Some colleges have no philosophers. Some colleges have philosophers, but not many, yielding a very low philosopher-to-student ratio, particularly when compared to elite institutions or flagship state schools. Such colleges—which include many community colleges, state branch campuses, and historically black colleges and universities—seem to turn out very few students who ultimately join the philosophy profession. If the philosophy profession is interested in increasing diversity among its ranks—including socioeconomic and racial diversity—and also increasing the number of jobs available for philosophers, then it should push these schools to hire more philosophers. That is the argument of Christopher Pynes (Western Illinois) in a notable guest post at Leiter Reports.
The mission of the American Philosophical Association (APA) begins with this: “The American Philosophical Association promotes the discipline and profession of philosophy, both within the academy and in the public arena.” It would seem to be consistent with its mission to lead, in Pynes’ words, “a professional full-court press to increase access to philosophy in those schools that lack reasonable access to philosophy by all available means.”
This will require focused effort—not a shotgun approach. We’ll have to do the hard work of determining where philosophy is missing or in short supply, and because we are dealing with scarce resources, we can’t waste effort on small or unlikely gains…. Correcting the problem and diversifying the profession through growth is going to take a long time—several generations…. Growing the discipline and solving the diversity problem cannot be fixed immediately, but rather will take steady, continual, and focused progress. If we can’t do that, then the profession will continue to suffer from structural elitism and remain less inclusive and sadder still, less relevant. We will become the new Classics.
I think the proposal is an intriguing one, and Pynes is right to keep an eye on the long term. As far as I know, the APA has not to date taken on tasks like this (please correct me if I’m wrong). I would encourage it to at least consult with experts on various strategies for pushing for increased and more equitable access to philosophy.
(image: detail of “Patriarch” by Matt Cusik)