I have been thinking about an analogy to the Bechdel test for philosophy papers - this in the light of recent observations that women get fewer citations even if they publish in the "top" general philosophy journals (see also here). To briefly recall: a movie passes the Bechdel test if (1) there are at least 2 women in it, (2) they talk to each other, (3) about something other than a man.
A paper passes the philosophy Bechdel test if
It cites at least two female authors
At least one of these citations engages seriously with a female author's work (not just "but see" [followed by a long list of citations])
At least one of the female authors is not cited because she discusses a man (thanks to David Chalmers for suggesting #3).
The usual cautionary notes about the Bechdel test apply here too. A paper that doesn't meet these standards is not necessarily deliberately overlooking women's work (it could be ultra-short, it might be on a highly specialized topic that has no female authors in the field - is this common?), but on the whole, it seems like a good rule of thumb to make sure women authors in one's field are not implicitly overlooked when citing.
Next Saturday, the University of Leuven is hosting an outreach event called Philosophy Festival ("Feest van de Filosofie"). This year's theme is people & technology ("mens & techniek"). I was asked to join a panel discussion on the technological singularity. The introduction will be given by a computer engineer (Philip Dutré, Leuven). There will be a philosopher of technology (Peter-Paul Verbeek, Twente) and a philosopher of probability (me, Groningen); and the moderator is a philosopher, too (Filip Mattens, Leuven). So far, I have not worked on this topic, although it does combine a number of my interests: materials science, philosophy of science, and science fiction.
The idea of a technological singularity (often associated with Ray Kurzweil) originates from the observation that the rate of technological innovations seems to be speeding up. Extrapolating these past and current trends suggests that there may be a point in the future at which systems that have been built by humans (software, robots, ...) will become more intelligent than humans. This is called the technological singularity. Moreover, once there are systems that are able to develop systems that are more intelligent than systems of the previous generation, there may be an intelligence explosion. The possibilities of later generations of such systems are inconceivable to humans. (This theme has been explored in many science fiction stories, including the robot stories by Isaac Asimov (1950's and later), the television series "Battlestar Galactica" (2004-2009), and the movie "Her" (2013).)
Even this brief introduction gives us plenty of opportunity for reflection on concepts (What is intelligence?) and consequences (What will happen to humans in a post-singularity world?). I am planning to analyze a very basic assumption, by raising the following question: When are we justified to pick a particular trend that has been observed in the past (e.g., Moore's observation of an exponential increase in the number of transistors on commercial chips) and extrapolate it into the future? Viewed in this way, the current topic is an example of the general problem of induction.
The hypothesis "The observed trend will continue to hold" is only one among many. Let me offer two alternative hypotheses:
Really fine review of the movie (filmed on the LSU campus) at Psychology Today here, with a number of comparisons between the film and that one Rocky film where Stallone wins the Cold War, including this:
If you recall, the Russian boxer Drago trains in a state of the art scientific facility, where they measure the impact of his punches, train him on machines and try to figure out how to make him a better fighter. Meanwhile Rocky runs out in the snow and lifts logs. God’s not Dead is very similar. The reiteration of Hawking’s statement that philosophy is dead was not accidental. It is something that the conservative evangelicals who made this movie desperately want to be true. In the real world, Hawking’s statement was met with condemnation from both scientists and philosophers,* and philosophy is so alive and well today that the Christian right-wing feels they need a movie to demonize it. But this is a part of a larger anti-intellectual movement in evangelical Christianity that distrusts what academics say on everything from American history to evolution.
The end of Johnston's piece is a little bit unfortunate.
Given the recent guest post on this issue, some of us thought it appropriate to post a link to this statement, written by three APA members with disabilities, on the APA’s practices with regard to members with disabilities. I (and the other bloggers I have communicated with) take no stand on this, and merely pass it along.
The much anticipated appointments page at PhilJobs is now live (see this announcement from the APA). To encourage the use of this service, we will be suspending the hiring thread on NewAPPS. I want to commend this effort by the APA, David Bourget, and David Chalmers, which will certainly be a helpful addition to the profession.
Following an excellent post on cochlear implants by Teresa Blankmeyer Burke over at Feminist Philosophers is a comment pointing the reader to this interview, which may be of interest to NewAPPS readers. Of particular interest is William Mager's attempt to describe his experience of sound with the new implants. Here are a few key passages:
“It’s not sound. It’s beeping. But It doesn’t feel like sound. It feels like some kind of electronic trigger is going on in your brain.” (at around 4:27)
The interview is online at Edinburgh University Press here.* There are lots of juicy tidbits, for example this from Ohm:
The latter half of the 20th century bequeathed the Anglophone world a very one-sided picture of “French Theory.” The soixante-huitards were like our noble savages. Many important voices were silenced, due perhaps to institutional and sociological pressures, as well as individal and collective decisions about what works to translate. In many ways this Romantic image of French philosophy continues today.
Mark's one of the most consistently interesting interlocutors I've ever had the pleasure to work with.** Some of the background is in the interview. As an undergraduate he initially worked in South Asian Studies, and as part of that lived in Nepal during a civil war. Then while finishing his degree at Madison he got interested in the French Theory presupposed by many of the people he was working on. So he went to France and studied there, a process which gave him an interesting distance from some of the canonical American receptions of French thought. Now he's at LSU getting a Ph.D in French and an MA in Philosophy.***
Many philosophers of science are understandably excited about Neil deGrasse Tyson's reinvorgoration of the TV show Cosmos. After all, most of us are pretty excited about science and anything that improves the public's scientific literacy. Thus, it is extremely disappointing to hear him articulate the comments that he does at about 1:02:46 of this video.* He says that a "philosopher is a would-be scientist without a laboratory" and that we have been "rendered essentially obsolete." He later suggests that there is much positive work that a philosophers can do (in ethics, for example), but doesn't seem to think that there can be any good philosophy of science. (Richard Dawkins, who is also shown in the video, seems to take a slightly more positive view of the field).
This morning, I saw two things that shook the cobwebs: 1) Eric Winsberg's intriguing post about dark matter, and, more to the point at hand, the fact that he was at an event that involved astronmers and philosophers, and 2) with the web announcement for a “Genomics and Philosophy of Race” Conference that I am a part of, involving both biologists and philosophers (not to mention historians and sociologists). These two events are only two of the many, many productive collaborations between scientists and philosophers of science. We need to do a better job telling people about them, and about telling the general public what philosophers of science do.
* H/T to Lucas Matthews, graduate stuent at the University of Utah, for the pointer to the video and NdGT's attitude toward philosophy of science
In philosophy of religion, realist theism is the dominant outlook: belief in God is similar to belief in other real things (or supposedly real things) like quarks or oxygen. There is a rather triumphalist narrative about the resurgence of realist theism since the demise of logical positivism (see for instance, Plantinga's advice to Christian philosophers) when logical positivism and its verifiability criterion held sway, philosophers were dissuaded from talking about God in realist terms: religious beliefs were not just false, but meaningless. With the demise of logical positivism, however, theists could again defend realist positions, using a variety of sophisticated arguments.
Nevertheless, the question is whether theists in philosophers of religion are not conceding too much to atheists by talking about theism mainly in terms of beliefs. To ignore practice is to ignore a large part of the religious experience, and what makes it meaningful to the theist. Such an exclusive focus can indeed be alienating, as it seems to suggest that theists believe a whole bunch of ideas that are wildly implausible, e.g., that a man resurrected from the dead, or was born of a virgin. This picture of religious life as believing in a set of strange propositions is, as Kvanvig memorably put it, a view that most theists will not recognize themselves in:
I hardly recognize this picture of religious faith and religious life, except in the sense that one can cease to be surprised or shocked by the neighbor who jumps naked on his trampoline after having seen it for years.
That is not to say that many theists do believe these things, even in a literal sense, but without looking at the larger picture of practices that help to maintain and instil these beliefs, our epistemology of religion remains woefully incomplete.
It is therefore refreshing to read philosopher Howard Wettstein's recent interview in The Stone, who, coming from a Jewish background, emphasizes the practice-based aspects of a religious lifestyle. He argues that "existence" is the wrong idea for God, following Maimonides, and instead argues that "the real question is one's relation to God, the role God plays in one’s life, the character of one’s spiritual life."
No. No. Not THAT controversy. I just got back from a meeting at the insanely cool Carnegie Observatory in Pasadena, California (Hubble's old digs) with Wendy Parker, Paul Humphreys, James Ladyman, and many extremely interesting and engaging astronomers. (Barry Madore and Wendy Freedman were our hosts, and Stacy McGaugh, Bill Saslaw, Alar Toomre (who did an insanely cool computer simulation of galaxy collision back in 1972!), Frank van den Bosch, and James Bullock were in attendance.) Among the many interesting things I learned is that the whole issue of Dark Matter is much more complicated than I ever imagined. I used to think that Dark Matter was simply sprinkled liberally around the universe in exactly the right quantities to get the accelerations of galaxies and clusters right. I thought, in other words, that it was a simple and straightforward Duhem problem. Then, a few years ago, the images of the Bullet supercluster collision came out, and it was widely reputed to offer direct evidence of dark matter. This made it seem like a standard "independant confirmation" of a Duhumian auxilliary hypothesis. But of course, the situation is MUCH more complicated. There are in fact at least 16 different moving parts in the Dark Matter controversy, and superclusters are just one of them. And in fact, long before the Bullet cluster was observed, opponents of the standard model of "cold dark matter" (who advocate a modified theory of gravity) had admitted that superclusters probably had missing mass. But the rub is this: there is plenty of known missing BARYONIC mass (the kind that the Big Bang neucleosynthesis model predicts the expected quantity of) to account for the missing mass in superclusters. In fact, that would only take about 3% of the baryonic mass out there, and as much as 30% is known to be missing. So, the "dark matter" in the Bullet supercluster could easily be brown dwarfs, black holes, or other "normal" stuff. So, the debate is much more intricate, and it involves trying to figure out how the dark matter halos of the universe would have evolved from the tiny fluctuations of the cosmic microwave background and then predicting what velocity curves for galaxies those would produce. The contest is then to see who can predict velocity curves better: the people with modified theories of gravity, or the people who simulate the dark matter and then see what it does. From what I can tell, the modified gravity people seem to have the edge in that, and they do with fewer free parameters. All very fascinating stuff.
Over the weekend I came across this hoax piece of ‘news’, 'reporting' that a boy who had been raised by orangutans has been recaptured so as to live a ‘normal human life’ again in Malaysia. Despite (or perhaps because!) the phoniness of the ‘article’, it did get me thinking: in such a hypothetical scenario, would capturing such a child and bringing them back to a life with humans be the obvious, right thing to do? On the one hand: isn’t it a form of species chauvinism to think that a human being would undoubtedly be better off in the company of conspecifics? Wasn’t the boy doing just fine among orangutans? (In the hypothetical scenario, that is.) On the other hand: can a human being really thrive and live a fulfilling life exclusively among members of other species (and from a very early age)? This strikes me as an eminently philosophical question, though also partially empirical.
Relatedly, I am currently dealing with another surge of demands for a pet in our household. The current proposal is for rabbits, but I’m resisting this move by pointing out that rabbits belong in the wild, with other rabbits. They wouldn’t be happy living with us, no matter how often my kids will pat and caress them, as they promise. (It’s cute though to hear that this is their conception of what makes a living being happy: lots of hugs.) Coming to think of it, the only species that make any sense at all as pets are those that truly thrive in the company of humans, and as far as I can tell, this only holds of dogs and cats. (Maybe horses? Not sure.) Could it be that, just as I resist the idea of e.g. rabbits being ‘happy’ among humans, I should also resist the possibility of a human boy being happy among orangutans? My intuitions are clashing here.
What do readers think? I especially welcome comments by philosophers of biology, who may have more data on intraspecific vs. interspecific cohabitation among the different species of animals.
(PS There are of course lots of interesting implications for the nature/nurture debate in such scenarios, but I will leave them be for now.)
In the recent Mind & Language workshop on cognitive science of religion, Frank Keil presented an intriguing paper entitled "Order, Order Everywhere and Not an Agent to Think: The Cognitive Compulsion to Make the Argument from Design." Keil does not believe the argument from design is inevitable - I've argued elsewhere that while teleological reasoning and creationism is common, arguing for the existence of God on the basis of perceived design is rare; it typically only happens when there are plausible non-theistic worldviews available.
Rather, Keil argues that from a very early age on, humans can recognize order, and that they prefer agents as causes for order. Taken together, this forms the cognitive basis for making the argument from design (AFD). (For similar proposals, see here and here). He proposes two very intriguing puzzles, and I'm wondering what NewApps readers think:
Some forms of orderliness give us a sense of design, others do not. What kinds of order give rise to an inference to design, or a designer?
Babies already seem to recognize ordered states from disordered states. How do they do it? What is it they recognize?
In a famous essay, Deleuze suggests that our society has moved beyond Foucauldian disciplinary power to a more fluid “control society,” where the various sites of disciplinary control merge into a modulated network of interlocking sites of power, the primary technique of which is access control. As Deleuze notes, the move is “dispersive,” and “the factory has given way to the corporation.” Hence, “the family, the school, the army, the factory are no longer distinct analogical spaces that converge towards an owner – state or private power – but coded figures – deformable and transformable – of a single corporation that now has only stockholders.” (6) The most vivid image of such a society he attributes to Guattari, who:
“has imagined a city where one would be able to leave one’s apartment, one’s street, one’s neighborhood, thanks to one’s (dividual) electronic card that raises a given barrier; but the card could just as easily be rejected on a given day or between certain hours; what counts is not the barrier but the computer that tracks each person’s position – licit or illicit – and effects a universal modulation” (7)
This thesis has been most widely applied to surveillance and security and is easily evidenced by things like NSA “don’t fly” lists and the number of passwords one has to generate online. That said, I would like to suggest here that, at least in one respect, we’re moving past the control society. Or, perhaps, we’re seeing the truth of the control society in an unexpected way. One feature of the move from the dungeon to the panopticon is regulatory efficiency: it costs a lot less to get people to police themselves than to coerce them with brute force. The move to control is similarly efficient in that multiple, closed panoptic systems are much less efficient than a more modular arrangement where panoptic technologies are (as Foucault said they would be) completely diffused into society and work together, rather than separately.
Still on time for a BMoF today, and here is a recently released video clip/short film by rapper Criolo (that I'm a bit of a fan is no secret to anyone) of two tracks, 'Duas de Cinco' and 'Cóccix-ência'. Hope ya'll in the mood for rap on Fridays today!
We might soon be creating monsters, so we'd better figure out our duties to them.
Robert Nozick's Utility Monster derives 100 units of pleasure from each cookie she eats. Normal people derive only 1 unit of pleasure. So if our aim is to maximize world happiness, we should give all our cookies to the monster. Lots of people would lose out on a little bit of pleasure, but the Utility Monster would be really happy!
Of course this argument generalizes beyond cookies. If there were a being in the world vastly more capable of pleasure and pain than are ordinary human beings, then on simple versions of happiness-maximizing utilitarian ethics, the rest of us ought to immiserate ourselves to push it up to superhuman pinnacles of joy.
Now, if artificial consciousness is possible, then maybe it will turn out that we can create Utility Monsters on our hard drives. (Maybe this is what happens in R. Scott Bakker's and my story Reinstalling Eden.)
Having now reached the end of my week as a guest blogger here at NewAPPS, I must thank the NewAPPS team for the opportunity, and again, in particular, John Protevi and Eric Winsberg. Thanks as well to my co-authors, Peggy DesAutels and John Heil, for joining me as co-authors. And thanks, finally, to all who read and responded to my posts.
I know full well that I could write an entire blog solely devoted to issues relating to philosophy’s diversity and inclusiveness, so in a week of guest posts I had to pick and choose. There are a laundry list of things I could have posted about—recent petitions to the APA relating to a professional code of ethics, accessibility for disabled philosophers, and hiring practices; the goals and plans of our new task force on diversity and inclusion; issues of socioeconomic class; public perception of philosophy and its effects on the professional pipeline; contingent labor in academia. Rest assured that these issues and more are very much on the APA’s radar, despite the fact that they weren’t primary focuses of my posts this week. I hope that even if I didn’t cover everything you would have liked, you’ve found the topics and discussions this week to be of interest.
It has been my priority from my very first day as APA executive director to be more engaged with the membership and communicate the APA’s work to the public more effectively. So I encourage you, too, to be engaged with me—I’m always happy to hear constructive feedback and suggestions, and comments on this post are open for just that reason. Don’t be afraid to reach out.
I look forward to continuing these conversations with you here and elsewhere!
[Please note: My appearance on this blog does not constitute an endorsement by the APA of the blog or its content.]
To that end, last November, the board of officers decided to open a competition for $20,000 in APA grants to diversity projects in 2015. We know our members are creative, innovative problem-solvers, and we hope that this request for proposals (RFP) will generate many new ideas to improve philosophy’s diversity. In fact, we’ll be looking not only for programs that the APA can fund directly, but also programs that might be good fits for grants from foundations and government organizations, so that we can help get even more initiatives off the ground than our $20,000 will afford.
Opening this RFP meant that, unfortunately, we could not immediately renew our funding of an important diversity initiative, PIKSI, which the APA has been supporting for nearly a decade. I want to take this opportunity to explain the rationale behind that difficult decision.
By the end of 2014, PIKSI will have received nearly $200,000 in grant funding from the APA over the last nine years: the APA’s longest and largest grant ever. We are proud to have supported this valuable program that makes such an impact a critical point in the pipeline.
From the beginning, though, the grant to PIKSI was explicitly intended to be start-up funding, with the expectation that the APA would not provide ongoing, sustaining financial support. This is because the APA is not, primarily, a grantmaking organization; the association’s finances do not permit us to provide continuing funding to any program, no matter how valuable it is to the profession.
So, after careful consideration, the APA board of officers decided in November, on a unanimous vote of all board members in attendance, not to renew the APA’s funding for PIKSI at this time. Instead, the board decided to open the diversity and inclusiveness RFP. We want to support the development of new programs to address philosophy’s diversity problem and expand the breadth of projects taking on this important task. We believe the RFP will encourage program development, and we welcome applications not only from new projects, but also from PIKSI and other existing efforts. We will fund those that we believe will make the biggest impact, whether they are brand new or well established.
At the same time, the board made a commitment, again on a unanimous vote of all present, to work with PIKSI to develop alternative sources of funding and creative funding strategies. Since the board meeting at which these decisions were made, I personally and others in the APA leadership have been in contact with members of the PIKSI board and with grantmaking organizations on PIKSI’s behalf, providing advice and exploring new potential avenues, such as crowdfunding. We intend to continue working closely with PIKSI for years to come.
You might ask, why not just do both—renew PIKSI’s grant and open the new RFP? The board discussed this possibility, but was faced with the unfortunate reality that it just wasn’t in our budget. For several years the APA has spent more than it brought in, leaving us with razor-thin financial margins and very little safety net. I have made and will continue to make every reasonable effort to get the APA on stable footing, and we are now in a much better fiscal situation than we were a couple of years ago. But financial sustainability is and will continue to be a challenge. Through these difficult years, we have continued to make diversity funding a priority, but unfortunately we cannot do as much as we would ideally like given the resources available to us. If it had been possible to double the funding available for diversity projects in 2015, I have little doubt the board would have voted to do so.
All of us at the APA want to do more—more programs, more grants, more advocacy, more scholarship. Right now, we’re stretched very thin, getting all we can out of every dollar. So to do more, we need more.
And further, I encourage you to join us in supporting PIKSI’s efforts to seek new funding. Share your ideas. Approach your institution and ask them to support PIKSI. Connect PIKSI with foundation funders or major donors you’re aware of. Help brainstorm creative funding strategies. Together we can do more than the APA can do alone.
[Please note: My appearance on this blog does not constitute an endorsement by the APA of the blog or its content.]
In his Two New Sciences (1638), Galileo presents a puzzle about infinite collections of numbers that became known as ‘Galileo’s paradox’. Written in the form of a dialogue, the interlocutors in the text observe that there are many more positive integers than there are perfect squares, but that every positive integer is the root of a given square. And so, there is a one-to-one correspondence between the positive integers and the perfect squares, and thus we may conclude that there are as many positive integers as there are perfect squares. And yet, the initial assumption was that there are more positive integers than perfect squares, as every perfect square is a positive integer but not vice-versa; in other words, the collection of the perfect squares is strictly contained in the collection of the positive integers. How can they be of the same size then?
Galileo’s conclusion is that principles and concepts pertaining to the size of finite collections cannot be simply transposed, mutatis mutandis, to cases of infinity: “the attributes "equal," "greater," and "less," are not applicable to infinite, but only to finite, quantities.” With respect to finite collections, two uncontroversial principles hold:
Part-whole: a collection A that is strictly contained in a collection B has a strictly smaller size than B.
One-to-one: two collections for which there exists a one-to-one correspondence between their elements are of the same size.
What Galileo’s paradox shows is that, when moving to infinite cases, these two principles clash with each other, and thus that at least one of them has to go. In other words, we simply cannot transpose these two basic intuitions pertaining to counting finite collections to the case of infinite collections. As is well known, Cantor chose to keep One-to-one at the expenses of Part-whole, famously concluding that all countable infinite collections are of the same size (in his terms, have the same cardinality); this is still the reigning orthodoxy.
One especially notable feature of the journal is the commitment of the editorial team to diversity. The mission statement of the journal approved by the APA board of officers affirms that it will not only recognize, but in fact represent, the many facets of philosophy as a discipline. Members of the editorial board were selected not only for their scholarly abilities but also for their commitment to this aspect of thejournal’s mission. In the coming months, we plan to have representatives of the journal attending conferences in a variety of philosophical disciplines, seeking out good papers and encouraging submissions.
The journal will aim for full coverage, actively soliciting the best work from every philosophical constituency. We are well aware that many analytic philosophers are skeptical of work in non-analytic areas, and vice versa. By seeking papers addressed to a broader philosophical audience, we hope to challenge this skepticism by encouraging contributors to write in ways that make the virtues of their ideas salient to philosophers from varied backgrounds.
The journal is not just about publishing exciting work—although that is certainly a priority—it is about publishing exciting work that is accessible to the broader philosophical community, work that potentially blurs boundaries within the discipline and, where appropriate, reaches out to other disciplines. We do not hope, unreasonably, to produce a journal in which every reader finds every paper congenial—this is a philosophy journal, after all. Our hope, rather, is to provide a venue for papers that are interesting and important philosophically and wear their interest and importance on their sleeves.
The editors intend the journal to be not simply another philosophy journal, not simply one more place to send papers in hopes of adding entries on CVs. We are responding to a complaint heard more and more nowadays to the effect that journal papers have become more plentiful without becoming more interesting. We suspect that one cause of the current situation stems from the refereeing process. Referees find themselves looking for reasons to reject papers under review. When authors receive the resulting comments they respond by adding material and inserting qualifications, with the result that an initially interesting idea becomes lost in a long discussion of the literature supplemented by preemptive responses to potential lines of criticism. The results are, too often, papers written by committee.
As our editorial statement indicates, we favor clear, succinct papers that go out on a limb, papers that take a chance, papers exhibiting fresh perspectives on familiar problems. This is of a piece with our goal of encouraging discussion across a wide variety of philosophical areas. Once the journal is running at full speed, our goal will be short response times and useful feedback, both of which promise to help early career philosophers get the best of their ideas into print and build the kind of meaningful publication record needed to secure a permanent position and earn tenure.
You might remain skeptical that any journal could live up to these goals—that any journal could be a truly generalist journal, representing the demographic and scholarly diversity of the field, publishing important work from across the philosophical spectrum accessible to philosophers of different persuasions, while addressing some of the biggest challenges in publishing. It is a tall order, to be sure. But we are confident not only that it can work and will work, but that it promises significant benefits to philosophers generally, APA members and non-members alike. At a time in which philosophy, the humanities, and higher education itself are under threat, it behooves us to come together in a way that preserves our interesting differences.
So we hope you’ll join us in making the Journal of the American Philosophical Association a success. Submissions are open.
[Please note: Our appearance on this blog does not constitute an endorsement by the APA of the blog or its content.]
By Amy Ferrer, APA Executive Director, and Peggy DesAutels, Site Visit Program Director
Since the report of the site visit to the University of Colorado Boulder went public, there has been quite a bit of discussion about the site visit program, how it works, what its reports are meant to do, and so on. In authoring this post, we’re taking the opportunity, now that the initial fervor over the report has died down to some degree, to reiterate just how important the site visit program (SVP) is for the profession, explain how and why the APA supports it, and begin to look forward to the program’s future.
First and foremost, it must be said that members of SVP teams do an invaluable service to the profession—they have taken ownership of the climate issues in philosophy and are giving of themselves to help departments better understand how their own cultures and climates may be impacting the professional and educational experiences of faculty, students, and communities. The goal of the SVP is simply to help departments improve.
The SVP is based on an established and successful program in physics—and experiences from that program show that it’s an effective methodology for improving departmental climates. In physics departments, SVP visits are a badge of honor. That is how they should be understood in philosophy as well. Departments that are confident that they have a welcoming and inclusive culture should request site visits to assess how well they are achieving their goals; departments with concerns about climate should request site visits to identify concrete steps they can take to improve. A number of departments have had or have scheduled site visits, and we encourage faculty members to advocate for bringing site visit teams to their institutions.
We also want to take this opportunity to clear up some misunderstandings about the relationship between the APA and the site visit program.
The Supreme Court today heard oral arguments in the Hobby Lobby case, in which the craft store chain is suing for exemption from the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate. According to Hobby Lobby, it has religious objections to certain forms of contraception, and so should be exempt from the mandate on First Amendment grounds. According to Dahlia Lithwick – who is usually pretty good at this sort of analysis – the oral argument didn’t go well for the government. Conservatives on the court were signaling their support of Hobby Lobby, and Justice Roberts even has a way to apply the case narrowly (by declaring that only tightly-controlled or family-run companies can make the religious-objection argument). This case has broader implications than it might look like on the surface.
If Plutynski and Weatherall's reviews are right (and they read wonderfully) both books in different ways seem to me to mark decisive moves away from Generalized Philosophy of Science. The very first paragraph of Weatherall's reads:
If this collection has an overarching theme, it is that the details matter. If philosophers hope to understand contemporary physics, we need to engage in depth both with the technicalities of our best physical theories and the practicalities of how those theories are applied. The authors in this volume brush aside an older tradition in the philosophy of physics -- and the philosophy of science more generally -- in which actual physics entered only to illustrate high-level accounts of theories, explanation, or reduction. Of course, by itself, dismissing this tradition is hardly worth remarking on: such an approach to philosophy of physics has been going out of fashion for decades. Taken as whole, however, this volume pushes the theme still further, in ways that mark important shifts in recent philosophy of physics.
“Whenever you have a 'southern' or a 'northern' or an 'eastern' or a 'western' before an institution's name, you know it will be wildly underfunded." –Richard Russo
On March nineteenth the Chancellor of the University of Maine System, as well as the President, and select members of the Board of Trustees gathered in front of a crowd of students, faculty and staff in the Hannaford Lecture Hall, a spacious and new lecture hall (more often rented out than used for classes) to unveil the University of Southern Maine's new vision as a “Metropolitan University.” Two days later, on the twenty-first, twelve members of the faculty from such programs as economics, theater, and sociology met with the provost of the University to be "retrenched." Both of these events followed the proposal to eliminate four programs (American and New England Studies, Geosciences, Recreation and Leisure Studies, and Arts and Humanities at the Lewiston Auburn Campus) the week before. It was a strange and tumultuous week, and one that I fear offers a frightening glimpse of a future of higher public education in the US.
Unfortunately various pressures on my time, including the flow of news about the struggle with the government block on Twitter in Turkey, led me to miss Catherine Dutilh Novaes very useful post The night twitter went down, and miss the opportunity to comment in a timely manner. As I am in Istanbul, teaching at Istanbul Technical University, a full length post on the complex changing situation here is probably the best response to make in any case. What follows is even a double post, the first part deals with the immediate situation. Those who wish to have more background can then go on to the second part of this post, or even go to it first as a basis for following the more immediate issues.
The Twitter block was followed by an enormous growth of activity on Twitter as those interested in social media found very easy evasive methods, drawing on previous experience with a YouTube block. I was even able to use Twitter without any tricks as the block was not applied in my university campus where I live as well as work. The government then introduced more aggressive blocking to precude the more simple switches in DNS used at first and started working on VPN networks, and the apps using them like Hotshield. Nevertheless, I have been able to stay constantly on Twitter with minimum effort, using Opera mobile browser, which uses servers in Iceland on my smart phone, and the Google Chrome app ZenMate on my personal computer. Yesterday (24th March) evening normal twitter access strangely resumed at my university campus and some others, while still otherwise remaining in force. During the blockage conflicting reports have circulated on whether a critical article in The Guardian had been blocked, and whether that might be a sign of a very deep crackdown on the Internet, along with all the other indications for and against a deepening attack on freedom of communication.
Perhaps the most powerful tool we have to increase diversity in philosophy is data collection: there are many good ideas about how to make philosophy a more welcoming place for minorities and women, but we have no way of knowing whether our efforts are effective if we cannot measure their impact. And there are minorities about which we have little or no data: the prevalence of LGBT philosophers and disabled philosophers, for example, has rarely been tracked, so it’s very difficult to know how philosophy compares to other fields on inclusiveness in these areas.
I believed then, as I do now, in the business adage that “you make what you measure”—that is, by measuring, you can (even unconsciously) begin to see patterns in your measurements, and do more of the things that improve the metrics that matter to you. When it comes to measuring, philosophy, and the APA too, have been lacking. But the APA’s strategic planning task force, which reported to the board of officers last fall, included data collection as one of its priorities for the APA in the next few years, along with "providing membership services in an efficient manner, … development, and improving the public perception of philosophy."
Rutgers is one of my favorite departments in the world. I admire and respect the faculty there. Many people there are my very dear friends. But not all students, or friends of students, at Rutgers respect women. I wrote a blog post about trolling yesterday. It turned out that I was being trolled as well.
"Highly Adequate" "Tara Nelson" and "JW Showalter" have all posted from the same Rutgers [or East Brunswick] IP address. So has “Suzanne Southam.” [update: we have no info on "Highly Adequate's" IP address.] So, "Tara Nelson” may not be "JWShowalter." But it looks like "Tara Nelson" is "Highly Adequate." [update: or, at least wanted to draw attention to him.]"Highly Adequate" is probably a fellow Rutgers student of “JW Showalter,” if not "JW Showalter" himself. Alternatively, there is a small team of trolls working closely together from the same IP address.
Also, notice that "Highly Adequate" abbreviates "HA." That has a particular meaning, which I won't repeat here. I think everyone in philosophy will know what this might refer to.
So, please fellow bloggers in the blogosphere ignore the comments that this or these students are making. They are trolling you. They are trolling me. They are potentially dangerous. They are potentially psychotic or psychopathic.
The following is a guest post by Amy Ferrer, APA Exectutive Director
Before putting up my first substantive post later today, I want to take a moment to thank the folks at NewAPPS for having me, and especially John Protevi and Eric Winsberg, who will be moderating comments and working with me along the way.
Many readers will know that this is my second guest stint on a major philosophy blog, after an appearance over at Leiter Reports in late 2012. At that time, I was still new to the APA and my wide-ranging posts functioned, as much as anything, to introduce me and my priorities to the philosophical community. This time around, I’m going to be focusing on one particular area of interest: diversity and inclusiveness. Many conversations have happened online and off over the last several months on these important issues, so this week I’ll be talking about some of the APA’s ongoing work related to diversity and inclusiveness, joined on a couple of occasions by colleagues as co-authors. I can’t possibly take on every facet of this broad topic in just a few posts, of course, but I think we’ll have more than enough material for some lively and productive discussions throughout the week.
[Please note: My appearance on this blog does not constitute an endorsement by the APA of the blog or its content.]
Relatedly, a truly sexist and essentialist view of women's abilities in philosophy has reared its head on the blogosphere, and Showalter seems unable to respond to it effectively. Hope someone here can nip this in the bud. It's in the comments section.
Tara is referring to comments by commenter "Highly Adequate"--comments which include this one: