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!
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.
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)
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.
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.
[I]f you are looking for a traditional understanding of modernism and of Deleuze and Guattari, you are bound to be greatly disappointed, because the idea of understanding as a stable and unified meaning is challenged and usurped here. This is not only because there are many different and sometimes incompatible views drawn together. It is also because many of the interpretations of modernism are often self-avowedly evasive and performed as such. At its most extreme, this effect brings us close to one of Deleuze's favourite authors, Lewis Carroll, and the mad tea-party. It turns out that to understand modernism we have to understand that we cannot understand what modernism is but rather experience what it does as something disunited and discombobulating....
I will conclude with a perhaps churlish qualm or cranky misgiving, not so much about the quality of this volume on the terms it has set itself with respect to artistic modernism and Deleuze and Guattari, but rather to extensions of the modern that seem essential 'in these times', as they say. The worry came about when reading the outstanding glossary entry on the rhizome, written by Eugene Holland. He is one of the foremost and most impassioned commentators on Deleuze and Guattari and politics, in particular in relation to their critique of global capitalism. So, in reflecting upon the idea of the 'rhizome-book' he remarks that 'the aim of such a book . . . is not to represent the world as it is or what it means, but to survey and map its tendencies and becomings, for better and for worse, so as to be able to affirm the former and avert the latter' (272). It is of course no coincidence that Holland reminds us of the debt to Marx in Deleuze and Guattari and political modernism. This progressive political and philosophical side of modernism is strangely lacking in the book. It is an absence that cannot be seen as a flaw on its own terms, yet it made me feel uneasy and fleetingly sad. I wanted to scream a new slogan: Modernism is collectively political, or it dies. No doubt the authors will respond that their works are political in the sense of seeking to change situations for the better on a micro-political plane. True. Yet I sensed too great an emphasis on individual ills and local connections, rather than collective action, for either Deleuze or modernism to be up to the challenges of the collapse of progressive late-modern societies and their eyeless tottering into something far worse.
This nonsense would surely have been enough to make Marx long for the philosophical sobriety of Bruno Bauer.
We were disappointed that Brian Leiter's survey of "Most Important Anglophone philosophers, 1945-2000: the top 20" omitted Hector-Neri Castaneda (1924-1991). At Leiter's invitation, we submit the following observations on his significance.
Castaneda was Guatemalan by birth and early education. However, his philosophical training at Minnesota and Oxford, his professional affiliations at Wayne State and Indiana, and his numerous publications surely qualify him as anglophone. For his autobiography (parts of which--notably section I.4--could easily be dramatized!), see Castaneda 1986.
We believe that there are philosophers on the poll who do not match Castaneda in influence or insights. He made significant contributions to both philosophy and the profession of philosophy.
His philosophical contributions include his groundbreaking work on:
(1) the private language argument (Castaneda 1967);
(2) reference, in particular, his theories of indexicals and quasi-indexicals (Castaneda 1966; 1977; 1989; 1999, Chs. 1-2);
(4) a unified ontology of physical objects and thought contents, notably, his ambitious guise theory of intentionality (Castaneda 1972a, 1989);
(5) the methodology and history of philosophy (especially the ontologies of Plato and Leibniz) (Castaneda 1972b, 1980); and
(6) imperative and deontic logic, on practical and normative reasoning, and on action theory and meta-ethics (see Castaneda 1974, 1976).
Perhaps his most significant contribution to the profession was his founding and editing of Nous, but it should also be remembered that he was a prominent philosopher in the analytic style who came from a socially and economically underprivileged background and thereby became an inspiration to many.
Surveys of his work include Tomberlin 1983 & 1986, Orilia & Rapaport 1998, Rapaport 2005, and Palma 2014.
William J. Rapaport
Associate Professor Emeritus of Computer Science;
Affiliated Faculty Emeritus, Philosophy and Linguistics;
Member Emeritus, Center for Cognitive Science
State University of New York at Buffalo
Written with the assistance of Julio Covarrubias (Washington), Tomis Kapitan (Northern Illinois), Michael McKinsey (Wayne State), Franceso Orilia (Macerata, Italy), and Adriano Palma (Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa).
Castaneda, Hector-Neri (1966), " 'He': A Study in the Logic of Self-Consciousness”, Ratio 8 (1966): 130–157
Castaneda, Hector-Neri (1967), "The Private Language Problem", in P. Edwards (ed.), Encyclopedia of Philosophy (New York: Macmillan and Free Press) 8: 240-247.
Castaneda, Hector-Neri (1972a), "Thinking and the Structure of the World", Philosophia 4 (1974) 3-40; reprinted in 1975 in Critica 6 (1972) 43-86.
Castanda, Hector-Neri (1972b), "Plato's Phaedo Theory of Relations", Journal of Philosophical Logic 1: 467-480.
Castaneda, Hector-Neri (1974), The Structure of Morality (Springfield, IL: Charles C Thomas).
Castaneda, Hector-Neri (1976), Thinking and Doing (Dordrecht, The Netherlands: D. Reidel).
Castaneda, Hector-Neri (1977), "On the Philosophical Foundations of the Theory of Communication: Reference", Midwest Studies in Philosophy 2: 165-186.
Castaneda, Hector-Neri (1980), On Philosophical Method (Bloomington, IN: Nous Publications)
Castaneda, Hector-Neri (1986), "Self-Profile", in Tomberlin 1986, pp. 3--137.
Castaneda, Hector-Neri (1989), Thinking, Language, & Experience (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press).
Castaneda, Hector-Neri (1999), The Phenomeno-Logic of the I: Essays on Self-Consciousness (James G. Hart and Tomis Kapitan, eds.) (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press).
Orilia, Francesco, & Rapaport, William J. (eds.) (1998), Thought, Language, and Ontology: Essays in Memory of Hector-Neri Castaneda} (Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers).
Palma, Adriano (ed.) (2014), Castaneda and His Guises (Berlin: de Gruyter).
Rapaport, William J. (2005), "Castaneda, Hector Neri", in J.R. Shook (ed.), The Dictionary of Modern American Philosophers (Bristol, UK: Thoemmes Continuum): 452-457.
Tomberlin, James E. (ed.) (1983), Agent, Language, and the Structure of the World (Indianapolis: Hackett).
Tomberlin, James E. (ed.) (1986), Hector-Neri Castaneda (Dordrecht, The Netherlands: D. Reidel).
This stuff is so pathetically disgusting, and so deeply entwined at points with other parts of his philosophical outlook, that I expect there is going to be a marked decline in interest in Heidegger in the coming decades.
Not surprising, given Raymond Geuss's retirement and the nature of recent appointments. It would be a bit pathetic, though, for philosophy students at Cambridge to be unable to find faculty to work with on Marx or Nietzsche.
(Thanks to Phil Gasper for the pointer.)
UPDATE: Richard Holton, Chair of Philosophy at Cambridge, writes:
Marx will continue to be taught in the Cambridge philosophy faculty. The proposal is to contextualize Marxism, along with theories of equality in one course, and with feminism and anarchism in another. Faculty and students discussed the proposals together at a productive Staff-Student Committee meeting earlier this week. The petition had been circulated and signed before that meeting, and thus before students knew the full proposals; so we're puzzled that it was published on Change.orgafterwards, as though the meeting had never taken place. The Hegel and Nietzsche course remains.
1. W.V.O. Quine (Condorcet winner: wins contests with all other choices)
2. Saul Kripke loses to W.V.O. Quine by 202–174
3. John Rawls loses to W.V.O. Quine by 200–155, loses to Saul Kripke by 201–180
4. David K. Lewis loses to W.V.O. Quine by 206–148, loses to John Rawls by 194–163
5. Hilary Putnam loses to W.V.O. Quine by 269–74, loses to David K. Lewis by 209–134
6. Donald Davidson loses to W.V.O. Quine by 259–88, loses to Hilary Putnam by 177–148
7. Peter (P.F.) Strawson loses to W.V.O. Quine by 269–85, loses to Donald Davidson by 196–130
8. Bernard Williams loses to W.V.O. Quine by 258–99, loses to Peter (P.F.) Strawson by 161–157
9. G.E.M. Anscombe loses to W.V.O. Quine by 277–88, loses to Bernard Williams by 169–151
10. Noam Chomsky loses to W.V.O. Quine by 273–80, loses to G.E.M. Anscombe by 166–155
11. J.L. Austin loses to W.V.O. Quine by 277–61, loses to Noam Chomsky by 155–143
12. Thomas (T.S.) Kuhn loses to W.V.O. Quine by 271–69, loses to J.L. Austin by 147–141
13. Wilfrid Sellars loses to W.V.O. Quine by 280–52, loses to Thomas (T.S.) Kuhn by 147–139
14. Thomas Nagel loses to W.V.O. Quine by 280–75, loses to Wilfrid Sellars by 148–140
15. Michael Dummett loses to W.V.O. Quine by 284–48, loses to Thomas Nagel by 150–133
16. H. Paul Grice loses to W.V.O. Quine by 286–42, loses to Michael Dummett by 131–112
17. Jerry Fodor loses to W.V.O. Quine by 292–41, loses to H. Paul Grice by 134–117
18. Robert Nozick loses to W.V.O. Quine by 284–62, loses to Jerry Fodor by 144–136
19. Gilbert Ryle loses to W.V.O. Quine by 300–27, loses to Robert Nozick by 151–123
20. David Armstrong loses to W.V.O. Quine by 295–36, loses to Gilbert Ryle by 137–110
At various points, Nelson Goodman and John Searle were in the top 20, and Armstrong and Ryle just outside, but the former pair finished at 21 and 22, respectively, in the final results.
Inevitably, it turned out that there were omissions of candidates who while perhaps not "top 20" contenders would certainly have rated favorably on the full list. Examples include Hector-Neri Castenada, J.J.C. Smart, Annette Baier, Ruth Millikan (I had not realized she was over 80), Kurt Baier, among others. Karl Popper was a tricky case, because his most important work was prior to 1945, but he continued to publish during the period in question. Comments on the significance of the work of those omitted and on the results welcome. For my own money, I would have put Hempel and Foot in the top 20 (as well as Goodman and Searle), and dropped Armstrong, Ryle, Nozick and Dummett. I wonder whether others were surprised by Austin's strong showing? And ten years ago, would Anscombe have fared so well? Rorty's rather tepid showing in a poll of actual philosophers is also notable. (Remember the poll was limited to philosophers no longer living and distinguished living philosophers over 80, with two exceptions: Kripke and Nagel.)
MOVING TO FRONT FROM YESTERDAY--POLL OPEN UNTIL TOMORROW (OVER 300 VOTES SO FAR)
A new poll for your amusement. I've limited the list of choices mostly to philosophers who did most of their work during this period and who are no longer alive, plus some distinguished philosophres who are alive and now in their 80s (with two exceptions: Kripke and Nagel). Have fun. We'll produced from this a list of "the top 20."
UPDATE: Mark Tushnet, a law professor at Harvard, writes: "Of course I don’t understand his paper, but there’s a great line in it. After proving that the upper bound for gaps between primes exists and is less than 70,000,000, the next line is: 'This result is of course not optimal.'"
In many state colleges and universities philosophy programs are housed in one department with religious studies. In some of these cases, philosophy faculty would prefer to be in self-standing philosophy departments. To make this change, philosophy faculty must persuade administrators that philosophy programs should be housed in autonomous philosophy departments.
These philosophers need arguments and data. Here are the questions. What are the particular ways in which the "Philosophy and Religious Studies" combination is problematic? What are the most effective arguments against that combination? (The arguments must appeal to Deans and Provosts.)
Regarding data, it would help philosophers in this position to know which other philosophy departments around the country were once in combined departments, and it would help to know when the split occurred. Finally, it would also be helpful to know the ways in which those philosophy programs have improved after the separation (perhaps in major recruitment, faculty recruitment and retention, research output, and so on).
This is a very good read, a well-informed (as one would expect) and appropriately opionated account of developments, especially in the post-WWII period, covering, inter alia, the decline of Wittgenstein's influence, the return of metaphysics, the shift from philosophy of language to philosophy of mind in the 1980s, the rise and fall of Davidson and Dummett, the contributions of Lewis, Kripke, Grice and many others. As one would expect, the story ends with a vindication of the centrality of logic, metaphysics, and a kind of philosophy of language to philosophical inquiry.
Philosopher Kathleen Wallace, who is Chair of the Department at Hofstra University, and who has called attention before to the unfortunate tendency of those studying outcomes by college major to lump philosophy with religion, writes:
Briefly, the issue for philosophers concerns how philosophy majors are often aggregated with religious studies majors by data collectors and researchers. This may have deleterious consequences for philosophy when student outcomes are reported in the media.
There is a time-sensitive action item during the public comment period for proposed revisions to the census bureau's American Community Survey (ACS). ACS is proposing to eliminate Question 12 which asks about the respondent's college major. Comment period closes: December 30, 2014.
I'm attaching a brief summary of the issue with the time sensitive action item, which I was wondering if you would be willing to post on Leiter Reports. (The summary is in the attached: Download Aggregating_Data_Summary_v3PDF.) I've written up a more detailed explanation of the data issues which I put up on my website,
I encourage philosphers to take time to submit comments to the ACS, since I think Prof. Wallace is quite right about the unfortunate impact this has on the results for philosophy.
UPDATE: Professor Wallace reports that she heard back from the ACS "as to whether they use aggregated or distinct coding for philosophy and religion on ACS question 12," and it turns out to be the former. Here's their answer:
It looks like the main questions are whether or not we break down "Philosophy and Religious Studies" (4801) into further subcategories and if so, what forms we make those data available. For ACS, we do not break down that category into further subcategories during any of our processing steps, therefore we would not have those data available. Any respondent who wrote "Philosophy", "Religious Studies", "Theology" etc. would all be coded to one category (4801).
Professor Wallace adds: "I had said in the summary that I wasn't sure whether ACS used broad or more finely grained codes from NCES CIP. I will update the more detailed report on my website.... So, it is *really* important that philosophers get in their comments -- that philosophy and religious studies (and theology!) should be processed and reported as distinct majors -- on the ACS question 12 during the public comment period."
ANOTHER IMPORTANT UPDATE: Here's where you go to comment on ACS Question 12: Direct all written comments to Jennifer Jessup, Departmental Paperwork Clearance Officer, Department of Commerce, Room 6616, 14th and Constitution Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20230 (or via the Internet at firstname.lastname@example.org). More information here:
For the benefit of those confused by the occasional references to this organization: SPEP stands for the "Society for Phenomenology & Existential Philosophy." It is a professional organization that primarily represents about a dozen philosophy PhD programs and their graduates: Stony Brook, Penn State, Duquesne, Emory, Vanderbilt, New School, Boston College, DePaul, Villanova, Memphis, Oregon, maybe one or two others. Many faculty from literature departments also participate in SPEP. Most of the leading Anglophone scholars of the post-Kantian Continental traditions have nothing to do with SPEP, so it's important not to be misled by the false claim that SPEPPies make that their organization represents Continental philosophy in the US: it does not. ("Party-line Continentals" is closer to the mark.) Some very distinguished scholars took their PhDs at SPEP programs, philosophers like Charles Griswold at Boston University, Terry Pinkard at Georgetown University, and Dalia Nassar at the University of Sydney. These scholars are the exception, not the norm, as I noted in connection with the SPEPPie "Pluralist [sic] Guide" (see also this). Some SPEP members participate as PGR evaluators, and most SPEP departments have been evaluated in the PGR at one time or another--they tend to get very low marks overall (outside the top 50), due to their narrowness and idiosyncrasies, but they sometimes rank decently in specialty areas. Students who find the work done by faculty at SPEP departments appealing will be better-served by the Pluralist [sic] Guide than the PGR, but they will also get, on average, an inferior philosophical education.
About 15 years ago, SPEP created an "Advocacy Committee," whose explicit purpose was to try to counteract and undermine the PGR (if you search back through committee minutes included in the annual SPEP programs, this becomes quite clear). You can see the current and past membership of the SPEP "Advocacy Committee" here.
A video of the event is here; Professor Siegel offers the following remarks about their discussion:
We were asked to discuss the roles of the sciences and the humanities in the study of the mind. Pinker went first. His own approach to studying to social phenomena (such as violence and gender roles) is evolutionary psychology. His intellectual hero is the sociobiologist E.O. Wilson. That comes through in his comments. But his main focus is on the respective roles of the sciences in general and the humanities. You could have guessed it in advance: Pinker chides 'the Humanities' for their 'anti-scientism' and for being insulated from the sciences (he makes an exception for philosophy, which he thinks - wrongly - is thoroughly and heavily informed by psychology), but he seems deaf to huge swathes of research in politics, literature, and social history which isn't and couldn't productively be informed by any 'science of the mind' of the sort he envisions.
My goal in my comments was to exhibit some of these areas of the Humanities. Our main disagreement is about what's continuous and what's discontinuous between the sciences and the humanities.
I find continuity in the modes of inquiry between the sciences and the humanities, because science is more than just confirming hypotheses. It includes the analysis of problems and to some extent (e.g. in certain types of case studies) detailed descriptions of experiences. The discontinuity is in the subject-matter. I identified three examples in my talk. One of them is about evidentialism and beliefs about social inequality. In another example I mention Chris Lebron's work on the long strand of American literature aimed at exposing the 'vast experiential gulf' between Americans. (I'm thankful to Chris for getting me to read Mat Johnson's novel *Pym*.)
Pinker thinks the sciences have superior methods, and that those methods can be applied widely in the humanities. So he thinks there ought to be continuity in the subject matter, and that to the extent that actual modes of inquiry are discontinuous, that's too bad for the humanities. (Philosophy is supposed to be a big hero here. He hasn't met the many non-naturalists that populate the field!)
I chose not to emphasize explicitly my biggest disagreement with Pinker's own political and psychological orientation. In a forum like this, that perspective is best met by exhibiting what it has to leave out. (It'd be different if we were charged with discussing sociobiology per se, in which case the perspective Pinker likes could be the main subject of discussion).
I also chose not to emphasize our biggest agreement, which is that philosophy - especially philosophy of mind, but also epistemology - is indeed often better when not conducted in complete intellectual isolation from the sciences. What would be the point of our spending all our time agreeing about that? It would have made the topic too narrow, and obscured the most important differences.
Final point: When you put together Pinker's own orientation as the intellectual heir to EO Wilson, with his interesting suggestions about reorganizing the university, it's easy to get the impression that he would in an imperialist manner impose sociobiology on the humanities. That is silly. He's serious about exploring other ways for the university to be organized, such as getting rid of disciplines altogether. He's not against fiction or philosophy. (He is after all the husband of the brilliant Rebecca Goldstein, philosopher and novelist). He says he didn't disagree with anything I said, though when push came to shove, he said we don't get any deep general or causal explanation of social phenomena or of the mind from the work in literature or history that I mentioned. He says causal generalizations can't be gotten from 'mere' descriptions. --But here's the part of his suggestion I think is very bad: he suggests selling the Humanities to the highest bidder. He points out in his talk that many donors would fund the Humanities more if there were greater connections to science. That is a poor reason to reorganize the university. You wouldn't select which novels should be taught by consulting the NYTimes best-seller list either.
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)