The 2011 Leiter rankings appeared on Tuesday. They reflect how a certain broad community of philosophers think about the discipline, and about where it is going. As such, it is instructive, absorbing, and fun to root around its wealth of detail.
First, a (necessarily) broad-brush observation about the discipline itself. There is much talk, on this blog and everywhere else, about the deeply felt top-level divide that expresses itself, for example, in the emergence of SPEP. How to capture it?
One superficial marker—the SPEP side is somewhat more pluralistic linguistically. It recognizes French and German, while the “Other” is English-only. (Even at leading European centres of Otherness, English is the default language of publication and even of oral communication.) SPEP is thus called “continental,” a term that I personally find unhelpful, though I will not try to substitute another.
In a spirit of friendly self-derision, then, I’ll call it philosophy as extension of science or PES.
Leiter’s Philosophical Gourmet Report is clearly and, if I may say so, self-avowedly a view from the PES side. Viewed as such, it is an impressively accurate sounding. Of course, it is not always viewed as such. Some take it to be an exclusionary PES foray to establish its own hegemony. I won’t comment on this, except to observe that since resentment is the food of hegemony, the anger shown by some on the SPEP side is a flight from power.
This said, permit me a murmur of disquiet from the PES side. The Leiter report is often viewed by those on this side as comprehensive in some way. But it is not. Most notably, it is US-parochial at a moment when the historic half-century of US intellectual and cultural ascendancy is ending. Two examples.
- The Institut Jean Nicod in Paris is one of the most important centres for philosophy of mind world wide, reflecting the powerful resurgence of cognitive science in Europe. But this is invisible to PGR readers. Would-be graduate students ought to include Nicod among their options—but how many in the Anglophone world know this? (Remember: you can speak English there. I don't know about the thesis though, and the oral examination.) And: given the absence of PGR gold dust in Paris, how powerful would a Paris PhD be in the job market? More generally, the European big push in PES philosophy necessarily goes unnoticed.
- Only ten non-US departments find themselves in the Anglophone top 50, and only three in the top twenty. I cannot but feel this to be the result of parochialism. King’s College, London and University College, London both sit at 34 (ie, each is beaten out by 33), but I find it hard to see how they are inferior to (say) Indiana or Colorado (one rung higher at 29) or, for that matter, Arizona (15) or Notre Dame (21). (On the other hand, while Oxford (2) clearly deserves to be in the top flight for quality, importance, and breadth of research, many wonder how well students do there if they are not among the darlings.)
I may write about the specialty rankings and some other issues a bit later, but for now I’ll conclude with this. The top two, the top five and the top twenty are the significant groupings in these rankings. The top two (NYU and Oxford) have median ratings of 5 (out of five); the next three (Rutgers, Princeton, and Michigan) have medians of 4.5; and the next fifteen have medians of 4. As far as mean ratings are concerned, nine get 4.0 or better; 3.7 gets you into the top twenty.
UPDATE. Catarina Dutilh Novaes remarks: "Besides Jean Nicod, the ILLC in Amsterdam is one of the most exciting places to study and do logic these days, and . . . The Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy is another rising star". Readers will do us all a great service by providing information about other dynamic centres of PES outside the five anglophone countries surveyed in PGR.