You have to be a full professor, that’s what it takes. This is an entirely absurd, obsolete system – in particular in view of the fact that many PhD studentships are financed by external funding obtained by researchers who cannot be the official supervisors of these students (and who in practice do all the supervising work). The system is not only unfair; it is also nefarious for the functioning of academia in the Netherlands as a whole. (See a statement (in Dutch) by three philosophers and members of the Young Academy of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences – Ingrid Robeyns, Arianna Betti and Peter-Paul Verbeek – with nine objections to the current system.)
Reinhard Muskens, a very distinguished logician-linguist-philosopher at the University of Tilburg, has started a petition asking the board of his university to revise this policy and extend the rights to be the official supervisor of a PhD thesis to non-full professors. Muskens himself has attracted very large amounts of external funding in his long and fruitful career as a researcher, has de facto supervised a number of PhD students, but still does not have what is referred to as ‘promotion rights’ around here.
Judge Richard Posner’s well-known application of law and economics to privacy yields results that appear, well, ideological. First, he considers what individuals do with informational privacy. What is an interest in privacy of information, he asks? Well, it’s an interest in enforcing an information asymmetry in markets. Information asymmetry is presumptively bad because it causes distortion in the price mechanism; the price mechanism is in turn the reason that markets can claim to be both epistemically and normatively justified. They are epistemically justified because market price signals the social value of something much better than any sort of centralized planning process would do, and it does so without introducing all the inefficiencies of an enormous state apparatus. The price mechanism is normatively justified because it presents no special intrusion into the lives of individuals: we are all free to do what we want and signal (with our willingness to pay) what is important to us. In the case of privacy, for example, if I present myself or some good I am selling to you, “privacy” basically means that I’m trying to withhold relevant information about that good from you. If I apply for a job and hide a criminal record, then I’m trying to get you to overvalue me as a potential employee by keeping you ignorant of my past. Accordingly, the law should not protect such refusals to disclose, and in some cases ought to compel disclosure. Thus the first part of Posner’s article.
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 least three related downsides:
1. They perpetuate privilege, including the privilege of people with social power in the discipline, the privilege of people in PhD-granting institutions over other types of institutions, and the general privilege of Anglophone philosophy and philosophers.
2. They reinforce mainstream ("Gourmet ecology") valuations of topics and approaches, in a discipline where the mainstream needs no help and it would probably be productive to push against the mainstream.
3. They risk blurring the distinction between second-hand impressions about reputation (especially outside evaluators' own subareas) and genuine quality.
In light of these downsides, I understand people's hesitation to support the enterprise.
I view the rankings as an exercise in the sociology of philosophy. The rankings are valuable insofar as they reveal sociological facts about how departments, and to some extent individuals (especially in the specialty rankings) are viewed by the social elite in Anglophone philosophy -- by the people who publish articles in journals like Nous and Philosophical Review, by the people who write and are written about in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entries, by the people who teach at renowned British and U.S. universities like Oxford, Harvard, and Berkeley. As a part-time sociologist of philosophy interested in patterns of esteem, I am curious how people in this social group view the field, and I regard the PGR as an important source of data.
Related to my post on the invisibility of sexual harassment earlier this week, here’s a video that has been making the rounds on the Internet, and rightly so: a woman walks on the streets of NYC, and a hidden camera captures the unsolicited comments and aggressive attempts at making contact by numerous men she runs into. Now, that’s a good way to make (street) harassment more visible!
Posted on Facebook and reposted here with his consent and encouragement (if I understand correctly)
Thanks for this invitation. While the interest in my opinion about my colleagues is flattering, I don't feel able to participate, for three reasons.
First, as I think you know, I have signed on to the 'September Statement', which is a commitment to declining to provide volunteer work for the PGR while under Brian Leiter's control. While I'm aware that he's appointed you as a co-editor and announced an intention to step down after this year's PGR, it is unclear to me how much control he retains in his position as co-editor. And since the reason his control was relevant in the first place was his social power as a result of the general perception of his control, and the current unclarity will allow that perception to continue, I don't consider it consistent with the September Statement to participate. (Other signatories may well make contrary decisions for themselves about this point.)
Second, I remain deeply ambivalent about the PGR itself. While it unquestionably does good for many prospective philosophy students, it also, in my opinion, unquestionably does harm to the structure of the discipline of philosophy on the whole. I just haven't been able to make up my mind about whether I would support a PGR, even if totally divorced from Brian Leiter. I really don't know whether it would count as a service or as a harm to the profession; under such moral uncertainty, I'm inclined to decline to participate.
Third, I very much doubt that I would be able to provide anything like reliable judgments of philosophical quality based on the names of individuals in faculties, without spending an enormous amount of time reading people's work. Although I've been in professional philosophy for nearly ten years, and have gained at least some familiarity with a large number of philosophers, I think I know next to nothing about a large majority of the philosophers whose departments you'd be asking me to rate. At a minimum, I might be able to find and skim the CV of every member of a department in half an hour or so, but to employ any of my own philosophical skill to give anything like an expert opinion, I'd have to read and engage with people's work. Since we're talking about roughly a hundred departments, this represents a daunting task to say the least. (Even just skimming CVs, at 30 minutes per department, would take some 50 hours.) Or I could skip most departments, limiting my attention to those containing my friends and those colleagues I've interacted with enough to have an opinion about already; but I'd worry about selection bias, and even those departments are made up mostly of people I don't know. I'm just not comfortable contributing a meaningful opinion about the quality of someone's work without spending orders of magnitude more time than I could offer if I wanted to.
I'd be happy to discuss any of these considerations with you further if you're interested.
I don't think I've got anything surprising to say for anyone whose read Enlightenment texts concerned with ethics texts at all attentively, at least in terms of pointing out what is obviously there, but what I'm discussing as far as I can see is underplayed in most discussion, and certainly in the 'average understanding' that circulates prior to any close reading of texts.
The obvious exception is Rousseau who gets understood as the back to 'natural man' nostalgic. Some recent work on Smith and Rousseau (e.g. Dennis Rasmussen) maybe gets to some degree at Smith's concerns about the 'progress' of commercial society, and there is a discussion in Foucault of the relation between the subject of eighteenth century political economy and the 'savage', though that is not so much about endorsement of 'savage' ethics as bringing out a supposed persistent 'natural' person. Given that Vico was already criticising any tendency to read legally defined rights back into 'natural' humanity in the early eighteenth century, we should be careful about simply attributing a brute identification of individual rights in commercial society with 'natural or 'savage' humanity on the part of all Enlightenment advocates of commerce and legalism.
As reported a few weeks ago, I’ve been working on a paper with my student Leon Geerdink (for a volume on the history of early analytic philosophy being edited by Chris Pincock and Sandra Lapointe) where we elaborate on a hypothesis that I first presented in a blog post more than 3 years ago: that the history of analytic philosophy can to a large extent be understood as the often uneasy interplay between Russellianism and Mooreanism, in particular with respect to their respective stances on the role of common sense for philosophical inquiry. In the first part of the paper, we present an (admittedly superficial and selective) overview of some recent debates on the role of intuitions and common sense in philosophical methodology; in the second part we discuss Moore and Russell specifically; and in the third part we discuss what we take to be another prominent instantiation of the opposition between Russellianism and Mooreanism: the debate between Carnap and Strawson on the notion of explication.
The paper is now almost ready (and we’d be happy to share the draft if anyone is interested), but one puzzle remains: when and how did the term ‘intuitions’ begin to be used in the philosophical literature in its current sense(s)? (As argued by C.S.I Jenkins, the term seems to be used in different senses in the current debates.) As established by Leon, Russell and Moore do not use the term ‘intuitions’ in any of these senses (and in particular, not in the sense of common sense and folk beliefs); instead, they use the term in the technical, largely Kantian, sense of immediate knowledge. We have not found occurrences of the term in the Carnap/Strawson debate either.
Does anyone know the answer to this pressing question? The SEP entry on intuitions is silent on the history of the terminology, and I haven’t found any discussions of this issue in the recent papers I’ve been reading for this project (maybe I’m missing something?). Not much hinges on this matter for the purposes of my paper with Leon, but it did make us curious. Perhaps our knowledgeable readers know the answer? We hope so!
A few years ago, I was going through airport security at Schiphol for a short European flight (to Munich, if I remember correctly), with hand-luggage only. As I was struggling with some lower back pain at the time, I was bringing an electric massager with me; sure enough, when my trolley went through the x-ray, the massager caught the guard’s attention. He made me open the trolley, and asked: ‘what is this?’ I said: ‘it’s an electric massager’. His reply (salacious voice): ‘oh, but isn’t it better if someone else does the massaging on you?’ (Wink, wink…) I am usually rather short-tempered, and normally would have made quite a fuss about it, but I didn’t want to risk missing my flight so I simply moved on.
Now, this is only one of many similar episodes I and every single woman in the world have experienced in our lives – nothing very extraordinary about it. But when I told my friendly, well-meaning male friends about this episode, they just couldn’t believe their ears: yes, there it was, a male airport security guard making entirely inappropriate remarks to a female traveler.
This episode illustrates a well-known phenomenon: the invisibility of harassment to those who do not experience it (and similarly for racism, ableism etc.). The ‘nicer’ guys who do not engage in overt harassment often think it is so inconceivable that anyone could be so grotesque that they fail to see it when it happens near them (and in fact, it often does not even happen near them; I doubt that the security guard would have made his remark had I been accompanied by a male travel companion). This tends to lead to an under-appreciation of the problem among these well-meaning men. Moreover, the men who do engage in such behavior often think there’s nothing wrong with it (‘hey, it’s just a joke!’), and so also fail to appreciate the gravity of the problem.
Here at the Rotman conference on Climate Science, Paul Edwards is talking about "knowledge infrastructures" and how the production of knowledge has radically changed over the last 20 years from a much more individualistic enterprise, with pyramids of expertise, peer review, etc to a much more distributed model. He mentioned this popular book Too Big to Know. I wonder if this sort of transition is hiting philosophy and is being fought out in the various debates about the PGR and its possible more distributed alternatives. Is this a fight about whether Philosophy should be preserving its pyramids of expertise, or be moving to more distributed model of credibiility sanctioning?
The following letter was adopted by the Northwestern University Philosophy Graduate Students by way of a vote:
As many in the philosophical community already know, sexual misconduct is a prevalent problem in the discipline. Our department is currently bearing the weight of its own controversy regarding sexual misconduct, and we fear that particular developments in the situation at our institution could have far-reaching consequences for victims elsewhere and going forward. After being accused by two different students of sexual assault, and being found responsible for sexual harassment by the university’s Sexual Harassment Prevention Office in each case, a member of our faculty responded by suing (among others) the university, one of his colleagues, and, most troubling to us, a graduate student.
While some of the legal matters await final resolution, litigation itself raises new practical and ethical considerations. Anyone named as a defendant in a legal complaint will naturally be advised by her* attorney not to discuss the matter with others. The silencing effects for a student who is sued by a professor for alleging sexual misconduct within her university's own reporting procedures must be distressing: she will likely be isolated against her will from educational, professional, and personal support networks by someone who has proven willing to sue not only her, but also those who would support her.
Many instances of sexual misconduct go unreported, in large part because the risks of reporting are many and serious while the potential gains are very slim. The risks of further loss of community, of damaging actual and potential professional relationships, of not being believed, or of being reduced to how one has been treated, rather than being perceived as an intelligent, talented, and valuable individual and member of a community, already deter victims from reporting. Add to these risks the possibility of being named in a lawsuit (and the consequent potential for financial ruin if not indemnified) as well as having personal information and details of a traumatic experience made public, and the hazards are substantially multiplied.**
The pursuit of this legal strategy and its silencing effects should be troubling to the philosophical community. Suing a graduate student for filing an internal, and otherwise confidential, sexual misconduct complaint is intolerable. If the legal strategy implemented by this faculty member is treated as acceptable, it is not only injustice to our fellow graduate student that is at stake--though this is a substantial concern in itself. The implications for victims going forward, within the profession and otherwise, are staggering. Treating such an approach as acceptable effectively amounts to accepting those implications, as well as silence for ourselves. It should be noted that even if a faculty member feels that their due process rights have been infringed upon, and even if no university grievance process is available, there are other courses of action available under, for example, Title VII and Title IX. Consequently, we feel we must vigorously repudiate this legal tactic and provide vocal support to those whose voice would be taken from them.
One necessary step to adequately supporting victims is opening up communication between administrators, faculty, and graduate students, both within departments and across them. We hope that the discipline’s internal conversation regarding sexual misconduct will continue, that it is honest yet sensitive to issues of vulnerability and power dynamics, and that we do not avoid confronting discrimination and exclusion because we are too concerned with privacy to do anything at all. When we act as if privacy concerns cannot be appropriately balanced with substantive communication, we only exacerbate the stigma that victims already feel. The fact that philosophy departments have become a central battleground for rights to non-discrimination in academic settings is a result of a collective failure on the part of our discipline, and as such will require collective action to rectify it. We hope this letter will serve as a small step towards that end.
We admire our fellow graduate student for her strength and bravery and are proud to share an intellectual home with a colleague who is both uncommonly brilliant and courageous. We stand with her, and in support of victims everywhere.
*While we are using the feminine pronoun, this is applicable to persons of any gender.
**Here, we do not mean to claim that personal information need accurately be made public. Unfortunately, whoever initiates a legal complaint has the advantage of being able to make public a narrative of events that indeed need not be accurate, or even approximately accurate, unless it is to prevail in court. When filing a motion to dismiss, a defendant does not have the opportunity to dispute matters of fact. This only underscores our concern about the impact this new precedent may have on victims.
I am currently attending this exciting conference on Climate Modeling at the Rotman Institute at Western University. I'll try to get a few posts up over the next few days about some of the highlights.
Last night was related event: a public panel meeting on Climate Change: what should we do? One of the most interesting claims made, to my mind, was by Gary Brown. He argued for the city as a good agent for social change. His basic claim was that Cities are the kinds of political entities in which positive political change is within our grasp (think of London, ON and San Francisco banning plastic water bottles, or New York City almost banning large sugarry drinks) and that once Cities speak in this sort of way, they can change the political dialog of the whole country or beyond.
On Monday, I wrote a brief note here on Jose Saramago's Blindness, commenting on its very distinctive tragicomic style. Earlier in the day, my class had discussed--among others--parts XI and XII of the novel, two sections in which the violence and depravity in the abandoned mental hospital reaches new depths. Rape and a stabbing death are its most prominent features. Our discussion went well; I had asked students to bring in examples of passages they found satirical, and we talked about how these served to make Saramago's broader ethical and political commentary more distinctive.
Later that evening I received an email from a student, who noted that the graphic nature of the reading might have been traumatic to those in my class who might have been affected by similar trauma. She asked me to provide a 'trigger warning' for the readings in future.
I wrote back to the student, apologizing for any distress caused her, and asked her to come in to meet me during my office hours. She has not written back to me yet, but I expect we will meet soon enough.
Meanwhile, this morning, in class, I began by talking to my students about the email I had received--without naming the author, of course. I acknowledged that the reading might have been experienced quite differently by the many readers in my class, each bringing to it their unique personal backgrounds and experiences; I went on to note that in the first class meeting of the semester, I had pointed out that the subject material of the class--a concentration on post-apocalyptic literature--was likely to involve many difficult emotional and intellectual encounters and that our reading of Nevil Shute's On The Beach had already exposed us to some very painful and melancholic ruminations on death and dying. I noted that the readings which remained in the semester would often take us down similar paths (I made especial note of Cormac McCarthy's The Road at this point.) I then wrapped up by reminding my students that they would often encounter reading material in college which would be distressful in many different dimensions, but again, this did not mean that no sensitivity could be shown to those who might find them traumatic.
We then returned to our final discussion of Blindness.
As I was taken unaware by my student's email, I do not know if my responses are adequate or appropriate. All and any comments are welcome.
Jose Saramago's Blindnessis a very funny and a very sad book. It is a very sad book because it is about a cataclysmic event--an outbreak of blindness in an unspecified place and time--and the breakdown of social and moral order that follows; it is very funny because this apocalypse of sorts provides an opportunity for the novel's author--an omnipresent narrator--to deliver an ironic, caustic, hilariously satirical black commentary on the people--unnamed ones, all of them--and the culture affected by this mysterious outbreak.
This co-existence of the tragic and the comic is what makes Blindness into a wildly entertaining and thought-provoking read.
Of course, any novel about catastrophic, apocalyptic blindness, written by a member of a species whose overpowering sensory modality is sight, which so casually dabbles in homilies like 'seeing is believing', whose metaphors for ignorance speak of darkness and for knowledge as illumination, and one of whose central philosophical allegories is that of the Prisoners in the Cave, was bound to be philosophically provocative. We, the readers, wonder about the symbolic and allegoric value of the novel's characters being 'blinded by the light', the significance of their blindness leading to a world of overpowering milky white as opposed to coal-black, the relationship between moral, physical and spiritual blindness, about what may be 'seen' by those now blind, and what those who are not blind can no longer 'see', about what else, in a world no longer visible, becomes palpable and sensed and otherwise experienced. We wonder too, as readers, about our own blindness: what we might be blind to in the book and in our daily lives. (My first class meeting on Blindness was almost entirely taken up with a discussion of these issues and how the vehicle of blindness played into the author's larger political, ethical, and artistic vision; oops, can't stop dealing in these metaphors.)
In Blindness, there is ample description of the breakdown of social order that results from the epidemic of blindness, ample opportunity to shake one's head at the venality of man that becomes visible in desperate times--there is violence, filth, murder, sexual degradation. What makes these treatments of the aftermath of disaster distinctive is that Saramago's treatment is both kind and harsh: we sense an observer of the human condition whose heart breaks for the misery he can see around him, who feels the most exalted of human emotions, love, for those who suffer, and who yet, in moments of exasperation, cannot resist a cackle or two at the stupidity, crassness, and greed of the human race. But if the author is a cynic, one bursting to the seams with irony and witticism, then he didn't start out that way. This world and its peoples made him so. The disaster that has befallen them is not a punishment; it is not a judgment; it is merely an inexplicable event, like the ones this world specializes in, one that has produced this opportunity to carefully study, in some painful and revealing detail, the imperfect reactions of a kind of creature who is always, at the best of times, fumbling in the dark.
The academic literature on republicanism, in my experience, largely assumes one major distinction between kinds of republicanism. As I did not do conduct a major literature review just recently on the issue, I may have missed something, but it seems safe to say that the distinction I am getting onto is well established. That is the distinction between Roman and Athenian republicanism, with the two big names in the field, Philip Pettit and Hannah Arendt lined up on either side.
There are other distinctions between Pettit and Arendt, in the ways they approach political thouht but I will leave those aside here. In terms of general political thought, Pettit has a more individualised and reductive approach to rights, while Arendt refers to a lived experience of the political side of humanity. Pettit's 'Romanism' is indeed a claim to avoid the supposed denial of individuality and the right to be free from the political sphere, apparently inherent in 'Athenianism'. Arendt's 'Athenianism' is a claim to deal with the role that politics has in the life of humanity, which can never just be 'social', so lacking the competition for power in a public space. There are ways we might try to equate those with differences in political position with regard to issues other than pure political structures, but I do not believes that those really work out and that is again something I leave aside.
Pettit's approach also tends to lay claim to at least part of the Florentine republican tradition, particularly with regard to Machiavelli, and then to an Atlantic tradition extending through Dutch, English, and American Revolutions along with the associated literature. In this understanding, Arendt is left with an Athenian republicanism, which tends to resurface in moments of obviously destructive intensification of a violent political will in the Terror aspect of the French Revolution, and later attempts at radical politicisation of all human society. I don't think Pettit accuses Arendt of being a Jacobin fanatic, but he uses oppositions which leave her under suspicion of some degree of complicity with such a mentality.
Arendt was herself happy to suggest a deep split between Athenian and Roman republicanism, in which the Athenians had some insight into the heart of political humanity, while the Romans retreated in legal formalism, in which society has a less political existence. However, on the whole her thought does not seem to be against individual rights and a legal framework. There is some considerable degree of variety in the ways of taking Arendt politically, but I do not think anyone claims she advocated Revolutionary Terror or was unimpressed by the duration of the American constitutional experiment.
Looking at examples of liberal writing on ancient republics, Benjamin Constant put forward Athens as an example of a relative degree of individual liberty and commercial spirit in antiquity, and therefore the most acceptable example of liberty of the ancients for an advocate of th liberty of the moderns. That is the intense political life and intrusive demands for 'virtue' in antique republics had some mitigation in Athens, because of its more 'modern' aspects of individuality and a contractual market society. Sparta could be said to be more Roman than Athens, with its emphasis on the absoluteness of laws and the separation of powers between public bodies, rather than the exercise of a unified popular political will, but does not fit with what Pettit wants from a model republic.
Montesquieu is maybe closer to Pettit's assumptions than Constant was, as he was clearly suspicious of the demands of ancient republics on individuals, which he compares with those of a religious community. The problem there is that Montesquieu does not exactly go for a Roman model, as he sees Rome as moving from oppressively virtuous early republic to corrupted republic, and expresses preference for the commercial trading republic of the Carthaginians. Even more significantly, Montesquieu was an enthusiast for Gothic liberty, as in the liberty of German tribes living in the forests of northern Europe during the peak of the Roman Empire. In Montesquieu's time those tribes were understood as simple republics in which any prince was a war leader and judge only, elected by the people. There is an idealisation of the German forest tribes going back to Tacitus' use of them as reminders of early Roman liberty and virtue in the time of the corrupting emperor system.
So Montesquieu's understanding of liberty free from the seminarian constraints of antique republics is a monarchy, particularly the French monarchy stretching back to the Germanic Frank Clovis, which incorporates a Gothic liberty from the ancient teutonic forests. That form of primordial republican liberty is incorporated into the honour and cultivated individualism, of modern monarchy with the assistance of revived Roman law. At this point, we may be back with Pettit's Roman republicanism, but with the encumbrance of Germanic republicanism and hereditary or at least aristocratic dominated offices that defend law and liberty. Montesquieu's account is notoriously difficult to sort out, but has distinct resemblance with Vico's understanding of 'human monarchy', and is along with Vico part of a way of fusing monarchism and republicanism, or fusing violent primitive liberty with laws and moderating institutions.
Germanic and Carthaginian republicanism deserve a place in thought about types of republicanism, at last where any kind of historical (or genealogical) approach to political concepts is in play. The example of Sparta rally ought to be considered in relation to Rome as many have done so since Polybius. There are other historically significant examples, but that will have to wait for another time, but Sparta, Carthage, and Germanic examples of republicanism are all significant, as is the general variety of ways in which modern thinkers about political liberty have taken and combined these ancient examples.
In a forthcoming paper, John Schellenberg forwards the following argument: anatomically humans have been around 200,000 years. That's a very short span of time for any species, and only in the past few thousand years ago have we been reflecting on the world around us. If we our species survives even as long as Homo erectus did, we've only completed a very small part of a potentially long future of thinking about religion, metaphysics and other matters.
At present, philosophy of religion in the analytic tradition is quite narrowly focused:
"in the west – and I expect I am writing mainly for western readers – philosophy of religion has been largely preoccupied with one religious idea, that of theism, and it looks to be moving into a narrower and deeper version of this preoccupation, one focused on specifically Christian ideas, rather than broadening out and coming to grips with its full task."(p. 3).
Theism, in a generic, omni-property sort of way, is one position that philosophers of religion commonly defend. The other is scientific naturalism. These seem to be the only games in town:
"most naturalists too assume that theistic God-centered religion must succeed if any does. Naturalism or theism. These seem to be the only options that many see. The harshest critics of religion, including philosophers such as Daniel Dennett, seem to think their job is done when they have, to their own satisfaction, criticized personalistic, agential conceptions of a divine reality." (pp. 3-4).
At the end of 2013, I conducted a qualitative survey (summary here, but I am writing up the paper presently) among philosophers of religion. Next to a series of open questions, there was a question for open feedback. I was quite surprised to see so many philosophers of religion openly lament the lack of subject diversity in their discipline. Just a few choice examples written by anonymous respondents:
Many readers of this blog will be aware of the remarkable institution known as the Collège International de Philosophie, based in Paris and supported by the French government since 1983. During its more than 30-year existence, the Collège has offered an extraordinary range of very high-quality free and public programs in France and around the world. It is, as such, one of the world's foremost institutions dedicated to public philosophy.
Sadly, the Collège now stands days away from being forced to close because the funds to support its operations have not been paid. As is detailed here, the Collège has been the subject of a number of discussions concerning its maintenance since 2012, which led to its association with the new Université Paris Lumières in 2013. This administrative association was supposed to provide a sustainable home for the Collège; but the 240,000 Euros that form the Collège's annual operating budget have been withheld by the ministry responsible for the UPL and its associated elements—leaving the institution days away from bankruptcy.
There is a petition circulating where people can offer support for the Collège—below the fold you can find, with his permission, Gabriel Rockhill's translation of the original French text (which also details the situation that the Collège is facing, and its accomplishments and history, a bit further than my remarks above).
"No Rankings, Not Now, Not Ever" is the rallying cry for the October Statement, and over a hundred philosophers have signed. They think it would be better not to have rankings of philosophy departments. For all I say here, they might be right. The trouble is that there's no way to sustain an absence of rankings when the internet exists, so "no rankings" is not actually a live option.
Rankings are very easy to produce and distribute. With a few philosophers and a bottle of tequila, you can make up some idiosyncratic departmental rankings in an evening. With the internet, you can make it all instantly available to everyone. The funny thing is, I'd actually be more interested in your idiosyncratic tequila-driven rankings than the opinions of internet journalists with only a passing interest in philosophy, posting rankings promoted by the prominence of their media organizations. Even if I disagree with you, your rankings were made by philosophers who read lots of stuff while earning PhDs, and whose opinions I'm interested in engaging with. But in a battle for the attention of undergraduates from universities with few research-active philosophers (and worse, Deans!) the media and its promotional machinery can win.
Argumentation gets a bad press. It’s often portrayed as futile: people are so ridden with cognitive biases—less technically, they are pigheaded—that they barely ever change their mind, even in the face of strong arguments. In her last post, Helen points to some successes of argumentation in laboratory experiments with logical tasks, but she doubts whether these successes would extend to other domains such as politics or morality.
I think this view of argumentation is unduly pessimistic: argumentation works much better than people generally give it credit for. Moreover, even when argumentation fails to meet some standards, the problem might lay more with the standards than with argumentation. Here are some arguments in support of a view that is both more realistic in its aspirations and more optimistic in its depiction of argumentation—we’ll see if these arguments can change Helen’s mind about the power of arguments.
Continuing from my last post on 'Style of Living versus Juridification in Foucault', there seems to be me to be something to be gained by thinking about Kierkegaard's ethics here, even if Kierkegaard's Christianity and Foucault's aesthetic self seem rather distinct. The emphasis in Foucault on style or aesthetics of life or existence seems to be be already the object of criticism, in Kierkegaard's account of the aesthetic (as a mode of life rather than with regard to the appreciation of art and beauty). However, Foucault does refer on occasion to the self as acting on itself in Kierkegaard. So Kierkegaard has a particular importance in suggesting that the self is not just an observing consciousness.
Kierkegaard's attitude to the self , and modes of living, is in some degree structured by an understanding of the relation between individuality and the state as a political entity. It is an understanding that draws on Hegel, but which tries to resist what Kierkegaard takes to be an absorption of the self into history and communal morality in Hegel's philosophy. That continuation of aspects of Hegel includes a distinction between antique and modern communities, which itself draws on an enormous amount of earlier thought going back to the Renaissance regarding the distinction between antiquity and the present.