Broader Effects of the PGR

The following is an excerpt from an email a well-known senior philosopher sent to his/her colleagues regarding visiting speakers:

“The events are being organized so as to maximally benefit the department. This includes promoting the reputation of the department, providing intellectual stimulation, and just having plain fun. Normally, conferences and workshops should include some… evaluators for the Leiter Report (for the purposes of promoting departmental reputation).”

The specific identity of the philosopher who sent this email is unimportant, as there will be many who have seen such messages before from their own colleagues, or perhaps sent such messages themselves. I bring it to your attention not because it is an unusual message, but precisely because it is not.

The email from which the above was excerpted was sent to me by a philosophy professor who adds the following comments:

One of the broader effects of the Philosophical Gourmet Report (PGR) is to create incentives for a department to take a variety of measures aimed directly at improving its place in the rankings. So there is an incentive to favor inviting PGR evaluators over non-PGR evaluators for invited talks, not because of any of their qualities as philosophers, but because of their position as PGR-evaluators. Any incentive to invite people on the basis of their membership in the PGR evaluators club means that we have (yet another) distortion and corruption of the proper meritocratic basis of such invitations, that is, the expected quality of one’s contribution at the event. A philosopher’s status as a PGR evaluator should only reflect and not in turn contribute to one’s standing in the field; otherwise we aggravate in-group/out-group dynamics and calcify existing status hierarchies. This is not to deny that PGR evaluators are good philosophers. But clearly there is something wrong with the profession when it makes so much obvious sense to include these kinds of strategic considerations in our decisions about whom to honor with invitations that we do not even bat an eye at them anymore.

This seems like something to keep in mind as discussions of the PGR and its alternatives continue.

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