Last week I received a widely distributed announcement on a conference celebrating "The 'Stanford School' of Philosophy of Science." The 'core' members of this school are taken to be: Nancy Cartwright (Durham), John Dupré (Exeter), Peter Galison (Harvard), Peter Godfrey-Smith (CUNY), Patrick Suppes (Stanford). The parenthesis are the current affiliation of the 'core' members; this immediately suggests that if there is a 'school' at all we are either dealing with a historical phenomenon or very distributed one. Scanning the list of the 'next generation' confirms that Stanford is not the current base of the purported school.
First, I adore much of the work done by many in the 'core,' but the idea that this group is a 'school' is deeply flawed. For, Suppes is far better understood (as he does himself) as belonging to the first generation (including Kyburg, Pap, Isaac Levi) intellectual off-spring of Ernest Nagel, who successfully created American analytical philosophy by combining the Scientific wing of Pragmatism with the new approaches emanating from Vienna, especially, and Cambridge (recall and here). In his autobiography, Suppes describes how assimilated from Nagel the significance of history of science.
Posted by Eric Schliesser on 12 September 2013 at 04:35 in Analytic - Continental divide (and its overcoming), Dennis Des Chene (aka "Scaliger"), Eric Schliesser, Foucault, History of philosophy, History of science, Philosophy of Science, Philosophy profession news | Permalink | Comments (23) | TrackBack (0)
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Job-searches to fill permanent positions bring out the gremlins: long suppressed personal animosities; un-moored from reality-fantasies about the current significance of the department; conflicting aspirations about its future; mutually exclusive, external pressures about the required profile of the winning candidate, etc. Professional philosophers act just like humans during hiring season. Even when the gremlins remain suppressed a department can fail to spot the talent staring in its face; I have seen non-great departments pass up the realistic opportunity of hiring, say, Dave Chalmers or Alva Noë (etc.). Now, one reason why such things occur is that hiring as currently practiced in professional philosophy (and I have been affiliated with seven universities in three different countries, so I am aware of the variety of practices), tends to be largely a projection of a heteronomous soul (the department) onto a thinly covered slate (the candidate). This is why each individual hiring decision is best understood as a (unfair) lottery (and, thus, departments routinely fail to hire the best talent), even though in the aggregate there may well be some collective rationality because the list of explicit and implicit collective heuristics and biases (!) deployed track talent and effort reasonably well.
One might think that the previous paragraph is an argument for 'the inside candidate' (let's call it the 'TIC argument' or 'TIC' for short). For, the slate is then covered with a rich array of data-points. Now, anybody familiar with the long-run damage of 'nepotistic' hiring from within (name your favorite rotten European patronage system) will hesitate to endorse TIC; but, perhaps, the previous paragraph is an argument for TIC-lite: that is, at hiring one should favor ceteribus paribus the visiting adjunct/post-doc (etc.), even granting that personalities change post-tenure/civil servant status. I would endorse good-faith TIC-lite*, in fact, as introducing more sanity into our collective hiring practices, except that (a) IF the gremlins do come out in a TIC-lite situation it can poison an otherwise healthy atmosphere and (b) being a rejected TIC-lite candidate is really just about the worst possible professional experience short of economic exploitation in professional philosophy. (Of course, experiencing harassment, racism, etc. are far worse, but I wouldn't call these "professional.") Below the fold, I describe two first hand experiences to bring out two horrible features of TIC-lite (in my ongoing 'what it's like' for the young series). I name institutions, but (with a single exception) not individuals and I ask commentators to respect the privacy of all involved. (Well, I am a fair target, of course.)
As some of you may know, Niall Ferguson engaged in a bit of gay-bashing yesterday (links below), holding that Keynes wouldn’t have cared about future generations because he was gay (the point is apparently taken from Gertrude Himmelfarb: see the Delong item referred to below). Now he has apologized. In my view no one is obliged to accept an apology: should we accept Ferguson’s and move on, as they say?
Henry Blodgett at Business Insider was one of the first with the story.
Tom Kostigen at Financial Advisor also reported on Ferguson’s remarks.
Brad Delong has the Himmelfarb connection.
1. It is a form of status seeking and conspicuous consumption.
2. It provides a) a valuable social network, not to mention b) opportunities for assortative mating.
3. It is a life-style choice (see 1). Moreover, The enormous residential infrastructure keeps retention/graduation rates very high (see also 4b).
4. It a) teaches a lot of important social skills in b) a protective environment.
5. And for a minority group of students it is an escape from one's class.
Here at NewAPPS we have been following critically the story of how Julian Young's notes of Curtis Cate's book "sometimes lost contact with their sources" (see here, here, here, and here). Eva Cybulska calls our attention to Julian Young's latest non-apology.
Rather than reminding Young that he still has not done the minimally acceptable thing in this matter, we will just quote him as an example of a modern-day apology: in the apt words of my colleague, Dennis Des Chene, "deny having done anything exactly, um, wrong, while reducing your victim to a mere compiler of timetables." Young writes:
"That certain of Cate's phrases appeared in my book is entirely due to my inexperience and carelessness as a biographer. Sometimes a phrase just stuck in my head, appropriated so completely that it seemed to be my own. The main problem, however, was this. Cate was where I first began to try to grasp the facts of Nietzsche's life. Consequently, my notes on his book were written four or five years before I began to write the biography itself. Coming across a phrase in my notes I too quickly took it to be a précis of my reading of Cate whereas it now transpires that occasionally it was Cate's own phrase. Trained as I am to be on guard against unacknowledged use of other people's ideas, I was too relaxed when it came to the manner of reporting biographical facts. Without properly thinking about it, I tended to assume—wrongly—that the manner of reporting humdrum historical facts no more counts as intellectual property than the manner of reporting a bus timetable. Since Cate appeared in my bibliography I assumed it would be obvious that I had used him as a source of basic historical data. This was naïve and thoughtless."
Over at Choice & Inference, Jeff Helzner asks for raw Philosophical Gourmet Report data to be made publicly available. He notes that, “The PGR is based on an analysis of certain data sets, but there is often more than one reasonable way to analyze a data set,” and in fact it is now standard practice in the social and natural sciences to make raw data available upon request. Unless there are particular reasons for sequestering its data, it seems reasonable that the PGR should follow suit. The question of transparency of data has arisen in some other contexts recently. Andrew Gelman (to whom Helzner links) writes of the issues surrounding Mark Hauser that if the raw data had been publicly available, those issues would have been resolved quickly. A while ago there was considerable controversy regarding failures of transparency at The "Pluralist's Guide". We have noted the response of editors of major journals in HPS to the lack of transparency at the European Science Foundation journal ranking. In view of these and other recent cases, transparency with respect to data—as advocated by the “Open Data” movement—has become an urgent imperative, especially when the analysis of that data has serious practical consequences. Though in no way implicated in these unfortunate episodes, PGR, just because it has become the most relied-upon venue for the current ranking of philosophy departments, should set a good example by making its data publicly available.