MOVING TO FRONT FROM OCTOBER 7--UPDATED INFORMATION IN THE COMMENTS
Jamin Asay, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Hong Kong, writes:
I'm writing to let you and your readers know about some of the struggles over academic freedom that are taking place in Hong Kong right now.
Fears about encroachment from mainland China into Hong Kong politics are of ongoing concern across the territory, and there is growing worry that the autonomy of the universities in Hong Kong is under attack. The latest dustup revolves around the blocking of the appointment of Professor Johannes Chan to a senior leadership position by the University of Hong Kong Council, a body that includes several members appointed by Hong Kong's Chief Executive. Chan's appointment was blocked despite a unanimous recommendation of him for the post by the selection committee, and many suspect that political reasons are the source of his rejection. As former dean of HKU's law school, Chan is a colleague of Benny Tai, one of the leaders of the "Occupy Central" movement that overtook Hong Kong one year ago. Many believe that this action of the Council is serving as a punishment to HKU for its role in Occupy Central and the "Umbrella Movement", as many of the leaders of the movement are students or staff at HKU. Background on the issue can be found here:
My colleague Timothy O'Leary, Professor of Philosophy and Head of the School of Humanities, is one of the leaders of a protest movement to fight back against any threats to academic freedom in Hong Kong. He helped to organize a silent protest march yesterday that attracted upwards of 2,000 HKU students and staff, and future demonstrations are in the works. News reports on yesterday's protest are here:
Russell Blackford (Newcastle) thinks so. If there were, I predict it will end up like the Nobel Prize for Literature: bizarre inclusions and exclusions that will tell us more about fashions and politics than about literature. Part of the difficulty will be in deciding what counts as philosophy. Look at Blackford's gloss:
Philosophy is the reason-based, intellectually rigorous, investigation of deep questions that have always caused puzzlement and anxiety: Is there a god or an afterlife? Do we possess free will? What is a good life for a human being? What is the nature of a just society? Philosophy challenges obfuscation and orthodoxies, and extends into examining the foundations of inquiry itself.
Are these "deep questions that have always caused puzzlement and anxiety"? Doubtful. And it's doubtful that all "good" philosophy "challenges obfuscation and orthodoxies": lots of important philosophy just rationalizes orthodoxy (and sometimes contributes to obfuscation).
Would the later Wittgenstein be eligible for a Nobel Prize in philosophy by Blackford's criteria? Not clear at all.
UPDATE: Per request, I am opening comments, but please be advised I will not have much time to moderate, so comments may take longer than usual to appear. Please be patient.
Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Washington University in St. Louis, Professor Gibson was especially well-known for his influential work on the philosophy of Quine. I will add links to memorial notices as they appear.
(Thanks to Gil Harman for the information about Prof. Gibson's passing and Eric Morton for supplying the year of his birth.)
I'm really pleased to announce that five friends and colleagues will be guest-blogging for a couple of weeks starting October 12. They are:
Berit Brogaard, who is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Miami, and a previous guest-blogger. She needs no introduction here!
Darlene Deas, who is married to philosopher Christopher Pynes and is a longtime "civilian" observer of the philosophy profession and its culture.
Leslie Green, who is Professor of the Philosophy of Law at Oxford University and Distinguished University Fellow in Law at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario. Les works in legal and political philosophy and also blogs here.
Edouard Machery, who is Professor of the History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh. He works in the philosophy of cognitive science and lots of related areas.
Christopher Pynes, who is Professor of Philosophy and Co-Director for the Program for the Study of Ethics at Western Illinois University, where he also created their successful pre-law program. He specializes in philosophy of science, ethics, and logic.
I'll do a bit of posting as well, but the main attraction will be these guests. I look forward to reading them, as I'm sure regular readers will as well.
...has a "safe space policy" which, in non-Orwellian language, is actually a "policy to suppress speech in the name of equality", as its application to the lesbian feminist writer Julie Bindel plainly demonstrates. (Thanks to Phil in an earlier thread for pointing this out.) This is the road some would like American universities to head down, alas. I wonder if anyone familiar with Manchester and this policy can comment on how frequently it is invoked for the suppression of speech that is clearly not unlawful, even under English law?
UPDATE: As explained by several commenters, the Student Union (responsible for the "safe space policy") is a legally distinct entity from the University, over which the latter has, it appears, no control.
Letters are unreliable (they vary too much in their measurements). They draw attention to the wrong things (people judge the status of the letter writer). They rarely focus on the few items that do predict performance (like explicit comparison). They have low correlations with performance and they used codes that bias against women.
A letter without explicit comparisons is, by my lights, close to worthless.
ADDENDUM: A philosopher at a leading PhD program writes: "I’d say the same is true for grad school letters, if the undergraduate/MA granting institution has a history of sending people to PhD programs." I agree with that.
At some point, on one of our regular treks through the forest-bog of the slightly left-leaning internet, we read about Effective Altruism. The idea, posed and propounded by Princeton philosopher Peter Singer, is not complicated. A quick distillation might be “pics or it didn’t happen,” the same mantra that unites hundreds of tech startups and nonprofits under the sign of the datum. Singer’s is a popular utilitarianism, packaged for the Facebook age: Doing Good made easy, quantified, the returns maximized in visible and trackable ways. You should always push the fat guy in front of the train. That is, you should take that job at the branding firm and give between 10 and 70 percent of your $90,474 annual income to one of a handful of charities deemed most “efficient.”
Like lots of things on the internet, EA feels marketed right to our social group: young, educated, confused little guys, swimming the God’s-dead world in search of some half-decent values, able to imagine them actualized only in terms of a handful of career options and art hobbies. EA’s charm partly comes, I think, from its neatness in distilling our built-in morals, our technocratic wiring. Singer and his allies present a clean, simple, and familiar calculus, one that perfectly aligns with this default market pietism. In their painfully limpid prose, we see ourselves reflected: and these selves, to us, make sense.
Some users of academia.edu are presently having severe problems editing their academia.edu webpages. These problems are ongoing and academia.edu are not providing timely or helpful responses. For others having such problems I suggest not trying to work with academia.edu at least until the problems are solved, otherwise one risks both frustration and substantial and pointless loss of time.
UPDATE (9/30): Richard Price, founder and CEO of academia.edu, asked me to share this message he sent to Ken Gemes:
Dear Ken, thank you for raising this. The edit bug is affecting a small percentage of users. It's dependent on a particular configuration of browser and operating system, and our engineers haven't yet been able to identify the problematic configuration, and reproduce the bug. We are arranging skype calls today with users to watch the bug appearing. That should help us figure out what's going on, and fix the issue. We realize this is frustrating. We apologize for the inconvenience while we get to the bottom of this.
ANOTHER (10/1): Huw Price (Cambridge) asked me to share the following message he sent to Richard Price:
Thank you for responding to Ken's complaint. Another thing that many of us dislike about academia.edu, as I suspect you must be aware, is that downloading is hidden behind a login wall. Could you fix that, too, perhaps, while you are in problem-solving mode?
I'll open this for any additional comments/suggestions about academia.edu.
OCTOBER 5 UPDATE: Ken Gemes (Birkbeck) writes that the site has "successfully addressed the technical problems that were previously affecting some users."
“My mind was racing but physically, I was frozen,” she wrote. “How do I react to this? In high school, I would have walked out of the room straight to my car. I would have called my mother on the way home, and she would have arrived at the front office in under an hour to rip the principal and his employees a new one. All is well when you are young and do not have to deal with these issues head-on. But in college my mother is over 1,800 miles away. This time around I was on my own.”
UPDATE: Here's the full statement by the complaining student--the one whose Mom wasn't available this time. Its contempt for tenure and for academic freedom is appalling. Its inability to distinguish between racism and failed pedagogy is also alarming.
...at Philosophers Cocoon. An interesting series of posts, and a lot of advice worth thinking about, but I would caution job seekers not to think any of these represent formulas that must be followed. With that caveat, it's worth reading.
Story here. A very sad saga all around, both for the victim and his family, but also for Stubblefield's teenage daughter, for whom she has sole custody. Prof. Stubblefield faces ten to forty years in prison, unless her appeal of the conviction is successful. (I would guess the strongest ground for appeal will concern the ruling barring any putatively expert testimony about "facilitated communication." Unfortunately for Stubblefield, I expect an appellate court will agree with the trial judge on this.)
Republicans support big tax cuts for the wealthy because that’s what wealthy donors want. No doubt most of those donors have managed to convince themselves that what’s good for them is good for America. But at root it’s about rich people supporting politicians who will make them richer. Everything else is just rationalization.
I haven't posted an update about the Synthese fiasco from 2011 in quite some time. A reader who had joined the boycott and has been declining referee request ever since recently inquired about the status of the boycott. I should note that all the editors involved in the 2011 misconduct have now resigned, and Synthese has an entirely new slate of editors. On the other hand, there was never any explicit acknowledgment of the scale of the professional misconduct (one might think the fact that the three editors involved are now gone was an implicit acknowledgment). A question for those who signed on to the original boycott: do you still honor it? If so, why? If not, why not? Pseudonyms are fine, but please use a real e-mail address.
I was stunned to discover that another philosophy-related blog--that does not make public its traffic, though it appears to be quite a bit less than this blog--is apparently charging ad rates close to mine. I'm not raising my rates, nor do I need additional advertising (as is obvious). Here's what someone wrote to me not long ago: "[W]hen you originally posted the link to my site I received over 2000 hits by way of your blog in the first two or three days. [X] posted a link the same day you did, and I received maybe around 50 by way of that site." So a note to philosophy advertisers: if a blog does not have public traffic statistics, be careful! There are now a lot of philosophy blogs, but absent a public stats counter, it's hard to tell the size of the readership and thus what kind of exposure you will really get. (The only other public source that gives you some idea isFeedly, though as we've noted before, it accounts for only a portion of the readership, but at least gives a comparative metric.)
This article makes the interesting point that--contra skeptics who assume a low response rate skews the results towards higher estimates--when one looks at schools with much higher response rates, one finds even higher rates of reported sexual assault, suggesting that lower-response-rate schools are one in which victims are underrepresented in the results.
A nice idea, and those recognized include three philosophers: Kristin Andrews (York University, Toronto); Antonio Calcagno (King's University College at Western University), and Chike Jeffers (Dalhousie University).
...a fairly sober report from Psychology Today. At bottom, this is all very sad, both for the students and for those charged with helping them.
ADDENDUM: These developments are symptomatic of two phenomena, one hopeful, one pernicious. The hopeful phenomenon is that treatments for previously debilitating mental health problems are dramatically improved over the last generation: not just in terms of productive pharmaceutical interventions, but also in terms of successful cognitive-behavioral interventions. Students who, a generation ago, might never have made it to college are making it there and, in many respects, thriving. But they bring a particular set of medical needs, some of which may be exacerbated by cultural tendencies. The second phenomenon is not a hopeful one: it is the increasingly reactionary and rapacious character of American capitalism (represented most clearly by the insane Republican party), something that at least one Presidential candidate this year, Bernie Sanders, wants to undo. But should we really be surprised that in the current economic climate that students obsess about failure? In America, failure in the competition for economic survival means destitution or death; young people no doubt internalize this reality in various ways and end up exaggerating the import of even small setbacks accordingly. Even the so-called "helicopter parenting" phenomenon is a symptom of this. The pathologies of the economic system under which we live are surely playing some role in the phenomena aptly described in the linked article. It is, alas, both tragic and perversely reactionary that some bourgeois academics think the relevant response to these real phenomena are better policing of microaggressions and suppression of speech offensive to the needy. There is speech that should be suppressed, but there is no chance that will happen under current conditions.
No, it's not; yes, it is. (Some of the comments at the latter are a bit, shall we say, "off topic," but several are interesting on both sides of the issue.)
(Thanks to a reader who asked not to be named for the pointers.)
ADDENDUM: Things are going a bit further off the rails at the second link, alas, but there's one interesting comment a bit further down worth noting, so I quote it here:
What's tiresome about the Rini piece is that she writes as if those of us interested in promoting dignity for all individuals and groups are somehow blind to the importance of solidarity with the marginalized.
We're not. Solidarity is *obviously* very important. We are, however, suspicious of this particular instantiation of solidarity, because it is bound up with a variety of ills that conflict with other important values. Trigger warnings, overzealous speech codes, changes to syllabi, and the need for "safe spaces," are all outgrowths of this instantiation of solidarity, all cause real intellectual harm, and all cater to a childish mentality.
Moreover, there is a performative aspect to all of this, amplified by social media, that is simply off-putting. And the performative element feels increasingly 'mandatory' in some quarters; one's denunciation of the most recent outrage must be swift, harsh, and public.
Rini is of course under no intellectual obligation to address all of this. But then, to whom is she really talking? Does she really believe that those of us who object to 'call out' culture are uninterested in solidarity, or do not recognize it when we see it? We recognize it, but at the same time we also recognize other characteristics that ought to be kept at arms' length. This latter insight doesn't disqualify one from upholding the value of solidarity, and claiming that it does is simply another feature of this increasingly ridiculous debate.
So with results from our two earlier polls (both of which got over 500 votes each), here are the "top 20"; where the vote differential between one journal and the journal ahead of it were substantial, I insert a line in between; where there is no line, it means the vote differences were relatively small.
1. Philosophical Review
3. Journal of Philosophy
5. Philosophy & Phenomenological Research
6. Australasian Journal of Philosophy
7. Philosophical Studies
8. Philosopher's Imprint
9. Philosophical Quarterly
13. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society
14. Canadian Journal of Philosophy
15. American Philosophical Quarterly
16. European Journal of Philosophy
17. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly
20. Philosophical Perspectives
Runner-up: Dialectica (trailing #20 by just four votes)
MOVING TO FRONT: THIS POLL WILL BE CLOSING TOMORROW MIDDAY!
So the earlier poll gave us a "top ten" list of generalist philosophy journals, but since it omitted too many possible "top twenty" contenders, we're going to run a new poll to identify 11-20. Have fun!
(Journal of the American Philosophical Association seems a bit too new to include just yet.)
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)