The merger of Philosophy Research Index into PhilPapers has now been completed. More than half a million items have been added to the PhilPapers index, greatly improving our coverage of older publications and print publications not available online. At 1.75 M items, our index is now three times the size of the nearest commercial alternative. We thank our colleagues at the Philosophy Documentation Center for their ceaseless efforts to collect relevant data.
My PhilPapers page sports some new entries though in several cases the bibliographical information is incomplete.
Now all of this sort of thing is what Heidegger would dismiss as Betriebsamkeit and with some justification. Fascinating our capacity to distract ourselves from the essential and lose ourselves in all sorts of busy-ness. Which is not to deny some value to this sort of frenetic scholarly industriousness. But let's hope that a further layer of Leiterization is not added. What this might consist in I'll leave it to you to imagine.
This from a graduate student whose paper I posted:
Shortly after you posted my paper, I got an email from a friend who also reads your blog. My friend wondered if this was, all things considered, bad for my chances on the job market. He thinks in this age of Google searches, having my name come up on your blog will be viewed negatively by some hiring committees, given that most are leftists. It is completely absurd to me that someone might chuck my application in the trash just because they see a serious metaphysics post on a blog that defends conservative views some of the time, and I'm quite happy to have my name associated with yours, but I was wondering what you thought.
Might it be better to change the post and title a little so it doesn't mention my full name? If it is indeed true that some departments would not hire me because of this post, there is a significant part of me that doesn't want to work with such people anyway, but then there is another part of me that loves teaching philosophy enough that I'd be willing to try to put up with such people, at least for a while. I don't know. I'm not terribly worried about it at this moment, since I won't be on the job market until fall of 2016.
I did remove the author's name out of concern for his prospects. I suspect his friend has a better understanding of how bad things have become than he does. The universities have become leftist seminaries. The few exceptions prove the rule. And where there are leftists there is political correctness and the party line. Anyone who refuses to toe it, anyone who thinks independently and critically and speaks out against leftist excesses and outright inanities runs a serious career risk. But even if one does not speak out, and is only tenuously associated with a website that publishes some conservative material, one is at risk.
I've made mine, so I can afford to speak the truth. A little courage is involved, but not much. I cannot recommend that people who are young or starting out take career-destroying risks. And I ought not expose them to danger. Never underestimate how vicious and vindictive leftists can be. The case of Brian Leiter is very instructive. Details of some of his recent antics here.
And don't ever underestimate the lengths of lunacy to which lefties will go. Recent example: CUNY. Morris Raphael Cohen must be rolling over in his grave.
Graduate students in a philosophy department somewhere in the English-speaking world did some online sleuthing about a job candidate for a position in their department, and learned that the candidate seems to hold views they find offensive. In particular, they found reports (including alleged quotes) that the candidate had expressed in online fora the view that homosexual acts and premarital sex are immoral.
It is a good thing Immanuel Kant did not apply to this department. He holds that "Every form of sexual indulgence, except in marriage, is a misuse of sexuality and so a crimen carnis." (Lectures on Ethics, tr. Infield, Hackett, p. 169.)
. . . if you do not share the universities' values, it could be a big mistake to send your children to college before they are intellectually and morally prepared for the indoctrination-rather-than-education they will receive there. Therefore, prepare them morally and intellectually and, if possible, do not send them to college right after high school. Let them work for a year, or perhaps travel . . . . The younger the student, the less life experience and maturity they have, the more they are likely to embrace the rejection of your values.
The sad fact is that if you love education, revere the life of the mind, care about the pursuit of truth, think young people need to receive wisdom from their elders, and value moral clarity, the university is the last place you would want to send your 18-year-old.
He's baaack, bearing 'gifts.' Professor Christian Munthe has the story:
Remember The September Statement from earlier this year, signed by 648 academic philosophers in North America and elsewhere against Chicago philosopher and law professor Brian Leiter's unacceptable treatment of his UBC colleague Carrie Ichikawa-Jenkins, ending in Leiter's statement of resignation from the institutional ranking operation he had founded and coordinated up till then, the Philosophical Gourmet Report? If not, a recapture of some of the essential of this sad and disgraceful story is here (start at the bottom to get the adequate chronology). This detailed chronological account is also rewarding.
One would have thought that after this, Brian Leiter would prefer to lay dead and lick his wounds for a while, waiting for the memory of the scandal and his own disgrace to settle, and maybe find new pathways to having himself feel good about himself besides bullying and threatening (apparently mostly female) academic colleagues for one of the other, more or less fathomable, reason found by him to justify such behaviour. Maybe do something meriting a minimal portion of admiration and respect from academic colleagues, perhaps?
Not so at all.
As revealed on Christmas eve by Jonathan Ichikawa-Jenkins, Carrie's husband, Leiter has recently had a Canadian lawyer send a letter to them both, threatening with a defamation lawsuit unless they publicly post a "proposed statement" of apology to Leiter, with the specifically nasty ingredient of a specific threat that such a suit would imply " “a full airing of the issues and the cause or causes of [Carrie’s] medical condition;”. Moreover, the letter asks the Ichikawa-Jenkins to apologise not only for the personal declaration of professional ethos that made no mention of Brian Leiter whatsoever but that for some reason – to me still incomprehensible as long as a deeply suppressed guilty conscience or outright pathology is not pondered – to to be an attack on his person, but also for the actions of other people, such as this post at the Feminist Philosophers blog, and The September Statement itself – implying obviously that all the signatories to that statement would be in the crosshairs of professor Leiter. The full letter of the lawyer setting out these threats is here. The (expected) response from the Ichikawa-Jenkins' lawyer is here, stating the simple and obvious claim that all that's been publicly communicated on this matter – such as making public bullying emails of Leiter – is protected by normal statutes of freedom of speech.
Via John Pepple, I just learned that John McAdams, a tenured associate professor of political science at Marquette University, has been suspended with pay and barred from campus for criticizing a graduate student philosophy teacher who shut down a classroom conversation on gay marriage. As McAdams puts it at his weblog Marquette Warrior:
This incident further illustrates what I mean when I say that the universities of the land, most of them, have become leftist seminaries and hotbeds of political correctness. The behavior of the philosophy instructor illustrates the truth that there is little that is classically liberal about contemporary liberals.
I have taught high school and college-aged kids for many years, and am very often lobbed the relevance question. The logical coherence of the concept of God. Theories of space and time. Classic questions in epistemology and metaphysics. "How is this relevant," they ask. It annoys me. I make an impotent gesture toward the intrinsic value of knowledge, but am always left frustrated by having to defend what is so obvious to me --and to everyone else prior to the mid twentieth century--the indelible importance of these topics. Maybe you can help me out?
I don't know how much help I can be, but here are some thoughts.
1. The philosophy teacher has a problem the calculus instructor, say, does not. The latter does not have to show the relevance of his subject or motivate an interest in it. Perhaps two thirds of the students before him are engineering majors who need no convincing of the relevance of higher mathematics to their career goals. They are interested in mathematics, if not for its own sake, then for the sake of its use. The philosophy teacher, however, has not only to teach his subject but also, unlike the mathematics professor, to argue its relevance and motivate interest.
Philosophy is an end in itself. This is why it is foolish to try to convince philistines that it is good for something. It is not primarily good for something. It is a good in itself. Otherwise you are acquiescing in the philistinism you ought to be combating. [. . .]
To the philistine's "Philosophy bakes no bread" you should not respond "Yes it does," for such responses are patently lame. You should say, "Man does not live by bread alone," or "Not everything is pursued as a means to something else," or "A university is not a trade school." You should not acquiesce in the philistine's values and assumptions, but go on the attack and question his values and assumptions. Put him on the spot. Play the Socratic gadfly. If a philistine wants to know how much you got paid for writing an article for a professional journal, say, "Do you really think that only what one is paid to do is worth doing?"
3. "I make an impotent gesture toward the intrinsic value of knowledge, but am always left frustrated by having to defend what is so obvious to me . . ." Most of the people who need to have this explained to them are not equipped to appreciate any explanation. So we humanists are in a tough spot. One of the conclusions I came too early on was that philosophy simply cannot be a mass consumption item at the college level. Although I didn't mind, and actually enjoyed, teaching logic courses, which can be of some use to the masses, I loathed teaching Intro to Philosophy and other philosophy courses designed to satisfy breadth requirements.
Part of the problem is that college level is so low nowadays that it has become a joke to speak of 'higher education.' People are not there to become educated human beings but to garner credentials that they believe will help them get ahead economically and socially. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but then why waste time on the pursuit of truth for its own sake? The average person has no intellectual eros; what he wants and needs is job training.
4. There is an irony here. People like you and me and thousands of others would never have had the opportunity to make a living from teaching philosophy if the level had not sunk so low, not so much because our level is low, but because there would simply have been no jobs for us if 'higher' education had not metastazised in the 1960s and beyond. So while we complain about the low level of our students, we ought to bear in mind that we have students in the first place and are not selling insurance or writing code because of the democratization of 'higher' ed.
5. I am an elitist, but not in a social or economic or racial sense. Everyone who has what it takes to profit from it ought to have the opportunity to pursue real education -- which is not to be confused with indoctrination in leftist seminaries -- in institutions of higher -- no 'sneer' quotes -- education. Equality of opportunity! But of course there will never be equality of outcome or result because people are not equal.
Philosophy -- the real thing, not some dumbed-down ersatz -- cannot be a mass consumption item. It is for the few. But who those few are cannot be decided by criteria of race or sex or age or religion or national origin. High culture is universal and belongs to all of us, even though we individually and as members of groups are not equal in our ability to contribute to it.
He finally went too far. For years he got away with vicious out-of-the-blue personal attacks on conservatives and white males, but when he turned on females, such as Prof. Carrie Ichikawa Jenkins, the Left turned on one of its own. (Be sure and click on the link to get the full flavor of Leiter's thuggishness.)
See my Brian Leiter category for more on this sorry specimen. I wouldn't be mentioning this status-obsessed careerist and academic gossip monger at all if it weren't for his attack on me which you can read about, if you care to, in the category just mentioned.
Had enough yet? If not, there is more below.
UPDATE (10/11): You've read the September Statement. Here is the October Statement. What's needed is a November Statement the gist of which would be: forget the despicable Leiter and his antics, and all this rating and ranking nonsense, and the hyperprofessionalization and politicization of this noble and beautiful calling, Philosophy, and return, if you can, to meditation on the questions and problems that ought to have led you to philosophy in the first place -- assuming that your goal is wisdom and insight and not the life of a status-obsessed academic functionary like Leiter.
UPDATE (10/11):Here is a surprisingly detailed and regularly updated archive of Brian Leiter's ongoing collapse with links galore.
A commenter here penetrates to the essence of Leiter (emphasis added):
Her [Jenkins'] original post, which essentially celebrated her happy ascension to being a professor in a treasured field, was instantly stalked and trolled and attacked by a prominent professional in her field who put her on notice that nothing she wrote or published would happen without his eye falling on it, that whatever she wrote could be construed as legally actionable, that he would be watching her to make sure that she steered clear of the sin of ever impinging on his gaping wound of an ego. In other words: she’s minding her own business and an important, touchy, asshole turns out to be stalking her and turning her private and professional life into a legal cause of action.
In an instant she went from being a person celebrating and engaging with her field and her colleagues into, apparently, the enemy of a person with zero sense of proportionality and restraint–a person so narcissistic that they go out of their way [he goes out of his way] to threaten legal action against a perfect stranger for a perfectly innocuous post that doesn’t reference Leiter at all. [. . .]
That's exactly right. No reasonable and decent person could object to Jenkins' statement of her principles and ideals. And even if it is too earnest for the jaded, only a scumbag like Leiter would call her a "sanctimonious asshole" for writing it. And only an egomaniac like the Ladderman could take it as directed at him.
You see, the problem with Leiter is not that he responds uncivilly to people who attack him; the problem is that he initiates vicious attacks on, and threatens, people who haven't mentioned him at all simply for stating something with which he disagrees.
Leiter is a strange study in self-destruction: he craves status and recognition and yet behaves in a way that any fool can see will lead to his loss of reputation. Chivalry may be moribund, but it is not entirely dead. To attack a woman who has made it in a male-dominated field as an "asshole" for simply announcing her values and ideals is not only morally offensive but profoundly foolish for someone for whom status and standing are everything.
And how 'philosophical' is such behavior? How can one call a philosopher one who places a premium on status and standing? Leiter fancies himself a philosopher, the real thing, while I, according to him, merely "purport" to be a philosopher. But he does not enjoy an appointment in a philosophy department! So by his own entirely superficial criterion of what makes one a philosopher he himself is not a philosopher. His criterion, it goes without saying, is absurd on the face of it, excluding as it does Socrates and Spinoza and so many others as philosophers, including his master Nietzsche, another profile in self-destruction.
The man is without substance, devoid of wisdom and decency, a two-bit self-promoter and academic functionary, in no way a Mensch, in some ways a Macher, and in most ways a blight upon academic philosophy. It is good that he has decided to self-destruct. May he complete the project and emerge with a metanoia, a change of heart and mind.
We who are now witnessing his self-induced unravelling may wish to ask ourselves: is this Schadenfreude, or righteous satisfaction at his comeuppance?
As to Professor Leiter himself, I wish to say as little as possible (we have had our run-ins, to put it mildly). But I think everyone should acknowledge that Brian Leiter is not solely responsible for Brian Leiter: he has been pandered to, encouraged, and enabled by large segments of the philosophy profession, especially in the United States. The reasons for this have been essentially corrupt. It is time for people to wake up to their own complicity. He has no more power than the power people have given him. I look forward to a post-Leiter age in philosophy.
Keith, one of Leiter's early victims, goes on to report his satisfaction at Leiter's humiliation.
Here's hoping that Leiter's self-defenestration does indeed usher in "a post-Leiter age in philosophy."
The following portion of an interview by Richard Carrier of Susan Haack puts one in mind of Brian Leiter whose main disservice to academic philosophy has been his contribution to its hyperprofessionalization.
S.H.: I had begun to express concern about the condition of professional philosophy well before 2001; and I’m sorry to say that our profession seems to me in even worse shape now than it did then. It has become terribly hermetic and self-absorbed; bogged down in pretentious and pseudo-technical jargon; in the thrall of those dreadful “rankings”; and splintered into narrow specialisms and—even worse—cliques identified, not by a specialty, but by a shared view on a specialized issue. A friend of mine put it in a nutshell when she described professional philosophy as “in a nose-dive.”
The reasons for the over-specialization are no doubt very complicated. But one relevant factor, I’m sure, is departmental rankings by area; and another is the ever-increasing pressure to publish, now extending even to graduate students. And behind this, there’s that ever-growing class of professional university administrators who have long ago put their academic work on permanent hold and, unable to judge a person’s work themselves, can only rely on surrogate measures like rankings, “productivity,” grant money brought in, citations, and such. Inevitably, many professors and would-be professors soon internalize the same distorted values; and many soon realize that a relatively easy way to publish a lot, fast, is to associate yourself with some clique, to join a citation cartel, to split your work into minimally publishable units, and of course to repeat yourself.
. . . if this pathetic piece can be believed. But it so reads like a parody of POMO rhetoric that it negates itself. The writer is an alumna of the UC Boulder Philosophy Department. One hopes that she is not representative of the sort of graduate the department 'produces.' If she is, then perhaps here is the real indictment of said department.
Wes Morriston, recently retired after 42 years of service to the department and the university, responds here.
His response is rational and fact-based. But one wonders about the efficacy of responding in such a way to a delusional screed. It is like responding rationally to someone who accuses you of being a racist for pointing out certain truths the subject matter of which is race. Recent example: Bruce Levenson's 'racist' e-mail.
More on the Boulder witch hunt in my Feminism category. Note the ambiguity of 'witch hunt.' Are witches the hunted or the hunters?
Morris Berman, The Twilight of American Culture (Norton, 2000), p. 122:
Latin mottoes adorn the crests of many of these schools, boasting of "light" and "truth." [BV interjects: Harvard's crest shows Veritas] The reality, however, is something very different, as thousands of these institutions have literal or de facto open admissions policies in the name of "democracy." The democratization of desire means that virtually anyone can go to college, the purpose being to get a job; and in an educational world now subsumed under business values, students show up -- with administrative blessing -- believing that they are consumers who are buying a product. Within this context, a faculty member who actually attempts to enforce the tradition of the humanities as an uplifting and transformative experience, who challenges his charges to think hard about complex issues, will provoke negative evaluations and soon be told by the dean that he had better look elsewhere for a job. Objecting to a purely utilitarian dimension for education is regarded as quaint, and quickly labelled as "elitist" (horror of horrors!); but the truth is that there an be no genuine liberal education without such an objection.
I agree completely.
You may recall Obama opining that everyone should go to college.* A preposterous notion. It is a bit like maintaining that everyone should receive Navy SEAL training. To profit from such training one must be SEAL 'material.' It is the same, mutatis mutandis, with college: you must be 'college material.' The very fact that that phrase is no longer heard speaks volumes. I heard my seventh grade teacher apply it to your humble correspondent, but that was in the early 'sixties.
So perhaps we can add to Berman's 'democratization of desire,' 'democratization of potentiality' as if we are all equal in our powers and capacities.
Student teaching evaluations contribute to the consumer mentality to which Berman refers. Students ought to have a way to register legitimate complaints about faculty, but the use of teaching evaluations in tenure and promotion decisions and in the apportionment of merit pay leads to a further erosion of standards and to abdication of authority.
A confession. On the eve of tenure, the semester before the decision, I was conducting a seminar in the library while we were all seated at a big beautiful table. I observed one of my students carving into its surface. I said not a word: I needed strong teaching evaluations for my final academic hurdle. Succeed or fail -- for good. It was a bad market. Up or out. I made it easily with a 9 to 3 vote. But shame on me for not objecting to the defacement of common property. A clear case of abdication of authority.
The irony is that, for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the increasing political correctness of the university, I resigned my tenured position seven years later. Psychologically, there is of course a huge difference between being given the boot and leaving of one's own free will.
*Dennis Monokroussos supplies documentation. Scroll down to the final three quotations from Obama.
The high school I attended required each student to take two years of Latin. Years later the requirement was dropped. When a fundraiser contacted me for a donation, I said, "You eliminated Latin, why should I give you a donation?" He replied that the removal of Latin made room for Chinese.
What I should have said at that point was something like the following. "While the study of Asian languages and cultures and worldviews is wonderfully enriching, it must not come at the expense of the appropriation and transmission of our own culture which is Judeo-Christian and Graeco-Roman."
And then I could have clinched my point by quoting a couple of famous lines from Goethe's Faust, Part I, Night, lines 684-685:
Was du ererbt von deinen Vätern hast, erwirb es, um es zu besitzen!
What from your fathers you received as heir,
Acquire if you would possess it. (tr. W. Kaufmann)
The idea is that what one has been lucky enough to inherit, one must actively appropriate, i.e., make one's own by hard work, if one is really to possess it. The German infinitive erwerben has not merely the meaning of 'earn' or 'acquire' but also the meaning of aneignen, appropriate, make one's own.
Unfortunately the schools and universities of today have become leftist seminaries more devoted to the eradication of the high culture of the West than its transmission and dissemination. These leftist seed beds have become hot houses of political correctness.
What can you do? You might think of pulling your children out of the public schools and home-schooling them or else sending them to places like Great Hearts Academies.
I am critical of giving feminism and race the extra attention and insulation from criticism that comes from designating these topics as “entire sub-disciplines of philosophy.” Given that it’s considered impolitic to criticize “entire sub-disciplines of philosophy,” we should vigorously debate what deserves to be considered as such. Knowledge, ethics, and being-qua-being deserve that distinction. It’s not obvious that feminism and race do.
As many suspected, I am an expert in neither philosophy of race nor feminist philosophy. I need not be. One could have principled reservations about a discipline called “conservative studies” without being an Edmund Burke scholar. If you know that conservatism is a position in political philosophy, you might reasonably think it shouldn’t also be a discipline unto itself.
That is essentially the point I’m pressing against feminism as a sub-discipline of philosophy. Let feminism be discussed alongside conservatism, libertarianism, liberalism, fascism, and socialism in political-philosophy classes. Why must feminism, alone among these “isms,” also have its own brand of epistemology, ethics, literary theory, and biology? I doubt feminists would tolerate libertarian counterparts to any of these.
I think Case is making two logically distinct points here, points that ought to be explicitly distinguished.
The first is that, just as conservatism is not a philosophical subdiscipline unto itself, neither should feminism be. The second is that, whether or not feminism is its own subdiscipline, it is dubious to suppose that it entails its own epistemology, ethics, and ontology.
The second point invites parody. If Jewish philosophy implied its own epistemology, etc., what would that look like?
Jewish epistemology: Your mother has privileged access. Jewish ethics: ‘can’ implies ‘don't.' Jewish logic: if not p, what? q maybe? Jewish decision theory: maximize regret.
What principles would a feminist ontology include? That male entities are entia non grata? That they are unnecessary posits? I am tempted to make further jokes about razors and nomological danglers, but I'll leave that to the reader.
Surprisingly, Brian Leiter adopts a civil tone in his discussion of Case. Perhaps the taste of his own medicine administered by me and others has had a salutary effect on him.
In his latest NRO column, Spencer Case argues that "The feminist left is politicizing philosophy." I would add that this is but a special case of the general truth that the Left politicizes everything.
But, while David has never aspired to put the world right by philosophy, the world for its part has not been equally willing to let him and philosophy alone in return. Quite the reverse. His tenure of the Chair turned out to coincide with an enormous attack on philosophy, and on humanistic learning in general: an attack which has proved to be almost as successful as it was unprecedented.
This attack was begun, as everyone knows, by Marxists, in support of North Vietnam’s attempt to extend the blessings of communism to the south. The resulting Marxisation of the Faculty of Arts was by no means as complete as the resulting Marxisation of South Vietnam. But the wound inflicted on humanistic learning was a very severe one all the same. You could properly compare it to a person’s suffering third-degree burns to 35 per cent of his body.
After the defeat of America in Vietnam, the attack was renewed, amplified, and intensified, by feminists. Their attack has proved far more devastating than that of the Marxists. Lenin once said, “If we go, we shall slam the door on an empty house”; and how well this pleasant promise has been kept by the Russian Marxists, all the world now knows. It is in exactly the same spirit of insane malignancy that feminists have waged their war on humanistic learning; and their degree of success has fallen not much short of Lenin’s. Of the many hundreds of courses offered to Arts undergraduates in this university, what proportion, I wonder, are now not made culturally-destructive, as well as intellectually null, by feminist malignancy and madness? One-third? I would love to believe that the figure is so high. But I cannot believe it.
David did all that he could have done, given the limits set by his position and his personality, to repel this attack. Of course he failed; but then, no one could have succeeded. What he did achieve was a certain amount of damage-limitation. Even this was confined to the philosophy-section of the front. On the Faculty of Arts as a whole, David has had no influence at all—to put it mildly. In fact, when he spoke at a meeting of the Faculty, even on subjects unrelated to the attack, you could always have cut the atmosphere with a knife. It is a curious matter, this: the various ways inferior people have, of indirectly acknowledging the superiority of others, even where no such acknowledgment is at all intended by the inferior, or expected by the superior.
By the end of 1972, the situation in the philosophy department had become so bad that the splitting of the department into two was the only way in which philosophy at this university could be kept alive at all. In this development, David was the leading spirit, as his position and personality made it natural he should be. Of course he did not do it on his own. Pat Trifonoff’s intelligence and character made her an important agent in it. Keith Campbell’s adhesion to our side, after some hesitation, was a critical moment. But while I and certain others were only casting about for some avenue of escape, David never gave up. He battled on, and battled on again, and always exacted the best terms, however bad, that could be got from the enemies of philosophy.
The result of the split was far more happy than could have been rationally predicted at the time. In fact it was a fitting reward for David’s courage and tenacity. For the first twenty years of the new Department of Traditional and Modern Philosophy have been fertile in good philosophy, to a degree unparalleled in any similar period in this or any other Australian university. The department has also enjoyed a rare freedom from internal disharmony. As I have often said, it is the best club in the world, and to be or have been a member of it is a pleasure as well as a privilege.
There will certainly be no adequate official acknowledgment, from anyone inside the university, of what is owed to David. What could someone like the present Vice-Chancellor possibly care about the survival of humanistic learning, or even know about philosophy, or history, or literature? Anyone who did would never have got a Vice-Chancellor’s job in the first place. If there is any acknowledgment forthcoming from the Faculty of Arts, David will be able to estimate the sincerity of it well enough. It will be a case of people, who smiled as they watched him nearly drowning in the boiling surf of 1967–72, telling him how glad they were when, against all probability, he managed to make it to the beach.
But anyone who does know and care about philosophy, or does care about the survival of humanistic learning, will feel towards him something like the degree of gratitude which they ought to feel.
My recent anti-Leiter posts may give new readers the impression that I am doing the same sort of thing he does, namely, hurling abuse and name-calling. Not so. He attacked me out of the blue in November of 2004, and I ignored him. But given his recent attack, it is time to supply the context of my recent responses to him, and to explain that I am engaged in a legitimate defense against an unprovoked series of attacks. My motive is to set the record straight, but also to defend the graduate students, the untenured, and others who fear to respond to Leiter's attacks on them.
It all started when I posted the following on the first version of MavPhil. The entry is dated 4 November 2004 and I reproduce it verbatim:
Theocracy and the Left
Nobody wants a theocracy in the U.S. except the Islamo-fascists, and they want it everywhere. The fear among some leftists that the re-election of G.W. Bush is moving us towards theocracy shows just how delusional their thinking is. The problem with leftists is not so much stupidity as their ideological fixations. The latter prevent their minds from functioning properly. They see threats that aren't there and fail to see the ones that are. They ignore the very real theocratic threat of militant Islam, all the while fabricating a Christian theocratic threat.
Hostility to religion, especially institutionalized religion, is a defining characteristic of the Left. We've known that since 1789. What is surprising, and truly bizarre, is the Left's going soft on militant Islam, the most virulent strain of religious bigotry ever to appear. It threatens all of their values. But their obsession with dissent is so great, dissent at all costs and against everything established, that they simply must denounce Bush and Co. as potential theocrats, all the while cozying up to militant Islam. Their hatred for Bush is so great that they will sacrifice their defining values just to oppose him. In their perversity, they think the enemy of their enemy is -- still their enemy.
The above post got Leiter's goat even though there is no reference to him and no link to his website. But being the sort of vain and self-centered fellow he is, he took it personally as directed against him in particular. So taking it, he replied with a personal attack on me in Paranoid Fantasies of the Right:
In keeping with my general policy of not linking to noxious mediocrities--who, experience has shown, crave any attention--I am just going to quote a posting that is interesting not because of who said it (though he purports to be a philosopher), but because of what it reveals about the right-wing mindset (it resonates with rhetoric one hears from Andrew Sullivan, Christopher Hitchens and others of that slimy ilk). The author was reacting (badly, it appears) to my reference to Bush & co. as fascist theocrats. Our right-winger comments: [Leiter goes on to quote me.]
Note for starters the man's huge ego: he thinks I am responding to his post. Not so. Second, what I have to say is just "rhetoric" of the sort spewed by Sullivan, Hitchens "and others of that slimy ilk." The suggestion, of course, is that I am of the same ilk. Third, I "purport" to be a philosopher. The suggestion is that I represent myself as being a philosopher when I am not a real philosopher like Leiter. Leiter is a philosopher (in his own mind), while I merely purport to be one. We will have to consider the criteria for being a real philosopher in a separate post.
Fourth, I am one of those who "crave any attention." How could Leiter have known this? (We have never met.) I am an introvert, an INTP in the Myers-Briggs classification and such types do not "crave any attention." To the contrary. Note also how Leiter appears to be engaged in psychological projection: he most assuredly craves attention, he recognizes at some pre-conscious level that this is unacceptable and an indicator of immaturity, and so to prevent this realization on his part he projects the unacceptable attribute into others. Projection is a defense mechanism the purpose of which is to reduce anxiety. So in Leiter's view I am the one who craves attention, which is why my name cannot be mentioned or my site linked to. Having projected his craving into me, he alleviates the anxiety he subconsciously feels at being an attention whore. What's more, Leiter wouldn't want to give me what I "crave" and he wouldn't want any one to be influenced by ideas that are on Leiter's index idearum prohibitarum.
There is apparently a link between psychological projection and bullying, a link we may follow up in a separate post.
Fifth, I am a "noxious mediocrity." In one sense of the term, 'mediocre' is not a pejorative; it just means of average ability. But then we are both mediocrities in philosophy if we are held to a truly rigorous standard. Why then is one of us "noxious"? Because he is not the other? And then there is the question as to how Leiter could know that I am a mediocrity in philosophy. Has he studied any of my papers published in such journals as Analysis, Nous, Philosophy, History of Philosophy Quarterly, The Monist, Dialectica, and numerous others? Has Leiter published in any of these journals? Some of my papers are listed on my PhilPapers page.
To sum up. Leiter is a leftist ideologue first, and a philosopher second, if at all. Philosophy for him is but a means for the advancement of himself and his ideology. This explains the personal nature of his attack on me cited above. A good leftist, he seeks to destroy those who disagree with his ideas. It is all about power and it is all about winning. It is right out of Alinsky and the CP. Don't forget, PC is from the CP. You shout down your opponent; you ridicule him; but if the opponent replies in kind, then you protest that he is a hypocrite who doesn't live up to the standards he professes. Alinsky: Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules. Another rule of lefties: Always invoke the double standard: Treat your opponents like dirt but then protest the "sick viciousness" of a reply in kind.
I'll end with part of an e-mail from a young philosophy professor:
I hope that you are wearing Leiter's attack on you as a true badge of honor. The fact that Leiter deems you worthy of an attack post means that his grotesque, opportunistic, tyrannical mind is squirming at the fact that you are not assimilating into the proper politically correct hierarchy of contemporary academia. But this why I, and so many others, love your blog. Keep up the great work!
Immanuel Kant was born on this date in 1724. He died in 1804. My dissertation on Kant, which now lies 36 years in the past, is dated 22 April 1978. But if, per impossibile, my present self were Doktorvater to my self of 36 years ago, my doctoral thesis might not have been approved! As one's standards rise higher and higher with age and experience one becomes more and more reluctant to submit anything to evaluation let alone publication. One may scribble as before, and even more than before, but with less conviction that one's outpourings deserve being embalmed in printer's ink. (Herein lies a reason to blog.)
So finish the bloody thing now while you are young and cocky and energetic. Give yourself a year, say, do your absolute best and crank it out. Think of it as a union card. It might not get you a job but then it just might. Don't think of it as a magnum opus or you will never finish. Get it done by age 30 and before accepting a full-time appointment. And all of this before getting married. That, in my opinion, is the optimal order. Dissertation before 30, marriage after 30. Now raise your glass with me in a toast to Manny on this, his 290th birthday. Sapere aude!
A U. K. reader made mention in an e-mail of a feminist philosopher with a high H index.
"What is this? It's a measure of citation apparently. Is that good? Or is it a bunch of useless people citing each other -- a sort of walled garden? Interested in your thoughts."
To tell the truth, it wasn't until this afternoon that I had even heard of it. A metric like this is the kind of thing that excites status-obsessed careerists and gatekeepers like Ladder Man, a. k. a. Brian Leiter, who is so-called because of his obsession with rankings and ratings. Can you imagine a real philosopher such as Spinoza caring about these trappings of professionalism gone wild?
Here is the way I understand it. Let N be the total number of a scientist's or scholar's publications. A scientist or scholar has index h if h of his N publications have at least h citations each, and the other (N − h) publications have no more than h citations each. (See here.)
To illustrate, I will use myself as an example and attempt to calculate my h value based on the data provided by Google Scholar here.
#9 (International Philosophical Quarterly) 8 citations #10 (History of Philosophy Quarterly) 7 citations
and so on, with all the rest of my 50 or so publications having no more than 8 citations each.
The value of h for me is 8 because 8 of my publications have at least 8 citations each and the rest have no more than 8 citations each. If I had published only #1, then h would be 1. If I had published only the first two, then my h would be 2 because each has at least two citations. If I had published only the first three, then my h would be 3 because each of the three has been cited at least three times. And so on. If I had published only the first eight, then my h would still be 8.
So does this make me a better philosopher than Edmund Gettier? He published exactly one very short philosophical paper. H for him is 1. Am I eight times better than him? And what does 'better' mean? More influential? Then he is better than me. But influential on whom? Is 'influential' a descriptive or a descriptive-cum-normative predicate? Gettier cooked up a counterexample to the justified-true-belief analysis of propositional knowledge. How important is that whole debate? Nietzsche and Ayn Rand are highly influential. Is that good or bad?
Socrates is supposed not to have published anything. His h = 0. Socrates Jones over at Whatsammatta U. is his latter-day acolyte. So far he has published nothing and may never publish anything. But he is an inspiring teacher and as keen a dialectician as the master himself with many of the same moral attributes.
But poor Socrates Jones was denied tenure despite his philosophical gifts because the lunkheads who evaluated him, lacking phronesis and obsessed with the calculable, and needing to justify themselves to know-nothing administrators, were obsessed with a dubious and well-nigh meaningless metric.
Our man in Boulder, Spencer Case, here interviews Roger Scruton. I have reproduced the whole piece, bolding those portions I consider most important. To my pleasure, I find myself in agreement with what Scruton maintains below, though he ought to have avoided the "ideological concentration camp" exaggeration. I reproduce the whole of the interview to preserve it in case the link goes bad or the site goes down.
In this exclusive interview with The College Fix, globally renown British philosopher and polemicist Roger Scruton addresses the decline of the modern university.
Scruton, a highly respected, decorated scholar and author of more than 30 books, including his recent How to Think Seriously About the Planet: The Case for Environmental Conservatism, suggests colleges today have become more like “closed, ideological … concentration camps.”
He explores why that happened, why it’s wrong, and offers solutions. The interview was conducted by College Fix contributor Spencer Case last week at the University of Colorado – Boulder.
SC: So, I want to know how you would describe the state of the university. And I’m thinking in particular about the United States, but in other places as well. Do you see things generally moving in a positive direction or a negative direction, and why?
RS: I’m unusual in that I’m somebody with an academic status but who’s not part, not really part, of a university. I’ve been twenty years freelancing, supporting myself through writing and various small business-type activities, because I value my own independence, really. So I have observed it from the outside, but I do have the impression that there are things which are going wrong.
One is the way in which the difficult topics, the difficult subjects, rather, in the humanities, are being displaced by purely ideological subjects. It used to be the case that at the heart of the humanities there were difficult things like the classical languages, modern languages, literature –read properly and critically discussed – and so on, the “Great Books” and all the rest, in music the study of harmony and counter-point, in philosophy the analytical discipline that we know about so well. All those were real intellectual disciplines. But I see more and more they’re being replaced by gender studies and other forms of essentially ideological confrontation with the modern world.
SC: Now since you’re on that, that’s a great segue to another question. The question is: there is a kind of tension between, I think, more traditional type philosophers and people who are into feminism, gender studies, this kind of stuff. I’m sort of the mind that these fields inject politics and political activism too much into philosophy. But they have responses to that. One of their responses is: “We’re concerned about justice, we’re concerned about authority, and these really are perennial philosophical issues.”
RS: Yeah, sure. There is plenty of room for people to include as part of the philosophical discussions of justice the whole question about the relation between man and woman, all the questions that feminists consider. There’s absolutely no reason why that shouldn’t be included. But, if the assumption is that one has to be a feminist, one has to arrive at a particular conclusion as a result of studying this, then what is involved is not philosophical discussion but ideology. The whole defining nature of philosophy is that you start from free inquiry and you don’t actually know what you’re going to come up with as a result of your arguments. To think that you have to have the conclusion prior to the investigation is effectually to say that this is a form of indoctrination.
SC: I mean, don’t you think that you hold certain conclusions in advance of investigation? I mean, you probably knew in advance of investigation that you weren’t likely to become a global skeptic, for instance.
RS: Of course there are certain things. All of us hold certain premises on which our world view rests and we find it very difficult to question those premises. But we also know that there are controversial areas in which other people do not agree with us, and when we enter those areas it is our obligation as philosophers to open our minds, consider the arguments, and perhaps arrive at conclusions that we didn’t expect. And surely, this area about the nature of the relation between the sexes and so on is one of those. It’s quite clear that the feminist position is not accepted by everyone in the world around us, that it isn’t something that you have to have as a premise for your worldview if we are to see the world in which we live as it is. It’s not like the morality which tells us “Thou shalt not kill” and so on. And there is a kind of a closing of the mind that has happened here which excludes those that disagree with a particular position. And considering that some of those are highly intelligent people who don’t just wallow in their own prejudices, this is obviously a threat to our academic freedom.
SC: When you look at the current state of higher education, is there one philosophical mistake that you see implicated in getting us to the current sorry state of things?
RS: Well, yes. I would say that … [pause] yeah, I think there is one basic weakness in all the developments that I most would criticize. And that is that they are based upon embodying an ideological conclusion into the curriculum rather than a method of inquiry. And I think all of the humanities that have made our university so important and so great and made them contribute to the surrounding civic order, they all had this idea in their hearts of free inquiry into a subject matter, a defined subject matter, real intellectual questions, and a body of literature that helped people to understand the area. But I think what has happened is that new subjects, or new disciplines, so called, have come into being which do not require methods of inquiry, but they do require adherence to a particular conclusion.
SC: Alright, well I want to ask you about the thesis of a book I’m reading now by Robert Nisbet. The book is The Degradation of the Academic Dogma. And he basically argues that the university is the last medieval guild, the last medieval institution, to have survived the influences of modernism. And it requires certain things, like the respect for seeking truth for its own sake and scholarship, and it requires a kind of authority structure and it requires things that are really sort of out of place in the modern world. And he sees that the university is now being eroded by a cultural outlook that is incompatible with the values it requires. And I’m wondering if you could comment on that.
RS: Yes. I haven’t read this book, but I do have a tendency to agree with Robert Nisbet when I read him. I think the universities have certainly changed from what they were, from what they were when I was educated, actually. It is no longer possible to see them as uniquely involved in the dispassionate pursuit for truth for its own sake. That is something that is gone, for the reasons that I’ve said earlier, that in the humanities at least disciplines which pursued truth for its own sake have been replaced with disciplines that pursue political conformity. And the indoctrination of a specific worldview which is that of a very small minority, which has, I think, no relation to the way that normal people live. So in a sense he’s right.
But I don’t think – after all, the university isn’t entirely dominated by the humanities. On the contrary, the humanities have had a dwindling role to play for the very reason that they’ve become politicized. So they’ve become uninteresting to many students. A good university has a flourishing science section, and flourishing professional sections devoted to medicine and law and so on, and that’s always been the case, since the Middle Ages.
SC: Now, that’s great that you segue into the humanities. If you’re looking at the university today and the trends that are affecting it – even superficially – one of things that you’re going to notice is this decline in the humanities. And I’ve noticed that there are really two different components to this trend. There’s a sort of “bottom-up” trend of students not being as interested in it, fewer choosing to take up the topic. And there’s also a “top-down” component to it. The top-down component is administrators seem hostile to the humanities …
SC: … and it seems philosophy in particular. So if there are funding cuts, we know who’s going to bear most of the brunt of that. And I wonder, do you think that they are simply responding to the desires of the students, the preferences of the students, or is there some greater ideology or something behind that?
RS: I’m not sure, because I don’t know the situation in American universities as well as you do. I would say that administrators are obviously very concerned to raise funds for the university, and if it’s a question of closing down a department, they’re not going to close down a department that brings in funding. And of course, the humanities departments, on the whole, don’t bring in funding in the way that science departments do, or law departments. So, they are vulnerable. And, having become vulnerable, they make themselves more vulnerable, of course, if they simply become centers of trouble-making ideological conformity. That inevitably will have a negative impact. But I don’t know whether the administrators have an ideological motive.
In the university where I taught part-time recently, at St. Andrews in Scotland, they have closed down departments because of lack of funding, and it has been entirely on financial grounds. But it’s interesting that the department they closed down first was music, while keeping open business studies and things like that which are, on my view, complete non-sense, really, for a university to be involved in. But the business studies departments produce money, the music department didn’t, even though, of course, music, from Plato’s day, has been the fundamental discipline in the humanities. Plato made it fundamental to the university when he invented the academy, and it should have remained so. But it is vulnerable because it’s expensive to run and doesn’t bring in money. And yet, it seems to me, a university that doesn’t have a flourishing music department doesn’t really deserve the name.
SC: Final question. Also in Nisbet’s book he makes the point that the decline of the university doesn’t necessarily mean the decline of higher learning. The decline of the university could herald the dawn of new institutions that fill the same role, and perhaps may do the same things even better. I think of things like the Khan Academy and the Teaching Company, and the Teaching Company allows people to buy cds of lectures on various topics. And it seems to me that if you want to be an autodidact this really is the best time in which to live. You just have the ability to learn a lot on your own, and pretty cheaply. And I wonder if that is encouraging to you.
RS: It is, in a way. I would hate to see the universities disappear because they are fundamental institutions in Western society. They have been symbols of intellectual freedom, symbols of the civic virtue which I think most distinguishes us. Namely, the ability of people of different views to live together and to discuss their differences. That is a fantastic thing, and the university is a symbol of that. But I agree that the more universities become these closed, ideological sort of concentration camps, the more people will look for their education outside. With the internet and everything, nothing there can stop them. And one has to accept that. And maybe that will force universities to become a bit more realistic about what they’re offering.
SC: That’s all I have. Is there anything you would like to add?
RS: Oh, what would I like to add? [laughter] I think I would like to add one thing, which is it seems to me that universities need to make an effort to reach out to those who disagree with the general liberal ideology, that they ought to be more self-knowing about all this. They ought to ask themselves the question “how is it that we got into this position, where only one point of view is represented, and also that any other point of view is persecuted?” which seems to be the growing reality. And I think universities do need to go through a period of self-criticism where they ask themselves that, and whether an effort shouldn’t be made simply to open things again.
Fix contributor Spencer Case is a philosophy graduate student at the University of Colorado. He is a U.S. Army veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and an Egypt Fulbright alumnus.
Brian Leiter is known for his academic gossip site, Leiter Reports. He is also known for his careerism, thuggishness, and political correctness. Some call him Ladder Man because of his obsession with rankings and status. (One of the meanings of the German Leiter is ladder; another is leader as in Gauleiter.) Others call him Brianus Climacus because he is a climber and careerist. For others he is just the Academic Thug. Recently, however, some on the Left have been turning on him. This from a reader:
I don’t know if you’ve been watching all this develop, but some people are more and more willing to come out publically against Leiter (though I don’t mean to suggest that I approve of the position they are siding with in order to do so). See the second paragraph in particular for background (with links):
At the moment it does indeed seem that Leiter is being devoured by the world he created, the hyper-professionalized world of academic philosophy. The conception of philosophy as a “profession” (and all the b.s. that entails) combined with the PC tendencies of academia at present have given birth to an ugly sort of monster, and Leiter has inadvertently stumbled into its labyrinth. But he does conceive himself as a sort of Theseus in this context, and he has promised a long reply to his critics. In this one specific instance I think he is in the right against many of those attacking him—their attacks coming from an even more radical version of PC than his own. But still he’s in the wrong overall (and your description of him is spot on), and this is what he gets.
I had asked: Is pushback against Leiter a case of the Left eating their own? When do these feminists and their fellow travellers actually do philosophy? Methinks too much of their time is occupied with issues of professional status and standing, 'diversity,' careerism, and the like. That is what I can't stand in Leiter as well, that corpulent apparatchik of political correctness.
Unquestionably philosophy is among of the most male-dominated disciplines in universities today, but inviting outside review by the American Philosophical Association's (APA) Committee on the Status of Women was guaranteed to produce a finding as predictable as the Salem Committee to Investigate Witchcraft in 1691. The irony of this situation is the unacknowledged reversal of the presumption of "privilege" that was at the heart of the original (and justified) feminist complaint about sexism a generation ago. While it may still be justified in the case of academic philosophy, it should not be beyond question whether mere statistical "underrepresentation" should be regarded as prima facie evidence of guilt, and therefore allowing the APA report to assert damning findings about the whole department while disclosing virtually no concrete facts.
One of the few meager facts in the APA report is that there have been "at least" 15 formal complaints to the University's Office of Discrimination and Harassment (ODH) out of the Philosophy department. "At least" 15 complaints? Is the actual number higher? Over what time period? How does this compare with the rate of complaints from other departments? How were these complaints disposed? How many were regarded as serious offenses? The report nowhere says, beyond a few vague hints that a handful of instances drew reprimands of some kind. Without a time frame or baseline against other departments it is impossible to make a relative judgment.
The APA can't be wholly blamed for this terminal vagueness, as the disposition of formal harassment complaints is handled confidentially for the most part. Unlike police departments whose arrests and investigations are a matter of public record, ODH does not disclose the data or details of their cases, and complaints, once made, require a virtual lockdown of discussion among bystanders and affected parties. This No-Persons-Land of university self-policing stems from the erosion of robust due process that would be intolerable in criminal and civil complaints outside university grounds, and campus feminists have been the prime mover in the erosion of due process standards.
Likewise the report's finding that "some male faculty have been observed 'ogling' undergraduate women students" should require something more substantial than was offered. Count me as shocked, shocked, that faculty ogling would occur. I am sure this has never happened before. Is there a relative scale for judging degrees of "ogling," by the way? Is "ogling" a more or less serious offense than a leer? I get it that the "power relationship" of a professor over a student makes this kind of behavior more serious than the normal private behavior of frat boys on a Saturday night, but are undergraduate women presumed to be so helpless or defenseless as to be unable to process and fight back against the lecherous leers of an analytical philosopher?
Likewise the APA report punts on offering any details about "bullying" in the department because it would "reveal... the perpetrators." Instead it offers general characterizations of a department that could easily be confused with the Miami Dolphins locker room, with an after-hours culture that is a poor imitation of Monty Python's "Philosopher's Song." Is the majority of the department faculty complicit in this, or just two or three bad actors? If the latter (as most people strongly suspect), why not name them? And rather than require the entire department to submit to a re-education camp, why not make it easier for the department or the administration to fire the bad actors? Nothing will spur better behavior faster than the prospect of termination.
The report complains that "The Department uses pseudo-philosophical analyses to avoid directly addressing the situation." Does this mean that philosophers actually philosophized about the problem? Again, shocking. The APA may be right that this approach is inadequate, but how would this differ essentially from the mode of reaction from feminist professors about complaints made in a women's studies program, where complaints would be run through the filters of gender theory?
I read the 17 page American Philosophical Association site visit report on the University of Colorado, Boulder, philosophy department. As a consultant, I wrote many reports like this -- you interview, obtain documentation and data, analyze the information, compare performance to best practices, and then finalize recommendations. Most of the time outside consultants are hired because there is a known problem; the consultant provides an 'objective' viewpoint as someone experienced in the subject area and, importantly, as someone with no personal stake in the outcome.
The troubling thing about the report is that it provides no detail, no who-where-what information that would document the basis for the conclusions. Ostensibly this lack of detail protects confidentiality, but the report was never intended to be made public. As a former consultant, I would say that the conclusions and recommendations are not supported by the content of the report. All of the allegations are vague and without specifics. No one writing such a report should want to provide salacious detail for no reason, but in fact the detail is extremely important. In a criminal trial, no accuser gets away with making vague allegations. Only the reference to 15 complaints filed with the ODH indicates that there may be specific actionable problems, but obviously the UC was already aware of those, so in fact the report contains nothing new that is specific enough to justify the recommendations. Vague comments like "the department has a reputation in the international philosophical community for being extremely unfriendly to women" are not really acceptable, as the authors appear to be merely repeating gossip obtained before their arrival in Boulder.
The 'best practices' reference is just silly. They are making all of this up as they go along, that's plain to see, and the UC philosophy department is the first department to be subjected to this inquisition, so there is no 'best practice' that even exists. The insistence that events must be "family friendly" appears to be based on some theory of academic work (or indeed, any adult work) that is not articulated but that is probably completely unfeasible. At a minimum it should be debated by all concerned, not just presented in passing as the thing that must now be done.
If a junior consultant gave me this report as a first draft, I would make these sorts of comments and would help them understand that that their report did not meet professional standards and could not be presented as is to senior management.
I conclude that the APA CSW should not be doing this sort of thing at all. Referring to the last sentence of my first paragraph above, the CSW ladies are not wholly disinterested; they are gender warriors. They are not objective as a consultant from outside philosophy and academia would be, nor are they subject area experts (they are philosophers!) and they have done a disservice to Mr. Forbes, the department, the University and philosophy in general. They should go back to teaching and writing and complaining on their blog; if this sort of thing is to be done, it should be done by professional, objective outside consultants.
Compare the above with this supine reaction to the Site Visit Report by two faculty members of the philosophy department.
I applaud the move to end sexual harassment seriously in the discipline. However, there are many ways in which the APA committee’s report seems extremely problematic. While I don’t know the nature of the alleged harassment or alleged inappropriate sexualization at Colorado, I find it very hard to believe that many of the report’s recommendations are necessary to prevent such behavior even if the report were factually accurate. Following those recommendations will, however, almost certainly damage the department and put it under the control of the administration in precisely the way Benjamin Ginsberg has warned us about in his must-read book, The Fall of the Faculty. In particular:
1. The report is overtly hostile to the dialectical/democractic model and demands that it be replaced with blatant dictatorship. The department is told to “[d]issolve all departmental listservs. Emails should be used for announcements only, as one-way, purely informational, communication. Any replies need to be made in person” (p.6). Since the department chair has now been ousted and replaced at the administration’s discretion for an indefinite period with no apparent opportunity for review at any point in the future (as urged by the report), this effectively cedes all departmental autonomy, in perpetuity, to the administration. There will be no clear avenues for discussion or dissent, and the restrictions on department members meeting outside of working hours helps to limit the ability of any faculty or students in the department to formulate dissenting views together: they may not meet to do so in the evenings or on weekends, and they may not do so via email. Moreover, the very act of reasoning or deliberating about policy is taken by the report as a sign of inappropriate resistance, according to the anti-philosophical views of the report (“Their faculty discussions… spend too much time articulating (or trying to articulate) the line between acceptable and unacceptable behavior… they spend significant time debating footnotes and “what if” scenarios…” – p.7)
2. The report uses terms like ‘family friendly’ in bizarre ways to restrict productive and innocuous department activities whose elimination would significantly harm collegiality, departmental morale and the learning experience of graduate students. In a ‘Special Note’ on p.12, the report discusses and prohibits the department’s planned spring retreat. This retreat was to involve a combination of philosophical talks and ‘unscheduled time’ in a scenic mountain area over a weekend. It is difficult for me at least to imagine an event I would more like to bring my children to — what family wouldn’t love some unscheduled time outdoors in a beautiful natural area? But bizarrely enough, the very fact that this event was to take place on the weekend makes it “an examplar for a family-unfriendly event,” according to the report. The justification for this absurd claim is that “Under no circumstances should this department (or any other) be organizing the social calendars of its members.”
3. The report claims that no philosophy department should, under any circumstances, ask its members to attend events outside of the hours of 9-5, Monday to Friday. On p.12 of the report, we are told that “If there are going to be social events, then they need to be managed such that members of the department can opt out easily and without any penalty. (Please note that best practices for family-friendly speaker events include taking the speaker out to lunch instead of dinner so that participants may have their evenings free to attend to other obligations)”. In particular, we are told that “all events, including retreats, need to be held during business hours (9-5) and on campus or near campus in public venues.” Please try to imagine what departmental life would be like under such a rule.
4. The report categorically prohibits all critical discussion of feminist philosophy by all members of the department, even in a private, off-campus conversation between two graduate or undergraduate students. ”Realize that there is plurality in the discipline. If some department members have a problem with people doing non-‐feminist philosophy or doing feminist philosophy (or being engaged in any other sort of intellectual or other type of pursuit), they should gain more appreciation of and tolerance for plurality in the discipline. Even if they are unable to reach a level of appreciation for other approaches to the discipline, it is totally unacceptable for them to denigrate these approaches in front of faculty, graduate or undergraduate students, in formal or informal settings on or off campus.”
BV: This (the quoted statement) is unbelievably obtuse and an excellent example of political correctness gone wild. First of all, critical discussion is not the same as denigration even if the critical discussion is trenchant and leads to rejection of the approach criticized. To take but one example, academic philosophers rightly criticize Ayn Rand's Objectivism. Much of that criticism is harsh but on target. It is not the same as denigration or dismissal. Of course, some do denigrate and dismiss it. Well, it is their considered opinion that it ought to be denigrated and dismissed. Surely they have a right to their view, as offensive as it is to Objectivists.
Second, while there is a plurality of approaches and views in philosophy, that fact does not insulate any view from examination and criticism. Toleration is not to be confused with approval. I can tolerate your view while rejecting it.
Third, a plurality of views is not to be confused with a plurality of equally tenable views.
Fourth, toleration is not to be confused with appreciation. I tolerate the views of eliminative materialists but I don't appreciate them. Note also the confusion in the quoted statement of appreciation of plurality with appreciation of the different views constituting the plurality. One can appreciate that there is plurality in the discipline both in the sense of acknowledging it, and in the sense of thinking it a good thing; but this is obviously distinct from approving of each of the views that constitute the plurality.
Finally, what the authors say is "totally unacceptable" must be accepted. Some views deserve denigration, as should be obvious. Suppose someone were to maintain that no woman should be allowed to study philosophy beyond the undergraduate level. That is a view that deserves denigration. So denigrate it, and give your reasons.
5. The report relies in part on clearly biased survey findings. On p.15, for instance, we find that subjects were asked whether they agree or disagree with the following statement: “I am confident that if I were to raise a complaint about sexual harassment or discrimination, the judicial process at my university would be fair.” 38% of respondents felt confident about this, which seems very high for any department! Most members of most departments would have no good grounds for confidence either way. Why doesn’t the survey ask instead whether subjects are confident that the process would be unfair? More tellingly, why doesn’t it simply ask whether subjects agree or disagree with the statement, “If I were to raise a complaint about sexual harassment or discrimination, the judicial process would be fair,” and allow the responses ‘Agree’, ‘Disagree’ and ‘Not sure’? Particularly among philosophers, ‘confident’ entails a very high epistemic standard. While it isn’t clear whether the committee intended to skew the results by asking such questions or whether they simply didn’t take care to prepare a fair survey, the survey is misleading at best and politically motivated at worst.
6. The report mentions, and then completely ignores, very serious graduate student concerns about damage to the department’s reputation; and in the process, it reduces the likelihood of future reporting of sexual harassment. “They [some graduate students] are worried that they will be tainted by the national reputation of the department as being hostile to women.” (pp.3-4). As a result of this, it was essential for the report to take steps to ensure that word about the department’s problems be carefully managed while steps are taken to eliminate the problem. At the very least, the report needed to ensure that the release of the report not be made into a worldwide media event. However, the report contains nothing of the sort and, as a result, the worst fears of the graduate students have now been realized (I, for one, had never heard a single negative thing about this department). This merits serious attention: if the price of reporting sexual harrassment is the destruction of one’s department’s reputation worldwide and the blackening of one’s own name by association with it, how many departmental members (student or faculty) would ever take the suicidal step of reporting it? By mindlessly neglecting these concerns, the committee’s report has surely had a dampening effect on reports of sexual harassment in departments around the world.
7. The report’s standards of ‘family friendliness’, while tangentially connected with sexual harassment, show a complete lack of understanding of philosophical work and culture. On p.6 of the report, the committee’s view on best practices is expanded upon: we are told that “[e]vents should be held during normal business hours (9-5) and should be such that you would feel comfortable with your children or parents being present.” Indeed, as we are told on p.12, children should be positively welcome at departmental events. I’m not concerned here with the disruptions that would be caused by young children at colloquia, but rather with how this might affect the content of philosophical talks. I, for one, would not feel comfortable discussing abortion, circumcision, sexual harassment and rape, cruelty to animals, pornography, torture, or the existence of God in front of someone else’s children. Should it follow from this that I should not present a colloquium paper on such a topic? What if my philosophical work deals entirely with such issues: should I never present my philosophical work in an open forum?
While we should all applaud genuine, careful and viable efforts to eliminate sexual harassment, my view (unless persuaded otherwise) is that we should certainly not endorse the actions of this committee. Instead, I think, we should quickly work out ways to prevent this from ever happening again. But I anticipate disagreement and would love to hear and engage opposing reasons.
Victor Davis Hanson, The Last Generation of the West and the Thin Strand of Civilization. "Note the theme of this essay: the more in humane fashion we provide unemployment insurance, food stamps, subsidized housing, legal advice, health care and disability insurance, the more the recipients find it all inadequate, inherent proof of unfairness and inequality, and always not enough." [. . .] "Popular culture is likewise anti-civilizational. Does anyone believe that Kanye West, Miley Cyrus, and Lady Gaga are updates to Glenn Miller, jazz, Bob Dylan and the Beatles? Even in the bimbo mode, Marilyn Monroe had an aura that Ms. Kardashian and Ms. Hilton lack. Teens wearing bobby socks and jeans have transmogrified to strange creatures in our midst with head-to -toe tattoos and piercings as if we copied Papua New Guinea rather than it us. Why the superficial skin-deep desire to revert to the premodern? When I walk in some American malls and soak in the fashion, I am reminded of National Geographic tribal photos of the 1950s."
Nat Hentoff on Obama the Lawless. He calls for impeachment, and rightly so. Hentoff is a liberal I respect, but then his liberalism has little in common with the extremism of the liberal fascists of the present day.
Jonathan Tobin on Andrew Cuomo's Version of Liberal Tolerance. Cuomo is a 'liberal' who deserves contempt; he is what I call a LINO, a liberal in name only. Toleration is the touchstone of classical liberalism. There is precious little of it in this extremist. If you can't see that he is an extremist, then you are an extremist and part of the problem.
The universities ought to be in the business of transmitting high culture, not pandering to the trends of the moment. But the universities abdicated their authority in the '60s. It has been said that there is no coward more cowardly than a college administrator. Hanson, above, mentions Dylan and the Beatles, alluding to their vast superiority to such cultural polluters as Kanye West and Miley Cyrus. But I say that no serious university would devote more than a tiny fraction of its curricula to the works of Jack Kerouac, Bob Dylan, or the Beatles. (As anyone who reads this weblog knows, I am a big-time aficionado, from way back, of the aforementioned. I know their work inside and out.) What we have now is a major assault on the humanities. See Heather MacDonald, The Humantities and Us.
David Gelernter, The Closing of the Scientific Mind. On the same theme of an assault on the humanities. A pack of anti-humantistic ignoramuses have infiltrated the sciences. (My way of putting it, not Gelernter's.) I could round up the usual suspects, but if you read these pages you know who they are. See Scientism category. You must study Gelernter's piece. He knows whereof he speaks. His article begins thusly: >>The huge cultural authority science has acquired over the past century imposes large duties on every scientist. Scientists have acquired the power to impress and intimidate every time they open their mouths, and it is their responsibility to keep this power in mind no matter what they say or do. Too many have forgotten their obligation to approach with due respect the scholarly, artistic, religious, humanistic work that has always been mankind’s main spiritual support. Scientists are (on average) no more likely to understand this work than the man in the street is to understand quantum physics. But science used to know enough to approach cautiously and admire from outside, and to build its own work on a deep belief in human dignity. No longer.<<
I am regularly solicited by Open Journal of Philosophy for article submissions. The e-mails never reveal the dirty little secret behind publishing scams ventures like this, namely, the charges levied against authors. Poke around a bit, however, and you will find this page:
Article Processing Charges
Open Journal of Philosophy is an Open Access journal accessible for free on the Internet. At Scientific Research Publishing (SCIRP), we guarantee that no university library or individual reader will ever have to buy a subscription or pay any pay-per-view fees to access articles in the electronic version of journal. There is hence no income at SCIRP that comes from selling any forms of subscriptions to this electronic version of journal or from pay-per-view fees. In order to cover the costs induced by editorial procedures, routine operation of the journals, processing of manuscripts through peer-reviews, and the provision and maintenance of a publication infrastructure, the journal charges article processing fee that can normally be defrayed by the author's institution or research funds.
Manuscript Page (as per the typeset proof)
Article Processing Charges
Paper within ten printed pages
Additional page charge above ten
$50 for each additional page
So it would cost you a grand to publish an 18 page paper, and a minumum of $600 to publish anything. And who reads this journal anyway? If you need to publish for tenure or promotion, then you need to publish in a decent journal. And if you publish to be read by people worth interacting with, ditto.
Besides, it is not that difficult to publish for free in good outlets. If I can do it, so can you. Here is my PhilPapers page which lists some of my publications. My passion for philosophy far outstrips my ability at it, but if you have a modicum of ability you can publish in decent places. When I quit my tenured post and went maverick, I feared that no one would touch my work. But I found that lack of an institutional affiliation did not bar me from very good journals.
Here are a few suggestions off the top of my head.
1. Don't submit anything that you haven't made as good as you can make it. Don't imagine that editors and referees will sense the great merit and surpassing brilliance of your inchoate ideas and help you refine them. That is not their job. Their job is to find a justification to dump your paper among the 70-90 % that get rejected.
2. Demonstrate that you are cognizant of the extant literature on your topic.
3. Write concisely and precisely about a well-defined issue.
4. Advance a well-defined thesis.
5. Don't rant or polemicize. That's what your blog is for. Referring to Brian Leiter as a corpulent apparatchik of political correctness and proprietor of a popular philosophy gossip site won't endear you to his sycophants one or two of whom you may be unfortunate enough to have as referrees.
6. Know your audience and submit the right piece to the right journal. Don't send a lengthy essay on Simone Weil to Analysis.
7. When the paper you slaved over is rejected, take it like a man or the female equivalent thereof. Never protest editorial decisions. You probably wrote something substandard, something that, ten years from now, you will be glad was not embalmed in printer's ink. You have no right to have your paper accepted. You may think it's all a rigged wheel and a good old boys network. In my experience it is not. Most of those who complain are just not very good at what they do.
Adjuncts are the peons of the academic world, the lowest men and women on the collegiate totem pole, the bottom-most rungs of the ladder of higher education -- pick your metaphor. But a consequence of ObamaCare, intended or not, is that many are now worse off than they were before. There is some irony in this considering that Obama himself was once an adjunct professor of law.
Because they are paid so little, adjuncts must teach many courses to make a living. But the ACA requires employers with more than 50 full-time employees to provide health insurance if they work an average of 30 hours per week including work both within and outside the classroom. Finding the financial burden too heavy to bear, many colleges have simply restricted the number of courses adjuncts can teach. The result is that the lowly adjunct must shuttle between different institutions, wasting time and gasoline, to keep his number of courses the same. The top-down initiative that was intended to help the poorly paid part-timers ends up making them worse off. Central planning in action.
For more, see this Chronicle of Higher Education piece.
I have discussed this question several times before. Here is my short answer. By all means, go to graduate school in philosophy, but only if you satisfy all of the following conditions.
1. Philosophy is your passion, the one thing you think most worth living for.
2. People in the know have advised you that you have philosophical aptitude.
3. Your way is paid in toto via fellowship including tuition remission or else you are independently wealthy. No student loans!
4. You are willing to live for 10-12 years, minimum, before relaxing with tenure. (I began grad school in '73 and received tenure in '84 = 11 years.) You will be under a fairly high degree of pressure during that decade or so, including such stressors as: living on a meager income as a grad student, writing a dissertation, earning the doctorate, landing a tenure-track position at a school where there is a real chance of getting tenure, surviving the tenure review.
5. You are willing to chance jumping though all the hoops, and then not get tenure, in which case you are no longer young somewhat damaged goods who may have to re-tool career-wise, or accept a lesser position. I know a philosopher who failed to get tenure at the University of Hawaii and had to take a job in Toledo, Ohio. It was a full-time philosophy position, but Toledo ain't Honolulu. It is easy to go up, hard to go down.
6. You understand that, if you do get tenure at Cleveland State, say, then you are stuck there for the rest of your career unless you are unusually talented. Tenure is a boon and a shackle, 'golden handcuffs' if you will. The security is purchased in the coin of a reduction of mobility.
In sum: if philosophy is your passion, you are good at it, have an opportunity to pursue it for free at a good school, and would not consider the years spent in grad school wasted if no job materializes -- then go for it! Live your dreams! Don't squander your self for pelf!
William J. Bennett and David Wilezol, Is College Worth It? (Thomas Nelson 2013), p. 134:
Knowing that students prefer to spend more time having fun than studying, professors are more comfortable awarding good grades while requiring a minimum amount of work. In return, students give favorable personal evaluations to professors who desire to be well received by students as a condition of preserving their employment status. Indeed, the popularity of the student evaluation, which began in the 1970s, has had a pernicious effect.
I would say so. Here is an anecdote to illustrate the Bennett thesis. In early 1984 I was 'up for tenure.' And so in the '83 fall semester I was more than usually concerned about the quality of my student evaluations. One of my classes that semester was an upper-level seminar conducted in the library over a beautiful oak table. One day one of the students began carving into the beautiful table with his pen.
In an abdication of authority that part of me regrets and a part excuses, I said nothing. The student liked me and I knew it. I expected a glowing recommendation from him and feared losing it. So I held my tongue while the kid defaced university property.
Jeff H. and I had entered into a tacit 'non-aggression pact.' (And I got tenure.)
The problem is not that students are given an opportunity to comment upon and complain about their teachers. The problem is the use to which student evaluations are put for tenure, promotion, and salary 'merit-increase' decisions. My chairman at the time was an officious organization man, who would calculate student evaluation averages to one or two decimal places, and then rank department members as to their teaching effectiveness. Without getting into this too deeply for a blog post, there is something highly dubious about equating teaching effectiveness with whatever the student evaluations measure, and something absurd about the false precision of calculating averages out to one or two decimal places.
Jones is a better teacher than Smith because her average is 3.2 while his is only 3.1? Well, no, but if the chairman is asked to justify his decision, he can point to the numbers. There is mindless quantification, but it takes someone more thoughtful than an administrator to see it.
I strongly recommend the Bennett-Wilezol book to anyone thinking of attending college or thinking of bankrolling someone's attendance. Here is a review.
Peter Berkowitz has an excellent column under an awful title: Tenets of Liberal Education Underpin Government Abuses. (I am assuming, perhaps wrongly, that Berkowitz chose the title.) The problem is not liberal education. The problem is the hijacking of liberal education by leftists, and the PoMo Prez who is a product of left-hijacked educational institutions. Excerpt:
The administration’s misleading of the public reflects a teaching that is common to much literary theory, sociology, anthropology, political theory, and legal theory on college campuses today: Knowledge is socially constructed, and therefore the narrative is all.
The very word 'narrative' should raise eyebrows and and set off your LBD (leftist bullshit detector). A narrative is a story, and stories needn't be true. Talk of narratives is a way of suppressing the crucial question: But is it true?
Knowledge is socially transmitted, but not socially constructed. The very notion is incoherent.
First the good news: Homunculism, McGinn's NYRB review of Ray Kurzweil, How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed.
McGinn, like John Searle, is a formidable critic of bad philosophy of mind, and in this brilliant review he utterly demolishes Kurzweil's neurobabble, and indeed the whole type of which it is a token. The devastation of the demolition job is commensurate with the chutzpah of Kurzweil's subtitle. It is not that McGinn has said anything really new, at least not in this review. The key points have been made before by Searle and Nagel and so many of us, but McGinn does the critical job with great clarity and great skill and gives it a (to me) slightly new slant: the ubiquity of the homuncular fallacy. (I won't explain what I mean; you'll catch my drift by carefully reading the review.)
I don't understand how anyone who is intelligent and informed could read with comprehension McGinn's piece and still take seriously the sort of neuroscientistic nonsense of Kurzweil and Company.
And please note that McGinn has no religious agenda: he is not out to resurrect the immortal soul or find a back door to the divine milieu. The man is an atheist, a mortalist and a (damned) liberal too. Just like Nagel. Neither of these gentlemen are looking for a way back to substance dualism. The former goes the mysterian route, the latter the panpsychist. Both are naturalists. More importantly, both are dispassionate truth-seekers.
In Misattributed to Socrates, I announced my opposition to "misquotation, misattribution, the retailing of unsourced quotations, the passing off of unchecked second-hand quotations, and sense-altering context suppression." But I left one out: the willful fabrication of 'quotations.' And yesterday I warned myself and others against pseudo-Latin.
Today I received from Claude Boisson an example of a willful fabrication of a 'quotation' in pseudo-Latin:
An anecdote on pseudo-Latin + French bullshit rolled into one.
A rather infamous but self-satisfied French sociologist, Michel Maffesoli (yes, some of our sociologists are as bad as some of our philosophers), recently gave an interview in one of the major weeklies, L'Express, in which he said "Everybody knows the Cartesian sentence Cogito ergo sum, but we tend to forget the rest: Cogito ergo sum in arcem meum."
[I think therefore I am in my castle.]
I ferociously answered that in an article of his, available on line, he had already committed the same sin, unforgettable for a university professor, of forging a quotation ("the Latin formula in its entirety is more interesting" he had stated). And this was in a development supposed to prove that the concept of the individual is ascribable to "the beginning of modernity", since, only "collective thought" was known to the benighted thinkers of the Dark Ages.
I then told him
(1) that the Discours de la méthode was written in French, and was translated into Latin seven years later by Etienne de Courcelles, so there was no real need for showing off Latin (Je pense donc je suis being the original Cartesian French);
(2) that the invention in arcem meum is, alas!, doubly mistaken since it piles a syntactic error ("in" with a local meaning must be followed by an ablative) onto a morphological error (the name "arx" is feminine), so the real Latin should read in arce mea; no scholar would have been guilty of these atrocious mistakes in Descartes' day;
(3) that the metaphor of the "citadel of the soul" was known to such people as John of Salisbury (who duly wrote in arce animae) in the 12th century, and long before him to the Stoics, including Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius;
(4) that for anybody desirous to meditate on "modernity", Saul Steinberg's jocular Cogito ergo Cartesius sum was perhaps of more interest than a forged quotation.
All this is easily accessible on the Internet.
Disgusting! Another example of the destruction of the universities and the decline of the humanities 'thanks' to leftism, post-modernism, and scientism.
If you are going to throw Latin, then you ought to try to get it right. One of my correspondents sent me an offprint of a paper of his which had been published in American Philosophical Quarterly, a very good philosophical journal. The title read, Creation Ex Deus. The author's purpose was to develop a notion of creation out of God, as opposed to the traditional notion of creation out of nothing (ex nihilo). He knew that 'God' translates as Deus, and that 'out of' is rendered by ex. Hence, ex Deus. But this is bad Latin, since the preposition ex takes the ablative case. Deus being a second declension masculine noun, its ablative form is Deo. Ex Deo would have been correct. Mistakes like this are not as rare as they ought to be, and we can expect more of them in the future.
It says something that the error just mentioned was caught neither by the author, nor by the editor, nor by the referees, nor by the proofreader. It says something in particular about 'analytic' philosophers. I am sorry to report that many of them are ignoramuses (indeed, ignorabimuses) wholly innocent of foreign languages, knowledge of history (both 'real' history and the history of ideas), and of high culture generally. One name analyst implied in print that the music of John Lennon was on the level of that of Mozart. There are Ph.D.s in philosophy who have never read a Platonic dialogue, and whose dissertations are based solely on the latest ephemera in the journals. Here, as elsewhere, ignorance breeds arrogance. They think they know what they don't know. They think they know what key theses in Kant and Brentano and Meinong mean when they have never studied their texts. And, not knowing foreign languages, they cannot determine whether or not the available translations are accurate. Not knowing the sense of these theses, they read into them contemporary notions. And if you told them that this amounts to eisegesis, they wouldn't know what you are talking about.
Not all analytic philosophers are ignoramuses, of course. Hector-Neri Castañeda, for example, had a grounding in classics. When he founded Noûs, a top analytic journal, in 1967, he placed Nihil philosophicum a nobis alienum putamus on the masthead. It is a take-off on Terence, philosophicum replacing humanum. It is telling that the Latin motto was removed by Castañeda's successors after his untimely death in September, 1991. Princeton University, I understand, removed the language requirement for the Ph.D. in philosophy in 1980. An appalling development. It has been said that if you don't know a foreign language, you don't know your own.
The fact that many analytic philosophers lack historical sense, knowledge of foreign languages, and broad culture is of course no excuse to jump over to the opposite camp, that of the 'Continental' philosophers. For lack of historical sense, they substitute historicism, which is just as bad. For lack of linguistic competence, they substitute a bizarre linguisticism in which the world dissolves into a text, a text susceptible of endless interpretation and re-interpretation. For lack of broad culture, they substitute a super-sophistication that empties into a miasma of sophistry and relativism. Worse, much of Continental philosophy, especially much of what is written in French, is border-line bullshit. Indeed, to cop a line from John Searle, one he applied to Jacques Derrida, Continental philosophy gives bullshit a bad name. Some substantiation here. It is therefore no surprise that the Continental types jump to embrace every loony idea that emanates from the Left.
You can see that I am warming to my theme. I am also brushing in very broad strokes. But details and documentation are readily supplied and have been supplied elsewhere on this site. In short, a pox on both houses. Be a maverick.
What inspired this post was a query of a correspondent. He wanted to know how to render 'seize the world' into Latin. Well, we know that 'seize the day' goes into Latin as carpe diem. And we should have picked up by now that 'world' is mundus. 'Seize' takes the accusative, and since mundus is a second declension masculine noun, we get: Carpe mundum. If I am wrong about this, Michael Gilleland will correct me.
And another thing. I find it appalling that so many people nowadays, college 'educated' people, are completely innocent of grammatical terminology. Words like 'genitive,' 'dative,' 'ablative,' etc. elicit a blank stare. Grammar being a propaedeutic to logic, it is no wonder that there are so many illogical people adrift in the world.
mid-15c., "plot where plants are raised from seeds," from Latin seminarium "plant nursery," figuratively, "breeding ground," from seminarius "of seed," from semen (genitive seminis) "seed" (see semen). Meaning "school for training priests" first recorded 1580s; commonly used for any school (especially academies for young ladies) from 1580s to 1930s. Seminarian "seminary student" is attested from 1580s.
The universities today are places where the seeds of leftism are planted in skulls full of mush.
Bowdoin College is a small private "liberal arts" school in Brunswick, Maine. Its admissions standards are demanding. Bowdoin accepts fewer than one in five who apply (though the school admits about a third of black and other "underrepresented" applicants to satisfy its commitment to "diversity"). The cost of tuition, room, board and fees for the school's roughly 1,800 students is hefty: $56,128 for the 2012-13 academic year, a sum that exceeds the annual income for half of all American households.
[. . .]
Bowdoin requires all freshmen to take a first-year seminar, which is supposed to provide the gateway to the "critical thinking" skills the college purports to value. Among the 35 courses from which students must pick, easily half are either frivolous or, worse, tendentious exercises in identity politics. The titles alone tell the story: "Fan Fiction and Cult Classics," "Beyond Pocahontas: Native American Stereotypes," "Racism," "Fictions of Freedom," "Sexual Life of Colonialism," "Prostitutes in Modern Western Culture" and "Queer Gardens," to name a few. The latter course "examines the work of gay and lesbian gardeners and traces how marginal identities find expression in specific garden spaces." One can only infer that the college deems such knowledge a necessary building block to every student's intellectual development.
[. . .]
The study also looks at the college's implicit promotion of sexual promiscuity and the "hook-up" culture among students, which begins during first-year orientation. A play called "Speak About It," which all incoming students must attend, includes what its authors say are autobiographical sketches from current and former Bowdoin students. The play depicts graphic on-stage sexual encounters between heterosexual and gay couples -- complete with simulated orgasms. Paradoxically, the Bowdoin community also seems obsessed with preventing sexual assault, which administrators seem to believe is rampant on campus despite the low incidence of reporting alleged attacks.
If Bowdoin were unique in its abandonment of traditional liberal education, this study might be of no more than passing interest. What the authors found at Bowdoin, however, exists to some degree at many if not most elite colleges and universities. This study deserves widespread dissemination and discussion -- first among Bowdoin's alumni, donors and the parents of current and potential students. But anyone interested in the future of higher education in America should take note.
Our colleges and universities shape the next generation of leaders and citizens, for better or worse. And the country's most elite schools will influence disproportionately who we become as a nation and a people in the future. What has happened to Bowdoin College should matter to all of us.
Imagine paying $225,000 or going into debt for such garbage.
A trifecta of corruption: government, the universities, business. The federal government makes irresponsible student loans. The universities respond by greedily inflating tuitions and fees while ignoring the traditional purposes of the university. Businesses demand bachelor's degrees for jobs high school graduates could do.
I am afraid it has, for many if not most. It will depend on your major, of course. Here is a list of seven institutions at which total annual costs hover around $60,000. You read that right: annual costs. What do you get for that $240 K? It is obvious that you do not get an education in any serious sense of that term. (It is also obvious that most attendees have no interest at all in an education in that sense.) Nor do you get what most people (mis)use 'education' to refer to, namely, a ticket to a high-paying job.
I went to a private college, but in my day one got value for money. I worked part-time, received a California State Scholarship, and borrowed $2,000, a debt that was quickly discharged. Those were the early days of the federally-insured loan program. The program was set up with good intentions, but it had a serious unintended consequence: it provided an incentive for administrators to hike costs for no better reason than that naive students were able to pay exorbitant tuitions by floating loans. Part of what the administrators did with all this excess money was to hire more useless overpaid administrators.
Talk of a 'scam,' though harsh, is not inaccurate. There is lot to be said on this topic. But I've got to get on to other things. So I hand off to John Stossel.
Another problem is that scientists like me are intimidated by philosophical jargon, and hence didn’t interrupt the monologues to ask for clarification for fear of looking stupid. I therefore spent a fair amount of time Googling stuff like “epistemology” and “ontology” (I can never get those terms straight since I rarely use them).
This is an amazing confession. It shows that the man is abysmally ignorant outside his specialty. He is not wondering about the distinction between de dicto and de re, but about a Philosophy 101 distinction. It would be as if a philosopher couldn't distinguish between velocity and acceleration, or mass and weight, or a scalar and a vector, or thought that a light-year was a measure of time.
Despite his ignorance of the simplest distinctions, Coyne is not bashful about spouting off on topics he knows nothing about such as free will. Lawrence Krauss is another of this scientistic crew. And Dawkins. And Hawking and Mlodinow. And . . . . Their arrogance stands in inverse relation to their ignorance. A whole generation of culturally-backward and half-educated scientists does not bode well for the future.
. . . I reflect on the ease and endless rewards of my career, moving from comfortable position to comfortable position, and compare it with the terrible struggles of young academics trying to gain some sort of security and time for their own scholarship in an increasingly hostile job market. The sixties, when my career was being launched, was a time of explosive growth of higher education in America. Spurred by the G. I. Bill and the post-war economic boom, and fed by an endless stream of young men avoiding the Viet Nam draft, colleges and universities virtually metastasized. State universities, which had existed ever since the Land Grant Acts of the 1860's, suddenly sprouted satellite campuses. State colleges plumped themselves up into universities, and Community Colleges became State Colleges. There were so many new teaching positions to be filled that in the sixties and seventies graduate students were being offered tenure track positions before they had become ABD.
BV: I'm a generation younger than Professor Wolff. By the time I began applying for jobs at the end of the '70s things had become grim and the gravy days of the '60s were a thing of the past. But I lucked out and got a tenure track job in '78 right out of graduate school at the University of Dayton. Lucky me, I had no other offer. I later learned that in the '60s there were four philosophy hires in one year at UD, some of them sight unseen: no interview. One of these gentlemen couldn't even speak English! And of course the quality of the people hired was relatively low.
It is also worth pointing out that the '60s and early '70s were also a time when what William James in 1903 called the "Ph.D Octopus" acquired many more tentacled arms. New graduate programs started up and new philosophy journals as well. Another Harvard man, Willard van Orman Quine, cast a jaundiced eye on the proliferation of journals in his delightful "Paradoxes of Plenty" in Theories and Things (Harvard UP, 1981):
Certainly, then, new journals were needed: they were needed by authors of articles too poor to be accepted by existing journals. The journals that were thus called into existence met the need to a degree, but they in turn preserved, curiously, certain minimal standards; and so a need was felt for further journals still, to help to accommodate the double rejects. The series invites extrapolation and has had it. (196)
At the same time, the Cold War and the Sputnik scare triggered a flood of federal money into universities. Most of it, of course, funded defense-related research or studies of parts of the world that America considered inimical to its interests [Russian Research Institutes, East Asia Programs, language programs of all sorts], but some of the money slopped over into the Humanities, and even into libraries and university presses. For a time, commercial publishers found that they could not lose money on an academic book, since enough copies would be sold to newly flush university libraries to enable them to break even. Those were the days when a philosopher willing to sell his soul [and who among us was not?] could get a contract on an outline, a Preface, or just an idea and a title. The professor introducing me at one speech I gave said, "Professor Wolff joined the Book of the Month Club, but he didn't realize he was supposed to read a book a month. He thought he was supposed to publish a book a month." Well, we all thought we were brilliant, of course.
Then the bubble burst. First the good jobs disappeared. Then even jobs we would never have deigned to notice started drying up. Universities adopted the corporate model, and like good, sensible business leaders, started cutting salaries, destroying job security, and reducing decent, hard-working academics to the status of itinerant peddlers. Today, two-thirds of the people teaching in higher education are contract employees without good benefits or an assured future. Scientists do pretty well, thanks to federal support for research, but the Humanities and non-defense related Social Sciences languish. The arts are going the way of high school bands and poetry societies.
The truth is that I fell off the cart onto a nice big dung heap, and waxed fat and happy, as any self-respecting cockroach would. My career happened to fit neatly into the half century that will, in future generations, be looked back on as the Golden Age of the American University. There is precious little I can do for those unfortunate enough to come after me. But at least, I can assure them that their bad luck is not a judgment on the quality of their work. And, of course, I can write increasingly lavish letters of recommendation in a desperate attempt to launch them into the few remaining decent teaching jobs. I would have liked to do better by them. They deserve it.
The role of government in causing the college bubble cannot be gainsaid.
On my view, government is practically necessary. Anarchism is for adolescents. Some of what government does is good, some bad. Governments in the free world defeated the Nazis; communist governments murdered 100 million in the 20th century. (Source: Black Book of Communism.) Some of what is bad are unintended consequences of programs that were set up with good intentions. Federally-insured student loans made it possible (or at least easier) for many of us to finance our educations. (It is of course a debatable point whether it is a legitimate function of government to insure student loans.) But lack of oversight on the part of the Feds, and the greediness of university administrators coupled with the laziness and prodigality of too many students has led to the education bubble.
What has happened is truly disgusting. The price of higher education has skyrocketed, increasing out of all proportion to general inflation, while the quality of the product delivered has plummeted in some fields and merely declined in others. There are young people graduating from law schools today with $150 K in debt and little prospect of a job sufficiently remunerative to discharge the debt in a reasonable time. For the painful details, see Paul Campos' law school scam blog.
Can we blame the federal government for the education bubble? Of course, if there had been no federally-insured loan program the bubble would not have come about. But there was no necessity that the program issue in a bubble. So we are brought back to the real root of the problem, human beings, their ignorance, greed, prodigality, and general lack of moral and intellectual virtue.
Compare the housing bubble. Government must bear some of the blame through its bad legislation. But no bubble would have occurred if consumers weren't stupid and lazy and greedy. What sort of fool signs up for a negative amortization loan? Am I blaming the victim? Of course. Blaming the victim is, within limits and in some cases, a perfectly reasonable and indeed morally necessary thing to do. If you are complicit in your own being ripped-off through your own self-induced intellectual and moral defectiveness, then you must hold yourself and be held by others partially responsible. And then there are the morally corrupt lenders themselves who exploited the stupidity, laziness, greediness and general lack of moral and intellectual virtue of the consumers. A fourth factor is the corruption of the rating agencies.