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16 December 2011


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Your "quick" survey of the CVs isn't very accurate, and I invite you to do a more careful one. And you might try this same exercise for any of the other specialties; most evaluators are asked to evaluate more than one area, and inevitably that means they evaluate areas in which they don't necessarily work primarily. The one point I do agree with you on is that none of these people are interested in Irigaray, Kristeva, Badiou et al. (some are interested in Deleuze). But I think anyone interested mainly in those figures should probably not be going to a philosophy department anyway for a PhD.

John Protevi

A systematic review of what's web-available turned up 7 articles by 5 evaluators on French figures. So "an article here and there" seems an apt way to describe the research of 22 of the 24 evaluators.

On your other point, I was surprised to hear that in other parts of the PGR people evaluate areas outside their primary research.

Junior Philosopher

cf. the political philosophy rankings. It's interesting to note how many of the evaluators work primarily in ethics or philosophy of law with secondary interests in political philosophy. Even more interesting is the near total absence of political philosophers who work outside and are critical of the bourgeois liberal-democratic tradition (e.g., Marxists).

Junior Philosopher

Just a brief follow-up on this:

Where exactly should an undergraduate with an interest in Marxism (or radical political philosophy more generally) attend graduate school? I don't expect the PGR to be especially helpful on this score, given that the evaluators in political philosophy (apparently) have such a dismissive attitude toward Balibar, one of the most important Marxist theorists of the second half of the 20th century. Do they also dismiss Althusser? What about Gramsci? Lukacs? Castordiadis? Leclau and Mouffe? Hardt and Negri?


Somewhat unrelated, but since I wasted twenty minutes on it I'm going to point it out,but I think we should note that very few of the specialties contain exclusively male evaluators, although those that do tend to have fewer evaluators anyway(Philosophy of Art and Chinese Philosophy, for example). Of course, it would be nice if there were more female evaluators in each discipline--there were usually only one or two, by my unsystematic count--but this seems like a good start. Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised.

Eric Schliesser

Brian, why should young folk interested in "Irigaray, Kristeva, Badiou et al" not be "going to a philosophy department anyway for a PhD?"

notes from the left

Re: comment #4. Villanova's philosophy department is growing in precisely this area.

Junior Philosopher

Yes. In fact, I think Villanova is a GREAT program for political philosophy in general. But you wouldn't know that to look at the PGR, and that's exactly my point.


There's really no decent philosophy graduate programs where anyone takes those figures seriously, so one couldn't both get a proper philosophical education and concentrate on these 'thinkers.'


John, you can't really believe that unless one does "primary research" on 20th-century Continental philosophy that one can't, therefore have a reasonably informed opinion about where to work on 20th-century Continental philosophy. In any case, that's a side issue--the evaluators here have rather obviously unimpeachable credentials as scholars, senior and junior, in the Continental traditions in philosophy. If someone really doesn't care what Pierre Keller, Michael Rosen, Beatrice Han-Pile think, then Godspeed to them!

John Protevi

Brian, nothing in my post reflects in any way on the obvious excellence of the evaluators. I was analyzing your choices as to the composition of the board.

D. Des Chene

It seems to me that Brian would be better off coming clean. The PGR should simply include a disclaimer to the effect that he has an inveterate dislike of French thought and that he intends to discourage people from taking it seriously.

Samir Haddad

There are faculty at Northwestern, the New School, and Stonybrook that take Kristeva and Irigaray seriously, and since these are listed in Group 2 of the pgr's 20th C Continental ranking (and Northwestern at 31 of the overall ranking), I take it these are "decent philosophy graduate programs." Not to mention several depts in Group 3. But regardless, John's original point was about the evaluators, not the evaluated.


Where should a person interested in radical political philosophy go to for graduate studies? Are Stony Brook and the New School not 'decent programs'? I have always considered myself a philosopher, and though I am fully aware of Anglo-american analytic philosophy and its influence, I do not consider myself a 'literary theorists'. Are comparative literature and other interdisciplinary programs really the best option to study radical philosophy? As someone soon applying to graduate school I appreciate your guidance.

Mark Lance

Obviously one can have an "informed opinion" about where to work on an area without being expert in that area. I have an informed opinion about where to work on any area of philosophy whatsoever. But I was under the impression that the goal of the PGR is to give expert opinion. (You have certainly described it that way many times.) If not, then why bother with multiple area groups at all? Everyone on the general list is more than capable of giving an "informed opinion" on any area. In fact, John has simply pointed out that expertise in French philosophy is significantly under-represented on the continental list. (I am confident that the philosophers making up the list would agree.) This quite clearly had the predictable effect of pushing the evaluation more toward departments that focus on German history. (My own department is a clear beneficiary of this.) One could respond in many ways to this - perhaps add a new category for French Continental philosophy next time, perhaps add some evaluators who work primarily in French philosophy to the current list, perhaps adopt Dennis's truth-in-advertising approach. (It is worth noting that this last suggestion exactly parallels the demand that the "pluralist's guide" be called the "spep guide". There is nothing wrong with evaluating continental philosophy from the point of view of someone who thinks the recent French tradition is worthless, but one should be up front about that if it is in fact the approach.) But saying that in this one case, unlike all the other area evaluations, expertise doesn't matter does not strike me as a serious response to the concern.

Mark Lance

RV: As someone committed to radical politics and philosophy - though not working professionally primarily in political philosophy - I would be happy to talk with you about what the best approach is here. I'd rather do that by email because (a) I'd need to know a fair bit about your particular interests, and (b) I don't really want to go into detailed evaluation of strengths and weaknesses of particular departments on a public blog. So email me if you would find that useful.

Samir Haddad

Just to add to to Mark's point, the PGR is explicit in stating that what is being evaluated is faculty quality and reputation, or the philosophical distinction of the faculty. This is different from evaluating where one ought to go to work on an area, which the Report also acknowledges depends on things like quality of the teaching, commitment to educating young philosophers, placement, etc., and aren't easily measured in a reputational survey. This makes John's initial emphasis on the need for experts working in the area to do the evaluation all the more reasonable. But it sounds like Brian is saying that practically this is very difficult to achieve, given the small numbers of evaluators and the large number of specializations in the discipline.

Brian Leiter

Dennis: your proposed disclaimer wouldn't be accurate, either to my views or to the PGR and the evaluators.

Samir: you're right about Northwestern, my oversight.

Mark et al: one can have an expert opinion without being a full-time specialist in an area. That was the only point.


one can have an expert opinion without being a full-time specialist in an area. That was the only point.

I might go a step beyond this and say that I think it's a good thing to have some evaluators who, while doing work in an area they evaluate, _mostly_ or at least _more regularly_ work in a near-by and related field. To take an example that Junior Philosopher mentioned in 3 above, I think it's useful to have people like John Gardner, who mostly works on jurisprudence but does also work on political philosophy, as an evaluator in political philosophy, because it's useful to have a view of the field not just from "core" members, but also from people mostly working in closely related areas. (Something similar applies for ethics and political philosophy, too, as well as many other areas.) This helps keep the rankings from being parochial, and makes them more useful. This is compatible with thinking certain views are under or overrepresented, of course, though some of that is surely due to who was willing and able to take part in the survey. But, it does seem to me that limiting the specialty rankings to _only_ people who mostly or nearly only worked in one area would make them less useful and not more. (Hardly any, if any, of the rankings are so limited, for what it's worth.)

Margaret Atherton

The group of evaluators under discussion had three women out of twenty-four evaluators. I've been keeping a sort of rough eye out for gender breakdowns in the evaluators and this is about par for the course. I would not describe my own reaction as "pleasantly surprised" however. While I think it is quite appropriate for the gendered conference campaign to target only instances that lack women entirely, I think in other areas it is not inappropriate to hope for better.

Jeff Bell

From Brian Leiter (comment #1): "The one point I do agree with you on is that none of these people [i.e., the evaluators] are interested in Irigaray, Kristeva, Badiou et al. (some are interested in Deleuze). But I think anyone interested mainly in those figures should probably not be going to a philosophy department anyway for a PhD."

It seems to me that the logic here is as follows:

1. In Brian Leiter's opinion, X is not a philosopher/philosophy worth studying
2. It naturally follows then that those chosen by him to evaluate CP programs will not do much work, if any, on X
3. Unsurprisingly, CP programs where one can study X do not rate highly

The consequence of this is that where X is contemporary French philosophy, the PGR does not provide as helpful guidance as it could to prospective graduate students who may believe contemporary French thought is indeed worth studying.


Reply to Jeff: almost, but not quite. On #1 (this is minor), my opinion on this is widely shared, as you know. On #2, I nominated only some of the evaluators, others were nominated by people like Rosen, Poellner, Keller et al. on the Advisory Board. I actually don't know whether they share my views with regard to Badiou et al., though I'd guess they do, but I'm not sure. I don't even know if the evaluators I nominated share my views on this score, though some probably do (agian, not surprising, given that it is a widely shared view). As to #3, you will note that some PhD programs that do take Badiou et al. quite seriously are rated, showing, of course, that not all the evaluators share my view. But places like, say, New School don't rate very highly overall because they're idioscynratic and narrow, and so just aren't very good philosophy departments. For the same reason, though involving a different kind of idioscynracy, places like Carnegie-Mellon don't rate highly either, despite being well-rated in certain specialties.

H.E.K. Jr

Reply to Brian: I wonder if Carnap, Frege, Godel, Hempel, Hilbert, Peirce, Ramsey, and Tarski would regard the Carnegie Mellon philosophers as idiosyncratic. I doubt it ... hmm, but I wonder what that group of philosophers would think of the PGR. Times sure have changed. Good show, PGR!


I assume Carnap and Hempel, who were both part of non-idioscynratic philosophy departments (and who had wide-ranging interests) would recognize that a program that emphasizes decision theory, formal epistemology, and applied ethics is rather idioscynratic qua philosophy department, even if the individual specialists are accomplished at what they do, as they are.

H.E.K. Jr

@ Brian: I'm trying to understand your view. Do you think, for example, that philosophers like Carnap and Hempel would identify more with the work of Keith DeRose than they would with the work of Clark Glymour?


Sorry, I should have qualified my statement better. I was "pleasantly surprised" because I expected there to be a far greater number of specialties in which there were no female evaluators. I did not mean to suggest, and I don't think I did,that there was anything like a healthy or desirable gender breakdown. So I think we both hope for better, but I was just happy that things weren't worse and I'm sorry if it seemed like I meant otherwise.


But is it useful to have such evaluators with those who specialize or have greater expertise in a certain field? I think the problem isn't that some evaluators aren't experts in one particular area, but that experts in one particular area are not represented (did that make sense? it's been a long day).

H.E.K. Jr

@ Brian: I'd really like to get your response to the question that I posted at 17:07. I do think that the question was reasonable given your earlier remarks on the thread. I have this nagging suspicion that you are trying to claim, on behalf of your PGR vision of philosophy, the clarity and precision of Carnap as well as the broader cultural relevance of Nietzsche. Carnegie Mellon is at least as committed to clarity and precision as any other philosophy department in North America, and I suspect that many regard the New School as being among the most seriously committed to philosophy's broader cultural relevance.


Many things have happened in philosophy since Carnap. The question isn't who is closer to Carnap, DeRose or Glymour, the question is whether a philosophy department with no history of philosophy, no moral or politcial philosophy (except applied), little or no philosophy of mind etc. is idiosyncratic or not. Since I'm fairly confident you're not the ghost of Professor Kyburg, this concludes our on-line encounter. Feel free to e-mail me if you'd really like to discuss this further.

N.J. Jun

On a related note, I HIGHLY recommend this:

I was honestly (and pleasantly) surprised by the extent to which I overestimated my disagreements with Professor Leiter on this question. In fact, as far as I can tell our positions are virtually identical regarding the history vs. sociology issue.

Noelle McAfee

A month ago I raised this very same issue -- of the lopsided expertise of the 20th century continental evaluators -- on my blog, gonepublic:

Brian Leiter entered the fray and by the end seemed to concede the need to put a disclaimer on his rankings that they do not cover recent 20th century continental thought.

As someone who specializes in Kristeva (along with Habermas, democratic theory, and psychoanalysis) I find it rather amusing that Leiter doesn't think Kristeva belongs in a philosophy department. If he doesn't like it (or can't understand it?), it doesn't count as philosophy. What hubris! Most reflective and intelligent people would seriously pause before announcing such views.

Also, I'm quite sure that Nietzsche's peers didn't think of him as a philosopher. So that a scholar or Nietzsche would make such a claim about others is really astonishing.

N.J. Jun

Professor McAfee,

Interestingly, Professor Leiter appears far more accommodating to recent continental thought in the interview I mention above than he does in some of his comments here. The few critical remarks he does make (e.g., about Derrida) are mostly couched in other, more substantive claims (e.g., that it is silly to lump Marx and Derrida into a monolithic "continental" camp). In general, he takes the eminently reasonable position that there are many philosophical traditions which are not reducible to the false "analytic vs. continental" dichotomy. Surely Derrida, Kristeva, and whatever other thinkers Professor Leiter happens to dislike or doesn't think of as especially good philosophers are still philosophers, i.e., members of philosophical traditions. I can't see why he wouldn't agree with this, based on what he says in the interview.


I'm curious how far we should think of the "20th century Continental Philosophy" ranking as similar to the "history of analytic philosophy" ranking. I don't know what those doing the ranking in the history of analytic group thought, but if it were me, I'd probably not consider anyone after Quine as part of the "History of analytic philosophy". (Maybe we could include a few others- early Davidson, perhaps, and Sellars, insofar as he's a contemporary of Quine, but probably not Chisholm, though others can disagree.) If someone writes on later figures- Putnam, Rorty, Cavell, Lewis, Kripke, etc., I'd consider that under the relevant substantive category- language, mind, etc. Even though "20th Century Continental Philosophy" seems to included work done right up until 2000, I wonder if it's not better to think of work done after a certain point as better evaluated in the relevant substantive category. (I'm not nearly well versed in "continental" philosophy, especially stuff written after, say, the early 80's, that I know where to draw this line. The exception for me might be Habermas and people working in that area, but especially w/ his later work and people working in that line I'm more likely to evaluate it under political philosophy, philosophy of the social science, etc.)

N.J. Jun


I take the term "20th century Continental philosophy" to be a catch-all for anyone working outside the traditions of Anglophone philosophy (broadly construed), regardless of whether s/he does formal philosophy or the history of philosophy. So, for example, a historian of phenomenology, a Lacanian psychoanalyst, a Foucauldian philosopher of science, a Deleuzian systems theorist, and a Gadamerian hermenaut would all be classified as working within "20th century Continental philosophy."

Notice that philosophers working in the Anglophone mainstream do not get lumped together in this way. An epistemologist is just an epistemologist -- not a practictioner of "20th century analytic philosophy." But this just a consequence of one tradition (or family of traditions) becoming normative in the profession, I guess.

N.J. Jun

Oh, and by the way, "hi"!!! (sorry, that was rude of me) Hope all is well with you in Philly!


Thanks Nathan- I suspect you're largely right as a matter of professional sociology, though I tend to think it's unfortunate. (There are degrees, of course- one can, say, do philosophy of mind by doing work on Wittgenstein or Sartre, or one can do philosophy of mind that involves them, but isn't really about them, and one can do work on either's philosophy of mind w/o exactly doing philosophy of mind, etc.) But I'd think it would be healthier all around to see contemporary philosophy as working on projects and problems, whatever the tradition. (That's how I engage w/ Habermas, for example, or Foucault when I taught him in a criminal law theory seminar, and it seems like there's a good tradition of this in philosophy of mind, at least.) (I hope you're well too, by the way.)

N.J. Jun

I agree completely. It's not as much of an issue in certain subdisciplines -- for example, political philosophy -- but I know many continentalists who describe themselves as working in M&E, philosophy of science, philosophy of mind, etc., not "20th century [or even 'recent'] continental philosophy." This fact notwitstanding, they generally can't (or won't) apply for jobs listed in these areas, or publish their work in journals like JPhil, Nous, Phil Review, etc. It is indeed unfortunate.

A problem-based approach is preferable for several reasons--e.g., it allows one to explore intersections among various traditions. In my work on anarchism I talk about historical philosopers, recent Anglophone figures (e.g., Rawls, Nozick, Green, Klosko, Simmons, Wolff), and recent continentl figure (e.g., Deleuze, Foucault, Ranciere, Agamben, Lyotard).

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