Once every few years, the Philosophical Gourmet Report publishes rankings of PhD programs in philosophy in the English-speaking world. It ranks programs “overall” and by areas of specialization. As one would hope for a report that aspires to be comprehensive and describe the current state of the field, one of those areas of specialization is Chinese philosophy.
You can find a general description of the methodology of the report here. As the member of the advisory board who took the lead in managing the Chinese philosophy area, and who wrote to the other assessors of Chinese philosophy to convene some joint deliberations about the process, I wanted to say a bit more about how we handled the Chinese philosophy section.
- “Ranked programs” and “additional programs.“ Of all of Anglophone, PhD-granting philosophy departments in the world, only a relatively small number are eligible to be ranked. Roughly, it’s those programs that would fall into the overall US top 50 by the Report’s usual methods, either in fact (if they are US programs) or in principle (if they are outside the US). In many cases, some good and excellent places for doctoral study of Chinese philosophy (in English) are not in this group. To address that issue, the section devoted to Chinese philosophy also has a list of “additional programs not evaluated this year but recommended for consideration by the Advisory Board.” At a glance, it might be tempting to think that the ranked programs are better places to do one’s doctoral studies in Chinese philosophy than the additional programs in Chinese philosophy. That’s emphatically not a conclusion that prospective PhD students should draw. The distinction between ranked programs and additional programs is just an artefact of the survey design.
- How the ranked programs were assessed. The editors of the report select the assessors of the Chinese philosophy area in three ways. First, they re-invite all of the people who have assessed Chinese philosophy for recent iterations to do so again. Second, as the one specialist in Chinese philosophy on the advisory board, I gave them a few more names, who were then invited to assess Chinese philosophy as well. Third, there’s nothing stopping other members of the advisory board from nominating someone to assess Chinese philosophy, if they’re so inclined. Although all of the people selected in these three ways are invited to assess Chinese philosophy, some invariably don’t answer the request and their names are not listed in the assessment group. For my part, I tried to select people that I knew to be “staying current” in Chinese philosophy while also representing something of the different cultural backgrounds, genders, races, and methodological approaches in our field. Each of us assessed the ranked programs independently.
- How the additional programs were determined. The most difficult part of my job (such as it was) was to determine which programs to list as “additional programs.” Not trusting myself to overcome my own cognitive biases and other limitations, I did this in consultation with all of the people that I knew to have assessed the Chinese philosophy area. One problem that we faced was that it is was not clear which programs are eligible to be listed. Taking our cues from the description of the report itself, we settled unanimously on the following two rules of eligibility, albeit with some regret:
- Programs have to be at universities where English is the primary language of instruction.
- Programs have to be embedded in a philosophy department or equivalent administrative unit that is primarily devoted to offering a robust philosophy curriculum.
We also voted to list the particular additional programs that we did. That vote was not unanimous, but a very strong majority did endorse the list.
Simply put, there are many excellent scholars of Chinese philosophy who can offer expert graduate supervision but whose programs we couldn’t straightforwardly include in the report. Accordingly, we strongly encourage would-be graduate students to go to more detailed and comprehensive sources for advice on graduate study in Chinese philosophy. One of those is the list of graduate programs published on this very blog. We also invite people to share their well-informed advice and to link to other good sources on graduate study in the comments below.