Sunday, November 23, 2014

Marion Barry Posse

Marion Barry has a posse.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Should I Go to the Eastern APA?

A reader writes:
I am a second year graduate student in a PhD program that's not prohibitively distant from Philadelphia. I am wondering if I should go to the Eastern APA even though I'm not on the program.  The word around my department is that the Eastern APA should be avoided at all costs, and that one should go only once one is on the job market (and then only if necessary).  I read your blog and know you have been critical of the APA.  But, really, is it that bad?  And even if it is that bad, is its badness enough to warrant the counsel to never go unless required by a job interview? 

The word around your department is about as misguided as could be.  The worst thing would be to have your first visit to the Eastern be your job market year.  My criticisms of the APA tend to assume as a premise that there's sufficient reason for large segments of the profession to attend the Eastern regularly.  This applies to graduate students.  So if it's affordable, definitely go and get a sense of what the conference is like.  Attend papers about topics you already know things about.  Skip the "smoker." And don't get too drunk.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Still a Scumbag, etc.

I've been out of the country for a few weeks, and a lot has happened.  Here's a quick roundup of notable items that you might have missed.

The Pope's still a scumbag, and apparently "Search and Destroy" is one of his favorite tunes.  But Iggy said no, so Patti agreed.  What's the world coming to?

Meanwhile, the Florida Satanists score big for sensible church/state principles.   Thanks, guys.

And, just what the universe needs now, Babymetal.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Puzzling AOS/AOC Notation

This from the PhilJobs site:
AOS: Epistemology OR (Philosophy of race OR Non-Western philosophy)
AOC: (Philosophy of race OR Non-Western philosophy) OR Epistemology
What to infer?  What's with the commutation?  The parentheses?  Should someone with AOS's in Epistemology and Philosophy of Race, and an AOC in, say, Philosophy of Language apply to this?  Does an AOS in x entail an AOC in x?

Saturday, November 1, 2014


"He has more opinions than .... um .... ideas."
--Guy in coffee shop, to lady in coffee shop, about the guy who just left the table for the bathroom.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Seasons Greetings

Happy Halloween

And for those pagan dead who seek the warmth of the Samhain fire...

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Jack Bruce Posse, etc.

Jack Bruce has a posse.  Here.

Finally some good news out of Oklahoma.  Here.

How to Use the Philosophical Gourmet Report

A longer version of this memo to undergraduate philosophy majors has been circulating in my department for some time.  I myself happen to think that the PGR is more useful and reliable than this piece suggests.  But I see nothing in the following to strongly reject.  At the very least the tips below provide a solid place to begin.

Applying for graduate work in philosophy is a time consuming and trying process.  There are many good PhD programs, and there is a lot of variation with respect to requirements, timelines, levels and length of support, etc.  Moreover, not every good department is good in every subfield of philosophy.  Many departments that are strong in, say, contemporary european philosophy are embarrassingly weak in mainstream fields like epistemology, philosophy of language, and ethics.  The same goes for departments with strengths in specific subfields: and excellent department for metaphysics or philosophy of mind may offer little to those with interests in social and political philosophy or logic.  It is safe to say that the excellence of any department is always relative to some specific intellectual subset of topics/areas/periods within philosophy. Yes, there are some programs that are strong overall (they can train students excellently in a wide range of subfields), but none that are equally strong in all areas.  In deciding where to apply, one must exercise one’s judgment.  Schools that may sound impressive (like Yale or Harvard) do not have the best all-around philosophy programs, and given your specific interest and goals, some less impressive sounding school (for example, Arizona, Maryland, or UC Davis) might be far better than, say, Columbia or MIT.  

Since choosing where to apply requires an exercise of your judgment, you will need to find ways to inform yourself about what the various PhD programs in philosophy have to offer.  Important information (requirements, support, teaching opportunities, placement, average time to degree, and much else) can usually be found on departmental websites.  Use the APA’s guide to graduate programs to see what programs there are.  Still, one can waste a lot of time googling departments.  It could help also to narrow, at least initially, the range of schools you’re considering to those that seem to have a reputation within the discipline for strength in the areas that are of most interest to you. Remember: given certain interests, the schools with the most impressive sounding names will not have the best graduate programs in philosophy. 

There is an online reputational ranking of philosophy PhD programs called the Philosophical Gourmet Report (PGR).  The PGR is controversial within some philosophical communities. Some think it useless, others claim that it is deceptive or biased, some say that it is methodologically unsound and corrupt.  The more severe objections to the enterprise are overstated. The PGR is certainly not perfect (what is?), but it is not the blight upon the profession that some claim.  If you take the time to read the PGR website’s explanations of its aims, methods, and limitations, you will find the PGR to be a helpful resource.  

Here are a few tips.
1. Learn what the PGR is. Read the sections on the PGR website about its methodology carefully. Read the website’s section on how it should be used.  Think about what kind of information it is providing.

2. Learn what the PGR is not. In light of the methodological and other caveats presented on the PGR website, keep in mind that the PGR is not a list of the best departments for you.  It’s not a list of the places you’ll be most welcome.  It’s not a list of the places where graduate students are most happy. It does not tell you which departments have the best or most conscientious professors. It does not measure the professional success of the PhD’s produced by any department.  It does not track placement. In short, the PGR is not a substitute for your own judgment.  

3. As it is not a substitute for your own judgment, the PGR is a place to begin thinking, investigating, and deliberating about graduate study.  It provides information of a very specific kind; it does not provide all of the relevant information there is.  Use the PGR to craft an initial list of departments that look suitable, given your interests.  Bring that list to the philosophy faculty members who know you best.  Use it to start a discussion, not settle one (or avoid one).

4. Do not place too much importance on the overall rankings, and disregard slight numerical differences among closely-ranked departments.  The rankings in the subfields are often more useful for identifying (again, initially) the some of the programs that are well regarded in a given area.  

5. Cross-reference the subfield rankings.  Your philosophical interests will likely change during your graduate training.  In some cases the change will be drastic.  You may discover that your currently favorite philosopher has been subjected to a decisive criticism, or that the philosophical problem that currently fascinates you has been solved.  You may discover that your interest in moral responsibility is really better addressed within metaphysics than ethics, or that phenomenology is methodologically bankrupt.  There’s no way to inoculate against the most drastic changes (in fact, sometimes they should be welcomed).  But you can try to account for the more likely shifts by looking for programs that are strong not only in the area you’re presently most interested in, but also have strengths in your other interests and in subfields that are closely related to what’s presently most important to you.  

6. Have lots of conversations with your professors about all of these matters.  

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Satan In Vancouver

The statue has been dismantled, and the Kickstarter campaign to have it rebuilt has failed (I pledged what would have been the cost for attending the Pacific APA this year). 

Still no word from the APA in response to the injustice of it all.  Boycott is still on.

"Enough! I gave you enough!”"

A few people have sent this my way, and there's only one reply:

Fuck you, Billy. 

Monday, October 13, 2014


I would guess that most people are fans of the PhilJobs site. It's a major improvement over the old JFP.  But an administrator this morning asked me if the job market in Philosophy shows any sign of improvement over the past three years.  How to answer?

Friday, October 10, 2014

Jan Hooks has a posse

Jan Hooks has a posse.  Who?


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Boycott the Pacific APA

I hereby call upon the profession at large to boycott the upcoming Pacific APA, which is to be held in Vancouver, in protest of that city's recent stance on public Satanist art. 

If you must attend the Pacific, at least contribute to the Kickstarter campaign.   

And in other news, the Satanists in the US once again are on the side of sanity on church/state issues.  The Satanic Temple in Florida is handing out coloring books to children.

Friday, October 3, 2014

No Objections to the PGR

I'm not sure what conclusion to draw from the fact that no one has actually stated a good objection to the PGR in the previous thread.  There are, to be sure, various ways in which the PGR could be improved upon.  No one denies that there are such critiques of the existing methods and processes.  This is why the mechanics of the PGR have evolved.  But some of the rhetoric used by the PGR's opponents claims much more than this.  Often it is suggested that the PGR is flawed in some fundamental and irremediable way, and some claim that the PGR is so deeply flawed that it's actually doing damage to the discipline.  

I'm still wondering what the basis for these stronger claims is.  One suspects that there may be no basis, and that much of the more pronounced anti-PGR talk is really just a proxy for anti-Leiterism, and a strategy for co-opting the PGR and putting it in the service of other ideological agendas.  

I also wonder how much agreement there really is among those who are joining the boycott and protests.  Some explicitly want to see the PGR continue roughly as it is, but only under a different editor.  Others call for Leiter to fully disassociate from the endeavor, but also what it to continue otherwise unchanged.  Others want changes in the editorial processes, but see no problem with Leiter's continuing editorship.  Still others call for more sweeping changes, including the elimination of the PGR.  The differences among these different collections of actors are significant. 

Why aren't the more radical opponents of the PGR (those who not only want editorial changes, but want Leiter to disassociate and to replace the PGR with some other kind of tool) stop wasting time and just get on with their real objective -- the establishment of a rival ranking / survey instrument that avoids all of the flaws they find with the PGR?  Why don't the put their effort into building a tool that is not what they allege the PGR to be, namely a cliquey, ideologically-driven, methodologically-unsound, and wholly-misleading piece of propaganda?

Oh wait... they did.