Sunday, December 28, 2008

Philosophical Gourmet Report Tirade

Brian Leiter is now approaching the two year point where he uses 469 nominated evaluators to speak for a profession of 10,000 philosophy PhDs in North America, and countless numbers elsewhere. I cannot help but this is really an unfair evaluation process since it really doesn't do justice to the work or contribution of philosophers in general. I've always wondered why the current Continental Philosophy list never included the following schools:

1. Southern Illinois University Carbondale
2. Depaul University
3. Duquesne University
4. Villanova
5. University of Oregon
6. Middlesex University (in the UK)
7. Marquette University
8. University of Ottawa (Canada)
9. University of Guelph (Canada)

You can compare the 2006 - 2008 rankings on Leiter's page with the Society of Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy's website.

Good programs in Continental philosophy are specialized programs that offer chances to study texts in the original language, groups that informally study the texts of the European tradition, have foreign exchange programs with sister-universities in Europe and have more than just the typical "token" Continental in an overwhelmingly analytic department. In fact, this is upsetting since many schools proferred as places to study Continental philosophy like Cambridge, I imagine, do not have the same resources that, say, Penn-State University or New School University have to develop good solid Continental philosophers.

Don't get me wrong. There are several good recommendations on the list of the PGR's breakdown. I just don't imagine that 469 people can speak for the work done by 10,000. Instead, we should all follow the advice of the APA statement on rankings which encourages aspiring graduate students to seek out Graduate Directors of programs. Leiter's list becomes more of a developed high school popularity contest than truly representing the interests of European philosophers. Moreover, such a mainstream conception of philosophy tends to overlook really unique programs where one can study marginalized areas outside mainstream philosophy. There are some good programs in Indian philosophy at the University of New Mexico, University of Hawaii and perhaps Temple University--these schools are only taken seriously by evaluators insofar as they are good places to do Indian philosophy, but will never approach what is valued as mainstream philosophy. I think such perceptions pernicious to a discipline that is rooted in the "love of wisdom."

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