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Eric Schwitzgebel
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Jim, since your first and second comments closely resembled each other, I assumed that the second was the version you preferred. Let me know if you'd like to see both versions up.
Thanks for the better link, Manyul!
Christian, have you seen this discussion? And of course, the situation is even more severe in other areas of non-Western philosophy, as you know. Kwong-loi Shun is now back at Berkeley, which is terrific news for Chinese philosophy in the U.S., in my highly biased opinion.
Lots of good interesting points in this discussion! I find it non-obvious what the effects of the PGR are in this respect, however. One reason is this: It would be pretty easy for a university to have a specialty rating in Chinese philosophy. A single good specialist, even fairly junior, will do it! In the case of UCR, we're ranked in the area simply by virtue of having one person who does a little of it plus one affiliated faculty member in Comparative Literature. So when UCR turns to the PGR to pitch itself to administrators, it can highlight its rating in Chinese philosophy alongside its other ratings. It's much harder to achieve a specialty ranking in, say, philosophy of mind. This doesn't hold for non-Western philosophy other than Chinese, but my impression is that if there were enough specialists in those areas at PGR-rated departments, the PGR would add new categories reflecting that. I don't know what impact hiring a specialist in non-Western philosophy has on overall rankings, though. Maybe relatively little, if people who aren't in the area don't recognize the person's name.
Interesting comments coming in! Since NewAPPS moderates comments and since the topic risks heated tempers, I have to read each comment before approving, and I have to dash off to do some other things for a while. Please feel free to continue commenting, but be patient if it doesn't show right away.
AY: Just to be clear, I think you might have misread at least one aspect of Brian's post. Brian explicitly says that he would like to see "more history of philosophy, both European and otherwise". So it seems uncharitable to read him as having a negative attitude about increasing the geographic diversity of the philosophers we study or as not valuing non-Western philosophy, if that's how you're reading him. Rather, I think Brian opposes increasing the geographic diversity of philosophers if one is doing so for reasons specifically having to do with identity politics. On the issue of the extent to which philosophers without expertise in non-Western philosophy have a dismissive attitude toward the field as merely a "hobby" vs. seeing it as a field of deep interest -- my wager would be that this is the type of thing that varies enormously from department to department, depending on the department culture. I agree that the first attitude is problematic, and I hope my comments about the value of Chinese philosophy as an AOC don't encourage such an attitude.
by Eric Schwitzgebel See here. The last MacArthur "genius" fellowship awarded to someone they classified as philosopher was in 1993. On the whole, scholars outside of philosophy tend, I think, not to see much value in what most professional philosophers do. The MacArthur drought is one reflection and measure of... Continue reading
I see a couple different issues here, Christian. One issue is whether one should try to add non-Western philosophers to the curriculum to appeal to students with non-Western backgrounds. Resisting this idea was, I think, Brian Leiter's central thought. My own view is moderate on that issue: I do think adding ethnic diversity (and other sorts of diversity) to the syllabus is a desirable thing to the extent it helps a broader range of students think of philosophy as something that people like them do. Oddly, I suspect, the instructor's being non-"cosmopolitan" in this respect -- considering cultural origin in deciding what to put on the syllabus -- might encourage greater cosmopolitanism among students, if the students can be brought to see, say, both Mencius and Plato as important historical sources for the philosophy of moral development. However, I regard the ideal of diversity as only one of numerous factors that go into shaping a syllabus. To add mediocre or irrelevant material simply from the intention to include non-Western sources is probably not a good idea. Fortunately, there are some decidedly awesome philosophers in non-Western traditions! The second issue is how to expand the discipline's awareness of and offerings in non-Western philosophy. One obvious way is for departments to hire people who are primarily specialists in non-Western philosophy. One problem with this is that departments rarely want to dedicate an entire faculty position to a non-Western specialist. You interestingly suggest another method, which I agree is underappreciated, of advertising a position in a mainstream topic like ethics or philosophy of mind but also expressing an interest in someone who, though a specialist in those areas, is also capable of teaching non-Western material. In fact, this is what I often advise UCR philosophy grads who have some interest in Chinese philosophy: Specialize in philosophy of language or whatever, but learn enough Chinese philosophy that you can legitimately claim it as an "area of teaching competence". I think there are a lot of universities who would love to have someone who can teach a non-Western class once a year, as a kind of side bonus. Being up front about having this teaching interest can help you land a position. You would also then, presumably, have some capacity to integrate non-Western sources into the teaching of general topics, when appropriate.
Guest post by Christian Coseru One may be forgiven for thinking, on reading Brian Leiter's diatribe against identity politics and the danger it poses for academic philosophy, that there is a swell in 'consumer demand' for expanding the philosophy curriculum in questionable directions and for the wrong reasons. To clarify:... Continue reading
I don't intend the comment above to take away from your point about out-groups, Ed, which I agree with. Bias in reaching judgments about civility, or "collegiality", does create a substantial problem if one wishes to consider civility or collegiality as a feature of a hiring decision.
That makes sense to me, Ed. I phrased my caveat in a qualified way because I wasn't sure exactly what the last clause meant to convey. I think *if* the idea is that civility is always irrelevant to evaluation in the hiring process, I disagree. I think that if the idea is instead, that civility can be relevant but only when seen through the lens of its effects on teaching, research, and service (where behavior in department meetings is part of service and treatment of graduate students in the hallway is part of teaching), then maybe I agree with it.
by Eric Schwitzgebel Just found this in my inbox: On Friday Sept. 5, Chancellor Dirks of UC Berkeley circulated an open statement to his campus community that sought to define the limits of appropriate debate at Berkeley. Issued as the campus approaches the 50th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement,... Continue reading
Cool, Samir! I'm in the process right now of gathering up about 25 philosophers' recommendations of science fiction / speculative fictions works that have philosophical interest. The only fiction I've tried in my own teaching is film, in my lower-division class, "Evil": _Schindler's List_ and _Crimes and Misdemeanors_. Both work great, I think, in that context. The point is to get into the psychology of the characters and to discuss the ethics of their decisions. The film portrayal makes the issues vivid and approachable and concrete in a way that abstract discussion is not. I've recently become an enthusiast for speculative fiction as a way of energizing philosophical thought experiments and have even started writing some stories of my own. But I haven't yet tried that in teaching.
Yes, Anand, that seems right. My own view is that philosophy is pretty much just "very theoretical anything" (as Alison Gopnik put it in an article we co-authored), so it will sometimes be very theoretical math and physics, sometimes be very theoretical social science, sometimes be very theoretical humanistic reflection, etc. Sorry for taking so long to approve your comment! Since I'm only about a monthly contributor, I check the comments feed only sporadically except for the couple days after the original post.
Interesting idea, Barry! Administrations are slow, so it's probably too late to have an effect before September 11, so it might make sense to wait to see what happens then before considering further actions.
Anand: Apologies for the slow comment approval! Most of the sciences you mention are less white than philosophy. Physical sciences 77%, Psych 74%, Math 78%, Econ 71% (2012 data only). Looking at black scholars, the numbers in those fields somewhat exceed those in philosophy: 3.3% physical sciences, 5.8% psych, 2.7% math, 2.3% econ. And these data exclude the relatively larger proportion of non-US residents getting PhDs in these areas compared to philosophy, which I would guess would increase the rate of minority participation in those fields if they were factored in. Thus, all these fields seem to be somewhat less white, and a little more black (possibly within statistical error), than philosophy. So... I'm not sure exactly what to make of these data, or what you make of them. But there they are.
Daniel: Your conjecture is correct for the U.S. too. Here's a good article on that topic: In what is surely a multi-causal picture, I suspect that one factor is that the perceived "impracticality" of philosophy makes it proportionately less attractive, on average, to students from lower SES backgrounds than it is to students from higher SES backgrounds; and of course white people in the US have higher average SES than black people.
Yes, Alex, I agree, that does seem like supporting data. Thanks!
Tina Fernandes Botts and colleagues have recently posted a fascinating analysis of the shockingly low numbers of black- or African-American- identified philosophers in the United States. According to their data, 1.3% of U.S. philosophers self-identify as black (compared to 13% in the general U.S. population). Now I was all set... Continue reading
I rarely post on hot political topics (unless quantitative analysis of philosophers' lack of diversity counts), but one hot political topic has been very much in my mind this week: the boycott of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I've been forced to consider the issue especially carefully because I was... Continue reading
Carolyn, let me apologize for neglecting to link to your interesting data on this from earlier this year! I'd definitely be interested to see the results of a more thorough study of this phenomenon -- and I'm sure many others would be, too. Kate, I'm glad to hear that you have funds that you can use for this. It seems to me that philosophy is such an outlier discipline in this regard, among the humanities and social sciences, that there should be general sociological interest in it as a case study. Why has it gone such a different path than English, psychology, etc.? I refuse to believe that it is somehow an inherently "macho" discipline.
I'm spinning out a series of posts at The Splintered Mind, based on a new citation database my son built for me, from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Maybe it will be of interest to some NewAPPS readers. The 266 Most Cited Contemporary Authors in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.... Continue reading
Eric, I'm not sure I agree with that, but maybe I would grant it for the BB hypothesis specifically. Part of the issue is whether in evaluating the BB hypothesis, you can make a prediction and update -- maybe not, depending on how the thought-experiment is set up. More by email.