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 firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment on the site.
As most readers probably know, the 2014 Philosophical Gourmet Report (PGR), a "Ranking of Graduate Programs in Philosophy in the English-Speaking World," was recently published; the rankings purport to be "primarily measures of faculty quality and reputation." Mitchell Aboulafia has done a series of postings analyzing the 2014 PGR. If Aboulafia's analyses are accurate, which they seem to me to be, they show why the rankings produced by the 2014 PGR ought not to be relied on.
Some might think that some of these problems are at least partially the result of the September Statement. However, the editors of the PGR made the decision to publish the report and seem to stand by it, so the reasons behind the problems (whatever they might be) seem beside the point.
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.
Rarely, if ever, does the term 'intellectual property' add clarity to any debate of substance--very often, this is because it includes the term 'property' and thus offers an invitation to some dubious theorizing. This post by Alex Rosenberg at Daily Nous is a good example of this claim:
Locke famously offered an account of the justification of private property, one that Nozick brought to our attention in Anarchy, State and Utopia. The account worked like this: morally permissible private property begins with original acquisition, and that happens when you mix your labor with nature, and leave as good and as much for others. Alas, this “Lockean” proviso is impossible to satisfy. Or at least it is in every original acquisition other than the case of intellectual property. Here one mixes one mental labor with nature—empirical facts about reality, including social reality. Since there are an infinite number of good ideas, the creator of intellectual property leaves as much and as good for others, and therefore has an unqualified right to what he has created.
Brian Leiter’s ownership of the PGR satisfies the most stringent test of private property I know. It’s his creation and he excluded no one else from mixing his or her labor with nature to produce a substitute for or for that matter a complement to his creation.
In light of this fact, the effort to separate him from his intellectual property owing to disapproval of his emails and posts seems rather preposterous.
It has often been proposed--most notably by Richard Stallman, free software's most fiery proponent-that the term 'intellectual property' be junked in favor of more precise usage. That is, when you are tempted to use the term 'intellectual property' use 'copyright,' 'patents,' 'trademarks,' or 'trade secrets' instead. Doing this would enable immediate grappling with the precise nature of the issue at hand--in each named domain there are separable legal and policy issues at play.
Many of you will have seen the following Facebook update posted by both David Chalmers and Jason Stanley (it’s astonishing how events in the philosophy profession unfold over at Facebook!):
Over the past day or so, 24 members of the advisory board of the Philosophical Gourmet Report have signed a letter saying that they value the extraordinary service that Leiter has provided with the PGR, and that they now urge him to turn over the PGR to new management. The letter (drafted by David Chalmers, Jonathan Schaffer, Susanna Siegel, and Jason Stanley) has been delivered to Brian Leiter, who received it with good grace. We are in the process of collecting more signatures, and will soon make the letter public.
At this point, this is pretty much the best outcome anyone could hope for, in my opinion. It is now a matter of waiting to see how the situation will further unfold, but should Leiter agree to step down, a PGR led by a number of people from the current board seems like a very promising solution. Brian Weatherson weights in with some ideas/suggestions, and mentions in particular Leiter’s treatment of Linda Martín Alcoff a few years ago, which seems not to have been on the radar enough in recent discussions. (Every time I thought of the possibility of BL throwing some legalese at me on account of my post suggesting he step down from the PGR, I reassured myself that he had said similar things before about others, but with a different tone altogether.)
However, there is another aspect of Brian Leiter’s behavior that seems worth noting. I’ve been contacted by a graduate student at Chicago offering the following testimony:
UPDATE : The post has been slightly edited, for reasons I can clarify if people get in touch with me directly.
In his response to the ‘Statement of concern’ made public yesterday by Sally Haslanger and David Velleman, Brian Leiter is now presenting the issue as a ‘crusade’ against the PGR by long-term critics of the PGR. In light of this suggestion, a few clarifications seem in order.
There may be many reasons why something like the PGR is good for the profession; but I can think of no good reason why it should run by someone like Brian Leiter (despite the fact that he is the originator of the PGR). He systematically resorts to aggressive, offensive and intimidating behavior against those who dare express views different from his own, both in public and in private correspondence, often targeting junior colleagues and others who can't 'compete' with his power and influence. We are talking about a pattern here, not isolated events. Now, it is partly through the PGR that Brian Leiter has become such a powerful figure in the profession, and he has arguably been misusing his position of power and influence to target colleagues who he disagrees with on a number of issues.
The question is then whether (given these frequent displays of disrespectful behavior) he is suited to run an initiative that has become so influential as the PGR. A related question is whether he is not misusing the power and influence he has acquired through the PGR and his blog to impose his views and positions by resorting to intimidation and other silencing maneuvers. More generally, I (and others) feel it is important to send the signal that his aggressive behavior is simply unacceptable; it conveys a very disturbing message, if one of the most powerful members of the profession goes around insulting people with no consequences for himself. And why are there no consequences? Arguably, because most people are too scared of him to speak up, especially as they fear PGR-related repercussions.
So no, this is not primarily about the PGR; it's about what many of us perceive as Leiter's inappropriate behavior on a large number of occasions. As many others, I am in principle not opposed to the continuation of the PGR (as a service to graduate students, for example, or as an instrument for hiring negotiations with the university administrators), but *not* in its current structure, i.e. as a one-man-show run by someone prone to intemperate reactions. This is why I voted ‘No’ at the poll currently being held on the question: “Should we proceed with the 2014 PGR?” My own position is that the PGR should be thoroughly reformed, in particular put under new leadership (preferably, a group of people rather than a single person), if it is to be continued. In sum, I have no objections to a reformed 2015 PGR.
This being said, Leiter has been running the PGR diligently for years (even if one can quibble with the reputation-based methodology used), and for this he should be thanked (at least by those who think that the PGR has had an overall positive effect on the profession, and there seem to be many such people). It should also be recognized that he has acted admirably on a number of occasions when issues in the profession arose, and perhaps it is also worth noting that none of what I am saying here pertains to his scholarly work, which is (or so I am told) of the highest quality.
Many readers will have seen this already, but it needs to be widely shared and viewed: David Velleman and Sally Haslanger have been collecting instances of Brian Leiter threatening people with legal action, among other kinds of intimidating tactics, in private correspondence. Here are some examples. (My understanding is that there are more such examples, which may eventually be posted as well.) These are people he disagrees with on a number of issues, but the level of aggressiveness in his responses is astonishing, shocking, and unacceptable in a professional context (or any context, for that matter).
(This is why my comment to his recent post on having been threatened with legal action only once in his blogging career was: the question is not how many times he was threatened with legal action; the question is how many times *he* threatened others with legal action. Answer: many times, from the looks of it.)
The emails speak for themselves; no further comment is required. At the very least, I think this calls for those involved with the PGR in various capacities (board members, evaluators) to reassess their involvement.
I noted in another post the apparent difference in impact of the Philosophical Gourmet ranking of one's PhD granting institution on tenure-track placement according to gender, following up on posts elsewhere (here, here, and here). In this post I want to follow up on a speculation that I made in comments that the apparent difference in impact is due not to a difference in the way prestige impacts women and men on the job market, but due to a difference in the way that the Philosophical Gourmet tracks prestige for areas that have a higher proportion of men versus areas that have a higher proportion of women.
You may already be familiar with work by Kieren Healy that shows that the Philosophical Gourmet ranking especially favors particular specialties: "It's clear that not all specialty areas count equally for overall reputation... Amongst the top twenty departments in 2006, MIT and the ANU had the narrowest range, relatively speaking, but their strength was concentrated in areas that are very strongly associated with overall reputation---in particular, Metaphysics, Epistemology, Language, and Philosophy of Mind."
Marcus Arvan at the Philosophers' Cocoon posted sample data from the new appointments site at PhilJobs, which is discussed in a great post by Helen de Cruz here at New APPS. In comments at de Cruz's post and in a new post Arvan discusses the impact of Gourmet ranking on women and men seeking tenure-track jobs. I wanted to follow up on Arvan's post by looking at the full set of data currently available at PhilJobs. I did this in part because I knew that the sample Arvan collected was skewed on gender, due to an earlier analysis on gender I performed for a comment on a post at the Philosophy Smoker. With that convoluted introduction aside, here is a summary of the findings, in keeping with the findings by Arvan: the gourmet rank of one's PhD granting institution appears to have a greater impact on men seeking tenure-track jobs than on women seeking tenure-track jobs. Although I cannot yet speak to the source of this discrepancy, I (like Arvan) find the difference troubling. I welcome comments on the source of the difference below, although any comments will be subject to moderation. Let's look more closely at the data (Note: the linked spreadsheet was updated on May 14th):
Yesterday many of us here at New APPS endorsed a call for a release of the data upon which the PGR is based. We did this simply on the grounds that public release of data is a standard in social science, that it ensures transparency, and because it allows others to draw additional conclusions that are not supported merely by means and modes. An objection was immediately raised: reviewers are guaranteed confidentiality. And merely removing names from review sheets would not solve this issue, because the requirement that one not rank one's own department or the department from which one received the PhD would allow others to infer the identity of referees. This short note is simply to point out that there are two simple fixes for this problem.
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.
New APPS is happy to post this appeal for information. We also encourage those working on similar projects to contact one of us to arrange a similar appeal.
We (Donald Rutherford and Lisa Shapiro) have been compiling a resource of women working across the history of philosophy, from the ancients through to the early twentieth century, in the English speaking world.
The aim is pretty straightforward: to make it easier for those planning conferences, edited volumes, speakers on panels, and the like, to think of women to invite.
You can help us out by first visiting the draft document here. Please note that it is a DRAFT. No doubt there will lots of room for improvement, but this is a start. There are tabs at the bottom for each geographical region.
Second, if you see that someone obvious is missing, please send an email with as much information as possible (name; email; general area of the history of philosophy; specializations) to fill in the spreadsheet to email@example.com
A crucial long-term issue for the profession is that financial and scientific metrics (FSM) are playing an increasing role in allocation of resources in universities and grant agencies. (There are, of course, many local variations on this.) Now, within philosophy this trend has two consequences: 1) it favors certain 'applied' areas of ethics, and complex, empirical, interdisciplinary fields of inquiry with widespread interest within and outside the academy, (i.e., philosophy of cognitive science, moral psychology/X Phi, formal semantics/artificial intelligence, maybe philosophy of biology/religion, etc); 2) it favors those who can create intellectual trends--the key becomes to be the first to generate a scholarly literature. (See, Brit Brogaard's reflections here.)
Mark Lance recently posted the percentage of female faculty in various US departments. And in a comment, Michel-Antoine Xhignesse provided the numbers for 12 Canadian departments. I have tried to do the same for non-US departments that make it to the PGR top 50 among Anglophone countries (and, taking advantage of Xhignesse’s figures, three Canadian departments just outside).
As a professional (US-trained) philosopher working in the (the still existing) Eurocore-zone, I found it striking that the recent PGR ratings do not rank departments like Carnegie-Mellon very highly despite their being (as Brian Leiter notes) "well-rated in certain specialties." CMU has a very significant presence and influence on the way analytic philosophy is practiced in Europe. I would characterize this approach as a commitment to formal (or mathematical) philosophy. (There is also an underlying sense -- nicely expressed by Sebastian Lutz -- that the spirit and, perhaps, substance of logical empiricism is still very much alive.) If anything some of the most exciting analytically oriented departments (Munich, Groningen, University of Amsterdam, LSE, Tilburg, and, perhaps, Bristol [as well as a few in Scandinavia]) seem increasingly committed to formal philosophy (in the way that descends -- in the felicitous phrase of Mohan -- roughly from Carnap, Bayesianism, Suppes, etc.)
A week or so ago, commenting on Brian Leiter’s Philosophical Gourmet Report (PGR), I remarked on a certain style of philosophy that has come to dominate the English-speaking world. This style of philosophy defines itself by a certain ideology: it conceives of itself as “investigating reality” using “transparently objective methods.” These methods include critical reasoning. Or so I said. I didn’t (and don’t) mean these words to lead into a discussion of whether or not the methods used are transparently objective. I am just saying that a certain kind of philosophy treats them as so, and defines itself by so doing.
Today I reflect on the practice of such philosophy.
Evaluators: James Bohman, Steven Crowell, Maudemarie Clark, David Dudrick, Gordon Finlayson, Max de Gaynesford, Charles Guignon, Gary Gutting, Beatrice Han-Pile, Scott Jenkins, Pierre Keller, Michelle Kosch, Brian Leiter, Dean Moyar, Stephen Mulhall, Brian O’Connor, Peter Poellner, Bernard Reginster, Michael Rosen, Joseph Schear, Iain Thomson, Georgia Warnke, Mark Wrathall, Julian Young.
Sitting around wasting time adding up numbers. Here's a ranking that comes from adding all the means of the area scores for the top 20 overall departments.
1. NYU 109
3. Harvard 92
4. Princeton 90
5. stanford 87
6. Pitt 86
7. Notre Dame 82
8. Columbia 80.5
9. Yale 71
10 Rutgers 70.5
12 MIT 67.5
13 UNC 66
14 USC 59
15 CUNY 58.5
16 Brown 57
17 Arizona 55.5
18 UCLA 53.5
19 Cornell 50
20 Chicago 45
So, first, I have no idea what to make of any of this. Just playing around.
Second, I do think that there is some serious over-counting of areas in this method of amalgamating. 15 total points in math, as many as ethics. Shortly - because I'm obsessed - I will do this again collapsing a few of the specialty areas that strike me as not adding really new strengths.
Third, I have probably made some calculation errors. Feel free to check if you are out to waste time like me.
Fourth, schools start getting very close to one another once you are out of the top 8. (Note the big drop from 8-9.) I couldn't resist calculating georgetown, and though ranked overall 36th, we come in at 40.5.
Fifth - of course all this relies on the rankings provided by the PGR reviewers. It is just another way of amalgamating those rankings. But I think the fact that there are such differences even within these rankings is interesting.
There is a wealth of detail in the newly released Philosophical Gourmet Report. Mindful of the fact that some departments rank high overall, but low in relatively many subfields (and vice versa), I thought to check how departments do overall if you aggregate excellence in subfields. (A proviso: subfields are not equal in size, importance to the discipline, or prestige.)
Here is a look at the top twenty US departments, plus the top in each non-US region (UK, Canada, Australasia). I looked only at the top three groupings of departments in each specialty, and Unranked (ratings of less than 3.0).
UPDATE: In accordance with the comments received, I revised the table to include Group 3, and (because some errors crept into my spreadsheet) I then reposted. I used Dhananjay's figures in his comment below, including his corrigenda, but including the updated figure for American Pragmatism, in which Toronto got a Group 1. I also gave 1 point, instead of 2 for Group 3. (That's a judgement call, of course, but the number of Group 3 departments in most fields is substantially more than Group 2s.)
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 my exchange with Brian yesterday over the merits, if any, of the "Climate for Women survey" I pointed out that "It is by no means unfair that top PGR departments face extra scrutiny. (They gain a lot from being top PGR departments!)" I want to save this point from the particulars of this survey. I will do so in terms of a very useful piece by Jennifer Ouellette that Brian linked (by way of LA Paul). The crucial point for my current purposes is this: "(3) Foster top-down change. Leadership, especially male leadership, needs to set the tone for what is and is not acceptable in a community. The 2007 APS report quotes Virginia Tech’s Patricia Hyer on this: “The voices of male heads … can carry great weight in moving forward an institutional change agenda, especially if they use their access to institutional leaders and personal prestige to make the case for gender equity.” (Richard Dawkins, are you listening?)"
I'm going to follow up on my last post by asking people to nominate departments that they believe to be genuinely pluralist in the sense that I roughly defined in my previous post. There are some ground rules for this one that will be enforced with draconian precision.
1. Only positive nominations. If we get a reasonable response here, I may open the list of nominated up for discussion where you will be able to say that the department isn't really pluralist.
2. Only nominations that actually explain and try to justify the claim that the department in question is "reasonably pluralist". I'm interested in informed and supported claims. So if you simply want to say "x is obviously pluralist" don't bother. I don't require a detailed 20 page analysis, but some discussion of the various criteria I lay out below is needed. Ideally, please note strengths and weaknesses.
3. No discussion of other dimensions of pluralism. Yes, I know they are important. I'm eager to help on them. If anyone wants to start similar discussions along other dimensions I'll be glad to help. And yes, I acknowledge that from many reasonable perspectives, this is a trivial matter to be worrying about. No one is required to engage on this issue. But this is not a meta-thread on whether this is a good thread. (If you have a positive and serious suggestion for tweaking the methodology, feel free and I will use my discretion in posting that. But ideally, just note that you are defending a department on slightly different grounds in your defense.)
4. No comments about Brian Leiter, the PGR, the PR, SPEP, etc. I'm interested here in positive suggestions of departments that are doing it well, not denunciations.
A great deal of the discussion around the new Pluralist's Guide has, in my view, gone completely off the rails. People are debating whether it is a SPEP guide, whether Brian Leiter, or the PGR, is a positive influence on the field and other such, well, issues. Worse, it is serving to further reinforce the worst wagon-circling, dismissiveness, and mutual distrust in the profession.
So I'd like to use this opportunity to return to one of the founding themes of this blog - that is one of the issues we all care about, and one of the issues that largely motivated the selection of people to participate: namely the stupidity and destructiveness of the analytic/continental distinction. I return to this now, because a founding feature of the PG is that it is offering recommendations on places to study "continental philosophy". My main claim is that this is a terrible idea, because on any recognizable sense of the terms "analytic philosophy" and "continental philosophy" it would be unethical to encourage a philosophy student to study (just) one or the other. The only responsible advise, in my view, to a student who asked "where should I go to study continental philosophy?" is "Nowhere. Go somewhere to study philosophy. Preferably somewhere that they don't justify their ignorance by inventing pseudo-categories." That is, I'm going to argue for pluralism - though in a sense that is pretty directly opposed to the way that is meant by the PG and, I hasten to add, equally directly opposed to how it is meant by many departments that rank highly on the PGR.