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Eric Schwitzgebel
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Thanks, Eric. Kind of a compromise between my options 1 & 2 -- seems in the ballpark of reasonable. But part of me is still fighting between the hardline option 1 and the gracious (?) option 3!
by Eric Schwitzgebel Today I'm thinking about Schindler's truck and what it suggests about the moral psychology of one of the great heroes of the Holocaust. Here's a portrayal of the truck, in the background of a famous scene from Schindler's List: [image source] Oskar Schindler, as you probably know,... Continue reading
Well... yeah. But at least we love Ursula!
I read his *2312* last summer -- terrific book! Sadly, Kim Stanley Robinson didn't seem to make anyone's list of ten.
Haven't read "Fat Farm"! Thanks for the suggestion.
Yes, Tiptree is on the longer list, recommended by two (Rachael Briggs and Eric Kaplan).
Carl: Yes! I hope that more submissions will trickle in. If so, I'll spin them out in batches of four on my blog and update the mega-lists. I'd love to see the lists get longer, both incorporating a broader range of works and bringing more authors/works into the multiply-cited category. (Email me.)
Charles: Card made the longer list. I agree that Ender's Game is terrific.
by Eric Schwitzgebel ... here! This mega-list of about 360 recommendations is compiled from the lists I've been rolling out on The Splintered Mind over the past several weeks. Thirty-four professional philosophers and two prominent science fiction / speculative fiction (SF) authors with graduate training in philosophy each contributed a... Continue reading
CK: I have read Randall Collins' Sociology of Philosophies cover to cover. I have read multiple works by Martin Kusch and Neil Gross, including Kusch's Psychologism and Gross's book on Rorty. I arranged for Gross to speak to the philosophy department at UCR and we have had email discussions about the politics of philosophers in connection with my data on the voting patterns (and party registration) of professional philosophers (Schwitzgebel and Rust 2010). I have posted many quantitative analyses of social patterns in philosophy on my blog, The Splintered Mind, adapting analytic tools from sociology and bibliometrics. I have developed two prestige ranking systems for philosophers, one based on citations in the SEP and one based on name occurrences in PhilIndex abstracts. Brian Leiter posted an analysis of departments based on my SEP rankings of individual philosophers, which I noted on my blog better correlated with the PGR department rankings than the NRC rankings. I have published extensively on how social and/or non-rational factors can have a major influence on philosophers' professional judgments in their areas of expertise, especially regarding consciousness and moral dilemmas. On The Splintered Mind, I have defended what I call the "Strong Program in Psychology of Philosophy" drawn with intentional parallel to the Strong Program in sociology of knowledge. So: Yes, I am serious. I understand why you might have been inclined to think my expressed interest in sociology of philosophy was merely a pose, if you don't know my work. (Sorry if this comes across as too defensive. My morning coffee might not yet quite have kicked in!)
Bharath: You write: "Sometimes claiming to merely descriptively capture a state of affairs, without aiming to endorse it, can itself be a way of endorsing it." I agree. So I think it's reasonable for people who think that the rankings are either grossly misleading or socially egregious should oppose the rankings. I think they're likely to be somewhat misleading and that they have a mix of social upsides and downsides, and only because I have a moderate view on those questions do I think it makes sense to put forward an argument in favor on sociological grounds.
Concerned outsider: You write: "One concern that I and many others have about the PGR is about how the evaluators are selected. If they were selected by, say, simply inviting every author who has published in Nous and Phil Review in the last ten years to evaluate for the PGR, that would be better than the current system, to my mind." I agree. The invitation system is non-transparent and possibly biased. I am inclined to think that your suggestion would be preferable to the current system. Or maybe one improvement on it would be to try to come up with a short list of journals that are highly visible by objectivish criteria (Nous and Phil Review might win, but there are other contenders). Another possibility might be random sampling from disciplinary societies in the target countries -- though that risks amplifying the Anglophone bias.
Catherine: Thanks for that thoughtful reply. I agree that the PGR does sometimes play the role you suggest. I agree that it has substantial methodological shortcomings. I also think that the NRC, REF, and other attempts at qualitative / reputational measures *also* have substantial shortcomings. It's easy to think of quantitative measures like citation counts as more valid than the subjective opinion of recruited middle- to high-status people in the mainstream of the field. In some respects, those methodologies are better, but I don't think they're decisively better. The litany of legitimate complaints against citation counting, for example, is long. For this reason, I would encourage the proliferation of a wide diversity of measures, with complementary methodological shortcomings to the extent that is possible -- measures played off each other so that people don't take any one measure too seriously.
I need to take a break from approving and responding to comments, to focus on other things. So please be patient: If you submit a comment, it might not show until tomorrow.
APS: "Rather than ‘uncovering’ hitherto fore unknown facts it would be more accurate to say that it is a reflection of those facts." I don't disagree. The social facts are (more or less) already known to the evaluators; the PGR displays those social facts for a broader audience. "It is just to be clear that exercises like the PGR are no different to other forms of audit merely because they happen to be done by academics." I don't think the fact that the PGR is conducted by academic philosophers gives it special status. REF, NRC, etc., also have value -- and their own sets of problems.
Mitchell: I would be interested to see a thoughtful critique of the state of mainstream Anglophone philosophy, including measures of reputation, from sociologists of knowledge. I might even agree with the conclusions of such a critique. An important part of my own philosophical research is concerned with calling into doubt how much knowledge and expertise professional philosophers have in their target areas of specialization (esp. about consciousness and about evaluating moral dilemmas).
Anon grad 13:49 / 15:41: "You should only do a PhD in Philosophy if you will enjoy the process of earning the PhD. It should be valuable to you even if you don't land a TT job." I agree with that, and I give similar advice in my series of posts at The Splintered Mind on applying to grad school. Most students would do well, I think, not only to consider reputation, as imperfectly measured by the PGR rankings, in deciding where to attend graduate school, but also to consider the other types of factors that you mention. Of course, the existence of the PGR doesn't prevent students from considering those things.
Cynic: It would be nice to see collaboration between sociologists and philosophers on methodology.
Luke Maring: Data on placement rates is a good factor to consider, and it's good to see Carolyn Jennings working on this; but it is complicated and methodologically difficult due to inconsistency and non-transparency in departmental reporting of non-placed students and dropouts, as well as the varying factors that might influence those. Undergraduate applicants evaluating "what sorts of things different departments have a strong publishing record on" seems a lot to hope for unless they start with something like the PGR or NRC. I think it's good if they can combine various sources of knowledge to arrive at a final judgment -- e.g., by checking out departments rated high in their target specialty, as well as departments recommended by their advisors, and then examining the websites and some articles by the relevant professors at those universities. They might also consider a variety of other factors such as location. They might find their opinions at the end of the process to justify applying to a very different set of departments than they might have done if they had considered only the PGR rankings; or they might not.
David Hunter: I think the reputation of someone in the PGR ecology is partly constituted by what people in the PGR ecology think the reputation of the person is. I hope that doesn't seem too paradoxically self-referential!
Anon Grad 14:40: I agree that people often fail to view the PGR results as skeptically and critically as they should, and that this is a substantial problem. I see two solutions. One is to emphasize, as I do in this post, that it is a sociological measure that is only imperfectly and disputably related to genuine philosophical quality (which itself is a tricky concept). The other is to encourage a variety of measures, each of which might partly support and partly undercut the others, providing a context in which it is easier to recognize the limitations of any one measure.
Luke / Anon Grad 13:49: When I applied to graduate school in 1990-1991, the PGR was new and known only to a few and did not inform my own application process. Despite the fact that I was coming from a position of privilege as an undergraduate at Stanford, I had little idea what departments were perceived as generally weak or generally strong and which departments were regarded as strong in the areas I was most interested in. I could not read, much less evaluate, a sample of representative work of philosophers from a wide range of departments; so my application procedure was pretty haphazard, based mostly on my general overall sense of the quality of the university and based on a few stray sentences from advisors I was too shy to ask for detailed advice from. It might be suggested that students and their advisors (to the extent students are assertive enough to ask and the advisors forthcoming) should ignore mainstream perceptions of reputation and reach their own independent quality judgments. Or it might be suggested that linear scales of reputation are problematic. I have some sympathy with both concerns. But I do also think that it empowers students to know the sociological facts about reputation that are reflected in the PGR. It's hard for me to see ignorance of these facts, which have such an impact on job prospects among other things, as other than disempowering. So I really do think that there are empowerment / privilege perpetuation issues on both sides of the argument.
Christopher and Catherine: I recognize that I am not competent to directly evaluate scholars of, for example, early modern philosophy. To the extent my ratings will reflect the presence of those people, it will be based on my sense of their general reputation. Historians' reputation in the "Gourmet ecology" community as a whole might not correspond well with the real quality of their work. I leave that as an open question, which is why I prefer to conceptualize the survey as primarily an exercise in sociology of philosophy.
by Eric Schwitzgebel I have been asked to be an evaluator for the 2014-2015 edition of the Philosophical Gourmet Report. Contrary to what seems to be the general (but not universal) sentiment of New APPS contributors and commenters, I support the rankings and will participate. The PGR rankings have at... Continue reading