 for History of Philosophy. In fact, there are 8 specialties under "Philosophy of the Sciences, Mathematics, and Logic," which is the fourth major sub-division of the field the PGR has used for a long time; these four divisions correspond quite well to the areas represented by about 95% of philosophers in the Anglophone world (most of the rest are picked up by the areas that don't fit neatly into any of the others, because they cross divisions, like Feminist Philosophy or Philosophy of Race). Buried in an appendix at the end, Bruya finally acknowledges conflating the divisions, with the explanation that, "It is uncontroversial that many of the specialties of M&E, philosophy of mathematics, and logic are core specialties of Analytic philosophy" (686). This is, of course, revealing about Bruya's biases, and his lack of understanding of "analytic" philosophy (he might talk to some philosophers of physics and biology to find out what they think of a lot of, say, contemporary metaphysics). But the mistake vitiates in its entirety the "analysis" on pages 668-678, where the statistical analysis purporting to show "bias" in the evaluator pool depends entirely on his massive inflation of the M&E category.
2. Snowball or chain-sampling is a perfectly appropriate method of sampling when what you want is a kind of "insider's" knowledge. Bruya's argument against it is silly:
The reason [snowball sampling] is used is as an expedient way to access a hidden population, such as social deviants (drug users, pimps, and the like), populations with very rare characteristics (such as people with rare diseases, interests, or associations), or subsets of populations associated in idiosyncratic ways (such as networks of friendships)....Philosophers are neither social deviants nor difficult to find, as every philosophy program's faculty list is public information. (660-661)
It does occur to Bruya that perhaps what is wanted is expert and well-informed opinions. Bruya comments: "the very earning of a Ph.D. is the academic standard for expertise" (661). If that's one's view of expertise, then the PGR will not make much sense. Later in the article, however, Bruya acknowledges that,
We want experts to provide their opinions when expertise is required for a sound assessment, and we would not insist on getting a representative sample of all such experts. We see this all the time in academia. We have PhD committees, tenure review committees, grant committees, and so on, which are formed for the purpose of providing expert evaluation. And for none of these do we insist on getting a representative sample. (667)
Given this admission, one might wonder what all the fuss is about? Bruya again points to "bias," but as we've seen (#1, above) the central and allegedly data-driven analysis of "bias" in the evaluator pool involves a straight up fabrication about the areas of philosophy represented by the evaluators.
3. In an unrelated effort to show "bias," Bruya asserts that there is a category of philosophers who are "Methodological Continentalists" (665-666) which would encompass programs like DePaul, Duquesne, and Emory (666). SPEP folks have long maintained, of course, that they are insulated from normal standards of philosophical scholarship because there's something putatively distinct about the work they do that makes such standards irrelevant. Bruya is entitled to endorse that myth. But what is, again, pure fabrication is to assert that "Leiter refers to this brand of philosophy in his own published work," noting the introduction to The Oxford Handbook of Continental Philosophy I wrote with Michael Rosen (666). Bruya gives no page reference, because there is none that would show that we recognize something called "Methodological Continentalists" represented by departments like DePaul, Duquesne, and Emory. How such a naked fabrication got through the peer review process is, again, mysterious.
4. Bruya repeatedly misrepresents Kieran Healy's research about the PGR; readers interested in Prof. Healy's views can start here.
5. Bruya's main methodological suggestion (681 ff.) is to aggregate scores in the specialty areas for overall rankings. The Advisory Board discussed this in past years. Since there is no way to assign weights to the specialty areas that would not be hugely controversial and indefensible, the PGR has never adopted such an approach. Bruya has no real solution to the problem (though one may rest assured Chinese Philosophy will count for more!).
I predict, with confidence, that no changes to the PGR methodology are likely to result from this very confused critique.
I also trust the journal Metaphilosophy will withdraw the article in its entirety given the fabrications, and subject a revised article to a more serious peer-review process, to insure the final version is not so obviously shoddy.
ADDENDUM: I suppose I should say a word about Bruya's defamatory claim that "one cannot help but wonder whether the PGR's hidden biases are based in sexism, racism, ethnocentrism and xenophobia" (679). Obviously, Brit Brogaard was motivated to join me as co-editor of the last PGR by the opportunity to help propagate "sexism, racism, ethnocentrism and xenophobia." So were the women, African-Americans, and Hispanics on the Advisory Board; and the dozens of women, African-Americans, and Hispanics who participated as evaluators. An alert reader might notice that Bruya motivates this smear first through his fabrication of a huge M&E category (see #1, above) and second through his unmotivated claim that "a program that was both complete and perfectly balanced...would have a total of thirty-three faculty members," one for each of the 33 specialties ranked in the PGR. Why should any program aspire to represent every specialty in the PGR? Bruya never explains. But, of course, if you start with that assumption, then it looks like Chinese philosophy, not to mention philosophy of religion and medieval philosophy and philosophy of art, get shortchanged. It never occurs to Bruya that this might be a fact about the profession that the PGR records, rather than creates (in fact, during the PGR's lifetime, the range of philosophical areas well-represented in the profession has increased, and that's been reflected in the PGR).
DEC. 15 UPDATE: After this update, I am not going to spend any more time responding to Brian Bruya, who in 14 single-spaced pages tries to create the appearance that he is responding to the criticisms, above. In some cases, it is obvious that he has no response, posturing to one side. I'll just make seven quick points:
1. Bruya claims that the "reason I wrote the critique of the PGR is that I see a group of very intelligent and apparently well-meaning people involved in an influential publication that ultimately locks out" non-Western philosophy. These are the same people whom Bruya smears in the article as having hidden biases deriving from "sexism, racism, ethnocentrism and xenophobia."
2. I noted that "the article ignores the participation of the Advisory Board in producing the report for the last 15 years, and continually personalizes his critique to me." Bruya drops everything after the comma, and then responds, irrelevantly, that his article mentions the Advisory Board in a couple of places. Anyone who bothers to read Bruya's article can see very clearly that throughout he treats the PGR, and all the bad things about it, as due to me, personally. He ignored the fact that it has been, for a long time, a collective effort. Thus, he does, indeed, "personalize" the critique.
3. Bruya's M&E category is a fabrication, and as I noted, he does finally acknowledge it to be so in an appendix at the end of the paper. The fabricated category allows him to claim that there are more M&E categories than value and history categories. It also vitiates his statistical claims, which trade on the huge M&E category he created. There's no doubt that, as Kieran Healy has shown, that metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of language, and philosophy of mind are high prestige areas in Anglophone philosophy; the PGR records that fact, it didn't create it (a point on which Bruya continues to be silent). That does not justify Bruya's fabrication, which he still doesn't defend or even explain. (I did laugh out loud when the guy who smeared me and the PGR participants as infected by "sexism, racism" etc. worries that it might be ad hominem to note that he doesn't seem to understand what "Analytic philosophy" is.)
4. I noted that the 33 M&E specialties represent 95% of what philosophers do. Bruya repeats the non-sequitur that an APA survey (of only participants in one Eastern Divison meeting, the Eastern Division being the most atypical of the three Divisions) would have resulted in a different distribution of specialties. Many (most? I haven't checked them all) of the specialties that Bruya labels "other" are, in fact, part of existing specialty categories. If my 95% estimate is wrong, we still haven't seen the evidence.
5. Bruya manages never to respond to the points, above, about expertise, though assures us that he thinks his argument was a good one. Readers can decide for themselves.
6. Bruya repeats the falsehood that Leiter & Rosen endorse his version of Methodological Continentalists, as exemplified by programs like Emory, Oregon, and Duquesne. He now produces a quote which shows nothing of the kind.
7. Bruya thinks an alternative way of producing an overall ranking is to simply "sum" all the specialty scores. I confess it never occurred to me or anyone on the Advisory Board that this could possibly be a sensible way to proceed. Readers may decide for themselves whether Bruya is persuasive on this point.
Bruya, I suppose, is counting on the fact that the appearance of a response, complete with school marmish posturing, will suffice, and that readers won't examine his confused paper carefully enough to see what's really going on. Maybe he is right. Nonetheless, I continue to predict with confidence that Brit Brogaard and a new Advisory Board will not adopt any of the suggestions offered by Bruya because she is smart and will appoint a smart Advisory Board, and it's easy enough for any smart person without an axe to grind to see that the criticisms are mostly confused or tendentious (not all, some are familiar, but not significant). I am also hopeful that Metaphilosophy, which allegedly has a peer review process, will withdraw the article in light of the fabrications and defamatory smears.
ANOTHER: Unfortunately for Prof. Bruya, the philosopher of physics David Wallace did examine the paper carefully, and his conclusions are damning.
It may come as a shock that a candidate for President in last night's Republican debate, said something false, but as it happens Senator Rubio asserted falsely that welders make more than philosophers, but it isn't true. Average salaries for welders well into their careers are in $37,000-$39,000 range, far below the starting salary of assistant professors of philosophy at research universities ($65,000 and up) and at other colleges and universities (a wider range, but I've yet to see a salary for an assistant professor lower than $45,000 in recent years). Amusingly, even the popular media has called him out on this noting that even the average B.A. in philosophy earns more than welders. It's a shame, though, that this point had to be made at the expense of welders.
Feel free to links to more pertinent data.
In any case, with the facts clarified, it is good to know that at least one Republican candidate will now champion the cause of philosophers.
According to the Philosophy Metablog, philosopher Aidan McGlynn (Edinburgh) could not let the embarrassing reaction to a link to Les Green's piece on Greer earlier this week rest. Please note that what Dr. McGlynn referred to as a "problematic" and "offensive" article is this perfectly sensible and informed analysis of the sense in which gender is a social construct and its bearing on the question whether or not transgender women are women. The thought crime at issue was Justin Weinberg's linking to one small part of this essay by the Professor of the Philosophy of Law at Oxford University (who, as informed readers will know, has written quite a lot of important work about sexuality and gender). Here's McGlynn (in part):
I’m still disappointed with [Justin Weinberg]. The twitter post that created the fuss is still up, days after people pointed out how problematic it is, and Justin’s preferred tactic seems to be to ignore many of the people raising concerns (particularly Rachel)....First, some people don’t see anything wrong with linking to a problematic or offensive article so long as it’s made clear which bits one is cherry-picking. I don’t agree, and I don’t agree that it was clear in this instance....This discussion has nothing to do with ‘thought-policing’ (though in fairness, to my knowledge only one person has suggested otherwise). We’re not talking about Justin’s thoughts – we’re talking about what’s on the twitter feed associated with one of the places members of the profession need to go to for information and discussion concerning issues about the profession. Moreover, this is clearly how Justin took my remarks – he explicitly responded in terms of what he thought appropriate to take a stand on with the twitter feed associated with the Daily Nous [blog]. No one should expect Leiter to care about that distinction, of course....
It's fair to say I don't "care about" an irrelevant distinction, but put that aside. This finger-wagging produced a number of rude and sometimes quite apt rebukes at the Metablog, of which this one made me laugh:
The vocabulary is one of the main things I just can't stand: 'I'm still disappointed... deeply problematic...' Don't these people realize they sound like passive-aggressive schoolteachers, as reimagined by your worst nightmare? I actually prefer McKinnon's style to this, and that's really saying something.
And then there's the suggestion that it doesn't count as 'thought-policing' unless it involves the metaphysically impossible feat of actually policing people's thoughts. Does McGlynn seriously doubt that, if the relevant people could do that (whatever that would amount to), they would?
The vocab is hard to keep up with. Should we start a running glossary?
"Problematic": adj. (of arguments) false; (of pratices) must be banned; (of utterances) must be retracted and apologised for; (of tweets) must be deleted;
"Free speech": n. a problematic concept [see above]
"Censorship": n. the alleged suppression of problematic ideas, a largely mythical practice. [compare "silence"]
"Silence": v. (1) to ignore, not talk about. (2) to disagree with (3) to discuss a marginalized individual [see below] in terms they would prefer not to be discussed
"erase": v. synonym for silence
"identity": n. an (esp. marginalised) individual's conception of themself. NB all other definitions, such as those which have been explored by philosophers over the past two millennia, are problematic [see above]
"offense" - n. something nobody ever complained about [compare "harm"]
"harm" - the inevitable consequence of erasing [see above] an individuals identity [see above]
"listen" - (to a marginalised individual), agree with, show deference to,
"bully" - v. synonym for erase
"expert" - n. a marginalised person
"educate" - v. to inform a non-marginalised person of the correct opinion
"safe space" - one in which no identity is erased. Unsafe spaces are problematic [see above].
When I asked Dr. McGlynn via e-mail whether he had written the piece in question, he acknowledged doing so, but added, "I have been reflecting on this, and I have subsequently decided that I should not have written it. Therefore having initially edited it, I have taken down the entire post from my facebook page. Please accept my apologies." I am happy to accept his apology, though I don't feel he owes me one. I worry, alas, that the views expressed are consistent with the views he has expressed elsewhere, and are indicative of how some (hopefully small) portion of the profession thinks about these issues. Since this way of thinking is anathema to academic life, it's time for those who believe in freedom of thought and discourse to object, and object strenuously.
Meanwhile, Rachel McKinnon (Charleston) continues her twitter tirade against Justin Weinberg* (South Carolina), whom she apparently believed to be an "ally." (Her idea of an "ally" seems to be what everyone else would probably call "a spineless toady.") In any case, I will let Prof. McKinnon speak for herself:
As a doctor with experience in international health I have found that some of the claims made by the proponents of effective altruism are not merely ‘satisfyingly counterintuitive’: they are wrong. For example, MacAskill claims that deworming has better educational outcomes among Kenyan schoolchildren than increasing the number of textbooks or teachers. This notion is based almost entirely on a single study published by Miguel and Kremer in the journal Econometrica in 2004 and has recently been debunked by Aiken, Davey et al in the International Journal of Epidemiology. Deworming does not improve educational outcomes. A review of the evidence available in the field of development studies makes it clear that improved educational outcomes in developing countries are best achieved by, wait for it, a decent, well-resourced school system. The idea that a single anti-worm pill is the key to solving the deep societal injustice of poor education is another instance of the glib ‘freakonomics’ style of thinking that has hijacked much of the field of social studies. Claims for a pharmacological magic bullet as a solution to poor educational attainment in Africa dovetail very nicely with the prevalent ideology of international health governance, which is content to accept structural inequalities in wealth and power while focusing on vertical, narrow, top-down, and ultimately ineffective strategies in alleviating health inequalities.
(Thanks to Arthur Smith for the pointer.)
ADDENDUM: Some EA apologists point me to this discussion of whether the original study was really "debunked." It seems to me there is a lot of quibbling here about the word "debunk"; nothing in this discussion, in any case, shows that the LRB letter writer isn't entirely correct that "the evidence available in the field of development studies makes it clear that improved educational outcomes in developing countries are best achieved by...a decent, well-resourced school system."
This is obviously crazy, and would not happen in any civilized society, and the backlash is already in progress. But I have to say I am just really sorry for my wonderful colleagues who are being put through this. I fear it will be the end of the University of Texas as a serious university, really one of the best state universities in America. (A few years after joining the UT Austin faculty, I used to joke that this was a great university but it needed to move to a civililzed state. Things have gotten much worse since. I really fear for the future there.)
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)