Category Archives: Academia

The Issue is Not the Issue: A Podcast with Hans-Georg Moeller and Dan Sarafinas

Hans-Georg Moeller and Dan Sarafinas discuss contemporary debates on “political correctness” and related moral and social issues. They point to concepts such as virtue speech (“virtue signalling”), civil religion, and the role of critique to better understand their nature.

Episode 1–Virtue Speech: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pg8H-b87Cs;

The phenomenon of virtue speech (“virtue signalling”) has become a central feature in recent outrage movements pervasive throughout the West. Virtue speech, which is implicitly tied to accusations of hate speech, is a form of moralistic discourse setting speech examples that make it difficult to openly discuss elements of our culture without falling into the trap of moralizing.

Episode 2–Civil Religion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5EDEuXCPHOQ

Civil religion plays a central role in the virtue speech, or political correctness, discourse. The history of the concept is discussed as well as the structure of the American form of civil religion and how tenets of civil religion are constantly being performed and re-enacted, particularly in current social media outrage movements.

 

Diversity in Philosophy Journals: A Discussion

This morning at the APA Pacific there was a wide-ranging discussion on the topic of diversity in philosophy journals. The session was chaired by Eric Schwitzgebel, who introduced it as possibly the largest panel ever at the Pacific APA, featuring 7 presenters including Manyul Im, and 15 journal editor-panelists including Franklin Perkins. The audience was also substantial. Continue reading →

2017-18 PGR / Chinese Philosophy Rankings

The 2017-18 Philosophical Gourmet Report (PGR) has been released here. It includes “specialty rankings” for various areas, including Chinese philosophy. This year, for the first time, I was invited to be among the evaluators, and after wrestling with this a bit, decided to give it a try. As explained at the top of this page, evaluators see lists of faculty and then choose one of the following categories:

  • 0 – Inadequate for a PhD program
  • 1 – Marginal
  • 2 – Adequate
  • 3 – Good
  • 4 – Strong
  • 5 – Distinguished

Evaluators can do this for the program overall, and then for the various specialties. I chose to only rank the Chinese philosophy specialty (I did not select overall rankings). The vast majority I assigned a score of 0. I believe that the highest score I gave was a 3. Programs that have one or even two specialists can be — other things being equal — good places to study. But in my judgment there are no English-language programs that merit “strong” or “distinguished” rankings. In my view, that would take multiple specialists, and others with cognate interests, in the context of an overall strong and supportive department. We may get there one day, but we’re not there yet.

I have mixed views about this whole rankings thing, which has been discussed before on the blog. What we have tried to do here at Warp, Weft, and Way is provide as much objective information about graduate study as possible. But since PGR exists and I was invited to take part, I decided to give it a try.

One other thing. As Bryan Van Norden (another evaluator, and also someone on the Advisory Board) explains here, PGR policy is that programs need to have a certain minimum overall score in order to be ranked. Programs with significant “specialty” strengths but without the minimum overall score end up being listed as “Additional programs not evaluated this year but recommended for consideration by the Advisory Board.” I agree with Bryan’s sentiment that the programs listed under this rubric are as strong as the ones officially ranked, and thus disapprove of this policy, which I find to be highly misleading.

Van Norden Interview

Bryan Van Norden is interviewed about his new book Taking Back Philosophy: A Multicultural Manifesto by Dan Kaufman. Some of the topics:

  • Just how Euro-centric are American philosophy departments, anyway?
  • Is racism baked into Western philosophy?
  • A brief account of Western dalliances with Eastern thought
  • Why new movements in philosophy must kill their ancestors
  • Why do philosophy departments stay white? Subtle self-selection, Bryan says
  • Is philistinism killing philosophy as a discipline?

Body and Cosmos in China: An Interdisciplinary Symposium in Honor of Nathan Sivin

The Department of East Asian Languages & Civilizations at the University of Pennsylvania is delighted to announce an interdisciplinary symposium in honor of Nathan Sivin at Perry World House, 3803 Locust Walk, Philadelphia, PA 19104, on Oct. 14-15, 2017.

The symposium is free and open to the public, but pre-registration is required.  Just click here if you’d like to attend:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/body-and-cosmos-in-china-an-interdisciplinary-symposium-in-honor-of-nathan-sivin-tickets-37455848451.

Continue reading →

Haug criticizes Handbook for lack of Non-Western methodology

I post here Matthew Haug’s NDPR review of the new Oxford Handbook of Philosophical Methodology in order to highlight two things: (1) the decision by the editors of the Handbook not to include any non-Western philosophy or methodology; and (2) Haug’s extensive discussion of this fact, including the editors’ discussion of their decision (see the two paragraphs near the beginning, starting with “I’d also like to comment on the politically fraught issue…”). Interestingly, Haug himself says “Full disclosure: I edited a (less comprehensive) volume on philosophical methodology that also neglects non-Western traditions, for no good reason.” Clearly, he has come to regret that decision on his part. 

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Decolonising Philosophy at SOAS

The Student Union at SOAS (the School of Oriental and African Studies, part of the University of London) has issued their annual statement of their desired “Educational Priorities,” and one of them, “Decolonising SOAS: Confronting the White Institution,” has created a stir because of its demands concerning philosophy:

  • “To make sure that the majority of the philosophers on our courses are from the Global South or it’s diaspora. SOAS’s focus is on Asia and Africa and therefore the foundations of its theories should be presented by Asian or African philosophers (or the diaspora).”
  • “If white philosophers are required, then to teach their work from a critical standpoint. For example, acknowledging the colonial context in which so called “Enlightenment” philosophers wrote within.”

Media reports on this document have been full of hysterical criticism of “political correctness,” including a quote from Sir Roger Scruton announcing that “If they think there is a colonial context from which Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason arose, I would like to hear it.” Apparently Sir Roger is not familiar with Peter Park’s excellent book, Africa, Asia, and the History of Philosophy: Racism in the Formation of the Philosophical Canon, 1780–1830

This column takes a more balanced view — noting in particular that the only degree in philosophy at SOAS is in “World Philosophy,” through the Department of Religions and Philosophies. Indeed, if one looks at the course of study for the BA in World Philosophy, it’s somewhat difficult to believe that the majority of philosophers studied aren’t already from “the Global South or its diaspora.”

Another Round on Chinese Thought as Philosophy

In case you missed it, Nicholas Tampio recently published a short piece in Aeon explaining why he thinks Confucius (among other non-Western thinkers) should not be regarded as a philosopher, with implications for the philosophy curriculum and the makeup of philosophy faculties. This is a response to the recent New York Times piece by Jay Garfield and Bryan Van Norden.  Tampio and Van Norden subsequently exchanged tweets on the topic. Amy Olberding replies thoroughly and with humor here, and Ethan Mills responds on behalf of Indian philosophy here.

Where to begin?

Continue reading →