The Philosophical Gourmet Chinese Philosophy Specialty List of PhD Programs – 2011

Well, technically, it’s a ranking.

[UPDATE Dec. 9: the specialty list on the Gourmet site now shows the updated, 2011 information — the same as below.]

The actual specialty list on the Gourmet site should be updated soon — currently it has the 2009 list — but Brian Leiter, who administers the rankings procedure and the site, provides this update on his Leiter Blog:

Due to the small number of evaluators, we are not printing scores, but just a list of programs, broken into two groups based on the scores received:

Group 1 (1-2)
Duke University
University of Utah

Group 2 (3-9)
National University of Singapore
University at Buffalo, State University of New York

University of British Columbia
University of California, Riverside
University of Hawaii, Manoa
University of Hong Kong
University of Oklahoma, Norman

Evaluators:  P.J. Ivanhoe, Bryan Van Norden, David Wong.

Given the small number of evaluators, I myself would completely disregard the separation into two ranked groups. In my own professional opinion, neither Utah nor Duke offers any clear advantage to a student than any of the others — whether we’re talking about the quality of training, success in job placement, or (non-Gourmet Report) reputation of the program. The same could be said for any of the other schools in comparison to the others on the list. Intellectual fit between a student and the interests/specializations of the person or people at the institution is probably the most important thing to consider.

The list should be useful for prospective graduate students who are interested in either specializing or getting competence in Chinese and comparative philosophy by working with a faculty member who is either partially or wholly within a Philosophy department. There are, of course other universities where excellent Asian studies programs exist alongside Philosophy departments. Much of this has already been discussed on this blog.

Comments welcome, of course.

17 replies on “The Philosophical Gourmet Chinese Philosophy Specialty List of PhD Programs – 2011”

  1. I’ve been back and forth on this over the years. When I got into Penn and talked with an undisclosed faculty member at Hawaii about the program there, he/she was incredulous that I would consider going there instead of to Penn. I think the best way for the future is to have anonymous rankings submitted by faculty members at all of the above schools, as well as outliers with top-tier Sinolology programs.

    Also, the extra carriage return in the second grouping makes it look like the first two schools are ahead of the others, rather than the alphabetical ranking.

    • Yes (of agreement), on all counts. The extra carriage return is in Leiter’s original post on his blog — I don’t know if it is accidental.

  2. All the programs are listed alphabetically within the group. The extra space in Group 2 was just a fluke imposed by Typepad for reasons known only to the Typepad Gods.

  3. It may be worthwhile to point out that while the criteria for generating that ranked list are limited to the quality of the faculty working at the respective universities, other considerations are especially important for study in this field.

    Advantages of the University of Hong Kong, for example, include the fact that it is one of several universities in close proximity, each of which has faculty in the field and in related fields. Interlibrary loans are convenient. Public lectures and international conferences on Chinese Philosophy are frequent and easy to attend. There are many English-speaking undergraduates with prior exposure to and interest in early Chinese philosophy. The general cultural atmosphere is one of respect for Chinese philosophy. Several nearby bookstores carry vast arrays of: major and minor classical texts with language helps in modern Chinese, old and new commentaries, and trilingual editions, all at quite reasonable prices. Alcohol is not heavily taxed.

    I have not visited the other schools and so cannot compare.

  4. I’d have to agree with Bill that the University of Hong Kong seems to provide the largest intellectual environment. How has placement been for graduates?

    Also, who’s at UBC? Ted Slingerland is in Asian Studies, right?

    • I’m not sure what it means. One could speculate that it means Ted teaches cross-listed courses or that he collaborates with philosophy faculty. Perhaps he’s also extra willing to be on Philosophy thesis committees. I’m pretty sure, however, that Ted would be the primary reason for UBC’s being included in the ranking, given the composition of the evaluators.

    • There’s quite a bit of information about graduate study in Warring States Chinese thought, through either the Asian Studies or Philosophy departments, available on Ted’s website. See both this page on Ted’s work with graduate students, and this page on more general information (including a list of other faculty and current graduate students) concerning studying Warring States thought at UBC. Note, though, that the former page says that Ted will be on leave in both Spring 2012 and Spring 2013, and thus is unlikely to accept new students this year.

    • Thanks, Steve. Looks like Ted has a good cohort of students; although as far as I can tell none of them are actually in philosophy or have even an undergraduate degree in philosophy. Additionally, none of the affiliated faculty Ted lists are in the Philosophy Department. Perhaps it’s simply the fact that, as he mentions, “students working in this area will generally apply to the Asian Studies or Philosophy Departments (where I am an Associate Member), identifying me as their primary or co-advisor,” that qualifies it to be in the rankings?

      If this is the case, I’m curious as to how UBC makes the rankings, but places like Boston University doesn’t. Bob Neville is on the philosophy faculty (, and the Religion Department has a Religious Thought track with John Berthrong (

    • Agui; thanks for making that excellent point about BU. There are two issues raised as I see it.

      First, as I’ve indicated, at the level at which we’re talking — graduate institutions either with good overall reputations or with good reputations in either philosophy or Asian studies — I don’t think rankings among them make as much sense for prospective students as much as the intellectual fit of the institution with their background and interests. So, BU should be on a list of good places to consider, along with UBC — we should also add on that list Penn, Harvard, Berkeley, Penn State, Brown, and Toronto, along with other places that have excellent Asian Studies scholars who work on Chinese philosophical texts. That the Gourmet Report is restricted to Philosophy departments introduces a limit to its own usefulness for some prospective students of our field, anyway. Outside of the U.S. and Canada, of course, there are other great places to consider (for study primarily in English) in addition to HKU and NUS — I’ll let people chime in here. We’ve talked about this — all of this — on the Profession page, but there may be institutional updating that people might provide.

      Second, to return to what sounds by now like an old chestnut, just in terms of compiling a list — ranked or not — it makes sense to have a larger number and more intellectual variety of evaluators to produce such a list.

  5. I’ve hesitated to say this since I think these rankings tend to generate so much heat. Still, I’m really sorry that there are no women on the list of evaluators. Following all the recent discussion in the profession regarding how underrepresentation can be indirectly perpetuated by the absence of women from positions of prominence (e.g., as the Gendered Conference Campaign articulates), this seems a wasted opportunity to make clear that there are women in our sub-field doing powerful work. I think of, e.g., Sor-hoon Tan, Erin Cline, JeeLoo Liu, Lisa Rosenlee, May Sim, Lisa Raphals, Karyn Lai, and Robin Wang, to name just a few off the top of my head. I have no idea how the evaluators are chosen – perhaps some women were invited and declined? – but this is an element of the evaluators’ diversity I haven’t seen anyone raise and I think it worth considering.

    To be clear, whether including women evaluators would have any impact on the rankings is not my concern. My concern is instead with how these sorts of professional responsibilities/privileges confer authority and stature on the ones charged with them, and thus what the absence of women may do to reinforce problematic schemas regarding what success in the profession (or, in this case, sub-field) looks like. From what I see at a glance, we’re one of the very few (only?) sub-fields evaluated with an all-male list of evaluators. That seems a shame, particularly since, as I note above, the field has no shortage of women doing impressive work.

  6. re: Ted Slingerland and UBC. Ted now has a cross-appointment with Philosophy (and Psychology and Asian Studies), which means he can supervise philosophy Ph.D.s for students enrolled in the philosophy department (in addition to the other departments he’s cross-appointed in). All of his students thus far have been graduate students in Asian Studies, but if students are interested in combining research in Chinese philosophy with an education in Western philosophy (of the kinds that the rest of the philosophy department at UBC works in), then they can apply to UBC’s philosophy department and have Ted as a supervisor, etc. I was on the graduate admissions committee for the philosophy department at UBC last year, and I don’t recall any such applicants. But we’re certainly open to getting them. There isn’t anyone else in the philosophy department who specializes in Asian Philosophy, however.

    And, of course, I’m in no position to evaluate any of the ranking issues here, such as whether it is better/worse for students (as far as finding jobs, etc.) to pursue one program rather than another, or whether other programs with folks strong in Asian Philosophy but who are not primarily located in philosophy departments should be in the rankings, and so on. That said, in general, I support surveying more people for the specialty rankings.

  7. Obviously someone setting out to pursue graduate study in Chinese philosophy should think about who the strong faculty are to study it with. However, as suggested in the discussion of the 2009 rankings and elsewhere, Chinese philosophy is in something of a tricky position right now with respect to the profession more generally.

    I think of the Leiter rankings as representative of the standpoint of (a certain large segment of) professional philosophers generally. As it happens, professional philosophers generally don’t know much about Chinese philosophy, let alone who are the best scholars of Chinese philosophy. If professional philosophers generally are generally the people on hiring committees for jobs in philosophy, then it may be lamentable that they don’t know much about Chinese philosophy, but it is also important to keep this in mind when planning ahead for a job in philosophy.

    Given this situation, do we want the Leiter rankings to reflect the best places to study Chinese philosophy, understood in its own right, or do we want them to reflect the places where one can study Chinese philosophy and come out with a degree and a research program that will be well regarded by philosophers, generally? Is the fact that Utah and Duke are listed in the U.S. rankings (and Duke is listed in the overall “English-speaking” rankings), while most of those in Group 2 are not, itself a reason why the Leiter rankings would or perhaps should list them above the others?

    If one is hoping to get a job in an English-speaking philosophy department (rather than, say, Asian studies or religious studies), are there certain approaches to Chinese philosophy that are likely to be more warmly received than others? I’m afraid this is an awkward question, but I ask it sincerely, as a relative newcomer to Chinese philosophy (and one who already has a job).

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