Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

Videoconferencing for Climate Practice (guest post by Colin Marshall and Sinan Dogramaci)

The following is a guest post*  discussing the practice of making videoconferencing a regular component of academic conferences and the like, for the sake of the environment, by  Colin Marshall (UW Seattle) and Sinan Dogramaci (UT Austin). It follows up on Professor Marshall’s previous post, “Flying Less, Videoconferencing More“. Videoconferencing for Climate Practice by Colin Marshall and Sinan Dogramaci Fellow colloquia/conference/workshop organizers: please join us in adopting the Videoconferencing for Climate Practice! The idea is simple. By using more videoconferencing, we can both reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and make the discipline more inclusive in a very cost-effective way.   Colloquium and events organizers who adopt the Practice aim to   Have a significant percentage (at least 15%) of talks and presentations be done remotely—in particular, through videoconferencing—instead of using air travel, and Find additional ways to improve the climate impacts of our professional activities, especially at the institutional level (universities, professional associations, and governments). These include aiming for higher percentages of remote and local talks, institutional support for buying carbon offsets, institutional divestment from problematic industries, and finding ways to directly influence local and national governments. A wide adoption of the Practice would have two effects: (1) reducing greenhouse gas emissions, thereby [More]

Input Sought on New Questions for Upcoming PhilPapers Survey of Philosophers

A draft of the follow-up to the 2009 Philpapers survey of philosophical positions held by academic philosophers on various topics includes about 70 new questions. The survey’s creators, David Bourget (Western University) and David Chalmers (NYU), are seeking input from members of the profession about the new questions. (Previously.) The new survey will include the original 30 questions, plus 10 new ones that will be asked of all respondents, and 60 new ones that will each be asked of 25% of the respondents. So each respondent will be asked to answer around 55 questions. They will also be given the option to answer more, up to the total of around 100 questions. Here are the original 30 questions: A priori knowledge: yes or no? Abstract objects: Platonism or nominalism? Aesthetic value: objective or subjective? Analytic-synthetic distinction: yes or no? Epistemic justification: internalism or externalism? External world: idealism, skepticism, or non-skeptical realism? Free will: compatibilism, libertarianism, or no free will? God: theism or atheism? Knowledge: empiricism or rationalism? Knowledge claims: contextualism, relativism, or invariantism? Laws of nature: Humean or non-Humean? Logic: classical or non-classical? Mental content: internalism or externalism? Meta-ethics: moral realism or moral anti-realism? Metaphilosophy: naturalism or non-naturalism? Mind: physicalism or non-physicalism? Moral judgment: cognitivism or non-cognitivism? Moral motivation: internalism [More]

University to “Align” Philosophy Major with Catholic Studies

The trustees of Newman University, a Catholic university in Kansas, have approved a plan proposed by the administration that will revise its philosophy and theology programs so that they “align strategically” with its new School of Catholic Studies.  The administration also plans to eliminate four major programs, but it is unclear at this point whether philosophy would be among them. Also unclear is what it means for the philosophy program to “align strategically” with the School of Catholic Studies. It could primarily be an administrative and staff consolidation with only indirect effects on how philosophy is taught at the school. Or it could be an attempt to explicitly influence the content and teaching of philosophy courses in a way that furthers the aim of the School of Catholic Studies, which is to reinforce “core values” such as “Catholic Identity” and provide “students authentic and transformational opportunities to grow in their faith during their collegiate journey.” (Inquiries about this to Newman University administration have yet to be answered.) Newman philosophy professor Christopher Fox was interviewed for a story on these changes by the school paper, The Vantage, about which he expressed concerns regarding “Newman’s ability to stay a place where knowledge is produced, and the diversity of views is supported.” The Vantage reports: “Fox said with the realignment of his department [More]

“An Optimistic Bet”

The relationship between truth and social progress is then an optimistic bet. I hope that knowing the truth is part of what sets us free. But that’s an empirical hunch that could well turn out to be wrong. That’s Elizabeth Barnes, professor of philosophy at the University of Virginia, in a wide-ranging interview by Richard Marshall at 3:16. I draw particular attention to that line because I think it gets at an underexplored element of philosophizing: philosophers’ hopes or “optimistic bets” that certain things turn out to be true. The contents of these hopes aren’t assumed to be true, but they aren’t thought of as mere possibilities, either, as they have a kind of motivating power towards doing philosophy, and towards exploring some lines of inquiry and answers over others. The diversity and distribution of such hopes affect what people philosophize about, and what the overall picture of philosophy looks like at any time. Professor Barnes continues on the connection between truth and social progress, and what she takes to be her responsibilities as a philosopher: It could be that people aren’t motivated by the truth in any way, or that a noble lie would’ve been more politically effective. It’s also, of course, an open question that the truth could turn out to be politically inconvenient for people like me. I hope it’s not, but it might be. And I think any open and honest philosophical inquiry needs to countenance that otherwise it feels [More]

Philosophy Majors and the GRE: Updated Data (w/updates)

When students are compared by major on how far above average they do on the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE), a standardized test used in many disciplines to assess applicants to graduate programs, philosophy majors come out on top, according to a new look at test score data over the past few years. Tomas Bogardus, associate professor of philosophy at Pepperdine University, had noticed that much of the data easily available about how philosophy undergraduates fare on the GRE (such as on the Value of Philosophy pages) was from 2015 at the latest, and helpfully compiled newer information, including the chart above and the table below. He writes: If you just add up raw scores from the three sections, Philosophy doesn’t have the highest total score. But, because of the different standard deviations for each section, you might think that what’s more interesting is how far above average students are scoring on each section, i.e. how many standard deviations above the mean for all students is the mean score for each major. When you do that, and take the average number of standard deviation from the mean for all three sections, Philosophy majors are on top. And that seems to be because of how exceptionally well they do on the Verbal and Writing sections, which makes up for their relatively modest (but still well above average!) score on the Quantitative section.  Below is a table showing mean GRE scores, by major. In addition to performing better than all others in [More]

Philosophy Majors and the GRE: Updated Data

When students are compared by major on how far above average they do on the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE), a standardized test used in many disciplines to assess applicants to graduate programs, philosophy majors come out on top, according to a new look at test score data over the past few years. Tomas Bogardus, associate professor of philosophy at Pepperdine University, had noticed that much of the data easily available about how philosophy undergraduates fare on the GRE (such as on the Value of Philosophy pages) was from 2015 at the latest, and helpfully compiled newer information, including the chart above and the table below. He writes: If you just add up raw scores from the three sections, Philosophy doesn’t have the highest total score. But, because of the different standard deviations for each section, you might think that what’s more interesting is how far above average students are scoring on each section, i.e. how many standard deviations above the mean for all students is the mean score for each major. When you do that, and take the average number of standard deviation from the mean for all three sections, Philosophy majors are on top. And that seems to be because of how exceptionally well they do on the Verbal and Writing sections, which makes up for their relatively modest (but still well above average!) score on the Quantitative section.  Below is a table showing mean GRE scores, by major. In addition to performing better than all others in [More]

Refereeing Papers About Your Own Work

A graduate student in philosophy writes in with the following query:  Under what conditions is it appropriate to referee a paper that responds directly to your own work?  The student elaborates: On the one hand, it seems unethical to review such a paper, given the personal investment in the subject. On the other, it seems plausible to me that the conflict of interest doesn’t necessarily make a potential referee a less qualified reviewer than whoever would replace them, especially if the topic is a niche one or is highly technical. I can see an argument for the idea that it might be unfair to the author (or bad for the subject) to “selfishly” refuse to contribute in cases where one’s expertise might make a relevant difference. (Though I suspect that there are very few cases in which the topic is genuinely as niche or technical as that.) It also seems worthwhile to balance concerns of the time required to find additional reviewers and the associated costs to both author and editor. Finally, I’m unsure how I would draw a cutoff for papers that one shouldn’t review—speaking only for myself, I suspect that I would be more likely to be uncharitable to a paper that failed to engage with my work on a subject than with one that responded to it, for instance.  I reached out to Rebecca Kukla (Georgetown), editor-in-chief the Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal and former editor-in-chief of Public Affairs Quarterly for a response. She writes: [More]

Mary Astell on female education and the sorrow of marriage (philosopher of the month)

Mary Astell is widely considered one of the first and foremost English feminists. Her pioneering writings address female education and autonomy in the early modern period and had a profound influence on later generation of feminists. Astell was born into a middle class family in 1666. Her father was Newcastle coal merchant who died when […] The post Mary Astell on female education and the sorrow of marriage (philosopher of the month) appeared first on OUPblog.         Related StoriesThe moral mathematics of letting people dieJohn Duns Scotus – The ‘Subtle Doctor’ – Philosopher of the MonthG.E. Moore – his life and work – Philosopher of the [More]

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