Survey: What Matters to Philosophers?

From Valerie Tiberius:

“What Matters to Philosophers?”
Dear Colleague,
As chair of a philosophy department at a large state institution (University of Minnesota), I’ve frequently been called upon to defend philosophy and to justify its place in higher education. This has made me reflect on what really is worth preserving, celebrating, or (possibly) changing about our field. To this end I want to solicit the views of my philosophy colleagues in a more systematic way than just asking my Facebook friends, which is what drew me to the project of creating a survey.

I am now writing to ask you to participate in this (fairly short) survey: “What Matters to Philosophers”. Please click the link below to take the survey, or copy it into the location bar of your web browser:

The point of this survey is to gather your views regarding what is valuable in your academic discipline, so that we can address questions about philosophy’s future and its role in the academy on the basis of values we share as a community.

I should say that this survey is not intended to answer tactical questions about effective ways of helping philosophy to survive in difficult times; rather, I would like to know what you believe is valuable and worth preserving in academic philosophy. And so that you can feel comfortable being entirely candid in your responses, the survey is completely anonymous.

Of course, the success of this project depends on the generous contributions of time from people like you. Mindful of this, I have tried to create a survey that will not take too much of your valuable time – it should not require more than 15 minutes to complete.

Data from the survey will form the substance of my presidential address at the APA Central Division meeting in Kansas City in March 2017. Presidential addresses are published in the APA proceedings, and I hope to publish and discuss my findings in other arenas as well. I will also share the data – in a form that does not permit the identification of any individual’s responses – with the APA and with philosophy departments who are interested in it.

During the planning process for this project, some philosophers have expressed reservations about completing the survey because they do not have full time academic positions, or are still in graduate school, or are not APA members. Please be assured that there are no such restrictions on who may take the survey! It is only by hearing from as many philosophers as possible that we can get an accurate picture of what we, as a community, think about philosophy.

I greatly appreciate your assistance. Thank you.

Valerie Tiberius
Professor and Chair
Department of Philosophy
University of Minnesota

Philosophy student arrested in Turkey

Jülide Yazıcı, a student in the Philosophy Department in Boğaziçi University who was active on social media supporting academics threatened by the Turkish government, was arrested two days ago. According to one source, she was charged with “being a member of an armed terrorist organisation” and “spreading terrorist propaganda.” The specifics of the accusations are unknown to her because the details of “terror cases” are kept secret. She is currently in jail and is expected to be so until her trial. Four  [correction] Two other students and one recent graduate from the university were also arrested.

A petition calling for her release is here (in Turkish and English). Please consider signing.

For more, go to Daily Nous, where you’ll also find an address to which you can send postcards to her in prison.

Close to completing and close to quitting

If you click on the “Why Stay?” tab, you’ll see my enthused reasons for loving my job, which I do. But the opposite can also be true. A now-grad student who took classes with me as an undergrad said the following email helped when motivation to complete the dissertation ebbed. As it’s August, it’s that time of year when the summer is high but those of us on academic calendars already feel like the leaves and our previously green ambitions are turning brown and breaking up. If your ABD heart sinks, perhaps this helps. (F-bombs below, so possibly NSFW if you’re on a shared or workplace screen.)

Hello, my former student! Yes, I remember telling you there will be days when graduate education is completely easy to imagine abandoning. There are stretches when the upper-most thought in one’s head is, “Why not quit?” And every smart person who thinks this is right to think it, because of course one could quit. Of course one could. You’d have to be completely insensible to logical thought and creative imagination in order not to notice that for stretches, it is work, and sometimes work just sucks and is not very interesting.

You are totally correct that breaks are GREAT for this! God bless breaks. No one can do one thing all the time. Breaks help a lot.

While you wait for that helpful break, you’ll need other supports. Seek out understanding people (incl me). The only thought that helped me when I was in valleys of indifference was the thought that I was so close to holding a PhD that I might as well finish simply in order to get my own money’s and time’s worth out of the enterprise. You know what I mean? I felt annoyed enough with the idea that I’d just spent a few years NOT to get the PhD, that I knew I’d feel less annoyed with myself if I stuck around another year and wrote the damn dissertation already. I would rather spend all that time on getting a PhD, than spend all that time on not-getting a PhD. So it was ultimately just stubbornness and a grumpy certainty that I was determined to see some sort of payoff for my efforts that got me through. It wasn’t enough to be a poverty-wage-earning, paper-grading grad student. I no longer loved theory or my students or even the topics that I told everyone I wanted to work on. I was out of love, and fell back on a “Fuck it, I want the thing I said I’d get” attitude.

OH, and I should add that I also gave myself 100% permission not to continue on in academia. There was a good half a year there where, every day, I told myself that quitting academia by the end of that day would simply show good sense and happy, practical wisdom. I really liked that. I broke up with academia and told it that I could take it or leave it, and then everything felt a lot better. Much more optional. Ever since I decided that I didn’t love academia and we’re just good friends, my life has been better. Even now, when occasionally my colleagues nervously wonder, if the university closed tomorrow what would they DO???, my thought is, let’s do something else. We’re not married to academia, and on the contrary, higher education today is so clearly neurotic and fucked up that probably no one should be in a long-term relationship with it. It needs therapy and we deserve better. :-)

So the question is, are you feeling like if you really buckled in for a year, you could have this PhD? Because you deserve it. You’ve done philosophy long enough and you deserve the PhD now. Take it if you want it. You should have it. But you don’t have to do it.

I hope this helped.


RIP Kevin Gorman, unsung advocate for women in philosophy

A guest post from Alex Madva:
We are saddened to report the death of Kevin Gorman, a passionate advocate for gender equality, who was responsible for posting and editing dozens of Wikipedia pages about women philosophers.
Kevin, a graduate from UC Berkeley, was 24.  He suffered from several rare conditions, but his death still comes as quite a shock.  A Facebook page devoted to his memory can be found here.
Kevin had for a long time been deeply involved in the Wikipedia community.  He first became engaged by feminism after he substantially edited Wikipedia’s “Men’s Rights” page and received intense criticism, and even threats, from members of the men’s rights movement (more on these events can be found here).  This led Kevin to attend the first class of Alex Madva’s feminist philosophy course, and ultimately led Kevin to play an integral role in identifying and redressing the underrepresentation of feminist philosophy and women philosophers on Wikipedia.  Kevin worked closely with the APA CSW to create and substantially edit many pages on women philosophers.  A partial list can be found here.  This page also includes a partial list of notable women philosophers who still need Wikipedia pages, which makes salient how much work there is still to be done.  Kevin was a leader of the “Gender Gap Task Force,” which sought to address gender bias in Wikipedia more broadly.
Kevin was also deeply committed to integrating Wikipedia and education.  He served as the Wikipedian-in-Residence at Berkeley, where he worked with instructors and mentored students who published their academic projects directly on Wikipedia.  More about the Wiki Education Foundation, a central aim of which is to diversify Wikipedia’s content and contributors, can be found here.