Longtime reader Michael Bramley, who studied philosophy as an undergraduate, writes:
Dear Prof Leiter,
Please allow me to express my support over the recent rankings nonsense by venting my frustration at the campaign to remove you from the PGR and the campaign to stop all rankings in philosophy. A move which, it is obvious, is for the benefit of those who do not score highly and not for the benefit of students.
Talk about the perfect being the enemy of the good. Plato could not have done a better job of convincing everyone that everything is worthless and shit until and unless we can all apprehend the Form of the Good Ranking System.
The PGR is largely an informed-opinion poll: what do the philosophy professionals think of certain philosophy departments? This is interesting and good to know. If those for whom the PGR is intended are unable to understand what an opinion poll is, then they should demand a refund from their undergraduate education for having failed to teach them basic critical thinking. And if the professors who oppose it do so because they think opinion polls/reputational surveys do not capture adequately the real picture, then they are free to construct ways to capture this ‘real picture’ that they are so worried about missing with the PGR.
There seems an underlying assumption that no one over at New Apps has come out and said which is this: ‘Everyone apart from philosophy professors is too stupid to be entrusted with a ranking system – and here only the subset that reject the idea of ranking at all.’ This, despite there being multiple ranking systems already around, but usually imposed and rated from without.
And of course the laziest philosophical trick since the rise of the importance of data: poisoning the well by inventing hypothetical morons who will think that there is only one tool on Earth worth using – the PGR – and only one number in the PGR – the department ranking; has such a moronic philosophy graduate ever existed?
All this hand wringing over general, broad points that may or may not apply: how some things are hard to rank, some things are irrelevant that are ranked, some things that are relevant are not ranked, some things are hard to compare, the difference in ordinal ranks might masks difference in quality etc. And of course the old favourite, ‘Well how do you put something so coarse and grotesque as a NUMBER on something so artful and subtle as the work WE do?’
I have been living with someone from the Millennial generation for the last four years (he’s now 27) and sometimes I’m charmed and sometimes I’m exasperated by how him and his friends—as well as the Millennials I’ve met and interacted with both in person and in social media—deal with the world, and I’ve tweeted about my amusement and frustration under the banner “Generation Wuss” for a few years now. My huge generalities touch on their over-sensitivity, their insistence that they are right despite the overwhelming proof that suggests they are not, their lack of placing things within context, the overreacting, the passive-aggressive positivity, and, of course, all of this exacerbated by the meds they’ve been fed since childhood by over-protective “helicopter” parents mapping their every move.
...invitations may go out later today, hopefully by Thursday, Oct. 23 at the latest.
UPDATE: Invitations have not gone out as of this morning, Friday, Oct. 24. A slight change in the way we broke out the faculty lists from 2011 created an incompatibility with the prior survey program that has taken more time than anticipated to fix. There is a chance invitations may go out later today, but more likely is Monday, October 27.
I'm a longtime reader of your Leiter Reports. I have noticed that of late you have been tracking a trend in our society wherein some hypocritical notion of civility is used as an excuse to suppress speech. I therefore thought you might be interested in this piece of news I happened across today: http://www.ocregister.com/articles/police-637903-meeting-hat.html. In short, a city council meeting was cancelled and attendants (who refused to leave) were threatened with arrest because someone was wearing a hat that read "Fuck the Police" (it was deemed "offensive" and "disrespectful"). The most unsettling thing about this situation is that the Mayor of Santa Ana, the Mayor Pro Tem, and the Chief of Police all seem to have no idea that any constitutional rights were violated here--that is, these people who have the law in their hands have no inkling of even very basic constitutional law. On the other hand, this earlier article on this event (http://www.ocregister.com/articles/police-637732-council-meeting.html) is a little more reassuring, since it shows that at least the people know their rights and are willing to subject themselves to intimidation and threats of arrest in order to stand up for the free speech rights of a complete stranger (and a "disrespectful" one at that). Let's hope they don't sign a kindness pledge.
Three are new awardees: Ingo Brigandt (Alberta), Marc-Antoine Dilhac (Montreal), and C. Kenneth Waters (Calgary). One is a renewal of an existing Chair, to Brad Inwood, currently at the University of Toronto but moving next year to Yale.
My co-editor Brit Brogaard (Miami) and her RA have done a great job finishing the evaluator and faculty list spread sheets, and the IT professionals here should have a testable version of the survey ready for us to try out during the weekend. If all goes well, Brit will send out the invitations to evaluators early next week (Monday or Tuesday is our goal). We agreed to a somewhat shorter window for responses (two weeks, rather than three weeks) due to the late start date this year and our goal of getting the results out in time for students applying in the current cycle.
UPDATE: The IT folks are still working out certain bugs in the survey program, so we won't be able to test it before Monday. That means, at the soonest, Prof. Brogaard will be sending out invitations on Tuesday or perhaps Wednesday of next week (Oct. 21 or Oct. 22).
MOVING TO FRONT FROM LAST WEEK IN LIGHT OF NEW COMMENTS--MORE WELCOME
A student in the UK writes:
I am applying for PhD programs this cycle but find it almost impossible to find useful resources on how to write a high-quality proposal specifically for political theory/political philosophy programmes. I am applying to UK universities. Could you recommend any resources or give any advice?
Over and over, we have the evidence that it is not Isis that “radicalises” Muslims before they head off to Syria – and how I wish David Cameron would stop using that word – but the internet. The belief, the absolute conviction that the screen contains truth – that the “message” really is the ultimate verity – has still not been fully recognised for what it is; an extraordinary lapse in our critical consciousness that exposes us to the rawest of emotions – both total love and total hatred – without the means to correct this imbalance. The “virtual” has dropped out of “virtual reality”.
At its most basic, you have only to read the viciousness of internet chatrooms. Major newspapers – hopelessly late – have only now started to realise that chatrooms are not a new technical version of “Letters to the Editor” but a dangerous forum for people to let loose their most-disturbing characteristics. Thus a major political shift in the Middle East, transferred to the internet, takes on cataclysmic proportions. Our leaders not only can be transfixed themselves – the chairman of the US House Committee on Homeland Security, for example, last week brandishing a printed version of Dabiq, the Isis online magazine – but can use the same means to terrify us.
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)