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.
We have touched on the topic of Templeton's now extensive funding of philosophy-related projects before, but over the weekend, Jason Stanley (Rutgers, moving to Yale) started a lively discussion on Facebook with this comment, which he gave me permission to repost here:
Because of Templeton, we may expect a huge number of papers and books in our field taking a religious perspective at the very least extremely seriously. This is not why I entered philosophy, and it is incompatible with my conception of its role in the university. I will not take any money from Templeton or speak at any Templeton funded conferences. Reasonable people may disagree, but I hope there are others who join me in so doing.
In the discussion that followed, the neuroscientist John Krakauer (Johns Hopkins) made a striking comment in support of Jason's suggestion, which he also kindly gave permission to repost here:
In the Wikipedia entry on Templeton, Dennett describes the experience of debating astrologers at an event and finding to his dismay that just doing this raised the respectability of astrology in the eyes of the audience. Templeton is not about the study of religion but about making sure that religion keeps a seat at the table when it comes to big questions. There is no better way to do this than to mix it up with scientists and philosophers. Can you imagine the reverse ever being necessary?
Drug companies love to be associated with whom they call "thought leaders" - these physicians are never explicitly asked to shill for the companies but they also rarely criticize the companies from that position. It is always good to institutionalize ( or pay) your rebels. Physicians who receive any kind of gift from drug companies from lunches to pens and free samples always say (there are studies on this) that they are not influenced and feel no pressure. The studies reveal otherwise.
Thoughts from readers? Please do check out the earlier links and discussions. Comments must include a full name and a valid e-mail address, or they will not appear.
So our poll got over 650 responses; here's the top 20:
1. Aristotle (Condorcet winner: wins contests with all other choices)
2. Immanuel Kant loses to Aristotle by 364–227
3. Plato loses to Aristotle by 414–168, loses to Immanuel Kant by 349–241
4. David Hume loses to Aristotle by 494–95, loses to Plato by 378–197
5. John Stuart Mill loses to Aristotle by 493–102, loses to David Hume by 292–271
6. Socrates loses to Aristotle by 464–104, loses to John Stuart Mill by 292–250
7. Thomas Hobbes loses to Aristotle by 556–29, loses to Socrates by 319–192
8. John Rawls loses to Aristotle by 557–38, loses to Thomas Hobbes by 272–250
9. Jeremy Bentham loses to Aristotle by 543–39, loses to John Rawls by 273–250
10. Aquinas loses to Aristotle by 547–23, loses to Jeremy Bentham by 280–222
11. Augustine loses to Aristotle by 550–20, loses to Aquinas by 306–131
12. Friedrich Nietzsche loses to Aristotle by 542–57, loses to Augustine by 263–247
13. Soren Kierkegaard loses to Aristotle by 553–31, loses to Friedrich Nietzsche by 290–210
14. Epicurus loses to Aristotle by 554–21, loses to Soren Kierkegaard by 218–214
15. Henry Sidgwick loses to Aristotle by 542–27, loses to Epicurus by 286–181
16. Jean-Jacques Rousseau loses to Aristotle by 566–21, loses to Henry Sidgwick by 242–216
17. G.E. Moore loses to Aristotle by 563–20, loses to Jean-Jacques Rousseau by 264–191
18. Benedict Spinoza loses to Aristotle by 543–24, loses to G.E. Moore by 252–194
19. G.E.M. Anscombe loses to Aristotle by 555–13, loses to Benedict Spinoza by 268–165
20. G.W.F. Hegel loses to Aristotle by 546–14, loses to G.E.M. Anscombe by 227–161
I'm not surprised by the top five, all of which I would have picked for the top ten, except perhaps Kant. But thereafter I do marvel at what my colleagues think! Thoughts from readers on the results, and what they say about the current state of philosophy? Signed comments strongly preferred. You may, of course, lament the absence of your favorite philosophers from the poll, though do consider whether they would have likely craked "the top 20." (Of those that didn't make the top 20, the biggest surprise to my mind is Adam Smith.)
This is a revised version of the keynote address I gave at the Danish Philosophical Association last month; the abstract:
Nietzsche views the Western philosophical tradition as organized around a conception of philosophy deriving from Socrates. According to this (loosely) Socratic philosophical canon: (1) Philosophy, as the “love of wisdom,” aims for knowledge of timeless and non-empirical truths, including truths about the good and the right; (2) Knowledge of the truth is the overriding value in philosophy and is also essential for living well; and (3) Philosophical knowledge is acquired through the exercise of reason, understood as a faculty that can operate independently, in whole or in part, of a posteriori evidence. This paper explores Nietzsche's reasons for rejecting this conception of philosophy on each count, especially as developed in his book, Twilight of the Idols. Nietzsche's replacement of metaphysical speculation with psychological diagnosis is compared to Carnap's own critique of metaphysics, and helps explain Carnap's high appraisal of Nietzsche compared to other major figures in post-Kantian German philosophy. Nietzsche's rejection of the traditional philosophical canon is contrasted with that of other critics of the tradition, including Marx, Quine, Heidegger, and Wittgenstein. The reaction against naturalism in recent Anglophone philosophy is offered, finally, as a case study in support of Nietzsche's skepticism about the philosophical canon.
Not much news right now, and we haven't run a poll in awhile, so here it goes. No living philosophers were included. I'm sure that almost everyone will think there is at least one outrageous omission, so I apologize in advance, but so it goes. Have fun! (Links now fixed, sorry about that.)
[W]hat is the surest way of knowing that one's idea for a philosophy paper is original? I have often found myself frantically looking up possible titles of papers/books with similar ideas to mine on Google scholar, philosopher's index etc., and, conducting an almost identical search months later, new entries always seem to creep in. Is that just about the best one can do, apart from talking to experts in relevant fields?
My inclination is to think the best bet is to ask faculty in your department who are expert in the area, but I imagine many readers would benefit from the experience of others on this front.
[W]hen we try to think about what it is like to be another animal, we bring our human standards with us, and then the other animals seem to us like lesser beings. A human being who lives a life governed only by desires and instincts, not by values, would certainly be a lesser being. But that doesn’t mean that the other animals are lesser beings. They are simply beings of a different kind. When we look at the other animals through the lens of our own standards, just as when we look at them through the lens of our own interests, we cannot get them properly in view.
We are all born, as Eliot says, in moral stupidity, unable to see others except through the lens of our own interests and standards. Kant suggested that it took four steps for us to emerge from this moral stupidity, but perhaps there is a fifth step we have yet to take. That is to try to look at the other animals and their lives unhindered by our own interests and specifically human standards, and to see them for what they really are. What is important about the other animals is what we have in common: that they, like us, are the kinds of beings to whom things can be important. Like us, they pursue the things that are important to them as if they were important absolutely, important in deadly earnest—for, like us, what else can they do? When we do this, we claim our own standing as ends in ourselves. But our only reason for doing that is that it is essential to the kinds of beings we are, beings who take their own concerns to be important. The claim of the other animals to the standing of ends in themselves has same ultimate foundation as our own—the essentially self-affirming nature of life itself.
Some of us are hearty and confident and think we are almost there [in explaining life]. Others think there is still a revolution in our future if we are to make sense of intelligence, or of life, as a genuinely natural phenomenon.
What kind of disagreement is this? To my mind it is foolish to cast it as a standoff between those who embrace science and admit its stunning achievements and those who reject the project of natural science itself. It is not a conflict between those who know and those who are confused.
Certainly how such a description looks may depend on which side of the standoff one is on. But Michael Weisberg (Penn) and I continue to be puzzled by Noe's position, both in his original quasi-defense of Nagel and this new piece. Michael gave me permission to post his response:
All parties agree that we don't know how life got started, but most scientists, contra Noe, see this as a problem of historical reconstruction. The event in question was almost 4 billion years ago, and since the historical record is so limited, we have to construct plausible hypotheses about what happened. There are plausible mechanisms for each major step in the origin of life (including inorganic molecules to organic molecules, achiral to chiral molecules, chiral molecules to self-replicating systems, cellular encapsulation, RNA to DNA, etc.) The real problem is not having a plausible account, it is knowing which plausible account is correct since more than one is consistent with the data. We might never be in a better epistemic situation, but I don't understand why we would need dramatic theoretical innovation as opposed to more data.
It is also strange that Noe thinks we are very far from making life in a test tube. We can already construct novel DNA-like systems from scratch. Synthetic DNA has been inserted into cells. We seem to be close to making the first artificial cells (all the parts have been made, but functional integration is still an obstacle). If we put all these pieces together, will we not have life in a test tube?
In sum, this does seem to be in part a "conflict between those who know and those who are confused," at least about some important aspects of the science.
We must challenge the thought that philosophy aims to contribute to human knowledge of the world. Its task is to resolve philosophical problems. The characteristic feature of philosophical problems is their non-empirical, a priori character: no scientific experiment can settle the question of whether the mind is the brain, what the meaning of a word is, whether human beings are responsible for their deeds (have free will), whether trees falling on uninhabited desert islands make any noise, what makes necessary truths necessary. All these, and many hundreds more, are conceptual questions. They are not questions about concepts (philosophy is not a science of concepts). But they are questions that are to be answered, resolved or dissolved by careful scrutiny of the concepts involved. The only way to scrutinize concepts is to examine the use of the words that express them. Conceptual investigations are investigations into what makes sense and what does not. And, of course, questions of sense antecede questions of empirical truth – for if something makes no sense, it can be neither true nor false. It is just nonsense – not silly, but rather: it transgresses the bounds of sense. Philosophy patrols the borders between sense and nonsense; science determines what is empirically true and what is empirically false. What falsehood is for science, nonsense is for philosophy.
Let me give you a simple example or two: When psychologists and cognitive scientists say that it is your brain that thinks, then, rather than nodding your head and saying ‘How interesting! What an important discovery!’, you should pause to wonder what this means. What, you might then ask, is a thoughtful brain, and what is a thoughtless one? Can my brain concentrate on what I am doing – or does it just concentrate on what it is doing? Does my brain hold political opinions? Is it, as Gilbert and Sullivan might ask, a little Conservative or a little Liberal? Can it be opinionated? or narrow minded? – What on earth would an opinionated and narrow-minded brain be? Just ask yourself: if it is your brain that thinks, how does your brain tell you what it thinks? And can you disagree with it? And if you do, how do you tell it that it is mistaken – that what it thinks is false? And can your brain understand what you say to it? Can it speak English? – If you continue this line of questions you will come to realise that the very idea that the brain thinks makes no sense. But, of course, to show why it makes no sense requires a great deal more work.
Alan Schrift, a mediocre Nietzsche scholar at Grinnell College (otherwise a reputable liberal arts college), writes:
A general consensus has emerged that following the passing of Foucault, Deleuze, and Derrida, Alain Badiou remains, in the words of Slavoj Žižek that appear on this book's cover above the title, the one final "figure like Plato or Hegel [who] walks here among us!
This is typical, I fear, of the embarrassing hagiography that is characteristic of those parts of the discipline where fealty counts for more than content. I have read only a bit of Badiou, partly because it didn't seem worth more effort, though I didn't have the sense he was a charlatan of Derridean proportions. But surely no one really thinks that Foucault or Deleuze is on a par with Plato or Hegel in terms of philosophical influence (Foucault is a more profound social theorist than Hegel and probably Plato, but that's a different matter).
In any case, as a sociological matter, declarations like this are interesting, even if absurd.
Since antiquity, philosophy has been centrally concerned with what we usually call metaphysics and epistemology (what exists, and what can we know about what exists?), and the theory of value (how should we live and what should we value?). Because our predecessors answered these questions often more profoundly and more perspiculously than us, the history of philosophy is central to our discipline (though probably not as central as it should be). Because in the wake of the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment, the sciences, including mathematics, emerged as powerful guides to the metaphysics and epistemology, reflection on those disciplines has also become central to philosophy. Unsurprisingly, then, the very best departments are excellent in all these areas of our discipline. NYU emerged about a dozen years ago as the best department in the Anglophone world because it brought together not only many of the leading figures in metaphysics and epistemology, broadly construed, as well as the philosophy of the sciences and mathematics, but because it also invested heavily in value theory and--in a way some other leading departments have not--in the history of philosophy, including leading scholars of modern philosophy (Don Garrett), Kant and post-Kantian philosophy (Beatrice Longuenesse), and later 19th- and 20th-century Continental philosophy (John Richardson [a long-time member of the department], Tamsin Shaw).
There is a myth afoot, especially in cyberspace, that strength in the Continental traditions in philosophy does not help a school's ranking in the PGR. But as far as I can tell from years of doing these surveys, the opposite is the case. That is, hold constant strength in the other areas of philosophy, those who come out on top have excellent scholar(s) of the Continental traditions on the faculty. NYU's dominance over Rutgers is almost entirely traceable to that fact, and such examples could be easily multiplied (e.g., Yale vs. North Carolina; Stanford vs. UCLA and Southern California; Columbia vs. Arizona and CUNY; Chicago vs. Wisconsin and Duke; UC Riverside vs. Virginia and UC Santa Barbara). Given the financial pressures on philosophy departments these days, and the tremendous undergraduate interest in the post-Kantian traditions in European philosophy, I expect one of the "growth" areas in philosophy hiring over the next decade to be in scholars of the Continental traditions.
During the 1955-56 academic year, the Professors of Philosophy at Harvard were Henry D. Aiken, Raphael Demos, W.V.O. Quine, Morton White, John Wild, and Donald Williams. There was one associate professor: Roderick Firth. The junior faculty were Hiram McClendon, Hao Wang and Paul Ziff.
At Princeton, in the same year, the full professors were Carl Hempel, Gregory Vlastos, and Ledger Wood. The associate professors were Walter Kaufmann, James Ward Smith, and Arthur Szathmary. The junior faculty were Hilary Putnam, Bernard Wand, and John Yolton.
It is an interesting question whether the academic philosophical world of sixty years from now will look more or less discontinuous. I bet on more continuous, since the professionalization of academia has become more firmly entrenched since 1955.
Mohan Matthen (Toronto) comments on the peculiar spectacle of Thomas Nagel and Alvin Plantinga trading laudatory reviews of their recent anti-naturalist books in different high-profile publications, especially when at least one of the books (Nagel's) is obviously not very good (I have not read Plantinga's, though I'm not optimistic given what I've read about it). (Commenting on Professor Matthen's post, the distinguished Oxford philosopher of physics David Wallace offers the amusing quip: "I was initially shocked to find that two such distinguished philosophers were so remarkably ignorant of basic science. It totally violated my common sense. Then I realised that in that case, it couldn't be true. So that's okay.")
NAGEL IS NOT AFRAID to take unpopular positions, and he does not seem to mind the obloquy that goes with that territory....Nagel has endorsed the negative conclusions of the much-maligned Intelligent Design movement, and he has defended it from the charge that it is inherently unscientific. In 2009 he even went so far as to recommend Stephen Meyer’s book Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design, a flagship declaration of Intelligent Design, as a book of the year. For that piece of blasphemy Nagel paid the predictable price; he was said to be arrogant, dangerous to children, a disgrace, hypocritical, ignorant, mind-polluting, reprehensible, stupid, unscientific, and in general a less than wholly upstanding citizen of the republic of letters.
I suppose it testifies to the influence of this blog that most of Plantinga's sarcastic aside clearly references criticisms levelled at Nagel on this blog (and other authors to whom I linked). But Plantinga's silliness aside, let's be clear why Nagel earned the criticism:
1. There is no scientific controversy about Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection.
2. There is no evidence for Intelligent Design or any other religiously motivated alternative.
3. As good fallibilists, we can acknowledge that, despite (1) and (2), Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection might turn out to be false. But fabrications, confusions, and bone-headed philosophcial speculations give us no reason to be skeptical.
4. Given 1-3, it's an outrage to try to encourage high schools to teach children anything other than Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection as part of the standard biology curriculum. The raison-d'etre of the Discovery [sic] Institute and its paid shills like Stephen Meyer are to perpetrate this outrage.
No one doubts that Nagel and Plantinga are capable philosophers, who have done high quality professional work during their careers. Plantinga at least has the excuse of his religion to explain his more doubtful philosophical forays. But neither can be excused for trying to legitimate the hucksters at the Discovery [sic] Institute and the Intelligent Design scam. This really isn't a hard issue, and one can predict with certainty that both Nagel's and Plantinga's trafficking with this nonsense will not redound to their credit over the long haul.
PhilosophyBites asked lots of philosophers (and some others), and collected all the answers here. Participants inlude Frank Jackson, Tim Crane, Kit Fine, Martha Nussbaum, Raymond Geuss, Cynthia Freeland, Helen Beebee, Joshua Knobe, Sean Kelly, Gideon Rosen, Noel Carroll, and me, among many others; in the "others" category there's Nicola Lacey, Catharine MacKinnon (a disappointing answer, I thought, more political than intellectually revealing), and Alison Gopnik, among others.
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)