Philosophy graduate student Nick Byrd asked me to share this study he is conducting to explore the relationship between personality traits and philosophical views. He says it should take only 5-10 minutes to complete the survey.
There must be more to the "science" than what is described here:
They begin with a puppet show. In this show, a gray cat is seen trying to open a big plastic box. The cat tries repeatedly, but he just can't open the lid all the way. A bunny in a green T-shirt comes along and helps open the box. Then the scenario is repeated, but this time a bunny in an orange T-shirt comes along and slams the box shut before running away. The green bunny is nice and helpful. The orange bunny is mean and unhelpful.
The baby is then presented with the two bunnies from the show. A staff member who doesn't know which bunny was mean and which bunny was nice will offer both bunnies at the same time to the baby. The baby's mother, who is usually present during the study, closes her eyes so as not to influence the baby in any way.
Which bunny do the babies choose? More than 80% of the babies in the study showed their preference for the good bunny, either by reaching for the good bunny or staring at it. And with 3-month-olds, that number goes higher, to 87%.
As described, the result is obviously equally compatible with the hypothesis that babies are born with an innate sense of self-interest. So what's the real story here? Additional links welcome. (Thanks to Mark Couch for the pointer.)
...but I've been on the road (in California) first here and then here.
Visiting the wonderful UCR Department, as I've been fortunate to do several times in recent years, prompts some reflections on our field and also on the interests in the Continental traditions that I share with many others. There are, fortunately, lots of good places in the U.S. these days for students interested in Kant and post-Kantian European philosophy--Columbia, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Brown, BU and, in many ways, Chicago--but UCR is as good as any of them, and may be the best. It's not just that they have a first-rate group of scholars working on Kant and post-Kantian European philosophy (Clark, Keller, Reath, Wrathall)--and an impressive group of grad students as well--but that everyone in the Department is interested in philosophy, meaning that those with primarily "Continental" interests are conversant with "analytic" philosophy and other parts of the history of philosophy, and vice versa.
The term "pluralism" has, alas, been debased to the point that everyone now knows it is usually a code word for "crappy philosophy is welcome here." But if it had not been devalued, then it would apply to UCR, though I think the more appropriate appellation is that UCR is an actual philosophy department, in which everyone is interested in philosophy, even if different figures or themes are more important for some than others. When I left UT Austin some six years ago, part of the reason was that it had ceased to be a department of philosophy and had become something more like a "Department of Logic & Metaphysics," where that meant recent logic and metaphysics. That's fine, UT Austin has become a leading Department of "Logic & Metaphysics" in the recent 'analytic' tradition. I am (to the annoyance of my critics) a fan of the "analytic" tradition, but mostly I am a fan of philosophy, and most of the really important philosophy is not, by my lights, to be found in "recent logic and metaphysics".
The field needs more places like UCR. (The world needs more places with decent weather, but that's a separate issue!)
UPDATE: One current PhD student at UT Austin not working in M&E/Language/Mind/Logic wrote to say he felt the department was more supportive of his work than my commentary would suggest. I am happy to hear that, and I hope other students feel the same way.
MOVING TO FRONT FROM DECEMBER 21, 2013: THIS DESERVES MORE RESPONSES!
Signed comments only: full name and valid e-mail address. You can name more than one, but say a couple of words about each book or article you mention, why you liked it, why it's significant, what it's contribution is to a particular literature. I'll add my own at some point, but first I'd like readers to weigh in.
As a survivor from the wartime group [at Oxford], I can only say: sorry, but the reason was indeed that there were fewer men about then. The trouble is not, of course, men as such – men have done good enough philosophy in the past. What is wrong is a particular style of philosophising that results from encouraging a lot of clever young men to compete in winning arguments. These people then quickly build up a set of games out of simple oppositions and elaborate them until, in the end, nobody else can see what they are talking about. All this can go on until somebody from outside the circle finally explodes it by moving the conversation on to a quite different topic, after which the games are forgotten. Hobbes did this in the 1640s. Moore and Russell did it in the 1890s. And actually I think the time is about ripe for somebody to do it today. By contrast, in those wartime classes – which were small – men (conscientious objectors etc) were present as well as women, but they weren't keen on arguing.
It was clear that we were all more interested in understanding this deeply puzzling world than in putting each other down. That was how Elizabeth Anscombe, Philippa Foot, Iris Murdoch, Mary Warnock and I, in our various ways, all came to think out alternatives to the brash, unreal style of philosophising – based essentially on logical positivism – that was current at the time. And these were the ideas that we later expressed in our own writings.
A number of interesting and/or curious claims here (I am particularly struck by the confident dismissal of logical positivism, and by the implication that Oxford no longer produces talented female philosophers), but I'm curious what readers think? Signed comments will, of course, be preferred.
Mary Midgley, aged 81, may be the most frightening philosopher in the country: the one before whom it is least pleasant to appear a fool. One moment she sits by her fire in Newcastle like a round-cheeked tabby cat; the next she is deploying a savage Oxonian precision of language to dissect some error as a cat dissects a living mouse.
I have posted it here. This will be part of a wonderfully clever series that Topoi has run for a number of years, and which is explained here:
We take a classic of philosophy and ask an outstanding scholar in the same field to review it as if it had just been published. This implies that the classical work must be contrasted with both past and current literature and must be framed in the wider cultural context of the present day. The result is a litmus test for the work itself: Failure in accounting for relevant issues raised by contemporary literature reveals that, in those respects, our classic has indeed been outpaced by later works. On the other hand, any success in capturing core topics of current discussion, or even anticipating and clarifying issues not yet well brought into focus by contemporary scholars, is the strongest proof of the liveliness of the work, no matter how long ago it was written.
I have enjoyed reading some of the previous "Untimely Reviews," including for example Brandom on Hegel's Phenomenology (2008) and Leitgeb on Carnap's Aufbau (2009). Readers not familiar with the series should check it out.
(I should note that my "untimely review" will not include that many new ideas for those who have been reading some of my other Nietzsche essays of late--I've been working on, and writing about Twilight quite a bit over the last two years.)
The art world has a phenomenon known as outsider artists -- artists who don't emerge via what Arthur Danto has called the art world (art schools, galleries etc.) but seemingly come in from the outside. This inevitably leads to debates about who is really an outsider, whether they remain outsiders or get absorbed into the art world, and of course just how much recognition they should get. Is there a similar phenomenon of outsider philosophers?
In the photos above I've given some examples to spur discussion. Is Angela Davis (top) really an outsider? (She studied under Marcuse and has held philosophy positions; perhaps she is an insider?). Is Timothy Leary (bottom right) a philosopher? He described himself as America's MVP -- most valuable philosopher. And would Lucy Parsons (bottom left) even consider herself a philosopher? Well, I know some Chicago anarchists that would, and the Chicago police once described her as more dangerous that a thousand rioters, so there's that.
So are there outsider philosophers? Who are they? Are they worth reading? Are they worth reading qua philosophers? Discuss.
Jonathan Strassfeld is working on a doctoral dissertation in the History Department at Rochester on the history of philosophy in mid-20th-century America, especially an institutional history about the leading departments and their areas of focus. I've been helping him at various intervals with questions about faculty rosters, tenure status, and the like. He recently wrote with a question to which I don't know the answer, but perhaps some readers can help: "What were the circumstances leading to Nelson Goodman's exit from Pennsylvania's philosophy department?" I believe he initially went to Brandeis, then to Harvard. I have a dim recollection that Penn in the 1950s and 1960s was, like Yale, resisting the turn to "analytic" philosophy, with a large coteria of folks working in "classical" American philosophy. But I am not at all confident about any of this. Anyone know? Signed comments very strongly preferred, since Mr. Strassfeld would like to be able to follow up with knowledgealbe individuals.
Nigel Warburton comments. One characteristic of the various pseudo-philosophical cults that crop up now and then--the Straussian, the Randian, the Derridean are prime examples--is that their members stringently avoid such face-to-face conversation with their critics, and for obvious reasons.
As a first, crude attempt, I’ll describe philosophical work as work with and on "concepts". Philosophers are concerned with concepts in the same rigorous sort of way that, say, a pathologist is concerned with diseases, or a mathematician with numbers. This may look like philosophers apply their energies to other-worldly things (“staring at the ceiling”, “head in the clouds”) or to the contents of their own imaginations, but this is based on a misleading account of concepts.
Concepts are not the contents of so-called thought-bubbles. They are the hinges or links of reasoning processes. They describe those aspects of thought that enables it to make the right connections: connections with the rest of the world; with other thoughts; and with actions. I use the word "right" here to indicate the possibility of getting these connections wrong.
Looked at this way, a concern with concepts can seem important indeed. To recycle an idea from Aristotle, it’s the capacity for conceptual thought that allows us to reason and act on the basis of reasons, and not just react to environmental stimuli. That we all work with concepts at some level allows us to exercise reason and act freely—to be more than mere bundles of conditioned responses. Concepts are what make us distinctively us.
In the division of intellectual labour, philosophers work mainly at the level of the hinges between thoughts, on those concepts deeply embedded within the argumentative threads weaving through our culture. But these are threads that have started somewhere with the formation of beliefs, and end somewhere in actions. As the concepts on which philosophers work are typically located a long way from where these threads start or terminate, philosophical research is generally described as "pure" rather than "applied". But "pure" does not mean "irrelevant". Who would question that the activity of finding and attempting to fix problems in our collective thinking was a relevant thing to do?
Although that's not my conception of philosophy, it is certainly an important and legitimate one. Given Australia's out-sized place in the modern philosophy canon (relative to the size of the country), one may hope that the party now in power there will come to its senses and find more constructive things to do with its time and its power than trash philosophy.
Pomposity can be amusing, but pomposity sitting like an oversized hat on top of fear is hilarious. Wieseltier is afraid that the humanities are being overrun by thinkers from outside, who dare to tackle their precious problems--or "problematics" to use the, um, technical term favored by many in the humanities. He is right to be afraid. It is true that there is a crowd of often overconfident scientists impatiently addressing the big questions with scant appreciation of the subtleties unearthed by philosophers and others in the humanities, but the way to deal constructively with this awkward influx is to join forces and educate them, not declare them out of bounds.
This is both funny and apt, and it makes in pithier form one of the points Michael Weisberg and I made last fall in The Nation. Meanwhile, while I was travelling 'down under,' Nagel wrote a short (and basically fair) summary of his book for a New York Times blog. It was, unfortunately, prefaced with the utterly disingenous claim that Mind and Cosmos "has attracted a good deal of critical attention, which is not surprising, given the entrenchment of the world view that it attacks." This implies, falsely, that the critical reaction was due to the "entrenchment of the world view" the book attacks as opposed to the extraordinarily poor quality of the book's arguments and knowledge of the relevant science. Surely even Nagel realizes that were he, a formerly reputable philosopher, not the author of Mind and Cosmos, it never would have been published by OUP or any serious academic press.
This is really quite interesting; in retrospect, Adorno seems to have the better of the debate, though Marcuse responds effectively on many points. Alas, both suffered from taking the nonsense of Hegelian dialectics seriously, but there is still much worthwhile in the exchange notwithstanding that. Marcuse is upset that Horkheimer allegedly described his version of critical theory as "crude and simplified," which it was, but it wasn't, as far as I can see, inaccurate to the core ideas--indeed, as I often say to students, Marcuse often says clearly what Adorno says opaquely.
This blog is, remarkably, ten years old today. It's the most widely read philosophy blog in the world, as best I can tell, with nearly 23 million visits and more than 30 million page views during its decade of life (I recall how surprising it was the first time it got 200 hits in one day way back in 2003! Now, even in the summer, it's running an average of 10,000 hits per day). Issues raised here have made it into The New York Times, The Guardian, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Education, The Boston Globe, and many other traditional media. My thanks to all you readers for making it a success and making it worth continuing.
Here's three things I never would have guessed way back in 2003:
1. The extent to which blogs would become part of the mainstream of the profession.
2. The extent to which academic philosophers, though overall a more enlightened group, would still have representatives of every political and moral pathology of the United States. (I shall have to do another survey of the readership like this one from a few years ago.)
3. The extent to which airing on the Internet the kind of moral and political views I express all the time to friends and colleagues would make me an object of widespread cyber-vilification--yes, in retrospect, I realize that was naive. Cyberspace, alas, enables an extraordinary amount of shameless defamation by people with political or philosophical axes to grind; and American libel and cyber-law mostly gives them cover.
I've posted some reflections at various milestones in the past, but the realization that ten years have passed inspires more verbosity. I've put most of it below the fold, to spare those of you who are not interested.
Introductions such as Brian O'Connor's Adorno(the latest in The Routledge Philosophers series) are a genre in their own right with their proper demands. One task is to initiate non-expert readers into the world of Adorno, and to make it accessible to the non-specialist without oversimplifying. Another is to give readers an overview of Adorno's entire work situating each aspect of it in relation to the others. O'Connor meets these demands deftly....
O'Connor's philosophical interpretation of Adorno centres on the latter's notion of experience, and the excellent chapters 3 and 4 (on Experience and Metaphysics, respectively) focus on ideas that radiate into all corners of his work. He bases his interpretation for the most part on Adorno's major published works of philosophy, Negative Dialectics, Minima Moralia, the post-humously published Aesthetic Theory, and the co-authored Dialectic of Enlightenment, but leavens his interpretation with references to the radio broadcasts, lecture series, letters, and other important studies and essays. At a pinch, one might have asked for more engagement with Adorno's essays on music and the musical monographs in the long sixth chapter on Adorno's aesthetics, but otherwise nothing is missing.
O'Connor's style is careful, mercifully jargon-free, and nicely suited to the genre. He is not seduced into emulating Adorno's scintillating style, and he handles Adorno's abstruse concepts with insight and dexterity. There is no need for a book on Adorno to read like Adorno's philosophy, as some do. Indeed there is reason for them not to: Adorno's own work is difficult enough. The pitch of this work is well-judged. It will be of interest to experts on Adorno as well as to students encountering his work for the first time.
That all seems right to me (and, unlike Finlayson, I found the summaries at the end of each chapter quite useful). Finlayson's review spends perhaps a bit too much time on meta-philosophical issues about interpreting Adorno, at the expense of the substance of O'Connor's reading of Adorno, but hopefully the review will enocourage more readers, especially those intrigued by Adorno but put off by his sometimes awful writing, to read O'Connor's book.
I have heard some more senior philosophers say that the best philosophy journals are less likely to publish papers that have experimental content, less likely to publish papers that have formal content, and much less likely to publish papers that have both experimental and formal content. I'm not sure what to make of this sentiment. Are the top four or five general-interest philosophy journals really less likely to publish papers with experimental and/or formal content? (I am especially interested to know if people think that this is true about the Philosophical Review, since that journal is clearly in a class by itself in terms of reputation in the discipline.) If so, why isn't that a big black mark against those journals?
I'll note that PPR has published a lot of experimental philosophy, as well as important critiques of Xphil. But I've opened comments for other opinions. If your comment mentions a journal by name, you will have to include a full name in the signature line; all comments must include a valid e-mail address, which will not appear.
I was wondering if you could request comments from the readers of your blog on the following question: how do academics see themselves as making the world a better place? I am just tenured, and, while I can see how my teaching and advising duties have a direct impact on the lives of students and advisees (hopefully making these lives better at least in some cases), I am far from sure that my research is producing anything else than egocentric pleasure. Note that I am not working in any of these fields which have obvious practical implications, such as applied ethics for example. I wonder if other academics worry as much as I do about whether we spend our time and utilize our skills the way we ought to, or whether we should think about ways to be more useful to the society and the world.
1. Philosophical Review (Condorcet winner: wins contests with all other choices)
2. Journal of Philosophy loses to Philosophical Review by 244–117
3. Nous loses to Philosophical Review by 245–130, loses to Journal of Philosophy by 195–178
4. Mind loses to Philosophical Review by 260–114, loses to Nous by 185–179
5. Philosophy & Phenomenological Research loses to Philosophical Review by 284–97, loses to Mind by 236–143
6. Ethics loses to Philosophical Review by 279–85, loses to Philosophy & Phenomenological Research by 205–154
7. Philosophical Studies loses to Philosophical Review by 312–60, loses to Ethics by 215–133
8. Australasian Journal of Philosophy loses to Philosophical Review by 317–70, loses to Philosophical Studies by 175–162
9. Philosopher's Imprint loses to Philosophical Review by 319–57, loses to Australasian Journal of Philosophy by 191–140
10. Analysis loses to Philosophical Review by 325–65, loses to Philosopher's Imprint by 184–166
11. Philosophical Quarterly loses to Philosophical Review by 331–48, loses to Analysis by 193–158
12. Philosophy & Public Affairs loses to Philosophical Review by 303–51, loses to Philosophical Quarterly by 166–149
13. Philosophy of Science loses to Philosophical Review by 303–50, loses to Philosophy & Public Affairs by 162–110
14. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science loses to Philosophical Review by 299–57, loses to Philosophy of Science by 138–112
15. Synthese loses to Philosophical Review by 328–51, loses to British Journal for the Philosophy of Science by 155–131
16. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society loses to Philosophical Review by 333–31, loses to Synthese by 152–147
17. Erkenntnis loses to Philosophical Review by 319–51, loses to Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society by 152–141
18. American Philosophical Quarterly loses to Philosophical Review by 341–33, loses to Erkenntnis by 148–145
19. Canadian Journal of Philosophy loses to Philosophical Review by 333–33, loses to American Philosophical Quarterly by 154–120
20. Journal of the History of Philosophy loses to Philosophical Review by 295–42, loses to Canadian Journal of Philosophy by 135–123
21. Journal of Philosophical Logic loses to Philosophical Review by 304–26, loses to Journal of the History of Philosophy by 119–100
22. Mind & Language loses to Philosophical Review by 312–30, loses to Journal of Philosophical Logic by 117–91
23. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly loses to Philosophical Review by 337–17, loses to Mind & Language by 123–118
24. European Journal of Philosophy loses to Philosophical Review by 319–38, loses to Pacific Philosophical Quarterly by 148–113
25. British Journal for the History of Philosophy loses to Philosophical Review by 303–37, loses to European Journal of Philosophy by 120–112
One thing the poll confirms is that Kieran Healy was right to choose the four journals he focused on. On the other hand, I do suspect the ordinal listing tells us more about the distribution of AOS in the profession than about anything else (or, in some cases, the nationality of the voters).
One can get some idea of the distribution of areas among respondents by looking at how many ranked a particular journal on a par with or better than Philosophical Review; that list doesn't correspond to the rank above:
1. Nous (130)
2. Journal of Philosophy (117)
3. Mind (114)
4. Philosophy & Phenomenological Research (97)
5. Ethics (85)
6. Australasian Journal of Philosophy (70)
7. Analysis (65)
8. Philosophical Studies (60)
9. Philosopher's Imprint (57)
9. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science (57)
11. Philosophy & Public Affairs (51)
11. Synthese (51)
11. Erkenntnis (51)
14. Philosophy of Science (50)
15. Philosophical Quarterly (48)
16. Journal of the History of Philosophy (42)
17. European Journal of Philosophy (38)
18. British Journal for the History of Philosophy (37)
19. Inquiry (36)
20. Biology & Philosophy (33)
UPDATE: Ernest Sosa (Rutgers), editor of both Nous and Philosophy & Phenomenological Research, writes:
I write about the comment on your blog as follows: "One thing the poll confirms is that Kieran Healy was right to choose the four journals he focused on." I have to disagree.
I mean not that it was not right to choose those four journals. For one thing, it is not my place to judge that publicly, since I edit the journal that just missed the cut. No doubt the citation study had to limit its scope, moreover, just to be manageable with the resources available. So I have no objection whatsoever to the cut that it made. Kieran Healy of course deserves our thanks (and not sniping) for the time, energy, and skill that he applied pro bono!
What I doubt is the implication that now four generalistjournals stand out at the top. Here are a couple of points in support of my doubt.
1. Your most recent poll, run in April of 2012, had the following relevant result: PPR was fifth in the ranking, but only 38 votes below the fourth-place journal, Mind, which itself was 59 votes below the third-place journal, JP. On the other hand, PPR was 257 votes above the journal next below it in the ranking! This suggests a much more natural break with five top journals, not four.
2. There are large changes in several of the vote differentials as we compare the 2012 and the 2013 surveys, though all other differentials are dwarfed by the one involving PPR. In any case, none of these large changes is plausibly explained by any evident corresponding changes in the quality of the journals involved. So, it seems most sensible to take both surveys still into account, since the set of voters is likely to have changed somewhat, consequentially so.
3. Even the new, 2013, survey still has PPR substantially closer to the next higher generalist journal than it is to the next lower generalist journal (and the citations study was explicitly focused on generalisthigh-prestige journals, so that Ethics in particular is not relevant here). Obviously it matters little where we draw these lines, but I thought that as PPR editor I should point to what makes it so doubtful that there is a natural break where some now assume that there is.
It is fair to say that PPR has more claim to being a true generalist journal than most of the others, since it publishes in an unusually broad range of areas, both contemporary and historical. Whether there is a "natural" cut-off point or not, it is also true that PPR came in fifth in both surveys, though not by a significant margin, as Professor Sosa correctly notes.
Interesting data here. If others want to compile such data for other areas that are often neglected (e.g., philosophy of law, philosophy of religion, medieval philosophy, 19th-century Continental philosophy), send me the URL.
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)