In a comment on a previous post, a reader expressed relief at my second-hand anecdata that I know women who have had babies pre-tenure and even in grad school, yet still got tenure. It would help if actual women could confirm this: Is it possible to get tenure after children? I know the answer is yes! However, the relief of the reader is currently just based on my gesturing toward other women. The lived experience of those of you who have done it would make much more of a difference.
Boston University is hosting its fourth annual Interdisciplinary Graduate Conference on Consciousness (IGCC) on April 13th and 14th 2012. This year’s theme is Consciousness at the Margins. We are particularly interested in papers on issues in implicit bias and subconscious emotions. Psychologist Mahzarin R. Banaji and philosopher Owen Flanagan will be this year’s keynote speakers. The purpose of IGCC is to promote interdisciplinary dialogue in the academic study of consciousness among interested graduate students working in philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, computer science, and other related disciplines. We invite papers between 2000 and 3000 words (suitable for a 30-minute talk).
Multi-authored submissions spanning two or more fields are particularly welcome. Recent graduates and junior-level researchers are encouraged to submit. Submit anonymized papers to firstname.lastname@example.org by February 15th, 2012. Please see http://www.bu.edu/conscious for details.
The NY Times has a series of video interviews here title “Philosophers Speak”. So far, the only philosophers speaking are men.
We are saddled with early-20th-century modes of philosophy. In the 20th century, philosophy abandoned its Socratic heritage in favor of a disciplinary model of practice. Rather than engaging citizens in all walks of life on the issues they faced, philosophers spoke mainly to one another about problems of their own invention. In this we are the heirs of Kant. In the Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals (1785), Kant argued that we must separate the role of the technical philosopher from that of the general philosopher. Philosophy would demonstrate its bona fides by developing a mode of inquiry that only other philosophers could understand. To attempt both philosophic rigor and public engagement would result in “nothing but bungling.”
By the beginning of the 20th century, we had abandoned the public role. Like biologists or economists, we embraced expertise. We burrowed down into ever-smaller niches, coming to know more and more about less and less.
At times it looks disturbingly like a case for the REF Impact measure:
It is time to reclaim the public role of philosophy…
The 20th-century paradigm of philosophy did eventually, reluctantly, make room for a few “applied” philosophers in fields such as bioethics, environmental ethics, business ethics, and the like. But even here, in the vast majority of cases, research consisted in talking about applied ethics rather than actually applying, or better, integrating philosophic insights with problems on the ground.
Applied ethics has been centripetal—scholars mostly go out into the world only long enough to latch onto an issue and then bring it back into the fold of specialized academic journals. Applied ethics is written for other ethicists, rather than for the nonphilosophical audiences who actually wrestle with the problems being discussed—doctors and nurses, lab technicians and computer programmers, corporate toxicologists and managers of fisheries….
For the reasons we noted at the outset, the 20th-century model of philosophy today is politically and economically unsustainable. It is also irresponsible. Philosophers at public universities are state employees, and the rest of us are dependent in various ways on public funds, not to mention on the tuition paid by students and their families.
But what it actually suggests is quite far from Impact, as defined by HEFCE:
Field philosophy, found philosophy, public philosophy, experimental philosophy, philosophy of/as interdisciplinarity—these are all expressions of a growing feeling that change is afoot. We seek to promote this change. We view 20th-century philosophy as an aberration—academically challenging work that forgot half of philosophy’s task. It is time to strike out in new, intellectually exciting, and socially useful directions.
Which all sounds great, when you’re focusing on work that fits that model. But, as Magical Ersatz has noted in the comments here, there’s a lot of inspiring, amazing, important work that doesn’t.
A much-circulated article from the Chronicle. Of course, many of our readers spend a lot of time and effort making philosophy matter.
Unless systemic changes are made within the profession of philosophy over the next several years, we can expect that within a few decades, the entire discipline may be threatened.
A horrific and important story in the Guardian. I was not shocked by the high rates of rape, but I was shocked to learn that the US military differs form other militaries in their handling of rape: other countries turn rape cases over to non-military police. The US handles the cases within the military. The effects are predictable, though their magnitude still shocked me.