Monday, July 25, 2011

The REAL Pluralist Guide

I've taken the liberty of conducting my own survey: The REAL Pluralist Guide to Graduate Programs in Philosophy (RPG). What follows are the results.

First, some important details. You're on a need-to-know basis regarding procedures and methodology and other crucial features of the survey (and I'm making it all up as I go along). By my lights, you don't need to know anything, so don't bother asking. If need be, I'll write a few non-responsive blog posts in reaction to your questions. The identities, response-rates, qualifications, and such of my experts is also none of your concern. But let me emphasize once again that they're experts. For reals.



THE RANKINGS

American Philosophy: Pittsburgh; Columbia; Rutgers; Miami

Continental Philosophy: Chicago; Northwestern; NYU; Brown

Philosophy of Race
: Princeton; Harvard; Michigan (Ann Arbor); Chicago

Feminist Philosophy:
MIT; Stanford; Colorado (Boulder)

GLBT Studies:
At present, there is no especially good Philosophy department in this area.

Climate for Women:
Actually consult persons with actual experience of the program; that anyone from outside a department would take himself or herself to be in a position to comment on this is completely absurd.



FAQs

What's this pluralism all about, then?
If you're interested in specializing in an area of Philosophy that is (for better or worse) considered outside of the mainstream of the discipline, you would do well to study at a program that is very strong overall in the mainstream areas while also being (1) welcoming of your interests, and (2) home to someone who does excellent work in the area of your interest. Providing students with a strong foundation in the state of the art in mainstream Philosophy while also welcoming excellent work in other areas-- that's pluralism. Departments that focus lopsidedly on any area, even self-appointed "pluralist" areas like American and Continental, are not pluralistic. Good pluralist departments do not advertise themselves as such. Beware.

I'm interested in one of the areas ranked above, but didn't get into any of the programs the Guide identifies as best. What should I do? Naturally, the best places to study topics like the ones ranked above are also places that are very strong overall, and so admission to these programs is highly competitive. If you don't get into one of these schools, consider your priorities and your career goals. Ask yourself some questions: Do you want a job after working extremely hard for 6 or 7 years on a PhD? What kind of job do you want? Does it make sense to work on your application and reapply next year? What's so great about getting a PhD in Philosophy, anyway? Can you stomach working on (writing a dissertation on) some more mainstream topic, while cultivating your expertise in other areas on your own? But the bottom line is this: If you decide to go to any other program to work on the topic you're most interested in, gather as much information as possible, visit the department, and ask a lot of questions.

What about the Leiter Report (PGR) and that other "Pluralist's Guide"? When used according to the guidelines provided again and again on its webpage, the PGR is an excellent source of information about the reputation of the faculty at various departments. It's also a good way to get a sense of which philosophers are at which departments, and of what the strengths of various departments are. It is by itself not a good instrument for making final decisions about what department is best for you. But you're smart enough to know that (despite what opponents of the PGR say about you). As for that other "pluralist guide," it is pretty much useless and in many respects an embarrassment. In fact, I'd take a high ranking on that guide to be a compelling (though not necessarily conclusive) reason to avoid the department in question.



IMPORTANT NOTE

These rankings are subject to change, revision, and alteration, without notice, explanation, or rationale, at any moment. Hope you find the Guide helpful.

54 comments:

Anonymous said...

I know this is a joke, but the suggestions are pretty good!

Anonymous said...

The only department to appear twice is Chicago......

Anonymous said...

I think you're too forthcoming about the methodology, you should follow Linda Alcoff's lead.

Anonymous said...

Awesome. Just awesome.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle said...

Where are the rankings for departments strong in "Philosophy and Pop Culture"?

Anonymous said...

It's been almost ten hours since the rankings were released, and there have still been no inexplicable changes to the listings.

Anonymous said...

I have nothing intelligent to add, but the WV for me is "koerce" and it's just so fucking pluralist I can't stand it.

Anonymous said...

5:52, a deeper inexplicablity

Anonymous said...

We need departments to chime in here ala Spartacus:

"I am pluralist!"

"No--*I* am pluralist!"

Anonymous said...

This is some of the best real world advice I've seen in a long time.

Sad but true.

Anonymous said...

Just because Rutgers and Pitt have some people on the faculty that are nearly as old as America doesn't make them great places to study American philosophy (just as having a piece of the history of analytic philosophy on your faculty doesn't make a school a good place to study it.)

I'm glad to see Stanford listed, though, which was utterly preposterously left of the PG list for feminist philosophy.

Anonymous said...

Bob Brandom ain't old

Anonymous said...

Bob Brandom ain't old

No, but Rescher is what, 100 or something?

Anonymous said...

Although this site is clearly a joke, note the apparently unjoking and completely uncritical use of the term "mainstream" in the explanatory comments.

Anonymous said...

Where the fuck is MIT on the Feminism list?

Anonymous said...

@9:16. If by "uncritical" you mean "straightforward and appropriate" then duly noted. Otherwise, what is your point?

Say what you mean (if you even know what you mean).

Anonymous said...

How much creative energy you have expended in such a stupid, unconstructive reaction! What a shame.

By the way, I think 9:15's point was that the use of the term "mainstream" was UNCRITICAL, implicating that it should perhaps have been more critical. 9:15's point was definitely not that "mainstream" was the appropriate term.

Anonymous said...

Spiros, you've been invaded by the self-proclaimed "pluralists." Their reaction confirms the brilliance of the exercise.

Anonymous said...

Jeez,

Can you ever suck up to Leiter ENOUGH?

Anonymous said...

You are really on to something. If you did half as well on a broader range of categories, you would leave Leiter in the dust.

Anonymous said...

I think the self-appointed "pluralist" department should fully own and openly advertise their "critical" (or is that CRITICAL?) stance to the mainstream in the profession by putting up on their webpages the following disclaimer:

As a pluralist department, we are CRITICAL of the mainstream in the profession. This means that we refuse to acquiesce in the idea that the mainstream is mainstream; in fact, we're so CRITICAL of the mainstream that we don't know the first thing about it. Therefore, we train our students to reject the mainstream. This of course means that our students' job prospects are greatly diminished. But those who study here take great pride in the thought that their lives and careers have been used to make marginal (at best) progress in their professors' disciplinary crusade.

Anonymous said...

@10:00. That's unhelpful. By that I meant to implicate that it is not helpful.

Anonymous said...

I guess this is what some (see Anon 10am) mean by "critical": Make no attempt to show that your interlocutor has made a false or unwarranted claim; simply subject them to patronizing pop-psych diagnosis ("you're mismanaging your creative energy!") and browbeating ("what a shame.").

A ridiculous substitute for philosophy.

Anonymous said...

This list has utterly changed my life, in ways I can't even begin to describe.

Anonymous said...

Here is a test of fire for self-avowedly critical non-mainstream pluralists: post on your homepage that the Law of Non-Contradiction is a hegemonic Leiter stratagem.

Anonymous said...

11:36, I propose the following revision to your last sentence:

"But those who study here take great pride in the thought that their lives and careers have been used to make marginal (at best) progress in their professors' self-serving and petty disciplinary crusade on behalf of mediocrity."

Approved?

current MA student said...

A serious question (apologies): Why does NYU show up here (and on the PGR) as a great place to do Continental Philosophy? As far as I know, it has one or at most two faculty members working anywhere even vaguely near "continental philosophy," and its grad students generally know absolutely nothing about it and don't care to. It's obviously a fantastic department for many things, but I'm really not sure continental philosophy is one of them.

Anonymous said...

Beatrice Longuenesse, John Richardson, Tamsin Shaw. Q.E.D.

Anonymous said...

Howzabout non-American universities?

Anonymous said...

Pathetic.

Anonymous said...

Dun Garrett. I know Richard Foley can help a student as well, but I don't know how much he teaches anymore.

Anonymous said...

For Continental Philosophy you may wish to include University of California, Riverside. Maudemarie Clark (Nietzsche), Mark Wrathall (Heidegger), Pierre Keller (Kant, Hegel, Husserl, Heidegger), and Georgia Warnke (Gadamer, Habermas).

Anonymous said...

http://theoriekritik.wordpress.com/2011/07/26/adolescent-frat-boys-and-lovers-of-wisdom/

Pretty much sums it up.

Anonymous said...

With regard to an earlier comment, 9:16, on the uncritical use of "mainstream": the point is that a philosophically acute understandig is "critical" not in the sense of mere opposition, but (cp. Kant and his critiques?) by considering the point of a metaphor like mainstream, asking about the context and limits of its use, and so on. But -- to descend to the level of naivete and insult of some of the earlier comments -- maybe you think Kant was a benighted speppie?

Anonymous said...

1:03, that was stupid.

RPG!!! Woo Hoo! said...

Spiros. Thank you SO MUCH for posting this invaluable resource for the community. I LOVE YOU. Three cheers for Spiros and the RPG!

Anonymous said...

2:46, that was even dumber than 1:06.

current MA student said...

@1:27 -- Does Tamsin Shaw have an active presence in the philosophy department at NYU? I overlooked her originally since she isn't listed as main faculty, but as "affiliated."

Also, the total number of grad students listing continental philosophy as an interest is 0 (as listed on their website, anyway). This seems to indicate that trying to do continental philosophy at NYU as a grad student would be a pretty lonely endeavor, and/or that NYU just doesn't admit students interested in continental phil (or if it does, it's impossible to fruitfully follow up on such interests once there). Of course, there's nothing wrong with all that in general, it's just not what one would expect of a department being recommended as somewhere to go if you're a grad school applicant interested in continental phil.

Anonymous said...

3:18, Tamsin Shaw's primary appointment is at Princeton's politics department. She does live in NY and hang around NYU philosophy, but I doubt she would supervise a dissertation.

Anonymous said...

And it looks like NYU has graduated 0 people with an interest in Continental, judging from their placement page.

Anonymous said...

Your candidates for best departments in American Philosophy obviously show your ignorance of what American Philosophy is: Pragmatism and Neo-pragmatism. You should change that to Anglo-American British Analytic Philosophy. No one who is an Analytic Philosopher could appropriately be said to be Pluralist in their approach to anything. The narrowness of Analytic Philosophy prevents one from seeing anything other than the end of one's nose.

Anonymous said...

Er, Tamsin Shaw is a faculty member at NYU in European and Mediterranean Studies and Philosophy, not in Politics at Princeton. She was at Princeton. I'm sure she'd happily supervise philosophy students at NYU interested in contintental. http://as.nyu.edu/object/tamsinshaw.html

Anonymous said...

@2:04 - So only German philosophy counts as continental philosophy?

Anonymous said...

And NYU's great for continental philosophy if the 20th Century, French or German, doesn't count.

Anonymous said...

"No one who is an Analytic Philosopher could appropriately be said to be Pluralist in their approach to anything. The narrowness of Analytic Philosophy prevents one from seeing anything other than the end of one's nose."

This may have been true in the high days of logical positivism, but hasn't been true since, and isn't remotely true now.

4:05, standing corrected said...

Oh, sorry. I was misled by this:

http://lapa.princeton.edu/peopledetail.php?ID=382

Anonymous said...

If you call yourself an Analytic philosopher and are truly pluralist in your approach, you're probably a Neo-pragmatist and just don't realize it. Otherwise you're the guy in the elevator at the APA conference who says "S knows that P" but can't figure out how to get to his floor (you have to put your key card in the slot to get past the first two floors).

Anonymous said...

Some people who don't call themselves "analytic philosophers" are well informed and familiar with the current state of "analytic philosophy."

Others are not.

Anonymous said...

6:21

more stories please

729 said...

Anon 1:03 PM States: Here is a test of fire for self-avowedly critical non-mainstream pluralists: post on your homepage that the Law of Non-Contradiction is a hegemonic Leiter stratagem.

This specific test would be *really interesting*, although it would have little to do with Leiter PGR and PG highly ranked departments. It's not as though a vast majority of US departments with real strengths in Continental Philosophy have faculty with appreciation of developments in Logic research and take great advantage of work that's done in Non-Classical Logic. And it's not as though a vast majority of departments in the US with strengths in Analytic Philosophy embrace Non-Classical Logic.

I happen to agree that Non-Classical logics are among the areas where the rubber hits the road with respect to pluralism--especially East-West philosophical exchange. It's one of those "under the hood" philosophical areas that probably should be considered more often than it is in the US.

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