Here. Philosopher Clifford Sosis, the interviewer, writes:
In this interview, he talks about his childhood dealing with the death of his mother, an unsupportive father and the crushing British class system, his struggle with depression as an undergrad and grad student, discovering Philosophy via Descartes, dropping out of Rochester, getting divorced, turning around his career at Guelph, how he got into Philosophy of Biology, fighting creationists in the courts, finding love again, building a family, becoming an American citizen, his frustration with and deep respect for his colleagues (and philosophers generally), the way it appears the administration at Florida State University has handled the investigation of athletes accused of sexual assault, his beef with Thomas Nagel, spending a year in the South of France (and the steep cost), and, of course, his favorite curse word.
...in The Washington Post of all places! It's quite a nice overview, and especially remarkable that it appeared in a mainstream outlet. (They do suggest, less plausibly, that the neglect of some of the early modern figures they mention has something to do with the underrepresentation of women in academic philosophy.) Herewith a question for other scholars and students of the history of philosophy: what do we know about why these figures were neglected? In every period I know something about there were figures of enormous importance in their day who are now largely unknown (e.g., Ludwig Buchner's Kraft und Stoff, a polemic and brief on behalf of materialism, was the best-selling book in Europe in the 19th-century after the Bible, though is almost wholly unknown today--Beiser devotes a chapter to Buchner and the materialist controversy in a recent book, the first extended treatment I had ever seen in English). Sometimes the explanation is changing philosophical fashions, something the explanation is that the work really wasn't very good (that's Buchner, in my view), and sometimes other kinds of bias and prejudice.
I will be starting my MA (terminal) programme in Philosophy in the Fall of this year, in Europe. I don't have a background in the subject and want to spend the few months before the session begins, in reading several works in the subject.
Could you please give (or ask on your blog or, perhaps, direct me to any pre-existing link) a list of "25 (or so) Must Read Books before starting Graduate School in Philosophy"?
Since I am only beginning to explore the various fields of the subject, I don't want to limit myself to any particular areas of interest.
This is a tough one, since many important books in philosophy are surely not profitably read on one's own; and what will count as "must read" will not be indifferent as between "fields of the subject." Even allowing for that, what would readers recommend? It might be particularly useful to say something about whether or not the book (or article) can be approached by someone without a background in philosophy.
MOVING TO FRONT (originally posted April 21)--MANY INTERESTING COMMENTS, MORE WELCOME
This question, from the open thread, deserves separate notice and discussion:
Could we start a discussion on what philosophers have found to be the most surprising positives and surprising negatives of becoming a professional philosopher (or PhD grad)? It may help me, and perhaps others, with my decision to apply to PhD programs or not. If there is a similar thread with many comments, a link would suffice. (I'm aware of the poor job market, so hopefully there are other comments.)
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).
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)