The British band The Pretty Things were a bit less obscure in the UK in the mid-1960s (remembered, if at all, for this "British invasion"-style single [think the Kinks circa 1964]), but by 1968 they'd turned into a progressive/psychedelic band, whose "rock opera" of which this is the memorable title song was, alas, a commercial flop. But this is a nice tune!
Authors and/or publishers kindly sent me these new books this month:
Wondrous Truths: The Improbable Triumph of Modern Science by J.D. Trout (Oxford University Press, 2016).
Aristotle, Metaphysics, translated with introduction & notes by C.D.C. Reeve (Hackett, 2016).
Applicative Justice: A Pragmatic Empirical Approach to Racial Injustice by Naomi Zack (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016).
Victims' Stories and the Advancement of Human Rights by Diana Tietjens Meyers (Oxford University Press, 2016).
The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Literature edited by Noel Carroll & John Gibson (Routledge, 2016).
Moral and Intellectual Virtues in Western and Chinese Philosophy: The Turn Toward Virtue edited by Chienkuo Mi, Michael Slote & Ernest Sosa (Routledge, 2016).
On Obama by Paul C. Taylor (Routledge, 2016).
Plotinus, Ennead IV.7: On the Immorality of the Soul trans. with intro. & commentary by Barrie Fleet (Parmenides Publishing, 2016).
Debates in Nineteenth-Century European Philosophy: Essential Readings and Contemporary Responses edited by Kristin Gjesdal (Routledge, 2016).
Philosophy Coms to Dinner: Arguments about the Ethics of Eating edited by Andrew Chignell, Terence Cuneo & Matthew C. Halteman (Routledge, 2016).
Markets Without Limits: Moral Virtues and Commercial Interests by Jason Brennan & Peter M. Jaworski (Routledge, 2016).
Philosophy for Graduate Students: Metaphysics and Epistemology by Alex Broadbent (Routledge, 2016).
Good Neighbors: The Democracy of Everyday Life in America by Nancy L. Rosenblum (Princeton University Press, 2016).
Values and Vaccine Refusal: Hard Questions in Ethics, Epistemology, and Health Care by Mark Navin (Routledge, 2016).
I want to add a special plug for Prof. Broadbent's book, which I've been reading around in for the last week. What Martin Kusch (Vienna) says on the dustjacket is exactly right, so let me just quote Martin:
This is the kind of book I wish I had had access to when starting off as a graduate student in philosophy. Broadbent gives wonderfully clear accounts of the central topics in contemporary epistemology and metaphysics Every graduate student in the field will benefit from it--as will advanced undergraduates (and their teachers).
Let me add that singling out Broadbent is not to denigrate any of the other books this month--I just haven't gotten a chance to read any of the others, but was sufficiently impressed by the value of what Broadbent has done, that I wanted to flag it.
Reader David Gordon sends along this gem of a dustjacket blurb:
Theory of Identities is essential for those who work in Laruelle studies or whose work departs from the fundamental presuppositions of non-philosophy and non-standard philosophy. Indeed, this book constitutes the most illustrative proof that "non-philosophy is a synthesis of quantum theory and Marxism." It is a testimony of the dense complexity of Laruelle's genius combining methodologically uncompromising scientific rigor and transgressiveness of a mystic's glance into what most of us would choose to avert eyes from: the point where the comfort of neurosis ceases to exist, which is also the place where neurosis necessarily always already reestablishes itself.
(Katarina Kolozova, Institute of Social Sciences and Humanities, Skopje)
One possibility is that Laruelle is as big a bullshitter as this blurb suggests; the other possibility is that Kolozova is the worst blurber in the history of blurbs. (Or maybe Kolozova studies with Michael Marder?)
Alas, the fired professor is a rather creepy piece of work, but his lawsuit clearly has merit. A state university can not fire a tenured professor for holding creepy views, and the justification given (failure to fill out some conflict of interest forms) is transparently pretextual. What the university should have done is initiated a normal process to evaluate his competence; his conspiracy theories clearly fall within the purview of his alleged scholarly research and expertise, and it presumably would have been straightforward to establish that he is not competent through a formal peer-review of his ideas (think of the denier of heliocentrism in the astronomy department, the intelligent design theorist in biology, or the alchemist in the chemistry department). Instead, in response to public pressure, they cooked up a justification for firing him based on failure to file some paperwork, even though it's obvious he was being punished for his constitutionally protected speech. My guess is that since FAU can afford to fight this for longer than the fired professor can, that he will end up getting a settlement of some kind.
Now that we've done the moral philosophers, here's the political philosophers. To be included, the political philosophers had to have done most of their important work after WWII and, for those who are still living, they have to be age 60 or older in 2016. I also tried to make sure to include anyone who had a chance of being in "the top 20." Have fun!
UPDATE: Two unfortunate omissions (surprised no one flagged them in earlier iterations): David Miller and the late Jean Hampton.
Following up on last week's post about the latest AAAS elections, I thought I'd take a look at the institutional affiliations of five years' worth of elections. A quick note about how the AAAS process works (I owe most of this to the late Ruth Marcus, perhaps things have changed a lot in the last few years, that I do not know, but I will surely be corrected if so). Briefly, only current members can nominate new candidates for membership; nominees are vetted by a selection committee for each sub-field, which consists of four or five current members; nominees are then submitted to the entire membership for a vote (this means, e.g., that those outside philosophy can vote for nominees in philosophy); voting is on a scale, and if one gives the lowest score to a nominee (as I imagine Ruth did more than once!), you have to submit a written explanation with the negative vote; the vote of the entire membership, however, is not binding on the selection committee, which based on the vote, recommends new members (there is always some negotiation about how many each field is allowed to recommend for final membership each year--philosophy usually has at least five). Because the members of the selection committee in a given year is not a matter of public record, and since their influence on the final outcome is enormous, there are sometimes surprises in the results. That being said, patterns do become clear: e.g., after X is elected one year, one or two of his prominent students are elected a year or two later; after Y is elected one year, one or two of her colleagues are elected in the next couple of years. I've seen clear patterns of elections over a period of a few years involving, e.g., Christian philosophers, Kant scholars and Kantian moral philosophers, epistemologists, philosophers of physics, members of a particular department, and so on. At the end of the day, the main fault of the AAAS tends to involve sins of omission rather than inclusion (more on that in another post).
Although the list of new members 2012-2016 by institutional affiliation correlates fairly well with a ranking of leading American research universities based on reputation surveys, there are clear outliers at both ends (e.g., NYU, Northwestern, Cal Tech, Michigan, Texas). In the case of NYU, the explanation is probably that they have recruited senior superstars in various fields, but with a handful of exceptions (like philosophy), they have mostly been superimposed upon otherwise weak departments. In other cases, it may be that the faculties are really stronger than given credit for in reputational surveys (esp. the shoddy ones conducted by U.S. News). Finally, in some cases I expect the 'friends-of-friends' aspect of the AAAS either helps or hinders the school's performance.
Finally, note that there are fields or "sections" of the AAAS that are specific for law, for engineering, and for medicine: any school with these fields will be at an advantage in terms of potential electees.
1. Harvard University (56)
2. Stanford University (43)
3. Massachusetts of Institute of Technology (42) (no medical or law school)
4. University of California, Berkeley (35) (no medical school)
4. Yale University (35)
6. Princeton University (33) (no medical or law school)
7. University of Chicago (29) (no engineering)
8. New York University (26)
8. Northwestern University (26)
10. University of California, Los Angeles (24)
11. Columbia University (22)
12. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (17)
13. University of Pennsylvania (15)
14. Cornell University (14)
15. University of California, San Diego (12) (no law school)
The petition is here. (Thanks to philosopher Joel Pust [Delaware] for organizing this.) The background statement hedges a bit more than is really necessary in my view, crediting claims by the college that are nonsensical and won't stand up in court. But the basic text of the statement is good and I urge all members of the academic community to sign the petition. Here's the key text:
We the undersigned, as members of the community of scholars, protest the apparent termination without due process by Dickinson College of Professor Crispin Sartwell, a TENURED associate professor of philosophy, contrary to Dickinson's own Academic Handbook, AAUP guidelines, and the customary standards of tenure.
Unless the College can produce a formal letter of resignation by Professor Sartwell or evidence that he accepted a separation agreement, we call for Professor Sartwell to be reinstated immediately and for the administration of Dickinson College to act in accordance with Dickinson's Academic Handbook and accepted AAUP standards in all subsequent dealings with Professor Sartwell.
UPDATE: The petition was released April 21, and garnered about 100 signatures in its first five days. In the last 24 hours, since this post went up, more than 80 additional philosophers and academics in other fields have signed--thank you! But I hope even more readers will join them as signatories. Ned Block, Jeff McMahan, John Gardner, Neil Tennant, Keith Whittington, Alex Byrne, Peter Vallentyne, Richard Moran, and C.D.C. Reeve are among the distinguished senior scholars who have signed in the last day: please join them! Colleges hate unfavorable attention to their bad behavior. Legal remedies are being sought, but the academic community can make known its concern with what has transpired.
An interesting tale from nearly a century ago. Note the (correct) description of Bergson's extraordinary reputation at the time, a reputation which now appears to us (also correctly) as mysterious (and not just in the Anglophone world). A cautionary note for today's "famous" philosophers!
UPDATE: A reader who teaches philosophy to undergraduates writes with two objections that deserve a response:
First, I detect from the tone of your post, perhaps wrongly, the implicit view that there is something crazy about undergrads giving professors advice about what to include on syllabi in the first place. If that's your view, I disagree. I think it's awesome for students to give respectful, constructive criticism to their teachers—and I think what Taylor writes certainly counts as that—as long as it's allowed to be a two-way conversation, and professors have the courage to defend what they teach, as well as of course the ultimate right to make the decisions. Would we really rather have students who always just passively accept our curricular choices? To me criticism can be a sign that students are taking responsibility for their own education. Our role should be to take their criticism seriously, help them to articulate it better, and then respectfully disagree—or, if appropriate, to take their advice! We should be trying to encourage this sort of conversation, rather than shut it down. If we were more committed to actually teaching students how to have this sort of debate well, maybe we would end up with (a) better, more interesting philosophy courses and (b) fewer puerile, easy-to-dismiss lists of demands. A win-win! (I certainly don't mean to lump Taylor's piece in with the latter category, by the way.)
Of course, we already have a way of getting feedback from undergraduates, namely, course evaluations, and student evaluations, at all levels, are useful I've found, especially if one pays attention to recurrent criticisms or worries. The value of feedback from undergraduates has nothing to do with whether a professional association's blog should provide a platform for advice that is based simply on speculation about the effects of "diversifying" the syllabus for which there is no known empirical support.
The David K. Lewis Papers include his extensive correspondence with other philosophers and scholars. There are approximately sixteen thousand pages of Lewis’s correspondence, both incoming and outgoing. There is significant volume of correspondence with David Armstrong, J.J.C. Smart, Frank Jackson, Willard Van Orman Quine, Hugh Mellor, Max Cresswell, Allen Hazen, and John Bigelow; as well as smaller amounts of correspondence with R. B. Braithwaite, Peter van Inwagen, Paul Benacerraf, William Alston, Iris Murdoch, Jonathan Bennett, Anthony Appiah, John P. Burgess, Paul Churchland, D. C. Dennett, Gareth Evans, Philippa Foot, Margaret Gilbert, Sally Haslanger, Jaakko Hintikka, David Kaplan, Saul A. Kripke, Colin McGinn, Thomas Nagel, Derek Parfit, Steven Pinker, Alvin Plantinga, and many others. Lewis’s letters are often very detailed, as he maintained ongoing conversations regarding many philosophical topics with his colleagues through regular correspondence. Lewis’s writings include drafts of published articles and books, often along with publishing correspondence, reviews, and notes related to each publication. A smaller amount of reviews and unpublished or posthumously published writings are also present, as well as some of Lewis’s undergraduate and graduate student writings, course materials, and notes, including notes from graduate seminars with Donald Williams and others at Harvard and elsewhere, and research files and reports from Lewis’s time as a researcher at the Hudson Institute in the 1960s.
A propos our poll of significant moral philosophers: T.M. Scanlon officially retires the end of this academic year, and Harvard is organizing a conference in his honor. Allan Gibbard retired at the end of the last calendar year, and Michigan is also hosting a conference about his work coming up in May. (Both these impending retirements were noted in the fall 2014 PGR, so I've not included them in the recent updates.)
With over 420 votes in our most recent poll (and despite some bad attempted strategic voting behavior), here's the top 20
1. Bernard Williams (Condorcet winner: wins contests with all other choices)
2. Derek Parfit loses to Bernard Williams by 145–117
3. Philippa Foot loses to Bernard Williams by 182–79, loses to Derek Parfit by 161–94
4. Thomas Nagel loses to Bernard Williams by 183–60, loses to Philippa Foot by 128–110
5. T.M. Scanlon loses to Bernard Williams by 180–67, loses to Thomas Nagel by 121–92
6. G.E.M. Anscombe loses to Bernard Williams by 187–73, loses to T.M. Scanlon by 126–106
7. Christine Korsgaard loses to Bernard Williams by 206–50, loses to G.E.M. Anscombe by 130–94
8. Peter Singer loses to Bernard Williams by 191–62, loses to Christine Korsgaard by 121–102
9. Alasdair MacIntyre loses to Bernard Williams by 193–52, loses to Peter Singer by 111–110
10. R.M. Hare loses to Bernard Williams by 202–44, loses to Alasdair MacIntyre by 111–89
11. Martha Nussbaum loses to Bernard Williams by 202–39, loses to R.M. Hare by 96–94
12. Judith Jarvis Thomson loses to Bernard Williams by 195–50, loses to Martha Nussbaum by 96–87
13. Harry Frankfurt loses to Bernard Williams by 206–37, loses to Judith Jarvis Thomson by 99–93
14. Allan Gibbard loses to Bernard Williams by 201–38, loses to Harry Frankfurt by 89–88
15. J.L. Mackie loses to Bernard Williams by 201–37, loses to Allan Gibbard by 89–82
16. Stephen Darwall loses to Bernard Williams by 207–35, loses to J.L. Mackie by 93–85
17. Peter Railton loses to Bernard Williams by 208–34, loses to Stephen Darwall by 85–73
18. Simon Blackburn loses to Bernard Williams by 206–42, loses to Stephen Darwall by 89–78
19. Samuel Scheffler loses to Bernard Williams by 207–25, loses to Peter Railton by 85–77
20. John McDowel loses to Bernard Williams by 208-27, loses to Samuel Scheffler by 110-97
Runners-up for the top twenty included Onora O'Neill, Shelly Kagan, Susan Wolf, and Jeff McMahan. Recall that among living moral philosophers, only those over age 60 were included. I think the results aren't wholly surprising, though it certainly would not have been my personal "top 20" list. Comments from readers? Signed comments will be strongly preferred.
My part-time colleague Richard Epstein (he teaches each Spring Quarter here, the rest of the year at NYU) asked me to share information about the post-docs at his Institute at NYU. Applications from philosophy PhDs are very welcome, as long as your work has some law connection (you do not need to have a law degree). (As a sidenote, Richard studied philosophy with Ernest Nagel as an undergraduate at Columbia.) The terms of the post-docs are extremely attractive, check it out.
[W]e all know that the academic job market is very tough these days, and while there are some very talented and respected philosophers working in my department, it is not highly ranked. I think it is understandable if people in my position are thinking about backup plans, and I may have a better opportunity than most. You see, my wife-to-be comes from a respected and influential family in a "third world" country, and has told me that, should I fail to find an academic job in North America, it would not be difficult for me to acquire such a post in a university in her country. North American PhDs are highly valued there, but it is almost impossible for someone to go and get a job there without having some connection to the place, as I will have through my wife. However, this strikes me as a temporary option at best: I am not prepared to live in this country for the rest of my life, but I would be willing to do so temporarily, if all else fails. My question is this: For those who have experience on hiring committees, how would you look at a candidate who had spent a few years teaching in such a place, all other criteria being equal? Is such experience better than no experience a few years out of the PhD? Or would you feel there was something “off” about it? It seems a good temporary option, but it won’t be worth it if it’s going to undermine my chances at North American schools. Any thoughts you and your readers might have on this question would be very helpful.
My guess is a lot would depend on where one publishes during the time teaching abroad, but I'm opening comments for insight/opinions from others.
These Brits are not quite as obscure as some of the others recently featured, but they hardly achieved the success they probably warranted. Psychedelic, "progressive," even some British folk influences. This is one of my favorite tunes by the band, though their first album, Music in a Doll's House, is probably their best, though their second album, from which "Emotions" comes, is quite good too. It's downhill after that, however!
A prospective graduate student asked me to share her, shall we say, "unusual" experience during the recently concluded admissions cycle. Here's how it started (prior to April 15):
I am a prospective graduate student currently considering offers for the following academic year. It has come to my attention that, in an attempt to gage the interest of wait listed students, some institutions may be inadvertently violating the rules set out by the APA -- that students should have until April 15th to accept or reject financial offers. On your blog, you have encouraged prospective students to report these violations. I have sent a brief sketch of this situation to the APA, and I thought it could be helpful to discuss this in the philosophical community.
I experienced the following scenario this afternoon: I am wait listed at a highly ranked institution. The GDS called me and asked, "If I were to give you an offer right now, would you accept it?" I felt strongly that if I were to say yes, an offer would be given to me instantly, and I would be bound to accept it (on April 11th). However, this institution is not my first choice, and as a result I was put into the awkward position of rejecting what I perceived to be a conditional offer, the condition being my immediate acceptance. I would still like an offer from this institution, but I would also like the courtesy afforded to me by the APA, which is to have until the end of the 15th to decide. I am on other wait lists, and wish to see how that comes out before making a final decision. However, I worry that I may have lost out on an offer that would have been mine as a result of this exchange.
I think that this experience should perhaps encourage the APA to investigate this notion of a verbal offer—or the promise of one—conditioned on acceptance prior to April 15th. Does this seem to you as it does to me to be against the rules? Or do you think I'm reading too much into a DGS' attempt to gage interest in my likelihood of acceptance?
I think this kind of conditional offer violates the APA rules. It's one thing to ask a candidate about their level of interest, it's another to frame an inquiry as reported here. In the end, the student went elsewhere, but with yet another wrinkle:
Interestingly, before I declined, they placed me in yet another cart-before-the-horse situation. This program guarantees a semester of fellowship and I had been told so on multiple occasions. However, they provided me an offer without any, and when I asked about it I was told that they had sent out more offers than fellowships, and that they would give them to those who accepted the soonest while supplies last. Perhaps this is less worrying than the earlier issue, but it still seems fishy that they would require me to sign a contract of the offer *without* a fellowship listed in order to potentially obtain said fellowship. Again, it seems rather against the spirit, if not the letter, of the APA deadline to take away previously guaranteed fellowship to those who execute their right to wait until the end of the day on April 15th.
I sincerely hope this does not occur in the future to others. It makes this more difficult and stressful for all involved.
UPDATE: J.D. Trout, a distinguished philosopher of science at Loyola University, Chicago, writes:
When I was fresh out of graduate school and on the philosophy job market, I received a call from a dean at a small rural college where I had interviewed. After exchanging pleasantries, the dean explained that they wanted to make a hiring decision soon, that they had winnowed the list down to two candidates, and that I was their top choice. He then asked, “What would you say if I were to make you an offer?” implying that I would get the real offer if I said yes to the hypothetical one. I explained that I still didn’t know; he hadn’t made me an actual offer. I told him that I would think differently about the attractions of a job if I had an actual rather than an imaginary offer. At the time, I think I was mainly interested in letting the dean know that I recognized his question as a low-rent hustle; they didn’t want to waste time on a candidate’s offer that might not be accepted (potentially losing their other candidate in the process). The dean made an actual offer and told me I had four days to decide. I took another job.
MOVING TO FRONT FROM YESTERDAY--IF YOU HAVEN'T VOTED YET, PLEASE DO SO IF YOU HAVE VIEWS ABOUT MORAL PHILOSOPHY
Here. When I started these polls earlier in the year, I aggregated moral & political philosophy, but in response to suggestions, I thought I'd try disaggregating them (and also adding a few philosophers who were omitted last time). I used the prior poll as a benchmark, so have not included every moral philosopher included last time, but have included most. Rawls is always a tricky case, but I'm going to leave him for the political philosophy poll, which will come. Have fun!
UPDATE: Unfortunately, the aggressive and transparent strategic voting for Fred Feldman (U Mass/Amherst) will require eliminating him from the results. I'm sorry, since I am a fan of his work.
One week ago, I received an email from APA Development Director Robert Audi asking me to donate to the APA, and I posted about it here. Commenting on that post, Joshua Smith, gave some reasonable and constructive advice on the APA’s email practices. Another commenter Curt as well as Brian Leiter made important comments to the APA about donation requests.
The email, which I will provide in full below the fold for context, had the subject line: Help Expand Philosophy’s Influence.
If you have been reading my guest posts, you will know that I am all about expanding the influence of philosophy. The problem I have with this email request from the Executive Director is that the email doesn’t explain what the funds are going to support or how it is going to expand philosophy’s influence. Supporting work that is relevant to philosophers and supporting the work of philosophers is not the same thing as expanding philosophy’s influence. I would suggest that no matter the development goal, tell people what that money is going to support. How are the funds going to “expand” philosophy’s influence or “represent” philosophy in the public arena? If it’s just to support another newsletter, conference, or maintain current activities, then that’s not enough of an explanation. It certainly doesn't justify a second request so soon after Audi's.
Is it too much to ask the Executive Director of the APA to provide a vision for expanding philosophy’s influence before asking for money? I don’t think so. Full letter below. Comments are open.
From the usually excellentNotre Dame Philosophical Reviews (which frequently falls short in this particular area, alas, I am guessing because one can't get serious philosophers to review stuff like this):
As the Anglophone reception and appreciation of François Laruelle's work grows, it is worth reminding ourselves of the radicality of its ambition to be a thoroughgoing non-representational style of theorising and thinking. Carried out in the name of the destruction of onto-theology, the overcoming of metaphysics, the excess of the Real, or the deconstruction of presence, the attempt to think outside of traditional representational categories and to do so by means of novel philosophical styles or gestures is, of course, typical of much twentieth-century European philosophy, particularly that coming out of France. It may be tempting, therefore, to view Laruelle's writing as simply one further, albeit idiosyncratic in the extreme, example of philosophical and stylistic invention that places its impossible object of thought in excess of thought itself. Yet, as Laruelle has consistently argued at least since the early 1980s, philosophy has never gone, nor can ever go, far enough in its suspension, destruction or deconstruction of representational thought. Notions of radically withdrawn, ungrounded Being, of transcendence or alterity that would be otherwise than Being, or of difference that would detach philosophy and ontology from all logic of foundation or totality and place the very notion of Being itself under erasure simply do not, for Laruelle, go far enough. For in the end such notions remain conceptual and representational if only because they represent being as withdrawn, as transcendence or alterity, or as difference in excess of ontological foundation or ground. For Laruelle, any kind of ontology, be it differential, negative, or given in the mode of an exacerbated apophasis, does not and cannot do justice to the radical immanence of the Real.
This post is strictly for those following the pathetic saga that began with the fall 2014 smear campaign to take down the PGR.
For nearly 17 months, we've been involved in an extended negotiation and appeals process, first with the University of British Columbia, now with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of British Columbia, regarding requests filed under Canada's version of a "freedom of information" act (hereafter, "FIPPA"). The UBC Privacy manager, after taking months and months of extensions in response to the original requests, released highly redacted materials, offering what was, in our view, an implausibly generous interpretation of FIPPA's exceptions. The Commissioner's Office, in turn, upheld some of these exceptions, but not others, but again with multiple extensions of time for response (when we challenged one of the extensions, we were informed that if we challenged the extension then they wouldn't continue reviewing the case at all!). We have only just gotten the additional unredacted material.
PhilJobs seems to be collecting most of the tenure-track hires this year, and I encourage those who secured jobs to submit their information there. I still get occasional requests to post junior hiring information. Christopher Peacocke, the Chair at Columbia, for example, wrote to report two new tenure-track hires there:
Melissa Fusco (UC Berkeley) as Assistant Professor of Philosophy from July 1 2016
Una Stojnic (Rutgers) as Assistant Professor of Philosophy from July 1 2017.
Una Stojnic is deferring for a year to take up a Bersoff Postdoctoral Fellowship at NYU.
In the event, Department Chairs or Placement Chairs would like to post such information (often aggregated information from a single department is usueful), I'll leave comments open here. Otherwise, job seekers, please submit your information at PhilJobs.
Via Weinberg's "heap" comes this bizarre listing of philosophers with at least 1,000 followers on Twitter listed by how well their books have been selling on Amazon! I've no idea what this means; I'm guessing "nothing," though one must marvel at someone undertaking to compile this!
Sven Bernecker (epistemology), Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Irvine, has accepted a Humboldt Professorship at the University of Cologne, effective July 2016. Bernecker retains a fractional appointment at UC Irvine where he will spend one quarter each year.
McMahan makes a number of good points, and I am sympathetic to most of what he says in reply to John Gray and Martha Nussbaum; I'm friendlier than he is to Amia Srinivasan's complaints about EA. It seems to me the issue boils down to the issue aptly framed by McMahan as follows:
I am neither a community nor a state. I can determine only what I will do, not what my community or state will do. I can, of course, decide to concentrate my individual efforts on changing my state’s institutions, or indeed on trying to change global economic institutions, though the probability of my making a difference to the lives of badly off individuals may be substantially lower if I adopt this course than if I undertake more direct action, unmediated by the state.
The crucial word here is "may"; and what's missing, also, is that a genuine calculation has to factor in the magnitude of the possible effects. We may be highly confident that a charitable donation will affect the well-being of 1,000 people along some relevant dimension (though see below re: the economists), and be much less confident about our political activism or donations aimed at changing institutions and systems. But if there is an 80% chance of helping 1,000 slightly, and a 1% chance of helping one billion substantially, why should we think the former is the better course of action--and especially when the former itself may make systemic change less likely? As I've written elsewhere:
If harm to human well-being is primarily a product of systemic problems, as Marxists (correctly) believe, then focus on individual decision against a fixed systemic background will have pernicious consequences in both the long-term and even the medium short-term. Insofar as bourgeois moral philosophers like Singer are concerned with consequences (whether short- or long-term) they would have to acknowledge these possibilities. First, individual acts of charity encourage moral complacency about systemic harms to well-being among charitable givers, in large part because it obscures from serious consideration systemic causes of human misery. Second, those pernicious consequences are only enhanced when the capitalist media seize, as they predictably do, on instances of bourgeois morality as ideals to which others should aspire—for example, in the celebration of a young man who works in the “financial” industry and, influenced by Singer, gives half his income (US $100,000) to charities helping people in impoverished nations (Kristof 2015). Yet we know with certainty that a Wall Street youngster giving US $100,000 per year to various charities will not actually eliminate (or even significantly reduce) poverty, human misery, or suffering--in either the third world or in the first world. The actual effects on well-being of charitable giving are hotly contested by economists; but even when they make small short-term contributions to alleviating particular diseases or disabilities, we have little or no evidence that they actually contribute to flourishing human lives--primarily because those to whom aid is so often directed for discreet problems live under systemic conditions that thwart human flourishing along many other dimensions, to which charity is never responsive.
This is hopeful. To be sure, there will still be tens of millions of benighted Americans, their minds clouded by religion or simple ignorance, who will remain loyal to the crazed ideology that is the current Republican Party, but without a formal organization, they will become irrelevant to electoral outcomes. And then the U.S. might return to the league of civilized nations, with Clintonites playing the role of acceptable Republicans and Sanderites becoming the opposing social democrats.
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)