Heap of Links

1. There is a “profound disconnect between Heidegger’s anti-Semitic prejudice and his philosophy,” argues Michael Marder (University of the Basque Country, Vitoria-Gastiez). But even if there wasn’t, Plato defended slavery and we still read him. Hmmm… so I guess part of the defense of Heidegger comes down to “what, too soon?”
2. The Mod Squad this week is featuring remarks from the inaugural meeting of the Society for Modern Philosophy by Don Rutherford (UCSD), today, and Martha Bolton (Rutgers), on Thursday.
3. Emphasize kindness, not respect, for a good philosophy classroom experience, says David Birch of the Philosophy Foundation.
4. The beautifully designed Nautilus brings us an article on psychopharmaceuticals used to suppress the feelings that accompany traumatic memories, asking: who are memories are for?
5. Eric Linus Kaplan, who went to grad school in philosophy for five years but may be better known as a television writer forThe Big Bang Theory, The Simpsons, Malcolm in the Middle, and other shows, has been blogging.
6. Alva Noë (Berkeley) asks whether the power of a work of art depends on its being the original, rather than a copy.
7. Aeon is currently featuring a four-minute flick on Kwame Anthony Appiah (NYU) on the concept and uses of “honor.”
8. Apparently, Earth is home to some electricity-eating bacteria. Seriously. There are micro-organisms that “eat and excrete pure electrons.” They don’t even put ketchup on them. No this is not philosophy. It is just badass.
9. We haven’t checked in with 8-Bit Philosophy in a while. Looks like they’re up to Hegel’s philosophy of history.

Heap of Links

1. You have just 10 minutes until your next meeting? Write. 15 minutes between classes? Write. 8 minutes before that advisee comes knocking? Write, dammit.
2. Early risers are less moral at night, compared with night owls.
3. An interview with Corey Mohler, the man behind Existentialist Comics. (via Philosophy Matters)
4. “Conspiracy theorists ruin the whole game for great academics like Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky. Radio hosts… who prop up wild theories… effectively make the public uneasy about trusting people who take the more nuanced approach toward investigating the ills of the world.”
5. This sounds interesting: a book in which the chapters alternate between a novel in which a philosophy professor is coming to terms with his changing views, and the philosophical manuscript the professor is writing. It’s called The Thinker Artist and is by Mark Anderson (Belmont).
6. An article describing and assessing Bertrand Russell’s pacifism and its value, with supporting roles by D.H. Lawrence and Wittgenstein.
7. Newcomb’s Problem + AI + Simulation = the philosophical equivalent of The Ring? Meet Roko’s Basilisk. (via Cristin Chall)
8. Regret (via George Felis).

Philosophy Tag

Last week, A.J. Cotnoir (St. Andrews) tagged Franz Berto (Amsterdam). Will the next it be in Europe again? Let’s see…


How does the epistemology of logical claims work?
Says Carnap: “Well, such claims are analytic: true in virtue of meaning. So we know them a priori, and in the same breath we appreciate their necessity.”
Quine retorts: “Don’t even mention analyticity, Rudolf! Logical claims are in the same holistic boat as anything else: they stand or fall depending on our overall best theory.”
In her ‘Metaphysical Analyticity and the Epistemology of Logic in Philosophical Studies (also here), Gillian Russell aims at keeping the virtues of Carnap and Quine’s opposite stances while avoiding their troubles. She resorts to the distinction between between metaphysical and epistemic analyticity. Logical truths are analytic in the former sense, not in the latter: they are indeed true in virtue of meaning—which explains their modal status. However, competent speakers may fully understand them while failing to take them as true, because the epistemology of meaning is itself a complicated, holistic business. This is a lovely paper engaging with one of the deepest issues in the philosophy of logic. And so, Gillian Russell, you are it!

Overcoming the Analytic-Contintental Divide

There is quite a bit that can be done to reconcile analytical and continental approaches, combining them into an expanded view of philosophy that has both depth and breadth, and is concerned both with specific technical “puzzles” as well as with broad socio-political issues.

At Scientia Salon, Massimo Pigliucci tries to get a grip on what the analytic – contintental distinction is, and whether it can be overcome, using the relationship between “philosophy of science” and “science studies” as an example.

The Future of the Philosophy Profession

Many graduate philosophy programs rely upon what could be characterized as a game of bait and switch. These programs exist not because there is a job market for their graduates. They exist for a variety of reasons, including the intrinsic value of philosophy and institutional mandates to produce Ph.D.’s. But they also exist in part to help universities reduce the cost of tuition while providing faculty members with the opportunity to conduct research…

In the majority of graduate programs, students are overworked and underpaid during their time in school, and they have few prospects for work once they graduate. And the beneficiaries of this system—again, setting aside the pleasure of studying philosophy for a period of one’s life—are the universities, which save costs on instruction, and the professors, who practice their specialties in graduate courses and use their reduced workload to produce philosophical research.

Adam Briggle and Robert Frodeman (both at University of North Texas) take a hard look at the prospects of a “future for philosophy” in The Chronicle of Higher Education. 

Whose Problem Is It? (Guest Post by Heidi Lockwood)

Heidi Lockwood is associate professor of philosophy at Southern Connecticut State University, where she focuses on questions in logic, metaphysics, and epistemology. She also works on issues in the philosophy profession, particularly regarding the treatment of women (see this post for example). She kindly authored the following guest post* on the issue of whose responsibility it is to address some of the problems the profession is currently grappling with. Comments welcome.


A true story: Philosophy Professor X, who taught at University Y, engaged in unwanted sexual contact with Student A. After learning that Professor X had also allegedly engaged in sexual misconduct with Students B and C and possibly D, Student A decided to file a formal complaint, in the interest of protecting future students and doing the right thing and justice and all that lofty stuff. University Y found Professor X guilty of sexual misconduct, and, for various non-transparent but predictable reasons, decided to quietly offer Professor X a non-disclosure agreement and an attractive voluntary severance package. Professor X got by with a little help from his academic friends, and rode his golden parachute to University Z, where he met Student E, with whom he had non-consensual sex.

Professor X, in other words, is a serial sexual predator and rapist who has managed to adversely impact the academic careers (and likely much more) of at least four students (and likely many more). His behavior, arguably, has been sanctioned by higher education.

But who, we might wonder, is “higher education”? His academic friends? The University Y administrators who gave him the golden parachute? The University Z administrators who failed to investigate his reasons for departure from Y? The students who didn’t file grievances? The untold number of ostrich-colleagues who were dimly aware of the problem but figured it’s none of their business? The APA or other organizations in the discipline? The Department of Education?

Professor X’s serial predation is not unusual behavior on college campuses. Most (90-95%) of the sexual assaults on campus are committed by just 4-6% of the rapists, who commit an average of 5-7 rapes each (see, e.g., Lisak’s 2002 study of more than 1800 college students). Serial sexual offenders are a pressing problem. But who should be responsible for addressing it? Here are a few of the answers I’ve seen bouncing around in both the open airways and shadowy underbelly of the cloud, where folks are tweeting, messaging, and blogging about the question:

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Heap of Links

1. The Good Society jounal is providing open access to its new special issue, “Democratic Theory and Mass Incarceration,” with articles by Elizabeth Anderson (Michigan), Christopher Bennett (Sheffield), and a number of political theorists and law professors.
2. Philosophy of extra-terrestrialsCarol Cleland (Colorado), Iris Fry (Technion), and Clément Vidal (Free University of Brussels) are three philosophers who will be taking part in an upcoming symposium organized by NASA and the Library of Congress on encountering alien cultures.
3. Colin Ward’s book, Anarchism: A Very Short Introduction, is now available as a free download.
4. Slate on peer-review’s problems, and a suggested solution.
5.  Should we genetically engineer humans in order to save the environment? Matthew Liao (NYU) is featured in a story about that at the BBC’s site.
6. John Searle lecture: “Consciousness as a Problem in Philosophy and Neurobiology” (video).
7. “There are plenty of situations when random chance really is your best option. And those situations might be far more prevalent in our modern lives than we generally admit.”
8. “What’s So Funny?” Mary Beard talks about theories of humor in The Chronicle.
9. Laura D’Olimpio (Notre Dame Australia), Michael Levine (Univ. Western Australia), and Mairead Phillips (Melbourne School of Continental Philosophy) discuss philosophy and film.
10. Check your Bat-Privilege.

Hong Kong’s Rawlsian Activists

Over breakfast at a sandwich place in Kowloon Tong, three of Hong Kong’s most famous student activists are talking about their roles in Occupy Central. Like all students, Joshua Wong Chi-fung and Agnes Chow Ting, both 18, and Alex Chow Yong-kang, 23, talk about problems within the government and the need for greater social justice. They draw on philosophical arguments as justification, but unlike their counterparts in the West, who might quote left-wing thinkers like Noam Chomsky and Slavoj Zizek, these students openly admire John Rawls…

The South China Morning Post has a story on the importance of Rawls to Hong Kong’s young political activists, as they contemplate the rule of law and civil disobedience.

UPDATE: An opinion piece on civil disobedience in Taiwan (in Thinking Taiwan) cites a number of contemporary philosophers. (via Sam Liao)

The Book of Rankings

It’s getting late, at least where I live. How about a bedtime story? 

And in the 2500 eons of time before ranked time, there was formlessness. Apart from The Academy and The Lyceum, one knew not where a department stood, nor how deeply one might plant one’s feet. One’s judgment was clouded by the gossip of the philosophers and the void created by opinion and argument. And one wandered often as in a trance, sometimes lost, sometimes uncertain, but sometimes also in such a fervor of happiness and jouissance that one clung to unranked time. But, then, out of the darkness of unranked time, came The Lighter.

Read the rest of the story, by Martin Shuster, at The Philosopher’s Cocoon.

Sherrilyn Roush (Berkeley) to King’s College London

Sherri Roush, who works in philosophy of science and epistemology, and who is currently full professor at Berkeley, will be moving to the Philosophy Department at King’s College London this summer to take up the inaugural Peter Sowerby Chair in Philosophy and Medicine. According to KCL Philosophy Department Head Rosa Antognazza, this is a newly endowed chair “created to develop connnections between ground-breaking work in central areas of philosophy and medicine.”

Heap of Links

1. Dave Chalmers on explaining consciousness: the TED talk version.
2. Traveling abroad to avoid long wait lists for a treatment, or to find less costly doctors, or to try out an experimental therapy? Jeremy Snyder (Simon Fraser), featured in an article in the National Post on the ethics of medical tourism, suggests you check out this site for some information and cautionary tales.
3. Novelist/philosopher Clancy Martin (Missouri-Kansas City) on his journey from analytic philosophy to Walter Benjamin.
4. A profile of Michael Bratman (Stanford) and his work on shared agency.
5. “This Debate Has No Title” — a panel discussion of paradoxes of self-reference featuring Hilary Lawson, Patricia Waugh, and Peter Cameron. (via Frankie May)
6. Spinoza and others invoked by a rabbi to argue for the value of dissent in Jewish communities.
7. A blog about using pop songs to explain philosophy. (via Leiter)
8. A post about string theory and post-empiricism, in the wake of a conference that featured “two remarkable talks by prominent physicists, both of whom invoked philosophy in a manner unprecedented for this kind of scientific gathering.” (via David Killoren)
9. And while we are on physics, theoretical physicist Paul Steinhardt (Princeton) asks whether modern cosmology supports Nietzsche’s theory of eternal recurrence. I’m sure it feels that way to Nietzsche scholars, who have to keep saying “that’s not what he meant.” (To be fair, Nietzsche is only mentioned in passing.)
10. Abuse of Philosophy Series: Descartes on brand/business dualism.

Publishing? There’s an App for that.

HelpMePublish is an app that “provides databases on 13 major subject areas containing information on more than 6000 reputable academic journals provided by journal editors, subject experts and academic users.” According to a comment on another post here by James Maclaurin (Otago), a philosopher who devised the project, there are 557 philosophy journals in their database. He writes, “We have only just launched but already about a quarter of journals have supplied the requested stats so we’re hopeful of producing a sustainable tool for academics.” The idea behind the app is to gather information about the journals from various sources so that journals can then be ranked, sorted, and searched by “acceptance rates, refereeing policies, publication time, quality of editorial advice, realtime journal readership data and much more.”

So I downloaded the app, which itself is free, registered with it (which takes a minute), and subscribed to the philosophy section, which costs $4.99, to see what it is about. The things I do for you people!

Is it worth it? Well, the short answer is “collective action problem.” The longer answer is: the app is new, and so there is not much author and reader feedback, and the makers are clearly still gathering information from editors and publishers. If enough philosophers subscribe and spend a few minutes entering information on their experiences with journals as both authors and researchers, then it could be a valuable tool. If everyone waits until everyone else has done this, then while the app will (eventually) have the information from the editors and publishers, it will not realize its full potential.

Public Philosophy – the Idea and the Challenges (Guest Post by Jack Weinstein)

Jack Russell Weinstein is a Professor of Philosophy and the Director of the Institute for Philosophy in Public Life at the University of North Dakota. He is the host of the radio show Why? Philosophical Discussions about Everyday Life and the author of its blog, PQED. He generously agreed to author a guest post* on the meanings and methods of public philosophy. Comments welcome!


Public philosophy as a sub-discipline is in an exciting, but chaotic time. Changes in technology and funding models, combined with an effort to democratize philosophy, have inspired many academics to venture outside the ivory tower. They take their first steps enthusiastically and then…what? It’s hard to acquire and retain an audience; it’s even harder to stay motivated, and it’s virtually impossible to get research credit for the work. These are not new issues but things are better than they used to be.

One remaining problem is that there is little or no coordination. Public philosophers aren’t talking with one another. The Public Philosophy Network and the new Public Philosophy Journal exist, but few philosophers engage with them. The APA Committee on Public Philosophy is as ineffective and myopic as the rest of its parent organization. Even my own institute has done little to coordinate its events with others, although we have, in the past, offered paid fellowships to interested philosophers.

Another problem is that it is unclear, in the current context, what an “expert” in public philosophy would be. Very few professionals consider public philosophy to be an area of specialization, and many of us would be hard-pressed to define what that would mean. Is it someone who has written theoretical work on public philosophy, as did the contributors to Essays in Philosophy’s special issue on the subject? Or, is it someone who is skilled at engaging a non-academic audience? Should public philosophy organizations strive to create conferences and sessions at the APA, or do they need to establish events for the interaction between professional and amateur philosophers? These are questions that are still on the table.

Finally, a third problem is simply the posturing of philosophers. Most people who do public philosophy hope, for lack of a better metaphor, to be the agent that drags others out of a cave. They are shocked at what poor reasoning people use and are baffled by their lack of intellectual discipline. (The philosophy blogosphere would be much less robust if we removed all the derogatory comments about non-philosophers.) Maybe this attitude is deserved, maybe not, but as I write elsewhere, public philosophy isn’t this kind of teaching. It’s more like selling a used car or engaging in a first drug deal—getting people interested often begins as a con game.
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Heap of Links

1. “Discrimination Is Un-Christian, too” — philosophy graduate student Kathryn Pogin (Notre Dame, Northwestern) on the Hobby Lobby decision, in the NYT.
2. The genetics of belief: “If these predispositions [towards certain beliefs] are…to some degree genetically rooted, they may not lend themselves to rational debate and compromise.”
3. HooPs—the Hardwood Philosophical Society—uses “‘the basketball court as a transformation for African American men’ by integrating the sport with Eastern and African philosophies.” More here.
4. Read the introduction to the best-titled book in political theory, ever.
5. How you broke peer review, and what you can do to fix it (via David Wiens).
6. Plato’s Timaeus is called “the first pop science book ever” in Forbes.
7. How to mitigate bias in philosophy job searches.
8. “the statutes of [Oxford] required … an original contribution to knowledge. But what was presented by a candidate was either already known to [H.A.] Prichard and therefore not original, or else mere opinion and therefore not knowledge.” That’s J.O. Urmson, quoted in a letter to the editor in the LRB. (via Danny Woods)
9. The science of chaos in the brain.
10. “Isaiah Berlin was capable of bitching with the best of them” says a reviewer of a new book about Berlin and Isaac Deutscher.
11. Annoying strawman.

Job Market Analyses – UPDATED (yet again)

Update (7/14/14): Last week, Leiter replied to Jennings’ comparisons with some data. Jennings responds with newer data, arguing that “recency and time frame” matter.

Update (6/30/14): The Philosophical Gourmet versus Jennings’ Placement Data.

Update (6/25/14): Jennings tells us which departments have relatively high placement rates.

Update (6/20/14): In a new post, Jennings reports that the overall placement rate for new PhDs into tenure-track positions could be as low as 17%.

OP (6/19/14): Philosophy job market placement data from the past few years are analysed in terms of gender and area of specialization by Carolyn Dicey Jennings at NewAPPS.

Minorities and Philosophy (MAP) Expands to UK

Minorities and Philosophy (MAP) “is a collection of students in English-speaking philosophy departments that aims to examine and address issues of minority participation in academic philosophy.” There are currently chapters of the organization at a number of US philosophy departments that put on talks, workshops, reading groups, and various other events.

There is now interest in expanding MAP in the UK. Yena Lee (Princeton), who is MAP Director, and Filippo Contesi (York), MAP UK Director, write:

In order to examine and address issues of participation faced by minority and underrepresented groups in academic philosophy (e.g. gender, race, native-language, sexual orientation, class, and disability minorities), a number of UK departments have recently started to build a UK network of chapters of MAP ( www.mapforthegap.com ).

With 24 active chapters to date, MAP (Minorities And Philosophy) is already a successful and widespread organization in the US and elsewhere. If you would like to have a MAP chapter at your own institution, this Call For Collaborators is for you. MAP chapters are generally run by graduate students (typically 3 or 4 per department), with some help from academic staff members; undergraduate participation is also encouraged.

At this stage we would be happy to hear especially from graduate students (groups or individuals) at UK Philosophy departments as well as from UK Philosophy academic staff who would like to coordinate graduate student interest in their institutions.

People interested in learning more about helping with MAP and setting up chapters of the organization should contact Filippo Contesi (filippo.contesi@gmail.com).

75% Philosophers, 100% Indie Rock

So I guess we are on a roll here with philosopher-musicians. Christy Mag Uidhir brings The Counterfactuals to my attention. Composed of a music professor and three philosophers — Jason Decker and Daniel Groll of Carleton College, and Michael Fuerstein of St. Olaf College — The Counterfactuals make indie rock with a kind of midwestern feel (does that sound right? Sorry, this isn’t Pitchfork.com). Anyway, you can check out their music at their site and head over to Aesthetics for Birds to read an interview with the band, from which the following is excerpted:

With a name like The Counterfactuals and an album titled “Minimally Decent People”, it would be totally disingenuous to suggest that we don’t use the philosophy connection. We do. But I think the way we understand it is as follows…. First, I think the group name and album title are just independently good qua band name and album title. It turns out that philosophy is a pretty good source for these things (I want to name our next record “Natural Kinds”). The names tend to induce eye rolls in philosophers, but not in others (I don’t think)….

Second, I think one reason we’re comfortable sort of pointing to the fact that 3/4s of us are philosophy professors is that the music is respectable on its own quite apart from that (I think. I hope!) So the kind of interesting backstory is good for getting people in the door, so to speak, (because you’re right: there are tons of bands out there and the vast majority are totally intersubstitutable) but then the hope is that they just like the music. There’s no doubt we’ve benefited from people’s low expectations. Contra Sarah Stroud’s and Simon Keller’s views about how good friends (rightly) ignore normal epistemic standards when assessing the efforts of friends, we’ve definitely found that our friends came to listen to us expecting something at best tolerable and at worst quite embarrassing…only to be pleasantly surprised.

Does Philosophy Need A Reboot?

Philosophy is a bit like a computer with a memory leak. It starts well, dealing with significant and serious issues that matter to anyone. Yet, in time, its very success slows it down. Philosophy begins to care more about philosophers’ questions than philosophical ones, consuming increasing amount of intellectual attention. Scholasticism is the ultimate freezing of the system, the equivalent of Windows’ “blue screen of death”; so many resources are devoted to internal issues that no external input can be processed anymore, and the system stops. The world may be undergoing a revolution, but the philosophical discourse remains detached and utterly oblivious. Time to reboot the system.

That’s Luciano Floridi in a brief post at the OUP Blog, using that great analogy to argue that philosophy is needed “to make sense of the radical changes brought about by the information revolution.”

UPDATE (7/16/14): “Echoing the always popular sentiment that philosophy is ‘detached’ from something important (politics, history, life, etc.), and riding the wave of cultural optimism about information technology, this analogy sounds smart and relevant. Just what philosophy may need-–except if you have any knowledge of actual computer systems, Floridi’s analogy falls flat.” — a reply at Not Philosophy.

Heap of Links

1. Is Žižek a plagiarist? Update: Newsweek gets on the story. Update 2: Žižek’s response.
2. “Philosophers ought to do their best to find a female captain, not merely a ship’s figurehead,” says Susannah Kate Devitt, reviewing the latest Australian Association of Philosophy (AAP) Conference.
3. The ethics of sex with dead people? Of course, there’s dignity. But maybe, there’s Louis CK.*
(*This is Louis CK talking about sex with dead people; you figure out whether that is NSFW.)
4. A discussion of “liquid democracy,” under which each person is “allowed to delegate the task of voting to someone whom he considers to be superior to himself.”
5. “I don’t think that what is needed is more eye-catching public performances by professional philosophers… What I wish for is better philosophy, and better history of philosophy, from those intellectuals and scientists who are in the public eye already and who wrongly believe they know what they are talking about when they venture into philosophy.” An interview with journalist-philosopher Anthony Gottlieb.
6. How an invention of Leibniz’s anticipated the central idea of modern computing.
7. A wide-ranging interview of Mark Okrent (Bates College) that touches on his entry into philosophy, changes to teaching and to universities, capitalism, phenomenology, pragmatism, and other topics.
8. The lifestyle section ofThe Times of India lists ten “leadership tips” from philosophers, complete with animated gifs. Meanwhile, leadership is the topic of the week at Philosophy Talk.
9. There’s a series of novels by Alexander McCall Smith featuring “insatiably curious philosopher and woman detective” Isabel Dalhousie. I have no idea if they are any good. The first is called The Sunday Philosophy Club.

Friday Fun bonus link:

10.  “The front of the palate introduces profound blackcurrant flavour, followed on the middle palate by Maraschino cherry, dark chocolate and mocha coffee fruit elements with savoury oak… Drink with: Wagyu beef sirloin with horseradish and grilled mushrooms” –from a review of “The Philosophy” (cabernet sauvignon – shiraz blend). What a wasted opportunity. Proper reviews of a wine called “The Philosophy” are welcome in the comments.