Ten days ago a new site was launched, “A User’s Guide to Philosophy Without Rankings.” The response to the site has been extremely rewarding. Not only have there been thousands of visitors, people are using the Guide as I had hoped: they are visiting sites that are mentioned in the Guide to learn more about graduate programs, as well as the PGR. A comment on Reddit’s philosophy page regarding the Guide sums up an important reason for the site:
“Thank you so much. I'm going to be applying next year and this is exactly what I'm looking for after I heard all of the controversy about the PGR.”
I want to thank colleagues who have begun to send in resources to post on the site. And I want to make a request: please send more! Like the new philosophy wikis, the Guide is in part an aggregator of information. The more information, the more helpful it can be. Please do weigh in. You can email me about the Guide at email@example.com or leave a comment on the site.
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.
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.
I have long believed the conventional wisdom that women are not proportionately distributed through every subfield in philosophy. In my field of theoretical ethics, in particular, it is often said that more women in philosophy seem to be found here than are in the profession more widely.
I believe it a little less today, though it may still turn out to be true. Trent University student Cole Murdoch undertook a short summer research project for me, looking at the ratio of male to female authors in two leading journals of moral philosophy.
Although we've still data to wade through, it is interesting to me that in looking at a five-year window of publications in Ethics and Journal of Moral Philosophy, the student did not find that women-authored articles appeared in much greater numbers than our number in the profession. I tasked him with this merely to find out who and what the journals in my field publish, for self-interested reasons, but I also expected that, as we regularly hear women in philosophy disproportionately specialize in ethics, he'd find much more parity in JMP and Ethics, or at least, higher numbers of women's names than one might find in the profession. [see below for a report of the analysis]
A Portuguese colleague (who has good reasons to remain anonymous) has brought to our attention some very important and worrisome recent events/developments pertaining to research funding in Portugal and Europe, which are described below. Academics in Europe (and also outside Europe) wil do well to pay close attention to these developments.
UPDATE: Perhaps my original phrasing was ambiguous, so to be clear: I am not the author of the post below, rather it is a guest post by the Portuguese colleague in question.
This post serves as a warning, and a plea for help, to academics around Europe.
Having now reached the end of my week as a guest blogger here at NewAPPS, I must thank the NewAPPS team for the opportunity, and again, in particular, John Protevi and Eric Winsberg. Thanks as well to my co-authors, Peggy DesAutels and John Heil, for joining me as co-authors. And thanks, finally, to all who read and responded to my posts.
I know full well that I could write an entire blog solely devoted to issues relating to philosophy’s diversity and inclusiveness, so in a week of guest posts I had to pick and choose. There are a laundry list of things I could have posted about—recent petitions to the APA relating to a professional code of ethics, accessibility for disabled philosophers, and hiring practices; the goals and plans of our new task force on diversity and inclusion; issues of socioeconomic class; public perception of philosophy and its effects on the professional pipeline; contingent labor in academia. Rest assured that these issues and more are very much on the APA’s radar, despite the fact that they weren’t primary focuses of my posts this week. I hope that even if I didn’t cover everything you would have liked, you’ve found the topics and discussions this week to be of interest.
It has been my priority from my very first day as APA executive director to be more engaged with the membership and communicate the APA’s work to the public more effectively. So I encourage you, too, to be engaged with me—I’m always happy to hear constructive feedback and suggestions, and comments on this post are open for just that reason. Don’t be afraid to reach out.
I look forward to continuing these conversations with you here and elsewhere!
[Please note: My appearance on this blog does not constitute an endorsement by the APA of the blog or its content.]
To that end, last November, the board of officers decided to open a competition for $20,000 in APA grants to diversity projects in 2015. We know our members are creative, innovative problem-solvers, and we hope that this request for proposals (RFP) will generate many new ideas to improve philosophy’s diversity. In fact, we’ll be looking not only for programs that the APA can fund directly, but also programs that might be good fits for grants from foundations and government organizations, so that we can help get even more initiatives off the ground than our $20,000 will afford.
Opening this RFP meant that, unfortunately, we could not immediately renew our funding of an important diversity initiative, PIKSI, which the APA has been supporting for nearly a decade. I want to take this opportunity to explain the rationale behind that difficult decision.
By the end of 2014, PIKSI will have received nearly $200,000 in grant funding from the APA over the last nine years: the APA’s longest and largest grant ever. We are proud to have supported this valuable program that makes such an impact a critical point in the pipeline.
From the beginning, though, the grant to PIKSI was explicitly intended to be start-up funding, with the expectation that the APA would not provide ongoing, sustaining financial support. This is because the APA is not, primarily, a grantmaking organization; the association’s finances do not permit us to provide continuing funding to any program, no matter how valuable it is to the profession.
So, after careful consideration, the APA board of officers decided in November, on a unanimous vote of all board members in attendance, not to renew the APA’s funding for PIKSI at this time. Instead, the board decided to open the diversity and inclusiveness RFP. We want to support the development of new programs to address philosophy’s diversity problem and expand the breadth of projects taking on this important task. We believe the RFP will encourage program development, and we welcome applications not only from new projects, but also from PIKSI and other existing efforts. We will fund those that we believe will make the biggest impact, whether they are brand new or well established.
At the same time, the board made a commitment, again on a unanimous vote of all present, to work with PIKSI to develop alternative sources of funding and creative funding strategies. Since the board meeting at which these decisions were made, I personally and others in the APA leadership have been in contact with members of the PIKSI board and with grantmaking organizations on PIKSI’s behalf, providing advice and exploring new potential avenues, such as crowdfunding. We intend to continue working closely with PIKSI for years to come.
You might ask, why not just do both—renew PIKSI’s grant and open the new RFP? The board discussed this possibility, but was faced with the unfortunate reality that it just wasn’t in our budget. For several years the APA has spent more than it brought in, leaving us with razor-thin financial margins and very little safety net. I have made and will continue to make every reasonable effort to get the APA on stable footing, and we are now in a much better fiscal situation than we were a couple of years ago. But financial sustainability is and will continue to be a challenge. Through these difficult years, we have continued to make diversity funding a priority, but unfortunately we cannot do as much as we would ideally like given the resources available to us. If it had been possible to double the funding available for diversity projects in 2015, I have little doubt the board would have voted to do so.
All of us at the APA want to do more—more programs, more grants, more advocacy, more scholarship. Right now, we’re stretched very thin, getting all we can out of every dollar. So to do more, we need more.
And further, I encourage you to join us in supporting PIKSI’s efforts to seek new funding. Share your ideas. Approach your institution and ask them to support PIKSI. Connect PIKSI with foundation funders or major donors you’re aware of. Help brainstorm creative funding strategies. Together we can do more than the APA can do alone.
[Please note: My appearance on this blog does not constitute an endorsement by the APA of the blog or its content.]
One especially notable feature of the journal is the commitment of the editorial team to diversity. The mission statement of the journal approved by the APA board of officers affirms that it will not only recognize, but in fact represent, the many facets of philosophy as a discipline. Members of the editorial board were selected not only for their scholarly abilities but also for their commitment to this aspect of thejournal’s mission. In the coming months, we plan to have representatives of the journal attending conferences in a variety of philosophical disciplines, seeking out good papers and encouraging submissions.
The journal will aim for full coverage, actively soliciting the best work from every philosophical constituency. We are well aware that many analytic philosophers are skeptical of work in non-analytic areas, and vice versa. By seeking papers addressed to a broader philosophical audience, we hope to challenge this skepticism by encouraging contributors to write in ways that make the virtues of their ideas salient to philosophers from varied backgrounds.
The journal is not just about publishing exciting work—although that is certainly a priority—it is about publishing exciting work that is accessible to the broader philosophical community, work that potentially blurs boundaries within the discipline and, where appropriate, reaches out to other disciplines. We do not hope, unreasonably, to produce a journal in which every reader finds every paper congenial—this is a philosophy journal, after all. Our hope, rather, is to provide a venue for papers that are interesting and important philosophically and wear their interest and importance on their sleeves.
The editors intend the journal to be not simply another philosophy journal, not simply one more place to send papers in hopes of adding entries on CVs. We are responding to a complaint heard more and more nowadays to the effect that journal papers have become more plentiful without becoming more interesting. We suspect that one cause of the current situation stems from the refereeing process. Referees find themselves looking for reasons to reject papers under review. When authors receive the resulting comments they respond by adding material and inserting qualifications, with the result that an initially interesting idea becomes lost in a long discussion of the literature supplemented by preemptive responses to potential lines of criticism. The results are, too often, papers written by committee.
As our editorial statement indicates, we favor clear, succinct papers that go out on a limb, papers that take a chance, papers exhibiting fresh perspectives on familiar problems. This is of a piece with our goal of encouraging discussion across a wide variety of philosophical areas. Once the journal is running at full speed, our goal will be short response times and useful feedback, both of which promise to help early career philosophers get the best of their ideas into print and build the kind of meaningful publication record needed to secure a permanent position and earn tenure.
You might remain skeptical that any journal could live up to these goals—that any journal could be a truly generalist journal, representing the demographic and scholarly diversity of the field, publishing important work from across the philosophical spectrum accessible to philosophers of different persuasions, while addressing some of the biggest challenges in publishing. It is a tall order, to be sure. But we are confident not only that it can work and will work, but that it promises significant benefits to philosophers generally, APA members and non-members alike. At a time in which philosophy, the humanities, and higher education itself are under threat, it behooves us to come together in a way that preserves our interesting differences.
So we hope you’ll join us in making the Journal of the American Philosophical Association a success. Submissions are open.
[Please note: Our appearance on this blog does not constitute an endorsement by the APA of the blog or its content.]
By Amy Ferrer, APA Executive Director, and Peggy DesAutels, Site Visit Program Director
Since the report of the site visit to the University of Colorado Boulder went public, there has been quite a bit of discussion about the site visit program, how it works, what its reports are meant to do, and so on. In authoring this post, we’re taking the opportunity, now that the initial fervor over the report has died down to some degree, to reiterate just how important the site visit program (SVP) is for the profession, explain how and why the APA supports it, and begin to look forward to the program’s future.
First and foremost, it must be said that members of SVP teams do an invaluable service to the profession—they have taken ownership of the climate issues in philosophy and are giving of themselves to help departments better understand how their own cultures and climates may be impacting the professional and educational experiences of faculty, students, and communities. The goal of the SVP is simply to help departments improve.
The SVP is based on an established and successful program in physics—and experiences from that program show that it’s an effective methodology for improving departmental climates. In physics departments, SVP visits are a badge of honor. That is how they should be understood in philosophy as well. Departments that are confident that they have a welcoming and inclusive culture should request site visits to assess how well they are achieving their goals; departments with concerns about climate should request site visits to identify concrete steps they can take to improve. A number of departments have had or have scheduled site visits, and we encourage faculty members to advocate for bringing site visit teams to their institutions.
We also want to take this opportunity to clear up some misunderstandings about the relationship between the APA and the site visit program.
(This post is the result of a facebook debate started by Eric Schliesser)
Given that what we are doing in philosophy might be footnotes to Plato all the way down, citation practices might not seem worth further discussion (that would be footnotes on footnotes in footnotes on Plato). But Kieran Healy’s data recently revealed the degree to which citation numbers cluster around certain big names. Citation practices seem to depend significantly on informal norms and expectations within the academic community. It is worth bringing these up for debate: more awareness of who is quoted, and why, could not only improve scholarship, but also help to make the hierarchies between the (perceived) centre and the (perceived) periphery of the academic community flatter.
Can you imagine being happy in a non-academic career? This question is often posed by academics to prospective graduate students, who are encouraged to pursue an academic career only if their answer is ‘no’. This advice came under Nate Kreuter’s scrutiny in a recent Inside Higher Ed column:
Let me start this column by looking at what I think is a horrible but common piece of advice. […] I have often heard of faculty members advising prospective and current graduate students to pursue or continue their graduate studies only if "you can’t imagine yourself doing anything else." The implication, of course, is that you should only pursue an advanced or terminal degree if being a professor is the only way you can see yourself being happy […] [T]his is shockingly bad advice.
While Kreuter worries that this advice fails to acknowledge the possibility of combining academic degrees with non-academic careers, my own concerns are more fundamental and focused specifically on the discipline of philosophy. I’m worried that, by dishing out this advice, we are unintentionally discriminating against precisely those groups of people we are trying hardest to attract and retain.
There is a serious gender problem in philosophy in the Netherlands. In the 11 departments of philosophy the numbers of permanent staff members are roughly the following: assistant professors: 110, of which 25 are women; associate professors: 45, of which 5 are women; full professors: 65, of which 7 are women (I have not included part-time professors; this data is based on the websites of the departments). You may think that this just indicates that women have to work harder to get advanced positions at Dutch universities (i.e. that the problem is only theirs). But there is sufficient evidence now that a gender bias is built into the system. This implies that men are part of the problem and that they will have to take their responsibility. The solution is not easy though. It requires a package of measures. What can we do?
It is always good to raise awareness, but what really helps is to move beyond awareness-raising with a few very simple institutional measures that can be implemented right away. Why not make it a rule that 30% of all invited speakers at conferences are women, or that 30% of the papers in special issues are by female philosophers? The Board of the Dutch Research School of Philosophy (OZSW) will discuss such measures for activities organized by the OZSW later this year. There may of course be exceptions to this rule, but these exceptions need to be justified. Similarly, we should stick to the rule, formally adopted by many universities, that selection committees should include at least two women.
techniques are things people say to get someone to drop out of a discussion,
either by leaving or becoming and remaining silent. There are a variety of forms that this can take. This post has an illuminating
taxonomy with a plethora of useful examples, all of which can be changed
mutatis mutandis to philosophy contexts. Inspired by the post I offer some
saying that because you're a woman [or black/trans*/queer/whatever].
exactly what I'd expect from a feminist." [Focal stress usually on the identity term.] You're just part of
the feminist take-over of this department.
make their teaching and research openly – even massively – accessible? Last
year, we discussed the ramifications of free access rather intensely in the
Amherst College faculty. The content of our discussions can provide food for
thought for faculty members at places facing similar decisions.
decisions: 1) we approved a web-available College repository for College
faculty members' article publications; and 2) we approved making Amherst
College Press an open-access press; but 3) we refused to accept MOOC proposals
from the Big Three: Udacity, Coursera, and edX.
Brian Leiter comments
in typical acerbic style on an excerpt in the Guardian from Daniel Dennett’s latest book, Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for
Thinking, titled “Daniel Dennett’s Seven Tools for Thinking:” “A curious list; not clear Dennett has always
honored all of them!”
What Leiter doesn’t notice, though, is that Dennett violates one of his
principles in explaining another! Dennett's last tool is “beware of deepities.” He
explains a deepity as
“a proposition that seems both
important and true – and profound – but that achieves this effect by being
ambiguous. On one reading, it is manifestly false, but it would be
earth-shaking if it were true; on the other reading, it is true but trivial.
The unwary listener picks up the glimmer of truth from the second reading, and
the devastating importance from the first reading, and thinks, Wow! That’s a
Dennett then offers two
examples. The first is the claim that “love is just a word.” The second, he
says, is not “quite so easily analyzed:” “Richard Dawkins recently alerted me
to a fine deepity by Rowan Williams, the then archbishop of Canterbury, who
described his faith as ‘a silent waiting on the truth, pure sitting and
breathing in the presence of the question mark’.” Dennett concludes “I leave
the analysis of this as an exercise for you.”
Scaliger’s helpful post
about making APA presentations visually accessible and appealing reminds me
there are also things philosophers can do to make their presentations more
accessible to deaf and hard of hearing audience members. Odds are good that at
least a few audience members will have hearing loss -- according to the U.S. National Institute
on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, fifteen percent of adults
between the ages of 20 and 69 have hearing loss, and this percentage increases
with age. Most of these people rely on residual
hearing (amplified or unamplified) and visual cues. This post is focused on
making talks more accessible to that population – I’m planning another post on
accessibility for those working with sign language interpreters and CART
A few days ago Eric linked
to a report
by Lori Gruen (Ethics and Animals blog here; Wesleyan University
website here) on the renewal
of cruel maternal deprivation research on primates. The comments on Eric's post
were such that we asked Lori to write a guest post for us. She graciously
agreed; the post follows: [UPDATED 1:40 pm 16 Oct. See below for contact info for Madison's Provost.]
steps in scientific progress are sometimes followed closely by outbursts of foolishness.
New discoveries have a way of exciting the imagination of the well-meaning and
misguided, who see theoretical potentialities in new knowledge that may prove
impossible to attain.” – Dr.
Sherwin Nuland, Yale School of Medicine
Does the system we have in place to curtail scientific
“outbursts of foolishness” and protect research subjects from “misguided”
scientific curiosity work?
There was no oversight system in place back in the
days when Harry Harlow’s experiments psychologically tormenting baby monkeys
were making news. Surely that sort of
horrible work in which infant primates are taken from their mothers to make
them crazy wouldn’t be approved of today. On my recent visit to the University
of Wisconsin I was shocked to learn otherwise.
The oversight committee chairs told me they have never rejected a
proposal. Not one.
And one of the protocols they did not reject is a renewal
of maternal deprivation research. Disturbingly, ithas been approved by not
one, but two oversight committees. A
psychiatry professor who has a distinguished record of research on anxiety
disorders plans to separate more monkey babies from their mothers, leave them
with wire “surrogates” covered in cloth (a practice developed by Harlow) to
emulate “adverse early rearing conditions,” then pair them with another
maternally deprived infant after 3-6 weeks of being alone. The infants will then be exposed to fearful
conditions. The monkeys in this group
and another group of young monkeys who will be reared with their mothers, will
then be killed and their brains examined. (The experimental protocol is here.)