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Eric Schwitzgebel
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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: http://astro.temple.edu/~kgoyette/major.pdf 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
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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.
Thanks, Diana -- I appreciate the reference, and I'll definitely check it out! Eric: I suspect our disagreement is so complicated and multifaceted that it will take a long conversation to sort it out. I'm looking forward to reading your papers, and then I'll send an email with further thoughts. In the meantime, though, I'm fine with (1) of course and I'll spot you (2) for the sake of argument since I don't think that's the relevant issue (though I've argued elsewhere against strong first-person authority about experience). But I don't understand why I would accept (3). Will I understand your thinking about this better once I've read your papers?
Eric, I really appreciate your pushing me more on this, and please send the papers. I'm embarrassed to confess that I hadn't realized you've written about Boltzmann brains! I have a blog post about the extent to which the BB hypothesis undermines itself on the Splintered Mind here: http://schwitzsplinters.blogspot.com/2014/02/might-i-be-cosmic-freak.html I think that credences over 50% in the BB hypothesis are epistemically untenable, but I don't think that the same instability objection undercuts small credences. And it would be an odd result, in my view, to think that one is compelled to assign a zero credence to being a BB, since it *doesn't* seem like something I can know for sure (maybe .01% is far too high, but is 1/10^100 clearly too high?). But I'll be interested to see your reasoning on this it your papers. On your point about demons: (1.) Why are you confident that demons wouldn't include demons in their deception? I might think they *probably* wouldn't -- but if I see demons, the probability of deceiving demons shoots up so much that whatever reduction I give it on the assumption that demons probably wouldn't show me demons might not put me back to my pre-demon-seeing Cartesian demon credence. And (2.) I would deny that p(E/D) = p(E/-D) for all E. It depends, in part, on demon psychology! Demon psychology is of course a very speculative topic, but we've already expressed some tentative opinions about it in our discussion of whether demons who wanted to punk me would want to let me experience a world containing demons. Now I don't think demon doubt gets much traction now -- compared, maybe, to a culture in which serious belief in demons might give me a decent credence in their existence and some sensible credence distribution on their psychology if they exist. So it's pretty much groundless doubt, to which I would assign a negligible credence compared to dream skepticism and simulation skepticism (far below 1/10,000). But for dream and simulation skepticism I can start to give structure to conditional credences in ways that violate independence. For example if F is "succeed in having an experience of flying if I do something that feels like flapping my arms", then p(F/dream) > p(F/-dream) -- the topic of my very first NewAPPS post!
GFA and Silvia: Thanks for the pointers on this. I am familiar with a bit of the philosophy of science literature on these issues, but it's been long enough since I looked at it that I didn't think to draw the (in retrospect obvious) connection to the content of the post. (I actually did one of my qualifying exam questions on the problem of old evidence.) So I appreciate the pointers! I agree that there's some analogy, but also disanalogy, as GFA indicates. Silvia, yes, I'd be interested to see that paper. I should get my head back into this literature a bit.
Eric Winsberg: We seem to be starting pretty far apart, but here goes. On demons: I was thinking primarily of real, observable demons who cast evil spells and the like. It seems reasonable to me to suppose that credence of the average Anglophone philosopher today in the existence of such demons should reasonably be less than the credence of the average Western philosopher in Descartes' day. And I think that if such demons are real it's more reasonable to give a little credence space to an amped-up Cartesian demon than if such demons are not real. On the assumption that your perceptions are "in some way veridical": I think here of Wittgensteinian "framework assumptions". Are you thinking of something similar? I suppose I'm more of a Quinean here: Anything can be challenged, even core things, with enough evidence. Add a bit of Bayesianism to that and you'll want to avoid p's of 1 or 0. So then the question arises, what p's should I give to these framework things? I agree with Wittgenstein that it's silly to doubt (at any more than a negligibly tiny p) without grounds for doubt. But I do think I have grounds, for at least some slender doubt, regarding dream skepticism, simulation skepticism, and cosmological skepticism. This post adds the thought that there are meta-level grounds for wildcard skepticism.
Thanks for the interesting and thoughtful comments, folks! Anon 23 July: Thanks for the pointer to Kierkegaard. Is there a particular part of his corpus where you think he is especially clear about this? The way you put it sounds like a radical rejection of probabilistic thinking. But I'm inclined to think we're stuck with probabilistic thinking, like it or not, explicit or only implicit, as soon as we make choices. Do I drink this apparent coffee, or not? Do I try to fly as I'm walking across campus, or not? These choices reveal my subjective credences. They might be a problematic lot, but I'll need to make the best of them or become a vegetable -- although even the latter is a kind of choice.
Might there be excellent reasons to embrace radical skepticism, of which we are entirely unaware? You know brain-in-a-vat skepticism -- the view that maybe last night while I was sleeping, alien superscientists removed my brain, envatted it, and are now stimulating it to create the false impression that I'm still... Continue reading
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Eric Kaplan, who overlapped with me in grad school at Berkeley but who is now much more famous as a comedy writer for Big Bang Theory, Futurama, and several other shows, has been cooking up weird philosophical-comical blog posts since March at his Wordpress blog here. Check it out! Continue reading
Grad student: I really appreciate your sharing your perspective on this. I think faculty need to hear about this downside potential of these meetings and do their utmost to avoid creating that type of situation or even the perception of that type of situation, either by not having such year-end meetings or by being acutely aware of these issues if the meetings do continue to be held.
Christopher, I think I can appreciate that perspective. Perhaps it would be especially hard to be formulaic if one of the considerations is using all the GAships on offer. At UCR, denials of funding most commonly result from too many incompletes and can occur during any of the three quarters of the year (as incompletes accumulate and turn into Fs). These cases are generally worked out case-by-case by the grad advisor in consultation with the relevant faculty and the administrators in the graduate division of the college, rather than at the year-end department meeting. That also seems to me a reasonable approach, and it has the advantage of not burdening the remaining faculty with negative expectations regarding that student's future performance.